Satellite debris may hit Indonesia

JAKARTA: Debris from an Italian-Dutch space satellite may hit Indonesia next month, the Indonesian space agency said yesterday. 

The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Lapan) said exposure to toxic substances from the battery and fuel of the BeppoSAX satellite could be fatal.  

The Italian Space Agency played down the risk. 

Lapan said in a statement that debris from the satellite was expected to re-enter the atmosphere on April 19 and its fragments would likely fall along the Equator, including Indonesia's regions of Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua. 

“The satellite has been out of control since April last year,” Lapan spokesman Janu Pringadi said. 

BeppoSAX weighs 1,600kg and 47% of it would fall to the earth over an area of 320km by 42km around the Equator, the agency said. 

About 42 fragments which are expected to reach the earth will hit the ground at a speed of between 60 and 460km per hour. 

Janu said his office had co-ordinated with the national disaster control agency to take necessary measures. 

Italy will pay for any damages caused by the falling fragments. 

The Italian Space Agency said on its BeppoSAX website that the risk of anyone being hit by a fragment from the satellite was less than one in 5,000. 

It said that in 40 years more than 1,400 tonnes of material is believed to have survived re-entry with no reported casualties. 

The website acknowledged that hydrazine fuel and battery chemicals were toxic and should be avoided. It said its latest prediction for a re-entry date was May 2. 

The X-ray astronomy satellite was launched in 1996. – AFP  

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