The European satellite ERS-2 burned up in the atmosphere

The European satellite ERS-2 burned up in the atmosphere

The backup operation towards our planet began in 2011, to prevent the accidental destruction of this object in orbit from scattering debris that is dangerous for active satellites and the International Space Station (ISS).

The European Space Agency's operations center announced on Twitter: “We have confirmation of re-entry into the atmosphere of the ERS-2 vehicle at 5:17 pm GMT over the North Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Hawaii.”

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Most of the 2.3 tons of ERS-2 were theoretically consumed when it reached the lower layers of the atmosphere at an altitude of about 80 kilometers.

ERS-2, a pioneering Earth observation satellite, was launched in 1995 and was positioned at an altitude of about 800 km.

At the end of its mission, the European Space Agency returned it to about 500 kilometers, after which it descended naturally and gradually toward Earth in just 13 years, by the force of gravity alone. Instead of the 100 to 200 years it would have taken had it remained at its initial height. On the eve of its destruction, it was still at an altitude of more than 200 kilometers.

On average, an object with a similar mass to ERS-2 ends its days in the atmosphere once every week or two, according to the European Space Agency.

Being deprived of its internal power (fuel, batteries, etc.) since the end of its mission, the machine posed a significant risk of explosion and debris creation.

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In July 2023, the European satellite Aeolus returned to Earth in a controlled manner, from an orbit lower (300 km) than that of ERS-2. The wreckage fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

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In the case of ERS-2, the chance of one of its debris hitting a person on Earth was less than one in a hundred billion, according to an ESA blog dedicated to the mission.

In 2023, the European Space Agency launches a “zero debris” charter for space missions designed from 2030.

Waste from used satellites, rocket parts and collision debris has accumulated since the beginning of the Space Age. This is a problem that has worsened in recent decades. According to ESA estimates, there are about 1 million pieces of satellite or rocket debris larger than one centimeter in orbit, large enough to “disable a spacecraft” in the event of a collision.

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