a year ago

After 12 years an amateur astronomer came into contact with the lost NASA satellite

On March 25, 2000, a Delta II rocket with IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration) satellite was launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to explore the Earth's Magnetosphere. Initially, the mission was planned to last for two years, but then it was decided to extend it. Everything worked well until December 18, 2005, when the contact with the satellite was lost. After repeated attempts to establish a connection and several months of investigation, NASA announced that the satellite had been lost. That was at least what they thought a couple weeks ago.

IMAGE satellite before launch / NASA

On January 20th, Scott Tilley, a Canadian astronomer and radio amateur, searched the space for the mysterious Zuma satellite, which was launched in January atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, and whose fate is unknown. Some sources say that Zuma has not reached orbit and has fallen into the Indian Ocean, others say that the satellite is in orbit and is working perfectly. Tilley apparently belonged to a group of people who believed in the success of the mission and therefore tried to find the lost payload. During the search, however, he received a signal from another satellite - IMAGE - which was supposed to be "dead" for many years.

After this information, NASA decided to check whether the signal was certainly coming from this satellite. For this purpose, the Deep Space Network (DSN), a global antenna network used to communicate with space probes, was used. However, the task turned out to be a bit complicated, because in order to communicate with the IMAGE satellite, it was necessary to use software from almost two decades ago. In the end, on January 30th, NASA was able to confirm with 100% confidence that the satellite found by Scott Tilley was IMAGE.

Once the software has been adapted to several-years-old technology, NASA scientists will analyze the data received from the satellite. This will make it possible to assess the state of the satellite and decide whether it is possible to continue the mission interrupted more than 12 years ago. The process may take about two weeks.

Sources: NASA, Scott Tilley

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