Science/Technology

German satellite expected to hit Earth on weekend

Saturday, October 22, 2011
Undated artist rendering provided by EADS Astrium shows the scientific satellite Rosat. The German Aerospace Center said the retired satellite is hurtling toward the atmosphere and pieces could crash into the earth. Spokesman Andreas Schuetz told The Associated Press on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011 that most of the satellite named ROSAT, which is about the size of a minivan, will burn up during re-entry. (AP Photo/EADS Astrium)

Undated artist rendering provided by EADS Astrium shows the scientific satellite Rosat. The German Aerospace Center said the retired satellite is hurtling toward the atmosphere and pieces could crash into the earth. Spokesman Andreas Schuetz told The Associated Press on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011 that most of the satellite named ROSAT, which is about the size of a minivan, will burn up during re-entry. (AP Photo/EADS Astrium)

German scientists still don't know exactly when or where pieces of a defunct satellite hurtling toward the atmosphere will hit the Earth this weekend.

Andreas Schuetz, a spokesman for the German Aerospace Center, said Saturday the best estimate is that the ROSAT scientific research satellite will crash into the Earth sometime between late Saturday and Sunday up to 1200 GMT (8 a.m. EDT). An update is expected later Saturday.

Parts of the minivan-sized satellite will burn up during re-entry but up to 30 fragments weighing 1.87 tons (1.7 metric tons) could crash at speeds up to 280 mph (450 kph).

The satellite orbits every 90 minutes and it could hit Earth anywhere along its path - a vast swath that includes much of the planet outside the poles.

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