Sunday, June 12, 2011

Secret Satellites over the 'Burgh

During last week's spell of clear nights, I was able to image a couple of "secret" US satellites as they passed over Pittsburgh. I was only able to do 4-second exposures, as light pollution is such that longer exposures would wash everything out, so the streaks are very short. The show "in person" was much better.

First up is the USAF's X-37B OTV; I've been seeing this little unmanned mini-shuttle fairly regularly lately.

X-37B spaceplane overflight photo

1/400 scale Atlas V / X-37B model

and here we have, from US patent files, the patent for the original ReFly concept from which the X-37B sprang:

And here we have the vehicle mated to a Pegasus-type booster:

via Google patents

Next up, and under even worse lighting conditions is the Lacrosse 5 radar imaging satellite -

Lacrosse radar satellite overflight photo
It didn't completely do its "dissapearing" trick on this pass, but it did fade out some and then brighten. This bird was launched atop a Titan IV-B from Canaveral on April 30, 2005.

Lacrosse Bibliography:

"Radar Satellite Assesses Raids"  Aviation Week & Space Technology September 16, 1996  p.26

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