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NASA Signs Agreement with Citizen Scientists

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NASA Signs Agreement with Citizen Scientists Attempting to Communicate with Old Spacecraft

NASA has given a green light to a group of citizen scientists attempting to breathe new scientific life into a more than 35-year old agency spacecraft.

The agency has signed a Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (NRSAA) with Skycorp, Inc., in Los Gatos, California, allowing the company to attempt to contact, and possibly command and control, NASA’s International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft as part of the company’s ISEE-3 Reboot Project. This is the first time NASA has worked such an agreement for use of a spacecraft the agency is no longer using or ever planned to use again.

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Posted (edited)

The project to communicate with the ISEE 3 space probe has met with success. It has now responded to commands to begin sending diagnostic telemetry.

This data is being analyzed to determine the condition of the space probe. It is hoped that it is still in a condition, 36 years after it was launched, to begin again to do space science work.

If the probe can also respond to commands to fire its rockets, it is planned to break it out of solar orbit and place it in a halo orbit around the L1 point, a fixed point in space where the the gravity of Earth and Sun balance out. L1 is about 1 million, 500 thousand kilometers from Earth, in the direction of the Sun.

http://spectrum.ieee...&(IEEE Spectrum

Edited by bison
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They have been receiving diagnostic and positional data from the ISEE 3 spacecraft at the very slow (by today's standards) rate of just 512 bits per second. At this rate it will take several days to collect the information needed to proceed. They are working against a mid-June deadline. After that, there will not be enough fuel on board to bring the space probe into a new orbit near Earth. In that case, it will sail away again, in its independent solar orbit.

http://www.techtimes.com/articles/7820/20140531/citizen-scientists-make-first-contact-abandoned-nasa-isee-3-spacecraft.htm

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That's awesome! If continued and improving space exploration won't be done by funded government agencies, then let the next people that are truly curious and interested and committed to the idea have a chance - wonderful visionary civilians, self driven and funded!

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That's awesome! If continued and improving space exploration won't be done by funded government agencies, then let the next people that are truly curious and interested and committed to the idea have a chance - wonderful visionary civilians, self driven and funded!

That is more than a little unfair, after all this IS a NASA probe, funded by and originally operated by a Government agency. Bringing it back into use is a wonderful thing but with out the visionary NASA engineers that designed it and built is so well more than three and a half decades ago this spacecraft would not be operating now. It was also visionary of NASA to use an existing spacecraft originally designed to explore the outer boundaries of Earth's magnetosphere, take it out of it's orbit and turn it into the first spacecraft to visit a comet at very little extra cost to the US tax payer.

It is precisely BECAUSE NASA is continuing to fund new missions that they sometimes have to end funding for old missions.

Whilst your praise of the team that have achieved this communication with ISEE-3 is well placed, your criticism of government space agencies most certainly is not.

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Posted (edited)

See Link below for some details on a great deal of work, behind the scenes, to make the ISEE 3 reboot project work. The project team experienced a moderate earthquake while working suspended above the Arecibo dish.

They found that the spacecraft is much nearer than expected to the trajectory needed for a very near pass by the Moon. This is part of the necessary maneuvering to place the satellite in a halo orbit around L1.

They will have to switch from 512 to 64 bits per second radio communications with the ISEE 3 when they leave Arecibo. Routine operations will be at the 21 meter dish at Morehead State University, which has much lower gain.

http://spacecollege.org/isee3/isee-3-reboot-project-update-bullseye-and-more.html

Edited by bison
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Posted (edited)

See link, below, for further information on the ISEE 3 reboot project.

Since the spacecraft has no computer on board, course-adjusting thrust will have to be turned on and off manually from Earth, at the exactly appropriate times, even allowing for the delay in receiving radio signals, due to the distance of the ISEE 3 from Earth.

There has been a good deal of talk of sending the spacecraft to a halo orbit around the L1 point, about 1 million, 500 thousand kilometers Sunward from Earth. Then it was realized that newer, better satellites serving the same purpose were already stationed there. There is some thought of sending the space probe to a passing comet.

