ISSUE: “Zombie” Satellites

By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0  Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

Technology always has and continues to evolve.  As part of the modern age, we have been sending satellites up into orbit and beyond since the 1950’s.

Like most tech satellites, they have a limited life span.  Generally after a certain period of time their purpose becomes obsolete.   Others suffer technical issues and can no longer be used.

Many of these satellites fall back to Earth and burn up.   Others fall out of contact but are still in orbit.  If you know how, you can sometimes find these “zombie” satellites.  This is exactly something amature radio operators do.


The first U.S. satellite was Explorer 1 and launched in 1958.  This was also the first satellite to carry science instruments.  Since then there have been many additional launches.

One such satellite is known as LES-1 (Lincoln Experimental Satellite) launched on February 11, 1965. Communication was lost until 2013.  LES-1 was launched into space but missed its mark.  It only reached a lower orbit.  It was one of seven planned satellites in a series to prove the viability of satellites for military use.  Five others of the series made their orbits and the final one (LES-7) was never funded.

The story on the first satellite of this set is that after launch the batteries failed.  After years of failed charge cycles the batteries finally fused and created a direct connection from the solar panels to the radio transmitter.  Since 2013 when the satellite spins to a proper angle with the sun hitting the solar panels,  the transmitter will turn on and you can hear its “call” with the right radio equipment.

The satellite has a “ghostly” sound in it’s signal most likely due to a failure in the transmitter.  It spins around  about once every 4 seconds causing it to turn on and off – forever.

Listen for yourself!

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

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