A large spy satellite expected to fall to Earth in late February or early March could hit North America, an official said Tuesday.
The U.S. military is developing contingency plans to deal with that possibility, Air Force Gen. Victor "Gene" Renuart, Jr., who heads U.S. Northern Command, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The size of the satellite suggests that some number of pieces will not burn up as the orbiting vehicle re-enters the Earth's atmosphere—and will hit the ground.
"We're aware that this satellite is out there," Renuart said.
"We're aware it is a fairly substantial size. And we know there is at least some percentage [of it] that it could land on ground as opposed to in the water."
North American Re-Entry
"It looks like it might re-enter into North America," Renuart added.
In that scenario the U.S. military, along with the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will either have to deal with the impact or assist Canadian or Mexican authorities.
Military agencies are doing an analysis to determine which pieces most likely would survive re-entry, he said.
But he cautioned that officials won't have much detail on where or when the object will crash until it begins to move through the atmosphere and break up.
Renuart added that there does not as yet appear to be much concern about sensitive technologies on the satellite falling into enemy hands.
"I'm not aware that we have a security issue," he said. "It's really just a big thing falling on the ground that we want to make sure we're prepared for."