Did a dead 600lb NASA satellite crash in Africa? Search for spacecraft the size of a shipping container, fearing it may have landed in Chad overnight
- US space agency has yet to reveal whether satellite burned up or where it crashed
- The 600-pound vessel, about the size of a shipping container, was retired in 2018
A dead NASA spacecraft with a one in 2,500 chance of killing someone entered Earth’s atmosphere overnight — but the U.S. space agency has yet to reveal whether it burned up or where it crashed.
The 600-pound vessel – about the size of a shipping container – went out of service in 2018 after a communications failure.
NASA declined to reveal its reentry location, but the satellite is believed to have come down between 12:50 AM BST and 2:50 AM BST this morning (7:50 PM ET and 9:50 PM ET yesterday).
Satellite tracking data suggests it may have crashed in Chad, Libya or Sudan, but this has yet to be verified.
Aerospace, a national space program, previously revealed that the debris could fall anywhere in South America, Africa or Asia.
A dead NASA spacecraft with a one in 2,500 chance of killing someone entered Earth’s atmosphere overnight — but the US space agency has yet to reveal whether it burned up or where it came down
Satellite tracking data suggests it may have crashed in Chad, Libya or Sudan (pictured)
A mysterious flash lighting up the sky over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv sparked speculation that it could be the dead spacecraft, but NASA dismissed this.
U.S. space agency officials said the satellite was still in orbit at the time of the flash.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told DailyMail.com that the object was “definitely not” the NASA satellite, nor space debris.
“(It could be a natural meteor or a Russian missile strike,” he said.
Experts previously said there was a 75 percent chance debris from the dead satellite would crash into the ocean, but NASA did acknowledge there was a “low” risk of it hitting land.
Professor Hugh Lewis, aerospace lecturer at the UK’s University of Southampton, shared on Twitter: ‘Unfortunately, many people live in latitudes, so the risk of an accident is still relatively high.’
The dead craft is NASA’s Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), which was tasked with observing solar flares when it launched on Feb. 5, 2002.
It was decommissioned in 2018 after NASA was unable to communicate with it.
RHESSI launched aboard an Orbital Sciences Corporation Pegasus XL rocket, aiming to image the high-energy electrons that carry much of the energy released in solar flares.
It achieved this with its only instrument, an imaging spectrometer, which recorded X-rays and gamma rays from the sun.
Before RHESSI, no gamma-ray or high-energy X-rays of solar flares had been taken.
Where the satellite might have crashed: NASA declined to reveal its reentry location, but the satellite is believed to have crashed between 00:50 BST and 02:50 BST this morning (19:50 ET and 21:50 ET yesterday)
A mysterious flash lighting up the sky over the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv sparked speculation that this could be the dead spacecraft, but NASA dismissed this
Data from RHESSI provided vital clues about solar flares and associated coronal mass ejections.
These events release the energy equivalent of billions of megatons of TNT into the solar atmosphere within minutes and could have impacts on Earth, including the disruption of electrical systems. It has proved challenging to understand them.
RHESSI recorded more than 100,000 X-ray images during its mission period, allowing scientists to study the energetic particles in solar flares.
The imager helped researchers determine the frequency, location and motion of the particles, helping them understand where the particles were being accelerated.