Tuesday, June 3, 2008

UC Berkeley Satellite Shut Down

By Chris Thompson
Tue, Jun 3, 2008 at 8:30 AM

In 1998, UC Berkeley Physicist Mark Hurwitz had a grand idea: what if we could build satellites cheaper than anyone imagined? He sat down at the old drawing board and came up with a design for a satellite that could be made for a fraction of the usual cost, and floated the idea past NASA researchers. The spacemen bit, and the project was underway. But you know how these things go; on the eve of launch in the late 1990s, the feds declared that no government satellite could be launched on a rocket operated by a foreign power. That put the kibosh on Plan A, which was to piggy-back on a Russian booster rocket. Plan B, to hitch a ride on a global positioning satellite, also fell through. Finally, on January 12, 2003, the UC Berkeley Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer satellite caught a ride on a Delta rocket after the original satellite started acting a little hinky. And just like that, Hurwitz's no-frills orbital was ready to fulfill its mission: observing and measuring extreme ultraviolet radiation in gaseous material between stars. And it... well, never really found any. Turns out they may have got the theory about interstellar material wrong. Last month, NASA turned off the satellite. But you gotta admit, it was a heckuva ride.

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