The Biggest Satellites that have fallen to Earth 


Skylab

Name: Skylab
Reentry Date: July 11, 1979
Reentry Location: South Western Australia
Size: 79 metric tons
Type: Uncontrolled reentry

The American space station’s reentry was celebrated by media in the United States, with two competing San Francisco newspapers even offering rewards for parts or damaged property.

Salyut 7

Name: Salyut 7/Kosmos 1686
Reentry Date: February 7, 1991
Reentry Location: Capitán Bermúdez, Argentina
Size: 40 metric tons
Type: Large, uncontrolled reentry

The Soviet space station had been uninhabited for almost 5 years when it returned to Earth, along with the unmanned spacecraft Kosmos 1686, showering a small Argentinian town with debris.

Mir

Name: Mir
Reentry Date: March 23, 2001
Reentry Location: South Pacific Ocean
Size: 120 metric tons
Type: Large, controlled destructive reentry

Mir, despite efforts to save the 15-year-old Russian space station for commercial purposes, reentered the atmosphere over Fiji, and fragments fell into the South Pacific.

Saturn S-II-13

Name:Saturn S-II-13 (Saturn V Stage)
Reentry Date:  January 11, 1975
Reentry Location: Atlantic
Size: 49 metric tons
Type: Uncontrolled reentry

The S-II was the second stage used on the massive Saturn V rocket, famous for launching Apollo astronauts to the moon. The S-II was used for the 13 launches of the Saturn V, including the 49 metric ton stage that reentered on January 11, 1975.

Cosmos 1402

Name: Cosmos 1402 (nuclear spy satellite)
Reentry Date: January 23, 1983
Reentry Location: Indian Ocean
Size: 4 metric tons
Type: Uncontrolled reentry

Satellite nuclear reactors were normally jettisoned to a safe “parking orbit” when the satellites reentered, but Cosmos 1402’s reactor remained attached until breaking up over the Indian Ocean. Here, an American orbital analyst monitors the satellites trajectory from NORAD.

Mars 96

Name:Mars 96 (Mars probe)
Reentry Date: November 17, 1996
Reentry Location: Bolivia, Chile, Pacific Ocean
Size: 7 metric tons
Type: Uncontrolled reentry

Mars 96 was a Russian satellite meant to send four probes to Mars, but failed and returned to Earth crashing into an unknown location in Bolivia, Chile, or the Pacific. No parts of the spacecraft, including its 200 grams of plutonium-238 fuel, have been found.

Space Shuttle Columbia

Name:Columbia (STS-107)
Reentry Date: February 1, 2003
Reentry Location: Texas, Louisiana
Size: 106 metric tons
Type: Large, controlled, destructive reentry

During the reentry of STS-107, damage to the shuttle’s left wing shielding during launch allowed hot gases to enter the wing structure of the shuttle, leading to the disintegration of the vehicle. All seven crew members were killed, and debris was scattered over northern Texas and eastern Louisiana.

Big Blast Off at Kennedy Space Center

The Space Launch System (abbreviated as SLS) is an American super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle developed by NASA starting in 2011. The first launch, designated Artemis 1, occurred on November 16, 2022 from Kennedy Space Center. It replaces the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, which were cancelled along with the rest of the Constellation program, a previous program aimed to return to the Moon. The SLS is the successor to the retired Space Shuttle, and the primary launch vehicle of NASA’s deep space exploration plans through the 2020s. The SLS has the highest payload capacity of any currently operational launch vehicle and the second-highest capacity of any rocket ever to reach orbit, trailing the Saturn V. Crewed lunar flights are planned as part of the Artemis program, leading to a possible human mission to Mars. The SLS is being developed in three major phases with increasing capabilities: Block 1, Block 1B, and Block 2. As of August 2019, SLS Block 1 launch vehicles are to launch the first three Artemis missions and[29] five subsequent SLS flights are planned to use Block 1B, after which all flights will use Block 2.

