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On 22 September 1979 around 00:53 GMT, the Vela 6911 satellite detected the characteristic double flash of an atmospheric nuclear explosion apparently over the Indian Ocean or South Atlantic. The test location was later localized at 47 deg. S, 40 deg. E in the Indian Ocean, in the vicinity of South Africa's Prince Edward Island, by hydroacoustic data. Due to the position ambiguity of the initial detection (the Vela optical sensors were not imaging sensors and could did not detect location), the location is variously described as being in the Indian Ocean or South Atlantic. The characteristics of the light curve indicated that it was a low kiloton explosion (approximately 3 kt). The hydroacoustic signal indicated a low altitude explosion. A major and lingering controversy erupted over the interpretation of this apparent detection.
micrometeorite might have struck the satellite and dislodged a piece of it skin. Reflecting sunlight into the optical system of one sensor but not into that of its neighbor, the debris might have caused the questionable event
In conducting their readout the AFTAC technicians saw a double humped signal that corresponded to the double flash associated with a nuclear explosion. In the 41 previous occurrences when a Vela satellite detected such a double flash (including the 12 Vela 6911 detections), subsequent data confirmed that a nuclear detonation had actually occurred. The signal Vela 6911 had apparently detected came from a remote region of the world, for the territory in view of its bhangmeters encompassed 3,000 miles in diameter - the southern tip of Africa, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic, and a bit of Antarctica.
the signal "was probably not from a nuclear explosion. Although we cannot rule out that this signal was of nuclear origin".
South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad was quoted as confirming that the 22 September 1979 flash over the Indian Ocean was indeed from a South African nuclear test. The article said that Israel helped South Africa develop its bomb designs in return for 550 tons of raw uranium and other assistance.