Hacking a Space Probe For Science! The @ISEE3Reboot Project

This is the fourth article in my series on Space Security.

Today NASA announced that it signed an agreement which will legally allow the ISEE-3 Reboot Project to contact, and literally "hack" the ISEE-3/ICE probe in order to redirect it into a new orbit for future scientific studies.

ISEE-3 was originally launched in 1978 to study space weather.

In 1982, it was redirected to a new orbit, and was used to study several comets, including Halley's Comet.

The probe was supposed to be powered down in the late 1990's, but in 2008 it was discovered that the probe was still functional, and would most likely still work on its return orbit to Earth, 31 years after it departed from its original orbit.

However, there was a problem; NASA no longer has the equipment needed to communicate with the probe. In fact, the hardware no longer exists.

As a result, a small group of engineers put together a crowdfunding campaign to redirect the probe into a stable orbit under the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, and resume its original mission of studying space weather.

So far, one of the biggest challenges faced by the project is that the team must take the entire set of commands understood by the probe (which were originally generated by hardware), and recreate them using software defined radio.

In order to take over this probe, the team is relying on documentation provided by former engineers of the ISEE-3 project, and hopefully documentation which can be acquired through the Space Act Agreement which NASA signed today.

For those interested, here is a publicly released document with the technical details of the ISEE-3 probe, including communications frequencies.  However, unless you have an antenna the size of the Arecibo Observatory, don't expect to be able to take over this probe yourself.  In other words, don't try this at home kids.

ISSE-3/ICE Telecommunications Summary

Also, the team has put together a YouTube video for your viewing pleasure.

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