|Был уже патч с львом у которого ключ в зубах :roll: |
Был еще тигра, держащий глобус в когтях (USA-144, Ванденберг).
Товарищ Молчан на полном серьезе предрекает третью Мистю. Но даже если не привлекать столь экзотические версии, испльзование форсированных двигателей RS-68A требует объяснений.
|This payload probably is the one that until 1998 had been the final planned Titan IVB-NUS (no upper stage) launch, then scheduled for FY2004. It was shifted to EELV, and its Titan IVB was not completed. I am not completely certain that it was an NUS, but to my knowledge only 16 Titan-Centaur's were ordered, and all were launched. If so, then the payload in question must have been intended for LEO. I cannot prove that NROL-15 was that payload, but its place in the numbering sequence is consistent with launch originally scheduled for the early 2000's, and it is the only NRO payload from that period that remains to be launched.|
Assuming that this payload was of a type that had already flown, then there are not many possibilities. It could not have been a KeyHole, because by 1998 there was no plan to launch heavy-lift EELVs from VAFB, since the planned successor program (FIA) was to rely solely on medium EELVs. That leaves Lacrosse and Misty. There does not seem to be any evidence that a 6th Lacrosse was planned, but I cannot rule out the possibility that one was cancelled. In any case, NROL-15 remains to be explained, and it has a significant commonality with Misty: an unusual need for performance. Although the secrecy surrounding such programs introduces a great degree of uncertainty, I believe that the scenario presented below fits the known facts considerably better than any other that has come to light.
Misty is believed to have been derived from the Block 3 KH-11, which it outweighed by about 25 percent. Both were designed for exclusive launch by the space shuttle, with deployment by the unique motorized hinge-like SPDS (Stabilized Payload Deployment System). Soon after the loss of Challenger in 1986, the decision was made to shift all USAF and NRO payloads to the Titan IV, except for the few that were about ready to fly at the time. The Titan IV had already been under development for several years, with 10 vehicles including Centaur stages on order. The original Titan IV did not have sufficient performance to orbit Misty; therefore, in 1987 the SRMU (solid rocket motor upgrade) program was initiated, which would increase performance by 25 percent and improve reliability as well. The new version was called Titan IVB. It was delayed several years due to problems with the SRMU, and finally debuted in Feb 1997.
The switch to the Titan IV also required development of the Titan Payload Adaptor (TPA), which enabled deployment of Block 3 KH-11 and Misty from the top of the Titan IV 2nd stage, despite their having been designed for the shuttle's SPDS. It first flew in Nov 1992, on the launch of the first Block 3 KH-11.
In Feb 1990, Atlantis mission STS 36 carried Misty 1-1 (1990-019B / 20516) into a low altitude 62 deg orbit (the highest inclination of the shuttle program). Weeks before the launch, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported that the payload weighed 37,300 lbs. Misty 1-2 (1999-028A / 25744) was launched in May 1999 from VAFB on a Titan 404B, into a low altitude 63.4 deg orbit. It was the 5th launch of a Titan IVB; the fourth of a TPA.
The Delta IV-H far exceeds the performance of the Titan IVB, yet by 2005 it was found to be slightly short of the performance requirement of a single NRO launch, which prompted the decision in 2006 to spend an estimated $200 million to upgrade the RS-68 main engine to the RS-68A. It has been evident since late 2007 that NROL-15 is the mission that requires the RS-68A. Assuming NROL-15 is Misty 1-3, then the original Delta IV-H should have been more than adequate to launch it; therefore, the need for the main engine upgrade suggests a highly unusual launch profile.
DSN Canberra reportedly will support NROL-15, which rules out a Molniya type launch trajectory, but is consistent with a GEO mission. It would be useless to send a Misty to GEO, but creating the impression of a routine GEO launch would be very much in keeping with the deception practiced in the early stages of the first two Misty missions, which appeared to
target Molniya orbits.
