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I was just wondering what variables are involved in a dead satellite deorbiting and fully burning up in the atmosphere. How much does mass/density/entry angle/velocity matter in the situation? If you were purposefully deorbiting something for destructive reentry, what would the ideal conditions be?

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    $\begingroup$ "If you were purposefully deorbiting something for destructive reentry, what would the ideal conditions be?" Break it into small pieces (which burn faster) and have it enter the atmosphere in a shallow angle (but deep enough that the pieces don't bounce back off the upper reaches of the atmosphere) to maximize the heat load on the parts. (Generally though, I suspect this question is 'too broad' for an SO site.) $\endgroup$ – Andrew Thompson Sep 20 '15 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ Angle velocity is very important. If it's tumbling, it will burn faster. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Sep 20 '15 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ The nature of the object is far more important. $\endgroup$ – Loren Pechtel Sep 20 '15 at 20:57
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Re-entry and orbital debris analysis is complex. Here is the NASA standard for Orbital Debris Mitigation. For US launches, satellite operators are required to submit a document known as an Orbital Debris Assessment Report (ODAR), an analysis that shows a spacecraft will enter autonomously before 25 years on orbit (for LEO spacecraft), and that there is a small probability of re-entry hazard.

This analysis is performed, in part, by using a NASA provided tool known as Debris Assessment Software.

Here is an example of an ODAR for the Skycube 1U cubesat.

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