ESA’s dead satellite ERS-2 spotted in space before fiery atmospheric reentry

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) big, dead satellite European Remote Sensing 2 (ERS-2) was spotted in space before a fiery atmospheric reentry.

Artist's illustration of the ERS-2 satellite vs. HEO's captured ERS-2 satellite
Artist’s illustration of the ERS-2 satellite (left) vs. HEO’s captured ERS-2 satellite. (Image credit: ESA and HEO)

An Australian company, HEO, captured these images with their satellites dedicated to identifying and imaging space objects on behalf of the UK Space Agency. These images were captured from space when the dead satellite ERS-2 was over 300 km above the ground.

HEO captured dead satellite ERS-2 during its descent on January 14, 2024
HEO captured dead satellite ERS-2 during its descent on January 14, 2024. (Image credit: HEO)
HEO captured dead satellite ERS-2 during its descent on January 29, 2024
HEO captured dead satellite ERS-2 during its descent on January 29, 2024. (Image credit: HEO)

Currently, the dead, 2294 kg ERS-2 satellite is falling at a speed of more than 10 km per day, and the speed of its descent is increasing rapidly.

It will burn up in the atmosphere and begin to break into pieces when the dead satellite reaches an altitude of 80 km above the ground. However, humans have almost no risk of being hit by the piece of satellite.

Currently ESA’s Space Debris Office predicts that the satellite will make its fiery atmospheric reentry and begin to break up on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

Visit here for live updates about the atmospheric reentry of European Remote Sensing 2 (ERS-2) satellite.

What is the ERS-2 satellite and why is it reentering the atmosphere?

The European Remote Sensing 2 (ERS-2) satellite was the most sophisticated Earth observation satellite at the time of its launch in 1995. It was observing the earth from an altitude of 785 km in space.

After 16 years of successful operations, the ERS-2 mission came to an end in 2011 when ESA decided to deorbit the satellite.

If the satellite was not deorbited, then the satellite would have remained inactive in space for another 100–200 years, and increased the possibility of collision with other satellites.

So it was a very healthy approach for ESA, which will make the space operation safe and sustainable.

ESA did a series of 66 deorbiting maneuvers in 2011 to lower the satellite’s orbit, and since then, the satellite has naturally decayed its orbit due to atmospheric drag.

Now it’s time for the satellite to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. 

Related article: Know about ESA’s ERS-2 satellite and its atmospheric reentry  

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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