WASHINGTON, Sept 23 (AFP) Sep 24, 2011
A six-ton NASA satellite will fall out of orbit and crash to Earth in the coming hours as it passes over Canada, Africa and Australia as well as plenty of open ocean, the US space agency said Friday.
The 20-year-old Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is expected to break up on its re-entry and spread over a 500 mile (800 kilometer) area, but NASA insisted the risk to the public is "very remote."
"Re-entry is expected between 11 pm Friday, September 23, and 3 am, September 24, Eastern Daylight Time (0300 to 0700 GMT)," NASA said in a web update posted at 7:30 pm (2330 GMT).
"During that time period, the satellite will be passing over Canada, Africa and Australia, as well as vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. The risk to public safety is very remote."
UARS is the biggest NASA satellite to fall to Earth since Skylab which landed in western Australia in 1979.
The craft is expected to break up and 26 pieces are expected to survive the re-entry and crash to Earth. The fragments should range between two pounds (one kilogram) or as much as 350 pounds (158 kilograms).
Orbital debris experts say similar size space junk from broken satellites and spent rockets falls to Earth once per year.
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