Aeolus, ESA’s wind mission, reentered Earth’s atmosphere on July 28, 2023, confirmed by U.S. Space Command.
The reentry comes after a series of complex manoeuvers that lowered Aeolus’ orbit from an altitude of 320 kilometers to just 120 kilometers to reenter the atmosphere and burn up.
Crucially, these manoeuvres—the first assisted reentry of its kind — positioned Aeolus so that any pieces that may not have burned up in the atmosphere would fall within the satellite’s planned Atlantic ground tracks.
Today, satellite missions are designed according to regulations that require them to minimise the risk of causing damage on their return to Earth. This would typically be achieved by the majority of a satellite burning up on reentry or through a controlled reentry at the end of their life in orbit. However, when Aeolus was designed back in the late 1990s, no such regulations were in place.
Image Credit: ESA