What happens when a 30 year old satellite the International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) which was used for a comet exploration mission, makes a close swing by and Nasa happened to discarded of all old hardware to control the satellite?
Right some very enthusiastic and capable citizen engineers and scientist jump in, set up a crowd funding project sourc $ 125.000,-, buy modern equipment, use opensource software and hire time a the biggest radio telescope the Arecibo Observatory.
Mind you this is a on a shoe string budget project, which would take millions to finance. On the third of june the team succeeded to take control of the satellite with the objective to make course correction which brings it back to it’s original position near the Lagrangian point 1 (L1).
The team was successful in locating ISEE-3 which was a bit of the trajectory, receive the beacon and transmit commands to re-enable transmission of telemetry data. For this the team had to dive in 30 old documentation to figure out how the old communication protocls worked and program software to mimic the hardware that Nasa destroyed in the late 90’s.
Obviously the team is very happy with there first contact
They used the Arecibo radio telescope, cause it has such a bug gain. Normally nasa uses smaller dishes with big transmitters in the range of 10 – 100 Kilowatt. Because these transmitters are quiet costly the ISEE-3 Reboot Project team choose for smaller transmitters a couple of hundred of watts and a the Arecibo radio telescope dish which has a such a high gain, resulting in a signal that is strong enough to be detected by the ISEE-3 receivers.
Talking about the Arecibo radio telescope. It’s big! Watch this video where the team visits the central dome that is locate above the 305 meter dish which itself is located in a natural depression in the landscape.
Much more to see and read on the ISEE-3 Reboot Project Blog