Mysterious X-37B spaceplane returns to Earth after staggering long mission

The U.S. military’s mysterious X-37B has returned to Earth following a record-setting 908 days in orbit around the planet, though what it was doing for all that time largely remains a closely guarded secret. The curious unmanned craft reportedly touched down at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center early Friday morning and was preceded by a pair of powerful sonic booms that rattled residents, who were left scratching their heads until the source of the sounds was ultimately revealed. The landing marked the conclusion of the X-37B’s sixth mission, which began when it was launched back in May of 2020.

While details surrounding the X-37B mission are somewhat scant, a U.S. Space Force press release touting the craft’s return gave some insight into some of the work that had been conducted during the 908 days it was orbiting the Earth. They revealed that one experiment aboard the space plane “successfully harnessed solar rays outside of Earth’s atmosphere and aimed to transmit power to the ground in the form of radio frequency microwave energy.” Meanwhile, a NASA study utilizing the craft’s marathon mission length looked at “the effect of long-duration space exposure on seeds.” The space plane’s 908 days in orbit smashed the record previously set by the X-37B fifth mission, which lasted 780 days.

Space Force Uniforms are Definitely Unique

The United States Space Force (USSF) is the space service branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, one of the eight U.S. uniformed services, and the world’s only independent space force. Along with its sister branch, the U.S. Air Force, the Space Force is part of the Department of the Air Force, one of the three civilian-led military departments within the Department of Defense. The Space Force, through the Department of the Air Force, is overseen by the secretary of the Air Force, a civilian political appointee who reports to the secretary of defense, and is appointed by the president with Senate confirmation. The military head of the Space Force is the chief of space operations who is typically the most senior Space Force officer. The chief of space operations exercises supervision over the Space Force’s units and serves as one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Space Force personnel are called Guardians.

This uniform description from Reddit: The new Space Force uniforms make you look like a fascist bus-driver from “The Jetsons.”

SpaceX launches another 52 Starlink satellites, lands rocket at sea

SpaceX launched another 52 of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit Saturday evening (Sept. 24) and also aced a rocket landing at sea.

A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 52 Starlink spacecraft lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Saturday at 7:32 p.m. EDT (2332 GMT).

Just under nine minutes later, the Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth for a pinpoint touchdown on the SpaceX “droneship” A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the fourth liftoff and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage to 40 countries. It also aims for global mobile phone service after 2023. SpaceX started launching Starlink satellites in 2019. As of September 2022, Starlink consists of over 3,000 mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO), which communicate with designated ground transceivers. Starlink provides internet access to over 500,000 subscribers as of June 2022.

The SpaceX satellite development facility in Redmond, Washington houses the Starlink research, development, manufacturing, and orbit control teams. The cost of the decade-long project to design, build, and deploy the constellation was estimated by SpaceX in May 2018 to be at least US$10 billion. In February 2017, documents indicated that SpaceX expects more than $30 billion in revenue by 2025 from its satellite constellation, while revenues from its launch business were expected to reach $5 billion in the same year.

60 Starlink satellites stacked together before deployment on 24 May 2019

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA’s future human and robotic missions to the Moon. Its detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the Moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies.

The probe has made a 3-D map of the Moon’s surface and has provided high resolution images of Apollo landing sites. The first images from LRO were published on July 2, 2009, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).

Launched on June 18, 2009, in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), as the vanguard of NASA’s Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, LRO was the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years. LRO and LCROSS were launched as part of the United States’s Vision for Space Exploration program.

Artist’s illustration of the LRO

earth Lunar_Reconnaissance_Orbiter_001
earth LRO_Tycho_Central_Peak

Tycho Central Peak

Far side of the Moon

eart Moon_Farside_LRO

Near side of the Moon

earth LRO_WAC_Nearside_Mosaic

North Pole

earth LRO_WAC_North_Pole_Mosaic_(PIA14024)

South Pole

earth LRO_WAC_South_Pole_Mosaic

Earthrise over Compton Crater

Earthrise_over_Compton_crater_-LRO_full_res

Apollo 11 landing site

Apollo11-LRO-March2012

Apollo 17 landing site

Apollo_17_LM_Challenger_LRO

NASA Has Captured ‘Actual Sound’ in Space and It’s Honestly Terrifying

In space, no one can hear you scream, the saying goes, because sound waves can’t travel through the vacuum that extends across most of the universe. However, space can be downright noisy in the right conditions, such as the hot gas surrounding the immense black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster, according to NASA. 

