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ESA declares end of mission for Envisat

09 May 2012

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Just weeks after celebrating its tenth year in orbit, communication with the Envisat satellite was suddenly lost on 8 April. Following rigorous attempts to re-establish contact and the investigation of failure scenarios, the end of the mission is being declared.

A team of engineers has spent the last month attempting to regain control of Envisat, investigating possible reasons for the problem. Despite continuous commands sent from a widespread network of ground stations, there has been no reaction yet from the satellite.

As there were no signs of degradation before the loss of contact, the team has been collecting other information to help understand the satellite's condition. These include images from ground radar and the French Pleiades satellite.

With this information, the team has gradually elaborated possible failure scenarios. One is the loss of the power regulator, blocking telemetry and telecommands.

Another scenario is a short circuit, triggering a ‘safe mode' – a special mode ensuring Envisat's survival. A second anomaly may have occurred during the transition to safe mode, leaving the satellite in an intermediate and unknown condition.

Although chances of recovering Envisat are extremely low, the investigation team will continue attempts to re-establish contact while considering failure scenarios for the next two months.

The outstanding performance of Envisat over the last decade led many to believe that it would be active for years to come, at least until the launch of the follow-on Sentinel missions.

For the full story see the ESA press release

See related news from 25 April 2012.