April 17, 2024

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The ERS-2 satellite falls toward Earth Wednesday: European Space Agency

The ERS-2 satellite falls toward Earth Wednesday: European Space Agency

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After spending more than a decade on mission in space, a defunct satellite is expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.

IRS-2One of the European Space Agency's first advanced Earth observation satellites will make a “natural” re-entry after remaining in space for 16 years.

Live updates from ESA

according to Live updates From ESA, the agency predicts that reentry will occur at 12:05 PM EDT, with an uncertainty of plus or minus 30 minutes, but we are now well past the center of the reentry window.

ERS-2 was launched in 1995 and was initially scheduled to serve ESA for three years. However, it remained in operation until 2011, providing data for more than 5,000 projects, including tracking Earth's shrinking polar ice, sea levels, and atmospheric composition.

The majority of the 2.5-ton satellite will disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere. According to the agency. The remaining debris will likely land in a body of water, although the agency has no forecast on where it will land.

Graphics: A dead satellite will return to Earth on Wednesday. what do you know.

Where will the satellite enter again?

In its latest update, the European Space Agency placed the expected reentry point at about 50 miles over the Pacific Ocean. Upon reentry, ESA predicts that the satellite will begin to break up and most of it will burn up, with any remaining pieces spread “fairly randomly” over hundreds of kilometers (1 kilometer = 0.62 miles).

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The European Space Agency confirms that the return point is uncertain due to the difficulty of predicting the density of the air through which the object passes.

How ERS-2 spent its time in space

The space agency used the satellite to track the decline of Earth's polar ice, changing land masses, rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, and changing atmospheric chemistry. Since the satellite's retirement, the agency has slowly lowered its altitude.

Contributing: James Powell, USA TODAY Work crew