Feeds

Space geeks' resurrected NASA Sun probe ISEE-3 now on collision course with THE MOON

Reboot project down ... but not out

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The attempt by a team of crowdfunded space hackers to recover one of NASA's most historic satellites has run into problems: the spacecraft's engines are stubbornly refusing to fire, leaving it on a possible collision course with the Moon.

The ISEE-3 reboot Team

Space hacking team has the right stuff

Last week the team successfully restarted the International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) probe's engines briefly, but a series of thrusts intended to park the satellite in a safe orbit have failed to work. The likely problem is a gas buildup in the spacecraft's engines, the team reports, but they haven’t given up on the problem yet.

ISEE-3 uses thrusters that squirt hydrazine into a reaction chamber to provide power, using a pump filled with nitrogen to shift the fuel. Although the first 63 burns were carried out successfully, the fuel is now refusing to pump into the reaction chamber, leaving the spacecraft stranded. It's possible some of the nitrogen has dissolved into the hydrazine and the gas is causing a blockage.

"We have identified a series of options including hydrazine tank heating and a long series of pulse attempts to (possibly) clear the lines," the ISEE-3 Reboot Project said on its blog. "We have most certainly not given up on this spacecraft yet."

It's a difficult time for the team, which raised $160,000 of crowdsourced cash to rescue the historic ISEE-3 probe. The spacecraft was launched in 1978 to study solar storms, but was repurposed to investigate Halley's Comet and became the first man-made object to fly though the tail of a comet during its mission.

The satellite was shut down by NASA in 1997, or so it was thought, and the equipment used to communicate with it was junked to save money. However, the shutdown didn’t work and the spacecraft has been awake ever since, which inspired the ISEE-3 Reboot Project team to try and bring it back into orbit near its original position.

An old McDonalds serves as ISEE-3 mission control

An old McDonalds serves as ISEE-3 mission control

The team designed software systems to mimic the radios NASA used to control the satellite, and bought time on the agency's Deep Space Network and Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to communicate with it. Working out of a former McDonalds burger joint they are now trying new tricks to try and restart the engines once more.

If they fail, the spacecraft will make a close flyby of the Moon on August 10, possibly too close for safety. If it survives that encounter then it will head sunwards and we'll probably lose it forever. In the meantime, the fight for control goes on. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.