FW: Interesting elsets at OIG

Ted Molczan (molczan@fox.nstn.ca)
Mon, 24 Jun 1996 18:53:49 -0400

Bjoern Gimle wrote:

>The latest USSPACECOM catalog entries have widely varying inclinations,
>but similar periods (about 3 hours)
>Two of them appear to be pre-Sputnik !! 
>(Natural satellites, or is this a software glitch ?)

By now you may have seen my earlier message, which
points out that one of the objects is most likely
debris from the breakup of USA 40's perigee kick
stage. I suspect that the pre-Sputnik international
designators were selected to avoid having to identify
the parent launch. These elsets may have been released
by accident, perhaps a software glitch, or an analyst
pressing the wrong button. However, I suspect that it
might be the result of a policy change, permitting
debris associated with classified launches to be
made public, but not identified.

For the benefit of newcomers to the hobby, here is how 
we may identify some of these objects.

The inclination will identify the launch site. Precessing 
the elset to the time of each classified lift-off from 
the site may reveal the launch. The orbital plane must 
be nearly coplanar with the site, and the direction of 
travel consistent with the allowed launch azimuths at the 
site. Of course some orbiting pieces may have changed their
orbits significantly after launch, which would make
this process much more difficult, or impossible to
use, especially if much time has gone by.

The 57 deg object was relatively easy, because there
have been few non-shuttle 57 deg launches, and we
know the orbits of all of the unclassified shuttle 
payloads, and the general orbits of a few of the 
classified ones. The second 56001AAA object is in a
28.3 deg orbit, so it may belong to one of many
classified missions, launched on one of several

bye for now