Zarya - Soviet, Russian and International Spaceflight
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The Kettering Group


Tyneside, UK
2017 Jul 26
Wednesday, Day 207

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Dick Flagg Responds.......

..... to the challenge "Satellite Tracking in the 21st Century is Pointless. Discuss - with particular emphasis on radio aspects."

Is Satellite Tracking in the 21st Century Pointless?

Perhaps it always has been pointless - but then so much of what we do is. However, I love to do it!

Why?

Part of it is the technical challenge - it beats the hell out of collecting inanimate things to put on a shelf to collect dust.

Part of it is the analytic challenge - putting together the puzzle for which we seldom have all the pieces or know the final shape, and then there is the great pleasure of working with good friends who are similarly disposed.

We may not be saving the world from communism or Bushism, but it's always great fun doing the calculations and waiting for that faint signal to confirm that we understand how the earth turns and know where our sometimes elusive targets lurk.

Perhaps it was more fun in earlier years - but most things were more fun then. When our calculators were often made from cardboard, and there was sometimes a late night, very brief, call from Kettering with a rapid string of numbers that set us into action.

When the skillful turning of a few knobs could link us to a great new adventure in the cosmos.

Today the numbers come not from a phone call, but from an emotionless internet link and more often than not the radio is a shiny cold little beast from Asia - with no warm glow of tubes. The airwaves are crowded with digital blatherings. The orbital track appears on a computer screen, often not relying on code we ourselves have crafted.

But the anticipation, the thrill of the chase, is still there, and when it is time to count the things that made it a good day - or night - satellite tracking, even in the 21st, comes quickly to mind.
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