Saturday, November 02, 2013 5:18 PM
I now believe that the fan-shaped sky apparition created by the October 10 'Topol'
launch, seen from many points on the ground AND from the ISS by at least the
three astronauts [we don't know if the Russian cosmonauts in their own segment
were watching or not] was the 'combustion gown' NOT of the three main stages,
but of the 'battle stage' bus carrying the monoblock warhead and penetration aids.
With the entire missile shown here
it's clear this unit [shown to me by Ed Kyle] called the 'battle stage'
was injected by the first three stages into free flight.
At the end of ITS burn, it ejected the warhead which
then performed the brief spinup burn creating the spiral
seen from the ground -- and possibly in some ISS images
not yet released.
If the four circumferentially mounted units beneath the aero shrouds
are thruster clusters, as Ed suggests based on other photos [and I find compelling also], we
then have a good explanation of the shape observed in the 'combustion gown':
a hollow core and four circumferential notches. These are exactly the aft spaces
that would be shadowed from plume 'fill-in' by the structure of the object shown.
If this is correct, it's kinda cool how the asymmetrical structures observed in the
'combustion gown' itself, seen from the ground and from the ISS, allowed a
speculation about the required physical layout/structure of the propulsion system that
was making it, AND a subsequent discovery of detailed photos of that stage structure
are perfectly in alignment with predictions made from analysis of the 'combustion gown'
Here's an excellent ground view from the side showing the hollow core and perimeter indentations:
Here's a brightened NASA-released image, viewing the apparition from nearly 'nose-on' from in front.:
Now I want to make a good estimate of the altitude and raw physical dimensions of the stage.
The length of the combustion cloud can allow an estimation of the ejection velocity and
consequently a good guess at the engine specific impulse [Isp].
Another question is what caused the lower portion of the cloud to become invisible as it dropped.
At first I thought it was 'setting' beyound the horizon, but that's too far away for the relative
motion that is now falling into place -- and would make the cloud much, MUCH larger as seen
from the ground. The crew reported seeing it settling into the upper atmosphere, but I
think that was a trick of perspective. I now prefer the theory that it was dropping beneath the
sunlight -- but I'm working the numbers now to test that hypothesis.