#video | ESA has shown how melt satellites in the earth’s atmosphere

Experts from the European space Agency (ESA) conducted an experiment designed to demonstrate how near-earth satellites are melted upon entering the earth’s atmosphere. To simulate these conditions on earth, the engineers used a plasma wind tunnel, in which was placed one of the most durable elements of the satellite — rod magnetic system orientation. It consists of polymer composite material reinforced with external carbon fiber, with copper coils and the inner cobalt core.

In theory, near-earth satellites were designed taking into account the fact that all elements burn in an atmosphere of our planet, when it comes to the end of their lifespan. In reality it is not always the case — some parts can reach the Earth’s surface.

As melt satellites?

Therefore, the ESA wanted to understand the melting process of space debris while diving into the atmosphere. Similar conditions were recreated on the site of the German aerospace center in Cologne inside a plasma wind tunnel. Rod placed in a magnetic orientation system size of 4 to 10 centimeters has been fully melted, heating the subject to several thousand degrees Celsius.

“Such experiments represent a significant value to consider these factors when designing spacecraft, so there are no surprises and to minimize the harmful effect, if it is not possible to design so that all burnt,” — commented on the result of the experiment, leading researcher of Institute of space research Nathan Eismont.


Rod of the magnetic system orientation to melting…


and after

According to the chief engineer, ESA Thiago Suarez, in General, the results of the experiment showed the correctness of the calculations. However, some of the rods melted’t go as planned, which may be associated either with the wrong manufacturing or incorrect mathematical calculations of the destruction of the satellites in the atmosphere.

What parts of the satellites can not burn in the atmosphere?

The ESA noted that some of the falling to earth of the fragments are quite large and can cause significant damage, so attempts to minimize the probability of these events.

As an example, ESA cites the case that took place in 1997. Then, just 50 metres from a house on one of the farms of Texas fell unburned in the atmosphere the fuel tank of the rocket stage, the weight of which was about 250 kg.


Unburned fuel tank of the rocket, which fell in Texas in 1997

ESA also noted that in addition to the magnetic rods and the fuel tanks don’t burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere and reach its surface and other parts of satellites, for example, the same optical devices, flywheels, gyroscopes and actuators.

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