Sunday 10 March 2024

A so far unidentified object in GEO near PAN and Eutelsat Hot Bird 13B [UPDATED]

PAN on March 4, 2024 (click image to enlarge)
UNID near PAN on March 8, 2024 (click image to enlarge)

In the evening of March 8 I did some observations to check upon the drifting PAN/NEMESIS-1 satellite. To my surprise, there was another object there that is not in the current catalogue (as of 10 March 2024). It wasn't there yet when I imaged the area 4 days earlier, in the evening of March 4, as can be seen by comparing the two images above.

Most likely this UNID is some commercial geosynchronous satellite that has been relocated without the 18th STS having caught that move yet. But it could also be something new. For now, it remains unidentified.

The UNID is located at about 33.8 E longitude. A very provisional elset:

UNID ML080324
1 99999U 24000X   24068.68698391 0.00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    03
2 99999   0.0001  87.9800 0002372 229.7255 130.2564  1.00270000    07

The object could perhaps be the newly launched Chinese satellite WHG-01 (2024-040A). It was launched from Xichang a week ago, on 29 February 2024. Currently (March 11, 2024), only an 8-day old GTO elset is available for the object. That elset combined with the elset for the UNID above suggests that the satellite could have been inserted into GEO at 33.8 E on March 6 near 11 UTC.

Over the half hour arc that I imaged it on March 8, the UNID remained stationary. 

PAN/NEMESIS-1 is meanwhile slowly drifting west (the drift can be seen in the images above too, by comparing the distance of PAN/NEMESIS-1 to EUTELSAT HOT BIRD B13), as it has been doing for quite a while now. On 2024 March 8 it was near longitude 33.45 E. It is currently drifting at a rate of approximately -0.03 degrees per day.


PAN longitude of subsatellite point over time (click diagram to enlarge)

NOTE: an initial mix-up of the names of two recently launched Chinese GEO sats was corrected.


UPDATE 14 March 2024:

Space-Track, since yesterday (first non-GTO TLE has epoch 24073.71736125 = 13 March 2024 17:13 UTC), finally also places an object  in this position, catalogue nr 59069, COSPAR 2024-040A. Provisionally named "Object A", but the Cospar code indicates this would indeed be the Chinese satellite WHG-01.

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