The first analysis of GOCE’s orbital decay suggest that the satellite will deorbit around the 9th of November.
On the 21st of October 2013, the GOCE mission (Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer) has ended. The satellite has just entered the last phase of its life – the entry into the atmosphere. The entry will end in a fiery destruction of GOCE, although approximately 250 kg of debris will survive and impact the Earth.
As of the 23rd of October, the orbit of GOCE has experienced a visible decay. On that day the satellite’s orbit was 224×217 km, which was 3-5 km lower than just two days ago. This decay process will speed up over the next few days, leading to reentry. The deorbitation moment is now estimated to happen around the 9th of November, plus minus 3,5 days. This means that the potential reentry window will start on the 5th of November and finish 8 days later. Of course, these estimations might change over the next few days.
GOCE is “yet another” satellite to experience an uncontrolled fiery destruction in the Earth’s atmosphere. The most known examples in the recent years are the UARS and ROSAT satellites, which gained some media attention. Both UARS and ROSAT entered the atmosphere in late 2011 and both of them contained some pieces, which probably survived the reentry. The same situation is predicted for GOCE – approximately 250 kg of debris might impact the surface or sink in the ocean. Fortunately, both UARS and ROSAT hit remote parts of oceans or seas, without inflicting any damage.
(ESA, OT, PFA)