86-119 B flashing (accelerated?)

Bjoern Gimle@tt-tech.se (Gimle@tt-tech.se")
Fri, 04 Oct 1996 10:06:34 +0200

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>The drag (and Bstar) term has increased by a factor of 3 at times
>during the last 40 days.  It was about 0.0000600 before that.

Plotting the Mean Motion, (to be posted tonight as 
http://www.algonet.se/~b_gimle/gif/05730.gif and
I can not detect any effect on MM.

The smooth long-period variation is probably caused by 
argument of perigee and perigee relation to the Sun.

It could have been a very small leak, gradually building
a rotation, starting about Apr.10, 1996.

-- bjorn@tt-tech.se                +46-8-59095783 (office)--
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-- 59.22371 N, 18.22857 E           AND member of :       --
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Belgium, Oct. 19-20 !

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seesat-d Digest				Volume 96 : Issue 325

Today's Topics:
	 RE: Are the orbits of the Tselinas and the Okeans distinguishable?
	 Re: Superbird A from SoCal
	 Superbird A obs, more (what else?)
	 Re: Superbird A thoughts
	 Re: The Grand Archive
	 Aureole rocket is flashing !

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Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 00:54:26 -0400
From: Ted Molczan <molczan@fox.nstn.ca>
To: "'See Sat List'" <seesat-l>
Subject: RE: Are the orbits of the Tselinas and the Okeans distinguishable?
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Walter Nissen wrote:

>Can the Tselinas and Okeans be distinguished by the size and shapes of 
>>their orbits? 
>In other words, if you were shown an elset for one of them, could you 
>examine it, and without reference to any database of current elsets, could 
>you say "This is a Tselinan orbit" or "This is an Okean orbit"? 

I have never found any differences.
>I thought I might be able to answer this question in the affirmative, but 
>I find that I have not been able to do so.  The ndot/2's are very similar 
>and occupy ranges which largely overlap.  Ditto for the inclinations (i) 
>and the eccentricities.  The right ascensions of the ascending nodes, the 
>arguments of perigee and the mean anomalies are all over the globe, 
>reflecting the precise value for the epoch more than any constant 
>characteristic of the orbit.  I thought I might be able to ferret (pun 
>possibly intended) out some detail which is not very obvious in the TLE 
>elset, but I haven't; at least not yet. 

The Tselina D constellation consists of 6 planes,
60 deg apart. Over time, the planes of the oldest
ones would have drifted apart, due to the effects 
of drag.
>It seems to me that the small eccentricity of the orbits is quite 
>deliberate.  The objects must always be separated in 3D, even as their 
>orbits age and shrink somewhat unpredictably.  Their ma's cannot be phased 
>and spaced because of the unpredictability of the atmosphreric drag.  So 
>the orbits are given a small eccentricity and chosen so as to prevent 
>collisions.  Is this so?  Or does that small ecc have some other 

It appears to me that the small eccentricity is
typical of other near-circular orbits. Probably
it represents an acceptable tolerance, instead 
of a special design.
>The objects are in various orbital planes.  I haven't checked (I think the 
>slight variation in epoch of the various elsets makes this a small (not 
>clearly defined to me) task, instead of a simple, direct matter of 
>comparing raans).  Perhaps these planes can be distinguished (a separate 
>and interesting question), but that requires a database reference. 

I sorted your Tselina data by ascending RAAN, then I consulted 
Soviet Year in Space from 1987-90 and Europe and Asia in Space
1991-94, which state the satellite being replaced by each new 
launch. I assigned arbitrary plane numbers to each thread of
replacements I identified. Many of the older satellites predate
my references, but it is clear which plane they belong to. I 
separated each plane by a blank line, and in fact there are
quite a few degrees separating them, so they could have been
detected even without the references. (The planes have a greater
separation than any two objects within a plane.) Also, if you
compare the leading edges or the trailing edges of successive
planes, they are about 60 deg apart.
NORAD  DESIG      Epoch     Inc     Plane    RAAN    MM    Cosmos 
10973	 78067A	69.80695	82.47			 10.46  15.024	1025
18421	 87088A	69.80653	82.50		1	 21.52  14.859	1892
15494	 85009A	69.83429	82.52			 27.62  14.875	1626
13552	 82092A	70.42531	82.56			 30.44  14.881	1408
17566	 87024A	70.42590	82.52		1	 34.12  14.865	1825
19210	 88050A	69.86269	82.52		1	 45.77  14.820	1953
16719	 86034A	69.89542	82.54		1	 50.52  14.861	1743

