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23 September 2011, 10:37
An air force base in North Yorkshire is at the forefront of international efforts to track a dead six-ton satellite which is expected to crash somewhere on the Earth's surface on Friday.
RAF Fylingdales, which is high on the North York Moors, near Whitby, is using its giant radar to track the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS).
The Fylingdales base forms part of a worldwide network of powerful radars and tracks all objects in orbit bigger than 10cm.
The station was originally built at the height of the Cold War to track any incoming ballistic missile attack - a role it still performs.
An RAF spokeswoman said: "The Space Operations Room at Royal Air Force Fylingdales is manned 24 hours a day by specialist Royal Air Force and civilian personnel, and its operators will be working to track the UARS object as it returns to the atmosphere.
The Solid State Phased Array Radar (SSPAR) is being tasked by the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force to concentrate its radar energy towards the object in order to track its final orbit.
This information will then be used by various different agencies to predict the path of re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.''
The spokeswoman added: "With the majority of the Earth being covered by water, the chances of an impact on solid ground are slim to negligible.''
The old Nasa research satellite is expected to come crashing down through the atmosphere on Friday evening, UK time. An estimated 26 pieces, all the size of fridges, are expected to survive.
On Thursday, the Aerospace Corporation in California, predicted that re-entry will occur over the Pacific Ocean.