Amazingly enough, NASA was able to make contact with its STEREO-B spacecraft after it went silent in October 2014. NASA had been trying to reach the craft ever since it disappeared and on Sunday they reached a signal.
The STEREO-B spacecraft is a part of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories mission, the shuttle works along with sister STEREO-A, and together they communicated their findings with NASA. The two spacecraft were launched by NASA in October 2014. The primary objective was to study and measure the sun’s energy to Earth and study any solar phenomenon.
The sibling craft’s work by communicating with each other and Earth regularly. STEREO-A is located within Earth’s orbit, and STEREO-B was located outside our planet’s orbit and more close to the Sun, this way both probes could measure solar energy from different angles.
A test went wrong
Initially, the mission was supposed to last only two years, but the spacecraft outdated their lifetime and by 2014 they kept communicating information and data with NASA, however, STEREO-B was facing a problem.
The craft’s orbit was drifting to the opposite side of the sun from earth, which was going to lead to a four-month-long period of in communication.
“The sun emits strongly, making it the biggest source of noise in the sky. Most deep space missions only have to deal with the sun interference for a day or so, but for the STEREO craft the period lasted nearly four months,” said Dan Ossing, who is the mission operations manager of the STEREO team.
Although researchers still don’t know what happened, something went wrong, and the ship didn’t turn itself back on after rebooting. All it did was send a week signal before disappearing. That last message informed scientists that STEREO-B spacecraft had been spinning out of control and lost its orbit, and since solar energy powered it, the craft was powered down.
For 22 months NASA scientists had been trying to communicate with STEREO-B by using the Deep Space Network to determine a signal of the ship every three hours per week.
Nothing came up, until Sunday the team was able to reestablish a communication signal with the lost spacecraft at 6:26 pm. Although contact was made, the team still has to communicate with the probe to understand the health and if it can return to work.
STEREO-B is still far away from it’s orbiting spot and scientists need to get a hold of the craft, but this might not happen for years, according to Gizmodo on 2019 the spacecraft will be seen by the Hubble Telescope and researchers will determine a way home.
Meanwhile, it’s sister STEREO-A continues to inform NASA about solar energy flow between the Earth and it’s star. The mission has already revealed coronal mass ejections on the sun, which are strong-satellite-destroying eruptions.