TIE Fighter over the Earth: The doomed satellite was captured in the photo

The European Space Agency has published images taken by HEO space. They depict an object resembling the famous TIE Fighter from Star Wars. But in fact, the ERS-2 satellite got into the frame.

The ERS-2 satellite shortly before entering the atmosphere. Source: HEO

ERS-2 was launched in 1995 and placed into a 785-kilometer orbit. For the next 16 years, it was engaged in the study of the Earth. It collected data on surface and ocean temperatures, sea level rise, and melting glaciers.

In 2011, the ERS-2 mission was officially completed. During the final maneuver, the satellite used its remaining fuel reserves to reduce the altitude of the orbit to 573 km. This reduced the probability of its collision with other spacecraft, and also reduced its lifetime as a space debris object. In its old orbit, ERS-2 would have existed for 100 to 200 years before it entered the atmosphere.

The ERS-2 satellite in the artist’s image. Source: HEO

Over the following years, the height of the ERS-2 orbit gradually decreased. The current burst of solar activity has significantly accelerated this process. Images from HEO space demonstrate the doomed spacecraft. They were made by the company’s satellites between January 14 and February 3, 2024. At that time, ERS-2 was at an altitude of more than 300 km. According to experts, the uncontrolled satellite was “tumbling”.

The ERS-2 satellite shortly before entering the atmosphere. Source: HEO

At the moment, ERS-2 is in a 200-kilometer orbit. It loses over 10 km of altitude per day and this process is rapidly accelerating. When the satellite reaches an altitude of 80 km, it will fall apart, most of which will burn up in the atmosphere. It is expected that this will happen before the end of this week.

According to https://www.esa.int

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