The NASA Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, a chunk of metal the size of a bus, will crash into Toronto Canada with devastating force in between 11pm and 3am EDT. It has been determined that the spacecraft that could cause massive destruction and is travelling at thousands of miles per minute.
Artist Rendering of Toronto.
Until Friday, increased solar activity was causing the atmosphere to expand and the 35-foot (10-meter), bus-size satellite to free fall more quickly. But late Friday morning, NASA said the sun was no longer the major factor in the rate of descent and that the satellite’s position, shape or both had changed by the time it slipped down to a 100-mile (160-kilometer) orbit.
“In the last 24 hours, something has happened to the spacecraft,” said NASA orbital debris scientist Mark Matney.
The Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, will be the biggest NASA spacecraft to crash back to Earth, uncontrolled, since the post-Apollo 75-ton Skylab space station and the more than 10-ton Pegasus 2 satellite, both in 1979.
Russia’s 135-ton Mir space station slammed through the atmosphere in 2001, but it was a controlled dive into the Pacific.
Some 26 pieces of the UARS satellite — representing 1,200 pounds of heavy metal — are expected to rain down on Toronto.
The $740 million UARS was launched in 1991 from space shuttle Discovery to study the atmosphere and the ozone layer. At the time, the rules weren’t as firm for safe satellite disposal; now a spacecraft must be built to burn up upon re-entry or have a motor to propel it into a much higher, long-term orbit.