German Satellite Crash Landing Set For Friday

10/20/2011 02:05 PM ET

German satellite crash is expected to hit Earth by Saturday, although that could change in the coming days.

German Satellite Crash - It’s only been a month after NASA faced the same problem when its probe fell into the southern Pacific Ocean. Now another retired probe is expected to make its landing as it spins its way through the atmosphere as early as Friday, the German Aerospace Center says.

Scientists are no longer able to communicate with ROSAT, which orbits the planet every 90 minutes, and experts are not sure exactly where pieces of it could land.

NASA’s Dead Satellite Falls To Earth Over Pacific

Parts of the ROSAT, which is the size of a minivan, will burn up during re-entry but up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.87 tons could crash into the Earth sometime between Friday and Monday, center spokesman Andreas Schuetz told The Associated Press.

“All countries around the globe between 53-degrees north and 53-degrees south could possibly be affected,” Schuetz said Wednesday. The German space agency puts the odds of somebody somewhere on land being hurt by its satellite at 1-in-2,000 — a slightly higher level of risk than was calculated for the NASA probe. However, any one individual’s odds of being struck are 1-in-14 trillion, given there are 7 billion people on the planet.

The 2.69-ton German scientific satellite was launched in 1990 and retired in 1999 after being used for research on black holes and neutron stars and performing the first all-sky survey of X-ray sources with an imaging telescope. The largest single fragment of ROSAT that could hit into the Earth is the telescope’s heat-resistant mirror.
The scientists believe that as the probe gets closer they will be able accurately predict a crash window of about 10 hours.

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