RE: Orange-Red satellite

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Sun Jun 13 2010 - 02:44:46 UTC

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    Chris Spratt wrote:
    > Last night (June 11) at about 11:00pm PDT (-7 UTC) I saw through my 
    > binoculars a brightish (about mag. 2.5) reddish-orange satellite moving 
    > from North to the SE.
    > When it crossed the line it was about 80 degrees up. Unable 
    > to id this one, and I have never see a satellite that color before.
    > I believe that some satellites are a golden color but not the 
    > color of Mars.
    > Any help iding this is appreciated.
    The four reddest satellites I know are:
    ERBS        84108B  15354
    Lacrosse 2  91017A  21147
    Lacrosse 3  97064A  25017
    Lacrosse 4  00047A  26473
    You did not indicate the precision of the time of your observation, but
    taken loosely, Lacrosse 3 may be a match. It made a NW-SE pass that
    culminated 58 deg above the SW horizon at 10:28 PM PDT (Jun 12, 05:28 UTC).
    It is predicted to have reached mag 2.8 +/- 1.5. The elevation is lower than
    you reported, but it is common to over-estimate elevation by 10 to 20 deg. 
    If you are certain that you could not have seen Lacrosse 3, then I may still
    be able to identify it, if you could provide more precise information, e.g.
    describe its path through/near a constellation or near a star.
    The NRO "National Reconnaissance Office" released a photo of what is
    believed to have been a Lacrosse under construction:
    The gold coloured thermal blanket covering much of the surface of the first
    four Lacrosses gave them their orange-red hue. Lacrosse 5 (05016A / 28646)
    apparently uses little or no gold thermal blanket, so it appears nearly
    The reddest satellite I have observed is ERBS (Earth Radiation Budget
    Satellite), listed above. This photo of its deployment from shuttle
    Challenger reveals that it was almost completely swathed in gold coloured
    thermal blanket:
    It is currently making evening passes at your latitude, so you may wish to
    have a look. I last observed it about 20 years ago, so would be interested
    to learn whether or not it remains reddish.
    Ted Molczan
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