16791	 86046A	70.07017	82.47		2	 86.15  14.825	1758
15592	 85020A	70.02425	82.53			 93.53  14.875	1633
15889	 85058A	70.06864	82.52		   	 95.43  14.862	1666
18958	 88020A	70.04962	82.53		2	106.41  14.832	1933
14147	 83061A	70.05416	82.51			112.62  14.852	1470
17191	 86097A	70.08950	82.50		2	116.47  14.855	1805

16611	 86018A	70.08200	82.51		3	148.15  14.867	1733
18748	 88001A	69.73223	82.51		3	153.16  14.847	1908
16986	 86074A	69.77741	82.51		3	158.53  14.835	1782
14819	 84027A	69.78898	82.54			164.47  14.873	1544
21422	 91042A	69.98833	82.50		3	174.54  14.762	2151

14032	 83037A	69.86078	82.50			200.58  14.873	1455
12785	 81082A	69.89913	82.48			203.51  14.889	1300
16495	 86006A	69.87015	82.52		4	210.98  14.875	1726
15369	 84111A	69.89380	82.51			217.31  14.863	1606
17295	 87003A	69.93938	82.52		4	218.49  14.855	1812
20465	 90010A	69.91528	82.49		4	225.31  14.789	2058
22286	 92094A	70.01786	82.52		4	240.91  14.737	2228

17911	 87038A	70.51878	82.49		5	268.62  14.840	1842
22626	 93024A	70.07055	82.52		7	268.64  14.737	2242
14551	 83122A	70.10694	82.52			273.52  14.864	1515
16326	 85113A	70.08607	82.52		5	280.51  14.857	1707
12987	 81117A	70.11496	82.52			282.78  14.861	1328
22236	 92080A	70.12063	82.51		5	298.47  14.739	2221

16262	 85108A	70.13307	82.50		6	325.57  14.860	1703
15944	 85069A	70.03633	82.52			332.30  14.866	1674
18152	 87055A	70.07012	82.50		6	333.35  14.825	1862
19573	 88093A	70.07665	82.53		6	345.11  14.823	1975
14699	 84013A	69.73863	82.53			348.58  14.835	1536
13271	 82059A	69.75590	82.50			360.10  14.870	1378

>Ted Molczan, your sizes for the Okeans are not identical.  Is this so?  Is 
>this intended?  Or could it be typographical error?  (My sympathies are 
>entirely with anyone who has undertaken the difficult task of shepherding 
>1000+ elsets). 

No it is not intentional. Originally, they were all assigned 
3.5 x 0.9 m, in accordance with the speculative values in the
RAE Table of Earth Satellites, 1957-89. As I recall, Mike McCants
found that the objects were brighter than would be expected
of those dimensions. So to yield more accurate standard magnitudes,
the dimensions were changes to 6 x 2 m, except for a the odd 
omission, which retained the older dimensions, or some provisional

Your message, and my recent introduction of measured std mags, has
inspired me to look for accurate dimensions for the Okeans. 
According to Europe and Asia in Space, the main bus is 3 m long,
and its diameter varies from 0.8 to 1.4 m. taking the average, I
obtain 3 x 1.1, which will replace the 6 x 2 and the others. Of
course the Okeans have various appendages that yield a larger
overall size, but normally I include only the main bus.

