Raw satellite data from the night Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared may be released to the public for the first time, Malaysian authorities confirmed to CNN Tuesday. The raw satellite data is owned by Inmarsat, a public British company that refused to disclose the information despite growing demands from family members of passengers. Officials say Inmarsat had the last-known contact with MH370 before it vanished on March 8 with 239 passengers onboard while flying to its scheduled destination of Beijing.
Malaysia officials are currently working with Inmarsat to go public with the satellite data, which could open up the investigation and allow for more independent analysis. However, it's unclear when the information would be released. Malaysia and Inmarsat officials said in a joint statement:
In line with our commitment towards greater transparency, all parties are working for the release of the data communication logs and the technical description of the analysis for public consumption. ... It must also be noted that the data communication logs is just one of the many elements of the investigation information.
CNN aviation analyst Jeff Wise told the news source that the raw satellite data could "produce more theories" about what happened to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, which has yet to be found despite numerous search attempts.
There have been conflicting reports about Flight 370 since it disappeared more than two months ago. To this day, there has been no confirmation of wreckage or debris, and no crash site has been officially located. The Malaysian government has been repeatedly criticized for the mishandling of the search operations.
Flight 370 first lost contact with air traffic control at about 1:20 a.m. MYT, less than an hour after takeoff. The search and rescue operation initially began in the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, both of which were on the flight's scheduled route. The search extended west to the Andaman Sea a week later after military radar showed MH370 flew hundreds of miles off course, perhaps deliberately.
The search then switched to the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia after radio pings were detected on an Inmarsat satellite. According to Inmarsat officials, MH370 exchanged a total of eight pings with the geostationary satellite in the hours following its disappearance. A report from the Malaysia government issued March 25 confirmed the pings, but emphasized that the final ping does not represent the final position of the plane.
In April, a Chinese ship picked up a ping signal in the Indian Ocean believed to be emitting from the plane's black box recorder. However, Flight 370 still wasn't found. Because black box batteries only last about a month, search crews have given up on using black box pings to locate the plane.