Author Topic: STS-38 Secret Payload  (Read 14256 times)

Online rdale

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STS-38 Secret Payload
« on: 01/24/2011 02:06 AM »
Interesting report from the SEESAT list...

===


I have recently completed research into the identity of one of our unknown GEO objects, 2000-653A / 90007 - discovered by Ed Cannon in 1998 - and concluded that it is a highly classified U.S. satellite called Prowler. The abstract and URL of the report on my findings follow.

Space Shuttle mission STS 38 is officially acknowledged to have deployed  only a single payload, which is known to be a geosynchronous  communications satellite, operated by the National Reconnaissance Office. It has since leaked out that STS 38 deployed a second payload: an optically stealthy, geosynchronous satellite inspector, named Prowler.

In 1998, hobbyists discovered a bright unknown GEO object, with optical and orbital characteristics of a satellite, which they call 2000-653A / 90007. By early 2010, independent GEO satellite observation networks had accounted for every single GEO satellite acknowledged to have been launched, yet 2000-653A remained unidentified. Analysis of its optical and orbital characteristics, and other relevant facts, reveals great consistency with the emerging Prowler story, resulting in a strong circumstantial case that 2000-653A is Prowler.

http://satobs.org/seesat_ref/STS_38/Unknown_GEO_Object_2000-653A_-_90007_Identified_as_Prowler.pdf

Ted Molczan

Offline Zero-G

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #1 on: 01/24/2011 11:14 AM »
Interesting report indeed. Though it seems contradictory to me, that a (supposedly) "optically stealthy" satellite, has been discovered as a "bright" object.
Either it has lost its stealthiness over the years, or it wasn't as stealthy as planned in the first place.
« Last Edit: 01/24/2011 11:18 AM by Zero-G »
"I still don't understand who I am: the first human or the last dog in space." - Yuri Gagarin

Offline JimO

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #2 on: 01/24/2011 04:38 PM »
Interesting report indeed. Though it seems contradictory to me, that a (supposedly) "optically stealthy" satellite, has been discovered as a "bright" object.
Either it has lost its stealthiness over the years, or it wasn't as stealthy as planned in the first place.

No contradiction: it indeed lost its stealthy nature (optical shield orientation) after completing its mission several years after launch -- but by then, it had been parked over the Western hemisphere out of sight of Russia's primary deep-space optical tracking facilities such as Okno/Nurek.

When I first heard these claims I was skeptical to imagine conducting unmanned rendezvous ops in GEO long before they were conducted in LEO. But in hindsight I realize that GEO is a much MORE benign environment for teleoperation and relative motion control than LEO. [slaps head with hand].


Offline kevin-rf

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #3 on: 01/24/2011 07:50 PM »
I wonder, what would be more important? Optical inspection or RF inspection?

A de-spun platform may not be the best for optical inspection, but would be perfectly fine for RF inspection. Besides if you are trying to sample the signals being sent up to the object being inspected, you really don't need to be all that close to eavesdrop. You could standoff several miles away and still pick up everything being sent up. Maybe even triangulate and locate the ground stations. All this without the risk of bumping into anything, or being noticed.

Just a thought.
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Offline JimO

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #4 on: 01/24/2011 09:23 PM »
Just a thought.

A most impressive thought. Add in the chance of intercepting space-to-space burst transmissions and you have a high-value mission, especially if the carrier is not restricted to radio, but adds in laser.


Offline hoku

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #5 on: 01/24/2011 10:10 PM »
I wonder if Prowler also got visited by the MiTEx "twins"?
http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0901/14dsp23/

Offline Skyrocket

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #6 on: 01/24/2011 10:45 PM »
RF inspection?
...
Just a thought.

IMHO very likely, as the name "Prowler" has also surfaced in an ELINT context in the past.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/prowler.htm
« Last Edit: 01/24/2011 11:09 PM by Skyrocket »

Online edkyle99

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #7 on: 01/25/2011 12:09 AM »
RF inspection?
...
Just a thought.

IMHO very likely, as the name "Prowler" has also surfaced in an ELINT context in the past.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/prowler.htm

There's also speculation, out there somewhere, that Prowler was used to test RF path blocking, presumably by parking in front of the antenna  paths of in-orbit U.S. GEO milcomsats. 

As for secret satellites, it would seem to me much easier to hide things in plain sight - by, for example, attaching live payloads to what are thought to be dead, drifting upper stages, etc.  Or, hide them on what are thought to be dead satellites, or debris objects, etc.

 - Ed Kyle

Offline gwiz

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #8 on: 01/25/2011 10:45 AM »
As for secret satellites, it would seem to me much easier to hide things in plain sight - by, for example, attaching live payloads to what are thought to be dead, drifting upper stages, etc.  Or, hide them on what are thought to be dead satellites, or debris objects, etc.
Unless the mission requires some manoeuvring, which would be a bit of a give-away.

Offline Skyrocket

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #9 on: 01/25/2011 12:57 PM »
As for secret satellites, it would seem to me much easier to hide things in plain sight - by, for example, attaching live payloads to what are thought to be dead, drifting upper stages, etc.  Or, hide them on what are thought to be dead satellites, or debris objects, etc.

