RE: Uncommon Shuttle orbits

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Tue Jan 23 2007 - 00:31:16 EST

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    Tom Wagner wrote:
    > At I read:
    > "LEO (204 km, 98o Sun-synchronous VAFB): 13,426 kg 
    > OV-103/104/105, assuming use of Advanced Solid Rocket Motors. 
    > Neither VAFB nor ASRM will be used.
    > Molniya (925 x 39,450 km, 63o): 3,563 kg using IUS via 222 
    > km, 57o parking orbit."
    > Does this mean that the shuttle was planned to be flown in a 
    > 204 km, 98o, Sun-synchronous orbit and a 925 x 39,450 km, 63o, 
    > Molniya orbit? This question is probably rhetorical but has it
    > ever done either?
    Prior to the loss of Challenger in 1986, shuttle launches had been planned from
    VAFB into sun-synchronous orbits, to deploy KeyHole reconnaissance satellites
    and all other satellites that required such orbits, such as weather and Earth
    resources. One or two such launches had been scheduled for 1986; all were
    cancelled after Challenger, and the VAFB shuttle pad, SLC-6, was mothballed.
    Today, it is the pad for Delta IV.
    Shuttles do not have anywhere near the performance required to enter Molniya
    orbits. Notice in the 2nd paragraph quoted above that the shuttle would have
    entered a low 57 deg orbit, and an IUS (Inertial Upper Stage) would have carried
    payloads to the Molniya orbit. Shuttles did deploy SDS (Satellite Data System)
    communications satellites into low 57 deg orbits in 1989 and 1992, which
    employed small solid rocket motors to reach Molniya orbit. SDS are data relays
    for the KeyHoles.
    Ted Molczan
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