When the proposals for satellites floated in the mid 1950s, the question of tracking them naturally arose. Three approaches were considered:
- Optical tracking
- Use of radar
- A scheme from the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) that measured angles using interferometry, based on work at the White Sands Missile Range.
The optical and radar approaches did not require a cooperative target, but had the major problem of acquisition, or finding the target in the first place, since they had very small fields of view. The NRL proposal needed a transmitter on the target, but could easily measure a target anywhere in a wide field of view. The NRL proposal was accepted and turned into the basis of the Minitrack stations.
From a NASA history document:
In early April 1955, Milton Rosen, John Mengel, and Roger Easton assembled informally at NRL and generated a document entitled, "Proposal for Minimum Trackable Satellite (Minitrack)." No date and no authors are listed on this key report; but, according to Rosen, it preceded only by a few days a more formal report with the title, "A Scientific Satellite Program," April 13, 1955, and written by the NRL Rocket Development Branch. Appendix B of this document was labeled, "The Minitrack System" and was nearly identical to its predecessor of a few days. The name "Minitrack" now appearing for the first time on paper, was coined by John Mengel.
Read more about this topic: Minitrack
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