Falling satellite mostly disintegrated as it returned to Earth

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Artist's rendition (Credit: MGNOnline)

LONDON — A 2,000-pound European satellite burned up as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere early Monday, controllers reported.

Re-entry was made close to 1 a.m. Monday (5 p.m. MST), the European Space Agency said.

“As expected, the satellite disintegrated in the high atmosphere and no damage to property has been reported,” the space agency said.

Only about 25 percent of the satellite actually made it to the planet’s surface, ESA reported. The descent path extended across Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer — a European Space Agency satellite known shorthand as GOCE — crossed over Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica upon its re-entry.

The 5-meter (16-foot) satellite was launched in 2009 to map variations in the Earth’s gravity in 3-D, provide ocean circulation patterns and make other measurements.

Powered by solar panels and not-your-average lithium-ion battery, it lasted more than three times its expected lifespan before running out of juice on October 21.

In March 2011, the ESA added another role — as the “first seismometer in orbit” — when GOCE detected sound waves from the massive earthquake that struck Japan.

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