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NORAD Tracks Santa!

Following an annual tradition begun in 1955, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is tracking Santa’s travels today and through the night. It began as follows:

The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

You may be wondering about the spectrum policy connection here. A key part of the software used for Santa tracking was from Analytic Graphics, Inc. (AGI), a spinoff of General Electric (Space Division). AGI’s original product is Satellite Tool Kit (STK), a software product that computes positions for both GSO and NGSO satellites vs. time and has an addon capability of computing all sorts of satellite coverage parameters. When Chmn. Powell started the Excellence in Engineering program at FCC and made increased funding available for engineering tools, I obtained approval to add STK with a multiple user license to the FCC internal user network which previously just had MS Office and WestLaw as the only common tools for the agency. (MATLAB was also added at that time.)

I proposed at that time that all NGSO applicants and licensees be required to submit orbit descriptions in STK format rather than the standard information required by 25.114(c)(6) that requires the geometry of the satellite orbits but not the precise timing with respect to the earth and other satellites. With this precise information it is then possible to analyze precisely sharing opportunities between satellite systems and between satellites and terrestrial systems. I suspect most satellite operators want to do this themselves and don’t want FCC or potential competitors doing it. Well, add that one to the list of unimplemented public spirited proposals.

Meanwhile, get in the holiday spirit and surf on over to NORAD Santa!

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