Thursday, October 07, 2010

Not 7-11, 7-twelve

That would be because on Oct 7th, I saw twelve satellites or other orbiting objects (or OOOs - pronounced "Oooh!"s)

Got to go out for about an hour on Thursday. This was a good evening because I got to see two 'old-man' objects that I had been trying to see for a while. They were in the running to win the 'oldest object seen' award before Ablestar 008 came out of nowhere on Weds.

Here's the time-line of this evening:
Date: 07-Oct-2010 Thursday

8:06 - Iridium 16 tum - 6.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1997-030-F
This is the third time seeing the tumbling Iridium 16 satellite. For history's sake, Iridium 16 was launched on June 18 1997 aboard a Proton-K rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

8:13pm - Lacrosse 5 - 2.0 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2005-016-A
This is the third time I've seen Lacrosse 5 (aka USA 182), one of the National Reconnaissance Organization satellites. According to the NASA site "The payload is strictly classified as are the orbital parameters." Obviously the orbital params can't be THAT secret since people are accurately predicting this satellite. And here is the orbital information for you to see.

8:22pm - Atlas Centaur 2 - 3.5 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1963-047-A
First sighting!!! One of the original 'old man' targets. This object is the Centaur second stage of an Atlas rocket. According to NASA, launched on November 27 1963, this was used for performance and structural integrity tests of the Centaur second stage. The '2' denotes that it was the second launch of the Centaur. The first occurred in 1962 (I believe) however it failed and exploded. Oops. The third launch in 1964 also failed. Doh! Oh... and the fifth launched failed as well. Needless to say, they redesigned for a fourth time and after that, they didn't have any problems for about three years. Here's a pic of what the Centaur 2 looked like.

8:27pm - Abrixas rocket - 2.8 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1999-022-C
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket body. It was used to launch the ABRIXAS satellite. ABRIXAS stands for "A Broadband Imaging X-Ray All-Sky Survey". It was a small satellite which had 7 x-ray telescopes on board. As cool as that sounds, the on-board battery was accidentally overcharged and the battery died three days after launch. Attempts to communicate failed and the $20 million project was abandoned. :( Here's a pic of the doomed satellite. The rocket also launched Megsat 0, which as far as I know was successful. So the launch wasn't a total loss.

8:31pm - Cosmos 44 - 3.5 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1964-053-A
First sighting! This is the satellite which got me thinking about seeing how old of an object I could spot. I forget when I ran across this one, but I consider it the original 'old man'. Kosmos 44 was an experimental Russian meteorological satellite, we think. According to the NASA site, "No official description of the Cosmos 44 flight has ever been released." But the orbit of this satellite closely resembled that of a the first announced experimental weather satellite (Cosmos 122).

8:32pm - Resurs 1-4 Rocket - 2.0 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1998-043-G
Ye olde faithful (again). This is sighting number 5.

8:42pm - Cosmos 1508 Rocket - 2.5 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1983-111-B
This is my first sighting of this Kosmos-3M rocket body. It was used to launch a Taifun 1 / Vektor satellite which was used for radar calibration... or something. NASA called Cosmos 1508 an atmospheric research satellite.

8:45pm - CZ-4B DEB - 3.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2010-051-D
8:45pm - SJ-6H - 3.6 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2010-051-B
Launched Oct 6 2010 00:49 UTC (that would be 8:49pm Oct 5 EST) These objects had been in orbit only 2 days (almost to the minute) when I first saw them. It'll be hard to beat this record. Funny enough is that I didn't even plan this. It wasn't even on my list. I just happened to see it and then through reverse research found out what it was. Ha! There were actually three pieces that were traveling together, but I only saw two of them. I kinda guessed at which ones I actually saw since all I knew was that they were about 15 seconds apart. The other is known as OBJECT A (Int'l Code: 2010-051-A) which I assume it SJ-6G. Anyway, all of this was to launch the 7th (SJ-6G) and 8th (SJ-6H) satellites that are part of the Shijian 6 program. Another Chinese website noted that these were part of the Shijian VI-04 group and that they were environmental research satellites. First sighting for both of these items.

8:48pm - CZ-4B R/B - 3.7 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2010-051-C
This is the fourth piece of stuff from the Chinese launch on Oct 6th 2010. This particular piece is a rocket body. Both Shijian 6 satellites were launched using a Long March 4B rocket. Here is a pic of the Long March 4B.

Cosmos 1606 Rocket - 4.2 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 1984-111-B
This "first sighting" object is the rocket body of a Tsyklon-3. Here is a pic of it and it's launch history. I don't know what is considered 'reliable' but this rocket has had only 8 failures after 122 launches (that would be 7%). This particular rocket launched the Cosmos 1606 satellite which is used for ELINT (electronic intelligence).

BREEZE M DEB (TANK) (or Int1002BrzTank) - 4.4 Magnitude
Int'l Designator: 2004-022-B
This is my first sighting of this Briz-M (or Breez-M) upper stage tank for a rocket. This Briz-M is the fourth stage of a Proton-M rocket and is 8.6 feet long and 13.5 feet in diameter. The payload for this rocket was the Intelsat 10-02 international telecommunications satellite. Here is an interesting article about the Proton-M when it debuted in 2001.

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