RE: Geo sat leading Intelsat 707=96107RE

From: Dave Waterman (
Date: Thu Mar 13 2008 - 14:42:13 UTC

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    I think the world distribution of satellite observers is due to
    As part of the International Geophysical Year 1957 to 1958 three World
    Data Centres (WDC) were set up to gather and distribute scientific data.
    WDC-A was in the USA.
    WDC-B was in the USSR.
    WDC-C was in distributed in various countries of Europe, and also Japan
    and Australia. The Radio and Space Research Station (RSRS) Data Centre
    (in England) was responsible for two disciplines: Ionosphere and rockets
    & satellites.
    Each of the WDCs organised satellite observing.
    In the USA this the Moonwatch organisation distibuted predictions and
    collected observations. In Britain this was initially done by (I think)
    the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), but by 1961 it was done by RRS,
    later renamed RSRS (Radio and Space Research Station). Both of these
    also distributed regular newsletters, with info on new launches, satellites
    observed, contributions by observers etc. I do not know what Moscow
    In the 1960s there were few computers, and they belonged to large
    Although it is possible to predict satellites without a computer (I did it
    sometimes) it is time-consuming.
    Therefore in practice in the 1960s almost all observers got predictions
    by post from one of the prediction centres. The majority of observers
    linked to the RSRS were in Britain, almost all the others were in Western
    Europe. The British Astronomical Association (BAA) had a satellite
    observing section: this existed largely to start people observing, and then
    pass them on the RSRS.
    In 1975 Moonwatch stopped.
    Around 1980 Personal Computers became available, so it was not difficult
    for observers to use orbit elements from newsletters (or other sources)
    to make their own predictions.
    In Britain RSRS was replaced by ESRU, then RGO, which sent out its last
    newsletter in 1990.
    So the high proportion of observers in the USA and UK is probably due
    to the original WDCs. In the USA when Moonwatch stopped, most observers
    had no easy way to get or make predictions, so I guess many found other
    But in UK by the time RGO stopped in 1990, most observers probably had a
    PC, and were capable of making predictions, using orbital elements by post
    from GSFC: so most of them probably continued observing.
    In the 1990s PCs could communicate via telephone, and in 1994 Seesat
    started. Now in the 2000s the activities of observers and analysts
    appear occasionally in mainstream news, and a quick Google on words
    such as 'satellite' 'observing' 'Molczan' would soon lead to Seesat
    Heavens-above and various personal satellite watching websites.
    Internet and email are just what satellite watching needed. I email
    my observations late in the evening, observers in USA+Canada will get them
    before they start observing. If I make a mistake in an observation I
    will be told about it within 24 hours, which greatly increases my chance
    of correcting it.
    The old observers like me will mostly disappear in the next 20 years, 
    but I am optimistic that the new generation (internet generation) of
    observers will take over.
    Mike Waterman
    41814 observations (mostly positional) UK/France/Germany since 1958 March 23
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