April 22, 2024

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

A 5,000-pound satellite crashed in the atmosphere between Alaska and Hawaii

A 5,000-pound satellite crashed in the atmosphere between Alaska and Hawaii

A satellite made an uncontrolled return through Earth's atmosphere on Wednesday, reentering Earth's atmosphere Over the North Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Hawaii, According to the European Space Agency.

The agency said IRS-2, which weighed about the same as an adult male rhinoceros, broke up in the atmosphere at 5:17 p.m. UTC. The agency was unable to accurately predict when and where the satellite would return because its return was ā€œnormal.ā€

What is the normal return?

The ESA said the ERS-2 batteries were exhausted and the communication antenna and onboard electronics were turned off, meaning there was no way to effectively control the satellite's movement from Earth as it descended. The last ERS-2 fuel was used in 2011 to reduce the risk of a catastrophic explosion capable of generating a large amount of space debris.

Is there any risk with ERS-2 returns?

Most of the satellite burned up as it reentered Earth's atmosphere. None of the parts will contain any toxic or radioactive materials.

The space agency has not yet determined how many pieces of the satellite have survived the return, but noted that any pieces “will be spread out somewhat randomly over a ground path averaging hundreds of kilometers long and a few tens of kilometers wide.”

The space agency added that the annual risk of a person being injured by space debris is less than 1 in 100 billion, or 65,000 times less than the risk of being struck by lightning.

What was ERS-2 doing in space?

The satellite was launched on April 21, 1995 as an Earth observation spacecraft. It has been used to collect data on Earth's surfaces, oceans, and polar caps. ERS-2 has also been used to monitor natural disasters, such as severe floods and earthquakes.

Its mission ended in 2011, when the European Space Agency began removing the satellite from its orbit. Deorbit helps prevent in-orbit collisions and mitigates the formation of space debris.

ERS-2's remaining fuel was exhausted during deorbit. The average satellite altitude has also been reduced.

See also  The James Webb Space Telescope peers into the hypnotic spiral arms of the Whirlpool Galaxy (photos)