Citizen Scientists Hope to Wake Up Old Satellite
ISEE-3 travels by Earth this summer for first time in 30 years
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2014 1:28 PM CDT
File image of the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3, or ISEE-3.   (NASA)

(Newser) – A long-dormant satellite is heading back toward Earth this summer after 31 years, and some "citizen scientists" want to try to wake it up and put it back to work, reports Motherboard. Cash-strapped NASA hasn't shown much interest in investing money in the idea, hence the move toward crowdfunding to get the job done. The plan revolves around a satellite launched by NASA in 1978 called the International Sun-Earth Explorer, or ISEE-3. It was supposed to permanently hang out in the orbit between the sun and Earth to monitor solar wind, but another team at NASA sort of hijacked the satellite five years later to go comet-hunting.

While ISEE-3 did great in its new duty, it had to leave its old orbit to do so and has been looping around the sun ever since. But the spacecraft makes a swing by Earth in August, raising the opportunity for its reboot—assuming all the technical logistics can be addressed. "In order to interact with the spacecraft we will need to locate the original commands and then develop a software recreation of the original hardware that was used to communicate with the spacecraft," explains that crowdfunding plea at Rockethub. A blog post at lays out the difficulties. Still, it's worth a shot, concludes Ben Richmond at Motherboard. "Given NASA's success rate at using spacecraft beyond their mission—the Voyagers, Kepler, etc— why not try to wake up the ISEE-3 and see what it's got left?"

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Apr 17, 2014 4:23 PM CDT
Does ISEE-3 have enough propellant left to do anything useful, and if so, what?
Apr 17, 2014 6:54 AM CDT
If they are successful, it will probably land them in federal prison.
Ezekiel 25:17
Apr 17, 2014 12:04 AM CDT
Just ask us Ham operators to help. We talk to OSCAR birds all the time with simple to sophisticated gear. Take my tape measure hand held satellite antenna. Its a simple fold up Yagi I use to communicate through satellites to other people on the same side of Earth. I use a phone app to predict the location and movement of the OSCAR bird. I enter the uplink and downlink frequencies in my dual band HT radio. I aim the antenna at the bird for the window of opportunity. I call out my call sign and location and wait to hear it come down along with the reply from the person who wants to make a QSO. I'm talking less than $100 of gear. Now, there are some serious contesters out there who have $30,000 radios hooked up to $10,000 antenna arrays pointed to the sky with computerized servo positioners. These are the people you want to recruit to wake it back up. These guys hook up the radio to a modem and then can transmit computer commands at any frequency, mode, phase, mod, etc.