NASA ends support of cloud-studying spacecraft AIM after extra decade in orbit

Battery issues have led to the craft no longer transmitting data

Artist’s concept of the AIM spacecraft in orbit around Earth. Credit: NASA (NASA)

NASA says battery issues with their Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft, known as AIM, have led to the agency ending operational support for the craft’s mission. AIM transmitted data 14 years past its initial two-year mission.

The spacecraft has been in operation since 2007. NASA said its batteries started to experience problems beginning in 2019, but the spacecraft continued to return a large amount of data. Now, the problems with the batteries have led to the spacecraft no longer being able to receive commands or collect data.

NASA said the spacecraft has studied polar mesospheric clouds, which are also known as night-shining or noctilucent clouds, from its orbit 312 miles above Earth.

“Its data have changed scientists’ understanding of the causes and formation of the clouds, leading to 379 peer-reviewed scientific papers,” NASA wrote in a news release.

NASA said AIM was originally slated to operate for two years. It completed its primary mission in 2009 and has been in extended operations status since that time.

“The AIM team will continue to monitor AIM’s communication for two weeks in case the spacecraft is able to reboot and transmit a signal,” NASA said in its release.