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Doomed satellite that looks like a Star Wars Tie Fighter is set to crash into the Earth next week – and scientists don’t know exactly where it will land


A satellite that looks like a Star Wars tie fighter craft is expected to crash into Earth next week – but scientists don’t know where it will land.

The UK Space Agency said on Friday that they are on alert ahead of the impact and have been working with satellite tracking company HEO to observe the rogue satellite.

Scientists say they have no idea where the European Remote Sensing 2 satellite’s (ERS-2) will land.

The latest guess ESA (European Space Agency) shared for their out of control satellite’s reentry into the atmosphere is Wednesday (21 Feb) at 12:10pm.

However, that crash predication comes with a margin of error some 27 hours either side.

A satellite which looks like a Star Wars tie fighter craft is expected to crash into Earth next week - but scientists don't know where it will land

A satellite which looks like a Star Wars tie fighter craft is expected to crash into Earth next week – but scientists don’t know where it will land

The UK Space Agency said on Friday that they are on alert ahead of the impact and have been working with satellite tracking company HEO to observe the rogue satellite

The UK Space Agency said on Friday that they are on alert ahead of the impact and have been working with satellite tracking company HEO to observe the rogue satellite

Artist illustration of the European Remote Sensing 2

Artist illustration of the European Remote Sensing 2

The images captured from space by HEO – an Australian company with an office in the UK – were taken by other satellites between 14 January and 3 February and show ERS-2 as it rotates on its journey back to Earth.

The UK agency say they have been shared with ESA to help in their tracking ERS-2’s re-entry.

The Space Agency said in last night’s update that they operate ‘the UK’s re-entry warning service and has tasked our UK sensors to observe the re-entry of ERS-2.’

The government space debris re-entry service scans for incoming threats and can put out a warning if a possible emergency arises.

The UK Space Agency says of the re-entry service: ‘Our orbital analysts use UK developed state-of-the art modelling to monitor re-entering objects and produce re-entry warnings if it is a UK-licensed object re-entering, or if the UK or our overseas territories/crown dependencies might be affected.

‘These warnings are distributed to civil protection authorities in the UK as well as overseas government departments.

Looking like an incoming Star Wars Tie Fighter spacecraft, this is the doomed satellite set to crash into Earth. Artist illustration

Looking like an incoming Star Wars Tie Fighter spacecraft, this is the doomed satellite set to crash into Earth. Artist illustration

The satellite has been likened in appearance to a Star Wars tie fighter jet

The satellite has been likened in appearance to a Star Wars tie fighter jet

‘Our re-entry service, alongside our in-orbit collision and fragmentation service (known as our Space Surveillance and Tracking service) runs 365 days a year.’

Angus Stewart, Head of Space Surveillance and Tracking at the UK Space Agency, said: ‘There are thousands of operational and defunct satellites in orbit around the Earth, and the ability to operate safely in space and bring the benefits back to Earth is growing increasingly challenging.’

‘As well as capturing these images as part of our work with HEO, the UK Space Agency operates the UK’s re-entry warning service and has tasked our UK sensors to observe the re-entry of ERS-2.

‘We share data with ESA and other international partners through the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) and other forums to support satellite re-entries.’

HEO said: ‘The objective is to understand how Non-earth Imagery can improve re-entry predictions by reducing uncertainties on the object re-entering, as well as better understand the nature of re-entering objects.

‘This is particularly important for uncontrolled or poorly characterised objects, such as large space debris objects that may no longer be intact.’

The UK Space Agency say UK scientists and engineers from organisations, including Astrium (now Airbus), the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxford University, the Mullard Space Science Laboratory and the Met Office, were involved in the doomed satellite’s design, build and scientific instruments.

ESA describe the ERS-2 reentry as ‘natural’ as it is no longer possible to control the satellite.

The only force causing ERS-2’s orbit to decay is atmospheric drag, which is influenced by unpredictable solar activity.



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