Stereo- B, a NASA spacecraft that had been MIA for 22 months reported to the base this week. The Stereo- B(Solar Terrestrial Observatory), a twin to the Stereo-A have been studying the Sun since 2008. Although the mission was set initially for only two years, the high-performance levels had made the scientists and ground controllers to keep the mission afloat. The data provided by these twin spacecraft has given unprecedented insights into the solar storms, which can create potential threatening conditions to the electrical systems of satellites around Earth.
The spacecraft have given different views of the Sun, as one got sent ahead of Earth while the other lagged behind. The spacecraft had drifted further apart as time passed by. The malfunction happened during preparations to pass behind the Sun and out of communication with Earth. Mission controllers triggered a response on October 14, 2014, to test the reboot system. The reboot system kicks in when the spacecraft are out of range. Though Stereo-A had come online and responded, Stereo-B sent fragmentary messages and turned silent and was deemed lost.
The scientists had been piercing all the data together to trace the malfunction to a guidance unit which was wrongly convinced that the spacecraft was tumbling. This had made the thrusters to fire, setting the spacecraft rolling out of sight. Engineers had been transmitting commands to the onboard computer to disregard the signals from the faulty guidance unit, to conserve battery power and try transmitting to back to NASA’s stations on Earth. On the evening of Monday, NASA’s Deep Space Network managed to lock on to a signal from Stereo-B. Scientists are reported to be performing a complete check up of its systems and instruments, now that the spacecraft is back.