On Saturday, July 10, 2010, my maternal grandmother reached a milestone that no other family member on either side of my family has ever reached. On that day, she turned 100 years old.

Born in 1910, she is the eldest of 13 children, most of which have already passed on. She is now a full century old: most of us will never see this age.

I always had a feeling that she would make it to that age, since she rarely had any health problems, even today.

What do you give someone for their 100th birthday? That is a tough question, since it is such a significant event. I decided to do something that I have rarely done in the 13 years I have been involved in satellite tracking.

The first satellite I named was for Molniya 1-75, the satellite I intensely studied over 1997 and 1998. I dubbed it "Rasputin" after the unpredictable pre-Soviet era Russian priest. This seemed fitting for the constantly changing tumble period of the satellite.

During the first week of September 1997, I named the newly launched Russian Molniya 1-90 satellite after my newly born niece (Sarah's Satellite).

After a long period, I named the Russian Strela rocket after the mentor Dr. Brugh Joy MD on December 23, 2009 after he lost his battle with cancer. "Brugh's satellite" fell back to Earth on March 11, 2010, two weeks after his funeral in Sacramento.

A few weeks later, I named the Czech Mimosa satellite "Carol's Satellite" after a good friend who passed away in Florida. Its orbit is currently decaying.

I decided to name the American FalconSat microsatellite after my 100 year old grandmother. Why did I decide on that particular satellite?

During the time from June 28 to July 7, 2010, I had an extraordinary satellite tracking run in which 10 straight nights were clear and therefore permitted me to detect and track 60 new satellites, bringing CASTOR's total to 3,377 unique satellites. I decided to name one of the satellites detected on July 8th after my grandmother, since it was the day closest to her birthday.

FalconSat seemed like the perfect choice because it had two unique orbit characteristics. First off, it had an orbit period of exactly 100 minutes. Second, it had an orbit inclination of exactly 100 degrees. To many, this seems to be a coincidence, however it seemed perfect to me regardless of the reason.

On Saturday, July 10, 2010, at an extraordinary birthday party, I dedicated the satellite to my grandmother. Although it can never become official (even if the satellite is inactive), I think it is a fitting tribute to a woman who has lived a full century on this planet.

When Viola was born, the only satellite in Earth orbit was our natural one; the Moon. When she was 47 years old, the Soviets launched Sputnik 1. When she was 62 years old, Canada launched Anik 1. When she was 87 years old, I began my satellite tracking adventure. Now, she is 100 and a satellite has been named in her honour. I certainly don't think the U.S. Air Force Academy Cadets who originally built the satellite would mind. Maybe this will catch on! There are certainly many to choose from!





Viola's Satellite Was Last Modified On February 17, 2011