Orbital Focus - International Spaceflight Facts and Figures
carousel image
The Kettering Group

Tyneside, UK
2024 Jul 24
Wednesday, Day 206

Curated by:

Members' Tales:

Current Web Sites:

Pierre Neirinck (1926-2016)

Sadly, Pierre died 2016 Jan 3 at the age of 89.

Pierre was an vital correspondent of the Kettering Grammar School satellite Tracking Group in the early days when he worked for the Radio and Space Research Station, Slough (it later became part of the Appleton Laboratory).

He used to be a significant source of information during the early orbits of reconsats. The team would monitor signals from a new satellite (of the Soviet kind) and Geoff Perry or another member of the Group would telephone Pierre early evening when he started work to pick up extracts from Prediction Bulletins. He would update us on other launches at the same time. Sometimes the call would come the other way and he would spring a surprise with news of “one of ours” that we hadn’t detected on Day 1. Geoff Perry's daughter Isabel remembers taking down figures from Pierre over the phone when "I was a little girl”.

Pierre was a prolific visual satellite observer until fairly recent years and his most recent interest was in the manoeuvrings of America's KH-11 spysats. The reason for a late start to his working day at Slough was so that he could make visual observations through the night.

He published, from Slough, his SONs – “Satellite Orbit Notes” that were photocopied and distributed by post. The service was taken on by Aston University after the Slough operation was closed down in 1981. The SONs often contained pithy handwritten comments on events of the day.

After Slough, he moved back to Digues du Mer near Dunkerque and continued to make observations and circulate notes of his own. The pointed comments continued. Christmas cards from him always contained some gem about satellite manoeuvres or new launches.

It is sad news but Pierre is one of those people who quietly made a genuine contribution and was an asset to the Kettering Group. Those who were present in Kettering for Geoff Perry’s Memorial Service at the School may remember that Pierre was in attendance.

"The Sky is the Largest Screen in the World........"

.......is the salutation you will see at the bottom of any e-mail you might have received from Pierre. His reminiscences of involvement in the Kettering Group are below:

As a visual observer, I worked for the Radio and Space Research Station (1966-1981), then became independent. I can remember the names of 50 Satellite Orbits Group staff who were useful to Geoff. It's worth mentioning two or three of the leaders:

David Smith(1958?-1968)
Pierre Neirinck(1966-1981).

The third, Alfred Moorat said "Perry has no right to be phoned. He is a private individual". Despite his interdiction, I was still phoning Geoff daily with new launches, orbital elements, events and my finds which had a habit of getting reported as his.

Last time I offered him a scoop was in 1983 when the world was following anxiously the nuclear core from Cosmos 1402 (82-84A). I demonstrated by densities that it was in 82-84C.

In SPACE issue 2/83 (from the Earth Satellite Research Unit at Aston University) and probably written by Max White:

Cosmos 1402 - extract from SPACE 2/83

I received from two people (one was Barbara Greenfield, a former colleague) photocopies of Geoff's article in Reader's Digest where I found my discovery attributed to him.

If any of you have still my S.O.N.'s from Slough, the last was Nr 822.

SON 822

Outside the Satellite Group, I remember Ken Tapping (radio record of 68-102B decay). Within the Kettering Group, a very bright 17 y-old committed suicide for unknown reason (Andrew Driver). He should be remembered. I also remember Bob Christy visiting my office and friends met at Kettering funerals.
Page Date: 2009 Dec 16
Updated: 2016 Jan 4

Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
Reproduction of this web page or any of its content without permission from the website owner is prohibited