NROL-22 launch

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Fri Sep 30 2005 - 18:34:12 EDT

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    NROL-22 is scheduled for launch from VAFB into a Molniya orbit on 2005 Oct 03,
    during a launch period from 22:00 to 24:00 UTC. As I write this, bad weather
    seems likely to cause at least a one day delay.
    This will be VAFB's first launch of the Delta IV, specifically, a Delta IV-M+
    (4,2), which I estimate can place in excess of 4,000 kg into a Molniya orbit
    from VAFB. 
    The U.S. has used Molniya orbits since the early 1970's for communications and
    SIGINT (signals intelligence satellites). I believe that NROL-22 will be the
    first launch of the successor to the Trumpet SIGINT satellites, the last of
    which was launched 8 years ago. I doubt it is an SDS (Satellite Data System)
    communications satellite, because four have been launched during the same
    period: two to geostationary orbits and two to Molniya orbits.
    The primary NROL-22 payload seems likely to host the first SBIRS-HEO
    (Space-based Infrared System) sensor. SBIRS is the successor to the DSP (Defence
    Support Program), which provide early warning of missile launches. It is common
    knowledge that the SBIRS-HEO sensor is to be a secondary payload, permanently
    hosted by a classified spacecraft.
    The ground track map reveals that the final burn of the 2nd stage rocket will be
    visible from South Africa:
    I believe that the 2nd stage's CCAM (contamination and collision avoidance
    manoeuvre) (i.e. propellant dump) is likely to be visible from Africa, and
    perhaps as far north as northern Europe. I estimate that the CCAM will begin as
    early as 60 minutes after launch, and could continue for up to 30 to 40 minutes.
    The following estimated elements assume launch on 2005 Oct 03 at 23:30 UTC. I
    will issue revisions once the actual launch date and time have been made public:
    1 71001U 70000A   05276.98914353  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    01
    2 71001  62.5000  86.0000 1333700 190.0000 351.8000 13.14740000    02
    The SECO1 elset is valid from T+00:14:22 to T+00:40:12.
    1 71001U 70000A   05277.24256020  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    01
    2 71001  62.4000  85.9600 7090000 270.0000 180.0000  2.10000000    08
    The SECO2 elset is valid beginning at T+00:43:34.
    I caution that the RAAN (right ascension of the ascending node) is uncertain by
    several degrees, so observers in a position to see the final burn or CCAM,
    should consider attempting visual acquisition using the unaided eye or
    wide-field optics, and then switching to large aperture, narrow-field optics to
    make positional observations of the payload and rocket body.
    Ted Molczan
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