Significant Incidents In Uncrewed Missions
Imager for Magnetopause‐to‐Aurora Global
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory
Wide Field Infrared Explorer
(click on the FSO TOOLS link near the top to see the other interactive tools)
RESEARCH & INFOGRAPHIC DESIGN
Gail Skowron, Ph.D.
Tieva De Koninck
Bob Bobola David Bradt Stuart Monteleone Phillip Lewis Rusty Sheier Erin Stevenson Keith Tischler Ashley Tomi Amaris Vigil Ed Weissblatt Bill Wood Nigel Packham
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M - Primary Mission
E - Extended Mission
Solar Maximum Mission (SolarMax)
Wake Shield Facility 1
Wide Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE)
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory
Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global
Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer
Mars Polar Lander
Deep Space 2
Viking 2 - Lander
Solar Maximum Mission (SolarMax)
Deep Space 1
Deep Space 1
Pioneer 1 (Able 2)
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
Mars Climate Orbiter
Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Pathfinder - Sojourner Rover
TIROS-1 | 6/18/1960
Loss of communication. Electrical power failure prevented further useful TV transmission.
Ranger 4 | 4/26/1962
Failure of a timer in the spacecraft’s central computer and
sequencer resulted in a failure to deploy solar arrays and navigation systems.
Biosatellite | ~1/3/1967
Communications lost. Deorbit burn failed to occur. Uncontrolled orbital decay on 2/15/1967.
Landsat 1 | 1/6/1978
Camera failed on 8/5/1972, and the tape recorder followed. Without visual, the craft experienced excessive sunlight which led to overheating.
Solar Maximum Mission (SolarMax) | 4/26/1962
Attitude control system failure resulted in the spacecraft being put in standby. Repairs were done during a shuttle mission in ~4/1/1984.
Landsat 6 | 5/10/1993
The satellite lost connection with the ground shortly after launch and before achieving orbit. A rupture was identified in the hydrazine manifold.
Wake Shield Facility 1 | 3/2/1994
Failed on-orbit checkout prior to release from shuttle arm. Communication issues prevented deployment from shuttle.
Wide Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE) | 3/5/1999
Premature ejection of aperture cover resulted in loss of solid hydrogen cryogen. This resulted in the loss of primary mission capability.
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory | 12/1/1999
Gyro failure led to decision to deorbit observatory while attitude control was still available.
Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) | 12/18/2005
Solid state power converter tripped without the ability to rest. Communication was lost
Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer | 7/12/2007
All reaction wheels failed. After final wheel failed, orbital decay occurred on 11/18/2007.
Mars Polar Lander | 12/3/1999
Software did not account for vibrations from landing gear deployment. Deployment was interpreted as touchdown, which resulted in engine shutdown at too high an altitude.
Cassini-Huygens | 7/15/2017
Communications firmware did not account for Doppler shift during probe descent. Cassini orbit modified to minimize shift and allow ~50% of Huygens experiment data to be received.
Mariner 10 | 11/13/1973
Star tracker locked onto paint flakes and lost lock on the
guide star Canopus. An automated safety protocol recovered Canopus.
Ranger 4 | 9/21/1974
Onboard computer experienced unplanned resets, which made reconfiguring the clock sequence and subsystems a necessity.
Clementine | 5/7/1994
Computer error resulted in thruster firing until fuel was depleted.
Clementine | 6/1/1994
Electrical power dropped to a level where the telemetry was no longer reliable.
Deep Space 2 | 12/3/1999
Two impact probes to be deployed from Mars Polar Lander never established contact.
Surveyor 2 | 9/23/1966
An engine failure resulted in loss of contact before landing. Uncontrolled crash into the Moon.
Surveyor 3 | 5/4/1967
Spacecraft powered down on 4/3/1967 for lunar nightfall. Spacecraft did not respond to commands to power up.
Surveyor 4 | 7/17/1967
Radio signals from the spacecraft ceased during the terminal descent phase. It is also possible the spacecraft solid propellant retrorockets exploded.
Viking 2 - Lander | 4/11/1980
Propellant leak during extended mission resulted in orbiter being safed and shut down.
Solar Maximum Mission (SolarMax) | 11/1/1980
Human error during extended mission resulted in failure. Ground controller sent bad command that overwrote antenna pointing data, resulting in loss of communications.
Mars Pathfinder - Sojourner Rover | 10/7/1997
Loss of power from suspected battery failure during extended missions. Communication was lost.
Opportunity Rover | 2/13/2019
Failed to establish communications after hibernating through dust storm. Resulted in a loss of communications.
Genesis | 9/8/2004
Incorrectly installed G-switch prevented emergency landing system from deploying parachute and resulted in a crash landing.
Deep Space 1 | 11/11/1999
Star tracker failed. Software patch uplinked to allow science camera to be used for navigation.
Deep Space 1 | 12/18/2001
Ion engine failed due to contamination. Repeated firing eventually cleared contamination and recovered function.
Pioneer (Able 2) | 10/11/1958
After a failed launch the spacecraft was inserted too low. Useful data and evidence of the Van Allen Belt was still able to be returned.
Ranger 1 | 8/30/1961
The spacecraft was stranded in low Earth orbit when Agena-B failed to reignite. Flight testing was a success, but little science data was returned.
Ranger 3 | 1/28/1962
A malfunction in the booster guidance system resulted in excessive spacecraft speed. The TM antenna lost earth acquisition after command signals were reversed due to the spacecraft pitching in the wrong direction.
Ranger 5 | 10/18/1962
The spacecraft failed to receive power. The batteries ran down after 8 hours, 44 minutes, rendering the spacecraft inoperable.
Mars Observer | 9/21/1993
Fuel line ruptured during fuel tank pressurization, causing the spacecraft to spin uncontrollably and communication to be lost.
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) | 12/21/1998
High-gain antenna and gyroscope failures sent SOHO into
a spin. Power was lost after high-gain Y- axis stepper motor failure.
Mars Climate Orbiter | 9/23/1999
Navigation error due to units being sent in English instead of being converted to metric. Incorrect units caused the craft to miss its target altitude.
Galileo Orbiter | 9/21/2003
Failed to reduce data rate after communication was lost. Extended mission was a successes until decommissioned into Jupiter.
Mars Global Surveyor | 11/21/2006
Preliminary indication of unknown solar panel failure resulted in insufficient power generation. Unrecoverable when safe mode was engaged after contact was lost.
STEREO-B | 10/1/2014
Communication was lost and ground observation indicated the spacecraft was spinning uncontrollably. Attempts to recover resulted in increasing spin due to the frozen prop valve. Declared lost on 10/17/2018.
Site Last Updated: 10/20/2021