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Two old satellites could collide over US, space debris tracker warns

A space telescope and an experimental US payload are getting dangerously close.

IRAS
IRAS (13777), a decommissioned space telescope, is at risk of colliding with an experimental US payload, LeoLabs says.
NASA

Two satellites could potentially collide Wednesday just above Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to space debris tracker LeoLabs. IRAS (13777), a decommissioned space telescope launched in 1983, and GGSE-4 (2828), an experimental US payload launched in 1967, will pass incredibly close to each other at a relative velocity of 14.7 km/s, LeoLabs said in a tweet Monday. 

The company said it's monitoring the approach, and that its latest metrics "show a predicted miss distance of between 15-30 meters." That distance is concerning given the size of IRAS, which is 3.6 meters by 3.24 meters x 2.05 meters, LeoLabs said. The combined size of IRAS and GGSE-4 increases the chances of a collision, which stands at around 1 in 100. 

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