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Satellite missing in space for 25 years finally found – but nobody knows where it went

Satellite missing in space for 25 years finally found – but nobody knows where it went...Continue The Full Reading.

A satellite missing for quarter of a century has finally been found but nobody knows where it went.

The Infra-Red Calibration Balloon was launched on April 10, 1974 and was set to provide the United States Air Force with essential calibration target data. But failures from the S73-7 meant it was left to drift away by the space force.

Effectively the satellite became space junk and disappeared from radars for 25 years, until it was rediscovered last month. Jonathan McDowell has since shared previous encounters with the once missing radar in the 1970s and 1990s.

Hexagon KH-9
Tracking the off planet satellites has proven difficult

Speaking to Space, astrophysicist McDowell of Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, said: “The problem is that it possibly has a very low radar cross section.

“And maybe the thing that they’re tracking is a dispenser or a piece of the balloon that didn’t deploy right, so it’s not metal and doesn’t show up well on radar. If you’ve got a recent orbital data set, and there’s not too many things that are similar orbit, it’s probably an easy match.”

But it becomes a less effective search when the parameters of space are weighed in, and the lack of sightings of the satellite over the course of the last four decades means matching it to activity out among the stars is tricky.

Satellite in space
The device has been found in space after being absent for 25 years

“But if it’s a very crowded bit of parameter space, and you haven’t seen it for a while, then it’s not so easy to match up,” McDowell added. “If you don’t know exactly where the manoeuvre was, you may have trouble locating it.

“If I rewind the orbit of an object and fast forward for the missing object, do they meet and is the point where they meet where the manoeuvre happened?”

He added: “If you have a set of recent orbital data and there aren’t a lot of things that have similar orbits, matching is probably easy.”...Continue The Full Reading.>’.

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