Titan IV launch on 5 Dec.

Ted Molczan (molczan@neocom.ca)
Tue, 5 Dec 1995 00:45:08 -0500

According to Phil Chien, the launch window
runs from 3 PM EST to 5:30 PM EST, on 5 Dec,
or 20:00 to 22:30 UTC. The following is the
speculation/prognostication I sent him this
evening. I would be interested in your ideas
on this.

Here is a summary of southbound orbital plane crossings of known
candidate constellations:

5 Dec 95 UTC

00:46  NOSS 2-1

02:10  Lacrosse 2

16:50  NOSS 2-2

18:10  KH 11-8

21:40  USA 86

6 Dec 95 UTC

00:33 NOSS 2-1

01:56 Lacrosse 2

As I see it, the best candidates are:

Lacrosse 3 - liftoff at the start of the window (20:00 UTC on 5 Dec) would 
place it almost exactly 90 deg west of Lacrosse 2, which seems to be a 
logical plane spacing. A late launch would result in a reduced spacing, but 
this could be remedied by lingering in a lower transfer orbit for a time - which
is a demonstrated capability of Lacrosse (at least when shuttle launched).
Launching at the very end of the window (22:30 UTC) would come close to 
providing spacing  similar to that of the two KH-11 planes, i.e. the amount of 
Earth rotation plus orbit precession during to orbital periods, 49.7 deg. A long 
shot, I know. Note that the failed launch on 2 Aug 93 occurred at almost the 
exact time to produce such a spacing, except to the east of Lacrosse 2, instead 
of to the west. It seems like a stretch to think that SAR platforms would benefit
from a similar spacing to visual/IR platforms, but I wanted to include this so
that I will look like a genius (well, at least a clairvoyant) if it actually comes to

NOSS 2-3 - liftoff at 20:33 would place it 60 deg east of NOSS 2-2 and
60 deg west of NOSS 2-1, i.e. right down the middle of the 120 deg angle
separating NOSS 2-1 and NOSS 2-2. Of course, I do not know why they
would not want to bisect the 240 deg angle on the other side, and obtain
three equally spaced planes.

USA 86 - its plane *does* pass southbound over the pad during the window,
but this is a very new spacecraft, which seemed to be operating normally
this past summer. Its 7 year old sister would seem to be a more likely
candidate for replacement. Also, the closing of the park to the southeast
would be unnecessary if the destination was a sun-synchronous orbit.

Of course it may be none of the above - the spooks have provided plenty of 
surprises in recent years.

bye for now