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2May/060

Project West Ford

Back during the cold war era (but before the space race era) the United States was very concerned with maintaining long-distance communications. Before satellites most communications were sent over cables, which are reliable only as long as "hostile forces" don't sever them. Long-wave radio is also a valid means for communication, but it depends on the fickle ionosphere.

So the government's solution? Build a better ionosphere...

In May 1963 the US Air Force launched 480 million tiny copper needles that briefly created a ring encircling the entire globe. They called it Project West Ford.

The West Ford copper needles were each 1.8 cm long and 0.0018 cm in diameter and weighed only 40 micrograms. They were designed to be exactly half of the wavelength of 8000 MHz microwaves. This length would create strong reflections when the microwaves struck the copper needles, in effect making them tiny dipole anttennae each repeating in all directions the exact same signal they received.

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