Clark's Cone of Silence

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Colorado’s Aerospace Elves Track When Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town (1)

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the land

Phones started ringing at the NORAD Command.

The children were asking when Santa would appear

With his miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.”

For the past 58 Christmas Eves, employees at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs have tracked Santa’s location, updating eager boys and girls on his global progress through a number of various technologies.

NORAD’s Santa tracking website portal—which is available in nine different languages—goes up every year on December 1, featuring a Countdown Calendar, holiday games, and video messages from troops and students all over the world. On the night of Christmas Eve, the Santa Tracking map goes live.

In addition, NORAD acts on the receiving end of emails, phone calls, mobile applications, tweets, and other social media inquiries to fuel children’s excitement. NORAD routinely performs aerospace warning and control missions to verify the safety of Santa’s flight plan.


The “Santa tracking” service is made possible with the help of 1,250 volunteers and several organizations with Colorado ties including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Air Force (USAF), and NASA. USAF places ground-based radars, while NOAA places operational round-the-clock satellites provided by NASA and makes sure the weather conditions are right for Santa’s journey. Rumor has it the heat from Rudolph’s red nose gives off an infrared signature that allows the satellites to detect Santa’s sleigh.

While the tradition started because of a typo on a Sears’ advertisement, it's no Christmas miracle that it landed in Colorado, given our state’s leading aerospace capabilities.

Consider these facts on why Colorado really is the best place to keep an eye on Kris Kringle’s path across the globe:

  • Colorado’s unique geographic location in the Mountain Time Zone allows for one-bounce satellite uplinks, with real-time connections to six to seven continents in one day, making our state the premier location to broadcast Santa’s journey.
  • Colorado’s aerospace industry ranks second in the nation for private sector aerospace employment with more than 160,000 employees working at more than 400 aerospace-related companies.  
  • Colorado is home to 30 federal laboratories, and has one of the highest concentrations of federally funded science and research centers in the nation. The laboratories employ nearly 8,000 scientists and engineers, generating more than $2.3 billion annual economic impact to the region. The work being done at these laboratories range from climate change, to weather patterns, to the space environment, all of which leads to valuable intel when tracking the elusive man in the big red suit.
  • Colorado’s major space contractors achieved major milestones toward developing the next generation global positioning system III satellites. Global security and aerospace company, Lockheed Martin, is currently producing these satellites which will deliver three times better accuracy, provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities, and include enhancements which extend spacecraft life. And what better way to keep track of Santa than by using GPS to route his location?

Will you be tracking Santa this Christmas Eve? If so, we hope you think of the organizations behind the service supporting Colorado’s aerospace and defense industries.

The Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation wishes each and every one of our readers happy holidays and a wonderful New Year! 


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About Tom Clark

Tom has over 30 years of economic development experience at the state, regional, and local levels, spanning from Illinois to Colorado. He is known both for his quips and his candor. Often quoted in the local and national press on Metro Denver’s economy, his iPhone is his most valued possession next to his Les Paul guitar. He is also famous for writing parody songs, maintaining an orderly office, and funding the office swear jar. Tom says that if wasn’t an economic developer, his dream would be to work in a chocolate factory.

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About The Cone of Silence

Invented by Professor Cone from TV’s "Get Smart," the Cone of Silence was designed to protect the most secret of conversations by enshrouding its users within a transparent sound-proof shield. Unfortunately, from experience, we have also learned that it never works properly. This blog offers those outside our “Cone of Silence” a unique look at economic development in the region.

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