European satellite OPS-SAT completes its atmospheric reentry

An artist's illustration of the nanosatellite OPS-SAT in Earth's orbit
An artist’s illustration of the nanosatellite OPS-SAT in Earth’s orbit. (Image credit: ESA)

The European nanosatellite OPS-SAT, which provided a platform for the public to carry out a variety of scientific experiments in space, has ended its five-year mission as it completely burned up during a controlled atmospheric reentry.

“The final successful contact with the satellite took place at approximately 21:30 UTC on May 22, 2024, when the satellite passed over Australia,” the European Space Agency said in a statement.

When the last radio signals were received by the SatNOGS station VK4JBE in Australia at around 21:30 UTC, the satellite was at an altitude of 145 km.

The nanosatellite OPS-SAT was at an altitude of 145 km when the last signals were received
The nanosatellite OPS-SAT was at an altitude of 145 km when the last signals were received. (Image credit: ESA)

There was no risk associated with this reentry, as the size of the satellite is comparable to that of aircraft carry-on luggage.

The nanosatellite OPS-SAT was launched into a circular, polar orbit at 515 km altitude in December 2019. It is the world’s first research satellite that was freely opened for public use.

The satellite had an experimental computer ten times more powerful than any current ESA (European Space Agency) spacecraft. This on-board computer provided a platform to test innovative software.

The satellite was designed in such a way so that it can always be recovered if there are any malfunctions due to testing.

Over 100 companies, including start-ups and leading space players across Europe, had registered to carry out scientific experiments aboard this flying laboratory.

OPS-SAT was built because it is very difficult and risky to perform live testing on an existing, operational satellite.

Related article: ESA’s dead satellite ERS-2 crashes over the North Pacific Ocean 

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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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