Feeds

Euro climate probe Envisat silenced, boffins baffled

ESA loses contact with ageing space workhorse

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.