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Most of the two-ton satellite will burn up as it falls, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

It is possible that some intact parts will survive the intense heat generated during the high-speed dive, but the chances of them hitting populated areas and causing damage are slim.

They can land almost anywhere on Earth, but since most of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans, any debris left on the surface is likely to be lost at sea.

"It is worth emphasizing that none of the elements that could re-enter the atmosphere (and reach the surface) are radioactive or toxic," said Mirko Albani of ESA's Earth Observation Ground Segment Department.

The agency launched two nearly identical Earth Remote Sensing (ERS) satellites in the 1990s.

They were the most advanced planetary observers of their time, carrying an array of instruments to track changes in land, oceans and weather.

They monitored floods, measured continental and ocean surface temperatures, tracked the movement of ice fields and tracked changes in the ground during earthquakes.

ERS-2 in particular provided important insights into understanding Earth's protective ozone layer.