"A private team is priming a 36-year-old NASA spacecraft to perform new science as it travels through interplanetary space after attempts to move the probe into a position closer to Earth failed. The volunteer team initially hoped to park the vintage International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 spacecraft, called ISEE-3 for short, in a stable location between the Earth and the sun called L-1. But those attempts ended when controllers discovered there wasn't enough nitrogen pressurant left in the probe's tanks to help make course corrections."
"Alas, ISEE-3 spacecraft, we almost caught you. Attempts to move a 36-year-old NASA probe closer to Earth have failed, but only because the vintage spacecraft is simply out of gas, according to the team of volunteer engineers now controlling the spacecraft. The spacecraft, called the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3), has run out of vital nitrogen gas needed to pressurize its propulsion system, according the private team of engineers. The team, which calls itself the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, has spent recent weeks puzzling through an issue that shut down attempts to send the ISEE-3 spacecraft on a new trajectory on July 10. With all options exhausted, the team now plans to do science in a different location instead."
"The citizen science team wanted to execute burns to drop the craft back in its 1978 orbit, but the spacecraft disagreed. The original hope was to execute burns to blaze past the moon and drop the spacecraft puttering about in a L-1 halo orbit. Alas, although ISEE-3 had enough juice to do a power-up spin to reach its optimal rotation rate, the nitrogen propellant has bled away. The aging craft is willing, but after 30 billion miles, it just doesn't have enough gas to change its trajectory. Instead, it'll do a lunar flyby, and resume its heliocentric orbit, this time blazing a trail ahead of us instead of stalking the Earth. But here's the thing: this time, it'll be doing science."
ISEE-3 spacecraft presentation in Guildford Saturday, Southgate ARC
"Achim Vollhardt DH2VA and Mario Lorenz DL5MLO from AMSAT-DL Bochum will be giving a presentation on ISEE-3 (ICE) to the AMSAT-UK International Space Colloquium at the Holiday Inn, Guildford, GU2 7XZ. The event is open to all ."
After a successful reawakening the venerable ISEE-3 spacecraft is about to begin the first interplanetary citizen science mission.
In April 2014 our team set about bringing the 36 year old ISEE-3 (International Sun Earth Explorer 3) spacecraft back into science operations. Our plan was to contact the spacecraft, evaluate its health, command it to resume normal operations, fire its engines, and resume the orbit it originally occupied in 1978. Once science operations resumed, our plan was to make the data openly available to citizen scientists - in fact, anyone, anywhere - as soon as we received it from the spacecraft.
We had a session with ISEE-3 today via Arecibo with support from AMSAT-DL/Bochum team in Germany. We engaged in "hammer mode" wherein we tried to open and close all of the latch valves repeatedly with the hope that this might get the propulsion system working. It did not. We then began to transition the spacecraft to science mode by turning on two additional science instruments. We'll post a detailed update tomorrow.
Keith Cowing and the Outrageous ISEE-3 Rebooters , Planetary Radio
"They have generated excitement, enthusiasm and support throughout the world. The ISEE-3 Reboot Project has succeeded in gaining control over the 36-year old spacecraft, but will they be able to move it."
Any space mission worth doing should have an education and public outreach (EPO) component. An EPO effort helps to efficiently disseminate information to those with a specific interest in a particular mission. Done properly it also serves as a means to spur interest in space exploration in general amongst a much broader audience. With the use of various Internet and social media resources an effective EPO effort can now reach an audience in ways that were not possible a decade ago.
Lost and Found in Space: Rebooting ISEE-3: Space for All, op ed, Keith Cowing, New York Times
"NASA likes to say that "space is hard," but to make itself relevant to the people whose taxes fund it, it must get outside its comfort zone. To its credit, NASA saw the potential of our project to reach beyond the traditional audience. The interactions via social media with our supporters have borne this out. Imagine what feats of exploration might be possible if an empowered and engaged citizenry realized that exploring space is really something anyone can do."
"After refusing to fire its engines last week for a course correction, a vintage NASA spacecraft did produce a bit of thrust Wednesday (July 16), proving it still has at least some fuel left after 36 years in space."
Citizen Scientists Get ISEE-3 Satellite Engines to Fire!, The Mary Sue
"The amazing people behind the ISEE-3 reboot project have gotten its engines to fire! They previously had trouble due to a lack of nitrogen to push fuel through the old satellite's fuel lines and into the engines, but some creative use of the satellite's tank heaters seems to have paid off and gotten things working."
During our pass at Arecibo today we managed to get some propulsion out of thruster K. We're looking at how this was accomplished with an eye toward repeating it. We expect to do a DSN pass on 24 July so as to further refine the spacecraft's location. We are also working to start communicating with ISEE-3 from Morehead State University in the very near future. We also have one of many documentary teams at McMoons today to document our efforts.
Our window with Arecibo opens tomorrow (Friday) at 12:13 pm ET. We will continue with our plumbing and electrical testing and see if we can get the propulsion system operating again.