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Project West Ford


Project West Ford

Needles from the West Ford project compared to a stamp.

Project West Ford (also known as Westford Needles and Project Needles) was a test carried out by [1] This was done to solve a major weakness that had been identified in US military communications.[2]


  • History 1
  • Status 2
  • Launches 3
  • References 4


At the height of the [1]

A failed first attempt launched on October 21, 1961;[5] the needles failed to disperse. The project was eventually successful with the May 9, 1963[5] launch, with radio transmissions carried by the man-made ring. However, the technology was ultimately shelved, partially due to the development of the modern [1][7] Fifty years later in 2013, some of the dipoles that did not deploy correctly still remain in clumps which make up a small amount of the orbital debris tracked by NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office.[12][13]


As of 2013, 46 clumps of needles are still in orbit,[13] and occasionally re-enter.[1][14]


Satellite Date Launch site Launch Vehicle Launched in conjunction with
Westford 1 21-10-1961 Va LC-1-2 Atlas-LV3 Agena-B MiDAS 4
Westford-Drag 09-04-1962 Va LC-1-2 Atlas-LV3 Agena-B MiDAS 5
Westford 2 09-05-1963 Va LC-1-2 Atlas-LV3 Agena-B MiDAS 6, Dash 1, TRS 5, TRS 6


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hanson, Joe (13 August 2013). "The Forgotten Cold War Plan That Put a Ring of Copper Around the Earth". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Kendall, Anthony (May 2, 2006), Earth's Artificial Ring: Project West Ford,, retrieved 2006-10-16 
  3. ^ Shapiro, I. I.; Jones, H. M.; Perkins, C.W. (May 1964), "Orbital properties of the West Ford dipole belt", Proceedings of the IEEE 52 (5): 469–518,   (Abstract)
  4. ^ Lovell, A. C. B.; Blackwell, M. Ryle; D. E.; Wilson, R. (June 1962), "West Ford Project, Interference to Astronomy from Belts of Orbiting Dipoles (Erans)", Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 3: 100,  
  5. ^ a b c Wiedemann, C.; Bendisch, J.; Krag, H.; Wegener, P.; Rex, D. (March 19–21, 2001), written at Darmstadt, Germany, Sawaya-Lacoste, Huguette, ed., "Modeling of copper needle clusters from the West Ford Dipole experiments", Proceedings of the Third European Conference on Space Debris (Noordwijk, Netherlands: ESA Publications Division, published October 2001) 1: 315–320,  
  6. ^ "Position Paper on Space Debris Mitigation - Implementing Zero Debris Creation Zones" (PDF), International Academy of Astronautics (Final Issue Approved for Publication ed.) (Paris, France:  
  7. ^ a b Terrill Jr., Delbert R. (May 1999), "The Air Force Role in Developing International Outer Space Law" (PDF), Air Force History and Museums Program (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press): 63 
  8. ^ Butrica, Andrew J. (ed.), "Beyond the Ionosphere: The Development of Satellite Communications",, The NASA History Series (NASA) 
  9. ^ Bondi, H. (June 1962), "West Ford Project, Introductory Note by the Secretary", Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 3: 99,  
  10. ^ "Protests Continue Abroad", The New York Times (London: Reuters, published October 23, 1961), October 22, 1961: 12,  
  11. ^ Teltsch, Kathleen (June 15, 1963), "6 Soviet Space Failures Believed To Have Been Probes of Planets",  
  12. ^ Cooney, Michael (2013-10-29), "NASA: On millions of teeny-tiny copper hairs and orbital debris", Network World, retrieved 2013-10-31 
  13. ^ a b "West Ford Needles: Where are They Now?" (PDF), Orbital Debris Quarterly News (NASA Orbital Debris Program Office) 17 (4), October 2013: 3–4, retrieved 2013-10-31 
  14. ^ Barhorst, L.J.C., ed. (January 20, 2008), written at Medemblik, The Netherlands, RAE Table of Earth Satellites, Farnborough, England: Royal Aerospace Establishment / Defence Research Agency, p. 34, 148 pieces, 94 have decayed 
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