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German satellite to fall to Earth over the weekend


German satellite to fall to Earth over the weekend

Kelly MacNeil October 20, 2011

Fragments of a falling German satellite are expected to fall to Earth sometime this weekend but scientists say it is still too early to say exactly where or when. The German Aerospace Center knows that it will come crashing down on either Saturday or Sunday but need more time to determine specifics, The Associated Press reports.

The satellite ROAST was launched in 1990 and orbits the Earth about once every 90 minutes, which makes it difficult for scientists to pinpoint exactly where it will land, all they can say is that it could be anywhere between 53 degrees north and 53 degrees south.

Scientists lost contact with the satellite in 1999 and it only recently began its descent toward the ground. The equipment is about the size of a minivan but much of it will burn up upon entering the atmosphere. Still, as many as 30 large chunks are expected to make it through traveling at speeds of up to 280 miles per hour, according to the AP.

The announcement comes a month after a NASA satellite experienced a similar fall. On September 23, the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite came down to Earth after several days of speculation of where it would land. Though there were no negative consequences, experts say that any slight change in conditions could be dangerous.

"There are random forces of nature acting on the satellite that we can neither control nor predict," NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey told The Washington Post in September. "Very small changes have very large consequences over time, and in this case, the change has been in the orientation of the spacecraft."