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Have you seen my undead satellite?

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posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 03:18 PM
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Earlier this week, an amateur radio astronomer named Scott Tilley decided to have a look for the presence of secret military satellites. It's something he apparently does semi-regularly, and in this case his search was inspired by the Zuma satellite, a secret US government payload that was reportedly lost on its way to space. Most accounts have suggested that Zuma failed to make it to orbit, but the secrecy of the mission (we've got no clear idea what Zuma even was) means that everything about its fate is unclear.


Scott Tilley has an S-band radio telescope in British Canadia (or at least access to one). He decided he would point the thing up to see if any satellites were passing by. The known ones could be determined using satellite tracking software. He likes looking for ones that are not on the tracking software. Then, he enters the info into another program called STRF that was made by an astronomer in the Netherlands named Cees Bassa which takes the radio Doppler and calculates the orbit.


Given the clear indication of a radio signal, Tilley matched its orbit to a NASA satellite called IMAGE. IMAGE was launched back in 2000 with a mission of studying Earth's magnetosphere. Over five years of operation, it created a three-dimensional map of the charged particles that move along Earth's magnetic field lines. But contact was lost in 2005, and NASA eventually attributed that to a one-time event in the power system that the satellite wasn't designed to recover from.


That is not quite the whole story. When contact was lost, NASA tried to wait until the satellite passed into the earth's shadow, an eclipse, to drain the batteries to cause a system restart when it came back out into sunlight. The satellite went silent in 2005 and the long eclipse event occurred in 2007. But when IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration) came back around it did not restart as expected. It also did not respond to commands. For all intents the satellite was dead.


Tilley put his re-discovery aside for a bit. But as he switched to other frequencies, he found that IMAGE was actively transmitting data. At this point, he did some searches and found that IMAGE was considered lost due to the power failure. So he decided to take a more careful look at his signal and confirmed that it contained signs that the satellite was rotating at a rate that was consistent with IMAGE. Since then, several other amateurs have confirmed his findings.



Meanwhile, a NASA scientist told AmericaSpace that “We’re still not sure it really is IMAGE, but we are working to identify people knowledgeable about the mission after all this time and working on getting all the appropriate scripts and software in place just in case it is IMAGE." Given the relative costs of launching vs. maintaining contact with a satellite, if IMAGE can still provide useful data, Tilley just may have given NASA scientists a bargain.

ArsTechnica, Jan. 26, 2018 - Amateur search for dead spy satellite turns up undead NASA mission.

Much more succinct and nerdier version is currently the landing page at spaceweather.com (where I got the S-band info, STRF, and the full name of IMAGE from. The story will be replaced with another one and I am not sure how to link to the specific article so did a compromise).

Hey dude! Throw me a Zuma!

That is pretty cool! Hunting for dead or lost satellites (Tilley says, "It's a lot of fun", on spaceweather) sounds like an innocent enough pastime. Sometime between 2007 and now IMAGE came back to life. It is transmitting data which means something is working. UC Berkley was the listening station and they are scrambling around to find the software (and probably a computer too!) to see if they can recover control and how much functional instrumentation is available.

How cool is that?! Zombie satellite from space!

The ArsTechnica piece has NASA playing down the significance of this find ("We’re still not sure it really is IMAGE...", gimmie a break!) Spaceweather says NASA is working on a recovery plan! Who to believe?

What do you think ATS?





posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 03:23 PM
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a reply to: TEOTWAWKIAIFF

That's pretty cool.

I hope if they can start receiving valuable data again that they give Tilley some sort of finders fee



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 03:34 PM
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a reply to: Zarniwoop

10% is nominal!

At least throw him a pizza party!!

I hope they get her back up and imaging the aurora again! The global view would be a real, "nice to have" feature, back up and operational.



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 03:49 PM
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Pretty cool, indeed... there's a lot of stuff whizzing around up there, but considering the money involved, it's a little disconcerting that it took some nerd's hobby to possibly reconnect with a satellite.

What's that Vonnegut quote? ... er "terror is waking up one morning to discover your high school classmates are running the world" or close enough.

Sometimes I WISH conspiracy theories were true-er... we may well need some evil geniuses running things, heh.



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 03:51 PM
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originally posted by: TEOTWAWKIAIFF
What do you think ATS?

