NASA has announced that it has successfully managed to re-establish contact with one of its spacecrafts called STEREO-B, nearly 22 months after it had first lost communications with it. The US space agency announced it was back in contact with the spacecraft on August 21. Communications were first lost with the Stereo-B spacecraft on October 1, 2014.
Stereo is part of NASA’s solar observation mission, and the full form for the mission is Solar Terrestrial Relations Observations. The Stereo Space mission consists of two space-based observatories, one is ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other is trailing behind. It was the second spacecraft which had lost contact.
The aim of this mission is to study the structure of solar storms and how they evolve as they move in space, once blasted from the Sun. Both spacecrafts were first launched in October 2006.
According to an official press statement from NASA, the STEREO team worked for over 22 months, in order to re-connect with the spacecraft. The press statement reads, “the team has attempted a monthly recovery operation using NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN, which tracks and communicates with missions throughout space. ”
It goes on to say, “The Deep Space Network established a lock on the STEREO-B downlink carrier at 6:27 p.m. EDT.” The signal was monitored over several hours, which helped the team determine the attitude of STEREO-B. According to NASA, the team has plans for “further recovery processes to assess observatory health, re-establish attitude control, and evaluate all subsystems and instruments.”
NASA had lost contact with the spacecraft during a test of the craft’s command loss timer. This is a hard reset which is triggered after the spacecraft goes without communications from Earth for 72 hours. The function was being testing for an upcoming solar conjunction, where the spacecraft’s communication to Earth would have been blocked by the sun.
According to NASA, even two years on the spacecraft continues to function normally.