Moscow, August 9 (Interfax-AVN) – The Briz-M upper stage and the Express-MD2 and Telkom-3 satellites, which were put into the incorrect orbit during the August 6 launch, will fall to earth in winter or spring 2013, Natan Eismont, a leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute, told Interfax-AVN.
“With the existing orbit parameters, the objects will not fall to earth for quite a long time, at least this will not happen earlier than six to eight months from now,” he said.
Following the failed launch of the satellites on board a Proton launch vehicle, space monitoring systems tracked four objects traveling along an elliptical orbit with an apogee altitude of 5,500 kilometers and a perigee altitude of up to 300 kilometers on August 7. It was presumed that these are the Express-MD2, Telkom 3, Briz-M, and a fragment of a coupling section.
The time that these objects can take to de-orbit depends on a lot of factors, including the velocity of their descent, the way they are rotating around their mass centers, atmosphere parameters, solar activity, etc., Eismont said. “It matters even whether the spacecraft break up into fragments, because the velocity of their de-orbiting would also change in this case,” he said.
“The dates when the objects can fall can be determined more accurately in a week or two, when the way they are travelling in orbit becomes clearer,” Eismont said.
The objects will not fall until their apogee altitude lowers to under 300 kilometers, the researcher said. “As soon as they cross this critical level, they will start losing altitude swiftly,” he said.
The area where the satellites’ and the upper stage’s debris can touch down will depend on the angle at which they enter the atmosphere, Eismont said. If this angle is steep, it would be easier to calculate this spot, but if it is low, even the modern devices and experience will not enable specialists to predict it accurately enough, he said.
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