Satellite Reentry Risks

October 18th, 2004

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

In 2001 I helped organize a workshop for NASA on the risks and benefits with allowing its TRMM satellite to reenter in controlled versus uncontrolled fashion. At the time we concluded that while it was clear that risks to people were relatively small, NASA did little more than a back of the envelope calculation to quantify those risks.

Over the weekend a Chinese satellite struck a house upon reentry. Apparently no one was injured. This is not the first time that there has been a close call.

As the National Research Council prepares to convene an expert panel to consider the TRMM reentry options and the more general policies for satellite reentry policy, it will be important to place reentry risk assessments on a more solid basis. (For more on TRMM see this post.)

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