on October 18th, +European Space Agency, ESA reported a fuel trouble in the GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite. Actually, the pressure in the fuel system of the ion engine had dropped below 2.5 bar, which is the nominal operating pressure required to fire the engine. Last Monday, the end of mission was formally declared when the ion drive stopped working during at 03:16 UTC. The European satellite will reenter in our atmosphere and will be partially destructed before to crash on Earth.
Credits: +European Space Agency, ESA
The GOCE satellite, has been developed by an industrial consortium of 45 companies distributed over 13 European countries. One of the missions was focused on the mapping of Earth’s gravity field in unprecedented detail. In order to achieve its very challenging mission objectives, this 5 meters long satellite was orbiting at a very low altitude of just 260 km because the gravitational variations are stronger closer to Earth. GOCE satellite was launched on March 17th 2009 on a modified Russian intercontinental ballistic missile that had been decommissioned as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
The danger for the population due to the crack of the satellite is very low. Actually the risk to be hit by a debris of a spacecraft is 65 000 times lower than the risk to be struck by lightning.