Satellite debris fell in South Pacific Ocean far from major landmass, says NASAPublished On: Wed, Sep 28th, 2011 | Astronomy and Space | By BioNews
The US space agency has revealed that any surviving remnants of the NASA’s UARS satellite that recently re-entered Earth’s atmosphere fell into the southern Pacific Ocean, far from major landmass.
The defunct satellite fell to Earth northeast of the Vanuatu archipelago last weekend and orbital tracking experts have now established that it entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at 14.1 degrees South latitude and 170.2 degrees West longitude.
The exact time the six-tonne craft engaged the atmosphere is now given as 0401 GMT.
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) was the largest American space agency research platform to return uncontrolled from orbit in about 30 years.
The Joint Space Operations Center (JSPOC) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California monitored the return, and its best estimate for the timing of the re-entry was 0416 GMT.
Post-fall analysis has now brought that forward by 15 minutes, meaning the event occurred much further from the west coast of North America than was originally thought.
Modelling work had indicated perhaps 500kg of mangled metal could have survived to the surface, spread over a path some 800km long. If the latest analysis is correct, it seems certain all of that debris would have gone into the ocean.
“We have a high accuracy assessment based on a large number of data points, and we’re very, very confident in our latest assessment,” the BBC quoted Nick Johnson, NASA’s chief scientist for orbital debris at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, as saying.
“Because the re-entry of the UARS satellite took place over the mid-Pacific Ocean, it’s unlikely that anyone actually observed the re-entry,” he added.