11/11/2013 08:44 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

GOCE Satellite Hits Earth In Death Plunge, But No Injuries Reported

A one-tonne satellite has fallen to Earth in a so-called "death plunge" - but no injuries have been reported.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) re-entered the atmosphere between late on Sunday evening.

ESA said the satellite fell back to Earth in a pass that extended across Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica.

It eventually crashed above the tip of South America - but no one was injured.


The GOCE satellite, in better times

ESA said: "As expected, the satellite disintegrated in the high atmosphere and no damage to property has been reported."

It added that an estimated 25% of the satellite reached Earth's surface.

Agencies including the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee and ESA's Space Debris Office monitored the reentry.

"The one-tonne GOCE satellite is only a small fraction of the 100-150 tonnes of man-made space objects that reenter Earth's atmosphere annually," said Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office.

"In the 56 years of spaceflight, some 15 000 tonnes of man-made space objects have reentered the atmosphere without causing a single human injury to date."

GOCE was launched in 2009 to map variations in Earth's gravity and has functioned for three times as long as intended.