NORAD tracks satellites for several very important reasons. From time to time an object might become temporarily mis-identified or otherwise confused with another object, these things usually get sorted out again.

But I'd like to know if there have ever been serious mix-ups on a large scale, or if NORAD has lost the tracking of a large number of objects? If so, what was the cause, and how long did it take to fix?

  • $\begingroup$ NORAD generally tracks orbit. Satellites have GPS and orbit propagation, which are accurate for days.. I doubt even if NORAD is shut down for few hour or days, it should not have significant impact. Or I am totally mis-interprating your question? $\endgroup$ – Prakhar Apr 11 '18 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ Complete loss is a loss by increased drag, from stable orbit to a reentry much earlier than expected? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Apr 11 '18 at 18:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This seems oddly specific, are you referring to something in particular? $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Apr 11 '18 at 20:43

Yes, during the geomagnetic storm of March 1989, NORAD lost track of thousands of objects:

During the great geomagnetic storm of 13-14 March 1989, tracking of thousands of space objects was lost and it took North American Defense Command (NORAD) many days to reacquire them in their new, lower, faster orbits. One LEO satellite lost over 30 kilometers of altitude, and hence significant lifetime, during this storm.

Editor's Note: The 30 km altitude loss seems to be a legend.



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