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ABSTRACT: Observations from high altitude (> 20,000 km) space-based infrared and optical sensors which have detected over 200 bright flashes in the atmosphere since 1972 are interpreted in terms of geographical distribution, lightcurves, aerodynamic interaction of the fragments, and heat transfer and luminosity coefficients. The luminosity efficiency for meteorite explosive disintegration is estimated to be about 2 to 3 times smaller than for energetically equivalent nuclear explosions. Explanations for this difference are offered.