NORAD is ready to track Santa's journey

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:46

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — NORAD officials will be busy on Christmas Eve tracking Santa as area children anxiously await his arrival. For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight. The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center opens tomorrow at 6 a.m. and closes 5 a.m. on Dec. 25 after officials are assured Santa has completed all his deliveries. The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD commander-in-chief’s operations “hotline.” The director of operations had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born. In 1958, the Canadian and U.S. governments created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa. Since that time, NORAD men, women, family and friends have volunteered their time to personally respond to phone calls and emails from children worldwide. In addition, NORADS now track Santa using the Internet via Officials also said media from all over the world “rely on NORAD as a trusted source to provide updates on Santa’s journey.” Four tracking methods To provide those updates, NORAD uses four high-tech systems to track Santa: Radar, satellites, “Santa Cams” and fighter jets. Tracking Santa starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This radar system consists of 47 installations strung across the northern border of North America. Tomorrow, NORAD will being monitoring the radar systems continuously for indications that Santa has left the North Pole. The moment that radar indicates Santa has lifted off, NORAD uses its second detection system. Satellites positioned in geo-synchronous orbit at 22,300 miles from the Earth’s surface are equipped with infrared sensors, which enable them to detect heat. Officials added Rudolph’s bright red nose gives off an infrared signature, which allows its satellites to detect him and Santa’s sleigh. The third tracking system is the “Santa Cam” network, which are high-tech, high-speed digital cameras pre-positioned at many locations around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year. The cameras capture images and videos of Santa and his reindeer as they make their journey worldwide. The fourth system is made up of fighter jets. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 intercept and welcome Santa to North America. In the U.S., according to officials, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15, F-16 or the F-22 “get the thrill of flying alongside Santa and his famous reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph.” Once data is collected on Dec. 24, it is then pushed into the Google Maps and Google Earth so that families all over the world can also follow Santa, according to officials. What is NORAD? The North American Aerospace Defense Command, headquartered in Colorado Springs, is the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada. NORAD, created by a 1958 agreement between Canada and the United States, provides advanced warning of impending missile and air attacks against its member nations, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America, and maintains airborne forces for defense against attack. NORAD now coordinates closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV CANADA, Canada’s equivalent to America’s FAA, to monitor the airspace within Canada and the United States. In addition, the command also conducts maritime monitoring. Find out more Online: To speak with a NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center representative to personally learn of Santa’s whereabouts, call 877-446-6723. Officials caution there may be a wait time due to expected high call volume. Area families can also e-mail to: for e-mail updates.