RE: USA 144 decoy question

From: Ted Molczan (ssl3molcz@rogers.com)
Date: Mon May 12 2008 - 11:32:44 UTC

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    Cassandra Williams wrote:
    
    > Having read emails sent to this list a few years ago 
    > regarding the (mis)identification of a large inflatable decoy 
    > as USA 144.  Given that USA 144 still hasn't been seen, and 
    > having seen a patent application dated 1990 for an inflatable 
    > stealth spy satellite, I was curious as to whether, perhaps 
    > this is not a decoy, but USA 144 itself.
    
    I discussed the pros and cons of the high object we now call 99028C / 25746 as
    the primary payload here:
    
    http://satobs.org/seesat/Aug-2002/0075.html
    
    The main problems are that its cross-sectional area would have to be huge, and
    sun-facing, which is inconsistent with any known reconnaissance payload. Also,
    it rotates slowly. In any case, neither characteristic applied to Misty 1
    (90019B / 20516), so even if it is the primary payload, it is not a Misty. Most
    likely, its mass is a few hundred kilograms, and its major dimension about 5 m,
    which is consistent with a large piece of debris, or as some of us believe, a
    decoy.
    
    I have come to believe that the primary payload, 99028A / 25744, was Misty 2,
    based on the similarity to Misty 1 of its initial orbit and LEO debris-shedding.
    Also, I estimate that the Titan IVB, which was on its first launch from VAFB
    when it launched 99028A, had just enough performance to launch a Misty plus a
    light-weight manoeuvrable decoy.
    
    > Has anyone seen this object recently, and can anyone report 
    > the approximate shape of the object?
    
    99028C / 25746 is observed regularly, but it is far too distant for the optics
    typically used by hobbyists to resolve its dimensions or shape.
    
    Ted Molczan
    
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