When the American meteorological satellite NOAA-17 was launched in 2002, it was supposed to remain in Earth orbit for only three years but, for more than a decade, it provided valuable images to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) until its instruments failed. and it was deactivated in 2013. According to the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, NOAA-17 shattered on March 10.
It is not known who was responsible for the end of the satellite, but what remains of it (at least 16 pieces of what is now space junk) are being monitored. “At the moment, the wreckage poses little threat to the International Space Station or any other critical space resource,” NOAA said in a statement (the ISS orbits 400 kilometers, while NOSS-17 was in orbit at 800 kilometers). .
Upon being decommissioned, the meteorological satellite (like its predecessor, NOAA-16, deactivated in 2000 and in service for 14 years), before being sent to the so-called “dead zone” of the atmosphere, was prepared so that it would not interfere with other objects in orbit.
“When it was deactivated, the NOAA satellite operations center turned off all spacecraft transmitters, disconnected the batteries, opened the thruster’s valves to deplete the nitrogen and turned its solar panel away from the light,” NOAA said in a statement.
According to data from the European Space Agency, in the last 15 years, two-thirds of the satellites launched to operate in geostationary orbit are 300 kilometers above where they were placed at the beginning of their operation, in the so-called cemetery orbit.
No signs of shock
According to the agency, “these measures were taken to ensure that the satellite was as inert as possible, in addition to minimizing the risk of radio frequency interference with other spacecraft after decommissioning,” said NOAA.
In addition to the American satellite, the 18th Space Control Squadron also detected the wreckage of a Chinese meteorological probe, the Yunhai 1-02, launched in September 2019.
The causes of this incident and NOAA-17 have yet to be determined. The Chinese probe left behind 21 fragments, which are also being monitored. There is no evidence that the two were shocked.