Track Falling German Satellite Live

10/23/2011 09:39 AM ET

Now you can track the falling German satellite online. The defunct German Roentgen satellite, or ROSAT, is the size of a large car and set to make its plunge to Earth today. Experts say there’s no way to precisely determine where it will crash.

Pinpointing where and when hurtling space debris will strike is an imprecise science. To calculate the orbit, runs information from the U.S. Air Force Space Command through a series of algorithms, and overlays it on mapping data from Google.

Not that citizens need to take cover. The satellite will break into pieces, and Germany’s space agency, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), put the chances that somebody somewhere will get hit at just 1-in-2,000 — a slightly higher risk than the 1-in-3,200 chance of a debris hit NASA gave for its UARS satellite fall late last month.

Track Falling German Satellite Live Satellite Debris

As far as anyone knows, falling space debris has never injured anyone — although one woman came dangerously close. Nor has significant property damage been reported. That’s because most of the planet is covered in water and there are vast regions of empty land.

The 2.4-ton X-ray space observatory is expected to break up as it travels through Earth’s atmosphere, but some large pieces will likely make it through the intense heat of re-entry. According to German aerospace officials, approximately 1.6 tons of satellite debris, consisting primarily of up to 30 large glass and ceramic fragments, could survive the journey through the atmosphere and reach the Earth’s surface.

“We don’t expect big parts to re-enter, except the mirror and the glass and ceramic parts,” Jan Woerner, head of the executive board of the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Germany’s space agency, told “Usually during re-entry, you have rather clear burning of all the elements, but glass and ceramics may survive and may come down in bigger pieces.”

German aerospace officials are actively tracking ROSAT, but they will not be able to determine precisely when and where the satellite will fall until roughly two hours before it impacts Earth.

“With satellites like ROSAT, you depend on external circumstances,” Woerner said. “For instance, solar wind and changes in the atmosphere may change the time of re-entry. We just have to wait and observe.”

You can read more of this story in space news by going here.

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