ARCHIVED - CANR Space Operations Cell Tracks Satellite Re-entries

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News Release / November 6, 2006 / Project number: NORAD

WINNIPEG/1 Canadian Air Division/CANR Headquarters – The use of space and technology in the past decade has drastically increased.  New technologies enable TV and radio reception, provide imagery and navigation signals, and provide communication solutions for remote areas of the globe.  With more demand for these types of services, more and more satellites are being launched.  In fact there are a little over 10,000 objects that are currently orbiting the earth.  But, as the saying goes, what goes up must come down.

Late last week a Chinese satellite, designed to determine how plant seeds grow under micro gravity and cosmic radiation, re-entered the earth’s atmosphere over northern Canadian airspace.  The satellite was launched on 9 Sep 06. 

The Canadian NORAD Region (CANR) monitored the situation to determine if there was a threat to Canada and Canadians, as part of the NORAD mandate and mission of Aerospace Warning and Aerospace Control.  CANR detects and identifies all aerospace objects approaching North America in order to provide a threat assessment and warning when required.  This satellite was expected to re-enter over the Pacific Ocean but it appears that during its final revolution it skipped off the earth’s atmosphere and came in over Canada.   

“The fact is that objects from space are re-entering all the time.  We monitor anywhere from 5-20 re-entries a month worldwide and can provide threat assessments from about 2-3 days out,” said USAF Maj Michael Kleppe, Director of Space Operations for CANR.  “For this particular event, we knew going in the threat was low, because the majority of the satellite’s payload had been jettisoned about a month prior.” 

Maj Kleppe is referring to the fact that the seeds were only in space for 15 days, and were successfully de-orbited on 24 Sep 06 to land in China for scientific analysis.  The only thing that was left in space was a small portion of the satellite’s electronic components. 

CANR determined that, while there was a remote possibility the satellite might survive re-entry, debris would be minimal and impact would pose no threat since there was no known radioactive or other hazardous material on board.  Maj Kleppe also assured that the majority of these objects burn up in the atmosphere.  “If any part of the objects do survive, they would be small, and not pose a large threat.”

“We want Canadians to know that we are aware of all satellites and do constant threat assessments so we can respond as necessary,” said Maj-Gen Charles Bouchard, Commander for the Canadian NORAD Region.

NORAD is a bi-national Canada‑U.S. command responsible for the aerospace defense of North America. As the Canadian geographical component of NORAD, CANR NORAD’s missions are Aerospace Warning and Aerospace Control.  Both enduring missions are normally focused on external threats.  Aerospace Warning involves detecting and identifying all aerospace objects approaching North America and providing a threat assessment to responsible authorities in Canada and the United States.

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For additional information, contact Lieutenant Steve Neta, Canadian NORAD Region Public Affairs Officer at (204) 833-2500 ext 2029.

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