Major Piece of Space Junk Heads This Way

Most of a pallet released by the International Space Station will burn up in Earth's atmosphere, but not all
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2024 3:05 PM CST
Major Piece of Space Junk Heads This Way
An external pallet loaded with old nickel-hydrogen batteries is pictured shortly after mission controllers in Houston had it released into space.   (NASA)

A 2.9-ton piece of space junk, the heaviest discard ever from the International Space Station, is due to reach the Earth's atmosphere any time now. The pallet, which was used for a battery upgrade, was released by Canadarm2 in March 2021, Quartz reports. A Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer said the pallet mostly will come to an end in the atmosphere. But it "will not totally burn up on reentry—about half a ton of fragments will likely hit the Earth's surface," McDowell posted on X. The uncontrolled reentry probably will take place by 3:30am ET Saturday, he said.

The pallet was released about 265 miles from Earth's surface. An alert by a German civil safety agency, per, said that after reentry, "Luminous phenomena or the perception of a sonic boom are possible." The European Space Agency also is monitoring the situation and said the chance of anyone being struck by the debris is low. A large space object reenters Earth's atmosphere roughly once per week, the agency said. (More space junk stories.)

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