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Disused U.S. satellite misses Korea as it reenters atmosphere

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Officials from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries look at a trajectory prediction for NASA's retired Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS), monitoring the U.S. satellite reentering the Earth's atmosphere, on Monday at the government complex in Sejong. [NEWS1]
Officials from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries look at a trajectory prediction for NASA’s retired Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS), monitoring the U.S. satellite reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, on Monday at the government complex in Sejong. [NEWS1]

A U.S. satellite reentering the atmosphere passed over the Korean Peninsula Monday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Science and ICT warned that NASA’s retired Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) was expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere at around 12:20 p.m. to 1:20 p.m. possibly in the regions around the Korean Peninsula. An emergency meeting was held, headed by Minister Lee Jong-ho.

Around 15:20 p.m., the ministry announced that the 5,400-pound satellite had likely passed over the Peninsula. No damage has been reported.

As most of the satellite was expected to burn up at high altitudes, NASA estimated that the risk of harm coming to anyone on Earth was extremely low, at approximately 1 in 9,400. Yet concerns remained over some of the debris surviving reentry.

The country stayed on alert until the threat was cleared in the afternoon.

Due to concerns over possible debris falling from the satellite, flights arriving at or departing from the local airports were delayed from 12:10 p.m. until 12:54.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries monitored the satellite’s trajectory down to the Earth at its control center in the government complex in Sejong. A spokesperson for the Korea Air Force under the Defense Ministry also said that “the Air Force’s situation room for monitoring space data kept real-time cooperation with the United States” during the incident.

The details on the location or the time of any contact with the Earth’s surface are to be announced by the U.S.-led Combined Space Operation Center.

The center declares a satellite has reentered if they successfully observe the event or they lose the track of the reentering satellite for 90 minutes to 2 hours.

The ERBS was launched on Oct. 5, 1984, by the Space Shuttle Challenger and completed its mission in 2005.

On Nov. 4, the Science Ministry said that debris from China’s Changzheng 5B launch vehicle may crash onto the Korean Peninsula but later confirmed that the spacecraft’s trajectory did not involve Korea.

The Chinese launch vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America.

BY SHIN HA-NEE [shin.hanee@joongang.co.kr]

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