What goes up, must come down: Falcon 9 and TRMM

The old truism, “what goes up must come down”, is still true today, unless you launch high enough, but almost everything launches low enough that it is ultimately doomed.  Sometimes things come back neatly, like the Falcon 9 first stage, incrementally working towards a controlled landing of the booster.  SpaceX has released a new video from a chase plane:

And sometimes things come back down completely out of control.  The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, a joint project between NASA and JAXA, is out of propellant.  It is beginning its slow descent under the combined forces of gravity and atmospheric drag.  Since it has no propellant, the venerable spacecraft could come down pretty much anywhere under its flight path (from 35 north to 35 south), and NASA expects it to come down sometime between spring of 2016 and autumn of 2017, depending on solar activity and such.  I don’t have any video of that, obviously, but I did find this lovely animation showing NASA’s entire fleet of weather satellites, as of January 2014.


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