Defunct Satellite Falls in Pacific Ocean


Image of a Molniya-1 series satellite in the Tsiolkovsky Museum in Kaluga (Credits: Mark Wade).

Defunct Russian communication satellite Molniya-1-98 reentered Earth’s atmosphere and fell into the Pacific Ocean on April 7. The reentry appears to have been uncontrolled but well predicted.

“According to preliminary data, fragments of the Molniya satellite that did not burn up in the upper atmosphere reached the earth’s surface on Saturday, April 7 at 3.17 am Moscow time [00:17 GMT] and fell into the Pacific Ocean,” said a Roscosmos source according to RIA Novosti.

Molniya-1-98 was a 1.6 ton satellite last orbiting at an altitude of 2,378 km. It was part of a military communication satellite constellation that was replaced in 2006 by the Meridian series. Molniya-1-98 launched in 1996 from the Plesetsk space center. The most recent Meridian satellite was launched in December but crashed back to Earth when its carrier rocket failed.

This latest reentry follows closely on the heels of the controlled reentry of Russian satellite Express-AM4. Express-AM4 had been inhabiting a useless orbit after an injection failure in 2011.

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About the author

Merryl Azriel

Merryl Azriel

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Having wandered into professional writing and editing after a decade in engineering, science, and management, I now enjoy reintegrating the dichotomy by bringing space technology and policy within reach of an interested public. I lead a fantastic all-volunteer staff as Managing Editor of Space Safety Magazine and keep my pencil sharp as Proposal & Publication Manager for INNOVIM, a NASA/NOAA contractor. In my spare time, you’ll find me advocating for greater appreciation of the International Space Station, supporting International Space University projects, and every so often, reading a book.