Caption: "SPACE BROWNIE - The most sensitive and precise satellite-tracking instrument in NORAD's satellite detection and tracking network is the Baker-Nunn camera, shown here. It can photograph light reflected from an object the size of a basketball out in space about 25,000 miles. This camera, at Cold Lake, Alberta, is operated by the Canadian Forces Air Defense Command. Others supplying data to the NORAD Space Defense Center in Colorado are operated by the U.S. Air Force and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. By identification and correlation of known star backgrounds in the Baker-Nunn photographs, a satellite's position can be determined with great precision."



Interestingly enough, Cold Lake is almost exactly the same latitude, and almost exactly 160° longitude, from Moscow. Anything in a 12 hour synchronous orbit would pass very close to this station every orbit.

There is some crazy hardware out there that can see space debris to about the size of your fist in LEO. The Haystack radars are listed as being able to track 1cm paint chips up to 600 miles up. Combined with what guys like Thierry Legault are able to do with 'amateur' gear I can imagine that we and everyone else has gear that can read the serial numbers off anything bigger than a breadbox in low orbit.

posted by kleinbl00: 131 days ago