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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.