The 17000 Pound Piece of Space Debris

Posted: July 26, 2010 in Envisat, ESA, European Space Agency, Polar Orbit, Space Debris, Space Junk

Envisat, the European Space Agency’s $3 billion, 17000-plus pound earth observation satellite will be the biggest–physically at least–risk to satellites operating in polar orbits for the next 150 years.

What happens in 150 years to change things?  It burns in.

You would think the ESA has considered using whatever maneuver fuel is available to try and move Envisat to a less dangerous position, right?  Right?

Or is more likely that because this is a $3 billion mission the ESA will wring every bit of performance they can out of Envisat and then, to quote Fleetwood Mac, will tell the satellite “you can go your own way”?

The Space News link talks of Envisat having to maneuver to avoid a 3000-plus pound Chinese upper stage.  That debris field would likely have been one for the ages.


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