When he’s not on his ham radio rig, Scott Tilley, VE7TIL, an amateur astronomer, hunts spy and secret / undisclosed satellites. Using an S-band radio from his rig in Roberts Creek, British Columbia, Tilley scans the skies for radio signals from classified objects orbiting Earth. Tilley has located dozens of secret / unlisted / spy satellites. Recently, he was hunting for ZUMA — an undisclosed US government satellite lost in a January 8 launch mishap that is when he saw the signature of IMAGE (Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration), a NASA spacecraft believed to have died in December 2005.

After seeing the radio signature, Scott Tilley used a program called STRF to identify the spacecraft. STRF deduces orbital elements from the Doppler shifts of their radio signals, and it immediately matched signal that of IMAGE.

“The long gone and nearly forgotten IMAGE spacecraft has come back to life and been detected by an amateur astronomer,” (without giving credit to Tilley by name. DUH) said Mission Manager Richard J. Burley at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight (GSFC), which confirmed that what Tilley spotted is, indeed, IMAGE.

NASA said that observations from five sites were consistent with the RF characteristics expected of IMAGE. “Specifically, the radio frequency showed a spike at the expected center frequency, as well as side bands where they should be for IMAGE,” NASA said. “Oscillation of the signal was also consistent with the last known spin rate for IMAGE.”

NASA is going to attempt to capture and analyze data from the signal. The type of hardware and operating systems used in the IMAGE Mission Operations Center no longer exist ! Other systems are much updated and their processing is currently unable to process signals NASA is going to attempt to decode. If decoding succeeds, NASA will try to turn on the science payload on board IMAGE.

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