ESA Loses Contact With Envisat
April 12, 2012

ESA Loses Contact With Envisat

Controllers from the European Space Agency (ESA) have lost communication with the space agency's flagship Earth observation mission known as Envisat.

The mission controllers stopped receiving data from the spacecraft on Sunday, and have not been able to re-establish communications.

Envisat, which launched in 2002, has been operating five years longer than its planned mission.

While losing communications with satellites is not an uncommon problem, a recovery team is still working to try and re-establish contact with the satellite.

The space agency said it realized communication to Envisat was lost when reception of any data was not going through as it passed over the Kiruna ground station in Sweden.

ESA said its mission control team has declared a spacecraft emergency and immediately called for support from additional ESA tracking stations throughout the globe.

It also said that an anomaly review board is investigating the cause for the break in communications, which is considered standard practice.

Envisat is equipped with 10 sophisticated instruments to monitor the land, the oceans, Earth's ice cover and its atmosphere.

The satellite was expected to be turned off in 2014 by ESA once the first of the Sentinel series of follow up spacecraft made their way.

“The interruption of the Envisat service shows that the launch of the GMES Sentinel satellites, which are planned to replace Envisat, becomes urgent,” Volker Liebig, ESA´s Director of Earth Observation Programs, said in a press release.

Scientists had hoped to have both Envisat and the Sentinel series operating in orbit together for a period of time so they could cross-calibrate their data.

Envisat has orbited the Earth over 50,000 times, delivering thousands of images and data to study and understand the globe.

Over 4,000 projects in over 70 countries have been supported with Envisat data.  ESA said the data archives will continue to be available for users.


Image Caption: Envisat is a truly advanced Earth observation satellite with a unique combination of sensors that vastly improve the range and accuracy of scientific measurements of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface and ice. Its total range of capabilities far exceed those of any previous or planned Earth observation satellite. Credits: ESA