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Thread: Where will Doomed Satellite Fall on 9/23?

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    Elite Member Bluebonnet's Avatar
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    Cool Where will Doomed Satellite Fall on 9/23?

    A dead NASA satellite will plummet to Earth on Friday (Sept. 23), and while the U.S. space agency doesn't know exactly where pieces of the massive spacecraft will hit, one thing is certain: North America is in the clear.

    NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, is set to make an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth's atmosphere on Friday. However, it is still too early to tell exactly where the 6.5-ton spacecraft will fall. Scientists will likely have a much better idea of where the debris will land about two hours before the impact, NASA officials said.
    But, NASA was able to rule out North America as being in the potential debris drop zone.

    "Re-entry is expected sometime during the afternoon of Sept. 23, Eastern Daylight Time," agency officials said in a statement. "The satellite will not be passing over North America during that time period. It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any more certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 24 to 48 hours."
    In the meantime, NASA and the U.S. Air Force will be closely monitoring the satellite and its decaying orbit.
    "With re-entry we're always interested in day-by-day and hour-by-hour details," Mark Matney, a scientist with NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office, told SPACE.com. "It's very difficult to predict how it's going to happen. With our models, we try to figure out what parts of the spacecraft what materials will interact with the atmosphere in terms of temperature and melting, and determine which of those will survive. But it's a very dynamic environment, the force is very intense." [Photos of NASA's Huge Falling Satellite UARS]

    Wide range of possibilities

    Current predictions of the potential impact zone cover a giant swath of the planet anywhere between the latitudes of northern Canada and southern South America. Scientists will be able to refine these projections as the spacecraft makes its fiery journey through the atmosphere.
    "It's partly a matter of not knowing enough," said Ray Williamson, executive director of the Secure World Foundation, an organization dedicated to the peaceful use of outer space. "The shape of the structure is not perfectly spherical, so when it heats up and starts to break up, it will break into odd pieces. Once it begins to break up, then they can get a better sense of where this is roughly going to hit."

    Scientists at NASA's Orbital Debris Program Office estimate that at least 26 large pieces of the bus-size satellite will endure the scorching heat of re-entry. Approximately 1,170 pounds (532 kilograms) of material are expected to reach the ground, NASA officials said.

    These pieces of debris will likely be scattered over a 500-mile (804-kilometer) long path. But agency officials have been quick to stress that there is very little chance that satellite chunks will smash intotowns or cities. [Amateur Astronomer Photographs Doomed Satellite]
    Instead, it's much more likely that the debris will fall over water or remote, uninhabited areas, NASA officials said.
    "There's always a concern," Matney said. "But, populated areas are a small fraction of the Earth's surface. Much of the Earth's surface has either no people or very few people. We believe that the risk is very modest."

    Odds of human injury very low
    For comparison, when NASA's space shuttle Columbia tragically broke apart during re-entry in 2003, debris from the 100-ton spacecraft was scattered across Texas, but did not damage any structures or injure any people.

    "When [Columbia] came back, as the shuttle heated up, it broke into pieces some of them very large, and some very small," Williamson said. "Even then, there was difficulty in trying to find the pieces that were spread over such a large area. It was such an unpopulated area that it was very difficult to locate all the pieces, even though they knew from videos pretty much precisely the track that it followed across the atmosphere."


    NASA has calculated the odds of anyone anywhere in the world being hit by a piece of the UARS satellite at 1in3,200. But, the chance that you personally will get hit is much more remote, on the order of 1inseveral trillion, Williamson said.

    Still, if anyone happens to stumble upon a piece of the defunct satellite on the ground, agency officials stress that for safety and legal reasons, it is best to leave the material where it is, and alert the authorities.
    "If you find something you think may be a piece of UARS, do not touch it," NASA officials said. "Contact a local law enforcement official for assistance."


    Where On Earth Will NASA's Doomed Satellite Fall On Friday? - Yahoo! News

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    Elite Member darksithbunny's Avatar
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    Elite Member Bluebonnet's Avatar
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    I have a couple questions:

    When these satellites were put into space 20+ years ago, were they meant to float around in space forever and ever and if not, why was not some "homing device" attached to them so when they do fall, it can be "steered" to fall into the ocean or some other unpopulated area?

    Question for the great minds @ NASA.

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    Elite Member Kat Scorp's Avatar
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    Oh so cool - thanks Bluebonnet. Heavens-Above.com is tracking the UARS and lets you know when it's travelling over. I'm a little disappointed that I won't get to see the re-entry.

