Stereo-B

Ann Gabriel | GoGaGaH

After nearly two years of communications silence, NASA has finally reestablished contact with STEREO-B, one of two spacecrafts that NASA launched to study the Sun and solar weather.

The mission crew lost contact with this spacecraft for a significant amount of time. NASA didn’t lose hope and finally reestablished contact with the ship after it lost connection during a test of the ship’s lost time on October 1, 2014. The team made multiple attempts until it responded last August 21, 2016.

It will be awhile before STEREO-B will be back in action, and there is no guarantee yet that it will resume its purpose from when it lost contact. The NASA crew would like to have all the craft’s subsystems rechecked, for it to regain control. The crew will begin a series of tests if it could still perform its observational capabilities before being declared 100% operational. Whatever the outcome, the contact itself is considered a great feat for the NASA team.

According to NASA officials, The STEREO Missions Operations team plans to proceed with recovery processes to assess observatory health, re-establish attitude control, and evaluate all subsystems and instruments of the spacecraft.

The STEREO spacecraft twins (their name is short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory) were launched in October 2006 and were originally supposed to last until 2008. With an extended mission, however, came challenges. For example, the orbits of both STEREO spacecraft went behind the sun in 2015, for three months each.

The team could have easily fixed the issue if STEREO-B had remained in touch with the team, but at the time, the contact was too limited to take action.

In a statement that NASA released at the time that this meant that “the spacecraft is drifting in space with incorrect information about how it’s moving — a big problem for a spacecraft that needs to keep itself pointed at the sun to stay powered on.”

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