Orbiting Satellites Safe as Near-Earth Asteroid Approaches

By | February 13, 2013 | Curated Content, Government

Tags: Geosynchronous, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Near-Earth Asteroids
Publication: News.Discovery.com
Publication Date: 02/13/2013

Diagram showing Asteroid 2012 DA14’s passage by the Earth on February 15, 2013.
Image credit: NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office

Scientists monitoring Asteroid 2012 DA14, which will pass closer to Earth on Friday than any other known object of its size, have ruled out it could pose any threat to orbiting satellites.

The asteroid, which has approximately 150 feet in diameter and travels at about 8 miles per second, is expected to get as close as 17,100 miles from Earth; closer than communication satellites in geosynchronous orbit.

"This asteroid seems to be passing in the sweet spot between the GPS satellites (which fly at about 12,600 miles above Earth) and the communication and weather satellites, so it’s really extremely unlikely that any of these satellites would be threatened," Donald Yeomans, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said to Discovery News.

However, NASA has been providing details and information about the asteroid’s path to satellite operators so they can determine how close to their spacecraft it will pass. So far, no operator has announced any threat. Additionally, non-profit organization Space Data Association has examined the asteroid’s projected flight path and determined no spacecraft would be impacted.

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