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Mar 26, 2014, 06:24 PM
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How to lose a 777


So the human race lost a 777 & couldn't find it again. It's not the 1st time a plane disappeared over the ocean, never to be found again, but it is the largest.

It took 75 years for humans to find the Titanic. They had much better knowledge of its location. It was just a matter of towing a sonar scanner in a small area until someone found it. It took a military budget, of course. There was so much defense spending in the 1980's that massive amounts of money were going into sonar technology & a mission to find a sunken submarine could afford to take a detour & hunt for Titanic. That would be unaffordable today.

The problem is satellites capable of high resolution imaging still can only fly in low Earth orbit. They can get only 1 photo of a single point per day, only when the weather is good. They can't afford synthetic aperture radar to penetrate clouds.

Finding the debris field of a 777 would take a geostationary satellite capable of 1 meter resolution of the entire planet, several times per hour. The largest object humans can put in geostationary orbit is 28,000lbs. We can't build a bigger rocket. Hubble weighs 24,000lbs & can only get the required resolution from low earth orbit.

The required satellite would probably weigh over 100,000lbs. The rocket would have to be 360ft tall & put out 7 million lbs of thrust. The human race could never afford it.

Malaysia put an enormous amount of effort into burying the crash as fast as possible. It was a matter of national pride & money that their airline was absolved of all responsibility.

China did everything it could to vindicate its technological achievements. They dug up as many useless satellite photos as they could find, claiming they were all the 1st to solve the case.

US sent a ship, but didn't do anything.

Any idea of a terrorist attack would devastate the airline industry & Malaysia's national pride, so no expense was spared in eliminating that idea from the news.

The only real lead was from a European satellite operator. Inmarsat 3 F1 was launched in 1996 on an Atlas II. It was built by Lockheed with a life expectancy of 13 years. Inmarsat is obviously paid by the airlines to handle their telemetry needs.


After the terrorist disabled the transponder & the ACARS messages, he still forgot 1 piece of equipment. There was a lower level ping being emitted by the hardware that the ACARS messages were transmitted on.

The satellite recorded the exact carrier frequency of the pings. Despite being in geostationary orbit, there still was a very slight movement relative to the ground. The doppler shift was just enough to give the direction of the pings.

It took a lot of foresight for someone to design a system that relies on routine pings from the aircraft & to have it record the exact carrier frequency of the pings. The terrorist did an awful lot of Google searches to disable every possible system that could give his location, but anyone dumb enough to think they can get away with hijacking a plane will always be dumb enough to forget something.
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