Sunday, 20 November 2011

Gobi Desert Update

The Reg finally got hold of the Gobi desert story last Friday, but merely trotted out the Jonathan Hill line about satellite calibration.

I'm skeptical about that primarily because, as I said in my comment at J.M.Cole's place, the "grids" strike me as an unnecessarily complicated and uneconomical way to calibrate satellite cameras. Moreover, the scale on which they are built is much larger than comparable targets in the U.S. (which doesn't prove that they aren't for satellite calibration, but merely indicates that the Chinese satellites aren't necessarily very good).

If these "grids" really were for calibrating satellite cameras, then consider: calibration would have to be achieved by focusing the cameras serially on the differently sized spandrels between the "grid-lines" - yet these spandrels are all irregularly shaped. Would it not have been simpler and easier to simply use a proper grid-like pattern?

Here are the two Gobi desert "grids" which Anna Leach at the Reg supposes are Chinese satellite camera calibration targets.

And for comparison, here is an actual U.S. satellite camera calibration target:

They are totally different in both scale and design - with the U.S. site being a few hundred feet across and of multiple targets differentiated according to a regular scale, but the Chinese "grids" being over a mile across and consisting of multiple irregularly sized, but also irregularly shaped spandrels. Why?

Perhaps the editors at the Reg will reconsider this story; I am skeptical that those "grids" are used for the purpose of satellite camera calibration. What other possible functions they actually may be designed for, I don't know. Disinformation would be one guess.

The other thing that's worth noting, as I did in my first post, is the presence of airfields. The thing to do would be to try to estimate dates for the construction of the various airfields (and planned airfields) and weapons testing ranges. One of the commenters at the Reg article - one "Volker Hett" - pointed to a Spiegel article comparing an apparently painted airfield (not pictured in my previous blog post below) in the desert to the Ching Chuan Kang airbase in Taichung. This may just be coincedence, since after all, how many different designs can an airfield runway take? Nevertheless it would be interesting to know when the extant airfields were constructed, and when their adjacent structures were last bombed (and why only those adjacent structures and not the length of the runways themselves?).

Remember: the Presidential and Legislative elections will be held in January. When were the last weapons testing drills carried out in this area? The answer to that question might have political consequences.

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