News 20 February 2024

Uncontrolled satellite hurtling toward crash landing on Earth

20 February 2024

Newly released images depict an uncontrolled satellite, ERS-2, hurtling towards Earth, raising concerns about potential debris reaching the planet’s surface.

The UK Space Agency captured the descent of ERS-2, noting its rapid acceleration, plummeting over 10 kilometers per day. Initially launched in 1995, ERS-2 served as Europe’s most advanced satellite, gathering invaluable data on various terrestrial features and analysing natural calamities.

Launched nearly three decades ago, ERS-2 is anticipated to disintegrate upon reentry into the atmosphere. According to experts from the European Space Agency (ESA), the satellite will break into pieces approximately 80 kilometers above Earth, with most fragments expected to burn up during atmospheric entry. However, there remains a possibility of some debris reaching the Earth’s surface.

After 16 years of operation, ESA decided to terminate ERS-2’s mission, initiating maneuvers to deorbit the satellite and minimize collision risks with other space objects.

ESA’s Space Debris Office continually updates predictions for the satellite’s reentry, which is estimated to occur at 11:14 GMT on Wednesday, February 21. However, the precise location and timing of impact remain uncertain due to the unpredictable nature of natural reentry.

Despite concerns about falling debris, ESA reassures the public that the risk of injury from space debris is exceedingly low, with the likelihood of an individual being harmed estimated to be less than 1 in 100 billion annually.

Additionally, the agency confirms that any potential fragments are devoid of toxic or radioactive materials, further mitigating risks to human safety.

[Image via HEO]