back to article Chunks of deorbiting ESA satellite are expected to reach the ground

ESA's ERS-2 satellite is heading back to Earth this week and some substantial fragments are likely to survive re-entry, although the chances of anyone being injured by a hunk of space junk are vanishingly small. The UK Space Agency (UKSA) posted some images of the doomed European Remote Sensing (ERS-2) satellite at the end of …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Those one in 100 billion chances happen all the time.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Depends if it's 1 in 100 Billion chance of *someone* getting hit, or does that apply to every human on the planet... in which case there's about a 1 in 13 chance that someone will get hit?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's in pretty much a polar orbit, so everyone gets at least one chance to be hit.

      2. steven_t

        1 in 13 per year

        The actual statement on the website is "The annual risk of an individual human being injured by space debris is under 1 in 100 billion."

        So it is about a 1 in 13 chance per year that someone will get injured (or maybe a bit less, as multiple people can get hit in the same year).

        I don't know where they got the figures from, but they've found some reassuring generic figures, rather than work out the chances of being injured by these particular two tonnes of junk.

        Most of us here on earth are far more likely to be injured by a two tonne machine on wheels than one falling from the sky, partly because there are far more of them about.

        1. sitta_europea Silver badge

          Re: 1 in 13 per year

          "... Most of us here on earth are far more likely to be injured by a two tonne machine on wheels than one falling from the sky, partly because there are far more of them about."

          And almost all of us are at that same altitude.

        2. simonlb Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: 1 in 13 per year

          Most of us here on earth are far more likely to be injured by a two tonne machine on wheels

          Yeah, just ask Brian Harvey from East 17.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: 1 in 13 per year

            Yeah, just ask Brian Harvey from East 17.

            Just did, he said he's

            "Alright, alright, everything's gonna be alright

            Alright, alright, everything's gonna be alright

            Alright, alright, everything's gonna be alright

            Alright, alright, I'm really, alright"

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      Only when there are 100 billion events that "happen all the time".

      As far as I am aware there is only one satellite that is deorbiting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Are you aware that they are all deorbiting or burning limited fuel to maintain orbit?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So you have to be really unlucky to be accidentally killed by a piece of this while at home.

  3. Dave 126 Silver badge

    If you'd asked me ten minutes ago...

    ... I would have sworn that a drummer from Spinal Tap was killed by a re-entering satellite. However, I can't find any reference to this event.

    It is possible that my source was the commentary track from the 1998 DVD, but is looking more likely that just imagined it.

    https://zeroenthusiasm.tumblr.com/post/47032679583/list-of-spinal-tap-drummers-all-deceased

    Remember kids, don't sell your dialysis machine to buy drugs.

    1. tip pc Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: If you'd asked me ten minutes ago...

      the reentering satellite effect?

    2. Phil E Succour

      Re: If you'd asked me ten minutes ago...

      >>I would have sworn that a drummer from Spinal Tap was killed by a re-entering satellite

      I thought he either spontaneously combusted or choked on vomit (although they didn’t specify whose vomit). They've had so many drummers though that if a satellite strike hasn’t already taken one out it would be a good bet for the future.

    3. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: If you'd asked me ten minutes ago...

      Don't know about the Spinal Tap guy, but Maggie O'Connell's boyfriend was killed by a falling satellite in Northern Exposure - that was a particularly hardy piece of kit, as it still had its antennae intact at the funeral (they just don't make 'em like that anymore).

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: If you'd asked me ten minutes ago...

        Ahhhhh, thank you @thatoneinthecorner... Yeah, I enjoyed Northern Exposure back in nineties, prior to my first viewing of Spinal Tap. That's where I got the idea from. You've eased my itchy brain.

        They had some good funerals on Northern Exposure, I enjoyed the one with the trebuchet launching the coffin into the lake.

        The internet tells me that as of last month it is a available to stream for the first time, after some longstanding issues around rights have been resolved.

