SPACE.com Columnist Leonard David

5,800 pounds of batteries tossed off the ISS in 2021 will fall to Earth today

a large white rectangle floats above the blue surface of earth
The International Space Station jettisons a 2.9-ton pallet carrying used batteries on March 11, 2021. This photo was posted on Twitter by NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins (Image credit: NASA/Mike Hopkins via Twitter)

A nearly 3-ton leftover tossed overboard from the International Space Station is nearing its plunge toward Earth.

The multi-ton Exposed Pallet 9 (EP9) was jettisoned from the space station back in March 2021. At the time, it was reported to be the most massive object ever tossed overboard from the International Space Station. Disposing of used or unnecessary equipment in such a way is common practice aboard the space station, as the objects typically burn up harmlessly in Earth's atmosphere

Ahead of EP9's reentry, the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, National Warning Center 1 in Bonn, Germany issued this information:

"Between midday on March 8 and midday on March 9, a larger space object is expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and possibly fragment," the translated statement explains. "The object is battery packs from the International Space Station (ISS). Luminous phenomena or the perception of a sonic boom are possible."

Related: Space station tosses 2.9-ton hunk of space junk overboard. It will stay in orbit for years.

The post from the warning center explains that "the probability of debris hitting Germany is considered to be very low. If the risk increases, you will receive new information."

According to a social media post by astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the battery should reenter between 7:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT) on March 9 and 3:30 a.m. ET (0830 UTC) on March 9.

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Germany's Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief issued a map showing possible tracks of reentry for the battery pallet.

A map of Germany showing streaks indicating where the reentry could take place. (Image credit: Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, National Warning Center 1)

Ahead of its expected re-entry, satellite tracker Marco Langbroek caught a glimpse of the battery as it passed over the Netherlands, posting a video of it to X (formerly Twitter).

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EP9 is loaded with old Nickel-Hydrogen batteries, NASA explained at the time it was jettisoned, also explaining that EP9 has the approximate mass of a large SUV and predicting it would re-enter Earth's atmosphere in two-to-four years.

The EP9 was delivered to the ISS via Japan's HTV-9 (Kountori 9) on May 20, 2020. The EP9 carried six Lithium-Ion battery Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs) which replaced existing ISS Nickel-Hydrogen batteries during an astronaut spacewalk.

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He was received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.