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Humongous rogue European satellite spotted hurtling through space

Envisat, a massive European satellite that lost contact with the ground earlier this month has been photographed by a French satellite. 

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"These unique images will enable us to analyze Envisat's orientation, which will indicate whether we are able to regain contact with the satellite," said Manfred Warhaut, head of ESA’s Mission Operations Department, in a statement.

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In the United States, the U.S. Joint Space Operations Center is keeping tabs on Envisat's orbit to verify that the satellite is not falling out of space. Several laser-ranging ground stations are also monitoring Envisat's orbit, ESA officials added.

Envisat launched in 2002 and successfully completed its original five-year mission to snap ultra-detailed views of Earth. The satellite was in the homestretch of an extended mission when it unexpectedly went silent. It is equipped with 10 instruments, including cameras and radar, to observe the Earth.

The break in Envisat photographs since its communications dropout has interrupted data services to the international agencies and scientists that relied on the satellite's steady stream of data. Envisat was slated to be replaced in 2013 by the first in Europe's new fleet of Earth-monitoring Sentinel satellites.

"The Sentinels will provide the data needed for information services to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security," ESA officials wrote in a statement.

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalikFollow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcomand on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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