A SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 successfully orbited the Dragon CRS-4
spacecraft on a resupply mission for the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral,
Florida on September 21, 2014. The more than 500 tonne two-stage rocket lifted off from
Space Launch Complex 40 at 05:52 UTC to begin its 9 minute 30 second ascent to a 199 x 359
km x 51.644 deg orbit.
Dragon was loaded with 2.216 tonnes of cargo for ISS. The spacecraft weighed more than 8.6
tonnes at liftoff, including cargo. Included was the first 3D printer to be launched into
space, 20 mice riding in a specially-made habitat, a radar scatterometer to measure ocean
winds, and a metal plating experiment flown by a golf club manufacturer. that could
improve the design of golf clubs.
CRS-4 is slated to return to a splashdown off Southern California's coast with 1.486
tonnes of cargo after a four week stay at the station. It is the fourth of at least 12
missions to ISS that SpaceX is contracted to fly under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services
This Falcon 9 was not fitted with landing legs, but the first stage performed reentry and
landing burns after separating from the second stage. During the ascent the first stage
fired for about 2 minutes 50 seconds and the second stage for about 6 minutes 40 seconds.
Dragon separation occurred about 10 minutes 15 seconds after liftoff. Some time
after separation, the second stage reignited to perform a brief deorbit burn that targeted
a reentry south of New Zealand during the first orbit.
The launch came after a September 17, 2014 static test firing of the Falcon 9 first stage
engines on SLC 40. It followed by only 14 days the previous Falcon 9 launch of Asiasat 6
from the same launch pad. A 13 day turnaround might have occurred were it not for a
weather scrub on September 20.
It was the 13th Falcon 9, the 8th Falcon 9 v1.1, the 8th Falcon 9 launch during the
past 12 months, and the fourth launch during the past two months.
ULA/Blue Origin to Develop Powerful New Engine
BE-4 Model at Press Conference
On September 17, 2014, United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin, a privately held company
owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, announced that they were teaming to jointly fund
development of Blue Origin's new BE-4 rocket engine. The development effort would last
four years, with full-scale testing in 2016 and first flight in 2019. The new engine would
be available for use by both companies.
BE-4 will burn liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in an oxygen rich staged
combustion cycle to produce 550,000 pounds (249.5 tonnes) of sea level thrust. ULA
boosters would use two BE-4s to produce 1,100,000 pounds (499 tonnes) of total thrust at
Blue Origin has been working on BE-4 development for three years, with component testing
underway at the company's test site near Van Horn, Texas and in facilities near Kent,
Washington. Completed testing has included subscale oxygen-rich preburner development and
staged combustion testing of the preburner and main injector assembly. Testing of the
turbopumps and main valves is the next major step. A large new test facility was completed
in May, 2014 in Texas to support full-scale engine testing.
BE-4 should operate at a higher specific impulse than the Atlas 5 RD-180, but not as high
as Delta 4's RS-68. The engine could be heavier than RD-180, and the less dense propellant
would force use of bigger, heavier tanks than those used by Atlas 5, but BE-4s higher
thrust compared to RD-180 would help offset those factors.
ULA noted that BE-4 is not a direct replacement for RD-180, but that "two BE-4s are
expected to provide the engine thrust for the next generation ULA vehicles". The
company said that the "next generation vehicles" would "maintain the key
heritage components of ULAs Atlas and Delta rockets", including the strap-on
solid boosters, and said that details would be announced at a later date.
NASA Awards Commercial Crew to
CST-100 Approaching ISS
On September 16, 2014, NASA awarded commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.
Boeing was alloted $4.2 billion to develop and fly CST-100. SpaceX won $2.6 billion
to develop its Dragon V2. Although the awards differed in value, both companies responded
to identical requirements. Both will develop and certify their spacecraft and launch
systems, will perform a single crewed demonstration mission, possibly before the end of
2017, and both then will fly two to six missions to the International Space Station,
carrying four astronauts during each flight. Both spacecraft will be designed to stay at
ISS for up to 210 days to provide a lifeboat function.
The announcement left out Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser, a lifting body design
that would have glided to runway landings.
CST-100, a 4.56 meter diameter, 5.03 meter tall spacecraft, was expected to be launched by
United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket. The spacecraft will use four Aerojet Rocketdyne
RS-88 launch abort engines mounted in a pusher configuration on the aft end of a small
cylindrical service module to provide emergency aborts. The engines will burn NTO and
Hydrazine to together create about 72 tonnes of thrust. Aerojet Rocketdyne will also
provide orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters for the spacecraft.
