Cosmos 2345

Phillip Clark (psclark@dircon.co.uk)
Sat, 16 Aug 1997 08:53:40 +0100 (BST)

Yesterday Vladimir Agapov posted a notice which reported the launch of
Cosmos 2345 aboard a four-stage Proton-K vehicle.   Based upon the initial
orbital data I calculate a launch time of 20.49 or 20.50 GMT, while Mr
Agapov quoted an announced launch time of 20.49 14 seconds.

The two-line orbital elements which I downloaded from GSFC last night list
three objects from the launch: 24894 is the satellite, 24895 which has
already decayed from orbit might well be the fourth stage shroud and 24896
(expected to decay within a day or so of launch) the Proton-K third stage.
I assume that there will be a fourth stage tracked in orbit at some time -
USSPACECOM often has trouble finding objects when following a new launch
profile.

This is clearly an unusual launch, starting with the orbital inclination.
Normally Proton launches intended for geosynchronous orbit have an
inclination of 51.6 deg in the parking orbit, then manoeuvre to a GTO at
around 47-48 deg and finally to a geosynch drift orbit at around 1.5 deg or
less.   We have never seen a geosynch orbit launch start at 53.2 deg
before - and I am assuming that this *is* a launch to a geosynchronous
orbit.

The transfer orbit to geosynch altitude also has an anomalous inclination
of 49.9 deg, although this might be a function of the higher-than-normal
initial inclination.   Also the manoeuvre to the transfer orbit was later
than normal.   Usually this takes place on the first pass through the
ascending node of the parking orbit, but for Cosmos 2345 the manoeuvre came
around 03.50 GMT on August 15 - around nearly six hours later than normal.
In this, the flight is reminiscent of Cosmos 1940, Cosmos 2155 and Cosmos
2209, all of which were Prognoz early warning satellites initially located
over 336 deg E: perhaps Cosmos 2345 will be stationed at or near this
location ?

Whether or not it is significant is unclear at present, but the GTO
argument of perigee is 352 deg - usually it is closer to zero than this.

The orbital data "so far" for the launch are listed in the table below.
Like the unusual Cosmos 2344 - also launched by a four-stage Proton-K - in
June this year, the Russians are still capable of surprising western
observers of their programme by producing something new.


=======================================================================
Catalogue   Epoch             Incl      Period   Perigee   Apogee   AoP
Number                         deg        min       km       km     deg
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
24894       1997 Aug 15.10    53.16      88.27      184       195   209
24894       1997 Aug 15.10    53.17      88.27      184       195   210
24894       1997 Aug 15.16    49.93     621.85      228     35283   352
24894       1997 Aug 15.16    49.95     622.14      233     35292   352
24895       1997 Aug 15.22    53.17      88.04      164       191   219
24895       1997 Aug 15.47    53.17      87.96      161       186   245
24895       1997 Aug 15.59    53.17      87.92      159       184   245
24895       1997 Aug 15.60    53.17      87.92      160       184   245
24895       1997 Aug 15.66    53.17      87.90      159       182   245
24896       1997 Aug 15.22    53.17      87.68      145       173   216
=======================================================================


Phillip Clark

(Anyone wanting to quote this material in a publication should contact me
first.)


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Phillip S Clark                                       25 Redfern Avenue
Molniya Space Consultancy                             Whitton
Compiler/Publisher, Worldwide Satellite Launches      Middx   TW4 5NA
Editor, Jane's Space Directory                        U.K.

Specialist in "space archeology" - the older and more obscure the more 
interesting it is !
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