For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth’s atmosphere – but no longer.
A recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that observations by hush-hush government spacecraft of incoming bolides and fireballs are classified secret and are not to be released, SPACE.com has learned.
The satellites’ main objectives include detecting nuclear bomb tests, and their characterizations of asteroids and lesser meteoroids as they crash through the atmosphere has been a byproduct data bonanza for scientists.
The upshot: Space rocks that explode in the atmosphere are now classified.
“It’s baffling to us why this would suddenly change,” said one scientist familiar with the work. “It’s unfortunate because there was this great synergy…a very good cooperative arrangement. Systems were put into dual-use mode where a lot of science was getting done that couldn’t be done any other way. It’s a regrettable change in policy.”