 - Ed Kyle

Works only in LEO, but stationkeeping of a spent stage near a geostationary satellite would raise some suspicions.
« Last Edit: 01/25/2011 12:58 PM by Skyrocket »

Online rdale

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #10 on: 02/20/2011 03:01 AM »
Interesting look at the shuttle side of this equation:

http://satobs.org/seesat_ref/STS_38/Evaluation_of_the_Opportunity_to_Launch_Prowler_on_STS_38.pdf

Space shuttle Atlantis was launched on STS 38, a classified DoD mission, in November 1990. It
was officially acknowledged to have deployed a single satellite, later identified by researchers
as SDS 2-2, a geosynchronous NRO communications relay. The deployment of a second
satellite has since leaked out: an optically stealthy, geosynchronous satellite inspector, named
Prowler. A retrospective analysis confirms that STS 38 had the opportunity to launch Prowler.
Atlantis could easily have launched the combined mass of both satellites and accommodated
them within its payload bay. The orbital and observational history of STS 38 reveals the time of
both payload deployments, and narrows the time of the PKM firings to a roughly half day period.
Prowler was at risk of detection by the Soviet Union’s space surveillance and SIGINT systems,
from deployment until arrival at its initial location in GEO. Taking into account likely detection
avoidance measures narrows the time of its PKM firing to three revolutions.
Evidence of deception consistent with providing cover for Prowler is found in the shuttle’s nonstandard
payload separation manoeuvres after both satellite deployments, and the apparent
timing of Prowler’s deployment to avoid detection by the SIGINT facility at Lourdes, Cuba.


Offline Targeteer

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #11 on: 02/20/2011 05:59 AM »
Another quote from the second report:

5.3 Shuttle Performance Sufficient to Orbit Both Satellites The combined mass of both satellites, their PKMs, and airborne support equipment (ASE) was 17,200 kg, well within the capability of the Shuttle at the time. For example, in 1989, on STS 30, Atlantis carried Magellan into a similar orbit; total mass of spacecraft, Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) and Airborne Support Equipment was 20,751 kg, per the mission press kit. The combined length of both satellites, about 10.7 m, would have fit within the Shuttle’s 18.3 m long payload bay.

If the above is true, would the SDS 2-2 have been at the back of the payload bay with the Prowler PAM cradle in front or visa versa? 

Maybe some of the shuttle-smart folks out there can help with location of the mounting hardware used for the PAM cradles.  I seem to remember there might have been capacity for 4...

From a CG point of view I would think the heavier payload would be in the back plus IUS deployments (the SDS PKM booster was based on the IUS first stage apparently) were always mounted near the back of the bay.  On the other hand pushing the SDS stack forward (again IUS standard) would mean going over the PAM cradle in the bay, something you may not want to do.
« Last Edit: 02/20/2011 06:16 AM by Targeteer »
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Jester

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #12 on: 02/20/2011 07:42 AM »
Interesting....

I'm going through some data (L2) and maybe Ted can use this to revise/check the report a little with this detail.

From the STS-38 Mission Report:

Sequence of events
(note that only 2 OMS maneuvers are listed, however the mission report OMS subsystem part mentioned 5 dual-engine OMS maneuvers with 13,458 lb of prop. used)
« Last Edit: 02/20/2011 08:04 AM by Jester »

Offline Jester

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #13 on: 02/20/2011 07:58 AM »
On the STS-38 MEL it has 4 OMS maneuvers, the plot thickens....
At least with this and the post above, Ted can check and correct some data.

Now only that 5th OMS maneuver listed on the MR.....
« Last Edit: 02/20/2011 08:10 AM by Jester »

Offline gwiz

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #14 on: 02/20/2011 09:52 AM »
On the STS-38 MEL it has 4 OMS maneuvers, the plot thickens....
At least with this and the post above, Ted can check and correct some data.

Now only that 5th OMS maneuver listed on the MR.....
Perhaps they counted the de-orbit burn as the 5th?

Offline Jester

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #15 on: 02/20/2011 10:12 AM »
On the STS-38 MEL it has 4 OMS maneuvers, the plot thickens....
At least with this and the post above, Ted can check and correct some data.

Now only that 5th OMS maneuver listed on the MR.....
Perhaps they counted the de-orbit burn as the 5th?

*slaps head* Yup, that seems to be it.

full shot attached, hope Ted gets this as it might make the picture he is painting clearer.
« Last Edit: 02/20/2011 10:22 AM by Jester »

Offline ASTUTE

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #16 on: 03/11/2011 05:49 PM »
« Last Edit: 03/11/2011 05:52 PM by ASTUTE »

Offline Jester

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Re: STS-38 Secret Payload
« Reply #17 on: 03/11/2011 06:07 PM »
I think you'll be able to find all ans http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/09/interview-with-ted-m.html ;D

uhh, no, this is just a nice story about things we already know. i'd like to see Ted use the above data and update his paper so it becomes more accurate.

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