The strange tale of the Black Knight Satellite - UFO? - Mystery Files
These days we are quite used to the concept of artificial satellites. On a clear night you can look into the skies and see dozens of these technological marvels passing overhead. They connect our phone calls, beam down our TV channels and make our GPS receivers work. However, there was a time when satellites were not so ubiquitous - in fact they were rare - very rare.
The first ever artificial satellite was of course the famous Russian Sputnik . it was launched into low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on the 4th of October 1957. Not to be outdone, the USA launched it's own artificial satellite, "Explorer 1" shortly afterwards on January 31st 1958.
These were Man's tentative first steps into space. By today's standards these satellites were tiny, light weight and of limited functionality - but at least they were there.
The Black Knight
Fast-forward two years to the year of 1960. Satellites were still far from routine, but they had shown the military the potential of space-born attack by their enemies, and so the superpowers were now not only monitoring their air-space, but also the space above.
In February of that year, one of the listening stations that made up the North American Air Defence System, detected a radar echo. It was a detection that sent them, and the entire US Military into a blind panic.
They had detected a UFO in orbit around the Earth - an unknown satellite. None of their intelligence sources had any inkling that the Soviets could have launched a new satellite undetected. As the data came in, more startling facts were revealed - The UFO satellite was in a polar orbit - This was something that the USA had not yet been able to achieve. The size of the satellite was estimated to be in excess of fifteen tons - Massive by the standards of the day. The USA simply had no way of lifting something that heavy into space. The capability of lifting such payloads - or indeed achieving a polar orbit was estimated to still be several years away.
It was not, however, a Soviet satellite. In fact, they too had detected the UFO satellite, and they too were also in a blind panic. Like their American counterparts, they were still years away from performing such feats.
The Americans dubbed the UFO satellite "The Black Knight" after the British rocketry programme of the day, (although the Americans knew there was no way that the British could have launched such a beast). No one knew where it had come from, but one thing could not be denied - it was a UFO, and it was there.
The UFO was broadcasting signals and was being monitored not only by the USA and Soviet Union, but also by other countries such as Sweden and a host of Ham Radio enthusiasts.
One such Ham Radio operator decoded a series of signals received from the UFO Satellite and declared it to be a star-chart centered on the Epsilon Bootes Star System - But as it would have appeared from the Earth 13,000 years ago!
Another strange connection with the satellite concerned the phenomenon of Long Delay Echo (LDE). This is the effect whereby Radio or Television signals propagate into space and sometimes "bounce back" seconds or minutes later just like an echo. What causes this phenomenon, no one is quite sure.
However, some thirty years earlier in 1927, strange coded signals were received from space - (assumed to be an LDE) but could not be deciphered. The signals were however, documented and during the 1970s Scottish Astronomer Duncan Lunan decided to take another look at the signals and managed to decode them. They were, he said, a Star Chart of the Epsilon Bootes Star System.
UFO - Caught on Camera
The UFO Satellite was actually photographed on September 3rd 1960, seven months after it first appeared on radar, by a tracking camera at the Grumman's Aircraft Factory on Long Island. It could sometimes be seen from the ground as a red glowing object moving in an east-west orbit at a time when most satellites moved West-east.
A committee was convened to examine the UFO Satellite phenomenon, but this just quietly slipped away from the public view.
Three years later American Astronaut Gordon Cooper was launched into space on a twenty-two orbit mission. During his final orbit, Cooper reported a UFO - he could see a glowing green object ahead of him in space which appeared to be closing in on his capsule. Cooper was reporting to the Muchea tracking station in Australia, who were able to detect the UFO on radar and confirmed that it was travelling in an East-West orbit.
The American News giant NBC got hold of the story, but were forbidden to ask Cooper about the UFO on his landing. As pressure built up from questioners as to what actually happened up there, an "Official" explanation was issued - Astronaut Gordon Cooper, they said had hallucinated due to high levels of carbon dioxide in the space capsule...
The Mystery of the UFO Satellite remains
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