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Watch the scientists melt a satellite part to see how things burn during the school year

European researchers have melted a dense satellite part into a special space fire created in a laboratory in the hope of better protecting humans from falling debris when satellites enter our atmosphere.

A new video shows an instrument called tape recorder 2 inches by 4 inches (5 centimeters by 10 centimeters) that turns radically into liquid inside a plasma blower. This installation of the German Space Agency (DLR) in Cologne, Germany, simulates the superheated gas (or plasma) that satellite experience at the start of the season. At the end of the test, the instrument had been exposed to temperatures of several thousand degrees Fahrenheit (or Celsius) and had been converted to vapor.

Research is essential to help scientists understand how satellites disintegrate during descent to earth; most of the pieces usually burn in the atmosphere, but something survives and sometimes dives to the surface of our planet.

Related: If the NASA satellite falls on your house, who pays for the repairs?

A magentotorquer merging as part of a European Space Agency project aimed at building spacecraft pieces less likely to reach the Earth in chunks at the end of the life of a satellite.

(Image: © ESA / DLR)

The best-known incident was NASA's Skylab space station, including unexpected fragments More on rural Australia in 1979. Other incidents followed: in 1997, for example, the Texans Steve and Verona Gutowski woke up and discovered something that looked like a "dead rhino" just 50 meters from their farm. The object was in fact a 250-pound (550-pound) fuel tank that fell from a worn-out rocket stage, the European Space Agency said in a statement released with the new video.

"The modern rules on space debris stipulate that such incidents should not happen – uncontrolled returnees should have less than 1 in 10,000 chance of injuring someone in the field," the statement said. "As part of a broader effort called CleanSat, ESA is developing technologies and techniques to ensure that future low-orbit satellites are designed according to the concept of" D4D ", namely the design destined for destruction.

From where the satellite campfire. ESA is deliberately testing satellite parts who tend to survive in order to better conceive them for a fatal break. Magnetotorkers, which use the Earth's magnetic field to align satellites, are one of the most robust parts of the satellite. Other examples include optical instruments, thruster and pressure tanks, and drive mechanisms for gyroscopes (reaction wheels) or solar panels.

In particular, ESA hopes to learn how to prevent these parts from simply breaking because more pieces of debris means more chances of hitting something or someone. Instead, the agency hopes to build parts that burn safely and completely well before approaching the surface of the Earth.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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