RE: Satellite Database released

From: Laura Grego (
Date: Thu Dec 08 2005 - 11:10:48 EST

  • Next message: Greg Roberts: "Obs 07 Dec 2005"

    Thank you for explaining the state of knowledge clearly, Ted.
    Some of the details about the observation of Misty 1 and "Misty 2" were elided in the story and some confused.  (There were a few other technical inaccuracies, too, which I'm sure many of you have spotted.)
    Unfortunately, when technical subjects are translated for the general public this does happen, and the hope is that anyone interested in the technical details will be inspired to delve further.  
    Also, if you read the story as it's presented on, you'll see they included links to a story about observations of Misty1 and one about the budget deliberations about what is presumably Misty2.
    I think that the spirit of independent satellite observing was left intact, though!
    >>> "Ted Molczan" <> 12/7/2005 8:21:25 PM >>> 
    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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