The BBC is reportng that the European Space Agency (ESA) GOCE satellite has re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up in the process.
Our tracker estimated that GOCE reentry would be November 11, 2013 at 03h59 UTC or about 10:59 PM Eastern time somewhere over Afghanistan – That would be about 3 hours from the BBC report.
We have not received an official Press Release from the ESA at the time of this writing.
[00:50 UTC]: The re-entry window is now closed. With very high certainty, GOCE has re-entered by now. Pin-pointing the decay location and exact time is a process that requires some time.
We will post what the BBC is reporting below:
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.
Goce was last observed at 22:42 GMT on Sunday as it passed 121km (75 miles) above Antarctica,
It has fuel and thrusters to direct its destructive dive towards the vast and uninhabited waters of the Southern Ocean, east of New Zealand.
The Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee – the global forum on “space junk” – chose Goce as its special study project for 2013.