Re: satwk15 report from OIG

Phillip Clark (
Sun, 19 Apr 1998 18:59:14 +0100 (BST)

On Sun, 19 Apr 1998, Courtney wrote:
> > 1968-055E    DELTA 1 DEB     25270   US     04 Jul  147.4  120.8   4950     778
> > 1993-014F    START 1 DEB     25284   CIS    25 Mar  101.4   75.8    970     681
> Correct me if I wrong, but in the international dsignation, the first four numbers 
> are the year, and the other three are the days in the year?

The first four numbers are the year of launch and the second three 
numbers are the launch number within that year: thus 1968-055 was the 
55th launch in 1968.   The specific object designator is the leter (in a 
few cases, letters) following the launch number.

> If so, I guess thse 
> object were luanched in 1968 and 1993 respectively and are both dead stages 
> from spent rockets(by the way, what is Start 1?).  Now since this is under the 
> category of newly added objects, does that mean these objects have been 
> floating around in LEO for all this time without being tracked?

There is plenty of minor debris in orbit around the earth which has not 
been officially catalogued.   Small pieces of debris from a launch can go 
undetected until orbital decay brings them within the capabilities of the 
tracking radars, etc.   Additionally, USSPACECOM maintains a temporary 
catalogue of objects - things which are seen only a few times before 
decay, maybe seen only once and an accurate orbit cannot be determined.   
Objects get transferred from the temporary catalogue (which is 
classified) to the public listings which we see when orbits are confirmed 
and also when USSPACECOM bureaucracy can be bothered to do the transfer.

Start-1 is the first all-solid-propellant launch vehicle to be used by 
the Russians and it it based upon the RSD-10 (SS-20) and RS-12M (SS-25) 
missile technology.

> Looking at this list, I see that some ojects have been flying around uselessly 
> for many years.  Are they international agreements to keep this trash to a 
> minimum?

There are now agreements (non-binding in some cases) to minimise the 
amount of junk which a launch produces and also to minimise the lifetimes 
of rocket stages which are discarded in regularly-used orbits: for 
example those in GTO and the Iridium launches.   However, one cannot 
predict explosions in orbit.   The most debris to be tracked from an 
in-orbit explosion is from the Pegasus 1994-029B explosion where for the 
first time the international designators for the pieces have had to go 
into three characters (AAA, etc).

Phillip Clark

Phillip S Clark                                       25 Redfern Avenue
Molniya Space Consultancy                             Whitton
Compiler/Publisher, Worldwide Satellite Launches      Middx   TW4 5NA

Specialist in "space archeology" - the older and more obscure the more 
interesting it is !