I will stick with 6 x 2 m for the Tselina D's, because I do not have
a reference with their dimensions. At least this produces a 
std mag in reasonable agreement with observations. Europe and Asia 
in Space states that Okeans and Tselina D's have similar RCS (radar 
cross-section), and they are produced by the same organization, so 
perhaps they are similar. Their std mags are not vastly different.
Finally, I see that I omitted the measured std mag for Tselina D
86046A, so I will change that to 5.2 in the Predict database.

Ted Molczan


Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 01:09:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: JAY RESPLER <jrespler@injersey.com>
To: seesat-L <seesat-l>
Subject: Re: Superbird A from SoCal
Message-ID: <Pine.BSD.3.91.961003010738.19277C-100000@nj5.injersey.com>
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

On Tue, 1 Oct 1996, Jim Varney wrote:
> West coast folks: if you haven't seen this bird yet, don't wait much
> longer.  

Sure, that's great for westerners.  But how much longer do we east 
coasters have to wait to see it?       :)

Jay Respler
Join us at Eurosom 2, the Satellite Observers Meeting: Oct.19/20, Belgium
Details of how to get on the Satellite Observer Mail List, satellite elements,
prediction programs and other satellite information, at the Visual Satellite
Observers Home Page:  http://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/sat/satintro.html
    Satellite Tracker * Early Typewriter Collector
               Freehold, New Jersey


Date: Wed, 02 Oct 1996 23:50:59 -0700
From: Jim Varney <jvarney@mail2.quiknet.com>
To: seesat-l
Subject: Superbird A obs, more (what else?)
Message-Id: <>
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Here are my observations for Sept 29 and Oct 3 in PPAS format:

89- 41 A 96-09-29 03:29:03.55JEV 386.0 0.1  33 11.697 FF, geosynch

89- 41 A 96-10-03 03:34:32.84JEV 362.6 0.1  31 11.697 FF, geosynch

Std error for both the 31 and 33 obs sets is just under 0.1 sec.

The 31 and 33 flashes are continuous runs where there was no missed
flash.  In both cases there are 23.4 sec flash periods just before and
after the continuous runs.  Per PPAS convention, the times shown
are ending times.

No, I don't think the .001 accuracy is real.  Just lucky they matched.

Rob Matson wrote:

>This Superbird rotation business is getting interesting.  

To say the least!  Your "sweep analysis" is thought-provoking.  Another
factor to think about is that the flashing has been going on for some
time now, and so is somewhat insensitive to the sun's declination.

>The angle from the sun to the satellite to southern California is 113
degrees at
>3:25 UTC, 112 degrees at 3:30 UTC.

Using the same vector methods as my previous post, I get for Sacramento

0327   113.69	obs-sat-sun angle, Oct 3 UT
0335   113.95	obs-sat-sun angle, Oct 3 UT

Conceptually it would seem that it should decrease, but Superbird has
a retrograde motion in the sky during this time period (azimuth falling

>So Robert Sheaffer in northern CA and Ron Lee in CO should see their peak 
>flashes several minutes before I do in southern CA.  This is testable.

A quick look at your obs from last night and mine from tonight seems to
indicate a time differential, but quite a bit less than "several minutes."
Perhaps the rotation axis is skewed, somewhere between the plane of the
orbit and the earth's poles?

Robert Sheaffer wrote:

>So, in the future we can tell people: "look for flashes from Superbird A
>when its sun angle is 53.7 degrees"?

No -- the 53.7 degrees was the case for that particular day.  As you can
in the above, the angle is opening up.

