ROSAT (ROentgen SATellite) was launched into space on the 1st of July 1990, with its main purpose being to perform an all-sky survey of extremely hot states of energy and matter such as neutron stars and black holes, by using its X-ray imaging telescope.
Doing so was to be the first time in history.
The satellite was originally designed for an 18 month mission which was extended due to its success, and was active for more than eight and a half years.
The mission ended and was finally shut down on the 12th February 1999 after failure of the last working imaging instrument was damaged by unintentionally pointing directly at the sun, the consequent damage being irreversible.
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Re-entry of ROSAT
The Earth's upper atmosphere causing friction has resulted in the satellite losing altitude over time, and with no propulsion system on board to guide it, the satellite cannot be controlled on it's re-entry path to Earth.
It's estimated that up to 30 individual pieces of debris totalling 1.6 tonnes may survive re-entering our atmosphere, and potentially make it to Earth (heads up!). The probability of someone getting injured by debris is 1 in 2,000, calculated as one person that could be injured for every 2000 de-orbit events of this kind.
The current estimated date of re-entry is likely to be within the coming weeks (late October 2011), but where it will land is unknown...
Why an App?
When the recent UARS satellite de-orbited, many enthusiasts relied on popular satellite tracking websites for information.
Unfortunately, these sites couldn't keep up and so most were left in the dark until well after news reports started to come through.
Our unique service consists of distributed, high-speed servers that can feed millions of small updates to iPhones/iPads without choking.
Our ROSAT Tracking HQ manually monitors multiple sources, including US Military tracking feeds to estimate the reentry time with increasing accuracy as the time approaches.
Every time the estimate changes, we feed it to the ROSAT Reentry App so you'll know when to LOOK UP!!!!