NASA satellite no longer operational falling towards Earth

A small NASA end-of-life satellite weighing less than 300 kilograms is re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. This is the Rhessi satellite, launched in 2002 to study the Sun and now in disuse since 2018. The object should return around 3:30 on April 20 (Italian time), with a margin of uncertainty of about 16 hours.

Sicily marginally interested in the impact

Some fragments could survive the impact with the atmosphere, but “the risk of damage to anyone on Earth is low, approximately equal to 1 in 2,467”, explain NASA experts who are monitoring the situation together with the US Department of Defense United. According to the latest forecasts elaborated by the American Aerospace Corporation, Italy does not run particular dangers: only Sicily is marginally affected by the lines that trace the possible overflight trajectories that the object could travel, but more certain data will arrive in the next few hours.

Rhessi’s story

The Rhessi satellite was launched into low Earth orbit aboard a Pegasus XL rocket in February 2002 to study solar flares and coronal mass ejections, highly energetic events that can also affect Earth, for example by interfering with communications radio and electricity grids. Thanks to his spectrometer, Rhessi was the first to take gamma-ray and high-energy X-ray images of solar flares. During its mission, it “recorded more than 100,000 X-ray events, allowing scientists to study the energetic particles in solar flares,” NASA explains.