USA 144 - change in optical characteristics

From: Ted Molczan (molczan@rogers.com)
Date: Thu Sep 04 2003 - 10:45:47 EDT

  • Next message: David Brierley: "DMB Some obs Sept 3-4"

    Greg Roberts reported this morning that, "USA 144 appears to have changed
    optical characteristics. Formerly had a long period variation but tonight was
    rapidly flickering the entire pass."
    
    Here are his points:
    
    25744 99 028A   0433 F 20030902185413900 17 15 1005558-711555 39 I+063 05
    25744 99 028A   0433 F 20030902185528600 17 15 0900180-742826 39 I+063 05
    25744 99 028A   0433 F 20030902185751900 17 15 0610548-745232 39 I+064 05
    25744 99 028A   0433 F 20030902185927800 17 15 0447587-710346 39 I+067 05
    
    I am reasonably certain that Greg's is the first report ever of rapid flickering
    by this object. It will be interesting to see whether or not this behaviour
    continues, and what effect it may have on the well-known SRP (Solar Radiation
    Pressure) perturbations that affect this object.
    
    I have a hunch that the real USA 144 is Misty 2, a "stealth satellite" in a 700
    - 800 km orbit, with the above object a light weight decoy. At the very least,
    its rotation and high area-to-mass ratio (about 0.09 m^2/kg) suggest a
    debris-like object. 
    
    The long term evolution of its optical characteristics may prove decisive in
    classifying it, and in solving the mystery of USA 144.
    
    Here are recent elements:
    
    USA 144          0.0  0.0  0.0  3.6 v
    1 25744U 99028A   03225.81227299 -.00000030  00000-0 -46286-2 0    08
    2 25744  63.4450  49.1060 0240000 293.7002  66.2998  9.69793452    09
    
    Ted Molczan
    
    
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