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GOCE mission ends, satellite to reenter
Posted: Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 7:12 AM ET (1112 GMT)
GOCE illustration (ESA) A European spacecraft that mapped the Earth's gravity field formally ended its mission on Monday and will reenter the Earth's atmosphere in the next few weeks. ESA's Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE, launched in 2009 to map the Earth's gravity field in high detail, providing information on the planet's interior as well as circulation patters in the oceans. The spacecraft operated in a low orbit, most recently 244 kilometers, using ion thrusters to maintain its orbit. GOCE exhausted its supply of xenon fuel for those thrusters on Monday, and its orbit is expected to rapidly decay. ESA expects the spacecraft to reenter the atmosphere in about two weeks, and some parts of the spacecraft may survive reentry to reach the surface.
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