Optical and Radio Based Satellite Tracking

This week’s presentation by Scott Tilley VE7TIL is most interesting: His presentation, “Optical and Radio Based Satellite Tracking”, tracks the evolution of satellite tracking abd his search and discovery of a long-lost satellite. Scott Tilley, AScT is an Electrical Technologist by day and at night he exercises his technical skills by keeping tabs on Earth orbiting satellites. Using skills developed as an amateur radio operator (VE7TIL) and amateur astronomer he
hunts satellites that are in classified orbits along with a small international team of collaborators. They share techniques and observations to refine the details of those classified object’s trajectories into accurate orbital elements that are shared publicly. Scott is motived by the technical challenge of the pursuit and helping to ensure that the use of space continues to be peaceful and transparent by all nations capable of accessing it. Recent accomplishments include the recovery of NASA’s IMAGE mission and the stunning tracking and capture of the classified GSSAP 3 and 4 missions arriving in geostationary orbit.
Latest Updates from NASA on IMAGE Recovery IMAGE’s signal remains too weak to achieve frame lock, which is necessary to retrieve data from the spacecraft. But important steps have been taken this week to be prepared in case of re-established contact. Last week, the engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, successfully established network connections with both the antennas at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and at the agency’s White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico. These antennae are now prepared to both command and receive telemetry data from IMAGE, if the spacecraft is re-contacted.

These preparations are necessary for the team, led by former IMAGE mission director Richard Burley, to attempt to command IMAGE to switch from its current medium gain antennae to its omnidirectional antennae, which has a weaker signal but a wider footprint. The team hopes to be able to lock onto this broader signal, which would lay the groundwork for re-establishing contact, retrieving data and attempting to restore IMAGE to full working capacity.

By Miles Hatfield
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

As a follow up to Scott Tilley’s brilliant presentation on May 3, Scott sent us the following update:

“As predicted during the presentation, IMAGE came back to life on Tuesday
following the first eclipse it encountered since going silent. I happened to be
listening and let NASA know to start trying to communicate with it. NASA has
achieved limited contact with the spacecraft and things are moving forward!”