NASA satellite set to crash back to Earth
NASA has recently announced that an out-of-control, retired satellite will come crashing into the earth's surface "sometime" towards the end of September. Furthermore, the satellite, which is about the size of a school bus and weights over 6 tonnes (6.6 tons), will impact the earth in an unknown location between Canada and South America. The exact time and location will remain a mystery until two hours before the event, and that's with six thousand miles (10,000 km) of uncertainty.
"It is too early to say exactly when UARS will re-enter and what geographic area may be affected," states NASA.
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) will come crashing back to Earth after it was placed into orbit almost twenty years ago. Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere beforehand. It is anticipated that 26 large fragments of the UARS satellite will actually fall to Earth, in a rain of debris altogether weighing about 1,170 pounds/532 kg (the largest weighing 300 pounds/150 kg). Though it is impossible to predict the exact impact zones, NASA estimates the debris footprint will be approximately 500 miles (800 km) long.
The US$750 million UARS satellite will be the largest NASA satellite to make an uncontrolled dive back to Earth in years. However, NASA assures that the risk to public safety or property is extremely low. "Throughout the entire 54 years of the Space Age there has been no report of anyone being injured or impacted by any re-entering debris," said Nick Johnson, the chief scientist of NASA's Orbital Debris Program at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. That's keeping in mind that during this time, on average, one piece of debris has fallen back to Earth each day.
UARS was originally put into orbit in 1991 to collect data on the ozone layer and measures 35 feet (10.7 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 m) wide. In 2005, NASA decommissioned the spacecraft, causing it to make a six-year plunge back to Earth.NASA will post constant updates before the anticipated re-entry of UARS, which will come directly from the Joint Space Operations Center of U.S. Strategic Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The center works 24/7 detecting, identifying and tracking all man-made objects in Earth orbit, including space junk.
NASA also warns people to not touch any pieces of UARS debris and to contact a local law enforcement official for assistance.
You can read updates on the falling UARS on the NASA website.
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Sure orbital speed and maintaining altitude are synchronus, but a lot of speed ought to be washed off, and providing the braking parachute is able to handle 200 or so degrees cenitigrade, it\'s a dooable idea.
Better to lose the speed over a long period of time (duration of days and hours); rather than minutes.
Better to crash land the whole satellite, than have the bits disintergrating way up in the atmosphere, and rain down over a huge area.
As far as calling the cops? If you people who put these things up are just fine with the landing, anywhere, anytime... and some of the bits may either kill someone or can be toxic or are capable of \"resuming service\" with the deft application of prybar, screw driver and hammer....
Well if your so reckless and have complete disregard for the safe disposal of your own property - to cast it into the assk can of the clear blue sky - then if it\'s on my property - it belongs to me.
That said I think Chris as an excellent idea.. I am not sure we have a missile system designed for the task.
From what I understand we only have the Aegis. This is a low altitude or terminal phase intercept, and event hen it isn\'t deployed in great numbers. Shooting the satelite in low orbit might only increase the area of destruction. Might be better to have fewer objects causing greater damage then more objects causing less damage.
It would be nice if the GMD didn\'t suck so bad. Last test of the new guidance systems were complete failure. The budget cuts might be to blame. Since GMD is getting more money for 2011 and 12 maybe it will be back on track soon.
A O Connor46, I\'m ALREADY somewhere between Canada and South America, so I guess all I have to do is keep a lookout for falling school buses....
* Blowing up the satellite will create a tremendous amount of space debris that can then go on to damage other satellites and end up bringing them down out of control too. Not to mention making the debris field about 100 times bigger and more unpredictable.
* The satellite is coming down because it is being slowed by atmospheric drag. And the atmosphere swells and shrinks due to heating from the Sun. And the satellite is tumbling. And the satellite experiences more atmospheric drag when passing through the upper atmosphere sideways than straight on. And all they have right now is radar trajectory tracking of the satellite because it is dead. So they know the trajectory of the satellite but they don\'t anything about its tumble characteristics and ultimate atmospheric drag. They do know the path it will take over the earth.
* Most satellites have thruster fuels and exotic batteries. This means there are potentially toxic chemicals that weren\'t intended for raw, human contact.
* Parachutes and heat shields would add tremendously to the mass of a satellite and require a significantly larger launch vehicle. And would only be meaningful if the satellite were still under control from earth. A dead satellite (like this one) with a parachute canister and a big, heavy heat shield would just make a bigger, messier impact upon return to earth.
* I am sure that NORAD and the Russians already know just as much about the trajectory of this satellite as NASA does. Whether NASA told them or not.