‘Small’ safety risk as 7-ton satellite falls to Earth this month

8 Sep

Rick Marshall

September 8, 2011

NASA expects the decommissioned UARS weather satellite to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere in the next few weeks.

At some point in the next six weeks, a seven-ton satellite will return to Earth… in pieces.

NASA has warned of a “small” safety risk from the free-falling arrival of The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) that’s expected to re-enter our atmosphere now that its mission is complete. Originally launched in September 1991, the weather-studying UARS is expected to break into pieces during re-entry, but not all of it will burn up before hitting the ground.

At this point, the U.S. space agency is uncertain exactly where the UARS is likely to fall, though it estimates that the wreckage will land somewhere between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the equator. The debris “footprint” is expected to cover a 500-mile path.

NASA has reiterated that no one should be worried about the satellite’s return, though — as there’s never been an injury or significant property damage from similar events. The agency plans to post weekly updates until the satellite nears the re-entry period, and then daily updates will be the norm.

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