AFP-731/1990-019B/NORAD-20516

Neil Clifford (n.clifford1@physics.oxford.ac.uk)
Fri, 25 Aug 1995 10:22:37 +0100 (BST)

The following information is from Walter Nissen <dk058@cleveland.freenet.edu> and the
followup material is at the url indicated in the first paragraph:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

A extended discussion has recently arisen with the Subject:  "AFP-731 /
1990-019B / NORAD-20516 Where Are You?".  It is right on target for this
mailing list, but rather than post all 500 lines of it (as very lightly
edited by me to make it neater), Neil Clifford has placed it in the ftp site
as ftp://ftp.physics.ox.ac.uk/pub/sat/info/where_is_afp-731_1990019B

Here are a few tidbits to whet your appetite, as I really think a lot of you
will want to read it, if you haven't already seen it.  If you don't have ftp
access and don't know how to use ftp by e-mail, I guess Neil or I would be
willing to accept e-mail requests (at least for instructions on how to use ftp
by e-mail).

>>>
This is a rather longish piece that eventually starts to get interesting
toward the end. It concludes with a request that amateur astronomers
assist in a search for a missing intelligence satellite.

prb@clark.net (Pat) wrote:

>... Pike ..... catch him with a real gaffe, like his
>tendency to declare classified missile launches as KH sats.  He over
>uses Photo recon as a supposition.  Philip Chien has posted some
>nice long analyses of orbital dynamics, and mission roles.

The really big source of confusion, however, was the 26 Feb 1990 LEO
IMINT launch ["KH-12"] [[AFP-731 / 1990-019B / NORAD-20516 ]]. This is
the one that the Soviets reported as having "exploded" a few weeks after
launch, but that amateur observers recovered around 9-14 October 1990,
and then subsequently went back and found other intervening observations
that confirmed that the objects were one and the same.

But, we are still left with the question of what happened to 1990-019B.

My current working hypothesis is that the thing was maneuvered into some
sorta eliptical MEO orbit, with parameters of something like:

1 - 63 degree inclination - almost certainly

I would like to propose the following:

1 - A telescopic observing campaign to obtain optical signatures of
identified LEO IMINT birds [those with known elsets]

2 - An observing campaign to attempt to recover 1990-019B, based on the
conjecture that it is in a MEO orbit, perhaps one defined by the
previously noted Russian ground-track chart.

3 - A telescopic observing campaign to evaluate whether candidate objects
identified in campaign #2 have optical signatures similar to those
identified in campaign #1.

Sounds like a good idea.  I think obtaining imagery of satellites
such as the KH and Lacrosse birds would be an excellent contribution
to the effort of opening the veil of excessive secrecy surrounding
these programs.  Hopefully it would even make the cover of AW&ST. :)
Billion dollar satellites are just too big an investment of public
funds to remain in the "unmentionable" world.

  A few years ago I showed an unclassified USAF videotape of STS-37 in
orbit over Florida to a former NRO security officer.   The former
security officer (not a technical person) was shocked and amazed: "They
told us this couldn't be done."

KH 11-8
1 19625U 88099  A 95217.00000000  .00012787  00000-0  14858-3 0    08
2 19625  97.9165 280.4368 0487652  72.8959 116.1668 14.84103473    09
Lacrosse 1
1 19671U 88106  B 95214.89354289  .00000060  00000-0  97466-5 0    02
2 19671  56.9780 209.5012 0004010  84.8275 275.1724 14.70796613    01
NOSS 2-1B
1 20682U 90050  B 95173.98802391  .00000015  00000-0  26906-4 0    03
2 20682  63.4290 224.3484 0079000  12.6816 347.3183 13.40249102    06
Lacrosse 2
1 21147U 91017  A 95214.89024517  .00000061  00000-0  10489-4 0    06
2 21147  67.9880 149.0900 0005000 256.6211 103.3789 14.68520095    07
NOSS 2-2C
1 21799U 91076  C 95174.91212558  .00000015  00000-0  27281-4 0    03
2 21799  63.4220 105.0584 0039000  28.3557 331.6443 13.40247904    00
USA 86 [KH 11-9]
1 22251U 92083  A 95210.26517860  .00007487  00000-0  75865-4 0    00
2 22251  97.9254 323.4447 0501015 229.6603 125.6207 14.83773807    08

    So if this is to be believed, the observers did in fact find the
satellite quite quickly after it began making significant numbers of
visible passes in the fall (it would be interesting to know the date of
the first sighting).  Why USA 53 wasn't seen in March and April isn't
obvious -- maybe it was weather, maybe the satellite was really in an
intermediate orbit which offered fewer viewing opportunities than
indicated here, maybe it was just bad luck.

USA 53          18.0  4.0  0.0  4.1
1 20516U 90019  B 90309.99079700 -.00002298  00000-0 -95528-3 0    03
2 20516  65.0200 194.0588 0009734 214.9671 144.9440 14.26241038    04
>>>

Cheers.

Walter I. Nissen, Jr., CDP       dk058@cleveland.freenet.edu   216-243-4980

---

Astronomy is lights in the sky.