A satellite which has been mapping the world’s gravitational field and ocean circulation is failing and on a crash course for Earth.
The European Space agency’s GOCE satellite has been in a low-Earth orbit Since 2009.
The ESA says it cannot predict how quickly or where exactly the one-tonne spacecraft will crash. Most of it will burn up when it hits the earth’s atmosphere, thought to be around Sunday.
“In total since Sputnik was launched about 15,000 tons have returned from space” the ESA’s Head of Space Debris, Heiner Klinkrad said, adding “typically between 10 and 40 percent of the initial mass survives such a re-entry. Velocity upon impact is between 200 and 300 hundred kilometres an hour, which is a speed that you can achieve on German motorways with a good-sized car,”
This may be one of the last crashes of its type, as an international agreement now means satellites must be directional on re-entry to allow them to be crashed harmlessly into the ocean.
However GOCE’s fall pales in comparison with the tens of thousands of tonnes of meteorites that land on Earth every year.