Jay Respler wrote;

>Sure, that's great for westerners.  But how much longer do we east 
>coasters have to wait to see it?       :)

Where were ya?  It was in your western sky in August!  :)

 -- Jim

Jim Varney       | 121^ 23' 54" W,  38^ 27' 28" N   |           Sacramento, CA
Member, SeeSat-L |           Elev. 31 ft.           |                         
Member, Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society      |jvarney@mail2.quiknet.com


Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 08:21:53 -0700 (PDT)
From: sheaffer@netcom.com (Robert Sheaffer)
To: Rob_Matson@cpqm.mail.saic.com (Rob Matson)
Cc: seesat-l
Subject: Re: Superbird A thoughts
Message-Id: <199610031521.IAA16367@netcom4.netcom.com>
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Rob Matson
> Since the specular solar image is 0.5 degrees wide, the
> flashes should theoretically last 13 minutes (with the edges of that window
> producing considerably dimmer flashes).  Coincidentally enough, this is just
> about what is observed.

So, again we reach another important point of understanding on this bird!
> How fast would the sweeps drift south in this scenario?  Assuming a satellite
> elevation angle of 30 degrees from the ground (to simplify the math), and a
> range of 39,000 km, 2.3 deg/hour is the same as 0.038 deg/minute, and .038 deg
> at that range corresponds to a ground footprint of 52 km.  So Robert Sheaffer
> in northern CA and Ron Lee in CO should see their peak flashes several minutes
> before I do in southern CA.  This is testable.

What I suggest is that two observers with the greatest distance from
each other (best, Ron and Rob, next, Ron and myself) be in contact
with each other by telephone at the time of the observation, and
tape the call on a speakerphone. Each indicates when he sees a

I will be tied up until next week, but I will be happy to do the
experiment then, skies willing.

However, it seems to me highly unlikely that the ground footprint of 
the reflection is merely 52 km. The time of the visibility of the
flashing seems to overlap in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Colorado,
and Tucson, even thought the peak times may possibly vary. So
this must be covering a rather large area.

> But even more importantly, if this description is accurate, then flashes will
> again be visible on the ascending node!!  Superbird A is back at 1.7 degrees
> south latitude at around 5:44:30am PDT; fortunately, it is still dark in both
> CA locations at this time, though Colorado may be out of luck.  Certainly
> worth a look-see.  Furthermore, the flashes should be 3 times brighter due to
> the vastly improved geometry.  Beta in the evening is 67 degrees for SoCal;
> beta in the morning is 151.  Brightness is proportional to the square of
> SIN(Beta/2).  (Beta being the angle from the sun to the earth to the
> satellite.)

This is testable, I'm sure. Unfortunately, coastal California is a land
where thick morning fog is the rule, especially at this time of year.
> Of course, all this assumes the fast sweeps are roughly east-west oriented. 
> If instead they are north-south, then it is the sun's relative motion and not
> the satellite's that dictates the duration of the flashes. But I think I can
> prove that isn't the case.  The sun is moving roughly 15 degrees per hour
> relative to the earth-satellite line.  That means the specular reflection
> moves a half-degree per minute.  So, unless the specular image is considerably
> larger than a half-degree wide, flashes should could not possibly last 10
> minutes.
> This is good news, because it means there's a good chance that flashes are
> actually visible on the ascending node...  --Rob

And, if this is correct, it means that the visibility of flashes
becomes relatively easy to predict.


        Robert Sheaffer - robert@debunker.com - Skeptical to the Max!
     San Jose, California -  37 deg 17' 19" north, 121 deg 59' 09" west.

         Visit my new Home Page - http://www.debunker.com/~sheaffer
          Skeptical Resources Debunking All Manner of Bogus Claims
               Also: Opera / Astronomy / Mens Issues / more


Date: Thu, 03 Oct 1996 18:00:41 +0100 (CET)
From: Bart De Pontieu <BDP@MPEPL>
To: seesat-l
Cc: bwgs-l
Subject: Re: The Grand Archive
Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT

Allen Thomson wrote:

>   Technology seems to have caught up with a notion I've been 
>entertaining for most of a decade, and I'd like to propose that 
>we discuss it here and perhaps make it come true.  It's the 
>"Grand Archive of Orbital Elements." 

I think this is a very good idea and I would also like to offer
my support. 

