NASA Signs Agreement with Citizen Scientists Attempting to Communicate with Old Spacecraft


ISEE3-ICE, launched in 1978

Readers may recall The International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3) Reboot Project, Bringing an Old Bird Back to the Earth, and Back to Life. Congratulations to Dennis Wingo and the ISEE-3 team on successfully navigating the government bureaucracy, a far more difficult task than navigating an old satellite through space.

RELEASE: 14-144 NASA has given a green light to a group of citizen scientists attempting to breathe new scientific life into a more than 35-year old agency spacecraft.

The agency has signed a Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (NRSAA) with Skycorp, Inc., in Los Gatos, California, allowing the company to attempt to contact, and possibly command and control, NASA’s International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) spacecraft as part of the company’s ISEE-3 Reboot Project. This is the first time NASA has worked such an agreement for use of a spacecraft the agency is no longer using or ever planned to use again.

The NRSAA details the technical, safety, legal and proprietary issues that will be addressed before any attempts are made to communicate with or control the 1970’s-era spacecraft as it nears the Earth in August.

“The intrepid ISEE-3 spacecraft was sent away from its primary mission to study the physics of the solar wind extending its mission of discovery to study two comets.” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington. “We have a chance to engage a new generation of citizen scientists through this creative effort to recapture the ISEE-3 spacecraft as it zips by the Earth this summer.”

Launched in 1978 to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth, ISEE-3 successfully completed its prime mission in 1981. With remaining fuel and functioning instruments, it then was redirected to observe two comets. Following the completion of that mission, the spacecraft continued in orbit around the sun. It is now making its closest approach to Earth in more than 30 years.

The goal of the ISEE-3 Reboot Project is to put the spacecraft into an orbit at   a gravitationally stable point between Earth and the sun known as Lagrangian 1 (L1) Once safely back in orbit, the next step would be to return the spacecraft to operations and use its instruments as they were originally designed. ISEE-3’s close approach in the coming weeks provides optimal conditions to attempt communication. If communications are unsuccessful, the spacecraft will swing by the moon and continue to orbit the sun.

NASA has shared technical data these citizen scientists to help them communicate with and return data from ISEE-3. The contributions of any citizen science provided by the spacecraft, if it is successfully recovered, depend on the current condition of its instruments. New data resulting from the project will be shared with the science community and the public, providing a unique tool for teaching students and the public about spacecraft operations and data gathering. The data also will provide valuable information about the effects of the space environment on the 36-year old spacecraft.

The ISEE-3 mission opened new pathways for scientific exploration, helping scientists better understand the sun-Earth system, which at its most turbulent can affect satellites around Earth and disrupt our technological infrastructure.

To learn more about the ISEE-3 Reboot Project, visit:

To learn more about ISEE-3, visit:


19 thoughts on “NASA Signs Agreement with Citizen Scientists Attempting to Communicate with Old Spacecraft

  1. Even if this does not succeed, it still shows the collective power of citizen crowd sourced science on the margin. Kudos to all involved. If it does succeed, the IPCC and it’s ilk have no hope left at all, since sceptics collectively do not have to reactivate old satellites and redirect their orbits to show fundamental flaws in ‘consensus’ climate science. Nature is doing that quite nicely all by herself. We can help with a little PR nudge here and there…
    If you have not yet contributed, please do so. This is BIG.

  2. Any bet on when they find out its records contain proof the Earth was 3C cooler then fifteen years after its launch?? And CO2 had increased a billion times??? Curious minds want to know!

  3. I’m betting some of these chaps are HAMs. After all, it is a communications problem, and some of us Radio Amateurs have been playing “citizen scientists” for decades with their AMSAT satellites, and Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) and “meteor scatter” communication.

  4. Aah, Hobbyists. We’ve heard about those creatures from the eminent Aristotelian David Victor:

    There are three categories of Denialists: Shills, Skeptics, and Hobbyists.

  5. This project has nothing to do with climate change other than to possibly contribute to the science associated with the influence of the sun on the solar/terrestrial environment. What we hope to do is to reactivate the science instruments and have measurements of the environment of the Earth’s magnetosphere at the peak of solar cycle 24 that allow comparisons with the peak of solar cycle 21, when the spacecraft was first commissioned.
    Brains, yes KD4ETA….

  6. Dennis, I am most grateful for your information. This is worth doing for whatever information is obtained.

  7. There might be intrest for Nasa too, although an old design spacecraft but it may turn out to be reliable after such a long time.

  8. JJM
    This is what NASA is getting from the Space Act Agreement. If we are successful in turning the engineering telemetry on in the next few days (I am at the Arecibo telescope even as I write this to do just that), then we will be able to evaluate the health of a 36 year old spacecraft in interplanetary space. This will provide evidence that we can place into heliocentric orbits such long lived spacecraft that can monitor the solar terrestrial environment.
    That will be a good outcome in and of itself.

  9. This is really cool. I will be passing this on to my dad as he worked on a lot of spacecraft in the 60’s and 70’s.

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