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Two satellites could collide at 32,800mph tonight creating 'dangerous' field of debris

By Mirror | January 29th 2020
By Mirror | January 29th 2020

The idea of two enormous satellites smashing into each other in space may sound like the plot of the latest science fiction blockbuster, but it could become a reality this evening.

Experts from LeoLabs have warned that two defunct satellites will narrowly avoid a collision this evening, while travelling at 32,800 mph.

Worryingly, if the satellites do collide, they could create a field of ‘dangerous’ debris that could endanger nearby spacecraft.

The passing will take place over Pittsburgh at around 23:39 GMT, at which point the satellites are predicted to be between 50 and 100 feet apart.

Speaking to Live Science, Dan Ceperley, CEO of LeoLabs, explained that if the satellites did collide, there would be thousands of pieces of new debris that would stay in orbit for decades.

He explained: “Those new clouds of debris would threaten any satellites operating near the collision altitude and any spacecraft transiting through on its way to other destinations.

“The new debris [would] spread out and form a debris belt around the Earth.”

The first satellite is called the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, and was launched by NASA back in 1983.

Measuring 3.6 x 3.2 x 2.1 metres, the satellite is roughly the same size as a truck.

Meanwhile, the second satellite is called the Gravity Gradient Stabilisation Experiment, and was launch by the US Air Force in 1967.

Space debris can cause huge damage to spacecrafts when travelling at high speeds, and has been caused disastrous collisions in the past.

For example, in 1996, a French satellite was hit and damaged by debris from a French rocket that had exploded a decade earlier.

LeoLabs hopes tonight’s event will highlight the need for space agencies to safely remove satellites.

It added: “Events like this highlight the need for responsible, timely deorbiting of satellites for space sustainability moving forward. We will continue to monitor this event through the coming days and provide updates as available.”

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