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Old NASA satellite falling from sky this weekend, low threat

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA (AP) – A 38-year-old retired NASA satellite is about to fall from the sky.

NASA said yesterday, the chance of wreckage falling on anybody is “very low”. Most of the 2,450 kilogrammes satellite will burn up upon re-entry. But some pieces are expected to survive.

The space agency put the odds of injury from falling debris at about one-in-9,400.

According to the Defence Department, the science satellite is expected to come down tonight, give or take 17 hours.

The California-based Aerospace Corp, however is targetting on tomorrow morning, give or take 13 hours, along a track passing over Africa, Asia the Middle East and the westernmost areas of North and South America.

The Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, known as ERBS, was launched in 1984 aboard space shuttle Challenger. Although its expected working lifetime was two years, the satellite kept making ozone and other atmospheric measurements until its retirement in 2005.

The satellite studied how Earth absorbed and radiated energy from the sun.

The satellite got a special send-off from Challenger. America’s first woman in space, Sally Ride, released the satellite into orbit using the shuttle’s robot arm.

That same mission also featured the first spacewalk by a United States woman, Kathryn Sullivan. It was the first time two female astronauts flew in space together.

The space shuttle Challenger launches the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite in 1984. PHOTO: AP