German Satellite Plunge: 1-in-2000 Risk of Someone Taking a Hit

By @Len_IBTimes on

A 2.4-ton German satellite is expected to make its way back to Earth this month, with current forecasts set on Oct. 22 or 23. Scientists say the odds of someone getting hit by the satellite is at 1-in-2000.

However, the satellite's most likely and particular dropping zone is still unknown. 

The Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT) was placed into Earth orbit on June 1, 1990. It was developed, built and launched by Germany's space agency, the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), as a collaborative venture with the United States and the United Kingdom.

ROSAT's highly successful astronomy mission ended within nine years, with commands sent on Feb. 12, 1999, to shut it down.

According to, there is a 1-in-2,000 chance that ROSAT could hit someone on Earth, though the likelihood of an injury is extremely remote. For Germans, the odds are 1 in 700,000, say the scientists. All areas under the orbit of ROSAT, which extends to 53 degrees northern and southern latitude, could be in the strike zone of the satellite's re-entry.

Studies predict that the huge satellite will split into pieces before breaking into Earth's atmosphere, but about 1.6 tons of space junk could reach the Earth's surface, and fragments will be traveling at speeds of up to roughly 280 mph (450 kph).

ROSAT will be the second large spacecraft to be reduced to space junk, prompting a pre-announced but uncontrolled Earth plunge. Space enthusiasts would recall that on Sept. 24, NASA's 20-year-old Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) plummeted into the Pacific Ocean.

ROSAT does not have its own propulsion system, so its re-entry to Earth cannot be manipulated in any way. However, scientists are expected to monitor Rosat's descent for best possible trajectory calculations.

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