The agency recently tweeted an eerie audio clip that represents actual sound waves rippling through the gas and plasma in this cluster, which is 250 million light years from Earth. “The misconception that there is no sound in space originates because most space is a ~vacuum, providing no way for sound waves to travel,” the agency tweeted. “A galaxy cluster has so much gas that we’ve picked up actual sound. Here it’s amplified, and mixed with other data, to hear a black hole!”

Though the acoustic signals generated by the black hole were first identified in 2003 in data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, they have never been brought into the hearing range of the human ear—until now.

“In some ways, this sonification is unlike any other done before… because it revisits the actual sound waves discovered in data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory,” NASA said in a statement. “In this new sonification of Perseus, the sound waves astronomers previously identified were extracted and made audible for the first time.”

As it turns out, the sound waves in their natural environment are a whopping 57 octaves below the note middle C, making this black hole a real cosmic baritone. To make these tremors audible to humans, scientists raised their frequencies quadrillions of times (one quadrillion is a million billions, for perspective).

The effect is so chilling that it would seem totally at home in a Halloween playlist. But it is just one of many trippy earworms from the space sonification genre, in which astronomical data of all kinds is converted into sound waves. To that end, if you’re looking for some more off-Earth bops, check out these real recordings from Mars, the songs of gravitational waves, and the resonances of planetary systems.

Space debris Australia: Piece of SpaceX capsule crashes to Earth in field

The debris from space, in the field where it was found.
Image caption,The piece of space debris. Picture: Dr Brad Tucker

When Mick Miners, a farmer in New South Wales, Australia, first saw a large black object sticking out of the ground in a remote part of his land, he thought it was a dead tree.

But on closer inspection – and verification from experts – he learned it had fallen from space.

The Australian Space Agency (ASA) later said it came from a SpaceX capsule.

Experts described the discovery as “rare” and “exciting” – but said such events may become more common.

The object landed on 9 July in a large area of fields, but was not discovered by Mr Miners until several weeks later.

Two other pieces were later found nearby, and the ASA asked anyone who came across further items to contact a debris hotline set up by SpaceX.

Dr Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University, was called to examine the object.

He is often called to similar discoveries – the vast majority of which turn out not to be space debris.

“This has been super exciting to see this all up close, I’ve never seen a piece of space junk fall like this.”

Don Pollacco, a professor of astrophysics at the UK’s Warwick University, agreed that it was very rare for space debris to hit land.

While objects fall from space to Earth every day, the vast majority land in the oceans covering most of the planet, he said.

What’s more, the only recorded case of a person being hit was Lottie Williams, who was unhurt when a piece of space debris landed on her shoulder in Oklahoma, US, in 1997.

Other incidents include damage to buildings in Ivory Coast in 2020, from pieces of a Chinese rocket.

However, discoveries on land may become more common – especially as the number of rockets sent to space has hugely increased in recent years.

The Sun is also moving into a cycle of being more active, Prof Pollacco added, a knock-on effect of which may be more debris falling to Earth.

Perhaps more worrying is a study from Canada’s University of British Columbia, published in July, which found there was a 10% chance of one or more people being killed by space debris in the next decade.

But Prof Pollacco still says the chance of an individual being hurt is “almost zero”, adding: “I don’t think people need to be frightened, the likelihood of them getting hit is unbelievably small.”

Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist from the Australian National University, who first realised the timing and location of the debris falling coincided with a SpaceX spacecraft which re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 7am on 9 July, 20 months after its launchlaunch in November 2020.

Tucker believes the debris came from the unpressurised trunk of the SpaceX capsule, which is critical to take off but dumped when returning to earth.

Tucker also explained why the space debris didn’t create a massive crater when it hit the ground.

When the capsule hit the Earth’s atmosphere, it lost most of its speed because all of the energy was absorbed in the atmosphere, causing it to break apart.

