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German satellite may hit Earth over weekend

October 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Scientists are predicting that pieces of a defunct German satellite could fall to Earth as early as Saturday.

The ROSAT scientific research satellite is about the size of a minivan.

It is expected to break up during re-entry, but as many as 30 fragments weighing a total of nearly 2 tons could crash into Earth with a speed of up to 280 mph.

The satellite orbits the Earth every 90 minutes and scientists can only say that it could hit Earth anywhere along its path, between 53-degrees north and 53-degrees south - a vast swath of territory that includes much of the planet outside the poles.

This is the second time in as many months that a dead satellite has plummeted toward Earth.

A 6-ton NASA satellite fell on Sept. 23, landing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. NASA says UARS broke into pieces upon re-entry, and most of it burned up in the atmosphere.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.