Best Tech Stories around the web #389



Lost satellite found after orbiting undetected for 25 years by

After 25 years of vanishing from radar, an experimental satellite, the Infra-Red Calibration Balloon (S73-7), launched in 1974, has been rediscovered using U.S. Space Force tracking data. This satellite, part of the "Hexagon System," was deployed from the larger KH-9 Hexagon satellite and was designed to inflate in space and serve as a calibration target for remote sensing equipment. Unfortunately, the deployment failed, and S73-7 slipped into oblivion, joining the vast graveyard of space debris.

Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, explained in an interview with Gizmodo that S73-7 was particularly hard to detect due to its low radar cross-s. This suggests that what they found might only be a piece of the balloon or its dispenser rather than the satellite itself. This complicates the task of tracking, as over 20,000 objects are currently in orbit, and matching each to known satellites is a challenging and intricate process.

The rediscovery highlights the broader issue of space junk and the challenges space agencies face in monitoring and cataloging these objects. As more missions are launched, the density of debris in space increases, making precise and reliable tracking systems essential to managing potential collisions and maintaining the safety of space operations.

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