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Possible Satellite Collision on 10/16/2020 UTC

Posted 13 days ago
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FWIW, I regenerated the results with the latest TLEs and it shows them passing much closer than in the initial post.

I'm now hearing that 10 minutes after the possible collision, one of the satellites was detected as a single object so its sounding like the collision did not happen

Jeff, thanks for keeping us posted on this. According to the prediction above they would pass within 10 miles. It sure beats 10 feet!

Posted 12 days ago

I also followed the incident, both on Twitter at LeoLabs and using the above calculations. According to the above code, the satellites passed within 7.6km, while LeoLab claims that the near collision was within a few meters.

I don't know the company, other than from this event, but it seems that they have several radar trackers in multiple places on the Earth.

So, my question is who is correct, as the two methods are seperated by three orders of magnitude.

Best, Per

Hi Per, its likely there is no way to answer your question generally. All I can state is that Wolfram gets its TLE data from USSTRATCOM (US Department of Defense) via www.space-track.org that has its own radar tracking stations. Where those are located and where LeoLabs have theirs is not something I am privy to. In both cases, they try to fit orbital elements to a set of observation positions obtained by the tracking stations. Those orbital elements are essentially a best fit to data points. How they factor in things like atmospheric refraction, etc. which can heavily distort observed positions of this above the atmosphere. I'm assuming refraction would be one source of error. In both cases, the claimed separation distance was a computation resulting from the relative TLEs used from different fitted data. Neither one, as far as I know, had observing stations in Antarctica that actually directly measured the separation distance between these two and in fact, the fact that they didn't know if they collided until actual observations of one of the satellites sometime later supports the fact that no direct observation was done. The only thing known for sure is that the collision didn't happen.

Hi Jeff.

Thank you so much for your swift answer!

Best, Per

PS It is not on purpose, that my name is "Updating Name" and neither that my profile pic is missing. Must be something wrong with my community profile...

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