The satellite, launched into Earth’s orbit in 2018, was on a five-year mission, two more than the original plan had foreseen, with the intention of helping experts improve their climate models and weather forecasts.

It’s the first time the ESA executes an assisted re-entry of a satellite at the end of its life.

The remaining fuel in Aeolus, which has components built by Portuguese companies, will be used to direct itself to re-enter the atmosphere.

When Aeolus finds itself 80 kilometres from Earth’s surface, a large part of the satellite will burn up, although some fragments may reach the planet.

The ESA, which Portugal is a member state of, assures that the risk of space junk hitting someone is almost three times less than that of a meteor impact.

Aeolus’s re-entry to Earth will be complete on Friday when a team at ESA’s space operations centre, in Germany, guides what’s left of the machine to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, as far away from land as possible.