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Where will the huge out-of-control satellite that worries the ESA crash ?


Launched on April 21, 1995, ERS-2 is a rather imposing observation satellite, with its mass of 2516 kg. The latter had been placed in a polar orbit at an altitude of 800 km. From the point of view of the mission itself, ERS-2 is a success since the satellite managed throughout its viewing period to provide precise data on the temperature of the oceans and the ozone layer.

In 2000, while a failure of the on-board computer, as well as the gyroscope control system, put an end to its sister mission, ERS-1, ERS-2 continued to deliver its precious telemetry daily to ground teams. But a year later, the same problem affects the gyroscopes on board the satellite. The ESA then invents a new mode of operation “without gyroscopes”.

L’ESA carefully monitors the uncontrolled descent of the satellite

A landmark first in the industry. But these problems aboard ERS-2 were actually just the beginning of efforts to extend the mission well beyond its originally planned duration. In 2003, it was the satellite's onboard memory that stopped working – forcing the mission to continue only with data that can be transmitted in “real time”.

These adjustments took ERS-2 until 2010, when ESA scientists no longer had any other option than to unplug the plug. The problem is that on that date, the satellite was still carrying a significant quantity of fuel.

The risk being that&#8217 ;by ceasing to monitor the satellite, a tank ends up exploding, generating a dangerous amount of debris. So, the ESA decided to passivate the satellite, by causing its engines to fire 66 times, while placing it on a trajectory ensuring the satellite's return to Earth # 8217;atmosphere within 15 years.

Since this passivation, however, there is no longer any hope of controlling the trajectory of this satellite… closely monitored by the agency. We therefore know that it will return to crash on Earth during the month of February. The exact location of the crash, however, remains impossible to determine.

Which obviously runs the risk of debris falling into populated areas. With a mass of more than 2 tonnes, there is a chance that pieces will land on the ground whole – the agency is careful not to provide precise information on this question.

Remains that with a planet covered more than 70% by oceans , there is still a greater chance that this debris will make a big splash in the Deep Blue rather than in inhabited areas.

  • An ESA satellite, ERS-2, is expected to complete an uncontrolled descent into the atmosphere later this month.
  • This satellite had was passivated in 2010, and has since been uncontrollable due to lack of fuel.
  • However, it is more likely to crash into the ocean than on dry land, although it is difficult at this stage to determine what will really happen.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116