RE: Titan 4 launched

Ted Molczan (
Fri, 20 Dec 1996 17:02:40 -0500

Bill Krosney wrote:

>Florida Today,
>postulated that the satellite was a Lacrosse type (radar imaging). 

Here is what they said:

"There were no official details on the satellite itself, 
but trade publications indicated it is part of the Lacrosse 
series of radar imagery satellites that "see" through cloud 
cover and darkness. The first of these was launched in 1988." 

I believe that the trade publications they refereed to
got it wrong.

>Ted Molczan postulated that because it was probably going to be 
>a sun-synchronous orbit it was probably a Keyhole satellite.  
>Correct me if I am wrong here!

You've got it right.

>The Keyholes are visible light imaging are they not?  Why else 
>would it be in a sun-synchronous orbit?

Well, COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) went sun-synch, as 
I recall, so that its solar panels would almost always be 

Also, most of the commercial/scientific radar-sats launched
in recent years went sun-synch, perhaps for the same reason.
I am fairly certain that was true of Canada's RadarSat.

The main reason that I do not expect today's launch to
turn out to be a Lacrosse, is that the first two did not
go into sun-synch orbits. Of course, there is always a
first time, but I doubt that will happen. The KeyHoles
are believed to have much better resolution than the 
Lacrosses, so it seems unlikely that NRO would replace
the western KeyHole with a Lacrosse. Today's launch 
definitely was headed for the western KeyHole's orbital

Lacrosses are orange-red, and KeyHoles are approximately 
colourless, so come March we'll know for certain.

Ted Molczan