ERS-2 (Credit: Fraunhofer FHR)

Look: ESA’s ERS-2 Satellite Captured in Striking Images During Reentry into Earth’s Atmosphere

After three decades in orbit, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ERS-2 satellite was captured in images that commemorate the spacecraft’s reentry into Earth’s atmosphere last month.

An Earth observing satellite, ERS-2 was launched on April 21, 1995. Maintaining a sun-synchronous polar orbit during its time in operation, ERS-2’s mission officially ended in 2011.

Reentry of ERS-2 occurred at approximately 18:17 Central European Time on February 21, 2024, and capturing the event was no small task since the satellite was lost from view temporarily during its final orbits around the planet.

However, just before reentry, ERS-2 was located as friction from the atmosphere caused the spacecraft to tumble as it began its final descent. With help from the Tracking and Imaging Radar (TIRA) at the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR in Germany, the final moments of ERS-2’s descent from orbit were captured in remarkable detail.

ERS-2 was pictured tumbling on its way into the Earth’s atmosphere in February (Credit: Fraunhofer FHR).

As ERS-2 passed overhead, it was tracked by TIRA’s 34-meter antenna before its reentry and photographed throughout several tracking sessions.

The images, released by the ESA last week, reveal that ERS-2’s solar array had been falling apart even prior to reentry, meaning that the satellite could have behaved in unexpected ways once it entered the atmosphere.

Based on observations of the satellite last month, experts aim to improve their understanding of whether the issues involving its solar array had been due to its reentry occurring later than expected which in turn could help with future predictions about the reentry of spacecraft.

The images of ERS-2’s reentry, as well as additional information about the satellite and its mission, can be found at the European Space Agency’s website.

Micah Hanks is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of The Debrief. He can be reached by email at Follow his work at and on X: @MicahHanks.