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Retired NASA satellite expected to fall to Earth on Sunday

Jan. 6 (UPI) — A retired NASA satellite is expected to fall to Earth on Sunday after spending nearly 40 years in space, space officials said Friday.

The U.S. Defense Department has predicted that the 5,400-pound Earth Radiation Budget Satellite will reenter the atmosphere sometime within a 17-hour window of 6:40 p.m. EST on Sunday, NASA said in a statement.

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The satellite is expected to mostly burn up as it falls back to Earth, though some components are expected to survive.

The risk of harm from the falling debris was “very low” with odds around 1 in 9,400, NASA said in the statement.

The satellite was launched from the Challenger space shuttle on Oct. 5, 1984, and was part of a three-satellite experiment to measure the impacts of solar radiation on stratospheric ozone, water vapor, nitrogen dioxide and aerosols in Earth’s stratosphere.

“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,” the NASA statement reads.

“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 suite of satellite instruments.”

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