An Atlas 5-422 version fitted with two strap on solid motors and a Centaur second stage
powered by two RL-10 engines was a likely CST-100 launch vehicle. Development and
certification of the two-engine Centaur would be required. Launches would take place from
Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41.
Dragon V2, a 3.7 meter diameter, 6.7 meter tall spacecraft, will be launched by a SpaceX
Falcon 9 v1.1. The launch site would be either SLC 40 at Cape Canaveral or LC 39A at
Kennedy Space Center, which SpaceX is currently refurbishing for Falcon Heavy.
One reason for the contract price difference is likely that SpaceX has a head start on
Boeing. SpaceX is already launching Dragon cargo missions to ISS. Dragon V2 will be built
in the same factory and launched by the same, already proven rocket as Dragon. Boeing
still has to have its launch vehicle developed and still has to outfit a production
facility for its spacecraft. The company plans to build and process CST-100 in a former
Orbiter Maintenance Facility building at KSC.
Atlas 5 Orbits Mystery Satellite
AV-049 Liftoff from SLC 41
The 49th Atlas 5 launched "CLIO", a satellite with a secret mission launched
for an unnamed government customer, from Cape Canaveral, Florida on September 17, 2014.
The two stage "401" rocket lifted off from SLC 41 at 00:10 UTC after
being delayed by weather.
RL-10 Performing First Burn
The Centaur stage performed a roughly 14 minute long first burn to place itself and its
Lockheed Martin A2100 series satellite into a roughly 176 x 28,871 km x 27.9 deg initial
The stage was expected to perform a second burn of about 70 seconds duration after a
cost of about 2.5 hours that would likely place the satellite into a geosynchronous
transfer orbit with a high perigee.
It was the seventh Atlas 5 launch of 2014.
5 Launches Measat 3b/Optus 10
Ariane 5 Launcher Number 573, an Ariane 5 ECA, lofted Measat 3b and Optus 10 into
geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kourou on September 11, 2014. The 780 tonne rocket
lifted off from ELA 3 at 22:05 UTC to begin Arianespace Mission VA-218. The upper stage
and payloads were inserted into a 249.8 x 35,786 km x 6 deg orbit about 25 minutes after
liftoff, with spacecraft separation occurring sequentially over the next 10 minutes. Optus
10 rode in the lower position inside a SYLDA adapter and separated after Measat 3b.
Ariane 5's EPC core stage burned for nearly 9 minutes to push the upper stage into a
suborbital trajectory. The ESC-A upper stage then performed a single, roughly 16 minute
long burn to complete the ascent.
Measat 3b, built by Airbus on a Eurostar 3000L platform, weighed 5,897 kg at launch. It
will use 48 Ku-band transponders and one experimental S-band payload to provide direct to
home TV service in Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Australia.
Optus 10, a 3,270 kg Space Systems/Loral 1300-series satellite, will use 24 Ku-band
transponders to transmit direct television, Internet, telephone and data to Australia, New
Zealand and the Antarctic region.
It was the 45th Ariane 5 ECA launch and 44th success. It was also the 75th Ariane 5 launch
and 71st success of all variants.
Launches Remote Sensing Satellite
A Chang Zheng 4B launched China's Yaogan 21, a remote sensing satellite, into orbit from
Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on September 8, 2014. A secondary, 67 kg experimental
"smart satellite" named Tiantuo 2 also rode to orbit. The three-stage storable
propellant rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 9 at 03:22 UTC. The payloads entered a
476 x 493 km x 97.42 deg sun synchronous low earth orbit. The third stage
subsequently lowered its orbit.
Yaogan 21 is thought to be an electro optical imaging satellite. China announced that it
will be used for "scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and
disaster monitoring". Western anaylsts believe it has a military observation mission.
The Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) built Yaogan 21. Tiantuo 2 was designed and
built by the National University of Defense Technology.
It was the year's fifth CZ launch, four of which have occurred during the last month.
Launches Asiasat 6
A SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 boosted Asiasat 6 into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) from
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on September 7, 2014. The 500-plus tonne two stage rocket
lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 05:00 UTC to begin a 32 minute long mission
that featured two burns of the Merlin 1D Vacuum powered second stage. The first burn
placed the vehicle into a 202 x 175 km x 27.7 deg parking orbit about 9 minutes after
liftoff. The second, roughly one-minute burn began after a 17 minute coast downrange to
the equator. Asiasat 6, a 4.428 tonne Space Systems Loral 1300 series satellite, was
targeted toward a 185 x 35,786 km x 25.3 deg GTO.
