The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) will begin a challenging controlled re-entry test of the decommissioned Megha-Tropix-1 (MT1) satellite on March 7.
MT1 is a joint Indo-French satellite launched in 2011 for tropical weather and climate research providing data services supporting regional and global climate models up to 2021.
The space agency said on Sunday that it was ready for this challenging test as a responsible space agency committed to safe and sustainable operations in outer space.
ISRO said the UN/Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines recommend deorbiting a low Earth orbit object at the end of its life, preferably by controlled re-entry or bringing it into a safe impact zone. In an orbit where the orbital lifetime was less than 25 years.
The guidelines recommended the deactivation of on-board power sources to reduce the risk of accidental separation post-mission.
“The orbital lifetime of MT1, weighing about 1,000 kg, could be more than 100 years in an operational orbit inclined at 20 degrees at an altitude of 867 km. About 125 kg of on-board fuel remains unused at the end of its mission which could pose a risk of accidental break-up. This The remaining fuel was estimated to be sufficient to achieve a fully controlled atmospheric re-entry to impact an uninhabited location in the Pacific Ocean. Controlled re-entries involve deorbiting at a very low altitude to ensure impact occurs within a targeted safe zone,” ISRO said.
Limiting the risk of ground accidents
ISRO also stated that generally, large satellites and rocket bodies that were likely to survive aero-thermal fragmentation after re-entry, undergo controlled re-entry to limit the risk of ground casualties.
“However, all such satellites are specifically designed for controlled re-entry at end-of-life. MT1 was not designed for end-of-life operation with controlled re-entry which made the whole exercise very challenging. “Furthermore, the on-board limitations of older satellites, where several systems have lost redundancy and have shown degraded performance, and maintaining subsystems at much lower environmental conditions than originally planned orbital altitudes added to the operational complexity,” ISRO said.
An uninhabited area between 5°S to 14°S latitude and 119°W to 100°W longitude in the Pacific Ocean has been identified as the target re-entry zone for MT1.
Since August 2022, 18 orbital maneuvers have been carried out to gradually lower the orbit and ground impact is expected on March 7 between 4.30 pm and 7.30 pm IST.
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