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Space Communications Earth NASA Science Technology

NASA Reconnects With 'Lost' STEREO-B Satellite (businessinsider.com) 107

NASA lost contact with its STEREO-B spacecraft twenty-two months ago during a routine 72-hour test. On Sunday, the spacecraft reconnected with NASA roughly 189 million miles away from Earth. While that would seem like a cause for celebration, "the very hard and scary work is just the beginning, says Stereo project scientist Joe Gurman, as the agency has to turn on the computer to learn more about the current state of the spacecraft -- a process that may make the craft lose contact with them again. Slashdot user bongey writes: NASA may have only two minutes or less to fix a STEREO-B satellite before the computer causes it to lose contact again. NASA lost contact with their STEREO-B satellite nearly twenty-two months ago when performing a routine test. NASA scientists are afraid to turn on the computer at this point because it may cause them to lose contact again. A more detailed technical summary can be found here. "We have something like two minutes between when STEREO-B receives the command to boot up one of its computers and when it starts doing what we don't want it to do," Gurman said. Business Insider writes, "Making matters worse, it takes about 20 seconds to send commands to the spacecraft -- a data rate that makes a dial-up modem seem lightning fast."
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NASA Reconnects With 'Lost' STEREO-B Satellite

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  • What a read. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @03:47AM (#52760757)

    This is the kind of stuff that is truly exciting to an engineer interested in space. A satellite in an uncontrolled spin due to a bad inertial unit, without enough power in its batteries to transmit at full power, a network of deep space communications satellites colliding signals to create constructive interference to boost communications, a plan to point several radio telescopes towards it in the hope to hear something, sweeping the sky with different frequencies and if all else fails point the Hubble at it.

    Combined with the short time window to make things work the only thing missing here is Matt Damon and you got yourself a summer blockbuster.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      A satellite in an uncontrolled spin due to a bad inertial unit, without enough power in its batteries to transmit at full power, a network of deep space communications satellites colliding signals to create constructive interference to boost communications, a plan to point several radio telescopes towards it in the hope to hear something, sweeping the sky with different frequencies and if all else fails point the Hubble at it.

      Still not as difficult of a process as preventing the Windows 10 upgrade from auto

    • by Arkh89 ( 2870391 )

      a network of deep space communications satellites colliding signals to create constructive interference to boost communications

      After reading the article, I don't think they were using spaceborne emitters to build the constructive interference around the satellite location, but only ground based stations.
      The amount of timing precision required to trigger long-distance emitters and get this coherence would have been amazing. Doing so on the ground is still great but nowhere as difficult.

      • You're right. Did a bit more reading beyond the initial scan of the article. I think the project title threw me :-) But their JPL site has some awesome pictures of ground based radio antennas.

    • Wouldn't Sandra Bullock make more sense for the specific environment? Though I have to say George Clooney was a far more likable character in that movie.

      • Sandra bullock saved herself with little to no help from NASA. It takes a Matt Damon to kick off a ground based attempt at rescue, and frankly we're much more like to spend money on him [etonline.com]

        Sandra Bullock would get killed by the next presidential funding cuts. Matt Damon is priceless.

        • That article was awesome. The Interstellar description needs some kind of damages line though...for all the damage he caused to the ship by being an idiot. :)

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @03:59AM (#52760789)

    NASA lost contact with their STEREO-B satellite nearly twenty-two months ago when performing a routine test. NASA scientists are afraid to turn on the computer at this point because it may cause them to lose contact again.

    What's the point of being able to talk to it if they can't turn it on and actually do stuff with it?
    If they thought they lost it 22 months ago, they have nothing further to lose if it goes away again now.

    • So that $50 you found down the back of the couch, you're going to give to me right? Since you already lost it anyway, you have nothing to lose...
      • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

        So that $50 you found down the back of the couch, you're going to give to me right? Since you already lost it anyway, you have nothing to lose...

        False comparison.
        This is like NASA found the $50 but is scared that if they leave the house to go shopping the money might fall out of their pocket and be gone again.
        If they don't leave the house they can't spend it -- so it's worthless, except to say "look, I have a $50 bill here at the house".
        If they leave the house, they might get $50 in goods -- or they might lose the money like they think. But they at least have a chance to use the money.

    • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @09:27AM (#52761681)

      What's the point of being able to talk to it if they can't turn it on and actually do stuff with it?

      Hmmm. Are you talking about the satellite at this point, or the inability for Slashdotters to seal the deal with women?

    • Re:Man up, NASA. (Score:5, Informative)

      by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @12:08PM (#52762565)

      NASA lost contact with their STEREO-B satellite nearly twenty-two months ago when performing a routine test. NASA scientists are afraid to turn on the computer at this point because it may cause them to lose contact again.

      What's the point of being able to talk to it if they can't turn it on and actually do stuff with it?
      If they thought they lost it 22 months ago, they have nothing further to lose if it goes away again now.

      Reading the article helps determine what the point is...

      Seems the point is that they want to try to see if there is something they can do to point the satellite at the Sun in the 1 to 2 minutes they think they might have before the startup of the computer drains the battery and they have to wait another 6 months until the battery randomly charges up as it gets sunlight on its solar panels at the wrong angles. The sensor that keeps the satellite pointed at the sun failed, but maybe they can keep it pointed at the sun by sending commands from Earth and then they can better assess the health of the systems with more time.

      Based on the article its seems they might have just enough time to give it some commands to point toward the sun and then hopefully the battery starts charging up again so they have more time to work with before it powers down.

      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        To be fair the article summary above makes it sound like a computer glitch, so if you just went with the slashdot summary and quote I can understand the confusion. From the article it indicated that there was a sensor malfunction (not necessarily a computer malfunction) which means it couldn't autonomously point itself at the sun anymore. Leading to the solar panels not getting enough direct sunlight and thus draining the battery. The computer startup just means it will then consume power more quickly th

        • so if you just went with the slashdot summary and quote

          Haven't people learned to not fucking well do that by now? I mean the site has been going for what - nearly 20 years. There are account holders out there who're legally able to buy booze - drugs in some countries - and who were born after the site was set up. And still there are people fucking stupid enough to only read half TFS and none of TFA.

          People wonder why many western nations have problems getting appropriate technical staff, and then they behav

        • Actually one of the first command sequences could be

          SET IMU_A_INPUT_MASK #IGNORE
          SET MAIN_CPU_STATUS #HALT // before the main cpu causes the shutdown timer to
          EXECUTE SYSTEM STATUS DUMP
          SET SYSTEM_MODE #STANDBY

    • What's the point of being able to talk to it if they can't turn it on and actually do stuff with it?

      What's the point of being able to boot your computer to Safemode? Think of this as the scenario they are in at the moment. Everytime they boot windows once the bootup process finishes some process starts and goes horribly wrong. They are currently in safe mode so they can do a bit of digging, and they know the computer is still working. They key now is to understand how to boot it up in a way that they regain control.

      If they thought they lost it 22 months ago, they have nothing further to lose if it goes away again now.

      That's not how scientific instruments work. They lose repeatedly for every moment that some

    • What is the point of making negative comments like this?!

      PLEASE at least TRY to understand something before you offer negative comments.
      Any possibility of recovering a valuable satellite is totally valid with me; and NASA too.

      Yet, to satisfy your ire, you can be sure there will no attempt to salvage you when you stop communicating. BTW: When can we expect that?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    With no javascript the page is black-on-black. Congrats for leading edge tech.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @04:47AM (#52760901)

    F2 F2 F2 F2 F2 F2 F2 F2 F2 F2 F2 F2

    Dammit!

  • When are they ever going to implement the AE-36 units??
  • by jittles ( 1613415 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2016 @10:19AM (#52761949)
    Why is this even on Slashdot? It sounds like it belongs on the Missed Connections page of Craigslist [craigslist.org] or something like that?
  • Can't they just switch it to "Stereo A"? I mean even my A/V receiver at home has that switch.

You should never bet against anything in science at odds of more than about 10^12 to 1. -- Ernest Rutherford

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