Science & Technology

NASA Loses Contact With Another Spacecraft

Illustration of one of the eight CYGNSS satellites in orbit above a hurricane. Credit: NASA

Recently, it was reported that NASA lost contact with the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft. Now, NASA says it has also lost contact with one of the eight CYGNSS spacecraft.

NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) team has not been able to make contact with FM06, one of the eight CYGNSS spacecraft, since November 26, 2022. The team is currently still working to acquire a signal and establish a connection. The other seven spacecraft continue to operate normally and have been collecting science measurements since the FM06 anomaly.

Contact with NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft was lost on November 25. The spacecraft is equipped with a built-in onboard command loss timer that power cycles (or resets) the spacecraft after contact is lost for eight days. After the power cycle was complete on December 5, the team was still unable to acquire a downlink signal from the spacecraft. Working with the Department of Defense’s Space Surveillance Network, the team has verified that the ICON spacecraft remains intact. Currently, the team is still working to establish a connection.

There is no evidence that the close timing of the two incidents is linked.

Illustration of ICON spacecraft. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith

CYGNSS is a constellation of eight small satellites taking measurements of ocean surface winds in and near the eye of the storm throughout the lifecycle of tropical cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes.

If the team isn’t able to reestablish contact, the FM06 satellite would primarily affect the constellation’s spatial coverage. However, the CYGNSS constellation could continue to meet its scientific requirements and objectives.

Dr. Chris Ruf, Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite Systems (CYGNSS) Principal Investigator talks about the mission. (Video recorded in 2014.) Credit: NASA Langley Research Center

CYGNSS was launched on December 15, 2016, and completed its prime mission science objectives on March 19, 2019. It has been operating in extended mission status since that time.

ICON launched on October 10, 2019, and completed its two-year prime mission science objectives in December 2021. It has been operating in extended mission status since that time.

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