Feeds

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

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

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.