The Malaysian government on Tuesday released 45 pages of raw satellite data it used to determine that the missing jetliner crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, responding to demands for greater transparency by relatives of some of the 239 people on board.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the data would enable independent experts to replicate the calculations that led to the international investigation team's conclusion. At least one satellite engineer said it failed to include needed assumptions, algorithms and metadata.
As the search for the jet prepared to pause while new equipment is obtained, an Australian government report said an analysis of the final brief data exchange, or "ping," between the aircraft and a satellite suggested the plane crashed into the sea because it ran out of fuel.
Almost three months since it went missing en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, no trace of the jet has been found, an agonizing situation for family members stuck between grief and the faintest hope, no matter how unlikely, their loved ones might still be alive. The mystery also has nurtured speculation and wild conspiracy theories.
Several family members have been highly critical of the Malaysian government's response, accusing them of failing to release timely information or even concealing it. The government, which in the early days struggled to release reliable information about the plane's movements, insists it is being transparent in what has been an unprecedented situation.
An international investigation team led by Malaysia has concluded that the jet flew south after it was last spotted on Malaysian military radar and ended up in the southern Indian Ocean off western Australia. This conclusion is based on complex calculations derived largely from brief hourly transmissions between the plane and a communications satellite.
The families had been asking for the raw data from the satellite, operated by British company Inmarsat, for many weeks.
In a posting on its Facebook page, a group representing some of the families said: "Finally, after almost three months, the Inmarsat raw data is released to the public. Hope this is the original raw data and can be used to potentially 'think out of the box' to get an alternative positive outcome."
In China, home of about two-thirds of the passengers, several relatives said they were not informed by Malaysia Airlines ahead of the release. Steve Wang, whose mother was on the plane, said he was disappointed that the release did not contain an account of exactly what investigators did to conclude the plane had taken the southern route.
"We are not experts and we cannot analyze the raw data, but we need to see the deduction process and judge by ourselves if every step was solid," he said. "We still need to know where the plane is and what is the truth. We know the likelihood that our beloved ones have survived is slim, but it is not zero."