Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE), a European satellite, is about to dry out of fuel and is expected to fall from space this October upon completion of its successful mission monitoring Earth’s gravity.
Any information regarding the exact time and place the space craft will enter the atmosphere and hit the Earth’s surface is not yet announced, but it is predicted to happen in two to three weeks.
The $450-million GOCE satellite was launched in March, 2009, and was dubbed ‘the Ferarri of space’ by the European Space Agency (ESA) because of its aerodynamic design. It was designed that way to allow the space craft to cut through atmospheric particles due to its low orbit around the Earth. It is stationed only 139 miles (224 kilometers) above the Earth – -just about where the Earth’s atmosphere and space meet–, compared to 249 miles (400 kilometers) of the International Space Station. The space craft was designed and constructed to last two years, long enough to map the tiny variations of Earth’s gravity in unprecedented detail. (Read more)
Falling satellites are mostly expected to break down into very small pieces and fade away as it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, but some of its large portions could reach the surface. “Taking into account that two-thirds of Earth are covered by oceans and vast areas are thinly populated, the danger to life or property is very low,” ESA officer Rune Floberghagen stated.
”It is much less than other (uncontrolled) re-entries, it is a very small aircraft in fact. We should put this into perspective and not over-dramatize what is happening here,” he added, advising national authorities on the nearing event.