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Heritage ERS-2 Satellite Set to Reenter Earth’s Atmosphere

By Abbey Weltman | February 7, 2024
      The ERS-2 satellite in the clean room before its launch. Photo: ESA

      The ERS-2 satellite in the clean room before its launch. Photo: ESA

      After a 16-year working life, the second European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS-2) is making its final descent into Earth’s atmosphere. ERS-2 returned information that influenced the perception of climate change and the understanding of the planet.

      The European Space Agency (ESA) retired ERS-2 in 2011. It was originally launch in 1995. The Space Debris Office has been closely following the satellite’s 13 year orbital decay and will monitor ERS-2 natural reentry into earth’s atmosphere. This is expected to happen around mid-February.

      ERS-2 launched in 1995 four years after its sister satellite ERS-1. Both satellites carried an imaging synthetic aperture radar, a radar altimeter, sensors to measure ocean-surface temperature and winds at sea and other impressive instruments. ERS-2 had an additional sensor to measure atmospheric ozone.

      The ESA satellites collected significant data on Earth’s diminishing polar ice, changing land surfaces, sea-level rise, warming oceans, atmospheric chemistry and also monitored natural disasters. With this information scientists were able to begin to understand human impact on the planet. 

      Technologies pioneered on ERS-2 paved the way for several successor ESA missions such as the Envisat mission, the MetOp weather satellites, the Earth Explorer scientific research missions and the Copernicus Sentinels.