As many had claimed last week the dead German satellite was due to hit Earth and it finally has, scientists have said that the ROSAT has crashed on Earth luckily hitting the Indian Ocean. The satellite was much more robust than the one that belonged to NASA and as such there would have been concern if it landed on the ground.
It was expected that parts of the ROSAT, which were car-sized, would have burned up as they hit the atmosphere travelling at speeds in excess of 280mph. However, things did not go to plan and nearly 30 pieces weighing a total of 1,87 tons came crashing to Earth.
Initial worries were that the pieces of the satellite were going to hit two Chinese cities, Chongqing and Chengdu, since both were on ROSAT’s projected path. But it seems they escaped through luck since if they cities were hit it would have been known.
Using US military data there are indications that the debris from the satellite has landed to the east of Sri Lanka over the Indian Ocean, or the Andaman Sea.
ROSAT made its way into the atmosphere at 0245 BST or 0315 BST and numbers suggest it would have taken 15 minutes to hit the surface of earth.
ROSAT circled the Earth in roughly 90 minutes and as such before re-entry it would have travelled many thousands of miles making predictions on a landing spot very difficult.
ROSAT was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1990. The 2.69 ton satellite was retired in 1999 after it was used to gather data for research purposes on black holes and neutron stars. It also performed the first all-sky survey of X-ray sources using a imaging telescope.
The largest piece that was on ROSAT was the heat-resistant mirror and it was said that the impact of the satellite or any of its large pieces would have been similar to a airliner ‘dropping an engine’.