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Le satellite européen ERS-2 termine sa mission d’observation de la Terre en entrant dans l’atmosphère

Le satellite européen ERS-2 termine sa mission d’observation de la Terre en entrant dans l’atmosphère



View of the ozone layer taken in January 1996 by the ERS-2 satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The satellite had completed its Earth observation mission thirteen years ago.


The European ERS-2 satellite, which had completed its earth observation mission 13 years ago, ended its existence by entering the atmosphere Wednesday, the European Space Agency (ESA) reported.



The fall operation towards our planet had begun in 2011 to prevent accidental destruction of this satellite in orbit from dispersing dangerous debris for active satellites and the international space station (ISS).


Pioneer satellite


“We have confirmation of entry into the atmosphere of ERS-2 at 5:17 pm GMT over the North Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Hawaii,” announced the ESA operations center on X (formerly Twitter). The bulk of the 2.3 tonnes of ERS-2 theoretically burned up as it reached the lower layers of the atmosphere at around 80 km altitude. Pioneer satellite in earth observation, ERS-2 was launched in 1995 and placed at nearly 800 km altitude.


At the end of its mission, the ESA had it lowered to about 500 km so that it would then naturally and gradually descend towards the Earth in just 13 years, by the force of gravity alone. Instead of the 100 to 200 years it would have taken if it had remained at its initial altitude. The day before its destruction, it was still at an altitude of over 200 km. On average, an object of similar mass to ERS-2 ends its days in the atmosphere once every one or two weeks, according to the ESA.


Deprived of its internal energy (fuel, batteries …) since the end of its mission, the craft posed significant risks of exploding and creating debris. In July 2023, the European satellite Aeolus descended to Earth in a controlled manner from an orbit (300 km) lower than that of ERS-2. Debris fell back into the Atlantic Ocean. In the case of ERS-2, the probability that one of its debris would strike a person on the ground was less than one in a hundred billion, according to the ESA blog dedicated to the mission.


In 2023, the ESA initiated a “zero debris” charter for space missions designed from 2030. Waste from used satellites, rocket parts and debris from collisions have accumulated since the beginning of the space era. A problem that has amplified over the past decades. According to ESA estimates, there are around one million debris of satellites or rockets in orbit larger than one centimeter, large enough to “disable a spacecraft” in the event of a knock.


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