The European Space Agency has released images showing its Aeolus satellite tumbling to a fiery death as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at a blazing 16,700 miles per hour.
The Aeolus satellite was launched into space in 2018. It was the first satellite with powerful laser technology capable of observing winds on a global scale.
During its 5-year mission, Aeolus has improved weather forecasts and climate models. According to the European Space Agency. But Aeolus retired in July, by which point it had gone from a sophisticated satellite to just a satellite Space junk.
And this is indeed what happened with Aeolus, but in a more controlled way than is usual.
The European Space Agency (ESA) said in a report that the ESA took the end of Aeolus as an opportunity to pilot a first-of-its-kind reentry maneuver called “assisted reentry.” statement Tuesday.
How assisted reentries can make satellite decommissioning safer
The auxiliary return maneuver involved a series of deorbits, in which the satellite came close to Earth, but remained in orbit.
This allows the European Space Agency to accurately map where the satellite will eventually re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, helping to reduce the risk of any debris not completely burning up. Landing near any populated area.
In the end, the European Space Agency calculated that the satellite would charter and burn over Antarctica, far from any populated areas. About 80% of the satellite burned up and 20% survived re-entry Space.com website.
“By transforming the natural Aeolus, Uncontrolled re-entry To an assisted orbit, and choosing the best orbit for re-entry, the very small risk of any remaining fragments landing near populated areas is made 150 times less dangerous again. European Space Agency He said.
Furthermore, the assisted re-entry approach means that “the time Aeolus was left out of control in orbit was shortened by a few weeks, reducing the risk of collisions with other satellites on this vital space highway,” ESA said in the statement. .
More space junk, more risks, more action needed
There was more 6000 active operational satellites in orbit as of 2022, compared to just under 1,000 in 2010. This means there is a higher risk Satellites colliding with each otherAnd that space debris flies to inhabited places on Earth.
Although no one has ever been seriously harmed by space debris, space debris The danger is real and growing The European Space Agency said as more satellites enter Earth’s orbit.
The more traffic there is, the more likely debris is to fall, the European Space Agency said. Especially since satellites that have become inoperable continue to operate above without guidance from Earth.
With these factors in mind, the European Space Agency promises to be more careful when it comes to space junk. “Making space missions safer is particularly important for the agency,” ESA said.
Aeolus-assisted reentry was part of that mission to make satellite reentry safer.
“With Aeolus, in a great example of sustainable spaceflight and responsible operations, we stayed with the mission as long as possible, guiding its return as much as was possible to do,” Aeolus mission director Tommaso Parinello said in the statement.
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