Italy assures no risk of satellite debris on its territory

Nov 10, 2013
An artist's impression of the Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer satellite which from 2009

Italian officials assured residents Sunday the risk of debris from a defunct satellite falling on Italy overnight was now nil, scrubbing an earlier warning of "minimal" danger.

"The Italian Space Agency has excluded any impact of fragments from the on Italian territory," the Civil Protection service said in a statement.

The declaration superseded a warning it issued earlier Sunday saying it was "not yet possible to exclude the possibility, even minimal, that one or several fragments could fall on Italy" late Sunday or early Monday.

The European Space Agency said Friday that the Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) research satellite would re-enter the atmosphere sometime Sunday night.

While most of it would disintegrate, a 200-kilogramme (440-pound) fragment the mass of a car engine will survive, breaking up into smaller debris that would hit the Earth's surface.

It was still unclear where the pieces would land.

Experts have said the statistical risk of humans being hit was remote.

The GOCE low-orbit research satellite was launched in 2009 to monitor gravity variations and sea levels. It ran out of fuel on October 21 after performing for twice as long as originally predicted.

It will start to disintegrate when it descends into the mesosphere, at an altitude of around 80 kilometres (50 miles).

The GOCE was built before the implementation of a 2008 international accord requiring research satellites re-entering the atmosphere at the end of their lifespan to burn up completely or have a controlled re-entry far from human habitation.

Explore further: European science satellite to break up late Sunday (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Ferrari of space' set to fall to Earth

Sep 12, 2013

A science satellite dubbed the "Ferrari of space" for its sleek, finned looks will shortly run out of fuel and fall to Earth after a successful mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) says.

German satellite crashed 'into Bay of Bengal'

Oct 25, 2011

A German satellite the size of a car re-entered the Earth's atmosphere Sunday over the Gulf of Bengal, but it was not known if any debris hit the Earth, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) said on Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

14 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

15 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Jul 27, 2014

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Humpty
1 / 5 (9) Nov 10, 2013
Yeah the engine and a bag of nuts and bolts.... that will come back....

Along with the radioactive core...

What was it?

4 Kg of Plutonium - driving the hyper velocity ion engine.
adam_russell_9615
1 / 5 (6) Nov 10, 2013
I thought all Italy's scientists were imprisoned for failing to predict an earthquake.
RealScience
not rated yet Nov 10, 2013
@Humpty - My understanding is that the electric power for GOCE's ion engine was provided by a 1.6 kW array of GaAs solar cells. Do you have a reference to support your plutonium assertion?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2013
What was it?

4 Kg of Plutonium

No. The GOCE satellite is solar powered (It was always planned to have it reenter as its mission requires a very low orbit. Hence also the sleek design to reduce drag.) Having this satellite fall back to Earth is no accident but part of the mission profile.

You're thinking of the Curiosity rover which has 4-5 kg of Plutionium on board for power purposes. But that one is safely on Mars.