NASA ISEE-3 Lives: Citizen Scientists Kickstart Retired Satellite After 27 Years

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Artist's concept image of the ISEE-3 spacecraft, launched in 1978. NASA

Until last Wednesday, the ISEE-3 satellite had not fired its engines in 27 years. Citizen scientists took control of the defunct satellite, which had been floating around the solar system in May.

NASA retired its International Sum-Earth Explorer 3 in 1997, but the satellite had not fired its thrusters since 1987, notes Engadget. Amateur astronomers from Space College, Skycorp and SpaceRef launched the ISEE-3 Reboot Project in May and raised $159,602 to establish communication with the retired satellite, fire its engines and send it back to Earth.

ISEE-3's engines were fired on Wednesday, with Keith Cowing writing on the Space College blog, "Today we fired the A and B thrusters on ISEE-3 to perform a spin-up burn. Preliminary results confirm the burn and a change in rotation."

 

 

According to the project's RocketHub page, "NASA has told us officially that there is no funding available to support an ISEE-3 effort - nor is this work a formal priority for the agency right now. But NASA does feel that the data that ISEE-3 could generate would have real value and that a crowd funded effort such as ours has real value as an education and public outreach activity."

ISEE-3, launched in 1978 to study solar winds, is the first retired satellite that NASA has let citizens reactivate. In addition to bringing ISEE-3 back to life, the satellite will collect plenty of data as it performs a close approach of the moon as it heads back to Earth. The ISEE-3 team will attempt a Trajectory Correction Maneuver burn on Tuesday.

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