Recent Orbcomm Launch Payloads Seen

Ron Lee (ronlee@pcisys.net)
Thu, 06 Aug 1998 11:36:54 GMT

Initial passes of these objects (#25413-25420, 98 046 A-H) were about
11-12 degrees in the southeast.  The orbit situation has changed
enough that I finally got a 50 degree pass, although closer in time to
sunrise.

I downloaded Alan Pickup's SELECT.TLE file for recent elsets and ran
predictions using Rob Matson's Skymap program. I found a portion of
the pass near easily found stars and printed out the sky charts.

Setting up the 8" telescope and finding the stars proceeded normally
and on cue, the Orbcomms gracefully passed through the field of view.

By today (6 Aug 98, 1105-1108UT) the Orbcomms had separated into two
groups of four trackwise.  The first four (1106-1106 UT) came bye on
time and on track.   I did not make exact timings but they seemed
within a few seconds.   

There was a slight time gap between the next four that allowed me to
move the telescope northward about a degree.   As before, the last
four came bye on track and basically on time.

They were in the 8-8.5 magnitude range so they would have been a
challenge in binoculars.

What made this observation almost trivial was Rob Matson's Skymap
programs and the star charts (with satellite track's) that I can print
out.   Recent improvements that have helped me are the ability to
create inverted charts and the added star database (fainter stars).

I did not look for the two Pegasus rocket pieces.

Ron Lee