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NASA Satellite Returns

NASA Satellite Returns after 38 Years in Space

After 38 years in space, an abandoned NASA satellite has returned to the planet. In 1984, the space shuttle Challenger launched the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, or ERBS. Up until 2005, ERBS measurements of ozone, water vapour, nitrogen dioxide, and aerosol concentrations in the stratosphere aided studies into how Earth received and radiated solar energy.

According to a NASA statement, ERBS reentered the Earth’s atmosphere at 11:04 p.m. ET over the Bering Sea, and the US Department of Defense has verified this. It wasn’t immediately known if the satellite’s components made it through re-entry. It was anticipated that the majority of the satellite would burn up when it entered the atmosphere. According to a NASA estimate, the likelihood of injuring someone on Earth is incredibly low—roughly 1 in 9,400.

The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment II (SAGE II), an instrument on board ERBS satellite, gathered data that showed the ozone layer in the space is thinning globally, according to NASA. These findings influenced the Montreal Protocol Agreement, a global accord signed in 1987 by a large number of nations that resulted in a sharp decrease in the use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), substances that were formerly widely used in aerosols, refrigeration systems, and air conditioners.

According to a 2021 research, if there had been no agreement on a CFC ban, the globe would be on pace for ozone depletion and an additional 2.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of the century. Currently, SAGE III on the International Space Station gathers information about the ozone layer’s condition. The “What goes up, must come down” archive will need this one. After nearly 40 years in space, NASA’s Earth Radiation Budget Satellite was welcomed back to Earth on Sunday. NASA reported on Monday that the Department of Defense has verified the 5,400-pound (2,450-kg) satellite’s re-entry into the Bering Sea. NASA’s satellite returns back from space.

ERBS made contributions to the fields of climate and meteorology. It has taken a while for the ageing satellite, which was first launched from the Space Shuttle Challenger in late 1984, to experience atmospheric re-entry as a retiring present. The satellite was supposed to last two years, but it lasted longer. NASA’s satellite returns back from space. According to NASA, “ERBS actively investigated during 21 of its orbital years how the Earth received and radiated energy from the Sun and took measurements of stratospheric ozone, water vapour, nitrogen dioxide, and aerosols.”

Spacecraft that are returning to Earth go through a difficult re-entry procedure. Most ERBS were projected to burn up, according to NASA, “but some components would survive re-entry.” Any objects that were not burned most likely fell harmlessly into the sea since the return trajectory crossed a body of water. At a time when space is becoming more and more clogged with trash, garbage, and outdated satellites, the satellite’s uneventful fall on its home planet is excellent news. NASA’s satellite returns back from space. After ERBS’s exceptional contribution to science, it suddenly became brilliant.




In order to understand how the Earth absorbs and reflects radiation from the Sun, NASA created the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS). Finding trends in the Earth’s climate is made easier by comprehending this process. ERBS, one of the longest-running spacecraft missions ever, was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on October 5, 1984, and it was deactivated on October 14, 2005. The mission ultimately produced information on the ozone layer of the Earth for more than two decades even though the spacecraft’s operating life was only supposed to be two years.

The impact of human activities like the usage of CFCs and the burning of fossil fuels on the Earth’s radiation budget has also been studied using data from the ERBS. During the Montreal Protocol agreement, the international community’s decision-making relied heavily on the ozone layer data given by ERBS. As a result of this accord, CFCs have almost entirely disappeared from industrialised nations. NASA’s satellite returns back from space. The notion that CFCs lower atmospheric ozone concentrations was partly based on the ERBS data.

The mission was a component of NASA’s three-satellite Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE), which was created to investigate how solar energy is taken up and released by Earth. One of the key factors influencing Earth’s weather patterns is this process of absorption and re-reflection. The effect of human actions (like burning fossil fuels and using CFCs) and unnatural occurrences (like volcanic eruptions) on the Earth’s radiation budget is also ascertained using ERBS measurements. The ERBE tools were initially available on the ERBS, the first of three ERBE platforms. The Stratospheric Aerosol Gas Experiment was carried by the satellite in addition to ERBE’s scanning and non-scanning equipment (SAGE II). The satellite was constructed by Goddard Space Flight Center and launched in 1984 on the Space Shuttle Challenger. The NOAA-9 satellite, which was launched in January 1985, carried the second ERBE instrument, and the NOAA-10 satellite, which was launched in October 1986, carried the third. All non-scanning instruments on board the three ERBE spacecraft are still working, despite the scanning While instruments being inactive.