I think I can set aside some (computer) resources for this 
project here at MPE. Neil and I had already been thinking in the 
direction of providing current OIG-elements with a good Web/email 
interface anyway (as part of our VSOHP efforts), so this 'Grand 
Archive' proposal goes along the same lines.

I personally don't have many old elements on paper, having been forced
to throw away the two-line elements I had received in the 80s when I
moved to Germany 4 years ago. There are some elements scattered through
the 100 Flash issues though. Also, I will contact Hermann Boehnhardt
(Garching, Germany) who has all the satellite-related documents of the
late German observer Horst Koehnke. Hermann has been very helpful in
making Horst's flash period archive available to us in these past few
years (we've added most of them now to the PPAS-database based on 
volunteer typing in work). I would assume Horst has left Hermann a huge
number of two line elements too. Horst was active for a very long time,
from the early 60s until the end of the 80s!

>   So here's what I advocate: one or more institutional sites 
>with some stability volunteer to become cooperating hosts of the 
>Grand Archive.  The sites accept any and all email input of 
>current or historical orbital element sets in a defined set of 
>acceptable formats.  They then process the sets into a common 
>storage format, archive them and provide simple email retrieval 
>based on NORAD catalog number.  

Sounds good to me. Note that for several months now Neil and I have been 
testing an email retrieval system that gets its elements from OIG and
sends fresh elements back promptly. We expect to make this operational in
the upcoming weeks.

Before we start typing in printed versions of NASA's two line elements
from the 70s, I think it would be very useful if someone close to OIG
(or the Russian equivalent) asks whether they would be interested in 
helping us out. We've had some experience in the BWGS with building up an
archive from paper records and the work is very boring and the volunteers
are sometimes only barely persuaded to keep volunteering :-)

I think this discussion needs to become more practical to progress and will
quickly become unsuitable to the general public of SeeSat-L. I would
suggest that those who are interested in working on or reading about this 
project move their discussion to a separate list. I can't create a new
list until Monday (German holidays), but there is an old list at iris01 that 
hasn't been used for some time now (superseded by SeeSat), and that we can 
use for these discussions. To join this list, send a message with
SUBJECT: subscribe   to bwgs-L-request@iris01.plasma.mpe-garching.mpg.de
Messages intended for everyone on this list should be sent to 
I've subscribed to this list those people of whom I know they are interested
in the subject, as deduced from their messages on SeeSat about it. In case 
anyone of those people wants to unsub, just send a message with 
SUBJECT: unsubscribe
to the request-address. I've crossposted this message to bwgs-L, so if you
receive this message twice, you know you've been subscribed to bwgs-L.

     Bart, bdp@mpe-garching.mpg.de

PS: if the load of messages on SeeSat-L is getting too high for you, note
    that there is a digest-version of SeeSat, called SeeSat-D to which you
    can subscribe by sending a message with SUBJECT: subscribe
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Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 21:55:14 +0200 (MET DST)
From: tcools@nic.INbe.net (Tristan Cools)
To: seesat-l
Subject: Aureole rocket is flashing !
Message-Id: <199610031955.VAA23591@mail.be.innet.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

Willy Verhaegen, very active now, told me that the Aureole 1 rocket(a C1
Kosmos) is flashing with a short period of 2.84s.  Does someone have
additional obs of this object so this can be confirmed ?  Willy saw it on
serveral occasions, each time it was flashing.

Below you will find the most recent(which isn't very recent) obs in the PPAS

71-119 B 90-11-03 04:38      RE                       S
71-119 B 91-10-03 20:55      RE                80
71-119 B 92-06-08 01:28      BD                       S, mag +6.0
71-119 B 93-02-14 21:19:23.6 TK                       S, mag 2.5
71-119 B 93-02-14 21:21:02.5 TK                       var, mag 4.3 -> 6
71-119 B 95-03-17 19:54      WV                       S, mag +2

I would ask Kurt and/or Leo to put this object in the programme.

Tristan Cools
51.13N  3.16E

End of seesat-d Digest V96 Issue #325