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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 6 6 May 1970

Usaf Systems Brochure

Usaf Systems Brochure

The pamphlet which provided the basis for Salient's 1969 article—a USAF Systems Brochure—contains additional material which supports Wilkes' argument. The fifth siting criterion listed in "Section B—Camera Sites" on page 19 reads: "It must be possible to make long-term arrangements for the site with a high probability that the agreements will remain in force. Most desirable from this aspect would be a site on US controlled territory or, if this is not possible, on territory controlled by a friendly country which is politically stable." Into which category New Zealand falls is not clear.

The next point of interest concerns the official reasons for the pursuance of the satellite tracking programme. Captain Boucher, senior officer at Mount John, gave the following reasons to Canta:
"(a)Maintenance of a general catalogue of all objects in orbit, together with details of orbital speeds, distances, decay rates etc. This enables the presence of new satellites to be established, and ensures that manned space missions will be planned so that a collision with orbiting objects is impossible.
(b)Support of various science programmes, especially geodesy—the accurate measurement of the size, shape and gravitational field of the earth. (Note: this sort of information, besides having scientific value, is essential to the accurate calculation of guided missile trajectories.)
(c)Quality control—checking the accuracy of other instrumentation in space research programmes."

Close up of Canta magazine

The Station's mission, according to the systems brochure, however is defined as follows:
"(a)To provide observations on objects which, for reasons of insufficient radar cross-section, or too great a range, cannot be observed by the radar sensors.
b)To provide observations for the determination of highly accurate orbits on selected satellites for system calibration, evaluation, and quality control.
c)To provide highly accurate observations on selected satellites for special projects and for the scientific community." [Emphasis mine]

Part (c) would imply, then, that there are special projects which are not of a scientific nature.

In the USAF brochure it is further stated that an important part of the processing of information received from the Baker-Nunn Stations is precision reduction of the film received. Originally only one laboratory could handle such precise data—the photo reduction laboratory of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. (SAO). SAO is exclusively a scientific organisation which itself operates a world-wide network of twelve Baker-Nunn cameras.

According to the USAF brochure, the USAF established its own laboratory, ruling out the use of that operated by SAO on three grounds: "This source [SAO] is not capable of satisfying our urgent requirement for the following reasons:
1.The data would not be available in Colorado Springs within 24 hours after the observation was made. Typically delays would run into months.
2.SAO can handle only unclassified data.
3.The Sole Mission of that Facility is to Support Pure Science; Hence, it is not and Cannot be Responsive to Air Force Operational Needs."