“Like if you throw a ball through a window, the shards of glass don’t necessarily travel at the speed of the ball. They travel slower because of the transfer of energy.”

Dr Sara Webb, an astrophysicist at Swinburne University, explains it’s also possible the debris could have bounced around and bounced further away from where it had initially landed.

Out-of-Control Chinese Rocket May Land on Your Head Sunday

Early predictions show “over 88 percent of the world’s population” lives in the potential landing zone.

Future Publishing / Getty

A used Chinese rocket booster is set to fall out of orbit and crash into Earth sometime in the next few days. The nonprofit Aerospace Corporation’s debris tracking experts predict that the rocket—a 10-story, 23-ton core stage of a Long March 5B mission launched July 24 to deliver the Wentian lab module to the country’s Tiangong space station—will careen to Earth on July 31 at 3:52 a.m. Eastern Time, plus or minus 22 hours.

While the chance of the rocket hitting a populated community is slim, it’s still possible. “Due to the uncontrolled nature of its descent, there is a non-zero probability of the surviving debris landing in a populated area—over 88 percent of the world’s population lives under the reentry’s potential debris footprint,” the Aerospace Corporation said in a statement. About 60 to 80 percent of the booster’s mass will burn up in the atmosphere, but that still leaves a hefty, fiery object ready to slam into the ground.

This is the third time that a Long March 5B booster has fallen back to Earth uncontrollably and raised alarms. In May 2020, a booster crashed into an uninhabited plot of land on the African West Coast.

The second Chinese booster incident, in May 2021, was more infamous. For several days, the space community had a harder time predicting and assessing where it would land. The world waited with bated breath for several hours until it was finally confirmed the booster landed in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. NASA, among others, expressed severe irritation with the Chinese handling of the booster. (NASA did not respond to requests from The Daily Beast for immediate comment.)

China’s response over its uncontrolled boosters in the past has always ranged from complete silence to accusing the U.S. and others of scaremongering folks (which they’ve done again in response to this latest instance). Most core stages, reports Gizmodo, aren’t supposed to reach orbit, and their trajectories are instead designed to guide them back to landing in the ocean or a very remote location on land. China, however, has consistently elected to send its Long March 5B core booster into orbit and let it tumble back to Earth willy-nilly.

Debris trackers around the world will have a better sense in the next few days of where the booster may land Sunday, but it will still be tough to predict an exact location ahead of time. Sunday morning will be a tense time for a large swath of the world.

There is a better chance of that rocket landing on my head than me winning the lottery.

Mysterious Metal Balls Rain Down From Sky Onto Multiple Villages in India

Multiple villages in India were pelted by mysterious metal balls that rained down from the sky in what is likely a case of space junk falling back down to Earth. According to a local media report, the odd incident unfolded over the course of two days last week and impacted at least seven neighboring communities across the Indian state of Gujarat. The rather sizeable spheres, which can be seen ‘showcased’ in the video above, weighed approximately 12 pounds each and measured around one-and-a-half feet in diameter.

While there were no injuries from the bizarre ‘rainfall,’ there was one unfortunate victim in the form of a lamb that just happened to be grazing in the wrong place at the wrong time. “There was a huge sound from the sky and blinding light,” recalled a witness to the creature’s demise, “I could not see anything but almost the next instant, there was a loud noise and I saw that a metal piece had fallen on a lamb. It was hot and killed the lamb instantly.” As one might imagine, the falling balls caused something of a stir in the various villages and left many residents understandably wondering about the origins of the weird spheres.

Fortunately, it would seem that the mystery surrounding the baffling balls may wind up being short-lived as authorities enlisted experts from the Indian government to examine the spheres and they determined that they were likely space junk. Specifically, it was noted that the objects were “made of high-density metal alloys” of the kind used in rocket launches. Narrowing down the nature of the balls even further, a scientist from the Indian space agency indicated that the spheres appear to have been fuel storage tanks. An astronomer who tracks space debris was even able to identify where, exactly, the objects likely originated, pointing to a Chinese rocket that was expected to reenter the atmosphere at around the time of the ‘rainfall.’