Falling Satellite Fortunately Causes No Damage

The scientific orbiter probably burned up while making its descent back to Earth

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European Space Agency / AP

In his image, publicly provided by the European Space Agency ESA, research satellite GOCE flies above earth at unknown date.

A large European science satellite, which ran out of fuel in late October, re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday — but those hard hats went unneeded. Scientists believe most of the falling craft incinerated upon entering the atmosphere.

The Gravity Field and Steady State Ocean Circulation Observer (GOCE), which launched in 2009, was the first satellite from the European Space Agency that mapped the Earth’s gravity. The 1.2-ton, car-sized satellite ran out of fuel on October 21 and had been steadily losing altitude ever since. TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger wrote Friday that the chance was “not much more than a tiny bit” of the satellite hitting land, let alone occupied land. And no damage was reported when it reentered the atmosphere Sunday.

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According to ESA officials, ground stations lost contact with the satellite on Sunday evening and they estimate that 75 percent burned up in Earth’s atmosphere. The remaining 25 percent is believed to have fallen harmlessly into the ocean. While it was in orbit, scientists were able to take the GOCE’s data and assemble the first detailed map of the boundary between Earth’s crust and mantle.