News / Science & Technology

European Satellite Breaks Up, Burns on Return to Earth

Artist rendering of GOCE in orbit. The spacecraft's orbit is so low that it experiences drag from the outer edges of Earth's atmosphere. (© ESA /AOES Medialab)
Artist rendering of GOCE in orbit. The spacecraft's orbit is so low that it experiences drag from the outer edges of Earth's atmosphere. (© ESA /AOES Medialab)
VOA News
A European satellite that ran out of fuel re-entered the Earth's atmosphere early Monday, with some pieces falling harmlessly into the sea.

The European Space Agency’s Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer satellite surrendered to the laws of gravity, dropped from its orbit and fell toward Earth.

The ESA's Space Debris Office said the satellite, known as GOCE, reentered Earth’s atmosphere over the southern Atlantic Ocean, near the Falkland Islands. The spacecraft began its descent to Earth during a final orbital pass that took it over Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica.

All but about 25 percent of the 1,100-kilogram spacecraft disintegrated in the high atmosphere. ESA said any remaining remnants of GOCE fell harmlessly into the southern Atlantic Ocean. No injuries or property damage have been reported as a result of the spacecraft’s return to Earth.  

ESA said the GOCE mission came to an end in the middle of October when it ran out of its xenon fuel and began dropping from its orbit at a height of about 224 kilometers above Earth.

New geoid produced from GOCE data. The colors in the image represent deviations in height (–100 m to +100 m) from an ideal geoid. The blue shades represent low values and the reds/yellows represent high values. (© ESA/HPF/DLR)New geoid produced from GOCE data. The colors in the image represent deviations in height (–100 m to +100 m) from an ideal geoid. The blue shades represent low values and the reds/yellows represent high values. (© ESA/HPF/DLR)
x
New geoid produced from GOCE data. The colors in the image represent deviations in height (–100 m to +100 m) from an ideal geoid. The blue shades represent low values and the reds/yellows represent high values. (© ESA/HPF/DLR)
New geoid produced from GOCE data. The colors in the image represent deviations in height (–100 m to +100 m) from an ideal geoid. The blue shades represent low values and the reds/yellows represent high values. (© ESA/HPF/DLR)
Following its launch on March 17, 2009, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia, the GOCE was able to precisely map variations in Earth’s gravity.

As a result of its mapping efforts, ESA scientists said that they were able to create the most accurate shape of the ‘geoid’ that had ever been produced.  

The ‘geoid’ is the shape the surface of the oceans would have if only influenced by the gravity and rotation of the Earth, and without the effects of other common factors such as winds and tides.  

With this map, scientists will be able to better understand ocean circulation, sea level, ice dynamics and the Earth’s interior.

The GOCE also provided the data that allowed for the creation of the first global high-resolution map of the ‘Mohorovicic Discontinuity’ or Moho, which is the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle.  

Among its other accomplishments, the low orbiting GOCE also detected sound waves from the massive earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.

The GOCE spacecraft with its sleek, aerodynamic design and unique electrically powered ion propulsion engine was also referred to as the ‘Ferrari of space.’

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Doris Bean from: Phoenix, Arizona. USA
November 13, 2013 11:51 PM
I found this article very interesting.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs