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Satellite Set To Crash Down To Earth

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Satellite Set To Crash Down To Earth

Post  Panda on Sat 9 Nov - 14:53

Satellite Set To Crash Down On Earth

Scientists are in contact with national civil protection agencies throughout Europe in case parts of it fall on inhabited areas.

4:41am UK, Saturday 09 November 2013

ESA's GOCE research satellite

Video: A computer animation of the GOCE satellite


A one-ton research satellite will crash to Earth on Sunday night or Monday - but scientists do not know exactly where it will land.

The European Space Agency (ESA) says its 1,100kg (2,425lbs) structure has already fallen to an altitude of around 100 miles and is spiralling steadily downwards.

Once it reaches 50 miles above the Earth, the GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite will break apart and much of it will burn-up in the atmosphere, scientists say.

However, several dozen fragments totalling around 200kg (440lbs), or about the weight of a car engine, will hit the surface, though it is not thought it will cause any casualties.

Humans are 250,000 times more likely to win the lottery than to get hit by it, experts add.

Professor Heiner Klinkrad from the ESA said: "At present we can not say where the re-entry is going to happen except that it is not going to happen north of the 85 northern latitude or south of 85 southern latitude.

ESA's GOCE research satellite
It is not thought the satellite will cause any casualties

"We are in contact with national civil protection agencies throughout Europe, of ESA member states, so they get all the information we have on the re-entry prediction and that also includes information on emergencies in case parts of the satellite fall on inhabited areas."

He added: "In total since Sputnik was launched about 15,000 tons have returned from space.

"Most of this burns up when it re-enters in the atmosphere due to aerothermal heating.

"So typically between 10% and 40% of the initial mass survives such a re-entry. And the few pieces that survive than reach the ground, but with much reduced velocity."

The GOCE was launched in 2009 to map the Earth's gravitational field which is important for understanding sea-level changes and ocean circulation patterns, amongst other matters.

It ran out of fuel last month, ending the mission.
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