NASA’s Long Dead (since 2007) ‘IMAGE’ Satellite is Alive! – how satellite hunters go to work.

Over the past week the station has been dedicated to an S-band scan looking for new targets and refreshing the frequency list, triggered by the recent launch of the mysterious ZUMA mission. This tends to be a semi-annual activity as it can eat up a lot of observing resources even with much of the data gathering automated the data reviewing is tedious.

Upon reviewing the data from January 20, 2018, I noticed a curve consistent with an satellite in High Earth Orbit (HEO) on 2275.905MHz, darn not ZUMA… This is not uncommon during these searches. So I set to work to identify the source.

A quick identity scan using ‘strf’ (sat tools rf) revealed the signal to come from 2000-017A, 26113, called IMAGE.
So what was IMAGE? I did a little Googling and discovered that it had been ‘Lost in Space’ since December 18, 2005 after just dropping off the grid suddenly. The mission was designed to image the magnetosphere, more details about that can be found in the press kit.

NASA considered the spacecraft a total loss due to a design flaw that manifested while the spacecraft was in its extended mission. The NASA failure review did however conclude that it was possible for the spacecraft to be revived by permitting a ‘Transponder SSPC reset’ after it passed through eclipse in 2007. One must assume that didn’t occur in 2007 and they gave up.
Periodically the spacecraft will enter an eclipse and NASA surmised that this may trigger it to restart and apply power back to the communications system. That appears to have happened! As you will note from the plots below the Sun angles are presently good for IMAGE and it may just stay operational for some time to come.

Source: NASA’s Long Dead ‘IMAGE’ Satellite is Alive! – Riddles in the Sky

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