GOCE in orbit.
GOCE in orbit. ESA /AOES Medialab

One-tonne satellite to fall back to Earth in next few days

A ONE-tonne satellite operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) has run out of fuel and will fall back to Earth in an unknown location sometime in the next few days.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, has been mapping Earth's gravitational field for just over four years, but has been losing altitude by 2.5 miles a day over the past month.

It's expected that between 25 and 45 fragments of the spacecraft will survive the descent through the atmosphere in an anticipated event known as an 'uncontrolled entry'.

Parts of the satellite as heavy as 90kg could make it all the way to the Earth's surface, forming part of the 100 tonnes of material that is estimated to fall from space each year.

Despite the seemingly dangerous nature of this event, the scientists involved with the project have assured the public that the chances of the debris actually hitting anyone are very small. The impact of GOCE's re-entry (pronounce GO-chay) will affect an area approximately 13  to 18 metres squared.

Read more at The Independent


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