Another decay?

Fri, 27 Jan 1995 14:58:17 +0100 (CET)

Forwarded from Compuserve (thanks to Chris Steyaert)

#: 202499 S1/General
    26-Jan-95  22:29:18
Sb: Satellite Re-entry ???
Fm: MARK GAISER 74143,1345
To: Conrad Kirksey 71575,1677 (X)

I observed what might have been the re-entry of a large satellite Tuesday
January 24 at 08:11 pm MST.  I was leaving work at White Sands Missile Range
and observed what I first thought was a small missile flying (something we
have a lot of).  After about 20 seconds of watching it grow brighter, I
realized that it was something re-entering the atmosphere.  The object grew
brighter then split into three pieces, one of which exploded,  the other two
pieces then split into 5 pieces.    The tail of sparkling debris was about 5
degrees long (guess).  The path was from the west south-west to the east
north-east (about 20 to 30 degrees of orbital inclination?).  I thought that
the groundtrack would have been about 60 to 150 miles south of my position
(20 to 110 miles south of El Paso TX) at the initial sighting.  I tracked the
object for about 2 minutes and then watched it disappear in the haze in the
East.  My initial reaction was that it was a satellite due the speed of
transit which I thought was about right for a LEO satellite and the ground
track from west to east. 
   I continued home, but wondered when the Governor of New Jersey's rebuttal
speech to the State of the Union speech was disrupted on the networks
satellite link.  Could this piece of junk have ionized a large enough swath
to blank the satellite link? 
   One of my co-workers also observed this object, and he also placed this
object well south of El Paso. 
   Thanks for any help or ideas you could give me!