NASA will end the Earth science mission of the U.S.-German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellite duo in November after 15 years worth of service in space, Space News reported Wednesday.
The GRACE satellite duo will conduct a final science collection mission in mid-October to early November prior to its decommissioning.
Alan Buis, spokesman for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that the decommissioning activities of the GRACE spacecraft will involve steps to make the satellites inert.
Buis added that GRACE will begin its uncontrolled reentry to Earth in early 2018 and most of the spacecraft will burn during its descent with only a few small pieces anticipated to reach the ground.
The report noted that the GRACE satellites have faced various challenges including connection losses, power failures and potential fuel depletion.
NASA will launch the GRACE Follow On pair of replacement satellites which feature an integrated laser interferometer designed to boost the accuracy of separation measurements.
Iridium signed a rideshare agreement with SpaceX in January to launch the NASA and GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences’ GRACE-FO satellites alongside five Iridium NEXT satellites in early 2018.