Recovered satellite

From: Tony Beresford (
Date: Mon Jul 26 2004 - 01:34:42 EDT

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    A recent FMO followed by the Rob McNaught at Siding Spring observatory
    was observed long enough for a reliable orbit to be determined by Mike McCants and Bill Gray. 
    Bill Gray has published his results at
    Mike McCant's result is below , included in my list of TLEs of potential nuisances for asteroid observers )
    1969  46 F
    1 03956U 69046F   04203.54093000  .00000000  00000-0  00000+0 0    02
    2 03956  35.0738 328.7629 8095846 146.2533 167.7977  0.46341823    09
    The object is identified as the  #3956, 1969 46F, a Titan 3C transtage
    used in the launching of Vela 5a & 5b. There were 3 small satellites launched into 
    a similar orbit. They are too small too have been detected by non-specular
    relection. Specular reflection condition couldnt be maintained over the observed arc.
    These small satellites havent been observed for 30 years. Numerical integration from the last
    known TLEs show an orbit plane very close to that for the observed object.
    It is in an eccentric orbit currently inclined 35 degrees to the equator. Near apogee where it was observed
    it is about magnitude 15 , at a range of 120,000Km. Near perigee it should be about magnitude 11,
    at ranges around 11,000-15,000Km. As you can see from the above TLE, the perigee is in low northen latitudes,
    so visual observation with 20cm or larger telescopes should be feasible. Currently such passes happen 
    in the early morning sky for the Nortern hemisphere at latitudes below 40 degrees.
    This object is evidentily not currently tracked by the US STRATCOM SCC. There is a TLE available from OIG for 
    #3956 but its artificiality ( 0 inclination, and eccentricity ) signal its spurious nature).
    Some time in the past year they rediscovered the similar upper stage for an earlier Vela launch 1967 40F (#2770)
    and publish elements through OIG. So such satellite elements  are not considered as "for official use only".
    I assume and hope this information will get to them somehow , causing them to begin tracking 69 46 F again.  Until it  does,
    occasional observations  to maintain the elements will be required so that it can be distinguished from asteroid VFMOs.
    Tony Beresford
    8597, -34.9638, 138.6333E, 
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