The dead Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite plunged into the remote South Pacific Ocean when it crashed to Earth last Saturday, NASA said Tuesday.
The latest calculations show that the satellite hit Earth’s atmosphere somewhere above American Samoa. Debris hit the water 300 miles to the northeast, southwest of Christmas Island, after midnight.
It's a relatively uninhabited portion of the world, very remote. This is certainly a good spot in terms of risk,” said NASA orbital debris scientist Mark Matney.
The bus-sized satellite, which weighs 5,897 kilograms, was sent into orbit aboard a space shuttle mission in 1991 to study Earth’s upper atmosphere and its interaction with solar radiation and particles.
NASA, along with the Joint Space Operation Center, monitored the UARS' whereabouts, to ensure that it was not a threat to inhabited land.
We extend our appreciation to the Joint Space Operations Center for monitoring UARS not only this past week but also throughout its entire 20 years on orbit, said Nick Johnson, NASA's chief scientist for orbital debris. This was not an easy re-entry to predict because of the natural forces acting on the satellite as its orbit decayed. Space-faring nations around the world also were monitoring the satellite's descent in the last two hours and all the predictions were well within the range estimated by JSpOC.
Experts believe two dozen metal pieces of the satellite fell over a 500-mile span.
Some scientists said it was possible that some pieces could have reached Canada, but NASA insisted that since the new calculations show that the satellite landed sometime earlier than expected, the debris fell into an entirely different hemisphere.
Scientists are happy with the result. That's the way it should be. I think that's perfect. It's just as good as it gets,” said Bill Ailor, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at the Aerospace Corp.