RE: Secret satellite resolved ... according to the WaPo

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Sat Dec 11 2004 - 12:23:00 EST

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    Ms. Dana Priest's article in The Washington Post, to which Jeffrey Lewis has
    kindly provided the URL, may confirm my suspicion that USA 144 (99028A / 25744),
    launched 1999 May 22 from VAFB, is Misty 2:
    excerpt of opening paragraph:
    <<<< New Spy Satellite Debated On Hill
    Some Question Price and Need
    By Dana Priest
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 11, 2004; Page A01 
    The United States is building a new generation of spy satellites designed to
    orbit undetected, in a highly classified program that has provoked opposition in
    closed congressional sessions where lawmakers have questioned its necessity and
    rapidly escalating price, according to U.S. officials. >>>>
    Since June 1999, several of us have been tracking an object from the launch of
    USA 144, in a 2700 x 3100 km, 63.4 deg orbit, which at first seemed to be the
    payload, based upon its brightness. However, in August 2002, after a re-analysis
    of our observations, I reported my finding that its orbit is significantly
    affected by solar radiation pressure, from which I deduced that it has the
    characteristics of low-mass debris or a decoy, not a payload:
    I also compared and contrasted the launch of USA 144 with that of Misty 1, and
    speculated that the real USA 144 might be Misty 2:
    Ms. Priest quotes three sources that seem to confirm this without relying upon
    orbital analysis:
    1. "[the] first craft was launched from the space shuttle Atlantis on March 1,
    1990" ... "A second Misty satellite was launched nearly a decade later and is in
    operation, sources said." This quote is the most specific of all.
    2. "The satellite in question would be the third and final version in a series
    of spacecraft funded under a classified program once known as Misty, officials
    said." This seems to fit with the notion that two Misty satellites have already
    been launched.
    3. "The stealth satellite, which would probably become the largest single-item
    expenditure in the $40 billion intelligence budget, is to be launched in the
    next five years and is meant to replace an existing stealth satellite, according
    to officials." If the reference to "an existing" satellite can be taken
    literally, then that makes sense, given that Misty 1, launched 14 years ago,
    likely would have been de-orbited by know, and Misty 2, launched just 5 years
    ago, likely would remain in orbit.
    Certainly, if Misty 2 has been successfully orbited, and if it is similar in
    concept and mission to Misty 1, then the launch of USA 144 is the only one that
    it could be, because the payloads of all other similar launches have been
    accounted for.
    Ms. Priest also cites an article in Novosti Kosmonavtiki that appears to rely on
    orbital analysis:
    "Circumstantial evidence of that satellite's existence was outlined in the April
    [2004] issue of a Russian space magazine, Novosti Kosmonavtiki. According to a
    translation for The Washington Post, the article suggested that a satellite
    launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in 1999 may be the
    second-generation Misty craft and noted that the satellite was put into orbit
    along with "a large number of debris," a likely deception method."
    If anyone has a copy of the article, I would be interested in a summary.
    Ted Molczan
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