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Attempt to revive silent satellite planned
by Staff Writers
London (UPI) Sep 6, 2011

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

British scientists say they will try to revive a satellite launched almost 40 years ago that has been silent since 1996.

The Prospero spacecraft, launched Oct. 28, 1871, atop a Black Arrow rocket, was the first -- and last -- British satellite to be put into orbit by a British launch vehicle, the BBC reported Tuesday.

The British government had canceled the satellite/rocket project before its scheduled launch but the team responsible decided to proceed anyway and launched Prospero into orbit from a remote Australian launch site.

Intended to investigate the effects of space environment, the satellite operated until 1973 and was contacted annually until 1996. Researchers at University College say they want to re-establish communication in time for the satellite's 40th anniversary.

It won't be easy, since most of the information from the original operation has been lost.

"First, we have to re-engineer the ground segment from knowledge lost, then test the communications to see if it's still alive," Roger Duthie of the University's Mullard Space Science Laboratory said.

If the satellite is still alive, he said, some of its on-board experiments might even be working.

"It's an artifact of British engineering; we should find out how it's performing," Duthie said.

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