Thursday, September 15, 2011

NASA: Satellite re-entry expected around Sept. 24

A large, decommissioned NASA climate satellite is expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry through the atmosphere around Sept. 24, NASA reported today.

NASA expects 26 pieces of the 35-foot-long, nearly 12,500-pound Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite to impact Earth, the largest weighing about 300 pounds.

The debris could fall in virtually any part of the populated world. As a result, NASA estimates the odds at 1 in 3,200 that someone somewhere on the planet could be struck, but the chance any specific individual would be hit are in the trillions.

No person or property has ever been hit by man-made debris falling from space.

U.S. Strategic Command's Joint Space Operations Center is tracking the decaying orbit of the satellite, which was launched aboard shuttle Discovery in 1991 and taken out of service in 2005. The latest altitude ranged from 143 miles to 158 miles.

The satellite is currently projected to re-enter Sept. 24, give or take a day. Daily updates will be posted here four days before the event, with updates about 12 hours, six hours and two hours before the anticipated re-entry.

IMAGE: This conceptual image shows the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, launched on Sept. 15, 1991, by the space shuttle Discovery. Originally designed for a three-year mission, UARS measured chemical compounds found in the ozone layer, wind and temperature in the stratosphere, as well as the energy input from the sun. Together, these measurements helped define the role of Earth's upper atmosphere in climate and climate variability. The 35-foot-long, 15-foot-diameter UARS was decommissioned on Dec. 14, 2005. Credit: NASA

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