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STSS Demonstrator Mission

Tyneside, UK
2022 Dec 4
Sunday, Day 338

Curated by:

Sensor Tests:


Press Release - mentions "Emerging Technologies"
2010 Sep 17 - Missile Tracking Test

A further Vandenberg AFB test of a Minuteman III ICBM was scheduled for 2010 September 15. In the event, it was rescheduled for September 17, the reason given being was the need to ensure data collection equipment in the impact area 320 kilometres south west of the island of Guam was fully ready. The data collection equipment included the STSS Demonstrator satellite pair.

The Launch

Before the launch, a time period of 10:01 to 16:01 UTC was announced. The long launch window was mainly to obscure the planned launch time. In the event, launch took place at 10:02 UTC.

After being launched during the hours of darkness (it was 03:02 local time), the missile probably took about three quarters of a hour to travel from Vandenberg for its dummy warhead to splash down in the target area - about 320 kilometres south west of the island of Guam. Total flight distance was about 8,500 kilometres.

STSS Demonstrator Involvement

At the moment of launch, the leader of the two STSS Demonstrator Satellites (USA 209, STSS Demonstrator SV-2) had Vandenberg on its horizon as it travelled south eastward over the western Pacific near-parallel with the US west coast. It had a clear view of the launch and crossed the path of missile, possibly at a very similar altitude, so would have had a horizontal view.

September 17 Missile Test

The second satellite, USA 208, would have picked up the missile 5-10 minutes after USA 209 and would have been able to follow it for most of the remainder of its journey.

September 15 - What Would Have Happened?

First, a short note concerning September 16 - the STSS Demonstrator ground tracks were too far west, away from the US Coast. The launch from Vandenberg would have been out of sight behind the Earth, only coming into view towards the end of the boost phase.

The launch window for September 15 was given as 10:01 to 16:01 UTC, exactly the same as for September 17. Looking at the ground track for that day shows the equivalent pass to that on launch day occurring about 40 minutes earlier and nearer to the US coast than on September 17 - possibly putting ot too far away from Guam. It was also before the announced launch window opened.

The next orbit is much more interesting. The track is slightly to the WEST of the one on September 15 but still gives a good view of the event. It also answers the question of what time the launch would have occurred - 11:14 UTC (03:14 local time).

September 15 Missile Test
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