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Space Science

Satellite Celebrates 20 Years Working in Orbit 199

lloydwood writes "The UoSAT-2/UO-11 small satellite was launched into low Earth orbit on 1 March 1984 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Twenty years later, it's still in orbit and operational -- and we recently found launch footage. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary of starting in orbit, the original video celebrating the UoSAT-2 launch is available (in windows media and mpeg). Thrill to the computers, the clothes, and the haircuts of 1984. SSTL has launched more than twenty satellites since."
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Satellite Celebrates 20 Years Working in Orbit

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  • by suso (153703) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:43PM (#8433928) Homepage Journal
    Just wait, I'm calibrating the targeting device on my low orbit space modulator.

    Hold it... Hold it........ Fire!
  • I bet... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Cytlid (95255) runs Unix.
  • Umm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by leifm (641850) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:44PM (#8433941)
    Since when do we celebrate various equipment still working? Guess I better ready for my PS2's upcoming 2 year still working anniversary!
  • by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:45PM (#8433951)
    [Insert obligatory "1982 web servsr" joke]
  • by capz loc (752940) <> on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:46PM (#8433956)
    With posting a 64-meg MPEG, I think we can be sure that their server won't have nearly the uptime of the satellite.
  • by SisyphusShrugged (728028) <<me> <at> <>> on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:46PM (#8433961) Homepage
    If it was made twenty years ago, wouldnt it have to be 10,000 times larger than a modern computer and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe would own them.
  • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:48PM (#8433978) Homepage
    The Oscar 7 [] satellite was launched from the same place in 1974. It spent about 20 years dead in space after its batteries shorted, before it started working again out of the blue.

    Incidentally, that launch pad [] is about 3 miles from where I'm sitting. I can see it if I climb up on the antenna tower on the roof, but management got mad last time I did that to watch a launch.

  • 1984 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:48PM (#8433987)
    Hey, some of us remember 1984, you insensitive clod!
  • Bad press (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:49PM (#8433994)
    Things like this should be publicized much more than the stupid mistakes NASA makes. It's hard to keep a car running 20 years even with a constant supply of oil and maintanence work. This is much cooler, and deserves more media attention than a mixing up of metric and Imperial measurements (all though the mixups are STILL important). Eh, just a quick rant.
    • Re:Bad press (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jsebrech (525647) on Monday March 01, 2004 @07:30PM (#8434847)
      Actually, this would be more akin to keeping a computer running for 20 years non-stop, without ever having to manually powercycle it, and without replacing a single piece of hardware, in the middle of antarctica. Much more impressive that just doing good car maintenance.

      Still, I think it's pretty sad that computers are even more frail than we humans are. For ages most of what we built outlasted us; now the tables have turned.
  • by vpscolo (737900) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:49PM (#8433998) Homepage
    Now if we had hardware/software that could do that you could truely run a business with 100% SLA. Of course if you had a bewoulf of these... ...I'll get me coat

    • I think that's the first Fast Show reference I've seen on slashdot. Very amusing that show. Not a bad place for a reference. (I'd mod it +1 funny) But I think, in the interest of all we ought to make that the LAST Fast Show reference on slashdot. You know how these things get out of hand here.
      • A. just what i was thinking, Fast Show. such a refreshing change for /. I wish this *would* catch on.. lots of things from that show get funnier with repeated use... like "this week, i have been mostly eating...".. or "...which was nice". but then, even if we could be funny, 99% of /. wouldn't get it :/. i'll get me coat. haha.
  • hair? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Matey-O (518004) * <> on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:50PM (#8434008) Homepage Journal
    "and the haircuts of 1984"

    Those are not 1984 haircuts....Flock of Seagulls had 1984 haircuts....these are the haircuts of people that don't give a lot of wattage to personal apperance.

    If they were closer to New York, we could give the Fab 5 a call! ( /)
    • these are the haircuts of people that don't give a lot of wattage to personal apperance.

      The video is actual footage of folks that built and launched a satellite 20 years ago, one that's still in orbit, and still functional. That's a _serious_ technical achievement. And you are more concerned about the haircuts?

