NASA’s AIM Mission Ends Operational Support

The AIM spacecraft is in the foreground of the image, and it is set against an artistic sunset in the backdrop. Earth is below the spacecraft and is obscured by clouds and haze. The spacecraft is a hexagonal shape and orange and yellow in color. Its mechanical components are shown in gray below the main body of the spacecraft. the solar arrays are affixed to the back of the spacecraft creating the effect of wings on a bird as it soars through the air.
Artist’s concept of the AIM spacecraft in orbit around Earth. Credits: NASA

After more than 15 years of scientific discoveries, NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft is no longer supporting operations after experiencing issues with its battery.

AIM’s batteries initially started to decline in 2019, but the Earth-studying spacecraft continued to return a significant amount of data. Now, with further decline in the battery power, the spacecraft currently is not able to receive commands or collect data.

Launched in 2007, AIM has studied polar mesospheric clouds, 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. AIM – originally slated to operate for two years – completed its primary mission in 2009 and has been in extended operations status since then.

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.

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md