Old German satellite hurtles toward Earth

Oct 19, 2011 By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER , Associated Press
Undated artist rendering provided by EADS Astrium shows the scientific satellite Rosat. The German Aerospace Center said the retired satellite is hurtling toward the atmosphere and pieces could crash into the earth as early as Friday. Spokesman Andreas Schuetz told The Associated Press on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011 that most of the satellite named ROSAT, which is about the size of a minivan, will burn up during re-entry. (AP Photo/EADS Astrium)

A retired satellite is hurtling toward the atmosphere and pieces of it could crash into the Earth as early as Friday, the German Aerospace Center says.

Scientists are no longer able to communicate with the dead German satellite ROSAT, which orbits the earth every 90 minutes, and experts are not sure exactly where pieces of it could land.

Parts of the satellite, which is the size of a minivan, will burn up during re-entry but up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.87 tons (1.7 metric tons) could crash into the Earth sometime between Friday and Monday, center spokesman Andreas Schuetz told The Associated Press.

"All countries around the globe between 53-degrees north and 53-degrees south could possibly be affected," Schuetz said Wednesday - a vast swath of territory that includes much of the earth outside the poles.

The 2.69-ton (2.4 metric ton) scientific satellite was launched in 1990 and retired in 1999 after being used for research on and and performing the first all-sky survey of X-ray sources with an imaging telescope.

The largest single fragment of ROSAT that could hit into the earth is the telescope's heat-resistant mirror.

The satellite will re-enter the atmosphere at a speed of 17,400 mph (28,000 kph).

As it nears the Earth in coming days, scientists will be able to more accurately estimate exactly when it will land to a window of about 10 hours.

A dead satellite fell into the southern Pacific Ocean last month, causing no damage, despite fears it would hit a populated area and cause damage or kill people.

Experts believe about two dozen metal pieces from the bus-sized satellite fell over a 500-mile (800 kilometer) span of uninhabited portion of the world.

The NASA satellite entered Earth's atmosphere generally above American Samoa. But falling debris as it broke apart did not start hitting the water for another 300 miles (480 kilometers) to the northeast, southwest of Christmas Island.

Earlier, scientists had said it was possible some pieces could have reached northwestern Canada.

The German space agency puts the odds of somebody somewhere on Earth being hurt by its satellite at 1-in-2,000 - a slightly higher level of risk than was calculated for the . But any one individual's odds of being struck are 1-in-14 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.

Explore further: Space sex geckos at risk as Russia loses control of satellite

More information: The German space agency on ROSAT: http://bit.ly/papMAA

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA: Satellite fell in south Pacific, not Canada

Sep 27, 2011

That dead NASA satellite fell into what might be the ideal spot - part of the south Pacific Ocean about as far from large land masses as you can get, U.S. space officials said Tuesday.

German satellite hurtles towards Earth: officials

Oct 12, 2011

A German satellite around the size of a car is speeding towards Earth, officials said Wednesday, due to re-enter the atmosphere later this month but with little idea where fragments could land.

NASA says satellite will hit Earth Sept 23 US time

Sep 21, 2011

The US space agency has narrowed down its prediction of when a defunct six-ton satellite will crash back to Earth, saying on Wednesday that it is expected to land on September 23, US time. ...

Recommended for you

Video: A dizzying view of the Earth from space

2 hours ago

We've got vertigo watching this video, but in a good way! This is a sped-up view of Earth from the International Space Station from the Cupola, a wraparound window that is usually used for cargo ship berthings ...

NEOWISE spots a comet that looked like an asteroid

2 hours ago

Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) has been observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft just one day after passing through its closest approach to the sun. The comet ...

What the UK Space Agency can teach Australia

3 hours ago

Australia has had an active civil space program since 1947 but has much to learn if it is to capture a bigger share of growing billion dollar global space industry. ...

Discover the "X-factor" of NASA's Webb telescope

3 hours ago

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray observatory have something in common: a huge test chamber used to simulate the hazards of space and the distant glow of starlight. Viewers can learn about ...

User comments : 0