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The declaration superseded a warning it issued earlier Sunday saying it was "not yet possible to exclude the possibility, even minimal, that one or several fragments could fall on Italy"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: Scientists find meteoritic evidence of Mars water reservoir

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

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

8 hours ago

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

15 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

17 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

17 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

18 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.