Wednesday 4 September 2013

Tracking USA 245 (NROL-65)

In my previous post I blogged about observations of NROL-65, the new KH-11 Keyhole optical reconnaissance satellite launched on 28 August. As a satellite, it now has the designation USA 245 (NROL-65 was the launch number, i.e. NRO Launch 65).

I already blogged about how our small bunch of dedicated amateur trackers located and followed this classified satellite within hours after launch (I myself observed it on it's second revolution, 3 hours after launch). Since then, we have kept following it, documenting a number of orbital manoeuvres.

On the evening of August 30 Russell Eberst in Scotland and Cees Bassa in the Netherlands noted the satellite was notably late on the predictions, suggesting a manoeuvre. Observations by several observers (communicated on the SeeSat list) analyzed by Ted Molczan in Canada show it  manoeuvred on August 30 near 9:15 UTC from a 252 x 996 km into a 254 x 1002 km orbit.

A day later, on August 31 near 18:30 UTC, it manoeuvered again, to an approximately 259 x 1007 km orbit. It will probably manoeuvre more in the following days.

click image to enlarge

I observed USA 245 yesterday evening, under challenging conditions: an untimely field of very thin clouds passed just as USA 245 was passing over Leiden, at an elevation of about 40 degrees in the west. The image above shows the trail between thin clouds (star field is in Hercules).

The satellite now has the Cospar code 2013-043A, and by looking at the omissions in the SSC catalogue numbering we know it has SSC ('NORAD') number 39232.

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