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back to article NASA's ageing black hole-stalking probe switched off

Astronomers are marking the decommissioning of a satellite that has spent 16 years peering into black holes and neutron stars. NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) helped astronomers establish the existence of highly magnetised neutron stars and collected the first evidence of the spacetime-distorting frame-dragging effect …

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Pint

I'm getting married on the 26th July

Just thought I would let everyone know. No bearing on the article whatsoever... :)
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I take it we're all invited then! Venue details required..
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Silver badge

Pictures please ...

or we won't believe that it happened :-)
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Anonymous Coward

well...

I am getting married This year too... on the 12th December at mid day !!! and none of you are invited !!!
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Pint

open bar?

Playmobile reenactment of the honeymoon please....

Congrats on it though....take it we won't be seeing you on here much anymore though?

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Gold badge

I just wanted to ask:

WILL DEATH BE THERE?

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Coat

"No bearing on the article whatsoever..."

Does that include the bit about detecting emissions that only last microseconds?

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WTF?

Sad but wtf?

Its a sad day when such a successful piece of kit finally passes its use-by-date, but seriously it will re-enter the atmosphere sometime between 2013 and 2024!!! WTF??? In this day of space debris and responsible spacecraft management are they really saying they couldnt do something to send it towards a controlled re-entry. There wasnt a few ml of propellant left that could give it a shunt and get it out of the space lanes in a bit more timely a fashion... Poor form NASA...
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Mushroom

must be a typo

Probably means 2014. Also this is a wasted resource, we could be using this satellite as orbital bombardment in the next war.
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Anonymous Coward
It does not appear to be a typo, the NASA website agrees with 2014 to 2023: "The 7,000-pound satellite is expected to re-enter the atmosphere between 2014 and 2023, depending in large part on solar activity."
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FAIL
When it will re-enter depends on how much atmospheric drag it is subjected to, which depends on whether the Earth's atmosphere is expanded or contracted, which in turn depends on how stroppy the Sun is being. NASA can't guess the latter, hence who the re-entry date has such a wide range.
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Ru
Meh

Orbital mechanics are not your friend

If there was a way to bring it down quickly and safely with the tools they had to hand, I'm sure they would. In fact, the current timescale may reflect exactly that. Given that they have a vested interest in keeping levels of junk low, I somehow doubt they're just leaving crap around because they can't be bothered to press a few buttons. Changing orbits is non-trivial. Feel free to go find out how much energy is required; you can't just pull up and drop out of the sky on a whim, even in a relatively low orbit.
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Gold badge

This is quite an old bird, and back then people didn't add much consideration for decomissioning and de-orbiting. (The HUGE Envisat is the same). Newer birds are designed and operated differently, with active de-orbiting being used at the end of their lives.

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Boffin
"NASA boffins said that RXTE would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up somewhere “between 2014 and 2023" yes, but the big question is WHERE !!!! I mean, I wanna be in the area to grab me a bit as a souvenir (not to be sold of feepay)
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Boffin

The top of the atmosphere varies 10x at any one time.

and that is the biggest force on a satellite (below 1000Km) by a *large* margin. Given at least one NASA con-tractor (Raytheon?) is looking to de-orbit debris by puffing small bursts of gas in there path (so they plough into what is *relatively* a brick wall compared to the actual atmosphere at that height, and fall rapidly below orbital velocity while the cloud disperses) this variation is not that surprising. While daily and seasonal changes are *fairly* predictable there are solar flares which are not. That said it seems hard to believe that NASA did not leave *something* in the tanks to bring it down faster, or even solar panels pointing at right angles to the direction of flight in the atmosphere would have an effect.
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Pint

Getting married... isn't that the same as getting sucked into a black hole? So the comment and article would be related then.

Seriously, cheers!

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E 2

Not currently possible, but...

It would be pretty cool to bring the satellite down in one piece and put it on display in a museum. The space shuttle might have been capable of doing this.

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Black Helicopters

Nice try, NASA!!

But we all know this satellite is being decommissioned because it found out the truth about faked moon landings and how the government is behind socks getting lost in the dryer!!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to the bunker....

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Just wondering

Why they listened to it to make sure none of the systems hadn't reactivated?

Presumably all the expediture now is on earthbound activities, so wouldn;t stopping those save the money even if the probe was fully functioning.

Why even bother turning it off or am i being naive?

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Alien

Why they fear reactivation

Because if it reactivates, that means the space aliens turned it into a BOFH-style orbital Death Robot when no one was looking.

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Megaphone

"NASA boffins said that RXTE would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up somewhere “between 2014 and 2023" -- yeah, but does it contain 7.5 tons of highly toxic fuel? Can it fly backwards and totally ignore commands from Earth? Fat chance. There's only one Phobos-Grunt!

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Anonymous Coward

Time for new glasses

I read "peering into black holes" as "peeing into black holes".

I'll go now...

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Megaphone

Public letter:

Dear Friends.

No too big secret that NASA has gotten toughest question to fund future & current projects. I’d like to offer you game-changing strategy: One & First among the Key Factors is to become financially independent, space tourism has really great potential to be first having extra incomes, but common mistake of start-ups like SpaceX is the way to excite customers. Ticket to Space is too expensive even for far not poor personas, but fortunately this obstacle can be broken through with lottery schemes to sell tickets + that way makes possible to get many times more income to advance than Just to search wealthy ones.

Aforesaid text is only smallest part of the strategy to turn Space Industry from ugly duck to blossoming Swan.

My the best wishes.

P. S.

+ one wonderful & useful moment must be mentioned: the more NASA will be self-funded, the more money from government will be given to NASA.

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Linux

Here's a thought...

... if a science bird is still functional, stable and otherwise operational but no longer of use to the mainstream science establishment due to dwindling funds or what-have-you. Why not take a leaf out of the Open Source movement and turn over the control of the satellite to a volunteer body established to keep squeezing every ounce of useful data out of the thing, even though it operates with no budget, there are people out there (HAMs, etc) who have the equipment to communicate with the satellite, they are tasked to send commands and receive the science data, who pass it on to a boinc-like project to crunch the numbers using donated CPU cycles and send the results to the Boffins who are still researching the stuff the satellite is studying.

I suppose that way they can milk every last byte of data they possibly can from the millions or billions spent getting the thing built and up there.

*Tux: Natch

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Mushroom

It's probably to avoid someone trying to deorbit it right into the path of something else.

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Facepalm

It would be obvious that the commands to cause the satellite to adjust it's orbit wouldn't be given over to the public, and the people who would most likely take up the job of command and control of the satellite would be vetted by the relevant govt authorities to make sure they aren't just in it for the lulz, so to speak.

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Pint

Doesn't this particular satellite deserve a more spectacular end ?

«Re-enter[ing] the Earth's atmosphere and burn[ing] up» seems an all too low-key finalé for a satellite which has performed such service - the least one could ask is that it be sent to a better universe via a black hole (yes, I know that what is currently believed to be the nearest black hole, V4641 Sagitarii lies about 24K light years away, but noblesse oblige)....

Henri

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