Space Zombie Songs

    A black-black satellite is flying in a black-black space. From the black and black night hemisphere of the Earth send a black and black control signal. On the black-and-black wire from the black-black antenna, it gets into the black-black on-board computer, which replies: “Leave me

    alone !” The satellite, unlike a living creature, can first break and then turn on itself. And in more than sixty years of space exploration, several satellites have already been compared with zombies. Regardless of how you feel about Halloween (it is said that the battle of those celebrating and those not celebrating is on fire in social networks), the zombie satellites are, without any doubt, interesting.

    NOAA Collage

    Galaxy 15

    Galaxy 15 before launch, photo by Orbital Sciences

    In the cinema, zombies are usually dangerous to humans. The revived satellite usually returns to its tasks and continues to be useful, but in history there was a case when the apparatus that had partially failed, began to interfere. On April 5, 2010, the Galaxy 15 telecommunications satellite broke down in an unusual way - it stopped responding to commands from Earth, but its transponders remained on. Satellites must perform maneuvers in order to remain in their place in geostationary orbit, and without control of the Galaxy 15, it has left its station. The problem is that with transponders in operation, he received signals for other satellites and relayed them back to Earth at the same time as normal devices, creating interference. As in the real movie about zombies, healthy satellites began to scatter - in six months they completed 15 maneuvers. In early December, the Galaxy 15 passed SES-1, creating an interference that interrupted communication. Fortunately, without commands from the Earth, the “zombies” could not orient the solar panels correctly, and on December 23, the batteries finally sat down. Automatic reboot on-board computer, and, oh miracle, he earned normal. The satellite was transferred to the position 93W and returned to normal operation. Galaxy 15 is still working nowlocated at 133W and broadcasts to North America. The cause of the accident was called space weather - a solar storm caused an electrostatic discharge in the onboard control system. So the story of the Galaxy 15 corresponds to all the canons of a film about zombies - cosmic rays drive the satellite crazy, it becomes dangerous, healthy vehicles run, several months of horror and a happy ending at the end.


    IMAGE before launch, photo by NASA

    In early 2018, a zombie satellite was named IMAGE, aka MIDEX 1, launched in 2000. Five years later, he broke down and was safely forgotten. However, in January 2018, radio amateur Scott Tilley received the signal from the satellite, which he identified as IMAGE. NASA organized the whole operation, with the help of five antennas at different points on Earth confirming that the physical parameters of the signal coincide with IMAGE. It was impossible to quickly do something harder - the hardware and software that worked with the satellite were thrown out long ago. On January 30, NASA partially deciphered the telemetry and confirmed that it was for sure it - the satellite ID was the same. Further decoding revealed a curious thing - the set of equipment A spontaneously turned on, which was turned off in 2004 after the power distributor restarted. Then I had to switch to kit B, which failed a year later.

    Signal from IMAGE, illustration by Scott Tilley

    The period of appearance of the signal coincided with the last known period of rotation of the satellite, so that an obvious hypothesis arose - the axis of rotation of the apparatus ceased to be directed to Earth. NASA was not going to give up - through the 18-meter antennas in the direction of the satellite, they transmitted a powerful command to switch to an omnidirectional antenna, working regardless of the position of IMAGE. On May 9, the satellite started to send a strong signal again, but still from the same antenna of medium amplification - for some reason, the satellite did not take the command to switch antennas sent the month. Alas, the good news ended there - the signal began to jump in frequencies, and the satellite stopped responding to commands. At the end of the summer of 2018, the team working with IMAGE did not give up, but there is little hope of success. However, the satellite, having come to life after 13 years, can still give pleasant surprises.

    And many others

    The Chinese lunar rover Yuytu was called a zombie machine, after he, due to a mechanical accident, lost the ability to properly prepare for two weeks of sleep on a moonlit night, said goodbye to Earth and humanity, but the next morning he turned on again. As a result, the device, designed for three months, worked on the Moon for three years, even if it stood still (from 42 days).

    ISEE-3, NASA image

    A beautiful story happened to ISEE-3, launched in 1978 to observe the interaction of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetic field and became the first vehicle,
    passed through the tail of a comet. NASA ceased regular communication with the device in 1997. In 2014, a group of enthusiasts decided not only to establish communication, but also to begin actively managing the satellite. For digging in the archives of NASA, reverse engineering and hardware for communication collected by crowdfunding $ 159,502. The team was even able to unwind the unit to full rotation with the help of orientation engines. Telemetry reported that ISEE-3 still had fuel to change the speed at 150 m / s, and when the satellite was supposed to pass near the moon, they planned a maneuver to enter the halo-orbit. Alas, the main engine did not start - most likely the pressure of the pressurized gas disappeared. So ISEE-3 flew past the moon and, most likely, already completely lost in space - the exact parameters of its orbit could not be determined, and without them there are practically no chances to contact it.

    In 2002, the AO-7 satellite, launched in 1974 and broken in 1981, came to life. Over time, its batteries collapsed so much that in 2002 a short circuit disappeared, disabling the unit, and could be contacted again.

    Such stories raise the question of which of the oldest satellites still transmit at least something. The story of “Voyagers” is well known, with which the relationship has been maintained for more than forty years, but they cannot be called zombies - they have been actively working with them all this time. Perhaps the Pioneers -6, -7, and -8 are still alive — they were contacted in 2000, 1995, and 1996. But, most likely, the long-forgotten Transit-5B5 navigation satellite launched by the United States in December 1964 (which used to be the Pioneer-6) is leading. He went out of service only 19 days later, but he received radio telemetry in 2014, fifty years later. Even in spite of the fact that the signal is heard only on the illuminated side of the orbit and hardly contains something useful, as for me, this “song of the cosmic zombie” is a hymn to the engineering talent of humanity.

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