A NASA satellite named ‘IMAGE’ was launched about two decades earlier and had unexpectedly lost contact in 2005 – after which, it was declared to be ‘lost and dead’ – however, an amateur astronomer re-discovered IMAGE on January 20, 2018 and NASA has confirmed that the long-lost satellite has been re-found and is still alive.

On March 25, 2000, NASA had launched a satellite named IMAGE for capturing the images of Earth’s magnetosphere and produce the first ever comprehensive global image of plasma population on and around earth. IMAGE, an abbreviation for Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration had successfully completed its first initial two-year mission in 2002 and was working up for next imagery mission. But on December 16, 2005 – IMAGE unexpectedly lost contact with NASA and was considered to be unresponsive and/or lost in deep space. After 12 years of being declared as ‘dead’ by NASA, IMAGE satellite was re-discovered and was still functioning!

The re-discovery was made by an amateur astronomer named Scotty Tilly had recorded signals and observations of a satellite in the high-orbit of Earth on January 20, 2018. Tilly said that during deep space research, he had picked up a signal from a satellite labelled “2000-017A, 26113” which he knew corresponded to the IMAGE satellite. Initial research by the astronomer suggested that the satellite was IMAGE and reported it to NASA. Seeking to ascertain whether the signal indeed came from IMAGE, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre coordinated the use of five separate antennas to acquire radio frequency signals from the object.

On January 30, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, successfully collected telemetry data from the satellite. During the data collection, the signal showed that the ID of spacecraft was 166, and NASA has confirmed that that is the ID of IMAGE satellite. Also, NASA read some basic housekeeping data from the spacecraft, suggesting that at least the main control system is operational. Now that it is confirmed that IMAGE is still alive, NASA will be continuing to try to analyse the data from the spacecraft to learn more about the state of the spacecraft – which will take two three weeks.