Why Space Matters: Malaysian Malaise Mit Man-Made Moons

The Epoch Times posted this article explaining a bit more about the limitations of satellites in finding Malaysian Airlines MH370.  This finding in spite of DigitalGlobe’s initiative with Tomnod to get many eyes looking for something unusual in the search areas.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about the odds and limitations of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous (GEO) imagery satellites viewing the actual flight of the airplane in their Field of View.  But now there are satellites looking for the sad traces of the airplane.  This time, at least according to the Epoch Times post, the limitations are training and imagery resolution.  The training is in regard to imagery analysts, who can find differences in pictures that perhaps Tomnod volunteers miss.  Imagery analysts have the training and experience to do that.

The resolution issue comes from the fact that most commercial imagery satellites are allowed to release imagery in resolutions of a half a meter or more, even if the satellites’ payloads are more capable (like DigitalGlobe 3, with a 31 centimeter resolution).  So even with all those eager Tomnod volunteers, the search for MH370 debris is being hobbled through federal government regulations that won’t allow them to see the “good stuff.”  Using higher resolution imagery is no guarantee for finding the airplane’s pieces, but it couldn’t hurt.  Of course, maybe it’s moot, and there’s just not much to find.

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