GOCE Satellite uncontrolled re-entry Update

GOCE

GOCE

UPDATE 11/11/13 – Update from ESA – GOCE has re-entered.

  • The atmospheric interface at ~80 km altitude occurred, following a USSTRATCOM confirmation, at the latest, at 01:16 CET (00:16 UTC) 11 November 2013
  • This would correspond to a geographical location of approx. 60 degree West and 56 degree South, near the Falkland Islands

This would put the main area over which any possible GOCE remnants fell to the southernmost regions of the Atlantic Ocean.

End of Update

11/7/13 – The GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer), built by the European Space Agency ESA, launched in 2009 by the European space agency has run out of fuel and will re-enter some time this weekend. Some of the satellite is expected to survive and impact the Earth’s surface. At this time the re-entry point is not known but the odds of anyone being hurt by this satellite are extremely low.

The satellites mission was to map the Earths gravity, and ultimately it is that very gravity that will doom the satellite. About 25 to 45 fragments of the one-ton spacecraft are expected to survive all the way to the surface, with the largest perhaps weighing 200 pounds. See where GOCE is now at Heavens Above.com.

GOCE mapped the Earth’s gravity field with a spatial resolution of approx. 100 km which is considerably more precise than all gravity satellite missions to date. One of the most important scientific goals of the GOCE mission was the study of the global ocean currents. The mission was a success and actually lasted longer than planned due to less than expected fuel consumption.

Recent examples of other uncontrolled re-entries that stirred up media, public attention were the 2011 re-entries of NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS). Read: UARS Re-enters Media missed the real story. Also there was much concern when the Russian Mars Satellite Phobos-Grunt failed on orbit and re-entered.

In any case if your really really lucky you may catch a glimpse of it as it burns up, if your really really REALLY unlucky you will get hit by a piece of it.

 

About the author

Recipient of many prestigious NASA Awards including the Exceptional Public Service Medal and the Robert H. Goddard award. Experience includes working for NASA, as a contractor, in satellite design, construction and operations. Expert in the satellite operations concepts and ground systems including command, control, and science data processing.