ERS-2: Esa satellite burned up over the Pacific – knowledge

The European satellite launched almost 30 years ago ERS-2 entered the Earth’s atmosphere and was systematically destroyed. “No material damage was reported,” said the European space agency Esa. The earth observation satellite burned up over the North Pacific early on Wednesday evening German time. ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “Bittersweet! The end of an Earth observation era. Goodbye, ERS-2.”

ERS-2 was launched into space on April 21, 1995. The device delivered along with its sibling satellite ERS-1 Long-term data on, among other things, the land surface, sea temperatures, the ozone layer and the extent of polar ice. The satellite also helped to monitor emergency response after natural disasters, according to ESA.

In the end, the satellite could no longer be controlled

“The ERS satellites have provided a stream of data that has changed our view of the world we live in,” said ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, Simonetta Cheli, according to the statement. The satellites would have provided, among other things, new insights into the chemistry of our atmosphere, the behavior of the oceans and the effects of human activities on our environment.

Originally should ERS-2 only provide three years of data – there were significantly more. In 2011, Esa decided to end the mission. “Since then, the satellite has steadily lost altitude. On February 21, 2024, it reached the critical altitude of around 80 kilometers, at which air resistance was so strong that it began to break apart,” Esa said. Esa spoke of a “natural entry” of the satellite into the Earth’s atmosphere. ERS-2 could no longer be controlled during the entry because the remaining fuel had already been drained earlier for safety reasons. “This was the best option for disposing of the satellite as it was designed this way in the 1980s,” ESA wrote. Current missions are designed for so-called controlled re-entry. This is intended to ensure that satellites descend over sparsely populated regions of the earth such as the South Pacific.

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