Re: Decay date of a KH 8-52 SRV revealed

From: Brian Weeden (brian.weeden@gmail.com)
Date: Sun Jan 13 2013 - 23:12:49 UTC

  • Next message: Brad Young: "BY C 011413"

    I agree with your analysis and that of Jonathan.  Perhaps this was the reason why they stopped publishing TLEs for NRO objects shortly after this incident.  I think they may have decided publishing no info was a better alternative to publishing bad info that could undermine trust in the TLEs in general.
    
    -------
    Brian Weeden
    Secure World Foundation
    +1 202 683-8534
    
    On Jan 13, 2013, at 16:58, "Ted Molczan" <ssl3molcz@rogers.com> wrote:
    
    > Jonathan McDowell wrote:
    > 
    >> I have now analysed the orbital data in the declassified document
    >> 54.pdf in this collection.
    >> It confirms previous rumours that the saved TLEs for the A object at
    >> http://www.planet4589.org/space/elements/13000/S13040
    >> are NOT CORRECT - they are fine through Apr 28 but from Apr 28 to May
    >> 23 they refer to a DIFFERENT OBJECT
    >> (or maybe something invented). On Apr 28 1982-06A moved to a low 150 x
    >> 308 km orbit and seems to have
    >> been untracked by NORAD for almost a month.  More details at
    >> http://planet4589.org/space/jsr/latest.html
    >> (permalink will eventually be  planet4589.org/space/jsr/back/news.673)
    >> 
    >> I solicit analysis of the Apr 28-May 23 published TLEs for 13040
    >> (which I obtained from Allen Thomson's collection).
    >> What is this slowly decaying object? Does it later get retagged as
    >> something else?
    > 
    > This is highly interesting.
    > 
    > The apparent transition from reliable to doubtful TLEs occurs between epochs 82117.177 and 82118.130. Here they are as
    > recorded in Jonathan's archive:
    > 
    > 1 13040U          82117.17705877  .00013321           14937-2    1601
    > 2 13040  97.2339 195.5378 0008193 314.9290  45.0548 14.86887207 14136
    > 
    > 1 13040U          82118.13027880  .00010471           14937-2    1613
    > 2 13040  97.2339 196.3828 0008194 311.8286  48.2226 14.76834731 14273
    > 
    > At face value, the orbit was raised about 32 km in the interim, which would have required two manoeuvres. The time of
    > closest approach between the two orbits should be the approximate mid-point between the manoeuvres, but it occurs one
    > day too early, near 11:54 UTC (epoch 82116.4958).
    > 
    > Also of interest is that the TLEs spanning epoch days 82118 through 81142 appear to be represent the identical orbit
    > propagated to different epochs. Note the constant value of inclination and B* throughout, which was carried over from
    > epoch 82117 TLE. I tested this hypothesis by propagating the epoch 82118.130 TLE to the epoch of four subsequent
    > official TLEs, using a routine that extracts the mean elements generated internally within SGP4:
    > 
    > Archived TLE
    > 1 13040U          82124.63437970  .00010505           14937-2    1652
    > 2 13040  97.2339 202.2153 0008201 290.4308  69.6023 14.76971116 15235
    > 
    > Propagated 82118.13027880 TLE:
    > 1 13040U 82006A   82124.63437500  .00010510  00000-0  14937-2 0    05
    > 2 13040  97.2339 202.2152 0008201 290.4193  69.5920 14.76971112    06
    > 
    > Archived TLE
    > 1 13040U          82130.52820390  .00010536           14937-2    1675
    > 2 13040  97.2339 207.5015 0008207 271.0654  88.9617 14.77095082 16105
    > 
    > Propagated 82118.13027880 TLE:
    > 1 13040U 82006A   82130.52820602  .00010540  00000-0  14937-2 0    02
    > 2 13040  97.2339 207.5015 0008207 271.0189  89.0330 14.77095078    09
    > 
    > Archived TLE
    > 1 13040U          82137.91172475  .00010564           14937-2    1715
    > 2 13040  97.2339 214.1254 0008215 246.8489 113.1858 14.77250892 17199
    > 
    > Propagated 82118.13027880 TLE:
    > 1 13040U 82006A   82137.91172454  .00010579  00000-0  14937-2 0    09
    > 2 13040  97.2339 214.1254 0008215 246.7153 113.3563 14.77250890    01
    > 
    > Archived TLE
    > 1 13040U 82006A   82142.04344872  .00010596  00000-0  14937-2 0  1734
    > 2 13040  97.2339 217.8327 0008220 233.3163 126.7324 14.77338330 17806
    > 
    > Propagated 82118.13027880 TLE:
    > 1 13040U 82006A   82142.04344907  .00010601  00000-0  14937-2 0    09
    > 2 13040  97.2339 217.8327 0008220 233.1156 126.9921 14.77338332    07
    > 
    > The propagation employed a version of SGP4 that closely conforms to the Center for Space Standards & Innovation version
    > as of Fall 2008. Propagation was to the nearest second of time of the epoch of the official TLE.
    > 
    > Given the vagaries inherent in the natural evolution of orbits, and the imperfections in the orbital model and tracking
    > data, the negligible differences between the propagated and purported actual elements would be virtually impossible.
    > 
    > As another test, I computed the separation between the official epoch 82118 and 82142 TLEs, and found that in the
    > interim any difference was almost entirely along-track, ranging between zero and 8.45 km, which is improbably small.
    > Moreover, the difference evolved gradually, suggesting that it resulted mainly due to a slight difference between the
    > propagators underlying the TLEs, and the one used for the test.
    > 
    >> Is it really possible that NORAD failed to notice a 4.5 tonne polar
    >> LEO satellite for several weeks, or is this the first known instance
    >> of deliberate TLE disinformation?
    > 
    > It is highly unlikely for the GAMBIT satellite to have gone untracked for so long. The orbits in question do not
    > correlate with the four known debris objects, based on comparison with their near-contemporaneous TLEs. Deliberate
    > disinformation seems a possibility.
    > 
    > I offer the following speculation for discussion.
    > 
    >> From launch through epoch 82117, the apogee and perigee of 82006A did not resemble that of any previous Gambit or
    > Hexagon mission, which could have been at least somewhat confusing to the Soviets. They might have wondered whether it
    > was an imaging or a SIGINT satellite. Certainly, they would not have known that the object was intended to eventually
    > lower its orbit to the standard Gambit dimensions. 
    > 
    > I recall (source escapes me at the moment) that one motivation behind the later stealthy Misty IMINT satellite was the
    > Soviet ability to track the KeyHoles, which facilitated deception and denial. The sudden manoeuvre by 82006A to the
    > standard Gambit orbit might have served as a test of how quickly the Soviets would detect the change, as well an
    > opportunity to collect some imagery in the interim, against targets (hopefully) not practicing the usual deception and
    > denial. 
    > 
    > I do not know how long it took U.S. TLEs to reach the Soviets in those days, but perhaps the bogus TLEs were intended to
    > prolong their hoped for confusion. The results could have informed the development and argument in support of Misty,
    > which reportedly was approved in Spring 1983.
    > 
    > Alternative ideas welcome.
    > 
    > Ted Molczan
    > 
    > 
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