Poking around with secret satellites (including those that are "dead" wink-wink) sounds like a good way to get a visit from Men in Black.
edit on 26-1-2018 by Blue Shift because: (no reason given)



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 04:10 PM
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That's amazing,

From the related article it sounds like NASA isn't as excited as it should be, I'm not sure why, but I can imagine if at some point it turned back on, how much data it might have stored since then...

As a scientist, I would be excited at the possibilities.

Starred and Flagged

Fox



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 04:42 PM
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originally posted by: Blue Shift

originally posted by: TEOTWAWKIAIFF
What do you think ATS?

Poking around with secret satellites (including those that are "dead" wink-wink) sounds like a good way to get a visit from Men in Black.

Thats exactly what I was thinking.

They claim they drained the battery to do a restart, mmmkay...
Except you would never want to drain a battery completely, especially if the system isn't responding.

Then they go oh, we didn't know it was transmitting. Every single signal coming from space is important to the secrets club.

Lastly, why would it be transmitting without being prompted to?



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 05:07 PM
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a reply to: intrptr


The one hope was a reboot: When IMAGE's solar-powered batteries drained to zero during a eclipse by the Earth, onboard systems could restart and begin transmitting again. "If revival occurs, the mission should be able to continue as before with no limitations," noted NASA's IMAGE Failure Review Board in their 2006 report.

A deep eclipse in 2007, however, failed to produce the desired result. "After that, we stopped listening," says Reiff.

spaceweather.com

The draining of the battery was trying to get their "solid state power controller" (SSPC) to reset so it would power the transponder (effectively a reset). This was the device that NASA identified as the likely culprit that tripped causing the satellite to go silent in the first place. They were hoping that it would work but when the time came around they did not get a response. They think it tripped due to a short period transient that did not last long enough to even measure in the telemetry data. The SSPC did not recognize it was off!

Over the next 12 years, it sounds like it did reset! Tilley got the Doppler reading of it passing by. He then said, "That's cool" and listened to the other frequencies to check if there was anything else the satellite was doing. Turns out it was transmitting. NASA had long since given up hope because, hey, satellites fail, budgets run out, people find new jobs.

Since nobody knew it was alive and transmitting, nobody was listening. It could be simple telemetry data, or a ping home, that is what they will find out when they get band back together and NASA gets a good look at it!

I am sure Tilley's blog is being monitored! Maybe not by the MIB but probably some other TLA. The people who worked on the IMAGE mission (NASA employees) have given him congratulations on his find, so they themselves are exited about his find.

I am too!

ETA: The additional info came from the NASA report (pdf): IMAGE Failure Review Board Final Report.
edit on 26-1-2018 by TEOTWAWKIAIFF because: add source



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 05:08 PM
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Well, if it is IMAGE image, and it is transmitting ...something, there must be somebody who knows the prgramme, maybe somebody else even that is able to decipher whatever is being transmitted.
If it is not, well it's in the public domain now, and at least the latter two of the above could still apply, plus who's or/and what is it



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 05:20 PM
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a reply to: smurfy

The spaceweather article says that NASA is searching for their archived computer programs for all the shell scripts and what have you, to try get in contact. This is a still developing story.

A post mortem in IT is pretty intense so I can only imagine what happens when your millions of dollars satellite dies. The orbit has not decayed too much, so they have some time.

Why does that remind me of Veeger contacting its maker??



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 05:32 PM
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a reply to: TEOTWAWKIAIFF

From the link in OP...


Given the clear indication of a radio signal, Tilley matched its orbit to a NASA satellite called IMAGE.


"Clear radio signal" , but NASA was unaware of it? Not buying that, sorry.



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 05:36 PM
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a reply to: Baddogma

"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country." - Kurt Vonnegut

Which is probably why I stayed in the safety of school for so long! I met some kids that had enough credits to graduate college with 3 or 4 degrees but found being a barrista and studying existentialism more rewarding than paying back their debt! You'd figure only one or so, but there were several. I was the poser going back to learn something I didn't before.

You know, it was a strange thought that crossed my mind wile yelling at the bastid that almost hit me with his car to turn on his lights... people like being told what to do! My buddy is a floor warden at his job and when they had a fire alarm go off, and people were standing around like deer in the head lights, he yelled at the nearest person to walk down the hall, pointed at the door, said go down there, turned to everybody else, yelled, follow that guy! They all did and he evacuated his floor! Maybe a benevolent despot and not maniacal Cthulhu psycho!

With cost of micro satellites dropping, they might be able to float a small fleet and use that as a relay station. Just a thought.



