Two Satellites on a Collision Tonight over Pittsburgh
According to LeoLabs, two defunct satellites, one a retired NASA satellite and the other an experimental U.S. Payload launched in 1967, have a 1 in 20 chance of colliding Wednesday night over Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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The odds of a collision went up mid-day Wednesday from 1 in 100 to 1 in 20 in large part based on information that one of the two satellites, the Gravity Gradient Stabilization Experiment (GGSE-4), had a 60-foot (18 m) boom trailing behind it. No one knows which way the boom is facing, which complicates the calculation.
4/ Adjusting our calculations to account for larger object sizes (by increasing our combined Hard Body Radius from 5m to 10m), this yields an updated collision probability closer to 1 in 20.
— LeoLabs, Inc. (@LeoLabs_Space) January 29, 2020
If there is a collision, Pittsburgh skygazers should see what looks like a burst of shooting stars as the satellites collide at 32,800 mph.
More concerning, the debris created by such a collision would threaten any satellites operating near the collision altitude and any spacecraft transiting through the area.