Re: Decay update - The Westford Needles

Alan Pickup (
Tue, 4 Jun 1996 20:45:05 +0100

In message <>,
Larry Klaes <> writes
>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.
>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?

There are many 63- 14 xx fragments still in orbit (many others have
decayed). DR was catalogued in 1988 and, like most (all?) the others,
has a small radar X-section - is it a single needle (unlikely, I would
have thought), a clump of needles, or something else entirely? I
wouldn't have noticed its impending decay were it not for NASA including
it in their 60d decay list, which I try to mirror with my SatEvo
analyses. I have no immediate plans to analyse all the others :)

>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 limited sources I have to hand don't help me much, though one of
them leads me to think we should be calling them the West Ford Needles.
I believe they were intended to relay communications by acting as
passive dipole antennas. I do recall a (fully justified) outcry at the
time concerning the pollution they would cause in orbit.

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