RE: USA 160

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Tue Feb 11 2003 - 06:27:33 EST

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    Jeremy Ollerenshaw asked about USA 160 (26905 2001-40A) and its 
    companion USA 160 deb (26907 2001-40C):
    > Are these 2 of a malfunctioned NOSS triad or a single payload
    > and some debris.
    Both of the objects that we track manoeuvred extensively during
    their first couple of months in orbit, so they are payloads
    without question.
    What US Space Command calls them is another matter. Only three
    objects from this launch have been catalogued, and one is the
    Centaur rocket body, so we are left with USA 160 and its
    supposed debris. For convenience, we decided to use those identities
    for the payloads that we track.
    Most likely the second payload was mistakenly catalogued as debris.
    Much less likely, US Space Command is tracking debris that we cannot
    see, in which case they have failed to catalogue one payload.
    > There was some discussion of a possible Atlas launch in November
    > 2002 that might help clear up the mystery.
    Some time ago the launch slipped to June 2003; Spaceflight Now says
    2003 June 23. If that is a NOSS launch, then I predict that we will
    see three payloads, proving that the Sept 2001 launch was a partial
    From what I have read, it seems necessary to have three payloads
    in order to accurately determine the location of transmitters using the
    method believed to be used by the NOSS.
    Atlas 2AS is capable of placing about 6300 kg into a NOSS orbit. 
    Based on their brightness, the two payloads appear to be roughly
    1500 - 2000 kg objects, which suggests that three payloads were launched, 
    one of which failed to separate.  Inferring mass from brightness is not
    very precise, so this should be taken with a grain of salt.
    > has there been any recent movement in any the pair.
    Ted Molczan
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