Feeds

It's alive! Space hackers fire up zombie Sun probe's engines

Solar system's wandering relic ISEE-3 back in action

Intelligent flash storage arrays

An international team of space geeks has successfully fired up the engines of long-defunct NASA satellite ISEE-3.

Now the gang says it'll try to kick the bird into an Earth orbit that will enable it to carry on performing the mission it was launched for 36 years ago.

ISEE-3 team celebrates

Team celebrates the rocket's red glare after a long nap

The International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) probe was the first spacecraft to successfully fly through the tail of a comet and was part of the Earth-built armada that flew by Halley's Comet in 1983. NASA retired the spacecraft in 1997 but now, thanks to $150,000 in crowdsourced cash and some inspired hacking, the probe is back online.

"We fired the A and B thrusters on ISEE-3 to perform a spin-up burn. Preliminary results confirm the burn and a change in rotation," the ISEE-3 Reboot Project reported on its blog.

"Spin rate was originally 19.16 rpm. It is now at 19.76 rpm. The original mission specifications call for 19.75 +/- 0.2 rpm- so we are exactly where we wanted to be. All in all, a very good day."

The team, operating from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, used software-defined radio tech and NASA's deep space communications network to mimic the ISEE-3's ground-based control systems, which were switched off last century.

The team ordered the probe to fire 11 bursts of its hydrazine thrusters to get it up to speed. It's the first time the ISEE-3's engines have been fired since 1987 – before some of the reboot team were even born – and another burn is planned this week to get the spacecraft into a parking orbit where it can resume its original mission studying the Sun.

That mission is still ongoing, the team reports, thanks to the extraordinary lifespan of its instruments. The spacecraft's Vector Helium Magnetometer, built in 1970, has been restarted and is already sending back data for scientists on Earth.

There are 12 other instruments on ISEE-3, and the team will now check which of those are operational. With any luck NASA may get a few more years of data thanks to a team of enthusiasts and the members of the public who funded them. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.