Q 3.7 Can an orbiting satellite fall on the Earth?

The answer is yes but rarely. Satellites and orbital debris such as spent parts of rockets fall on the Earth if they do not burn out due to frictional heat during re-entry into Earth’s dense atmosphere – approximately 180 km above the surface of the Earth.

Only one instance of man-made debris striking an individual is believed to have occurred, albeit harmlessly. Examples of such instances are listed in answer to question 1.21. The probability of a given earth-bound space object  injuring a person is estimated – under simplifying assumptions – to be about 27 million times lower than the probability of an individual meeting a serious road accident.