A NASA satellite called IMAGE has been lost in space since December 2015, but an amateur astronomer recently made a discovery and NASA has now confirmed that it is indeed its lost satellite.
Scott Tilley, 47, is an electrical engineer who has always been passionate about astronomy. Aside from his regular job, Tilley likes spending hours on end feeding his passion for astronomy, scouring the space using radio equipment. Recently, he accidentally found what NASA couldn't: a lost satellite worth $150 million.
Amateur Astronomer Finds Long Lost NASA Satellite
A few weeks ago, as he was scanning the skies, he failed to find what he was actually searching for but found something far more important: a NASA satellite. Tilley wrote about his findings on his blog, and also posted about it on Twitter.
It seemed highly likely right then that the satellite in question was the IMAGE satellite NASA lost more than 12 years ago, but there was no confirmation at that point.
NASA Image Satellite: What Happened?
NASA had launched the IMAGE satellite back in 2000, aiming to map Earth's magnetosphere and create the first comprehensive global images of the plasma populations in this region.
The initial mission lasted for two years and it successfully completed in 2002, so NASA extended it. During a routine check back on Dec. 18, 2005, however, NASA tried to establish contact with the satellite and failed. It searched for the IMAGE satellite for two years to no avail, so it eventually gave up on it in 2007, officially closing the mission.
NASA Confirms Lost IMAGE Satellite Is Now Found
On Jan. 29, NASA said that it will try to obtain and assess data from the satellite's signal in order to confirm beyond the shadow of a doubt whether it's indeed the long-lost IMAGE satellite or not.
Two days later, on Jan. 31, NASA announced that it successfully confirmed the identity of the rediscovered satellite and it is none other than IMAGE. The agency revealed that Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab based in Laurel, Maryland managed to collect telemetry data from the spacecraft, getting a positive ID from the signal.
— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) January 31, 2018
NASA managed to read some data from the spacecraft, indicating that at least part of the main control system was still functional. Back in 2007, when it gave up its searches, NASA had concluded that the satellite likely went through something that disabled its power supply, rendering it impossible to contact and unable to recover, leaving it lost in space.
Engineers and scientists at the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center will keep analyzing the satellite data in an attempt to get a better idea of what happened and the current state of the satellite. NASA notes that this might take up to two weeks to complete because it has since modernized its systems and further analyzing the satellite means dealing with old information databases and software.