AsiaSat of Hong Kong owns the satellite, which will use 28 C-band transponders to transmit
video and data across China and Southeast Asia. Transponder sharing with Thaicom will give
the satellite a second moniker: Thaicom 7. AsiaSat 6's launch came just over one month
after the previous Falcon 9 launched similar Asiasat 8.
The first stage restarted three of its Merlin 1D engines after stage separation. The
duration of the burn was not announced, but it was likely only a brief ignition test.
No landing burn was attempted.
It was the seventh Falcon 9 v1.1 launch, the 12th Falcon
9, and the fifth SpaceX launch of 2014.
The launch was delayed two weeks to allow SpaceX engineers to review data from an August
22 failure of the company's Falcon 9R Dev 1 landing test rocket stage at the company's
McGregor, Texas test site. On that date the test stage lifted off on the thrust of three
Merlin 1D engines, but one of the outboard engines suffered a sensor failure at startup,
creating conditions that ultimately led to loss of control and the triggering of an
automatic destruct sequence after the stage had risen several hundred meters. The review
confirmed that Falcon 9 v1.1 would not have encountered the problem because it uses
redundant sensors while Falcon 9R Dev 1 used a single string setup.
Falcon 9R Dev 1 failed during its fifth test flight. It first flew on April 17, 2014. On
subsequent tests it flew to 1,000 meters, maneuvered, and landed successfully. On its
third test on June 17 it used steerable grid fins for the first time to augment control.
The August 22 flight was apparently the first to use three engines, with the two outboard
engines expected to be throttled and then shut down prior to landing.
Launches Two Comsats
A Chang Zheng 2D launch vehicle boosted two communications satellites into low earth orbit
from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China on September 4, 2014. On board the two
stage rocket were Chuangxin 1-04, a store dump communication satellite from the Chinese
Academy of Sciences designed to transfer data for
"hydrology, weather, electric power, and disaster relief", and Ling Qiao, a 135 kg experimental communication satellite
from the Tsinghua University.
CZ-2D lifted off from LC 43/603 at 00:15 UTC, bound for
a sun synchronous orbit. The satellites entered 770 x 807 km x 98.47 deg and 778 x
809 km x 98.46 deg orbits, while the second stage was left in a 254 x 837 km x 98.00 deg
orbit after venting its propellant.
It was the fourth CZ orbital launch of 2014 and the 21st CZ-2D flight. All have
2-1b/Fregat Launch Fails (August 29, 2014 Update)
A Soyuz 2-1b with a Fregat upper stage placed a pair of
European Galileo navigation satellites into incorrect, and possibly useless, orbits after
an August 22, 2014 launch from Kourou Space Center. Flying the VS09 mission for
Arianespace, the 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from the ELS pad at 12:27 UTC to begin a
planned 3 hour 47 minute mission designed to loft the two 730 kg satellites into 23,522 km
x 55.04 deg circular orbits.
Arianespace initially reported that the mission was a success, but hours later had to
announce that tracking data had found a "discrepancy between [the] targeted and
reached orbit". Tracking data showed three objects in roughly 13,720 x 25,920 km x
49.7 deg orbits, consistent with a problem occurring during the second and final Fregat
burn at first apogee. The burn was expected to last five minutes.
Since the launch vehicle flew a direct azimuth toward a 55 deg inclination and the
final inclination was only 49.7 deg, it seemed likely that the Fregat stage performed an
unplanned out-of-plane burn at apogee that wasted most of its planned delta-v increment.
On August 28, Russian newspaper Izvestia, quoting an unnamed source from Russia's
Roscosmos, reported that the Fregat failure was likely caused by an "embedded
software error" that resulted in the provision of an "incorrect flight
assignment" for the stage. On that same date, Anatoly Zak's Russianspaceweb
reported that the stage had been improperly oriented prior to the final burn for reasons
as-yet unknown. Two attitude control thrusters had not provided an expected control
impulse during an orientation maneuver, but the flight control system thought that the
thrusters had worked and therefore did command a correction.
Russia's TsSKB Progress built the 2.5 stage R-7 rocket. NPO Lavochkin built the
Fregat stage. Both companies performed launch and flight operations.
