Fw: Break-up of Telkom 3 Breeze-M R/B (#38746)

From: Greg Roberts (grr@telkomsa.net)
Date: Sun Oct 21 2012 - 14:11:48 UTC

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    I havent seen this on SeeSat ( maybe I missed it? ) but Im sure of interest if not seen earlier.
    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: Pierre NEIRINCK 
    To: undisclosed-recipients: 
    Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2012 1:23 PM
    Subject: Break-up of Telkom 3 Breeze-M R/B (#38746)
      .> Message du 20/10/12 04:05
      > De : "Matson, Robert D." 
      .Hi Pierre,
      You might let people know who are interested in such things that for the
      last 3 days I’ve been investigating a major satellite break-up with well-known
      astronomer Rob McNaught. The event occurred on 16 October when Rob,
      as part of his regular near-earth asteroid survey work, serendipitously
      observed dozens of fragments passing through his very narrow field of
      view telescope (Siding Spring Observatory, New South Wales, Australia).
      Based on his astrometry, I positively identified the culprit as the
      Breeze-M R/B upper stage that was supposed to launch Telkom 3 and
      Express MD2 into GEO back in August (USSPACECOM #38746). Rob
      observed over 70 individual fragments moving in mostly parallel
      orbits that matched the location (to within 0.5 degrees cross-track),
      direction and velocity that #38746 ~should~ have had, except that most
      of the fragments showed up about 5 minutes early. A subsequent
      targeted search for #38746 one day later by Rob (cued by me) turned
      up nothing, adding confidence to the identification.
      Given that this Breeze-M rocket body was nearly full of fuel (it shut down
      after only a 7-second burn, stranding the two satellites in useless orbits),
      it is not that surprising that it would eventually explode. I’m still calculating
      when the break-up had to have occurred, but my suspicion is that Rob
      McNaught imaged the aftermath only a few hours after explosion. My
      guess is that it broke up near perigee due to the elevated aerodynamic
      stresses at that point in the orbit. Perigee occurs on a descending node
      in the northern hemisphere around 30 degrees latitude. Rob’s observation
      was close to 180 degrees away in mean anomaly (i.e. close to apogee on
      the ascending node).
      Surprisingly, USSPACECOM has not reported this breakup, nor has it
      cataloged any new fragments as a result of the breakup. Certainly
      McNaught has excellent data from which he and I will be able to
      construct dozens of TLEs for the brighter fragments, many of which
      are flashing at very high rates.
      Will let you know if there are any new developments.
      Have a good weekend!  --Rob
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