VideoCosmos (
Thu, 25 Jun 1998 20:28:33 +0400 (MSD)

Hi everybody,

Although the object in question has decayed long ago, some of this list's contributors
can be interested in a new interpretation of the AFP-731 mission.

In Novosti Kosmonavtiki #11, 1998, an article by V.Kuznetsov, Yu. Podyezdkov and 
R.Shevrov was published. 'AFP-731 -- the most secret U.S. satellite'.

3/4 of the article is the review of what was published on AFP-731 from 1990 on, with 
multiple references to John Pike, Allen Thomson, Charles Vick and Ted Molczan.
The last 1/4 supposed to be the authors' own and unorthodox interpretation, and 
this is as follows:

(1) The mission of AFP-731 was radar imaging. (Authors don't explain why the U.S.
allegedly developed two radar systems, Lacrosse and AFP-731.)

(2) After AFP-731 was deployed from STS-34 on March 3, 1990 and the radar antenna was 
unfurled, some problem appeared preventing transfer to a designated orbit -- maybe, 
an upper stage failure. The crew couldn't retrieve the satellite with antenna and other
elements deployed, so AFP-731 was a loss.

(3) In March 1990, observers saw the satellite coupled with its upper stage; it decayed
March 19. Some debris was observed June 19.

(4) The source of energy for AFP-731 should have been either radioisotopic
generators or nuclear reactor(s). To prevent uncontrollable decay, this(these)
unit(s) was(were) transferred to a higher orbit, essentially as it was with
Russian RORSAT's reactors. It was the object that was observed in October and
November, 1990. (Authors don't explain why it maneuvered further.)

What do you think?

Igor Lissov
VideoCosmos/Novosti Kosmonavtiki