A satellite used by NASA to study the atmosphere that was operating past its intended lifespan recently lost contact.
Agency representatives said in a brief statement on Wednesday that NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) lost communication on November 25 and that the mission crew has not been able to hail the spacecraft in the weeks since (Dec. 7).
The team is still trying to establish a connection, according to a statement from NASA. ICON’s continued integrity has been confirmed by the team using the Department of Defense’s Space Surveillance Network.
ICON’s technology contains a command loss timeout that resets the spacecraft if it goes eight days without communicating with ground controllers. However, when the reset was finished on Monday (Dec. 5), the spacecraft remained silent, according to NASA’s blog post.
ICON, which was launched in October 2019, is looking for aspects of the ionosphere that have never been explored by other spacecraft. The ionosphere, a portion of the Earth’s atmosphere that lies between 80 and 640 kilometers (50 and 400 miles) above our planet, is continually changing due to solar radiation. Communications technology may be impacted by such changes.
NASA Project Olympus
The Austin-based ICON wants to create a sizable 3D printer that may be sent to the moon to build the lunar base using lunar elements.
ICON stated that its Olympus system is designed to be a multi-purpose construction system with a primary focus on utilizing local lunar and martian resources as building materials to further the efforts of NASA as well as commercial entities to create a continuous lunar presence.
The infrastructure of Project Olympus is intended to support future human living on the moon and is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims for long-term human exploration of the moon.
In December 2021, the mission’s two-year primary mission came to a close, and it is now operating on an extended mission.
According to NASA, the mission team is still investigating the potential cause of the issue, which could be issues within the avionics or radio-frequency communications subsystems.
The blog post said that it is currently unknown whether the spacecraft will make another communication to Earth. The lack of a downlink signal could be an indication of a system breakdown, and the team is currently unable to assess the health of the spacecraft.