How did UK firm Inmarsat work out the last recorded position of flight MH370?

Investigators are now one step closer to unravelling the mystery of the lost Malaysian Airways flight MH370, which went missing on 8 March, thanks to a British communications satellite.

The Inmarsat geo-stationary satellite, which orbits Earth above the Indian Ocean, recorded a series of digital “pings”, which continued to make contact even after all other communications systems had been disabled.

The pings did not record location, speed or direction, but after an initial analysis, Inmarsat was able to deduce that the last recorded ping had come from one of either two colossal arcs which stretched north and south of the Malaysian peninsular.

In order to find out which of the two paths the plane had taken, engineers examined the frequency of the pings. As the distance from the satellite increases, the signal would therefore travel further and the pings would become slightly delayed. In this case, the satellite received increasingly frequent pings from the aircraft, indicating it had headed towards the satellite. This meant the plane had taken the southern arc through the Indian Ocean.

With this information, combined with an estimation of known fuel left, an approximate position for where the aircraft came down can be reached.

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UK satellite firm Inmarsat tracks down missing Malaysian flight MH370

 

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