Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Misty 2 decoy, USA 129, IGS 1B and more

Yesterday evening was a very clear evening. A bright moon lit the sky though.

Several objects were imaged. Two Keyhole satellites were captured: USA 129 (96-072A) and USA 161 (01-044A). For the first time this year, the Japanese IGS 1B (03-009B) defunct radar satellite was in range again, always a sure sign spring has arrived. Below are two images, of USA 129 and IGS 1B.

(click images to enlarge)

Among the HEO objects, the SIGINT USA 200 (08-010A) and the USA 144 deb/Misty 2 decoy (99-028C) were captured.

The latter is an interesting object. Launched in May 1999, a bright object from the launch was tracked by amateur observers (see story here). After some time it became clear from the orbital behaviour of the object, that it could not be a real operational payload. Rather, it is a piece of debris or a decoy meant to draw attention away from the real stealth payload. The object is bright, but probably small and very lightweight, and moving in a 2700 x 3100 km orbit. Below is the image I obtained on a pass of this object last evening.

(click image to enlarge)

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Keyhole USA 161 flaring

On the night of April 1-2, the Keyhole optical satellite USA 161 (01-044A) flared brightly to mag. -2 just after shadow exit. I shot a whole series of images (yielding 7 positions), of which this is the first (exposure starting a few seconds after flare maximum):

(click image to enlarge)

The same evening I also captured the Keyhole USA 129 (96-072A). HEO objects imaged were the SIGINT USA 200 (08-010A) and two brief glints by NOSS 2-3A (96-029A). The Russian Kosmos 2392 (02-037A) was captured as a stray on the USA 200 images.