space junk

Debris from dead satellite misses cities ‘by minutes’

Published on Wednesday 26 October 2011 00:00

Heavily populated Asian cities avoided a dangerous collision with space junk last weekend, as a defunct German satellite crashed into the sea somewhere between India and Burma.
The Rosat satellite re-entered the atmosphere at 01:50 GMT on Sunday above the Bay of Bengal, but it remains unclear how much, if any, of its debris actually reached the sea’s surface, the German Aerospace Centre said yesterday.
Most of the 21-year-old satellite was expected to burn up as it hit the atmosphere, but up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.87 tons may have landed in the sea. Scientists could no longer control the defunct satellite.
Two Chinese cities with millions of residents each, Chongqing and Chengdu, were only minutes further north-east along the satellite’s projected path, according to Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The 2.69-ton scientific satellite was launched from Florida in 1990 and retired in 1999 after being used for research on black holes and neutron stars.



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