NASA lost contact with ionospheric explorer ICON

NASA reported a loss of communication with the ICON satellite (Ionospheric Connection Explorer). Despite all the efforts of specialists, they have not yet managed to restore contact with the spacecraft.

Satellite ICON (concept). Source: NASA Goddard’s Conceptual Image Lab/B. Monroe

The ICON satellite was launched in 2019. The 287-kilogram device is designed to study the Earth’s ionosphere. It tracks changes in the upper layers of the gas envelope of our planet associated with manifestations of solar activity. The data collected by ICON should help scientists better understand the impact that space weather has on communication systems, navigation and space technology in general.

According to a NASA statement, contact with ICON was lost on November 25. This event was not preceded by any failures or significant technical problems. Another important circumstance is that ICON has a command timer. It reboots all satellite systems if it has not received commands from Earth for more than eight days.

The ICON command timer was supposed to set off on December 5. However, even after this date, engineers were unable to establish contact with the satellite. Since the US Space Surveillance Network did not reveal any signs of damage to the spacecraft, NASA ruled out the version of an explosion or a collision of the ICON with a fragment of space debris.

According to mission specialists, most likely the problem is related to avionics or the communication system — however, due to the lack of telemetry, they cannot confirm this assumption. It is also unknown in what condition the device is in. If ICON really has a broken communication system, then most likely this will put an end to its mission and after a while NASA will recognize the loss of the 250-million satellite.

Earlier we talked about the fact that some of the cubesats launched as part of the Artemis I mission failed to get in touch.

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