OHB-System and SSTL built the satellite bus and payload,
respectfully, for the fifth and sixth Galileo satellites, which were to be named
"Doresa" and "Milena". They were expected to be the first two
Full Operational Capability" satellites of a planned 22 satellite
Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B serial number Y27 orbited China's Gaofen 2, a civilian high
resolution earth observation satellite, along with BRITE-PL-2, a 7 kg microsatellite from
Poland, from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on August 19, 2014. The three-stage rocket
lifted off from Launch Complex 9 at 03:15 UTC. Gaofen 2 separated into a 604 x 631 km x
98.03 deg sun synchronous orbit.
Gaofen 2 is based on the CS-L3000A bus. It has 80 cm panchromatic and 3.2 meter
multi-spectral resolution, with a designed lifespan of over 5 years. The satellite mass is
unknown, but CZ-4B can lift about 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes to the Gaofen 2 orbit.
After separating Gaofen 2, the CZ-4B third stage pitched sideways to release BRITE-PL2.
BRITE-PL-2 will take images of star fields to precisely measure the star brightness.
It was China's third orbital launch of 2014 and was the
year's 50th known orbital launch attempt.
Atlas 5 Launches
Flying for Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, a two-stage United Launch Alliance
Atlas 5-401 boosted Worldview 3, a commercial optical imaging satellite, into sun
synchronous low earth orbit from Vandenberg AFB on August 13, 2014. Liftoff of the
333 tonne rocket took place from Space Launch Complex 3 East at 18:30 UTC. After a four
minute first stage burn, the AV-047 Centaur stage flew a direct insertion ascent using a
single RL-10A-4-2 burn that lasted 11 minutes 43 seconds. The 2.812 tonne Ball
Aerospace-built satellite separated into a 607 x 629 km x 97.97 deg orbit about 19 minutes
Worldview 3 will provide 31 cm optical resolution from its operational 617 km orbit for
DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colorado. It is the sixth observation satellite for
DigitalGlobe, which sells imagery to the U.S. government and to commercial companies.
Atypically, ULA did not provide a prelaunch press-kit with launch timing information.
Since Atlas 5-401 should be able to lift 6 tonnes or more to the Worldview 3 orbit,
it seems likely that the Centaur stage performed one or more post-separation burns.
It was the sixth Atlas 5 launch of 2014, and the second
Atlas 5 of the year to fly from Vandenberg AFB.
Launch from Jiuquan
A Chang Zheng 4C boosted multiple objects into orbit from Chian's Jiuquan Satellite Launch
Center on August 9, 2014. The three-stage rocket, tail number Y14, lifted off from LC
43/603 at 05:45 UTC, officially carrying the Yaogan 20 remote sensing satellite.
China's Xinhua press service only discussed the Yaogan 20 satellite, which it said will
"conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid
in preventing and reducing natural disasters". After the launch, however, western
tracking systems showed five objects in roughly 1,087 x 1,104 km x 63.4 deg orbits, along
with the spent third stage in an 898 x 1,111 km x 63.45 deg orbit. Some analysts believe
that the launch carried multiple satellites designed to monitor naval activity.
It was the second CZ launch of the year, and the first CZ-4 series launch since a December
9, 2013 launch failure that involved a CZ-4B third stage. Both CZ-4B and CZ-4C use
hypergolic propellant fueled third stages powered by twin YF-40 engines, but the CZ-4C
stage can be restarted.
Falcon 9 Launches Asiasat 8
The 11th SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the sixth v1.1
variant, boosted the Asiasat 8 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit
from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2014. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at
08:00 UTC, only three weeks after the previous Falcon 9 launch from the same pad.
Falcon 9's second stage performed two burns during a 32 minute mission to aim the 4,535 kg
Space Systems Loral 1300 series satellite toward a 185 x 35,786 km x 24.3 deg insertion
orbit. Asiasat 8 will burn its own propellant to provide roughly 1,750 meters per second
delta-v to reach geostationary orbit.
Before the encapsulated Asiasat 8 satellite was attached, the rocket was rolled out to
perform a brief static test firing on July 31, 2014. Like recent payloads, Asiasat 8
was processed in the SPIF (Satellite Processing and Integration Facility) at Cape
Canaveral. The SPIF, part of the former Titan Integrate Transfer Launch (ITL) launch
complex, formerly handled Shuttle, Titan IV, Altas II, and EELV Defense Department
Asiasat 8 was the heaviest beyond LEO payload carried by
a Falcon 9 to date. Falcon 9 flew in expendable mode without landing legs as a
result. It was the year's fourth Falcon 9 launch.
