Crazy Cold War Space Projects Project West Ford

The year is 1961, and Project West Ford is under way. In the age before satellites and the internet, the options for communication was either coaxial copper cables or reflecting communications over the ionosphere. Therefore, during the Cold War, the US military was looking for reliable alternatives to copper cables. This was because copper cables can be cut by enemies who want to limit communications.

Therefore, after looking at their options, the US military decided that the best option was to launch copper cables into orbit. To implement this plan, the US military decides to work with the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

The idea was that one deployed, these copper cables would unfold, which would create a ring around the planet. These copper cables would facilitate travel of communications as they would create an artificial ionosphere.

The first launch came in 1963, which would deploy a plethora of tiny copper pins that would serve as a prototype for the communication. The project was named Project West Ford. The goal was to have future launches provide the permanent ionosphere. However, it wasn’t that easy because not every launch is successful plus there was outcry from the scientific industry. The first launch did not see the launch of the copper wires properly, but a later attempt was a success. The successful deployment did allow for a successful test of the system.

The scientists who were reviewing the effects of West Ford, determines that the project would have affected the study of astronomical phenomena and made the sky full of space junk.

With the rise of satellites and the feedback from the scientific community, the US military decided that Project West Ford was no longer feasible in 1963. This caused the project to be abandoned for satellites. Some of the copper needles did return to Earth, whereas other parts of the project did remain in orbit as space junk.

This is meant as an introduction and not an authoritative source. There are several great resources below that can be of assistance for further research and information.

Resources

Some great resources include:

https://www.wired.com/2013/08/project-west-ford/

https://www.damninteresting.com/earths-artificial-ring-project-west-ford/

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