This Weekend, A NASA Satellite That Has Died In Orbit Will Collapse To Earth

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On Sunday night, a decommissioned NASA spacecraft will likely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS), which weighs 5,400 pounds, is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday around 6:40 p.m. EST (give or take 17 hours), according to projections made by the United States military.

NASA predicts that the majority of the satellite will be destroyed by atmospheric reentry, but that some parts may survive. About 1 in 9,400 people on Earth will be harmed this year. Three satellites comprising NASA’s Earth Radiation Budget Experiment were placed into low Earth orbit in 1984 using the space shuttle Challenger.

Three scientific equipment were employed by ERBS to investigate how Earth takes in and releases solar energy. Though intended for use for just two years, it continued to function until 2005 before finally becoming a huge piece of space debris. Since then, the spaceship has been slowly falling due to drag.

ERBS far exceeded its expected two-year service life, operating until its retirement in 2005. Its observations helped researchers measure the effects of human activities on Earth’s radiation balance.

The death plunge of ERBS will follow a series of other spectacular space debris crashes. Uncontrolled descent of two Chinese Long March 5B rocket cores, each weighing around 23 tons (21 metric tons), occurred in 2022. Both accidents happened in November, roughly a week after the rockets had helped launch additional modules to China’s Tiangong space station in July.

In contrast, most orbital rockets’ first stages are either deliberately destroyed shortly after launch or brought down to Earth for recovery and further reuse. As a result, several people in the space industry have voiced their disapproval of the Long March 5B failures.

Of course, ERBS is different; it has been in orbit for over four decades. Still, the spacecraft’s impending demise serves as a sobering reflection that Earth orbit is rife with space trash, which presents a growing hazard.

Tiesha loves to share her passion for everything that’s beautiful in this world. Apart from writing on her beauty blog and running her own beauty channel on Youtube, she also enjoys traveling and photography. Tiesha covers various stories on the website.