      I thought /. was a place to get away from clueless managers...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:51PM (#8434014) n/Landsat/index.asp

    Launch Date March 1, 1984
    Launch Vehicle Delta 3920
    Launch Location Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
    Weight 1938 kg

    Pheakin' bird was inctruckingcredibly sturdy.

  • by Dracolytch (714699) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:52PM (#8434030) Homepage
    Kinda cool, actually...

    Downloading at: 45 KBps

    30 seconds later...

    Downloading at: 40 KBps

    20 seconds later...

    Downloading at: 35 KBps

    The race is on! Will I get the file before the server dies?!?

    • The race is on! Will I get the file before the server dies?!?

      Old joke:

      A statistician and his friend are flying aboard a 747 from London to New York. An hour or so out of La Guardia, the captain comes on to the loudspeakers.

      "Folks, I'm just letting you know that we've lost an engine. There's nothing to worry about; we've got three more. However, we've lost a bit of airspeed, so our revised ETA is in two hours."

      The pair shrugged off the announcement and settled back in their seats. A few minutes la

  • Life expectancy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by milgr (726027) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:53PM (#8434043)
    So what is the life expectancy for this satelite?
  • TORRENT (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:54PM (#8434054)
    Torren of the WMV file HERE [].

    This service brought to your courtesy of Soup, Bread, Linux.
  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by patdabiker (710704) on Monday March 01, 2004 @05:55PM (#8434061) Homepage
    I posted a mirror of the video here [].
  • by CaptainCarrot (84625) on Monday March 01, 2004 @06:00PM (#8434115)
    Thrill to the computers, the clothes, and the haircuts of 1984.

    Although we can be reasonably well-assured that the computers were state-of-the-art at the time, the clothes and haircuts are another matter. Please remember that these are professional geeks we're talking about, and are therefore not exactly cutting edge when it comes to fashion. To all appearances it was closer to 1978 than 1984.

    I know this because I was in college in 1984, and we all looked great, but these guys look like dorks.

    • Although we can be reasonably well-assured that the computers were state-of-the-art at the time

      Actually, the one computer that I thought I recognized in the video was an Apple II. That would have hardly been "state-of-the-art" by 1984, though probably it was appropriate technology (i.e. rugged, cheap, well-understood).

  • Pretty amazing.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brain1 (699194) on Monday March 01, 2004 @06:02PM (#8434134)
    Considering that batteries die with age, solar panels degrade with exposure, and radiation of all sorts bombard the spacecraft. Also you have to have fuel to station keep, and it is only recently that ion thrusters have become available that dont require a lot of reaction mass to operate.

    20 years of operation in the harsh environment of space gets my applause.
    • From a linked page: Jan King, W3GEY reports AO-7 is almost certainly running only off the solar panels. It is very likely to be on only when in the sun and off in eclipse. Therefore, AO-7 will reset each orbit and may not turn on each time.

      The batteries have probably gone, but the fact that the rest of it is still operating is amazing.

      I notice it has a CCD camera but I've been unable to find any pictures. Does anyone know if it is operational?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2004 @06:04PM (#8434148)
    Duke Nukem: Forever was only 3 years into development.
  • by ravenspear (756059) on Monday March 01, 2004 @06:08PM (#8434172)
    and we recently found launch footage

    Unfortunately they forgot to update the server it was originally hosted on way back in the day.
  • Magnet links? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WeblionX (675030)
    Why do most sites that host large images/movies not supply magnet links? It'd save them loads on bandwidth and people could stop making jokes about the server.

    (Not that I'm complaining about downloading at 215KB/s from the server..)
  • 20 years is nothing. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gavin Scott (15916) * on Monday March 01, 2004 @06:15PM (#8434225)
    What about the amazing story of the Amateur Radio satallite Ostcar 7 that was launched in 1974, operated for six years, then died due to a shorted battery, only to re-awaken from the dead [] in 2002 after 21 years of silence.

    So we have satellites that work after having been dead longer than your satellites have been alive.


  • ... webserver goes crashing down. She hasn't impacted yet, but she's burnin' up in the atmosphere as I type!

    I just hope the satellite's not being controlled from that poor box....

