NASA Flags Area Where Retired Spacecraft Came Down

The RHESSI's time in space is done
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2023 4:41 PM CDT
Updated Apr 20, 2023 12:55 PM CDT
NASA: There's a Small Chance Retired Spacecraft Could Hit Somebody Tonight
This illustration provided by NASA depicts the RHESSI (Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager) solar observation satellite.   (NASA via AP)
UPDATE Apr 20, 2023 12:55 PM CDT

NASA's retired Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) spacecraft fell back to Earth slightly ahead of schedule and, ostensibly, without incident. NASA said Thursday that the Department of Defense confirmed the RHESSI reentered Earth’s atmosphere over the Sahara Desert at 8:21pm Wednesday. Gizmodo reports, by way of astronomer Jonathan McDowell, that it traveled over the Egyptian-Sudanese border as it reentered on a trajectory towards northern Egypt. NASA previously stated the spacecraft had a 1-in-2,467 chance of hitting someone. NASA had earlier said a flash seen over Kyiv last night wasn't the satellite.

Apr 19, 2023 4:41 PM CDT

NASA says a defunct solar observation satellite is going to fall back to Earth Wednesday night but the chances of it hitting any Earthlings are low—approximately 1 in 2,467, according to the agency's calculations. NASA said in an update Wednesday that the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager—RHESSI—is expected to reenter the atmosphere at around 9:40pm, with an uncertainty of three hours either way. The agency says most of the 660-pound spacecraft is expected to burn up on reentry but some parts might hit the ground, the AP reports. It was launched almost 21 years ago.

NASA says the spacecraft was decommissioned five years ago because of communications difficulties, but it observed more than 100,000 X-ray events during its years in service. "From 2002 to its decommissioning in 2018, RHESSI observed solar flares and coronal mass ejections from its low-Earth orbit, helping scientists understand the underlying physics of how such powerful bursts of energy are created," a NASA release states. Fox notes that on average, one piece of space junk falls to Earth every day. (More NASA stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.