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They have found a satellite that has been missing in space for more than 25 years

They have found a satellite that has been missing in space for more than 25 years

The S73-7 missile was launched in 1974 by the United States (Image illustration, Infobae)

after A quarter of a century wasted in the immensity of spacea Satellite Empiricism has been rediscovered. about him S73-7 Which was launched in 1974 by United State. This was a major advance in our understanding of wandering celestial bodies and space debris.

The satellite known asInfrared Calibration Balloon (S73-7)“, began his journey into the vacuum of space April 10, 1974. He did this within the framework of the Space Test Program of United States Air Force.

It was launched throughHexagonal system“, which allowed the deployment of the S73-7, Its width is 66 cmfrom a larger satellite known as Kh-9 pistol Once in space. The goal of S73-7 was to achieve a circular orbit at Its height is 800 km.

The original purpose of the S73-7 was to amplify and Serves as a calibration target For remote sensing equipment, a target that failed during deployment, resulting in the satellite being lost in the vastness of space and becoming part of the growing graveyard of space junk. However, it was It was rediscovered in April Thanks to tracking data from the 18th US Space Force Space Defense Squadron.

In an interview with Gizmodo, Jonathan McDowellAstrophysicist Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysicsrevealed the scan of the data files that showed The disappearance of the satellite radar on two previous occasions, One in the 1970s and one in the 1990s. McDowell explained:The problem is that it probably has a very low radar cross sectionThis makes it difficult to detect on radars.

The original purpose of the S73-7 was to blow and serve as a calibration target for remote sensing equipment (illustration)

“Maybe what they’re tracking is a diffuser or a piece of balloon that wasn’t deployed properly, for example.” What is non-metallic and does not show up well on radar“The astrophysicist added.

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Identifying and tracking more than 20,000 objects in orbit is a major challenge, because it requires Use of ground radars and optical sensors To detect space debris and include it in the satellite catalog. home work It gets even more complicated when it comes to recovering lost items.As in the case of the S73-7.

After take off, The engineering teams on the ground have a clear idea of ​​the destination The end of the satellite and the altitude it is expected to change at. Once this information is recorded, they are able to monitor its evolution and compare it to the last known position of the satellite.

however, Modifications in planned maneuvers or orbital deviations of the satellite mean additional effort By engineers to quote: “If you don’t know exactly where the maneuver was done, You may have trouble locating itMcDowell explained.

That’s why the rediscovery of S73-7 is an important milestone for those dedicated to tracking thousands of satellites and orbital debris. However, as McDowell explains, as the number of satellites launched into space increases, The task of observing and understanding the spatial environment is becoming increasingly complex.

Jonathan McDowell explained: “The problem is that the radar cross section is probably too low” (illustration)

“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,” McDowell explained about the process of identifying missing objects. And he added:If you lose one or two items, it’s not a big risk. But you want to do the best job you can.”

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This result highlights the importance of maintaining continuous monitoring of our space environment. But, at the same time, it is estimated that the matter will become more difficult due to the number of satellites that will be placed in orbit in the future. Finding S73-7 is a victory.