Upcoming changes to the KH-11/CRYSTAL constellation

From: Marco Langbroek (marco.langbroek@online.nl)
Date: Sat Sep 14 2013 - 12:14:58 UTC

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    Hi all,
    For those interested: I have just written a blog post outlining what I expect to 
    be the character and potential time-line of changes to the KH-11/Enhanced 
    CRYSTAL ("Keyhole") constellation, following the recent launch of USA 245 
    (NROL-65) last August 28:
    Basically, I expect USA 186 (2005-042A) to significantly manoeuvre in late 
    winter/early spring, i.e. early 2014, lowering its apogee and eventually taking 
    up an orbital plane some 5-15 degrees west of USA 245 and where it currently is. 
    It will take up a new role as secondary rather than primary West plane KH-11, in 
    an extended mission.
    USA 129 (1996-072A), the current, highly aged West plane secondary, likely will 
    be de-orbited around that time (this winter or spring, or maybe even this autumn).
    The scenario is largely based on the behaviour of USA 161 (2001-044A) after the 
    launch of USA 224 (2011-002A) in 2011, and the character of past KH-11 
    constellation configurations.
    More details in the blog post.
    Caveat: of course, I could all be wrong....my scenario is an informed guess at 
    best, assuming past patterns repeat. Which they may not, of course.
    If I am correct though, it means we should keep a close tracking eye on USA 129 
    and USA 186 the coming 6-7 months. Some of us will remember the epic September 
    hunt for USA 161 after the major manoeuvre it made late August 2011...
    - Marco
    Dr Marco Langbroek  -  SatTrackCam Leiden, the Netherlands.
    e-mail: sattrackcam@langbroek.org
    Cospar 4353 (Leiden):   52.15412 N, 4.49081 E (WGS84), +0 m ASL
    Cospar 4354 (De Wilck): 52.11685 N, 4.56016 E (WGS84), -2 m ASL
    Station (b)log: http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @Marco_Langbroek
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