THE EUROPEAN Space Agency has plans to crash a failed satellite back into the Earth.

The spacecraft is known as the European Remote Sensing 2 (ERS-2) satellite.

The ESA's ERS-2 satellite

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The ESA’s ERS-2 satelliteCredit: ESA
The ERS-2 was launched in 1995

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The ERS-2 was launched in 1995Credit: European Space Agency
It's due to come crashing back into Earth soon

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It’s due to come crashing back into Earth soonCredit: European Space Agency

It was launched into low Earth orbit in April 1995 and finished its mission of observing our planet in September 2011.

Together with its twin satellite ERS-1, the pair collected valuable data on Earth’s land surfaces, oceans, and polar caps.

It was also used to monitor natural disasters such as severe flooding or earthquakes in remote parts of the world.

Now, the ESA has revealed the tentative date and time it thinks re-entry will occur.

Based on data from Monday, the ESA calculates that the crash to Earth will happen at 5:26 pm ET on February 19.

The ESA noted that the margin of error in this prediction is slightly more than 1.5 days – or plus or minus 38 hours.

This is due mainly to the influence of unpredictable solar activity, “which affects the density of Earth’s atmosphere and therefore the drag experienced by the satellite,” the space agency added.

Preparation for ERS-2’s end began in the summer of 2011 when the ESA performed 66 reorbiting maneuvers on it, according to Live Science.

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That process was to use up the satellite’s remaining fuel and lower its average altitude from 488 miles to about 356 miles.

This helps to reduce the risk of collision with other satellites or space debris. 

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This process also helps the satellite’s orbit deteriorate fast enough so it could reenter Earth’s atmosphere within 15 years.

According to the ESA, the ERS-2 “was the most sophisticated Earth-observation spacecraft ever developed and launched by Europe.”

When it departed Earth, it weighed 5,547 pounds; now, without fuel, its weight is around 5,057 pounds.

This post first appeared on Thesun.co.uk

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