Re: Decay update - The Westford Needles

Dave Cappellucci (
Tue, 4 Jun 96 13:34 MDT

>On Mon, 3 Jun 1996, Alan Pickup wrote:
>> The Westford Needles debris #18978 = 63- 14 DR appears to have decayed
>> at about May 31.1, though tracking may have been lost a day before this.

Then, Larry Klaes wrote:

>Are you saying that there are needles from that 1963 experiment which are 
>still re-entering Earth's atmosphere?  Any idea on how many are still in 
>orbit?  If so, what are their decay dates?
>Does anyone have details on the Westford Needles project?  I know it
>had something to do with communicating during a nuclear war without the
>need of a vulnerable satellite.

The West Ford needles project, I believe, was an experiment to allow long 
distance communications by bouncing radio waves off of a band small wires 
(passive dipoles) cut to a specific length.  Two experiments were conducted, 
one in 1961 and another in 1963.  The 1961 experiment was not successful 
when the needles failed to sufficiently disperse.  The 1963 experiment was 
successful.  (This is from the Space Satellite Handbook by Anthony Curtis).

As far as I know, there are still objects being tracked from the 1963 
experiments.  To find out more, search for elsets with designator = 
1963-014xx where xx can be any two alpha characters.  I searched the most 
recent Satellite Situation Report that I could find and noticed that the 
latest piece identified is:
  20504 63-014FD WESTFORD NEEDLES      US    164.5  86.0  5465  1665   .14
This implies that not only are there pieces still in orbit, but that new 
pieces continue to be identified.  

That is the extent of my knowledge on this subject (and I have probably said 
more than I know ;-) ).

- Dave Cappellucci                -
- Acappella Publishing            -