An attempt involving UKSEDS members to communicate with 40-year-old British satellite Prospero has been featured in a BBC News report. A team being led by former UKSEDS chair Roger Duthie is attempting to re-establish communications with the satellite.
Prospero was launched on 28th October 1971 by the Black Arrow rocket from the Woomera Test Range in Australia. It was the first satellite to be successfully launched by a British rocket and, so far, it remains the last. Britain’s rocket programme had already been cancelled but as the satellite and rocket were ready anyway one last launch was allowed to go ahead. Prospero went on to operate for 25 years, being shut down in 1996, and its radio transmissions could still be heard as late as 2006.
With the 40th anniversary of the launch coming up a team at University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory is attempting to resume contact, but first they had to completely re-engineer the ground station and find the technical reports containing the codes used to contact Prospero.
Roger was interviewed by podcasters Space Boffins, which you can hear by going to http://audioboo.fm/boos/431009-space-boffins-podcast2 (the Prospero feature commences at 16.44). The BBC report on the project is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14783135.