European satellite will fall to Earth today in landmark 'assisted reentry'

The article never mentions *how* the craft is being decelerated for reentry. I assume it's using it's own thrusters and remaining fuel. Thus I am confused as to why this has never been attempted before, or what about this first instance will provide anything relevant to those who follow. They have a craft with fuel and are doing a retro burn to cause reentry. How is this new? How will it provide new knowledge?

Also, obviously, this means nothing for deactivated craft running on empty. I'm still trying to understand what the news is here.
 
From the article, I think the thrust of the on-board rocket is not enough to do a fast deceleration so that they can be relatively sure where the reentry will occur, given the variability of drag in time and location where the atmosphere thins out.
 

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