Bus size? Wow, that is big.
NASA: Huge Defunct Satellite Will Fall to Earth This Week
by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor | 19 September 2011
A dead climate satellite that has been circling Earth for 20 years will make a fiery death plunge this week, with some pieces of the 6 1/2 ton spacecraft expected to reach the surface of the planet, NASA officials say.
The bus-size Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, will likely plummet down to Earth sometime around Friday (Sept. 23), according to NASA’s latest projections. There is a 1-in-3,200 chance that UARS debris could hit a person, though NASA considers that scenario extremely remote.
“Re-entry is expected Sept. 23, plus or minus a day,” NASA officials wrote in an update posted Sunday (Sept. 18). That means that by Saturday (Sept. 24), the UARS satellite should slam into Earth’s atmosphere and break apart. The space agency’s space debris experts predict that at least 26 large pieces of the satellite will survive the scorching temperatures of atmospheric re-entry. But exactly where the UARS satellite debris will fall is uncertain.
NASA officials have said that the drop zone for UARS satellite debris could be anywhere between the latitudes of northern Canada and southern South America, an area that includes much of the planet.
The satellite should re-enter over a 500-mile (804-kilometer) track, according to NASA officials. Since 75 percent of Earth is covered with ocean, there is a high likelihood that the satellite will re-enter over the sea or a remote, uninhabited stretch of land, Victoria Samson, the Washington Office Director of the Secure World Foundation, an organization dedicated to the peaceful use of outer space, told SPACE.com last week.