March 10, 2024 at 12:33 pm

Fiery Images Show A Satellite Leaving Space And Burning Up In The Earth’s Atmosphere

by Jen Sako

In a cosmic finale, the European Space Agency said goodbye to its Aeolus satellite, orchestrating a celestial spectacle as it gracefully plunged into Earth’s atmosphere.

“Normally, once a satellite is in the nose of its rocket, that’s the last we see of it. But Aeolus… well, it went out with a bang,” exclaimed Tommaso Parrinello, the manager behind the Aeolus mission.

In a series of images released by the ESA, we witness the satellite’s three-hour nosedive, captured by the Tracking and Imaging Radar (TIRA) antenna in Germany – a fitting encore for a satellite that spent nearly five years profiling Earth’s winds.

Source: X

Aeolus had completed its mission and was ready for a well-deserved retirement.

With an orbit altitude of around 200 miles, the ESA knew it was only a matter of time before Aeolus became an unpredictable piece of space clutter. Instead of letting it rain satellite debris randomly, the ESA opted for a daring swan song – a “first-of-its-kind assisted re-entry.”

Source: X

Mission control used the satellite’s leftover fuel to delicately guide Aeolus on a controlled descent. The result? A flaming grand finale over a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean, a designated safe zone for any leftover space souvenirs.

On July 24, mission control adjusted Aeolus’ trajectory with short bursts of fuel.

By July 28, the satellite received its final command before being ‘passivated’ – a space term that’s probably more dramatic than it sounds – essentially, Aeolus retired, fully depleted of its energy stores.

Source: X

The team on solid ground anxiously awaited confirmation of the satellite’s final act. With the Tracking and Imaging Radar (TIRA) recording, Benjam Bastida Virgili from the ESA Space Debris Office aptly noted, “Spacecraft operators are used to being in a dialogue with their missions, but debris can’t talk.”

Thanks to these last visual snapshots, we now know that Aeolus’s grand finale was a success.

While this may be the end for one satellite, it marks a promising dawn for future de-orbiting missions and a cleaner cosmos.

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