Uncontrolled Re-entry Of Defunct EU Satellite Expected This Week

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024 - 12:45 PM

Australian satellite imaging company HEO Robotics spotted the European Space Agency's defunct school bus-sized satellite tumbling toward Earth.

HEO captured ESA's ERS-2 Earth observation satellite last Wednesday, as it is now expected to undergo atmospheric reentry and begin the breakup phase on Wednesday. 

"The UK Space Agency recently worked with HEO to capture these images of ERS-2 during its descent. Using cameras on other satellites to image objects reentering the atmosphere is a relatively new approach. In future, these images may be used alongside data from ground-based sensors to refine reentry predictions," ESA wrote in a press release Monday. 

The blurry pictures show the 5,550-pound ERS-2 satellite, launched in 1995 and retired in 2011, falling to Earth at a rate of six miles per day. All fuel from the satellite has been drained, a warning sign that the spacecraft will be entirely inoperable during deorbit. 

Earlier this month, Henri Laur of the ESA's Earth observation mission said ERS-2 would mostly burn up in the atmosphere, but as much as 115 pounds of metal could reach the ground. 

ESA wrote in a blog post Sunday that reentry of the satellite is slated for 15:41 UTC (16:41 CET) on Wednseday. 

There is still a lot of uncertainty about where the satellite will make a big splash. However, consider that 71% of Earth's surface is water. 

ESA's information on ERS-2's reentry: "The risks associated with satellite reentries are very low."