K-2 = AFP-731 [aka Impending Launch of Stealth Spy Satellite??]

John Pike (johnpike@fas.org)
Wed, 26 Jun 1996 19:18:34 -0400

Well, sports fans, we got us another T-4/NUS launch comin
up down at the Cape in a few dayz, and we are still in a
guessin mode as to what to expect. 

When last we visited this question, we were pretty 
unconstrained as to orbitology and I guess that I guessed 
that we might be lookin at a second SDS-2/HERITAGE to GEO, 
to replace the STS-28 flasher from 1989. I can still tell a 
coherent story that connects the dots in this fashion, but I 
have no particular reason in advance to believe that this 
story is true.

So now the RUMINT channels are startin to open up a bit,
and the word over the back yard fence is that maybe ole
K-2 might be headin up the east coast, suggesting a high
inclination orbit.

If this is the case, perhaps we might be looking at another
AFP-731 like IMINT payload, and if so, it will be *most*
interesting to see whether the dang thing goes straight
to 1000x5000 or if it hangs around in LEO for a while.

For those who are so inclined, it might also be interestin
to be set up with some dummy elsets for such an orbit that
could be quickly updated with launch time info to perhaps
generate some look-see suggestions.

I would also be interested in having an exchange of views
on the question of just what sorta reduced radar and
optical signature one might achieve by havin some sorta
[inflatable / semi-rigid] shroud that might envelope the
spacecraft for low observability, since AFP-731 definitely 
seems to have dropped outa sight all around.

Some sorta inflatable or deployable blimp-like shroud could 
smooth out the rough edges of the normal spacecraft. The 
French have achieved some non-trivial reduction in RCS on 
their latest frigate just by putting a smooth shell over 
most of the topside, and I guess that with a bit of 
iron-ball paint [or more modern equivalent] one could 
probably also get another order of magnitude[s?] RCS 
reduction as well. About the only thing hanging out would be 
the solar array, and I understand over the backyard fence 
that the Lacrosse solar array is pretty dang hard for 
Russian radar to see..... This would sorta get one back to 
the streamlined tear-drop configuration so beloved of 
spacecraft "designers" back in the 1930s, as the thing would 
be pretty Buck Rogers looking.

I don't really have the sense that one would actually paint 
the thing black, as this would just jack up the thermal IR 
signature of the thing no end, but you might be able to get 
some pretty serious optical signature reduction by just 
smoothing out all the rough edges and eliminating specular 
reflection, and if the thing has got some ~~10kwe of 
electrical power going through it as it is, it might be that 
the extra solar absorption would not be that much greater 
than would otherwise have to be handled by the radiators, 
or, now that I am thinking about it, one could place the 
radiator in a dorsal position on the back [anti-Earth side] 
of the spacecraft and have some reflectors around it to make 
sure that any IR sensor or ASAT homer wouldn't see the 
thermal signature of the radiator, since it would not be 
likely that they would be looking down on the spacecraft 
from GEO ...

-- 
John Pike
Federation of American Scientists  http://www.fas.org/
 CyberStrategy Project             http://www.fas.org/cp/
 Intelligence Reform Project       http://www.fas.org/irp/
 Military Analysis Network         http://www.fas.org/man/
 Space Policy Project              http://www.fas.org/spp/

Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is 
just.
  - Jefferson