Saturday 7 January 2023

2022 at a Glance

the astrometric positions I obtained in 2022 plotted on a starmap


The plot above shows you 2022 at a glance: all 938 positional measurements for orbit determination I did last year plotted on a sky map

In 2022, I observed on 21 nights (all in the period of April to September 2022), and obtained astrometry on a total of 52 different classified objects (often multiple times) plus 9 unclassified ones. All but one were objects in Low Earth Orbit this time - without intent I neglected GEO and HEO objects in 2022, but I hope to pick up coverage of those again in 2023.

In addition to astrometry (positions for orbit determinations), I also gathered a large number of photometric measurements (data on brightness variations), on Bluewalker 3 (2022-111AL) and on the Kosmos 482 Descent Craft (1972-023E, see the article I wrote on this object here).

Regarding photometry on Bluewalker 3, my data are part of this analysis, and I have become an affiliate member of the new IAU Centre for the Protection of Dark and Quiet Sky from Satellite Constellations Interference (CPS) in connection to these activities.

2022 was a weird year for me personally. Halfway through the year I transfered from Leiden Observatory (i.e. the Leiden University dept. of Astronomy) to Delft Technical University, as - against my own expectations - I landed a job as Lecturer in Optical Space Situational Awareness at the section Astrodynamics and Space Missions of the Aerospace Faculty at Delft Technical University (see my June blogpost here). I started in this new position (that should become a permanent position in June 2023 if I satisfy my employers) on June 1. 

Optical SSA is new for the TU Delft: together with my new colleague Steve Gehly I will be creating a new addition to the teaching and research curriculum of the faculty. That prospect is both terrifying and exciting - it is still incredible to me that I now will be teaching the stuff I once started as an 'amateur' on a University! I guess the academic career change from Archaeology to Space is final now.

During the last months of 2022, starting in the new job, including working on a couple of project proposals and finishing the FOTOS 2 project for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, took much of my time and energy.

Among the special interest objects observed in 2022 were, on the unclassified end:

- the Boeing Starliner CST-100 OFT-2

- Bluewalker 3 (2022-111AL)

- China's new experimental 'Space Plane', 2022-093A

- Kosmos 2558 (2022-089A, covertly stalking USA 326

- the Kosmos 482 Descent Craft ( I published a paper on this unique object in The Space Review in May 2022)


Boeing Starliner CST-100 OFT-2 and the ISS, just before docking on May 20, 2022

On the 'classified' end, there were three classified launches where I (usually in unison with Cees Bassa) managed to do the very first optical observations on these objects, a few revolutions after launch:

- NROL-85 (2022-040A, USA 327) in April.

- USA 328-331 (2022-064B-F), 4 objects covertly launched in June.

- NROL-91 (2022-117A, USA 338) in September.


first optical observation of NROL-91 (USA 338), on 25 Sept 2022

I covered two uncontrolled reentries of the massive CZ-5B core stages from the launches of the Wentian and Mengtian modules to the Chinese Space Station (CSS) in July and October with reentry predictions, leading to some media attention as well (it also lead to an episode where I became the target of State sponsored trolling).

I was interviewed by NBC Nightly News in August for an item about Kosmos 2558 stalking USA 326. I also was on Dutch national  television twice, once in March in an RTL-Z news item about Starlink, and once in October in a Nieuwsuur (NPO) item about Elon Musk, Starlink and the war in Ukraine.

I have also been giving several interviews and sollicited opinions in the written press (domestic and international) on various space-related topics, but didn't keep a tally of those.

Apart from spacecraft, I also analysed a number of North Korean and US Ballistic Missile launches the past year.

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