Resilient Van Allen Probes maneuvered for Earth reentry in 15 years

Last month, researchers announced that the two Van Allen Probes were entering their final exploration phase after more than six years of orbiting around Earth. A handful of weeks later, the space agency has announced that the probes have been maneuvered into positions that will result in their deliberate reentry into Earth's 15 years.READ: Van Allen Probes enter last phase of radiation belt exploration

These two probes are described as incredibly hardy, having survived more than half a decade of orbiting through the Van Allen radiation belts, where they've been subjected to charged particles. Both spacecraft paved the way for important discoveries, shed light on new processes and structures, and confirmed existing scientific theories.

All things must come to an end, though, and that's the case with the Van Allen Probes. Both spacecraft began the final phase of their exploration on February 12, 2019 and kicked off orbit descent maneuvers that put the probes in position for reentry into the atmosphere. This reentry will take around 15 years to happen, though, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The satellites are doomed to eventually burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, preventing them from being hazardous space junk. The probes remain operational at this time and it's hard to estimate how much longer they'll last — both were set out on only a two-year mission due to the belief that they wouldn't survive long in the radiation belts.

During the past 6.5 years, the Van Allen probes have successfully completed three full circuits of the magnetosphere, providing researchers with data on more than 100 geomagnetic storms. More than 560 articles have been published on the Van Allen Probes' data since the mission began, underscoring the usefulness of these long-lasting satellites.