[FPSPACE] ISS observes Topol missile launch. By chance? Any hazard?

James Oberg jameseoberg at comcast.net
Sat Oct 12 10:44:22 EDT 2013

No, This Isn't a Movie: Russian Missile Lights Up Space Station's Sky  By Phil Plait 


Question 1: How high did the missile get relative to ISS altitutde?

On a similar test flight along the same KY-SaryShagan profile in June 2012, the missile rose high enough to be back-lit by the midnight sun and be visible high above the horizon [estimate 20 to 30 degrees] in Israel, Jordan, and other middle eastern regions. Geometrical considerations alone indicate it would have had to have been well above 500 kilometers up, perhaps as high as 1000 kilometers, to be visible 'over the horizon' of the curved Earth, from that far away. My advisory at that time: http://www.jamesoberg.com/Unusual_Russian_missile_test_sparks_mideast_UFO_flap.pdf 

Space is really really big, and 'Gravity' is only a movie [a Russian missile sets off the Kessler Effect

cascade of space debris swarms that provides the drama of this 'Indiana Jones in Space' adventure].

By probability alone I doubt there was any measurable hazard.

Question 2: Was the sighting totally by chance?

There are three cosmonauts on the station -- I am compelled to be cynical and wonder, was the very unlikely coincidence of visibility NOT by pure chance, but instead was it arranged by selection of a missile launch time WHEN the station was passing by, so the Russians could observe the missile with their own imaging systems from their own segment. And maybe one of them just hinted to his buddies that they might enjoy an awesome view if they happened to wander over to the window in their part of the station in 5 minutes?

An Interfax report had elaborated: "The objectives of the launch were confirmation of the stability 

of the flight characteristics of the missiles of this class during their extended service life, the testing of the 

instruments of measurement systems of various types, and the testing of intercontinental ballistic missile 

payloads," Yegorov said. ... He said that in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the methods of 

overriding missile defences being tested, measurement systems in the radar and optical bandwidths were used.

Of course that could refer only to surface and perhaps airborne optical sensors. But we recall from

early Salyut history that crews were assigned to observe launches out of Baykonur on more than

one occasion.

Question 3: We've seen one photo by Parmitano, where are the others?
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