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ESA satellite falls to Earth without causing damage

The GOCE satellite. An ESA photo

BERLIN (PTI): The European Space Agency's one-tonne gravity mapping GOCE satellite that had run out of fuel re-entered the Earth's atmosphere Monday, without causing any damage.

While most of the satellite, dubbed as the "Ferrari of space" disintegrated in the atmosphere, an estimated 25 per cent reached Earth's surface, ESA said.

The satellite re-entered Earth's atmosphere on a descending orbit pass that extended across Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica, the space agency said.

As expected, the satellite disintegrated in the high atmosphere and no damage to property has been reported.

On October 21, the mission came to a natural end when it ran out of fuel. Over the past three weeks the satellite gradually descended.

An international campaign involving the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee and ESA's Space Debris Office monitored the re-entry.

"The one-tonne GOCE satellite is only a small fraction of the 100-150 tonnes of man-made space objects that re-enter Earth's atmosphere annually," said Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office.

Launched in March 2009, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer - GOCE - has mapped variations in Earth's gravity with unrivalled precision.

The result is the most accurate shape of the 'geoid' - a hypothetical global ocean at rest - ever produced, which is being used to understand ocean circulation, sea level, ice dynamics and Earth's interior.

GOCE's innovative ion engine, responsible for keeping the satellite at an incredibly low orbit of under 260 km, together with its accelerometer measurements have also provided new insight into air density and wind speeds in the upper atmosphere.

"In the 56 years of spaceflight, some 15,000 tonnes of man-made space objects have re-entered the atmosphere without causing a single human injury to date," said Klinkrad.


ESA  Satellite  GOCE  Earth  

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