Misty 1-1 had initially been visually brilliant and was readily detectable by radar, but vanished one week after launch, leaving behind a handful of pieces of debris, which gave the impression that it had either exploded or gone to a Molniya orbit and left behind a bit of incidental debris. It actually raised its orbit to 800 km, and increased its inclination by 3 deg, before activating its optical stealth system. It probably was passively radar-stealthy, so the debris that it left behind in its original orbit may have been a temporary radar-reflective second skin, to give adversaries the
opportunity to see it, before performing its vanishing act.
Misty 1's cover was blown in the fall of 1990, when hobbyists easily spotted it in orbit over Europe. Apparently, its optical stealth mechanism was activated only within range of known detection threats over the then USSR. This arguably created the need to modify the ruse to be employed by Misty 1-2, which apparently was accomplished by adding a decoy, which manoeuvred independently to a much higher orbit than that of Misty. Hobbyist observers tracked the intrinsically bright decoy for three years, in the belief it was the primary payload. They discovered the likely truth after they recognized its stronger than expected susceptibility to solar radiation pressure (SRP) perturbations, which revealed it to be no more massive than a few hundred kilograms.
The exposure of Misty 1-2's decoy in Aug 2002 may have provided some of the motivation to enhance the ruse to be performed by Misty 1-3. Also, by this time, the second generation Misty was early in its development and encountering significant opposition in Congress, due to its rapidly escalating projected cost and doubts about its usefulness. This might have created exceptional pressure on the NRO to use the final first generation Misty to demonstrate the continued relevance of this cold-war heritage program, as well as the ability to maintain its cover once in orbit.
Having NROL-15 masquerade as a GEO SIGINT launch by heading due east from CCAFS into a low 28.5 deg parking orbit, followed by the rapid separation of Misty 1-3, which would then manoeuvre to a quasi-40 deg orbit, might have been seen as the ideal solution to both problems. The new orbit arguably would be optimal for coverage of the Middle East, which by then had become the focal point for surveillance, and the launch trajectory would not resemble those of its predecessors.
Whatever the launch profile, to be convincing, the 2nd stage must not linger in LEO. Ideally, it would insert itself and a decoy resembling a SIGINT payload into a plausible GEO orbit. The decoy would need to be sufficiently bright to appear to have justified the use of a Delta IV-Heavy (especially one that required more powerful engines!), like the huge Mentor SIGINTs that shine at magnitude 8 - several magnitudes brighter than other contemporary GEO spacecraft. Unlike the passive decoy of Misty 1-2, it would need to manoeuvre to maintain east-west station-keeping.
Whether Delta IV-Heavy would be capable of supporting such a mission, with or without the engine upgrade, is unknown. There are less demanding options that do not involve the use of a decoy, but the ruse probably would be far less convincing.
The alternative requiring the least performance would be to de-orbit the 2nd stage into an ocean before an adversary could detect it by radar or optically, but that would require not issuing a NOTAM, a rule that I doubt the U.S. would violate.
The NOTAM issue could be avoided by disposing of the 2nd stage into a solar orbit. Interestingly, in Oct 2009, the Centaur used to launch DMSP F18 was disposed of in that manner, and in Apr 2010, the Centaur that launched the first X-37B was quietly sent into solar orbit, minutes after payload separation. These were arguably the earliest LEO EELV opportunities to practice the manoeuvre after the decision to retarget Misty 1-3 and upgrade the RS-68 in 2006.
Another alternative would be to send the 2nd stage to GTO, creating the impression of a failed GEO launch. There are NRO and USAF precedents. Vortex 5 was stranded in GTO in 1988, as was DSP F19 in 1999. But analysis of drag perturbations could reveal that there was no payload attached, which would raise suspicions. And Boeing and ULA would be less than thrilled for their rocket to be made a suspect of an apparent major failure.
Any of the above scenarios might explain the need to upgrade the performance of the Delta IV-H. Whether any of them would be feasible, with or without the main engine upgrade, remains to be proven. Careful analysis of the ability to perform each one, with and without the RS-68A, might help reveal which one, if any, is intended. I have done a bit of preliminary analysis, and would like to pursue it to a conclusion, but it's a problem best tackled by someone with the proper training and analytical tools; I am open to collaboration.
Сказанное выше выражает личную точку зрения автора, основанную на открытых источниках информации