Has anyone seen 96029A lately?

Ted Molczan (molczan@fox.nstn.ca)
Tue, 16 Jul 1996 11:52:37 -0400

Now that the dust has settled a little bit from the 96038A launch, I am 
revisiting the TiPS and the NOSS payload carrier story, and I
am finding some problems that could be cleared up considerably
if I knew whether or not the carrier is still in the last known orbit,
produced by Pierre Neirinck, presumably based on observations
late on 17 June:

NOSS 2-3 (A
1 23862U 96029  A 96169.99087760  .00000040  00000-0  10127-3 0    05
2 23862  63.4122 177.7426 0009599  79.3299 280.7782 13.18617626    01

I have been clouded-out for the past few nights, but it looks promising for
tonight. Any reports of sighting attempts since 17 June, and their success,
would be helpful. Here is the problem:

The carrier moved to a 1200 km, apparently circular orbit,
sometime around 11 June, soon after deploying the last of the
NOSS, and was first spotted in that orbit on 13 June.

Now most of us initially assumed that the TiPS was deployed from
the carrier on 20 June, based on the official announcements. However,
I calculate that the TiPS orbit and the carrier's 1200 km orbit were
coplanar on 18 June, so that would be the logical date that TiPS
was placed in its orbit, in which case, 20 June would be logical as the
date of the deployment of the tether and the end-masses. But that leaves
the question as to how the TiPS got from 1200 km circular to 1030 km
circular.

It would seem to have been too small to have its own propulsion
and navigation system. Did the carrier move down to 1030 km to
deposit the TiPS? If so, why did it first go to 1200 km for a few days?
Did it leave anything behind at 1200 km? Where is it now? Has anyone
seen it lately, and if so, what is its orbit?

I have looked at the possibility that TiPS might have manoeuvred to its
present orbit independent of the NOSS carrier. Its orbit was last
coplanar with the Titan 2nd stage late on 13 May, about 24 hours
after the launch. So perhaps it separated then. If so, how did it
get to its present circular orbit? Could it have been dropped off
by some other object? If so, where is that object?

I also looked at the possibility that the TiPS could have separated
from the carrier when it was at the NOSS altitude, but the
coplanar date would have been about 27 June, which is not
possible.

So these loose ends are potentially important.

bye for now