Amateur satellite spotters can track everything government spymasters blast into orbit. Except the stealth bird codenamed Misty.
- Orbital Elements
- Space-Track.org is the primary distributor of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) 2-line orbital elements and related data, replacing NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Orbital Information Group (OIG), which permanently ceased operations on 2005 Mar 31.
- T.S. Kelso provides orbital elements and related software via his CelesTrak website.
- NASA’s Human Space Flight website provides predicted ISS and Shuttle elements, which take into account planned orbit manoeuvres.
- AMSAT’s WWW server provides elements of satellites of interest primarily to radio amateurs.
- On-line Predictions
- Heavens-Above, in Munich, Germany provides prediction services for bright satellites, including the ISS, the shuttle, and Iridium satellites. You can either input your own coordinates, use a nearby city or determine your coordinates using their data base. Further information for beginning observers can be found here
- If your web-browser has Java capabilities, you can now observe over 500 satellites in real time in 3-D by going to Marshall Flight Center’s Lift-Off 3-D JTrack .
- You can also find predicted sky-tracks for the ISS, shuttle (when it’s up) and some other bright satellites at Marshall Flight Center’s Lift-Off J-Track 2.5.
- NASA’s Office of Spaceflight is providing ISS viewing predictions for over 1000 locations worldwide.
- Satellite Observing
- Useful information (98k) for beginning observers, Introduction to Visual Satellite Observing.
- Ed Cannon provides many links to various satellite observing resources.
- Clear Sky Clock will predict cloud coverage in Canada and the US for the next 48 hours. Helpful in forecasting future observing conditions.
“The United States has invested $200 billion over the past four decades developing and operating its supersecret spy satellite programs. …The NRO is now so beset by problems that there is no guarantee America will be able to maintain its huge advantage in space. Failed management, bungled technical assessments, and repeated engineering and testing failures have plagued the NRO for years. Boeing’s troubled $25 billion Future Imagery Architecture program–the NRO’s next-generation satellite system – still isn’t off the ground”.
We weren’t completely shocked to hear that Boeing is seeking about $500 million from the National Reconnaissance Office in termination fees associated with the Future Imagery Architecture spy satellite program. The NRO cancelled the optical portion of Boeing’s multi-billion dollar FIA contract last year after becoming fed up with the company’s technical struggles and that lead to innumerable delays and soaring costs.