ROSAT Falls East of India

ROSAT instrument breakdown (Source: NASA Spaceflight).

According to German Aerospace Center officials, the German Roentgen Satellite (ROSAT), which reentered Earth’s atmosphere on October 23 between 1:45 and 2:15 UTC, broke up and fell into the Bay of Bengal, east of India. “I don’t think that we’ll have a confirmation of any sort today,” said Andreas Schuetz, spokesman for the German Aerospace Center.

According to Apaceflight101, the satellite was passing over the Indian Ocean and parts of Asia (Myanmar and China). Estimations from the U.S. Strategic Command indicate an Entry time of 1:50 UTC +/- 7 Minutes, which would put the satellite in the Indian Ocean away from China. So far, no damage to people or property from falling debris has been reported.

The 2.7 tons satellite was expected to release about 30 large chunks, for a total of 1.7 tons. The reasons for this unusual mass of debris is the design of the satellite, an X-Ray telescope whose instrument needed to be heat resistant.

Orbit perigee (Souce: Orbitron).

Final pass over China (Source: Heavens Above).

U.S. Strategic Command estimate of the area of impact (Souce: Heavens Above).


You can see some pictures of the ROSAT satellite taken from the ground by Ralf Vandebergh. Also recommended, “Has Anyone been Hit by Space debris?” In the video, below, a reconstruction of the reentry and disintegration of the satellite.


About the author

Andrea Gini

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Andrea Gini is a content strategy consultant specialized in companies of the space sector. He is founder of Space Safety Magazine, where he held the position of Editor-in-Chief until March 2015. Between 2011 and 2013 he worked in the European Space Agency in the Independent Safety Office, which overviews the utilization of the International Space Station. He previously worked as Software Developer, IT Consultant, and trainer of Java-related technologies. Andrea holds a BSc and an MSc in computer science from the University of Milano, a Master in Communication of Science from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste and a MSc in Space Studies from the International Space University.