Atlas 5 Orbits GPS 2F-7
A two-stage Atlas 5-401 orbited U.S. Air Force Global
Positioning Satellite 2F-7 from Cape Canaveral SLC 41 on August 2, 2014. Liftoff of
the year's fifth Atlas 5 at 03:25 UTC began a 3.5 hour mission that put the 1.63 tonne GPS
2F-7 navigation satellite into a 20,200 km x 55 deg circular orbit.
Atlas climbed on a northeast azimuth from the Cape,
parallelling the U.S. Eastern seaboard. Centuar performed a 12 minute 48 second long
first burn to lift itself into an elliptical transfer orbit with a 20,000+ km apogee.
After coasting for just over 3 hours to first apogee south of Australia, Centaur
burned again for just over 2 minutes to complete the mission.
It was the 10th orbital launch from Cape Canaveral in
Final ATV Launch
An Ariane 5ES orbited European Space Agency's fifth and
final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), with cargo for the International Space Station
(ISS), from Kourou on July 29, 2014. ATV-5, named "Georges Lemaître" after the
Belgian scientist who formulated the Big Bang Theory, separated into a 255.3 x 260.5 km x
51.64 deg orbit about one hour after the VA219 mission lifted off from ELA-3 at 23:47 UTC.
Ariane 5s hypergolic propellant fueled EPS upper stage performed two burns prior to
spacecraft separation, followed about 1.5 hours later by a third deorbit burn.
ATV-5 weighed 19,926 kg at liftoff - heaviest ever for an Ariane 5. The mass included
2,628 kg of dry cargo and 3,933 kg of propellant, water, and gases, for a total of 6,561
kg of cargo. The robotic spacecraft will dock to ISS several days after launch, beginning
a six month stay.
Previous ATV launches took place in 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Delta 4 Launches
"Neighborhood Watch" Spysats
A Delta 4 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on July 28, 2014 with two U.S. Air Force
Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) satellites. They were the first
two satellites in a planned GSSAP constellation that will drift above and below the
geosynchronous belt to monitor other objects in space.
The Delta 4M+4,2, with two strap on boosters and a four-meter diameter payload fairing,
lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B at 23:28 UTC. The mission was expected to
directly insert both GSSAP satellites and a microsatellite named ANGELS (Automated
Navigation and Guidance Experiment for Local Space) into near geosynchronous orbit about
six hours later, using a three-burn upper stage profile. ANGELS was expected to test
"autopilot space situational awareness" by navigating around the second stage
Orbital Sciences built all three satellites. The two GSSAP satellites likely weighed
0.7 tonnes or less each. Two additional GSSAP satellites are planned to be launched
by an Atlas 5 in 2016.
The launch required five countdowns over six days. The initial attempt on July 23
was scrubbed due to a problem with ground support equipment. Attempts on the following
three days were stopped by bad weather.
It was the 20th Delta 4 Medium launch, all of which have
M-24M Flies to ISS
Russia's Soyuz U launched Progress M-24M, with cargo for the International Space Station,
into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 23, 2014. The robot spacecraft flew a fast
track, four-orbit, six hour approach to ISS. Progress M-24M lifted off from Area 1
Pad 5 at 21:44 UTC. The spacecraft carried about 2.6 tonnes of cargo and fuel to the
ISS currently houses a crew of six that includes NASA's Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman,
European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst, and Russia's Maxim Suraev, Alexander Skvortsov
and Oleg Artemyev.
It was the 56th Progress flight to ISS, and the 151st
flight of any type to the station since construction began in 1998.
Launches Foton M4
A 2.5 stage Soyuz 2-1a launch vehicle orbited Foton M4 from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July
18, 2014. Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 20:50 UTC. 6.84 tonne Foton M4,
equipped with a recoverable reentry capsule packed with biological samples, entered low
earth orbit about 10 minutes later. The capsule is expected to return after about two
months in orbit.
