An old satellite, which was among the first ones that were placed into the orbit by NASA, has met its demise as it fell towards Earth after spending two decades in space.
A NASA Satellite Burnt In The Earth’s Atmosphere
Known under the name of Rossi X-ray Timing Xplorer (also known as RXTE), the satellite did not produce any damage as it burned out while it traveled across the atmosphere. The process was accelerated by the small size of the spacecraft and the high speed at which it fell towards the surface.
It was retired in 2012 after 16 years and six days of service. Named after the renowned physicist Bruno Rossi, the satellite carried three essential tools: an All-Sky Monitor, a Proportional Counter Array, and the High-Energy X-ray Timing Experiment.
The main goal of the satellite was to track and observe X-ray radiation, which is released by black holes, neutron stars, X-ray bursts, and other objects or phenomena. It was launched from Cape Canaveral on 30 December 1995.
The Retired NASA Satellite Has Done Its Job
Several observations and discoveries have been made with the help of RXTE, as data collected by the spacecraft has been mentioned in more than 1,400 scientific papers. Among the major highlights, we can count the discovery of evidence that reinforced theories related to the existence of the frame-dragging effect anticipated by the theory of relativity.
In 2006 Rossi tracked down an intermediate black hole, which was classified under the name of M82 X01, while in 2008, it offered information that allowed researchers to calculate the size of the smallest known dark hole at that moment in time.
The fact that the satellite managed to fall towards Earth without consequences is a great boon since it means that there will be a lower amount of debris in space. Many companies are currently working on strategies that will reduce the amount of debris that can be found in the orbit as more satellites will be launched.