Heavy Satellite Set to Plunge Through Earth’s Atmosphere This Week

Heavy Satellite Set to Plunge Through Earth’s Atmosphere This Week

Based on the European Space Agency’s most recent projections, a satellite is expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere uncontrollably on Wednesday.

The space agency states that ERS-2, which has a mass akin to that of an adult male rhinoceros, may re-enter around 15 hours sooner or later than anticipated. Since the satellite’s return is “natural,” the agency is unable to pinpoint with precision when and where it will enter Earth’s atmosphere.

A Natural Return: What is it?

The European Space Agency stated that because ERS-2’s batteries ran out and its communication antenna and onboard electronics were turned off, it was impossible to actively control the satellite’s motion as it was falling from the sky. In an effort to reduce the possibility of a catastrophic explosion that could have produced a significant amount of space debris, the last of ERS-2’s fuel was consumed back in 2011.

Is There a Risk Now that ERS-2 is back online?

According to the space agency, the majority of the satellite will burn up when it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, with some of the remaining pieces probably falling into the ocean. There won’t be any radioactive or hazardous materials in any of the fragments.

According to the space agency, there is less than a one in a hundred billion chance of someone getting hurt by space debris every year, which is 65,000 times less likely than someone getting struck by lightning.

In Space, what was ERS-2 doing?

On April 21, 1995, the satellite was launched as a spacecraft for Earth observation. Data about the polar caps, oceans, and land surfaces of Earth were gathered using it. Monitoring of natural disasters such strong earthquakes and flooding was also done with ERS-2.

2011 saw the start of the satellite’s deorbit by the European Space Agency, marking the end of its mission. Deorbiting reduces the amount of space trash created and helps avoid collisions in orbit.

As ERS-2 deorbited, its remaining fuel was consumed. In order for the satellite to safely reenter Earth’s atmosphere during the following 15 years, its average altitude was also decreased.

Sanchita Patil

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