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NASA's UARS Re-Enters Earth's Atmosphere



Sept. 24, 2011

Beth Dickey/Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington 
202-358-2087/0918
beth.dickey-1@xxxxxxxx/stephen.e.cole@xxxxxxxx

RELEASE: 11-350

NASA'S UARS RE-ENTERS EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE

WASHINGTON - NASA's decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite 
(UARS) fell back to Earth between 11:23 p.m. EDT Friday, Sept. 23 and 
1:09 a.m. Sept. 24, 20 years and nine days after its launch on a 
14-year mission that produced some of the first long-term records of 
chemicals in the atmosphere. 

The precise re-entry time and location of debris impacts have not been 
determined. During the re-entry period, the satellite passed 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. 

Six years after the end of its productive scientific life, UARS broke 
into pieces during re-entry, and most of it up burned in the 
atmosphere. Data indicates the satellite likely broke apart and 
landed in the Pacific Ocean far off the U.S. coast. Twenty-six 
satellite components, weighing a total of about 1,200 pounds, could 
have survived the fiery re-entry and reach the surface of Earth. 
However, NASA is not aware of any reports of injury or property 
damage. 

The Operations Center for JFCC-Space, the Joint Functional Component 
Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., which works around the 
clock detecting, identifying and tracking all man-made objects in 
Earth orbit, tracked the movements of UARS through the satellite's 
final orbits and provided confirmation of re-entry. 

"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, at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "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." 

UARS was launched Sept. 12, 1991, aboard space shuttle mission STS-48 
and deployed on Sept. 15, 1991. It was the first multi-instrumented 
satellite to observe numerous chemical components of the atmosphere 
for better understanding of photochemistry. UARS data marked the 
beginning of many long-term records for key chemicals in the 
atmosphere. The satellite also provided key data on the amount of 
light that comes from the sun at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths. 
UARS ceased its scientific life in 2005. 

Because of the satellite's orbit, any surviving components of UARS 
should have landed within a zone between 57 degrees north latitude 
and 57 degrees south latitude. It is impossible to pinpoint just 
where in that zone the debris landed, but NASA estimates the debris 
footprint to be about 500 miles long. 

For more information about UARS, visit: 

http://www.nasa.gov/uars

	
-end-



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