Feeds

Euro climate probe Envisat silenced, boffins baffled

ESA loses contact with ageing space workhorse

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Engineers at the European Space Agency have lost contact with their environment-studying satellite Envisat, which stopped sending data five days ago.

Envisat, the largest Earth observation spacecraft ever built, has been beaming back information about our world's land, atmosphere, oceans and ice caps for the last ten years. The satellite has been in orbit for twice as long as the agency expected, but boffins hoped to hang onto the craft until its successors, the Sentinels, blasted off into space.

Sentinel 1 is due to launch next year on its polar-orbiting, all-weather, 24-hour radar imaging mission, while Sentinel 2 will monitor the land and Sentinel 3 will examine sea-surface topography. Sentinel 5 is going to monitor the atmosphere and is scheduled to blast off in 2014, with Sentinel 4, another atmosphere-watching sat, going up in 2019.

"The interruption of the Envisat service shows that the launch of the GMES Sentinel satellites, which are planned to replace Envisat, becomes urgent," said Volker Liebig, ESA director of Earth Observation Programmes, in a canned statement.

The ESA first realised Envisat was in trouble on 8 April when the satellite didn't send any data as it passed over the Kiruna ground station in Sweden. Mission controllers immediately declared a spacecraft emergency and asked other ESA tracking stations to make contact with the probe.

In an effort reminiscent of attempts by Roscosmos last year to revive the doomed Russian spacecraft Phobos-Grunt, the ESA's recovery team has been trying to re-establish communications with their craft as it stays in a stable orbit around Earth. Boffins have yet to figure out what went wrong with Envisat.

Envisat was the ESA's follow-up to ERS and was launched in 2002. The satellite, which has cost the agency around €2.3bn (£1.9bn, $3bn) over its lifetime, was only expected to last five years. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.