ASTERIA, the agency’s microsatellite launched in April 2017, has lost contact with human operators on Earth and is designed to help study exoplanets, according to NASA. The agency last contacted the satellite on 5 December. NASA’s subsequent attempts to communicate with suitcase-sized satellites were unsuccessful, and it was only weeks before the space agency finally gave up.
ASTERIA is a microcube satellite deployed from the International Space Station to demonstrate that this particular type of technology is useful for helping to find exoplanets. NASA has a larger mission to monitor these planets, most notably its TESS satellite. The microcube satellite ASTERIA has been able to accurately measure the light emitted by stars, allowing it to observe some nearby stars. These changes in brightness are a key part of detecting exoplanets, which sometimes operate between their moons and stars and reveal their existence by blocking light.
NASA said ASTERIA completed its main mission in February last year and expanded the mission three times in the months that followed. Scientists used the spacecraft to test the different autonomous functions of microcube satellites and to observe a variety of objects and objects, including other spacecraft and the Earth.
The space agency will continue to attempt to contact ASTERIA until March. NASA, however, says that even if the spacecraft is permanently “lost”, an internal hardware replica on Earth could still be used for experiments with autonomous microcube satellite projects.