Satellite, Technology

The NASA UARS – Tumbling Satellite to Impact Earth

NASA UBRS Tumbles Closer to Earth - will impact early in the evening of September 23 2011
NASA UBRS

*** UPDATE Saturday Sept 24 2011, 1:38pm EDT ***

The UARS satellite has crashed somewhere in the North Pacific Ocean, off the west Coast of the United States between the times of 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 23 and 1:09 a.m. EDT Sept. 24 . The exact time and place are not yet known although NASA promises to post an update when it finds out further details.

*** UPDATE Friday Sept 23 2011, 10:45pm EDT ***

NASA confirms satellite is descending and will impact Earth between 11:00 pm EDT and 3:00 am EDT (Sept 24 2011). Data is still incredibly vague. The UARS satellite will be passing over Canada, Africa and Australia, as well as vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans*** UPDATE Friday Sept 23 2011, 5:00pm EDT ***

NASA still has not released an update on the estimated impact location of the rogue UARS satellite, even though the impact time was estimated for this evening. The latest NASA update was at 10:30 a.m. EDT

The UARS satellite is likely to fall later than expected since its rate of descent has slowed. NASA indicates that this may be due to the satellite repositioning itself and possibly also a decrease in the amount of heightened solar activity that was previously accelerating the satellite’s descent by causing the thermosphere to expand. (ref.)

*** UPDATE Friday Sept 23 2011, 11:30am ***

NASA Has revised their estimated point and time of impact. The US or Canada are again considered possible impact areas. The impact time could be anywhere between the evening of September 23 and sometime early on Saturday September 24. Please see the NASA Updates Web Site or the Sept 23 Scientific American UARS blog article for details

********************************* MAIN ARTICLE *******************************************

Sometime in the early evening of September 23 2011 a massive NASA satellite will come crashing down somewhere on Earth and no-one seems to know specifically where it will hit. Judging by the mass I would say that one should not be standing anywhere close to the impact site.

The NASA UARS – Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite was initially predicted to burn up on re-entry, but that assessment has been altered. The current theory is that the UARS will break into pieces on re-entry which is then likely to scatter across a relatively large area, with fuel tanks being the most likely components to survive as large intact falling debris. On a happy note, NASA is assuring the public that there is nothing radioactive on the satellite.

From what I’ve read the UBRS is the largest satellite to have crashed to earth so far. Its dimensions are: 35 feet length, 15 feet diameter, and a total weight of 13,000 pounds, and its orbit is between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south. It was initially launched in 1991 by the space shuttle Discovery and was decommissioned in 2005.

Although the UBRS was recently predicted to crash somewhere in North America that prediction has now changed, although at this point it still seems pretty much up in the air where the impact will happen. NASA promises to continue to issue news updates on a regular basis as the impact time nears.

I found one video on the BBC News site especially interesting where Theirry Legault, an amateur astronomer in Paris captured video footage of the UBRS tumbling through space. Here is the link.

References:

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