UPDATE: NASA's decommissioned, veteran satellite, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), has arrived. According to a NASA report, the satellite made a crash landing to Earth between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday, September 23, 2011 and 1:09 a.m. September 24, 2011. The crash landing completes UARS's journey spanning 20 years and nine days. Before the UARS crashed to pieces, it travelled from the east coast of Africa over the Indian Ocean, then the Pacific Ocean, then across northern Canada, then across the northern Atlantic Ocean, to a point over West Africa. The vast majority of the orbital transit was over water, with some flight over northern Canada and West Africa.
Where do satellites go to die? They come back crashing through the atmosphere back to Earth. According to a report by Space.com, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite or the UARS as it’s better known should be coming back to Earth sometime in late September or early October. The report further stated that the satellite, which was decommissioned back in 2005 is roughly 35ft in length, 15ft in width and weighs roughly 5900 kg, approximately three times the weight of a large car. NASA reportedly has calculated that most of the satellite will break up as it hurls itself through the atmosphere at several times the speed of sound. NASA has cautioned the public not to touch any pieces of debris that might fall in their vicinity.
UARS was launched back in 1991
There’s no day set for the re-entry. The satellite will slowly slip away from orbit and enter the atmosphere. NASA will be posting updates till a few days before re-entry. A separate body, called the Joint Space Operations Center tracks objects sent to space including space junk. They will be closely monitoring the defunct satellite as the day for re-entry arrives. Debris totally weighing upt o 532 kgs will survive through the re-entry and are likely to be scattered over an area of 800km. Space junk is slowly becoming an issue as there are plenty of failed rockets and dead satellites floating around in space. These are likely to collide with other satellites at some point in time or even slip out of orbit and possibly crash into heavily populated regions.