European Space Agency (ESA) Deploys New Strategy to Safely Bring Aeolus Satellite Back to Earth
The European Space Agency (ESA) has recently announced a major shift in its strategy regarding the deorbiting of the Aeolus satellite. Originally intended for an unguided fall, this innovative change involves guiding the wind-studying satellite back to Earth in a controlled destruction, the first of its kind.
Launched in August 2018, the 3,000-pound Aeolus satellite was primarily designed to study Earth’s winds, offering valuable insights into weather forecasts and climate models. Equipped with a Doppler wind lidar instrument, Aeolus has exceeded its projected lifespan but is now running low on fuel, prompting the ESA to take action.
Concerned about potential risks to human life and property, the ESA made the decision to guide Aeolus back to Earth. By doing so, the agency aims to minimize the chances of injury and damage on the ground. This new approach involves a gradual descent that began on June 19 and reached a critical milestone on July 24 with a major reentry maneuver.
To further decrease the satellite’s orbit, four additional burns are scheduled for July 27. Finally, on July 28, the Aeolus satellite will be steered to reenter the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean. While the specific location and potential visibility for cities and towns remain unknown, the ESA has assured the public that further updates will be provided to keep everyone informed.
Although this is the first time a satellite is being deorbited in such an “assisted” fashion, the ESA believes it is crucial to prioritize safety and minimize any potential risks associated with space debris. By guiding Aeolus back to Earth instead of allowing it to fall uncontrolled, the ESA sets a precedent for responsible space operations.
As Aeolus bids farewell to its mission in the sky, its impact on meteorology and climate research will undoubtedly be remembered. Thanks to its innovative wind-studying capabilities, it has contributed to the improvement of weather forecasts and climate models. As new chapters in space exploration unfold, the ESA remains committed to pioneering new technologies and strategies that prioritize safety and the protection of our planet.
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