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Misty 1, 2, 3 (AFP-731)

These satellites are suspected to be stealthy electro-optical reconnaissance satellites. The program name for developing an stealth IMINT capability is reportedly "Misty".

The Misty satellites are likely derived from the KH-11 Block 3 satellites with low observable features added. The relation to the 8X or EIS program is unclear, but there might be common elements.

The first one was Misty 1 (aka USA 53 and AFP-731), deployed from Shuttle in 1990. Misty-1 remained in orbit for at least 7.5 years.

USA 144 was probably the Misty 2 mission. Launched from Vandenberg in May 1999 aboard a Titan-4(03)B with no upper stage, USA 144 probably has an IMINT mission, but its orbit is a mystery. Hobbyist satellite observers continue to track an object from that launch in a 2700 km × 3100 km, 63.4 orbit, but detailed orbital analysis reveals significant solar radiation pressure perturbations, from an area to mass ratio of about 0.1 m2/kg, 10 to 20 times that of a payload, and more akin to debris or a decoy, can be deduced. It appears to be no more than 5 to 10 m across, and only a few hundred kilograms in mass. If USA 144 is Misty-2, then it is likely to be in a 700 to 800 km, quasi 65 orbit. These orbits are low-drag, so orbit maintenance manoeuvres are not required.

The status of a third mission is unknown and it has likely been cancelled.

Note: The NROL designations refer to the launch, not to the payload.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Reconnaissance, electro-optical, stealth
Operator: NRO
Contractors: Lockheed Martin
Equipment: ?
Configuration: ?
Propulsion: ?
Lifetime: + 7.5 years
Orbit: 800 km × 808 km, 64.99 (#1); 2682 km × 3137 km, 63.44 (#2 ?)
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Misty 1 (AFP-731, USA 53) 1990-019B 28.02.1990 CCK LC-39A Shuttle with Atlantis F6 (STS 36)
Misty 2 (USA 144, NROL 9) 1999-028A 22.05.1999 Va SLC-4E Titan-4(04)B with Decoy ?
Misty 3 -


  • Usenet discussions, Ted Molczan

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