Scientists were trying to establish how and where a defunct German research satellite returned to the Earth Sunday, October 23, after warning that some parts might survive re-entry and crash at up to 280 mph (450 kph), The Associated Press reported.
There was no immediate solid evidence to determine above which continent or country the ROSAT scientific research satellite entered the atmosphere, said Andreas Schuetz, spokesman for the German Aerospace Center.
Most parts of the minivan-sized satellite were expected to burn up, but up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.87 tons (1.7 metric tons) could crash.
Scientists were no longer able to communicate with the dead satellite and it must have traveled about 12,500 miles (20,000 kilometers) in the final 30 minutes before entering the atmosphere, Schuetz said.
Schuetz said it could take days to determine exactly where pieces of the satellite had fallen, but that the agency had not received any reports that it had hit any populated areas.
“We have no such information,” he said Sunday.
Scientists said hours before the re-entry into the atmosphere that the satellite was not expected to hit over Europe, Africa or Australia. According to a precalculated path it could have been above Asia, possibly China, at the time of its re-entry, but Schuetz said he could not confirm that.
The 2.69-ton (2.4 metric ton) scientific ROSAT satellite was launched in 1990 and retired in 1999 after being used for research on black holes and neutron stars and performing the first all-sky survey of X-ray sources with an imaging telescope.
The largest single fragment of ROSAT that could hit into the earth is the telescope’s heat-resistant mirror.