N2YO website provides real-time mappings of many satellites, including
Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE)
platform, which, as I write this, is deciding whose front lawn to fall
onto. The only thing about the satellite's destiny known for certain
is that sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, it will
come plunging to Earth in a fiery re-entry, hopefully burning up into
small enough chunks to not cause any damage on the ground. If you or
anyone you know is hit by a piece of the debris, take comfort in knowing
that you can probably sue your country's government for damages. "Basically,
governments are responsible for their own spacecraft," explained
Marcia S. Smith, president of the Space and Technology Policy Group
in Arlington, Virginia. "[If] you could prove a piece of GOCE hit
your Honda, you could go to your government to make a claim."
The 2,000-pound, SUV-size satellite reportedly has no nuclear fuel payload,
so that helps a bit. "With a very high probability, a re-entry over
Europe can be excluded," wrote Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA's
Space Debris Office. Well, lucky for them that they probably won't
get doinked by their own satellite.
N2YO website was down - probably due to server overload - as of this
writing, but fortunately the app still seems to function properly.
The ESA website is providing altitude and onboard sensor updates.
The most recent as of this writing:
10 November 2013 - 18:55
CET GOCE is now below an altitude of 130 km. The spacecraft was still
in good shape when last seen around 18:30 CET at ESA's Kiruna ground
station in northern Sweden.
Please give the app a few moments to download
data - then be ready to grab your hard hat!