Before any of this, though, The ISEE 3 must negotiate a perilous maneuver within 50 kilometers of the Moon, around and behind it, into a power-down, radio blackout phase. It is hoped that the spacecraft will subsequently reactivate and be able to communicate with Earth again. A lot to ask of a 36 year old space probe!

http://www.theatlant...test-yet/372026

Edited by bison

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Posted (edited)

Current news from the ISEE 3 reboot project, at the link, below. The plan now seems to be to do the orbit-changing maneuver on June 17th. This gives them time to sort out all the problems and complexities involved in rebooting a 36 year old spacecraft with obsolete technology aboard.

Since they discovered that the ISEE 3 is on a trajectory requiring far less adjustment than anticipated, the available thrust situation looks much less a problem than it was thought to be. They will only need to use a small portion of the available steering gas.

They are still referring to the maneuver as ESL 1 insertion. This denotes the fact the plan is still to send the spacecraft into orbit around the Earth/Sun L1 point. This is presumably thought of as a parking position, making the space probe available for another mission. As mentioned previously, there are already other satellites at L1 doing a better job of the work that the ISEE 3 could do there.

http://www.rockethub.com/42228

Edited by bison

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An interesting recent blog, linked below, brings out new details about the ISEE 3 reboot project. The solar orbit of the spacecraft is similar to that of the Earth. They were able to inexpensively recreate much of the hardware NASA used to communicate with and control the ISEE 3, using computer software to emulate this equipment. All 13 instruments aboard the spacecraft are receiving power. There are some indications that they may not all be in working order, though.

http://www.planetary.org/blogs/jason-davis/2014/20140606-decades-silence-isee.html

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The ISEE 3 reboot project has moved back the date for breaking the spacecraft out of solar orbit. This is now expected to occur between June 30th and July 2nd. This delayed time frame became practical, after they realized that the ISEE 3 was better placed than expected, requiring less fuel to break orbit.

They will be using the Arecibo radio telescope in conjunction with some in the NASA Deep Space Network on June 18th through 22nd and July 3rd, 4th, and 6th. These should allow more accurate determination of the position of the ISEE 3, both before and after the planned maneuver. They will have access to the 34 meter diameter antennas of the Deep Space Network near Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia.

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The ISEE 3 reboot story made the front page of the Sunday New York Times. See link below

A simple maneuver to increase the spin rate of the spacecraft is tentatively planned for June 21st. This will improve the stability of the ISEE 3 and is necessary before the orbit-changing maneuver. This will also serve as the first test of the propulsion, and its control by radio, since the reboot project took control of the spacecraft.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/science/space/calling-back-a-zombie-ship-from-the-graveyard-of-space.html?_r=2

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A bit of a setback for the ISEE 3 reboot project. The thruster action to improve the spin stability of the spacecraft, set for today, had to be postponed. The reboot team could not confirm that the ISEE 3 was properly and consistently receiving test commands. The team is currently investigating this problem.

Things had been going so remarkably well for the project, it seems inevitable that some problem would eventually arise.

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The ISEE 3 reboot team used the NASA Deep Space Network today, to determine the distance of the spacecraft. It is necessary to know its position to a high degree of accuracy, in order to plan the maneuver that will change its orbit. This is the first time that the Deep Space Network has communicated with the ISEE 3, since 1999.

The spacecraft has successfully carried out some commands sent to it, but there still seems to be a problem with it doing so consistently. Another, longer session using the DSN is planned for tomorrow.

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Thanks for all the updates and the website. I hope these folks succeed and get this bird back to work. You have to admit, we build great gear.

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Posted (edited)

The ISEE-3 reboot team reports that the spacecraft fired its thrusters in response to their commands, successfully carrying out the spin-stabilization maneuver today. Next comes the maneuver to break it out of Solar orbit, and place it in a halo orbit, near Earth. The team adds that yesterday the magnetometer aboard the spacecraft detected a recent solar event.

Edited by bison
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The ISEE-3 reboot team reports that the spacecraft fired its thrusters in response to their commands, successfully carrying out the spin-stabilization maneuver today. Next comes the maneuver to break it out of Solar orbit, and place it in a halo orbit, near Earth. The team adds that yesterday the magnetometer aboard the spacecraft detected a recent solar event.

Thanks Bison for the update.

