RE: NOSS & Spysats (Cont'd)

John Pike (
Wed, 22 May 1996 16:03:14 -0400

At 03:24 PM 5/22/96 -0400 :
>Ted Molczan wrote:

>SDS 2-1 was shuttle-deployed into a 57 deg, 300 km. 
>About one week later it manouevred to 454 km. It stayed 
>there for 3 months, before manouevring to a Molniya orbit.
>This was pretty confusing, and we still don't really
>know why it lingered so long in LEO. One possibility
>is that it suffered some sort of malfunction that
>prevented the HEO manouevre until the problem was
>somehow solved.

As I have previously noted, there is currently a lawsuit against Hughes that
seems to pretty conclusively IMHO confirm the malfunction interpretation.

>Well, starting with USA 53, the Kh's are 1 magnitude 
>fainter, but they are still very bright, especially near 
>perigee. So far, we have no way to determine whether
>or not this is due to stealth or a radically new bus or
>solar panel design.

We currently have very high confidence that the new KH series does at a
minimum involve a new bus design, as there can be very little question but
that the new KH uses the "Bus-1" configuration that LockMart tried to sell
NASA for the Space Station a couple of years back. This vehicle has a ~13 ft
diameter in consistent with the 10 ft diameter of the T-34D used to launch
the KH-11. While we have some reason to suspect that the KH-11 bus was used
on the last four or so KH-9 flights, it is hard to imagine that the KH-12
[yes, I know that Jeff R confirms that it ain't called this, but my database
sorts alphanumerically] would have only changed the bus while still using an
optical payload that was designed two decades before the first KH-12 was

Since our belief is that the KH-12 is substantially larger than the KH-11,
there would almost certainly be some difference in the treatment of the
surface of the new vehicle to account for the brightness difference. Just
what purpose this might serve is hard to say, and it is also hard to say
just what portion of the spectrum they have attempted to supress for
survivability purposes, but further thought might produce some insight.

>>for the last decade, or two, or three .... (my first was Sputnik III 
Perhaps my first consciously recalled memory was seeing the Sputnik-2 RB
around the time of my fourth birthday, which was sorta what got me started
in this whole space biz....

>Ah, those were the days - when everything was new, and almost every
>launch set some kind of record.

Well, we continue to live in interesting times. The various NRO payloads
that we have seen over the past five years or so represent a more or less
complete remake of their constellation, and I think that apart from the
folks on this list and a few others, this fact is still not widely
appreciated, and even here we are still confronted with some non-trivial


John Pike
Director, Space Policy & CyberStrategy Projects
Federation of American Scientists
307 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002
V 202-675-1023,   F 202-675-1024,