The source of the information for this sighting is from the project 1947 and Project Blue Book files. The Blue Book file contains enough information to analyze the case properly.
The Blue Book file contains a message that states the object was first seen 15-20 degrees above the horizon in the southwest and it proceeded eastward. It disappeared, by fading, in the southeast and was visible for 60-65 seconds. A follow up message indicated the object could have been a rocket. Blue Book wrote on the record card that it was possibly a missile launched from Wallops island.
I found the conclusion that it was from Wallops island to be a serious mistake. A launch from there would have the object to the north from the observer’s location. The sighting was to the south and the most likely source would have been Cape Canaveral. The location of the sighting was in the Southeast coast of North Carolina about 500 miles from the Cape. The Astronautix web site lists a launch of the SCORE satellite using an Atlas B rocket booster at 2302Z on the 18th of December, 1958. Cape Canaveral was about an azimuth of 210 degrees, which means the rocket would have first been visible in the South-southwest. Secondary engine cutoff occurred around 5-6 minutes downrange. This would have been approximately 450 miles from Cape Canaveral giving it a bearing of about 160 degrees from the observer and at a distance of about 600 miles.
Assuming the secondary engine cutoff (SECO) was around an altitude of 100 miles, the rocket would have been visible about 5-10 degrees above the horizon. The plot below is just an approximate for the rocket’s path and where SECO occurred.
A similar sighting happened on January 27, 1959, when an Atlas missile was observed from the vicinity of Bermuda and Wilmington, North Carolina.3 This demonstrates the missile would be bright enough and high enough in elevation to be visible.
The direction of observation and potential for being observed by an aircraft with an unobstructed horizon, combined with the time closely matching the launch time, indicates the rocket launch was the likely source of the report. This case needs to be removed from the Weinstein catalogue
Quelle: SUNlite 6/2020