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 05:40 PM
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a reply to: intrptr

The "clear radio signal" was what was bouncing off the satellite from the S-band antenna on the ground; it was not coming from IMAGE itself. He used the program to get a Doppler signal, enter in some coordinates, and out popped the result that this was the IMAGE satellite lost over a decade before.

I think he even sat on this for a while. When it passed overhead again, that is when he switched through different frequencies finding that IMAGE was transmitting.


edit on 26-1-2018 by TEOTWAWKIAIFF because: stoopid autocorrect



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 05:48 PM
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a reply to: TEOTWAWKIAIFF

When it passed overhead again, that is when he switched through different frequencies finding that IMAGE was transmitting.

Satellites typically only do that if prompted. If he 'found a signal' NASA knew about it.

NASA stands for Never A Straight Answer. Still not buying they didn't know it was operational.

I don't know why , just that.



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 06:01 PM
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a reply to: intrptr

I understand. Which is why I don't really like the ArsTechnica piece. NASA seems so nonplussed over the whole thing (or are made to make us believe they are).

Reading the failure report is eye opening! The SSPC has a correction circuit that they were trying to trip. But the fail open fuse (it is not a fuse but serves the same function) was only a single path! That means that power had a single point of failure! On a satellite! That is pretty bad.

Who knows, maybe a cosmic ray flipped the reading one day and it reset. We will have to wait. And guess where that news will come from?... NASA!



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 06:15 PM
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[Scott] did a lot of number crunching to determine that the satellite’s spin rate had only decreased a little from its operational value and that the doppler data matched what he expected. [Scott] can’t read or command the telemetry, so he doesn’t know how healthy the satellite is, but it is at least operational to some degree. It’s really neat to see members of the team that worked on IMAGE leaving comments congratulating [Scott] on the find. They are working to get him data formatting information to see if more sense can be made of the incoming transmissions.

hackaday.com - SEARCH FOR MILITARY SATELLITE FINDS ONE NASA LOST INSTEAD.

A another source of info of the IMAGE team telling Tilley, "Good job, man!".

I lost the original piece where I read that so this will have to do.



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 06:58 PM
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originally posted by: TEOTWAWKIAIFF

[Scott] did a lot of number crunching to determine that the satellite’s spin rate had only decreased a little from its operational value and that the doppler data matched what he expected. [Scott] can’t read or command the telemetry, so he doesn’t know how healthy the satellite is, but it is at least operational to some degree. It’s really neat to see members of the team that worked on IMAGE leaving comments congratulating [Scott] on the find. They are working to get him data formatting information to see if more sense can be made of the incoming transmissions.

hackaday.com - SEARCH FOR MILITARY SATELLITE FINDS ONE NASA LOST INSTEAD.

A another source of info of the IMAGE team telling Tilley, "Good job, man!".

I lost the original piece where I read that so this will have to do.


I found the index for that mission, the link goes the index headings, and instructions for operational commands, etc.
image.gsfc.nasa.gov...



posted on Jan, 26 2018 @ 07:21 PM
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a reply to: TEOTWAWKIAIFF

Re Vonnegut's correct quote: luckily, there are wonderful, competent, kind people... and some few likely help run things, on occasion ... but boy, the "good" ones seem rare, likely due to kind people rarely wanting to exert influence over others.

And yes, people, in general, most certainly love to be told what to do... true freedom opens a yawning chasm of nondeterministic terror. Why do you think S&M is so popular.. .while dominatrices rarer? People don't really appreciate freedom... until it's supplanted by something unpleasant, usually.

I'm sure there are reams of psychological and philosophical discussions on this disturbing human trait, likely used by fascists, heh...

and good thought re relays.
edit on 1/26/2018 by Baddogma because: grahmar



posted on Jan, 27 2018 @ 07:54 AM
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a reply to: TEOTWAWKIAIFF


That means that power had a single point of failure! On a satellite! That is pretty bad.

Double triple redundant, everything on sats is supposed to be planned ahead; what if this, then this, then this happens.

Wonder why they are keeping this things job 'secret' ?

SOP, its an imager, orrr...

They found the local stargate in the Aurora with it.



posted on Jan, 27 2018 @ 06:49 PM
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a reply to: intrptr

A stargate?... around 2012?... love it!

It would explain away tons of woo like John Titor and the Berebstein Bears!! And why the SHTF scenario hasn’t happened!!

That goes back to Baddogma’s and I talking about people wanting to told what to do!

Which opens up why nothing has really happened since 2010??



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