November 10, 2013
The European Space Agency says its GOCE research satellite will crash to Earth on Sunday night or during the day on Monday. It says it cannot predict where the debris will hit. But it claims the small fragments that survive reentry are unlikely to cause any casualties.
GOCE — which stands for Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer — was launched in 2009 to map the Earth’s gravitational field. It ran out of fuel last month, ending the mission.
Since then, the satellite has been spiraling steadily downward. Scientists say the 1,100-kilogram (2,425-pound) satellite already has fallen to an altitude of about 105 miles and is coming closer every minute.