British team plans to reestablish contact with 1970’s era satellite

Sep 06, 2011 by Bob Yirka weblog
Photo of a model of the Prospero X-3 satellite in London's Science Museum. Image: GFDL CC-BY-SA

(PhysOrg.com) -- A group of academic space scientists has decided to try to open a channel with a British satellite launched in 1971, but not heard from since 1996. The team, headed by Roger Duthie, a PhD student in London, hopes to overcome many obstacles in reestablishing contact with the satellite to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its launch.

The satellite, called Prospero X3 (from Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, who was made to relinquish his powers, an obvious dig at the government’s decision to end the program) was and is the only satellite ever launched aboard an all British rocket (the Black Arrow). It was sent up shortly after the British rocketry program was ended October 28, 1971, with the purpose of learning more about the environment.

The first challenge was finding the original codes used to communicate with Prospero, difficult because the agency that had sent up the satellite had been broken apart and been superseded by other agencies. They eventually found them in the National Archives in London.
Next, the team will need to build a system to actually communicate with the satellite since the equipment originally used is long gone. But before they can do that they’ll have to obtain permission to use the necessary radio frequency from Ofcom (the British agency that regulates electronic communications) as it’s been usurped by other satellites.

The first step, once given the go-ahead, would be of course to determine if Prospero is still active, which seems unlikely given the length of time it’s been orbiting. If the is still alive though and the team manages to communicate with it, they plan an as yet undetermined public demonstration, on or around October 28.

The United Kingdom is in the middle of a bit of a space exploration resurgence after abandoning most efforts to rockets (other than for military purposes) after the cancellation of its program in the early 1970’s and vowing to avoid manned flights into space altogether. Since that time it has relied on other programs to send it’s satellites aloft, though it has been a part of the other projects such as the doomed Beagle 2 sent to Mars last year. Also, in a move designed to remove barriers to government investment in private projects, the British Government established the UK Space Agency, (replacing the British National Space Centre) and this year enacted legislation to reduce the liabilities that can be incurred in space operations to help boost competitiveness.

Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

More information: via BBC

Related Stories

Launch Of Russia Rocket Postponed

Sep 27, 2005

The launch of a Kosmos-3 booster from Russia's northern cosmodrome Plesetsk has been postponed from September 30 to a later date, reports Itar-Tass.

ESA: Oct. 17 launch date for MetOp

Oct 05, 2006

The European Space Agency says a new date has been set for the launch of MetOp, designed to become Europe's first polar-orbiting satellite.

Recommended for you

Exploring Mars in low Earth orbit

16 hours ago

In their quest to understand life's potential beyond Earth, astrobiologists study how organisms might survive in numerous environments, from the surface of Mars to the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter's moon, ...

Lifetime of gravity measurements heralds new beginning

19 hours ago

Although ESA's GOCE satellite is no more, all of the measurements it gathered during its life skirting the fringes our atmosphere, including the very last as it drifted slowly back to Earth, have been drawn ...

NASA's IceCube no longer on ice

22 hours ago

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has chosen a team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to build its first Earth science-related CubeSat mission.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ronen
not rated yet Sep 06, 2011
Scientists in search of pure vintage!
TAz00
3 / 5 (2) Sep 06, 2011
Pretty sure the Beagle 2 didn't just get sent up last year?
http://en.wikiped...Beagle_2
dav_i
1 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2011
Recycling at it's best!
CHollman82
5 / 5 (1) Sep 07, 2011
"The first step, once given the go-ahead, would be of course to determine if Prospero is still active, which seems unlikely given the length of time its been orbiting. If the satellite is still alive though and the team manages to communicate with it, they plan an as yet undetermined public demonstration, on or around October 28."

...and if it isn't still communicative? It almost certainly is not and this will almost certainly fail and even if they do succeed in reestablishing communication what is the point? For fun?

Waste of time.