Re-entry over Great White North

Alan Pickup (
Fri, 30 Jan 1998 22:54:34 +0000

On January 20 John Stepkowski ( posted the following to
the and sci/ newsgroups:

> A correspondent in the Great White North of Canada would like to
> know whether there was a Chinese rocket launch/booster burn up
> which could account for a vivid sky display that was seen at
> approx  Mr 74.43 North 94.4 West on January 6, 1998.
> That's all the details I have at the moment but if anyone can
> help with additional info, it would be greatly appreciated.

I replied on January 24:
>There was no launch on January 6; the Lunar Prospector launch on the
>following day was the first of the year.
>My analyses of all near-to-decay objects (see the SatEvo URL in my .sig)
>indicates that one piece of debris from an earlier Chinese Long March
>launch did re-enter on the 6th. The Satellite Situation Report
>identifies this as a "Smart Dispenser" used in the launch of two dummy
>Iridium satellites last September 1. It has/had the NORAD/USSPACECOM
>number 24927 and the International Designation 97- 48 C.
>My conclusion, published in my SatEvo Decay List #46 on January 17, was
>that this object decayed at about January 6.55 (ie January 6 at about
>13:12 UTC). The final elset (set of orbital elements) published by
>USSPACECOM was for 10:23 UTC on that day. My estimate of 13:12 UTC as
>its actual decay time is based on an extrapolation through several
>elsets over the preceding hours and could be wrong by as much as one or
>two hours.
>If it had remained in orbit for only 30 minutes longer, which is very
>possible, it would have passed quite close to the location you give, its
>track over the ground being:
>            UTC    Lat N  Long W
>           13:40    85.5   132.4
>           13:41    82.5   104.6
>           13:42    78.8    94.0
>           13:43    74.9    88.8
>           13:44    70.8    85.9
>           13:45    66.8    84.0
>Unfortunately you give no indication of the time that the "vivid sky
>display" was seen. Could you provide that missing information?
>The only other re-entry that I place on that date was of a minor piece
>of debris from the exploded STEP-2 Pegasus rocket (USSPACECOM #24476 or
>94- 29 TZ). I have much less data to work on, but I calculate it might
>have overflown the location you report at about 02:43 UTC on a north-
>easterly track and probably decayed within a few hours (plus or minus)
>of that time.

I have just received an email from John which includes:
>I sent your list of sighting co-ords to my colleague in Northern
>Canada and he replied:
>   Superb info.  Our sighting here was 1343z.  In Greise Fjord 
>   (North East) it was 1345z.   We've got a match.  1 sighting 
>   identified.

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