posted on May, 12 2010 @ 05:51 PM
Back in 1991, we were getting ready for a launch attempt, I think it was STS-43. One of our jobs prior to launch was to clear the restricted
downrange "box" of unwanted tourists getting into the danger area prior to liftoff. We would start that at about 4 hours prior to the scheduled
liftoff, and stay out in the box until about 30 minutes prior to launch, when we'd go back to the Shuttle Landing Facility.
On this on particular day, it was pretty hot, and we were already tired of shooing out the intruders. Then we got a call to go to a surface radar
contact about 35 miles from the launch site. Because it was a low inclination launch, the box was straight out into the Atlantic that day. The radar
controller gave us an intercept coordinate for the surface contact, which was reportedly moving at about 15 knots toward KSC.
As we approached, we didn't see anything, so we called back to make sure we had been vectored to the proper location. The controller said we were
right on track, and the vessel was only about a mile away. We still saw nothing. We got to a half-mile out, and still could not make visual contact
with the target vessel. We kept on track, and the radar controller told us we were coming up over the target. We saw nothing. The surface was
fairly smooth, and even a sub periscope would have left a visible wake at 15 knots. The radar controller reported we were directly over the target,
but nothing was there. We circled for 4 or 5 minutes, all the while the radar operator was reporting that we were in the immediate area of the
contact. When we still saw nothing, we went on to the next contact, and ended up "escorting" three more vessels out of the box. On the way back
in, the radar operator vectored us once more to where he reported he had a solid radar contact with that same "vessel" he had been tracking. Once
more, we saw absolutely nothing. We headed in to the SLF and sat down for the launch attempt, that was scrubbed because of some technical problem
with the launch vehicle. After the scrub, as we headed back south to Patrick AFB, where the 41st Rescue Squadron was based at that time, the command
pilot asked for another vector to the target, but the radar operator reported the target had been "lost."
No one filed any kind of report on the incident, because we didn't know what to report. What do you say about the absence of a vessel in a