You Have About Four Months To Find A Lost Satellite

In the annals of technical achievements originating in the United Kingdom, there is a forgotten success story that should have led to bigger things, but instead turned into a dead end before it happened. We mean, of course Prospero, a British satellite that has the honor of being the only one launched aboard a UK-developed satellite launch platform. On October 28, 1971, it was launched aboard a Black Arrow rocket from the Woomera launch site in Australia and successfully entered orbit to complete its mission. When it was launched, the Black Arrow program had already been canceled by the British government, and the launch continued only because the rocket and satellite were already on the site.

A never-flying Black Arrow rocket and the Prospero Flight Reserve at the Science Museum in London.
A never-flying Black Arrow rocket and the Prospero Flight Reserve at the Science Museum in London.

So the British became the sixth country to develop the ability to launch a satellite, and immediately preserved it. However, Prospero was successful and remained in orbit, and even became active periodically until the 1990s. As its fiftieth anniversary approaches in October, we think it is worth looking for to mark the occasion, and we would like to remind you of its existence and the forthcoming anniversary. If any community can find a lost satellite, listen to its call, if it’s still transmitting something, and maybe even wake it up, it’s you. Hackaday readers never cease to amaze us with their talents and we know that there will be people among you with what it takes to find Prospero.

To help you along the way, there is a lot of information about the satellite that can be found online, including details of a failed attempt to contact him a decade ago for the anniversary in 2011 and real-time tracker to help you find his position. Some of you may have a decent enough telescope to take a picture of it when it passes, but if a radio signal can be extracted from it, that would be particularly impressive. Be careful though, you may find that you are hearing Orbcomm satellite of the same frequency.

So, if any of you want to light up your SDRs and point an antenna at the sky for the next few months, we’d love to hear about your progress. The craft may be unlivable, but if something can be found, it’s worth a try.

This is not the first satellite rescue attempt documented here in Hakadei. A few years ago we call the call to rescue ICE / ISEE-3.