When and where will Europe's Aeolus wind satellite fall to Earth this week?

The historic reentry of Aeolus is anticipated to take place on Friday, July 28, over a section of the Atlantic Ocean.

This week marks a historic return to Earth for a European spacecraft.

The Aeolus wind-studying satellite is now being guided by the European Space Agency (ESA) into a controlled explosion in Earth's atmosphere. This plan is a significant change for Aeolus, whose first death wish planned for an unassisted fall.

Additionally, the deorbiting of a satellite has never been "assisted" in this way before, according to ESA, making it a historic occasion in space travel. (Such actions are frequently taken by rocket stages, which frequently direct themselves to secure reentries over open water.)

What you need to know about Aeolus and its reentry campaign is provided here. It is anticipated that the spacecraft will burn up on Friday, July 28.

In August 2018, the 1,360-kilogram (3,000-pound) Aeolus launched on a ground-breaking mission to research Earth's winds, which had never been closely observed from orbit.

Doppler wind lidar, also known as a "light detection and ranging" sensor, is the only scientific tool the spacecraft is equipped with, and according to ESA, its findings have helped scientists improve their climate models and weather forecasts.

From a sun-synchronous orbit 200 miles (320 kilometers) above Earth, Aeolus recorded winds. Compared to the International Space Station, which orbits our globe at an average height of around 250 miles (400 km), that is a comparatively low altitude.

The three-year mission of the spacecraft was originally planned. Although Aeolus significantly outlived its warranty, its time is already almost up. ESA is currently bringing down the spacecraft since it is running low on fuel.

When a satellite's job is complete, it usually falls back to Earth uncontrollably, being drawn lower and lower by the atmosphere of our planet, which gets denser the higher it rises.

That was also the initial idea for Aeolus's destruction. However, the mission crew opted to choose a different path since it appeared more responsible and they had the potential to do so (they had saved enough fuel for the necessary maneuvers).

Typically, 20% or less of a spacecraft's mass makes it through the violent passage through Earth's atmosphere. Therefore, there is always a chance of injury and possible harm to the ground's infrastructure with every uncontrolled fall.

In addition to lowering that risk, ESA and the Aeolus team wished to serve as a role model for other satellite operators.

"Aeolus' reentry, and ESA's desire to reduce the risk in accordance with current guidelines, sets a new precedent for safe spacecraft operations and sustainable spaceflight, for both future missions and those already in orbit," said Rosa Jesse of the ESA in a blog post last month.

Since June 19, Aeolus has begun descending from its operating altitude. According to ESA's Rosa, the satellite carried out its first significant reentry maneuver on Monday, July 24, firing its thrusters twice for a total of 37.5 minutes in burns that decreased its altitude by around 19 miles (30 km), to 155 miles (250 km).

On Thursday, July 27, four additional burns are planned to decrease the orbit even further. "A final order will guide Aeolus home from an altitude of 150 km to just 120 km [93 to 75 miles] on Friday (July 28)." The satellite will thereafter reenter, Rosa noted in the statement on Monday.

About five hours after the last maneuver, reentry is anticipated to take place over the Atlantic Ocean, according to mission crew members.

It's too early to determine the exact position of the reentry; specific projections won't probably be produced until after the last maneuver on Friday. The cities and towns that will be near enough to the reentry route to maybe catch a glimpse of the satellite's flaming death plummet are thus unknown to us. But keep checking back; we'll provide you those updates as soon as ESA and the Aeolus team send them.