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Posted (edited)

The ISEE-3 reboot team reports that they will attempt the all-important maneuver to break out of solar orbit, tomorrow, between 16:42 and 19:29 hours GMT. (12:42 to 3:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; 9:42 a.m. to 12:29 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time.) The 1000 foot (300 meter) Arecibo radio telescope will be used to send the commands. If the thrusters succeed in firing, they will arrange another ranging session, to determine if the spacecraft is now in the desired orbit.

Edited by bison
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Thanks for all the updates and the website. I hope these folks succeed and get this bird back to work. You have to admit, we build great gear.

I agree, this is great stuff!!! I also think that NASA does and has done some absolutely astonishing stuff - Apollo, Voyager, SOHO/Stereo spring immediately to mind. But they have also taken some bad turns imo - the initial Hubble debacle (although that has turned out rather well!), and I was never a great fan of the Shuttle-ISS design concepts although I applaud what they have managed to get out of them. And as for the spacecraft that seem to be unkillable, like this one, Voyager, etc I just love how they can still be operating decades after they were expected to die and can be retasked. Some very fine engineering and lateral thinking there..

Fingers crossed for the team..

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A league of extraordinary gentlemen, from both sides of the community.

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The plan for Tuesday was to attempt 435 thruster pulses, divided into seven segments. The first of these, of 63 pulses, went well, but problems were encountered during the second. The rest of the thrust segments were canceled for the day.

The team will be looking at the data, and trying to work out what needs to be done. They have another session booked at Arecibo for Wednesday, at the same hours as the one on Tuesday.

In addition to resolving the persisting problem of intermittent response to commands, they will also presumably have to recalculate the thrust, given the distance the spacecraft will travel in 24 hours.

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It seems that the most likely cause of the thrust firing failure is an empty nitrogen tank. If this is the case then no more firings will be possible and the spacecraft will remaining in a solar orbit.

There is a small chance that the craft could hit the Moon on 10thAugust but the team will be able to confirm if this will happen or not after a communications session with ISEE-3 on Friday.

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Posted (edited)

A number of news media have been saying that the ISEE-3 reboot team have given up on redirecting the spacecraft into an orbit near Earth. A Friday morning blog by Keith Cowing, spokesman for the project, tells a very different story.

He reports that the team spent all of Thursday with propulsion experts. A number of troubleshooting measures were developed. Among these, applying heat to the hydrazine fuel tank, and clearing (possibly) plugged fuel lines by commanding the ISEE-3 to execute a multitude of thrust pulses. Cowing reaffirms that they have"most certainly not given up".

Today's communications session, again through the Arecibo radio telescope, will presumably afford them the opportunity to try out the troubleshooting measures.

Edited by bison
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A number of news media have been saying that the ISEE-3 reboot team have given up on redirecting the spacecraft into an orbit near Earth. A Friday morning blog by Keith Cowing, spokesman for the project, tells a very different story.

He reports that the team spent all of Thursday with propulsion experts. A number of troubleshooting measures were developed. Among these, applying heat to the hydrazine fuel tank, and clearing (possibly) plugged fuel lines by commanding the ISEE-3 to execute a multitude of thrust pulses. Cowing reaffirms that they have"most certainly not given up".

Today's communications session, again through the Arecibo radio telescope, will presumably afford them the opportunity to try out the troubleshooting measures.

Good luck to him and the entire team.

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The ISEE-3 reboot team has released a long, complex, and highly technical statement. It appears that there is probably fuel and pressurizing gas available to guide the spacecraft. It had been thought that the pressurizing gas had somehow leaked away over the years.

An excess of this gas, and/or gasses from the decompensation of the fuel may have accumulated in the fuel lines, preventing the thrusters from firing.

They will try to clear any gasses blocking the fuel lines tomorrow, hoping the thrusters will begin to work again. That will also make doubly sure that the fuel line valves are open. It appears that they were not, for much of the time on July 8th and 9th, when they last attempted to apply thrust to the ISEE-3.

Tomorrow's communications session runs from 16:19 to 19:03 GMT (12:19 to 3:03 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, and 9:19 a.m. to 12:03 P.M. Pacific Daylight time.)

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The ISEE-3 team is currently offering live narration on Twitter, of their attempt, today, to restore the function of the the spacecraft's thrusters.

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