The German Aerospace Agency DLR has made a warning that their 2.5 tonne satellite will be hitting earth at some point in the following week. The German satellite could land anywhere with nobody sure of its exact destination.
It is expected that the satellite, ROSAT, will re-enter between October 21st and 24th and it could strike any location between 53 degrees north and 53 degrees south. This is an area spanning from the United Kingdom to the Falkland Islands. The final exact destination for the satellite will be known 2-hours prior to it crashing back to earth.
It has been calculated that there will be a 1 in 2000 chance that the satellite will hit someone, this is a much higher average then the risk posed by the falling NASA satellite a few weeks ago. The majority of the satellite will burn up during its fall to earth but 1.7 tonnes of the satellite is expected to survive and hit ground.
The German Space Agency have said: “ROSAT has no propulsion system on board that could be used to alter its orbit or re-entry trajectory; this means that the re-entry of ROSAT cannot be controlled”.
It has been warned that 30 individual pieces will also be reaching the surface of the earth and since the satellite’s heat-resistant mirror will not burn up during the re-entry there will be the added danger of falling razor-sharp shards.
Uncertainty will decrease
It was on 1 June 1990 that ROSAT was launched from the U.S. launch site in Cape Canaveral, and it was supposed to up for an 18-month mission. It operated for 8 years and shut down on 12 February 1999.
ROSAT was a German X-ray telescope built with the technology from Britain and America and it has been orbiting Earth since 1990 and during its working life has provided very important data on stars.
“It is not possible to accurately predict ROSAT’s entry. The uncertainty will decrease as the moment of re-entry approaches” said Heiner Klinkard, head of the Space Debris Office at the European Space Agency.