Sunday, January 28, 2018

A $150 million NASA satellite which died from systems failure just five years after its launch has somehow reactivated and is still broadcasting

Astronomer Scott Tilley was searching for signs of Zuma, a classified U.S. government satellite of unknown purpose that officials declared a “total loss”shortly after its launch, when he was surprised to discover a signal from a satellite labeled “2000-017A.” In a blog post earlier this month, Tilley wrote that he was able to confirm that the object was indeed NASA’s long-lost Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration satellite by matching it to its orbit.

The satellite that woke up.

IMAGE was launched in 2000 and declared lost in 2005. It is still transmitting data beyond simple telemetry, indicating that some of its six onboard instruments may still be active. It’s possible the satellite turned back on during a period of time in which Earth’s orbit eclipsed its onboard solar panels, drained its batteries, and forced a reset of IMAGE’s systems. Per AmericaSpace, a Failure Review Board had concluded that an “induced ‘instant trip’ of the Solid Sate Power Controller” was likely responsible for the original outage, though they noted there was a small possibility of the SSPC resetting in 2007 or a subsequent eclipse.
“The odds are extremely good that it’s alive,” Rice University space plasma physicist and original mission co-investigator Patricia Reiff told Science.
The journal noted NASA is now looking to see whether it is possible to reactivate the satellite and its instruments entirely:
Since Tilley’s announcement, project scientists spent a couple days furiously digging up old software and records, and this weekend, NASA will attempt to contact IMAGE with its deep space radio antennas—as will the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Right now, the team is puzzled as to why it appears the spacecraft’s rotation rate has slowed, which may make communication more challenging. “The team is collectively holding their breath waiting for some real information exchange between IMAGE and the ground,” Reiff adds.


  1. The average life span of a low orbit satellite is approximately 5 years, but the average life span for a geosynchronous satellite is approximately 8 years. They have gotten a few to last a bit longer but their wobble causes a high bit error rate.

    A satellite after 17 years is space junk. If they can gain control an fir the rockets to send it out to a useless orbit. There is a lot of junk out there.

  2. perhaps we could have the Berkeley SJWs figure a "green" way to cleanse the orbiting junk in their lifetimes. better use of their time than throwing chairs thru windows.