Strange element sets

From: Phillip Clark (
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 05:43:46 PDT

  • Next message: Ted Molczan: "RE: Strange element sets"

    While checking the Goddard web site this morning I came across the
    following unusual two-line orbital elements:-
    1 26303U 56001AAA 00120.25650089 +.00017579 +00000-0 +14813-1 0 00015
    2 26303 057.0534 152.7595 3386985 086.7275 310.8029 08.16760307001878
    1 26303U 56001AAA 00121.35822362 +.00017579 +00000-0 +14813-1 0 00023
    2 26303 057.0534 151.3906 3386765 087.3287 310.3162 08.16799142001967
    1 26305U 56001AAA 00120.80371434 +.00951290 +00000-0 +23520-1 0 00025
    2 26305 027.1681 024.6191 3104973 111.7283 284.1069 09.21850499002050
    Below I am showing the preliminary comments for the next issue of my
    Worldwide Satellite Launches, but there is the question of whether
    these two-lines actually relate to something real in orbit -
    especially since similar data were issued four years ago.
    Since I am more of a "sightseer" as far as observing satellites is
    concerned, I wonder whether anyone might have seen anything which
    could correspond to these two objects.  If they do relate to something
    real that is in orbit then perhaps they are classified (DoD) objects,
    although of course they could well be small pieces of debris rather
    than payloads or rocket stages, and thus they would not be easy
    objects to see.
    On the other hand, these could be figments of USSPACECOM's computer's
    imagination and generated purely for some training programme, and thus
    not intended for public cosumption.   The low perigees for the second
    objects from both 1996 and 2000 would rule out the corresponding
    element sets being the same object, unless, of course, it is
    manoeuvring which does not fit with it being a piece of debris.
    Any thoughts, observations (mental as well as anything visual !), etc
    would be most welcome !
    Phillip Clark
    Draft for Worldwide Satellite Launches, 8th May 2000.
    When the orbital data for the object catalogued as 26303 the first two 
    element sets were issued with the international designator 1956-
    001AAA, with the following orbits:-
    2000 Apr 29.25   57.05o   176.31 minutes   510 km   7,565 km    87o
    2000 Apr 30.35   57.05o   176.30 minutes   510 km   7,564 km    87o
    Similarly, the first orbital data issued for catalogue number 26305 
    was also give the international designator 1956-001AAA with the 
    following orbit:-
    2000 Apr 29.80   27.17o   156.21 minutes   247 km   6,213 km   112o
    It might be recalled that the "1956-001AAA" international designator
    appeared in June 1996 for the initial orbital data in respect of the 
    catalogue numbers 23932 and 23934:-
    1996 Jun 22.81   56.99o   182.03 minutes   469 km   8,054 km    67o
    1996 Jun 22.61   28.26o   167.36 minutes   144 km   7,219 km    77o
    These sets of orbits are certainly similar which suggests that they 
    might represent two real objects in orbit, possibly of a classified 
    nature.   Alternatively, they might represent orbital data which are 
    generated by USSPACECOM for training purposes and which somehow have 
    slipped into the public domain.
    The object 26303 was subsequently assigned to 1987-073D (see "Updates 
    and Additions" above) in a totally different orbit: at the time of 
    writing 26314 has yet to be assigned to another international 
    Phillip S Clark                                     22 Winterbourne Close
    Molniya Space Consultancy                           Hastings
    Compiler/Publisher, Worldwide Satellite Launches    E Sussex  TN34 1XG
    Specialist in "space archeology" - the older and more obscure the more 
    interesting it is !
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