  4. Dr_N
    Alien

    100 billion to 1?

    "ULLA!" ?

    1. Windows Is adware

      Re: 100 billion to 1?

      I’ll put £1 on that in Ladbrokes.

  5. Tron Silver badge

    If it lands on my garage...

    ... there will be trouble.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: If it lands on my garage...

      If it lands in my garden (I don't have a garage), finders keepers, right?

    2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: If it lands on my garage...

      Isn't that how Gordon Shumway got here.

      ALF.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: If it lands on my garage...

      Of the Orange and Sassy kind?

      https://youtu.be/lwrQ0ZFmZcg?t=46

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wear helmets everyone!

    Everyone should wear a helmet to protect themselves from personal injury, especially when there are rogue satellites about.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wear helmets everyone!

      I’d also recommend walking in a low crouch type manner….

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wear helmets everyone!

        Cigar and bushy moustache optional…

    2. Sampler
      Trollface

      Re: Wear helmets everyone!

      Would these helmets be tinfoil lined?

  7. Bendacious

    Cash in

    Have you been injured by a falling satellite that wasn’t your fault? Our lawyers are standing by to take no more than 90% of your payout from ESA. Whiplash injuries caused by looking up at the sky whenever there is a loud noise may be covered.

  8. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Live and Direct

    The Zik Zak corporation turned this sort of thing into an annual festival, Sky Clearance Day: bring your best metal umbrella and join the fun!

    Max Headroom, prr-prr-prrredicting the future - well, 20 minutes into it, at least.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Live and Direct

      I remember the original UK One Off film.

      The US remake\series I was unfortunate to see half a episode of, while drunk at 4am having been up for by that time about 48 hours straight, after coming off a oil rig in the North Sea & unable to get to sleep.

      It didn't help.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Live and Direct

      "Max Headroom, prr-prr-prrredicting the future - well, 20 minutes into it, at least."

      ...and weren't the MH scriptwriters clever, as they successfully predicted "blipverts" - very short duration adverts that appear without warning on TV programmes.

      And gawd knows how many ears later in 2024, we have YouTube, NetFlix, Prime, Disney, TikTok all happily wasting our time, by screening videos about stuff we are not interested in (although thankfully, there does not appear to be an increase in deaths caused by watching adverts).

  9. Paul Cooper

    A bit more seriously

    It's slightly sad for me - I'm now well and truly retired, but back in the late 80s and early 90s I was a very minor part of the UK science team to design data processing algorithms for the UK processing facility for ERS-1 and 2.

  10. Magani
    Unhappy

    A bit more precision required

    "...will end up in the ocean."

    Umm, Which ocean did you have in mind? There are at least 6 that I can think of, and numerous large 'Seas'.

    "Having used up the last of the fuel, the mission officially ended..."

    While IANAAstrophysicist, why not deorbit this device while they still had fuel and could actually control, to a larger extent, where on Earth (literally) it was going to splash down?

    1. munnoch Bronze badge

      Re: A bit more precision required

      I'm guessing at the time that was the extent of the end of life plan. Earn revenue until you are nearly out of station keeping fuel and then use the remaining fumes to park it out of the way of the next generation that needs to occupy that orbital position. What happens after that is Someone Else's Problem. They did say the mission officially ended in 2011...

    2. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: A bit more precision required

      We also need to understand if the Kremlin counts as an ocean.

    3. Marty McFly Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: A bit more precision required

      "The chances are that the surviving remnants of the satellite will end up in the ocean."

      Since the earth is over 70% covered in water..... a perfect statement for Sherlock!

  11. Windows Is adware

    Umbrellas for sale.

    Has anyone kept their anti-Skylab umbrella, which they bought in 1979? It should still work.

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Boffin

    1114 UTC on February 21, give or take 15 hours.

    1114 UTC? That's a remarkably specific time considering the 30 hour error window surrounding it :-)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like