Space

Amateur astronomer discovers the lost NASA satellite ‘IMAGE’

An amateur astronomer has successfully discovered a lost NASA satellite that went missing almost over a decade ago. The name of the rediscovered satellite is IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration), and the good news is the satellite might be still operational. The name of the amateur astronomer who discovered the lost IMAGE satellite is Scott Tilley, and he is from Roberts Creek, British Columbia. According to him, he accidentally discovered the IMAGE satellite while searching for signals of the recently launched Zuma satellite.

On January 7, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 successfully launched the Zuma mission, but unfortunately, it went missing in space. So, Tilly wanted to see if he could find the spy satellite by scanning the S-Band of the radio spectrum. But to his surprise, he came across an unusual signal coming from the High Earth Orbit. When he compared the orbital parameters of the transmission source, he discovered they matched with those of satellite 2000-017A, dubbed as IMAGE.

In this way, Tilly got hold of the long dead IMAGE satellite of NASA. When his original blog post featuring the discovery did not get any attention, Tilly contacted the Principal investigator of the IMAGE mission, DR. James L. Burch. After two days, Tilly got a confirmation email from Richard J. Burley of Goddard Spaceflight Center stating that the engineers have detected a radio signal that is compatible with that of IMAGE.
The IMAGE satellite was launched on March 25, 2000, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop a Delta II rocket. The main aim of IMAGE was to monitor the Earth’s magnetosphere and how it reacts to the solar winds. The 2-year IMAGE mission was successful and NASA decided to keep the satellite operational to further aid the scientists and researchers with its valuable data. But on December 18, 2005, the IMAGE team at the ground lost contact with the satellite due to unknown regions.

The ground control informed that it did not receive telemetry signals from IMAGE during a routine pass and also satellite failed to respond to ant command since then. Many cited power failure due to instant trip as the root cause of the demise of the lost connection. But now, with the efforts of the amateur astronomer, the lost IMAGE satellite has been discovered, and NASA is trying to establish a connection with the satellite using deep radio antennas.

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