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

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Sat Dec 11 2004 - 13:09:37 EST

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    Jeffrey Lewis wrote:
    > Over the past year or so, a couple of individuals holding clearances 
    > have referred to a "classified piece of the puzzle" that complicates 
    > efforts to share orbital data; I was reasonably certain that was the 
    > MSTY program ...
    A few of us have discussed this over the past year or so, and I believe it makes
    In The Wizards of Langley, Jeffrey Richelson dated Misty back to 1983: "MISTY
    was one of at least two stealth satellites developed in exceptional secrecy
    subsequent to the 1983 Reagan administration decision to establish a stealth
    satellite program." (p. 247)
    In June 1983, the U.S. ceased to publish official 2-line orbital elements of
    most of its military satellites. Considering that Russia could readily track
    most such objects, this decision made no obvious sense at the time. However, it
    makes perfect sense as a cover in anticipation of the launch of stealth
    satellites a few years hence.
    Publishing official orbital elements of stealth satellites would defeat their
    purpose; however, suddenly ceasing to publish, and only of stealth sats, would
    arouse considerable suspicion, especially if the payload was nowhere to be seen.
    Ceasing publication of most military satellites in 1983, had the effect of
    normalizing the practice, by the time Misty 1 was launched in 1990. 
    During those seven years, Russia should have been able to track most of the new
    secret-orbit satellites without difficulty, but it is reasonable to assume that
    a few went undetected, especially those that went to high altitude orbits. If
    so, then the notion that some U.S. satellites "disappeared" soon after launch
    would also have been normalized.
    Ted Molczan
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