WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 (UPI) — A 6.5-ton satellite falling out of orbit will hit Earth Friday, and 26 pieces of it have a good chance of surviving the heat of re-entry, NASA said.
The exact location of its re-entry is impossible to pinpoint because the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite travels thousands of miles in a matter of minutes, Mark Matney of NASA’s Orbital Debris team told CNN.
On its Web site, NASA said the bus-sized 20-year-old satellite would not be flying over North America during the anticipated re-entry period.
Most of the satellite is aluminum that will melt and burn up during re-entry, but about half a ton of material is likely to make it through, the space agency said.
The chances of debris hitting anyone are slim, experts said.
“Most of these things fall in the water,” Bill Ailor, an aerospace engineer at Aerospace Corp. in El Segundo, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times.
The company tracks uncontrolled objects leaving orbit.
Russia’s Mir space station fell safely into the South Pacific in March 2001, and the U.S. space station Skylab disintegrated and tumbled into the Indian Ocean in July 1979.