SPY SATELLITES

Any use of one of these images other than strictly private must be subject to prior authorization from legault@astrophoto.fr

All the images and videos below have been taken with a 10 telescope on automatic tracking system, as described on this page.   Detailed information about such satellites can be found on www.GlobalSecurity.org

X-37B confidential USAF shuttle

Lacrosse-5 radar reconnaissance satellite

USA-186 (Keyhole KH-13 series) Hubble-type optical reconnaissance satellite

Lacrosse-3 radar reconnaissance satellite


X-37B confidential USAF shuttle

This video of the second X-37B (OTV-2) has been taken from southern France on May 21st 2011 at 2:18 UTC. Distance to observer: 341 km (212 miles). Angular speed at culmination: 1.3/s. The speed of the sequence is accelerated two times with regard to real time.

Downloadable DivX file (for private show only).

The Boeing X-37B (also called OTV for Orbital Test Vehicle) is an unmanned vertical take-off, horizontal landing spaceplane operated by the USAF as a demonstrator for reusable space technologies. Like the Space Shuttle, it features wings, a payload bay and a thermal protection shield, but at van size: its length is only 29 feet (8.8 m), versus 122 feet (35 m) for the Shuttle. It also uses a deployable solar panel. The OTV-2 (USA-226) has been launched on March 5th 2011.

Below, a video taken the day before (May 20th) showing in real time a flare occurring around 3:33:08 UTC.

Downloadable DivX file (for private show only).


Lacrosse-5 (USA-182) radar reconnaissance satellite

This video of Lacrosse 5 has been taken from the area of Paris on January 15th 2012 at 17:28 UTC. Distance to observer: 787 km (490 miles). Angular speed at culmination: 0.53/s. The video is shown in original acquisiton scale and is accelerated two times with regard to real time. The image  below is a combination of 100 raw images and is enlarged by 200%.

During the passage, the brightness of the satellite decreases by 10 times in 4 seconds (a loss of 2.5 magnitude), and after 33 seconds regains its original level in about 6 seconds. This satellite often shows this very singular behaviour (sudden loss of brightness can affect a tumbling satellite, but this is not the case here), even the other Lacrosse satellites do not share it. It is called by the observers (especially Marco Langbroek) the "disappearance trick". Its cause, as well as the precise shape of the satellite, remain unknown.

 

Downloadable DivX file (for private show only).

Lockheed-Martin Lacrosses are military imaging reconnaissance satellites equipped with an aperture synthesis radar. Size is 13 m by 4.5 m (42 by 14 feet), Photo below (from GlobalSecurity).


USA-186 (Keyhole KH-13 series) Hubble-type optical reconnaissance satellite

This video of USA-186 close to perigee has been taken on May 25th 2011 at 21:02 UTC. Distance to observer: 316 km (196 miles). Angular speed at culmination: 1.4/s. The speed of the sequence is accelerated two times with regard to real time. A strong flare occurs around 21:02:00 at the end of the body of the satellite, just after a smaller flare just beside on the communication dish (see photo below).

Downloadable DivX file (for private show only).

Keyhole military satellites (Improved Crystal program) are used for optical high-resolution observation of the ground. They are often compared to the Hubble Space Telescope. Their orbit can be very elliptical (apogee about 1000 km, perigee under 300 km).

Below a mock-up of a KH-12 series satellite (from www.GlobalSecurity.org). Assuming that the KH-13 satellites are similar, the flares come from reflection of the Sun on the brightest and larger end of the satellite (right) and the communication dish.


Lacrosse-3 radar reconnaissance satellite

This video of Lacrosse-3 (USA-133) has been taken on April 6th 2011 at 20:09 UTC. Distance to observer: 661 km (411 miles). Angular speed at culmination: 0.7/s. The speed of the sequence is accelerated two times with regard to real time. A flare occurs around 20:09:30 UTC.

Downloadable DivX file (for private show only).

Lockheed-Martin Lacrosses are military imaging reconnaissance satellites equipped with an aperture synthesis radar. Size is 13 m by 4.5 m (42 by 14 feet), with a 30 to 45 m long solar array (100 to 150 feet), not including the radar antenna (either a single semi circular or two white gold semi ellipsoidal open mesh dishes). According to the Lacrosse-1 drawing below (from GlobalSecurity), the features visible on the video are the two parts of the solar array and the big dish antenna.

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