RE: Space debris found in Spain?

From: Ted Molczan via Seesat-l <seesat-l_at_satobs.org>
Date: Sat, 14 Nov 2015 10:06:44 -0500
Jonathan McDowell commented off list that since the Atlas V in question, AV-006, was the sixth built, "it seems likely
to have been the original design." He noted: "It probably only made 2 burns, so the 3-tank not the 4-tank version."
In my pre-launch message, I estimated that the second Centaur burn was expected about 43 min. after launch. That would
have been well within the known capability of the standard 3 tank configuration.

http://satobs.org/seesat/Mar-2008/0143.html

The Atlas Launch System Mission Planner’s Guide CLSB-0409-1109, Revision 10, December 2004, described the Centaur's
helium pressurization system on page A-12:

"Helium Supply System — The baseline configuration for short-duration coast missions (<25 minutes)
requires three 66.0-cm (26-in.) composite helium storage spheres charged to 27,580 kPa (4,000 psi). The
spheres are graphite-overwrapped and reinforced with a 301 CRES metallic liner that provides leak-before-burst
capability. A pressure regulator provides 3,450-kPa (450-psig) helium for engine and reaction control
system controls. The three helium storage bottles provide ample helium for launch of direct ascent and first
descending node geosynchronous transfer trajectory missions. This complement of bottles is used on all
Atlas V GTO class missions. For longer coast duration missions, an additional helium bottle can be installed,
as required."

This confirms that they were COPV, and reveals that the diameter was 66 cm.

Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos sent me a link overnight to the following article in El País, which provides information
on the mass and size of the first sphere found:

http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2015/11/12/actualidad/1447324841_687930.html

"Con aproximadamente 15 kilos, 20 como máximo, la esfera de origen espacial hallada en Mula (Murcia), pesa como
una bombona de butano vacía, explica a EL PAÍS Juan Antonio Madrid Mendoza, director del Centro de Referencia Nacional
de FP de Cartagena. "No la hemos pesado porque no disponemos de una báscula de ese rango", anade. Lo que si
han hecho en el centro es medirla. Tiene un perímetro de 205 centímetros, su diámetro es aproximadamente de 65
centímetros. "Lógicamente ya no es una esfera perfecta ya que, al impactar con la Tierra se deformó, por lo que se
puede decir que es un elipsoide más que una esfera", continua Madrid Mendoza refiriéndose a la primera pieza
encontrada, que, explica, es la que conoce mejor porque la manipulo para protegerla y evitar su deterioro."

The diameter is within one centimetre of that of the Centaur helium tank. This tends to support the circumstantial case.

Cees Bassa sent me his latest TLE of 2008-010B / 32707, derived from the 2015 Oct 26 ISON orbital data:

                                                         78 X 9174 km
1 99999U 14999A   15299.96763898  .27393067  00000-0  78608-3 0    01
2 99999  63.0189 347.0289 4132690 253.2099  86.7297  7.51978834    03

Satevo propagates this to decay about 24 h earlier than the fireball sighting, but within the rule of thumb uncertainty
of 20 percent of the time from epoch to prediction. My next step is to perform the GMAT analysis, to further test the
likelihood that the decay could have occurred over Spain on Nov 3rd, near 6 h UTC. I expect to begin work on this tomorrow.

Ted Molczan

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Received on Sat Nov 14 2015 - 09:07:51 UTC

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