Feeds

Fiery bits of Euro satellite to rain down on Earth this weekend

No one knows where...

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Europe's GOCE satellite is due to come tumbling out of the sky to crash-land on Earth sometime next week – and nobody quite knows where it will land.

The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) has stayed in its low Earth orbit for an extra two-and-a-half years on its planned mission, but came to the end of its life earlier this month.

The UK and European Space Agencies said the mission came to a natural end when the satellite ran out of fuel and it would re-enter the atmosphere around 3 November. Most of the craft will burn up, but the agencies are expecting some smaller parts to reach the surface.

"When and where these parts might land cannot yet be predicted, but the affected area will be narrowed down closer to the time of re-entry," the UKSA said earlier this month.

In an update yesterday, the ESA's Space Debris Office said that the GOCE was now at an altitude of 205km, having lost around 19km in height since it ran out of fuel on 21 October. The agency said that no major problems had been encountered so far, but atmospheric drag had increased a lot because of solar activity.

"Interesting days may lie ahead, as several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are expected to reach our planet, which may spark storms in Earth's geomagnetic field and hence lead to a large increase in the atmospheric drag at GOCE's altitude," GOCE operations manager Christoph Steiger said in a blog post.

Higher atmospheric drag slows down the orbit of low-flying satellites and thus causes earlier re-entry into the atmosphere.

During its mission, the GOCE satellite mapped variations in Earth's gravity with extreme detail, helping boffins to come up with a hi-res map of the boundary between the planet's crust and its mantle. The spacecraft also provided dynamic topography and circulation patterns of the oceans with unprecedented quality and resolution, among other results. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.