Observations of TSS-1R, the (un)Tethered Satellite.

[TSS deploy image] [TSS separation image] [Tether flyby image]
The above TSS images were taken from video during the recent STS-75 mission, in sequence showing TSS being deployed, shortly after the moment the tether broke and TSS viewed during a close pass (75 km) later in the mission.

The tethered satellite, TSS-1R (23805/96012B), was lost around 0130 UTC, February 27, 1996, whilst nearing full deploy during the STS-75 shuttle mission. This satellite was to have been flown on the end of a 20 km long tether in order to investigate tether electrodynamics, orbital adjustment via a tether and the upper atmosphere. After separation from the shuttle, the satellite with tether still attached was left in a 28.5 degree, 400 by 320 km orbit.

The satellite and tether re-entered March 19, 1996 at about 2312 UTC, somewhere over the NW Africa/SE Asia region.

TSS image

A number of observations have been reported from Australia, Hawaii and the Southern US. Observers typically report seeing the tether subtending a degree or more (dependant upon the range to the satellite of course) with a small diamond of light atop, being the main satellite body itself.

[TSS image] Most reports indicated that the tether was hanging below the main satellite (roughly along the Earth radius vector, in a gravity gradient stabilized manner). Some have mentioned an apparent gentle curving of the tether along with a small kink or twist at the end furthest from the main satellite body, possibly where the free end has coiled in the manner of a telephone cable (this appears to be along the velocity vector). Others have commented on the surprising brightness of the tether - one report placed it at about mag. +3, though brightness estimates of such an unusual (in effect one dimensional) object are hard to make. It seems to compare favorably with the SEDS tether of recent years despite it being much narrower; only 2.54 mm.

Dr. Kym Thalassoudis has also provided this Quicktime movie (1.5 MB) showing TSS passing through the constellation Auriga (for reference the 4 stars visible, from top left to right are: 14 Aur (mag 5.0), 16 Aur (mag 4.5), HR1732 (mag 5.4), and 19 Aur (mag 5.0)).

This further image (12k) was taken from Hawaii.

The 2 inline images and movie above are 1996 Dr. Kym Thalassoudis.

Other Tethered Satellite information

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