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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs