‘Lost satellite’ found (again) after orbiting Earth for 25 years

The Infra-Red Calibration Balloon (S73-7) satellite was launched on April 10, 1974, through the United States Air Force's Space Test Program.

An experimental satellite that drifted undetected in space for 25 years has been found using tracking data from the U.S. Space Force, Space.com is reporting.

The Infra-Red Calibration Balloon (S73-7) satellite was launched on April 10, 1974, through the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program.

The S73-7 was supposed to separate from a satellite, inflate and become a target for remote sensing equipment. However, the deployment failed and the satellite began drifting.

S73-7 was lost to observers on the ground until it was spotted in the early 1990s. The satellite was somehow lost again until April, when the US Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron rediscovered the experimental device.

How was it found?

According to Popular Science, it’s unclear what information the Space Force used to find and identify S73-7. The process of identifying material in space can be a long one, involving estimating where an object is supposed to be in orbit and then identifying it.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, congratulated the Space Force analyst who found the satellite.

In an interview with Gizmodo, McDowell said he had studied the data archives and discovered that before the recent finding, the satellite had gone off the grid from radar not once, but twice.

“The problem is that it possibly has a very low radar cross section,” McDowell told Gizmodo in a phone interview. “And maybe the thing that they’re tracking is a dispenser or a piece of the balloon that didn’t deploy right, so it’s not metal and doesn’t show up well on radar.”

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