Re: What is the real NOSS trio?

Ed Cannon (ecannon@mail.utexas.edu)
Sat, 24 Oct 1998 04:11:29 -0400

J. Lee Blanton (blanton@pe.net) asked, on Fri, 23 Oct 1998, at 
about 12:40:22 -0700:
 
> Please pardon a basic question.  I downloaded a large file of 
> two-line elements which contains about 35 objects with a NOSS 
> designation.  On this mailing list I have seen references to 
> NOSS 2-1 and NOSS 2-3.  What is the real NOSS trio?  Is there 
> more than one?  Also, what is its typical magnitude?  Thanks 
> in advance.

The speculations are that there are two types, older and faint, 
and newer and not-as-faint.  Most of the references on SeeSat 
are to the newer ones, which are called NOSS 2-1, 2-2, and 2-3.  
Very generally they are binocular objects around magnitude +5 
on an okay pass and maybe +4.5 on a good pass.  A few times 
they've been reported to flare much more brightly.  One time I 
saw one of these trios at one-power; I could not see three 
separate objects, but I saw moving light well enough to point 
my binoculars right at them, so together they must have been
about +3.5.  It was an evening pass low in the east -- very 
good phase angle; my recollection is that they were northbound.

Here's my understanding of the IDs of the three newer trios:

  NORAD, COSPAR, Common Name  -- OIG SSR Name
  -----  ------  ------------    ------------
  20682, 90050B, NOSS 2-1 (B) -- USA 60
  20691, 90050C, NOSS 2-1 (C) -- USA 61
  20692, 90050D, NOSS 2-1 (D) -- USA 62

  21799, 91076C, NOSS 2-2 (C) -- USA 74
  21808, 91076D, NOSS 2-2 (D) -- USA 76
  21809, 91076E, NOSS 2-2 (E) -- USA 77

  23862, 96029D, NOSS 2-3 (D) -- USA 122
  23908, 96029C, NOSS 2-3 (C) -- USA 121
  23936, 96029E, NOSS 2-3 (E) -- USA 123

I'm not sure of the ID or status of the next two, which OIG 
says are rockets:

  20642, 90050E, NOSS 2-1 (E) -- Titan 4 R/B
  21776, 90076B, ____________ -- Titan 4 R/B

This next one is a large, tumbling object, almost certainly 
a Titan 4.  I don't know why OIG calls it "USA 120".

  23907, 96029B, NOSS 2-3 Rk  -- USA 120

Here's a Web site that mentions both NOSS types:

   http://www.tbs-satellite.com/tse/online/prog_noss.html

This site deals with the old, hard-to-see ones:

   http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/surveill/noss.htm

These sites deal with the new, not-as-hard-to-see ones:

   http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/surveill/sbwass_n.htm
   http://solar.rtd.utk.edu/~mwade/craft/noss2.htm

Ed Cannon - ecannon@mail.utexas.edu - Austin, Texas, USA