  • Just to clarify... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rico_za (702279) on Monday March 01, 2004 @06:36PM (#8434388)
    UoSAT-2 was not a Nasa mission. It was built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in Guildford, a University town just west of London. We []'ve grown quite a bit since then. We specialize in building small satellites (think 100 kgs, not 1000's of kgs). It's a different way of doing things to the way NASA and ESA usually does, but it's catching on.
  • Anyone happen to know which song plays on the video? It's actually quite good ...
  • "Thrill to the computers, the clothes, and the haircuts of 1984."

    I wonder if those same clothes, computers and haircuts are still in use at NASA...
  • What about Iridium? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aumaden (598628)
    If the UoSAT-2/UO-11 is still functioning after 20 years, why was there such a rush to deorbit [] the Iridium satellite constellation?
    • why was there such a rush to deorbit the Iridium satellite constellation?

      They are fairly large birds, large enough that pieces of them may reach the surface, so they much prefer to deorbit them under control than wait for them to fail and reenter wherever they will.

      Also, I recall hearing (but cannot confirm) that there is now an international treaty that puts some requirements on satellite operators to try to reduce the amount of space debris. One of the Motorolla guys on the Irridium project told me

    • by Detritus (11846)
      One reason was that they were a big pain in the butt for optical and radio astronomers. The sooner they were gone, the better. The satellites are still up there, and I assume the astronomers still wish they would go away.
  • Landsat 5 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vsprintf (579676) on Monday March 01, 2004 @07:42PM (#8434962)

    Well, as long as we're celebrating, today is the 20th anniversary of the launch of Landsat 5. If you want to talk about a work horse, it has been returning Earth observation data used by scientists everywhere for two decades as well. It just might outlive its successor.

    Landsat 5 []

    • UO-11 and Landsat-5 were launched together on a Delta rocket from the Western Test Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc, California. (info from AMSAT)
  • by Stalke (20083) on Monday March 01, 2004 @07:46PM (#8435003)
    This satellite is barely past middle age. A quick google [] search finds that AO-7 [] is the oldest working satellite and it will turn 30 this year. Mark your calendars boys and girls. November 15 is the day when the _real_ excitement starts. I'm starting an iCal shared calendar right now so I don't forget it!
  • by enosys (705759) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:09PM (#8435189) Homepage
    NASA's Pioneer 6 [] was launched on December 16, 1965. It was contacted in December 2000, when it was 35 years old. NASA doesn maintain regular contact with it but it's quite possible it's still functional. It was designed for a six-month mission to study the solar wind, magnetic field and cosmic rays. It is in solar orbit at about 0.8 AU.
  • by cr@ckwhore (165454) on Monday March 01, 2004 @08:43PM (#8435449) Homepage
    AMSAT-UK is issuing 1000 special edition QSL cards to radio amateurs world-wide that submit signal/reception reports from the satellite during the month of March. Super-special edition QSL cards are given to radio amateurs who submit signal reports on March 1 (today), the satellite's anniversay.

    For the non-ham-operators among us, a QSL card (not SQL) is basically a post-card that hams send each other after making contact.

    So earlier today, remembering that I had read about the March 1st QSL cards, I pulled up my handy sat prediction software (PREDICT) along with the equally handy gsat client, updated keplerian elements, synced my pc's time so I could achieve the most accurate predictions possible.

    Had a good pass of UO-11 with about 50 degrees at elevation at 3:45 this afternoon (20:45 UTC) ... went out to the jeep and hooked my quad-band Yaesu VX-7R into a 5/8th wave magmount antenna (2-meter band) hoping to get the best possible reception I could with my gear. Adjusted for frequency doppler, and BAM! There it was... I had UO-11's telemetry on 145.825 ... got nice and loud during mid-pass ... record a WAV file of the telemetry when the signal was at it's best. When the sat was exiting my half of north america, I was still faintly hearing the telemetry on 145.820, adjusted down for doppler.

    So, of course, I submitted my signal report to AMSAT-UK this afternoon. They're going to verify my data, and I get a gold star when they're done. Today, I reached a new pinnacle of geekdom. Long live the hams!

    de N1ZPP

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