Zarya - Soviet, Russian and International Spaceflight
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The Kettering Group


Tyneside, UK
2017 Mar 29
Wednesday, Day 88

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Sven Grahn Responds.......

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

On Pointlessness......

The opposite of pointless is useful, I suppose. What human activities are useful? Those which bring monetary profit? Those which give us or our fellow humans food and shelter? Those which provide new knowledge? Those which provide entertainment? Any of those, I suppose.

How could amateur satellite tracking be useful? It does not bring profit, food or shelter. But it provides new knowledge in the form of a better understandng of what goes on in sace. For anyone who has a keen interest in space activities as an important human enterprise satellite tracking offers an inside view than can reveal capabilities and intentions - potentially useful information. During the first thirty years of the space age the Soviet Union and its intentions in space were a great riddle where radio tracking gave some degree of insight. The Soviet Union is gone, but the intentions of space-faring nations and organisations are still not very clear - for example US military space missions, Chinese plans and those of Iran, N Korea and even Russia. There is still much to find out.

Is it entertaining? For those who do it it means applying principles of physics and engineering to a technically challenging enterprise. It is an activity of technical intelligence-gathering which is irresistible. Finding out what is hidden has universal appeal. Doing so as a team effort also adds an element of friendly cooperative competition - if such a term exists.

On the question of radio vs optical tracking: Sweden is a country where darkness brings two unfortunate choices - bitter cold or mosquitoes. Therefore I prefer radio tracking - it can be carried out in the warm, cosy atmosphere of the home. If I have to stumble out of bed at a ghastly hour it means I do not have to venture outside the house....

Pulling interesting information out of noise...how much more fun can life get?
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