RE: Satellite Database released

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Wed Dec 07 2005 - 20:21:25 EST

  • Next message: George Olshevsky: "Re: Satellite Database released"

    Laura Grego wrote:
    > I'm copying the release information below.  As part of the 
    > release, I was interviewed by the Associated Press, and the 
    > reporter was very interested in amateur satellite observing.  
    > I sent her as much information as I could from the public 
    > realm.  The story is a bit sensationalist, but I do hope you 
    > feel you were represented faithfully.
    The following statement in the AP article almost certainly is incorrect:
    "Grego said satellite watchers had spotted Misty-2 even though it was disguised
    as space debris."
    We have never knowingly observed Misty 2 (aka USA 144 / 99028A / 25744).
    A few weeks after the launch, we began tracking an intrinsically bright object
    from that launch, in a 63.4 deg, 2700 x 3100 km orbit, that seemed like a
    reasonable candidate for the payload, so we assigned it to 99028A / 25744.
    Three years later, in 2002, it was discovered to have the characteristics of
    debris or a low mass decoy, through analysis of solar radiation pressure
    perturbations of its orbit. Here are the most relevant SeeSat-L posts:
    It is my opinion that the object probably is a decoy, and that Misty 2's orbit
    is similar to that of Misty 1, quasi 65 deg, between 700 km and 800 km,
    I have heard it suggested that the debris/decoy object is in fact Misty 2,
    masquerading as debris, but that seems highly unlikely. A major problem with
    that theory is that the object would be required to make orbital manoeuvres
    simulating the effects of solar radiation pressure that we observe. I suppose
    that could be achieved, but what happens when it runs out of propellant or dies?
    It would be highly suspicious for the SRP perturbations to suddenly cease.
    Another theory I recall, suggests that Misty 2 is on the opposite side of the
    same orbit as its presumed decoy, presumably so that surveillance targets would
    be concealed only when in sight of the decoy. The problem with that theory is
    that the orbital period is just 148 min, and there may be several consecutive
    passes, which would require frequent concealment of surveillance targets, which
    seems impractical.
    One final point. We hobbyists should consider assigning a different designation
    to the decoy/debris object. I know it can be a pain to revise our many different
    personal databases, but there is a significant potential to create confusion by
    continuing to identify the object as 99028A / 25744, which is reserved for the
    primary payload. Regular readers of SeeSat-L who have followed developments over
    the years have not been confused, but others could easily be confused.
    Since the B designation was assigned to the Titan IVB 2nd stage, and since the
    object in question probably is an unacknowledged second payload, I suggest
    calling it 99028C / 25746.
    Ted Molczan
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