A 38-year-old retired NASA satellite that looked into how the Earth absorbed and radiated energy from the Sun, is about to fall from the sky, according to NASA. The Department of Defense predicted that the 5,400-pound The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) satellite will re-enter the atmosphere at approximately 6:40 p.m. EST on Sunday, January 8 with an uncertainty of +/- 17 hours.
NASA expects most of the satellite to burn up as it travels through the atmosphere, but some components are expected to survive the re-entry. The risk of harm coming to anyone on Earth is very low – approximately 1 in 9,400.
Launched from the Space Shuttle Challenger on Oct. 5, 1984, the ERBS spacecraft was part of NASA’s three-satellite Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) mission. It carried three instruments, two to measure the Earth’s radiative energy budget, and one to measure stratospheric constituents, including ozone.
ERBS far exceeded its expected two-year service life, operating until its retirement in 2005. Its observations helped researchers measure the effects of human activities on Earth’s radiation balance. NASA has continued to build on the success of the ERBE mission with projects including the current Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) suite of satellite instruments.
The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment II (SAGE II) on the ERBS made stratospheric measurements. SAGE II collected important data that confirmed the ozone layer was declining on a global scale. That data helped shape the international Montreal Protocol Agreement, resulting in a dramatic decrease around the globe in the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons. Today, SAGE III on the International Space Station collects data on the health of the ozone layer.
Sourced from NASA website