One of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories, the STEREO-B probe, has re-established contact with scientists despite nearly two years of silence after it disconnected in October 2014.
The probe, which was launched in 2006 alongside its sister probe STEREO-A, was given the job of observing solar phenomenon from the sun. However the probe went quiet after a systems test in late 2014, sending it drifting into a different orbit, and the probe has only just reconnected with the team after a heavy effort to correct its position.
“The sun emits strongly in nearly every wavelength, making it the biggest source of noise in the sky… Most deep space missions only have to deal with sun interference for a day or so, but for each of the STEREO spacecraft, this period lasted nearly four months,” said STEREO mission operations manager, Dan Ossing.
“We had to take a spacecraft that was meant to talk to Earth every day and get it ready for over three months of radio silence.”
Though the nature of the initial failure of STEREO-B remains unclear to the probe’s team, it wasn’t entirely abnormal, considering that the probes were only designed to last for two years, with STEREO-B lasting around six years before the failure in 2012.
STEREO-A passed the test with success and is still in working operation today.
While STEREO-B remained unresponsive and drifted into a spin, the probe’s team had to repeatedly send out signals attempting to correct the position of the probe, whilst also ensuring it was sufficiently charged.
After locking onto the team’s signal on Sunday, the probe is now responsive again, however it will need to be determined whether the probe is in well enough health and condition to continue tests with STEREO-A.