Launched in 2000, NASA’s IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration) satellite was tasked with studying how Earth’s magnetosphere was affected by the solar wind, imaging plasma streams in the planet’s atmosphere from an orbit that took it 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) above the North Pole. NASA considered IMAGE’s initial two-year mission a success, and had approved it for a mission extension that would last until 2010, but in December 2005, the spacecraft went silent, and the space agency declared the satellite lost.
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Recently analyzed satellite images produced in late March 2014 by the French military appear to show man-made objects floating in the ocean, in one of the areas suspected to be where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have crashed after running out of fuel. The location of the suspected debris has allowed researchers to narrow a new search location down to a 5,000 square kilometer area off of the west coast of Australia.
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Three top-secret satellites launched by Russia between 2013 and 2015 have recently been reactivated, and appear to be carrying out missions to rendezvous with other man-made objects in orbit, performing comparatively dramatic maneuvers to make their intercepts. Despite assurances from the Russian government that these vehicles are benign, there is speculation that these satellites might be anti-satellite weapons, designed to maneuver close to another satellite and destroy it with an onboard weapon.
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