The first NASA satellite to be launched and deployed from a space shuttle flight was the ERBS satellite. It was in a 610 km non-sun synchronous orbit (which was reduced to 585 km in 1999). Due to its 57 degree inclination, Earth was not completely covered. It was expected to survive for two years, with a target of three years, however it lasted for twenty-one years despite experiencing a number of minor hardware issues. Since its release, the instruction memory has experienced random bit alterations. In 1990, the ERBE scanner broke down. There was a partial memory malfunction in October 1993. In April 1998, one of the two digital telemetry systems failed. The elevation gimbal of the scannerless equipment failed in September 1999, interfering with solar measurements for solar energy from space. On December 22, 1999, a new control sequence was developed, and measurements recommenced. At the conclusion of the flight, only 1 of the 5 gyros was still operational, and engine performance was unpredictable. The failure of the fuel tank bladder was found after disassembly.

The ultimate decision to decommission the spacecraft was made as a result of battery issues. Despite predictions that the satellite might operate into 2010, there were worries that if it lost power before the solar panel batteries were unplugged, the batteries may blow up and send a cloud of space debris into the atmosphere, endangering other satellites. The two batteries’ performance started to differ around September 1989. The cells of battery 1 experienced short circuits in August 1992 and again in September, which is why battery 1 was turned off in October. Then, Battery 2 sustained all loads while experiencing a cell short in June and again in July of 1993. The effort to reconnect Battery 1 in August 1993 was unsuccessful owing to insufficient load sharing. Another cell breakdown started in June 1998 and ended completely on January 15, 1999. Due to this cell failure, the battery voltage dropped to the point where the attitude control system lost accuracy, causing the satellite to slowly fall. Scientific data was lost for a few days or months as a result of these cell failures and short circuits. Battery 1 was put back online once the satellite was found. Battery 2 was then turned off after that. NASA’s satellite returns back from space. Battery 1 had three cells fail, while Battery 2 had five cell failures by the time the mission was through, separating it from the main bus.

In order to guarantee that the satellite will naturally degrade within 25 years of the completion of its mission, the perigee of the spacecraft was reduced by more than 50 kilometres in 2002. NASA’s satellite returns back from space. This turned out to be wise because, by the time the spacecraft was finally decommissioned in 2005, the propulsion and attitude control systems had suffered such severe degradation that the risks of performing delta-v manoeuvres to remove the remaining fuel were also carefully considered after the mission, which is why these manoeuvres were avoided.

Decomissioning and re-entry

On July 12, 2005, the NASA satellite decommissioning order was issued, marking the beginning of the process. In August, the instruments were turned off, and in September, the actual work started. The final fuel was consumed, the batteries were depleted, the recorder was played for the final time, the on-board memory was cleared, and the solar cells of the space battery were detached during the decommissioning process. The attitude and drive control systems were turned off, and the propulsion system was discharged, during the ERBS’s last communication with Earth during orbit 114.941. NASA’s satellite returns back from space. The transponders were turned off one more time as final orders opened up the engines to let the remaining gasoline out.


Since the ozone hole was originally reported in 1985, SAGE II has measured the ozone hole’s ozone depletion over Antarctica. During the 1987 Montreal Protocol agreement, which resulted in the nearly complete eradication of CFCs in industrialised nations, this information was crucial to the decision-making process of the international community. Additionally, he created a database of aerosol data from polar stratospheric clouds (PSC), which was vital to understanding the ozone hole process. NASA’s satellite returns back from space. To comprehend the impact of volcanic aerosols on climate, SAGE II data were employed.


NASA’s satellite returns back from space. The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment, the Terrestrial Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) Scanner, and the ERBE Non-Scanner were the three instruments that ERBS carried (SAGE II). The radiation budget investigations conducted by Nimbus-6 and 7 were followed up by ERBE. The SAGE satellite was followed by SAGE-II, which ran from 1979 to 1981. As part of this endeavour, ERBS, one of three ERBE satellites, carried two instruments. Three detectors made up the ERBE scanner, which measured short-wave, long-wave, and total energy released by the Earth during the satellite’s orbit. The five-detector ERBE non-scanner array assessed the overall energy of the sun, the shortwave, the whole disc, and the region below the satellite. The NOAA-9 satellite, which was launched in January 1985, and the NOAA-10 satellite, which was launched in October 1986, both carried the other two ERBE missions. After repeated attempts to retrieve it, the ERBE scanner on ERBS eventually stopped functioning in March 1991. It had stopped working on February 2, 1990.

The non-scanner lost its capacity to do internal and solar calibrations every two weeks, although there was no noticeable change in the quality of the data as a result. The Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1) set for flight in 2017 uses an older sensor that the Recording of ERBE continues data from the Earth and Cloud Radiant Power System missions, which started in 1997 with NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission. On August 22, 2005, the non-scanner was turned off in order to prepare for decommissioning. The Seven Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) sensors that were launched between 1998 and 2017 maintained the ERBE mission’s observations, and the Radiation Budget Instrument (RBI) based on the Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS- 2) and JPSS-4 expanded them. NASA’s satellite returns back from space.

About the Author

Ahsan Azam is the author who specializes in avionics as well as research writing. The author has a keen attention to detail and is focused on providing interesting content to the readers.

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