There are more than 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth. At the end of their useful lives, many will simply burn up as they reenter the atmosphere. But some will continue circling as “zombie” satellites — neither alive nor quite dead.
“Most zombie satellites are satellites that are no longer under human control, or have failed to some degree,” says Scott Tilley.
Tilley, an amateur radio operator living in Canada, has a passion for hunting them down.
In 2018, he found a signal from a NASA probe called IMAGE that the space agency had lost track of in 2005. With Tilley’s help, NASA was able to reestablish contact.
But he has tracked down zombies even older than IMAGE.
“The oldest one I’ve seen is Transit 5B-5. And it launched in 1965,” he says, referring to a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy navigation satellite that still circles the Earth in a polar orbit, long forgotten by all but a few amateurs interested in hearing it “sing” as it passes overhead.
Recently, Tilley got interested in a communications satellite he thought might still be alive — or at least among the living dead. LES-5, built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, was launched in 1967….READ MORE
Well folks, here’s what appears to be a new ZOMBIE SAT!
LES-5 [2866, 1967-066E] in a GEO graveyard orbit.
Confirmation will occur at ~0445 UTC this evening when the satellite should pass through eclipse.
If so this is definitely the oldest emitting GEOsat I know of. pic.twitter.com/QFSRb5bT1I
— Scott Tilley (@coastal8049) March 25, 2020
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