A disabled satellite that tracks space weather is back online after nine months of efforts to get it to communicate with Earth, according to a US government update.
The child of almost five years Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) entered a safe mode lockdown on June 27, 2019, due to problems with the attitude control system which keeps it correctly oriented in space to receive commands and send data.
Engineers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) created a flight software patch and recently uploaded it to the satellite, NOAA officials said on Monday (March 2). This allowed DISCOVR to resume its observations of space weather, or the area near Earth affected by the sun’s variability.
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Media reports in October hinted that such a fix would arrive in early 2020but gave no information on why it took several months to implement the fix.
Since the sun regularly sends charged particles towards our planet, monitoring its activity is crucial to protect satellites and other infrastructure vulnerable to the periodic “solar storms” that the sun emits, when during periods of high activity it sends coronal mass ejections of particles towards the Earth.
While a backup satellite (NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer) has been used to maintain space weather updates, and there are many other satellites monitoring the sun, a senior NOAA official said: is said to be delighted that DSCOVR is once again contributing to the fleet.
“Bringing the DSCOVR up and running again shows the unique skills and adaptability of our…engineers, and the care we take to get the most out of the life of an aging asset,” said Steve Volz, Administrator deputy NOAA for its satellite and information service, in the statement.
DSCOVR orbits at a Lagrange point – a relatively stable “parking spot” in space
between Earth and the sun, allowing the spacecraft to obtain spectacular panoramic views of our planet. The spacecraft is designed for five years, but engineers generally try to squeeze more life out of older missions to save on the cost and complication of launch replacements.