The team technically had the capability to command the spacecraft last Friday (May 23), but under a Space Act Agreement with NASA had to have the agency's approval before making the move. That approval finally came through Thursday (May 29).
Cowing acknowledged waiting for approval took longer than he hoped, but said given it's the first time a private group wanted to do something like this, he could appreciate the agency's caution.
Luckily for the group, their preparation worked: first contact went off without a hitch, with the spacecraft responding to a tone exactly as expected. "I'm doing my happy dance," Cowing said.
Firing the Engines There are numerous technological hurdles to overcome before moving the spacecraft, which is moving towards Earth but in an orbit that is not suitable for repurposing ISEE-3. Redirecting it should "ideally" happen before mid-June before the fuel demands grow very high, Cowing said.
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The group plans to put the spacecraft in the Earth-sun Lagrange Point 1 (ES-1), a gravitationally stable spot about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth. Getting there won't be as simple as firing the engines, however; more preparation is needed.