Broken up Satellite Plunges Back to Earth Overnight

Sometime between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday and 1:09 a.m. EDT Saturday NASA’s six-ton science satellite the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite fell back to Earth when it pierced the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean. The exact location and re-entry time is not exactly known at this time. UARS is fifteen feet in diameter and thirty-five feet long and is among the largest spacecraft to plummet through the atmosphere uncontrollably.

In 1991 the thirteen thousand pound satellite was dispatched into orbit. It was put into orbit by a space shuttle crew to study various chemicals and the ozone in Earth’s atmosphere and completed its mission in 2005. Pulled by Earth’s gravity, it has slowly been loosing altitude since then. At the time URSA was designed it was not set up for controlled re-entry but NASA now plans to make sure that are large spacecraft have controlled re-entry like Russia did for the one hundred thirty-five tones Mir space station in 2001 when it crashed in the Pacific Ocean.

Most of USRA burned up during the fiery plunge through the atmosphere. There were about twenty-six pieces weighing about one thousand one hundred pounds total that may have survived the incineration. NASA figures that the debris field spans about five hundred miles.

The chance of anyone being hit by the falling debris was one in three thousand two hundred so the risk to pubic safety was very remote according to NASA. In orbit around Earth UARS is just one of about twenty thousand pieces of space debris.