Russian satellite Molniya-3-45 may fall to Earth on January 1, 2014
Forty-five of the 158 launched communication Molniya satellites now remain in the orbits of artificial Earth satellites and 12 of them are expected to end their in-orbit function by 2030, the Interstate Joint-Stock Corporation (MAK) Vympel (part of the concern PVO Almaz-Antei) told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday.
"The first of them, Molniya-3-45, may cease its ballistic existence on January 1, 2014. This date is a tentative one and was obtained based on a study of the trajectory parameters as of March 23, 2013 and may be specified later," MAK Vympel said."
"According to the corporation experts' estimations, 33 of these 45 spacecraft will fall out of orbit to Earth after 2030 and 12 before 2030," the source said.
Dual-purpose satellites Molniya have been launched into orbit from the Soviet Union and Russia for forty years. They worked on high elliptical semi-diurnal orbits (the orbit time is half of a star day, i.e., some 718 minutes) with an inclination of some 63.4 degrees, the apogee height of some 40,000 km and the perigee height of 500 to 2,500 km over the Southern Hemisphere. Objects with this type of orbit can continue in such an orbit for decades or can burn up in the atmosphere several months after being launched.
After their active function ends, these satellites gradually fall out of orbit under the influence of a variety of factors and eventually end their ballistic existence, being destroyed in the solid layers of the atmosphere.
The spacecraft Molniya-1-92 and Molniya-3-53 ended their active function on May 27 and June 15, respectively. They both disintegrated when they entered the solid layers of the atmosphere over the southern part of the Indian Ocean. Both satellites were launched in 2003. Their estimated service life is three years.