Three tonne satellite to fall on earth

A retired satellite is hurtling toward the atmosphere and pieces of it could crash into the Earth as early as Friday, the German Aerospace Center says.

London: The three tonne ROSAT satellite will fall to earth this week, at any time after Friday, the German Aerospace Agency DLR says.

The X-ray satellite will re-enter between Oct 21 and 24, its scientists predict, and could strike anywhere on Earth between 53 degrees north and 53 degrees south - including in the US and Britain. The agency calculates that there is a one in 2,000 chance that it might hit someone, the Daily Mail reported.

Fragments - including pieces of a heat-resistant mirror weighing 400 kg - could hit anywhere within an 50 mile-wide path along the satellite`s track.

Thirty "individual pieces weighing a total of 1.6 tonnes may reach the surface of the Earth", the German Aerospace Centre has warned.

ROSAT`s heat-resistant mirror in particular may not burn up upon re-entry and falling debris may include razor-sharp shards.

Heiner Klinkrad of the European Space Agency says: "Until now in the more than 50-years of space history not a single person has been harmed (by pieces of falling satellites)."

ROSAT was launched June 1, 1990, from Cape Canaveral for what was originally intended as an 18-month mission. It actually operated for more than eight years, finally shutting down Feb 12, 1999.

Emergency services in Germany are practicing drills to deal with debris injuries just in case - although there is no evidence that it will land there as opposed to anywhere else.


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