Sunday, April 10, 2011

USA 227/NROL-27 at 30.4 W: a Gryphon in Hydra

NROL-27, a secret NRO payload that is probably an SDS communication satellite (see also here) was launched on 2011 March 11th.

On April 6th, Peter Wakelin made the first observations of the new object. The orbit (by Ted) places it at 30.4 W, over the mid-Atlantic in front of the Brasil coast, in a 5 degree inclined orbit, placing it low in the southwest for me, at an altitude of about 20 to 25 degrees.

click map to enlarge

Yesterday evening was a very clear evening, and based on Ted's preliminary orbit I photographed it, using the Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar MC 2.8/180 mm.

Below is (a part of) the image. The object, at that time a few degrees northwest of alpha Hydra, is bright and shows up well:

click image to enlarge

Launch patches for NROL-27 can be seen in an older post here.

Note added 12/04/2011: a follow-up discussing a possible relation between the NROL-27 mission patch symbology and the satellite's geographic location can be found here.

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