At 1831 GMT July 26 2008  the Russian Space Forces launched a Soyuz-2 . 1B rocket from the Plesetsk complex. The spacecraft was designated Cosmos 2441 and is thought to be the the first Persona optical reconnaissance satellite. With an inclination of 98.3 degrees and initial orbit of 770km x 210 km it was assigned  the international designation 2008 - 037A

Persona is reported to be similar in design to the Arkon series , but incorporates a highly sensitive optical sensor.Nothing is known about the actual design. Three days after launch whilst carrying out a routine check of visual satellite passes over the UK  I noticed two objects  which were due to transit visually on the evening of the 29th.

My attention was drawn to their low orbital height. These were the two objects from the Soyuz-2 launch. Hampered by cloud I managed to see Object B cross the sky at 2138 GMT, very quickly , at about 40 degrees elevation. Thirteen minutes later , Object  A  , the main payload , appeared in a small gap in the clouds allowing me to fire off a few frames of video whilst the satellite was about 240 km downrange.The speed and trajectory of the first object   had given me a good idea of where and how quickly the satellite would be travelling....without this knowledge  I doubt I would have had time to image 


 From the few frames that were useable it was apparent that Persona is a Hubble type design , with solar panels each side of the optical tube. However the following day an article appeared in Aviation week which linked Persona with the DK-1 design... 

 The Resurs DK1, which is almost identical in appearance to the Persona configuration was first displayed by the Russians at the 2003 Paris Air Show. As is often the case with the Russian technology displays at the Paris and Farnborough shows, it was a major find 

 This set me wondering if  I had seen something other than Persona as the DK-1 is nothing like Hubble.Perhaps I had seen  a dummy payload ? Should I have focussed on Object  instead ?                  

 Within 24 hours the mystery was solved.Ted Molczan  confirmed that the orbit of Object  A  which had been circularised to a height of 700km plus was the payload after all and despite  speculation in the aviation and space press that Persona was a DK-1 design it looks like my observations have proved otherwise.Unfortunately , with the raising of the orbit it now seems that we will be unable to get another close look at the spacecraft. Eventually more details about Personas design may leak out.

But for the time being the only evidence we have are those few frames captured on the 29th.Pictured below is an artist's impression of  how the satellite may look on orbit. Initially I estimated the length of the satellite to be about five metres , however after recalculating , on the basis that  at 240 km  it subtends seven arc seconds , I have increased  the estimation to 7 - 8 metres


Article in July 28 2008

Russia Launched Persona to Get HR Shots for Intelligence

Make a Free Website with Yola.