Decay date of a KH 8-52 SRV revealed

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Fri Jan 11 2013 - 05:44:24 UTC

  • Next message: Scott Tilley: "ST OBS Jan 10th and 11th, 2013: NOSS 3-6, Yaogan 16..."

    On 2013 Jan 10, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) made its third release of documents related to its Gambit
    program, focused on GAMBIT Dual Mode:
    Two documents provide information on the re-entry of a film return capsule (SRV 4352-1) that failed to separate properly
    from KH 8-52, and remained in orbit for 20 years:
    "Once confirmation was made that the object was the M4352 film bucket, the National Reconnaissance Operations Center
    (NROC) initiated contingency support operations including procedures for monitoring the re-entry of an NRO payload.
    While estimates were made as to where the bucket was likely to come down, it was impossible to pinpoint an accurate
    re-entry time or location until almost four hours prior to re-entry. As the re-entry drew closer, the projected impact
    location converged on a South Atlantic-Antarctica regional impact. The Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) Space
    Vault tracked the bucket with its Space Surveillance Network radars, and the Aerospace Fusion Center captured data from
    the Defense Support Program's (DSP) infrared sensors that observed the bucket's re-entry, and provided a near-real-time
    assessment of impact location."
    The declassified documents do not reveal the catalogue number or international designation of the object, which was one
    of four objects catalogued as debris. Their TLEs were openly published during 1982-83, but were retroactively classified
    in June 1983, as part of a policy to classify most U.S. LEO military TLEs. To-date, USSTRATCOM has acknowledged the
    decay of 1982-006C / 13104.
    Several years ago, Mike Waterman recovered a large number of the debris TLEs from his paper archives, issued during
    1982-83. They are available in Jonathan McDowell's archive:
    Using the STOAG program, I have propagated all four orbits to decay. My estimate for 1982-006C was within a few months
    of USSTRATCOM's official date, which gives me confidence in my results for the remaining three, of which only 1982-006E
    / 13105 closely agrees with the date of decay of SRV 4352-1 disclosed by the NRO: 2002 Sep 28. The other two objects
    decayed years earlier.
    Here is a summary of the decay dates, and the source:
    1982-006C 13103  1999 Feb 18  USSTRATCOM
    1982-006D 13104  1988 Sep     estimated using STOAG propagation
    1982-006E 13105  2002 Sep 28  NRO
    1982-006F 13152  1995 Apr     estimated using STOAG propagation
    Ted Molczan
    Seesat-l mailing list

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Jan 11 2013 - 05:46:29 UTC