The NASA observation satellite that fell over the Bering Sea about 40 years ago

A decommissioned 2.5-ton observation satellite plunged into the atmosphere near the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea. Most of it burned up, but some may have fallen to the ground, NASA said. 

The NASA observation satellite that fell over the Bering Sea about 40 years ago

Contribution to fluorocarbon regulations

NASA said the Earth Radiation Balance Satellite (ERBS) re-entered at 11:04 p.m. Eastern time on January 8, and the Space Force's Space Track predicted a re-entry near the Aleutian Islands, SpaceNews said. Report.

The 5,400-pound (approximately 2.45 tons) earth observation satellite has spent more than 38 years in low earth orbit since it was sent into outer space on October 5, 1984, by the Space Shuttle Challenger. The ERBS mission, which should have lasted two years, lasted 21 years and was retired in 2005.

In its infancy, ERBS collected data on the Earth's energy budget (the balance between how much solar energy the Earth receives and how much it re-radiates). Three instruments on board the satellite measured the concentrations of water vapor, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and various aerosols in the stratosphere.

According to NASA, the ERBS helped us better understand the climate and the state of the ozone layer, and contributed to the adoption of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which restricted the use of harmful fluorocarbons.

"While we expected most of the satellite to burn up as it passed through the atmosphere, some parts survived re-entry," NASA said in a release. In the version before the update, it seems that the probability of debris falling to the ground and causing damage was evaluated as 1 in 9400. No injuries or damage from falling debris have been reported.

Satellite deployment is outdated

The satellite crash represented an outdated policy, both in terms of how long it took the satellite to leave orbit after it was retired, and the risk it posed to people on the ground. In September 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced new rules to deorbit satellites within five years after they have completed their missions, with the intention of reducing the amount of space debris and minimizing collisions in space. Adopted, In addition, the 2019 revision of the U.S. government's Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices states that the "risk of human injury from endured parts" should be less than 1 in 10,000.

Although neither policy was introduced in 1984 when ERBS was launched, it can be said that ERBS broke both.

Such cases with old satellites are expected to occur in the future, but they will decrease as domestic and foreign satellite launchers adhere to new policies.

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