TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Every year, millions of children take to their computers, tablets and smartphones to track the world’s greatest traveler — Santa Claus; and every year since 1955, NORAD has helped children of all ages track Santa on his journey around the world.

What does NORAD stand for?

NORAD stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command.

NORAD is a United States and Canada bi-national organization that uses radar and satellites to look out for man-made objects in the sky like aircraft, space vehicles or Santa!

How does NORAD track Santa?

While NORAD starts tracking Santa on Dec. 24, 2021, their website goes live on Dec.1, 2021.

NORAD says it all starts with a radar system called the North Warning System. The powerful radar system uses dozens of installations across Canada’s North and Alaska to look for signs of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season.

NORAD also uses a number of satellites in geosynchronous orbit. That’s a fancy way of saying the satellite always stays over the same spot on Earth.

“The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America,” NORAD said.

According to NORAD. the satellites have infrared sensors, so they can see the heat that Rudolph’s nose gives off, just like the heat released when a rocket is launched.

Once Santa reaches Canada or the United States, Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying their CF-18’s take off from Newfoundland to welcome Santa to North America. NORAD says Santa actually flies faster than any jet fighter but slows down for NORAD to escort him.

“While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer,” NORAD said.

Why does NORAD track Santa?

NORAD said the tradition of tracking Santa actually began by accident.

In 1955, a young child accidentally dialed an unlisted phone number of the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center when they saw an advertisement telling kids to call Santa. NORAD says its Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, answered the phone and told his staff to see if Santa had made his way south from the North Pole.

While CONAD started tracking Santa in 1955, NORAD replaced them in 1958 and have continued the mission every year since.

“We’re the only organization that has the technology, the qualifications, and the people to do it,” NORAD said. “And, we love it! NORAD is honored to be Santa’s official tracker!”