NROL-22 launch

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Sat Jun 24 2006 - 02:17:18 EDT

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    NROL-22 is scheduled for launch from VAFB into a Molniya orbit on 2006 Jun 28,
    during a launch period from 02:00 to 04:00 UTC.
    This will be VAFB's first launch of the Delta IV, specifically, a Delta IV-M+
    (4,2), which I estimate can place in excess of 4,000 kg into a Molniya orbit
    from VAFB. The U.S. has used Molniya orbits since the early 1970's for
    communications and SIGINT (signals intelligence satellites).
    The following estimated elements assume launch at the mid-point of the launch
    period on 2006 Jun 28, i.e. 03:00 UTC. I will issue revisions once the actual
    launch time has been made public:
    SECO1                                                   193 X 2215 km
    1 71001U 70000A   06179.13497685  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    05
    2 71001  62.5000  43.1100 1333700 180.0000   0.0000 13.14740000    09
    The SECO1 elset is valid from T+00:14:22 to T+00:40:12.
    SECO2                                                 1117 X 37642 km
    1 71001U 70000A   06179.38839352  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    03
    2 71001  62.4000  43.0717 7090000 266.5070 180.0000  2.10000000    09
    The SECO2 elset is valid beginning at T+00:43:34.
    The ground track map reveals that the final burn of the 2nd stage rocket will
    occur within range of South Africa, which will be in a visibility window:
    I believe that the 2nd stage's CCAM (contamination and collision avoidance
    manoeuvre) (i.e. propellant dump) also is likely to be visible from Africa; and
    perhaps as far north as Europe, but in bright morning twilight. I estimate that
    the CCAM will begin as early as 60 minutes after launch, and could continue for
    up to 30 to 40 minutes.
    I caution that the RAAN (right ascension of the ascending node) is uncertain by
    perhaps a degree or two, so observers in a position to see the final burn or the
    CCAM, should consider attempting visual acquisition using the unaided eye or
    wide-field optics, and then switching to large aperture, narrow-field optics to
    make positional observations of the payload and rocket body.
    Ted Molczan
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