UARS (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) 1991 2005 1
W i 4. dth: 5m
NASA launches satellite UARS aboard the shuttle Discovery. At a cost of $475 million, its mission is to study the atmospheric makeup, especially the ozone layer.

News and events — visually

What goes up ...
Solar panel


All eyes have been turned towards the sky in anticipation of a defunct, 6,000 kg NASA climate satellite falling from the sky. Earlier this month, NASA had announced its re-entry for Sept. 23 or 24, but could not pinpoint the location or exact time with any certainty.


In December 2005, it was taken out of service following a collision with an unknown object. The Aura satellite takes over.

Space Junk
What is orbital debris?
Orbital debris is any man-made object in orbit around Earth that no longer serves a useful purpose. Debris can include: • Derelict spacecraft and upper stages of launch vehicles • Carriers for multiple payloads • Debris intentionally released during spacecraft separation from its launch vehicle or during mission operations • Debris created as a result of spacecraft or upper stage explosions or collisions • Solid rocket motor effluents • Tiny flecks of paint released by thermal stress or small particle impacts

Weight: 5,668 kg Length: 10.7 m

In late summer, scientists observe a decline in the daily operational orbit to 600 km above Earth.


Most orbital debris resides within 2,000 km of Earth’s surface.

Objects re-entering the atmosphere are generally travelling at up to 29,000 km/h and decellerate at up to 10Gs, causing the object to burn and break apart at the same time.

About 21,000 pieces of orbital debris larger than 10 cm are currently tracked by the U.S. Space Surveillance Network.

Human to scale

The largest object to re-enter was the Russian Mir Space Station, which weighed 120,000 kg.
SPECTROMETER Determines the composition of gas in the atmosphere antenna

Earth’s diameter — 12,757 km

According to NASA, more than 200 pieces dubbed “large objects” return to Earth every year. The risk that an individual will be hit and injured by an object returning to Earth is estimated to be less than one in one trillion. Over the last 40 years, more than 5,400 metric tonnes of material is believed to have survived re-entry, with no reported casualties.

Right: A large piece of space debris that fell in a field in Argentina in 2004.
Source: NASA

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful