Back from Washington, shuttle comet seen

From: Daniel Deak (dan.deak@sympatico.ca)
Date: Mon Jul 16 2001 - 10:48:10 PDT

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    Hi all,
    
    I'm just back from a wonderful week spent in Washington. I've been invited by
    the Starshine project director, Mr Gilbert Moore, to watch some activities going
    around Starshine 2 and 3.
    
    Here is a brief list of what I saw and did during this week from July 9 to 15. I
    will post more details later on specific topics regarding visual observation
    because I've learned and seen a few very interesting things.
    
    I was able to see the Stashine 2 installation into its Hitchhiker canister at
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in a clean room. There I also visited the very
    small office of the Orbital Information Group (OIG). I attended the Starshine
    4/5 Hitchhiker Monthly Review to determine the nature of the mission where two
    satellites will be released simultaneously from the payload bay of Atlantis on
    mission STS-114 in November 2002.
    
    I visited a part of the Naval Research Lab where they integrate and test
    spacecrafts. I saw a test model of TiPS, ATEX/STEX, and Clementine. Also saw the
    now mothballed Interim Control Module that was to be attached to the back of
    Zarya on the ISS if the Zvezda launch would have failed. It's quite impressive
    to see half a billion dollars sitting inside a partly transparent container.
    I've also had many answers about spacecraft insulation techniques and materials.
    
    I've participated in the final assembly of the Starshine 3 satellite that looks
    like the Death Star from Star Wars because of its black body color and weird
    looking. I will come back later with details on the satellite and orbital data
    for the Kodiak Star mission that will launch on August 31 at 17:00 Alaska time.
    
    I also visited the National Air and Space Museum where there is a lot of
    spacecraft models on display. The one that caught my attention was a replica of
    an Iridium satellite built from spare parts. I took a lot of pictures of this
    bird from many angles and even simulated flares with my camera flash. I can tell
    you almost all surfaces on this satellite are reflective and I will put pictures
    on my web site.
    
    On Thursday morning, my girlfriend and I woke up early to watch the shuttle go
    by. I had no Internet access, was in an unknown sky environment and was not sure
    the shuttle would launch on time. I managed to find a TV station that reported
    about the upcoming launch and tried to figure out where to look in the sky using
    my portable computer. We went outside and waited. When the estimated time of
    observation arrived, I took my 20x80 and watched for it and there it was at
    05:11 EDT !
    
    It looked triangular and orange in color about 10 to 12 degrees above horizon. I
    guessed its azimuth at about 140 deg. It was the fastest "satellite" I've seen
    moving horizontaly to the left in twilight (sunrise was at 05:53). Magnitude was
    aroound -2. At MECO we saw like a comet tail appeared. It looked like a fuel
    dump of irregular shape. If it is not a usual feature, could it be the result of
    the new main engine being used for the first time ? If so, we could see more of
    these tails in the future. This tail measured about 3 degrees in length and was
    easy to see naked eye, it was also much whiter that the shuttle exhaust plume.
    It stayed visible for about a minute. The shuttle then looked like a dot and was
    lost behind trees at Az 95 deg and El 5 deg. Total observation time was about a
    minute and a half.
    
    I have now over 340 emails to read and a lot of things to do. I will post more
    info and links to my pictures in the weeks to come.
    
    Cheers,
    
    Dan
    
    -- 
    Daniel Deak
    representant, projet spatial Starshine
    Drummondville, Quebec
    
    COSPAR site 1746 : 45.8537N, 72.4857W, 90 m., UTC-4:00
    
    Site en francais sur les satellites:
    French-language satellite web site : http://www.obsat.com
    
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