RE: Shenzhou 9 estimated elements

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Sun Jun 17 2012 - 15:34:22 UTC

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    USSTRATCOM has catalogued five objects from the launch of Shenzhou 9 (12032A / 38461).
    The initial orbits of the spacecraft and its rocket are nearly identical to those of Shenzhou 8.
    As has happened with some of the previous launches, there has been some initial confusion between the spacecraft and the
    rocket body. As I write, of the five TLEs attributed to the spacecraft, all but the first (epoch 12168.69351054) are of
    the rocket. All four TLEs attributed to the rocket are of the payload.
    On Shenzhou launches, the key to distinguishing between the initial orbits of the spacecraft and the rocket, is that the
    rocket's perigee height is several kilometres lower than that of the spacecraft, due to the firing of its separation
    motors upon arrival in orbit, which occurs near apogee.
    Three of the four separation motor covers have been catalogued so far. I have not checked the elements for miss-tagging.
    Ted Molczan
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