    Still, if anyone happens to stumble upon a piece of the defunct satellite on the ground, agency officials stress that for safety and legal reasons, it is best to leave the material where it is, and alert the authorities.
    "If you find something you think may be a piece of UARS, do not touch it," NASA officials said. "Contact a local law enforcement official for assistance."
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    Elite Member Mel1973's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebonnet View Post
    I have a couple questions:

    When these satellites were put into space 20+ years ago, were they meant to float around in space forever and ever and if not, why was not some "homing device" attached to them so when they do fall, it can be "steered" to fall into the ocean or some other unpopulated area?

    Question for the great minds @ NASA.
    Well, because upon re-entry, it'll break into a lot of pieces so a steering device would be pretty useless.

    This morning on the news, they are speculating that it will fall in Chile.
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    Elite Member Kat Scorp's Avatar
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    Stubborn satellite:


    Falling Satellite Slows Down, Earth Strike Delayed : NPR

    Falling Satellite Slows Down, Earth Strike Delayed
    by The Associated Press

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A 6-ton NASA satellite on a collision course with Earth clung to space Friday, apparently flipping position in its ever-lower orbit and stalling its death plunge.

    The old research spacecraft was targeted to crash through the atmosphere sometime Friday night or early Saturday, putting the U.S. back in the potential crosshairs, although most of the satellite should burn up during re-entry.

    "It just doesn't want to come down," said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    McDowell said the satellite's delayed demise demonstrates how unreliable predictions can be. That said, "the best guess is that it will still splash in the ocean, just because there's more ocean out there."

    Until Friday, increased solar activity was causing the atmosphere to expand and the 35-foot, bus-size satellite to free fall more quickly. But late Friday morning, NASA said the sun was no longer the major factor in the rate of descent and that the satellite's position, shape or both had changed by the time it slipped down to a 100-mile orbit.

    "In the last 24 hours, something has happened to the spacecraft," said NASA orbital debris scientist Mark Matney.

    NASA cautioned there was now a slim chance any surviving debris would land in the United States. Earlier this week, the space agency said North America would be in the clear.

    "It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any certainty," NASA said in a statement.

    The Aerospace Corp., which tracks space debris, estimates the strike will happen sometime between about 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. EDT, which would make a huge difference in where the debris falls. Those late-night, early morning passes show the satellite flying over parts of the United States.

    Any surviving wreckage is expected to be limited to a 500-mile swath.

    The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, will be the biggest NASA spacecraft to crash back to Earth, uncontrolled, since the post-Apollo 75-ton Skylab space station and the more than 10-ton Pegasus 2 satellite, both in 1979.

    Russia's 135-ton Mir space station slammed through the atmosphere in 2001, but it was a controlled dive into the Pacific.

    Some 26 pieces of the UARS satellite — representing 1,200 pounds of heavy metal — are expected to rain down somewhere. The biggest surviving chunk should be no more than 300 pounds.

    Earthlings can take comfort in the fact that no one has ever been hurt by falling space junk — to anyone's knowledge — and there has been no serious property damage. NASA put the chances that somebody somewhere on Earth would get hurt at 1-in-3,200. But any one person's odds of being struck were estimated at 1-in-22 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.

    "Keep in mind that we have bits of debris re-entering the atmosphere every single day," Matney said in brief remarks broadcast on NASA TV.

    In any case, finders definitely aren't keepers.

    Any surviving wreckage belongs to NASA, and it is against the law to keep or sell even the smallest piece. There are no toxic chemicals on board, but sharp edges could be dangerous, so the space agency is warning the public to keep hands off and call police.

    The $740 million UARS was launched in 1991 from space shuttle Discovery to study the atmosphere and the ozone layer. At the time, the rules weren't as firm for safe satellite disposal; now a spacecraft must be built to burn up upon re-entry or have a motor to propel it into a much higher, long-term orbit.

    NASA shut UARS down in 2005 after lowering its orbit to hurry its end. A potential satellite-retrieval mission was ruled out following the 2003 shuttle Columbia disaster, and NASA did not want the satellite hanging around orbit posing a debris hazard.

    Space junk is a growing problem in low-Earth orbit. More than 20,000 pieces of debris, at least 4 inches in diameter, are being tracked on a daily basis. These objects pose a serious threat to the International Space Station.



    I like that it "just doesn't want to come down".
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Our news said we can see it here between 8:33 and 8:35 in the SW sky. I'm gonna look.
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    I tried to see it but no luck. It went over so cal between 7:40 and 7:50 pm.

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    They're saying Australia at around 10:10 pm Pacific time.

    Eta - the ocean surrounding Australia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mel1973 View Post
    This morning on the news, they are speculating that it will fall in Chile.
    awesome.
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    Allegedly dropped into the Pacific some time this morning.
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