Satellite Expected to Hit Earth This Weekend; Falling 2.5 Miles a Day

Nov 07, 2013 11:47 AM EST | Matt Mercuro

A satellite is falling out of orbit and will crash to Earth by this weekend, but scientists aren't sure were the spacecraft will fall exactly.

The European Space Agency's Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, has mapped Earth's gravitational field during its time in space, according to The New York Times.

The GOCE ran out of propellant in October however, and has been dropping 2.5 miles a day since.

As of Nov. 6, the falling satellite was 113 miles above Earth.

"It's rather hard to predict where the spacecraft will re-enter and impact," said GOCE mission manager Rune Floberghagen. "Concretely our best engineering prediction is now for a re-entry on Sunday, with a possibility for it slipping into early Monday."

Approximately 25 to 45 fragments of the satellite will fall off as it enters the Earth's atmosphere. The largest fragment of the one-ton satellite is expected to weigh up to 200 pounds.

GOCE was designed for an "uncontrolled re-entry" as it wasn't built with normal thrusters. Instead the satellite was equipped with ion engine which helped it maintain a low orbit, according to The New York Times.

"It's rather hard to predict where the spacecraft will re-enter and impact. Concretely our best engineering prediction is now for a re-entry on Sunday, with a possibility for it slipping into early Monday," said Rune Floberghagen, a mission manager for the European Space Agency's Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer.

At least 100 tons of debris falls each year from the sky, according to The New York Times.

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