German Satellite May Crash Into Earth This Year
German government worried ROSAT won't burn up on re-entry
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 1, 2011 2:46 PM CST
This X-ray image provided by NASA, and captured by the German ROSAT satellite in the 1990s, shows the remnant of a supernova that was observed in 1572 by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.   (AP Photo/NASA)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The German government doesn't want to alarm anyone but ... one of its decommissioned satellites is expected to fall back to Earth at some point between October and December, and there's a decent chance that the 2.4-ton contraption won't entirely burn up on re-entry, reports Der Spiegel. Which means it could do some serious damage if it lands on a populated area.

"It's very improbable that people would be hit," says the chief of the German space authority. "A lottery win is more probable." More likely is that ROSAT, or what's left of it, crashes into the ocean. If it does appear to be headed for a populated zone, the American and Chinese governments have technology for annihilating satellites mid-orbit. But Germany would have to reach out for help. "We don't have the equipment for that," says the space chief.