NORTH POLE, Alaska — Where is Santa? On December 24, a special team at NORAD will track the man in red on his around-the-world flight.
How does NORAD track Santa?
According to NORAD, it all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada's North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment our radar tells them that Santa has lifted off, they begin to use the same satellites used in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America.
These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that's a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced - enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph's nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph's bright red nose with no problem.
The last system is the NORAD jet fighter. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland and welcome Santa to North America. Then, at numerous locations in Canada, other CF-18 fighter pilots escort Santa. While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter (Santa actually slows down for us to escort him), all of these systems together provide NORAD with a very good continuous picture of his whereabouts.
Twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year, NORAD tracks airplanes, missiles, space launches and anything else that flies in or around the North American continent, while also completing some other very important missions. While the tradition of tracking Santa began purely by accident, NORAD continues to track Santa. They're the only organization that has the technology, the qualifications, and the people to do it. And they love it! NORAD says it is honored to be Santa's official tracker!
NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), began tracking Santa in 1955. NORAD replaced CONAD in 1958 and took over the mission of tracking Santa's flight around the world, and they have been tracking Santa every year since!
What does the Santa Tracking Center look like?
NORAD Santa Tracking Center
NORAD shared tech specs on Santa's sleigh:
- Designer & Builder: K. Kringle & Elves, Inc.
- Probable First Flight: Dec. 24, 343 A.D.
- Home Base: North Pole
- Length: 75 cc (candy canes) / 150 lp (lollipops)
- Width: 40 cc//80 lp
- Height: 55 cc / 110 lp
Note: Length, width, and height are without reindeer
- Weight at takeoff: 75,000 gd (gumdrops)
- Passenger weight at takeoff: Santa Claus 260 pounds
- Weight of gifts at takeoff: 60,000 tons
- Weight at landing: 80,000 gd (ice & snow accumulation)
- Passenger weight at landing: 1,260 pounds
- Propulsion: Nine (9) rp (reindeer power)
- Armament: Antlers (purely defensive)
- Fuel: Hay, oats, and carrots (for reindeer)
- Emissions Classified Climbing speed: One "T" (Twinkle of an eye)
- Max speed: Faster than starlight
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