NASA: Returning spacecraft not cause of Sultan Kudarat mid-air explosion
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) has said that its satellite, which is expected to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere on Tuesday (June 16), was not the cause of the mysterious plane crash-like event in Sultan Kudarat on Sunday.
This as the Lebak Municipal Disaster, Risk Reduction and Management Office on Monday posted on its Facebook page that the combined search and rescue teams have already reached the mountains of Lebak and in Salumping village in nearby Esperenza town, but have not found any debris or signs of explosion.
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division, said military helicopters on Monday resumed flight missions in the area but the Philippine Air Force has not seen any debris.
Authorities said some residents reported seeing an object that appeared to be a plane engulfed in flames plummeting from the sky at around 11 a.m. Sunday.
Residents also claimed they heard a loud explosion around that time.
Meanwhile, J.D. Harrington from NASA’s Office of Communications emailed the Philippine Daily Inquirer, saying its satellite, the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), was definitely not the source of the explosion because it was still in orbit as of Monday (June 15).
“TRMM is still in orbit. It is not possible that TRMM is the source of this event,” Harrington told the Inquirer through email.
According to NASA, the TRMM is a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency specifically designed to study rainfall for weather and climate research.
The mission, which started in 1997, has been concluded and all the satellite’s instruments switched off last April 8. Since it was turned off, TRMM has been slowly descending back to Earth and is projected to re-enter on Tuesday.
“The spacecraft is estimated to reenter the atmosphere and largely burn up in mid-June 2015. It is not possible to predict in advance the exact time when re-entry will occur,” NASA said.
NASA, however, clarified that the debris would not likely cause harm to humans as more than 96 percent of its components would burn before reaching land.
“There is a very low risk to people and property from pieces of TRMM that reach Earth’s surface. Most of the spacecraft will burn up in the atmosphere during re-entry. Of the spacecraft’s total mass (about 5,800 lbs.), 96 percent will never reach Earth. The chance that a piece of the spacecraft will strike a person is approximately 1 in 4,200,” NASA said.
Earlier, NASA announced that the exact location of TRMM’s re-entry could not be forecast but one of the areas in the projected path would include the Philippines.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.