28 July 2011
Lowering of ERS-2 orbit continues
The orbit of ESA's retired ERS-2 observation satellite is being lowered to
reduce the risk of collision with other satellites or space debris. The goal
is to leave it well below most operating polar satellites by the end of
The first in a series of thruster firings, each lasting about 300 seconds,
was commanded by the mission control team at ESA's European Space Operations
Centre in Germany on 6 July to lower the orbit of the Agency's veteran
The burns have since lowered the satellite from its initial 785 km-high
orbit to about 700 km.
Engineers are closely monitoring the manoeuvres via ESA's ground station in
Kourou, French Guiana, and the Malindi station in Kenya.
"We achieved our first 700 km target altitude on 27 July," said Frank
Diekmann, the ERS-2 operations manager.
"Between now and the end of August, ERS-2 will be brought down to about 570
km, where the risk of collision with other satellites or space debris is
The last phase, called 'passivation', will begin late in August or early
September. During this phase, a number of long burns will deplete remaining
fuel and, finally, the batteries will be disconnected and the transmitters
Reentry of the satellite into Earth's atmosphere is projected to occur
within 25 years. Continued tracking will allow prediction of the reentry
time and path.
ERS-2 was launched in 1995, four years after ERS-1, the first European
Remote Sensing satellite.
With 20 years of continuous measurements, the two missions paved the way for
the development of many new Earth observation techniques in the areas of
atmosphere, land, ocean and ice monitoring.
ERS-2 also carried the first European high-precision instrument to measure
stratospheric ozone concentrations. It was crucial for observing the
evolution of annual ozone depletion over Antarctica.
ERS-2 travelled 3.8 billion km during its lifetime, providing data for
thousands of scientists and projects.
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