The European Space Agency has revealed the final images of a groundbreaking spacecraft profiling the winds ahead of their fiery descent into the atmosphere.
On September 5th, the European Space Agency (ESA) released an animation created from the last eight images captured by its wind-measuring Aeolus spacecraft. Combined radar images show how Aeolus began to falter as it interacted with the object Earth’s atmosphere near orbital speed. “These images are our final farewell to the mission we all miss, but whose legacy lives on,” Aeolus mission manager Tommaso Parinello said in a statement. statement.
Aeolus, named after the divine ruler of the winds in Greek mythology, was the first ever satellite to track terrestrial winds, providing data for climate and meteorological studies. in deathIt became the first spacecraft to attempt an “assisted return”, with the satellite instructed to use up its remaining fuel gradually lower It is orbited and then passivated (or turned off).
Related: Scientists reconstruct the fiery fall of the satellite Aeolus from space to Earth
The images provided the last glimpses of Aeolus. The colors indicate the intensity of the radar signals returned from the spacecraft. To produce it, the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany used TIRA’s 112-foot (34-meter) diameter radar antenna to track Aeolus for about four minutes on Aug. 28, shortly after the spacecraft received its final orders to lower its orbit and divert. off his tools.
Then the atmosphere quickly pulled it back to Earth, causing it to re-enter two hours later. It is estimated that about 80% of the spacecraft burned up, while the remaining 20% of the satellite survived upon its return to Antarctica.
The historic reentry operation was conducted in order to test new methods to reduce the low but existing risk of debris making its way to Earth. “During the first-ever assisted reentry of Aeolus in July, not only was the (already low) risk from falling debris reduced by a factor of 150, but the time that Aeolus was left out of control in orbit was shortened by a few weeks, reducing the risk colliding with other satellites in this vital space route.” According to the statement of the European Space Agency.
The actions experienced with the return of Aeolus will help make end-of-life plans for future missions.
“With Aeolus, in a great example of sustainable spaceflight and responsible operations, we stayed with the mission for as long as we could, and directed its return as much as it was possible to do,” Parinello said.