Defunct NASA satellite for re-entry

Defunct NASA satellite for re-entry

Defunct NASA satellite for re-entry

WASHINGTON — NASA’s defunct satellite, launched nearly forty years ago, is projected to re-enter orbit late January 8 with very little risk to people on the ground.

NASA announced on January 6 that the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS), launched in 1984 and shut down in 2005, will re-enter orbit on January 8. hours, based on US Space Force data.

The Space Force’s Space Track service updated this prediction late on January 6 with a new orbital re-entry time of 11:25 p.m. EST plus or minus 10 hours. The Center for Orbital Waste Research and Reentry Aerospace Corporation estimated reentry at 10:49 p.m. EST plus or minus 13 hours, based on early January 6 data.

Most of the 2,450-kilogram satellite will burn up during reentry, NASA said in its statement, but some components are likely to survive and reach the surface. The agency estimated the chance of the debris causing harm to anyone on earth to be 1 in 9,400.

The ERBS was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in October 1984 to study the balance between the energy absorbed by the Earth from the Sun and the energy it radiated, and to monitor ozone in the stratosphere. It was supposed to run for two years, ERBS was finally withdrawn in 2005.

NASA launched ERBS ahead of the agency’s first Orbital Contamination Mitigation Guidelines in the 1990s. Current U.S. government standard practice for orbital contamination mitigation, last updated in 2019, requires low Earth orbit satellites to be deorbited no later than 25 years after the end of their mission which the ERBS will meet. However, ERBS fails to meet another aspect of the guidelines, limiting the risk of victims of falling debris to no more than 1 in 10,000.

There has long been a discussion about reducing the post-mission disposal period from 25 years to just 5 years to minimize the risk of collisions that could create debris. The National Orbital Rubble Deployment Plan, published by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in July 2022, directed NASA and several other agencies to reassess existing mitigation guidelines, “specifically the potential benefits and costs of reducing deorbit timelines.”

In September 2022, the Federal Communications Commission approved an order that commercial satellites that apply for FCC licenses or seek market access in the US after September 2024 must deorbit their satellites no later than five years after the end of their mission. This rule applies to satellites that end their lives at an altitude of 2,000 kilometers or less.

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