Satellite pieces may hit Earth on weekend

October 20, 2011 - 3:42 AM

BERLIN (AP) — The German Aerospace Center says pieces of a retired German satellite hurtling toward the atmosphere may crash to earth this weekend.

Scientists on Thursday were able to hone their initial estimate of when the satellite would hit from a span of four days, to either Saturday or Sunday.

Parts of the satellite, which is the size of a minivan, will burn up during re-entry but up to 30 fragments weighing a total of 1.87 tons (1.7 metric tons) could crash into the Earth with a speed of up to 280 mph (450 kph).

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.