(The Hill) — The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said the risk to people from falling parts of a spacecraft that is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere this month is low, putting the odds of harm to humans at approximately 1 in 2,467.
The retired Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) spacecraft is expected to come back to Earth over 20 years after its original launch date. The Department of Defense expects the spacecraft, which is 660 pounds, to reenter the atmosphere on Wednesday night, with a 16-hour window of uncertainty.
“NASA expects most of the spacecraft to burn up as it travels through the atmosphere, but some components are expected to survive reentry,” the agency said. “The risk of harm coming to anyone on Earth is low – approximately 1 in 2,467.”
The spacecraft was launched in 2002 and was in use until 2018. It was meant to help scientists understand solar energy, capturing the solar energy bursts with the imaging device it was equipped with.
“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,” the space agency said.
The spacecraft captured over 100,000 X-ray events and was decommissioned due to communication difficulties in 2018. It was operated by one of the agency’s flight stations in Greenbelt, Maryland.