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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Dec > Dec 27

'UFO' Hits Orbiting NASA Satellite

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2007 07:58:58 -0500
Archived: Thu, 27 Dec 2007 07:58:58 -0500
Subject: 'UFO' Hits Orbiting NASA Satellite

Source: Satellite-CATV News - Ocala, Florida, USA


Thursday, 27 December 2007

UFO Hits NASA Satellite In Space
by Patrick Lynch

The orbiter  took some damage

In the eternity of space, the chance of a meeting between two
free-floating objects would probably not produce odds you'd want
to bet on.

But in the ever-more-crowded arena of low-Earth orbit, the area
up to about 1,200 miles above the surface, those odds might be

An unknown object apparently collided with a satellite with NASA
Langley Research Center connections in November, sending several
broken pieces flying into orbit. The satellite was
decommissioned in December 2005, but was one of NASA's largest
and brightest in low-Earth orbit, and popular among amateur sky
watchers. Called UARS, Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, it
was launched in 1991 and carried a NASA Langley instrument
called HALOE that captured data about the chemistry of the

On Nov. 10, something apparently hit the school bus-sized
orbiter. It could have been one of the many pieces in a growing
field of 'space junk'. It could have been a meteoroid. Space
debris often leaves dings and dents in satellites and even the
space shuttle, and aging satellites decay over time. But a
collision that actually creates new pieces of debris is more

"When I heard this, I was shocked," said Jim Russell, a Hampton
University professor who was the project lead for HALOE. "This
is very unexpected. That's not normal decay."

Nicholas L. Johnson, chief scientist for NASA's Orbital Debris
Program, said it remains unclear what happened to UARS. Four
pieces bigger than 4 inches in diameter - roughly the size of a
trackable piece of space junk - were sent into orbit, but it is
unclear how large those pieces are.

A collision from a meteoroid or another piece of debris is the
best hypothesis, Johnson said. The core of the spacecraft
appears to still be intact.

"Unfortunately, we might not ever learn what caused the event,"
Johnson said.

Mark Matney, who works with Johnson in the Orbital Debris
Program, said satellites with still-functioning pressurized
systems sometimes eject new debris if a tank explodes. But UARS
had no such systems, so a collision is the best explanation.

Only three known collisions between two satellites have ever
occurred, Matney said. But these 'anomalous' events, where it's
not clear what one of the colliding objects was, do happen
occasionally, he said.

"It's very hard to determine," what might have hit UARS, Matney

Decommissioned satellites typically continue to orbit for years
before losing energy and falling toward Earth, usually to burn
up. UARS was expected to fall out of orbit around 2011, Russell

UARS weighed about 13,000 pounds and measured 35 feet long and
15 feet wide, perhaps making it a better target than most.

The U.S. Space Surveillance Network, run by the Air Force,
estimates there are about 10,000 objects in low-Earth orbit that
are larger than 4 inches. The network's sensitive ground-based
instruments can track those objects. The objects range from
communication satellites to the International Space Station to
junk - pieces of decaying satellites and the remnants of rocket

The field of debris has become an increasing concern as the
number of pieces continues to increase. The debris field was
also significantly expanded in January of this year, when China
angered the U.S. and other nations by testing an anti-satellite
missile. The Chinese destroyed their FY-1C satellite, an aging
weather observer.

The missile test exploded the satellite into more than 1,000
pieces of debris, and U.S. intelligence and defense analysts
almost immediately deduced what had happened, before the Chinese
government admitted it a few weeks later.

The UARS collision created only a handful of new pieces of
debris, but still, "You hope it's not anything sinister," said
Ellis Remsberg, a Langley scientist who worked on HALOE with

Two of the large pieces that broke off UARS have apparently
already burned up in the atmosphere, Johnson said. The other two
pieces will likely do the same.

What remains of the craft's core will continue to orbit for some
time - barring another collision.

"It was a bright object in the sky," said Russell. "You could
see it over the Peninsula every 33 days."

What is UARS?

The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite was launched in 1991 and
carried multiple atmospheric-observing instruments, one of which
was built at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton. The
satellite, which weighed about 13,000 pounds and was more than
30 feet long, was decommissioned in 2005 but continued to orbit
Earth. It was apparently struck by an object in space in

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