Portions of Russia’s defunct Kosmos-1220 satellite will come crashing back to the planet on Sunday following a fiery, uncontrolled descent through the Earth’s atmosphere, Russian officials said. Fragments of the former reconnaissance satellite are expected to survive the high-speed re-entry and will most likely plunge harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean, Colonel Alexei Zolotukhin told Russian news agency Ria Novosti. “As of February 7, 2014 the fragments are expected to fall on February 16. The exact impact time and location of the fragments from the Kosmos-1220 satellite may change due to external factors,” Zolotukhin said. That uncertainty means the satellite could potentially fall anywhere on Earth. Similar uncontrolled descents – such as the November 2013 re-entry of the European Space Agency’s GOES satellite – have crashed harmlessly into the ocean. But in 1978, a different decommissioned Kosmos satellite crashed into an unoccupied part of Canada, spreading radioactive debris and leading to a lengthy clean-up. And in 2009, a third Kosmos satellite crashed at over 26,000 miles per hour with a U.S. Iridium telecommunications satellite, sending thousands of bits of space junk into orbit. The exact size and weight of the Kosmos-1220 satellite is unknown, Ria Novosti reported, adding to the uncertainty of the upcoming event. More
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