European satellite falls

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The European Space Agency’s (Esa) Goce satellite has re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up in the process.

Early estimates suggested any surviving debris could have fallen somewhere along a path through East Asia and the Western Pacific to Antarctica.

Dubbed the “Ferrari of space” because of its sleek looks, Goce is the first Esa mission to make an uncontrolled re-entry in more than 25 years.

The gravity mapping probe’s plunge was inevitable once it ran out of fuel.

The mission was operating in an extremely low orbit – at 224km altitude, the lowest of any scientific satellite – and needed to constantly thrust an electric engine to stay aloft, but last month its fuel reserves were exhausted.

Pre-return modelling had indicated that perhaps a fifth to a quarter of Goce’s one-tonne mass could have endured the fiery fall through the atmosphere.

Its sophisticated gradiometer – the instrument used to make gravity measurements – incorporated composite materials that were expected to ride out the destructive forces that would ordinarily incinerate traditional components.

Read the first article here: http://wp.me/p43zri-3h

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