Russia's webcast of the launch was not available in the United States and the United
Falcon 9 Campaign Ends with Success
The fifth SpaceX Falcon 9
v1.1, and tenth Falcon 9 overall, launched six Orbcomm data
relay satellites into low earth orbit following a July 14, 2014 Cape Canaveral
launch. Liftoff from SLC 40 took place at 15:15 UTC. The second stage
performed a single direct insertion burn to place the Orbcomm OG 2 payload, consisting of
an adapter with six 172 kg Orbcomm satellites and two 172 kg mass simulators, into a 614 x
743 km x 47 deg orbit. Sierra Nevada Corporation and Boeing Corporation built the
satellites, which will maneuver themselves into 715 km circular operational orbits.
The launch culminated a difficult campaign that endured more than two months of delays.
An early May launch date had to be postponed after a May 8, 2014 static test was
called off due to ground support equipment issues. A helium leak occurred inside the
first stage during propellant loading for a second static test attempt on May 9, 2014.
The leak required rollback of the rocket for inspection and replacement of an
unspecified part from the stage, along with a review of designs and procedures.
The Orbcomm payload was deencapsulated and removed from the rocket after the leak.
After the rocket was repaired, the launch campaign restarted, leading to a successful
static test on June 13, 2014. Then the launch was delayed for five days due to
issues that appeared during testing of the Orbcomm satellites after their period of
storage at SLC 40.
On June 20, 2014, a launch attempt was scrubbed several
minutes before liftoff due to a decay in second stage pressurization, apparently due to an
issue with ground support equipment. A June 21 attempt was scrubbed due to weather
after the propellant was loaded. Another attempt was scrubbed on June 22 before
propellant loading began after a problem with a first stage thrust Vector Control actuator
was detected. Once again, Falcon 9 was rolled back into its hangar for repairs.
While repairs were underway, the Cape Canaveral range entered a pre-planned two-week
shutdown for maintenance, which prevented launch attempts. The rocket was static
tested on July 1, 2014. On the evening of July 10, 2014, Falcon 9 No. 10 rolled out
to its pad for the final time.
The Falcon 9 first stage burned for about 2 minutes 38 seconds as the rocket climbed on a
steeper than typical trajectory while aiming for a 620 km insertion altitude. The
trajectory also allowed the first stage to attempt a landing closer to Cape Canaveral than
achieved during the previous flight. The second stage fired for about 6 minutes 46
seconds to reach its insertion orbit. Orbcomm deployment began about 15 minutes after
After staging, the first stage perrformed a reentry burn, followed by reentry and a final
landing burn to attempt soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean, in a continuation of a test
series evaluating the possibility of recovering the first stage by having it fly back and
land near its launch site. SpaceX head Elon Musk tweeted that the burn and leg
deployment were successful, but that the stage "lost hull integrity right after
splashdown (aka kaboom)". He said that a review of data was needed to determine if
the issue was due to splashdown forces or to the tip over and "body slam" after
landing. A few days later, he reported that the "body slam" was likely
responsible, suggesting that the landing itself had been successful. SpaceX
subsequently released on-board video that showed a successful landing. The released
video cut off just before the safely landed stage tipped sideways into the ocean.
The second stage performed a reentry burn after payload
separation, a maneuver aided by the substantial excess delta-v for this mission.
Total deployed operational mass was only 1.032 tonnes. Total mass including the two mass
simulators and deployment adapter was likely only about 1.5 tonnes. Falcon 9 v1.1
capability to the Orbcomm insertion orbit was likely more than 10 tonnes, though some of
that capability was likely expended in the steep ascent.
Orbital Sciences' Antares boosted a Cygnus spacecraft
into orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia on July 13, 2014 to begin NASA's Orb-2
International Space Station resupply mission. Cygnus Orb-2, named "Janice Voss"
in honor of the late former Orbital employee and NASA astronaut, carried 1,493.8 kg of
crew supplies, vehicle hardware, science equipment, and other equipment inside its
cylindrical pressure hull. Including cargo, Cygnus weighed about 4.923 tonnes at
Liftoff of the fourth Antares rocket took place from Wallops Mid-Atlantic Regional
Spaceport Pad 0A at 16:52 UTC. Antares' twin AJ-26 engines produced about 332 tonnes of
liftoff thrust and burned for 3 minutes 55 seconds to lift the vehicle to more than
158 km altitude and a velocity of about 4.5 km/sec. The second stage and payload section
separated and coasted for about 1 minute 45 seconds before the Castor 30B second stage
motor ignited to produce an average of more than 28 tonnes of thrust during a 2 minute 17
second burn. Just before second stage ignition, the payload fairing and interstage
sections separated. Cygnus separated into a 191 x 284 km x 51.64 deg orbit.
"Janice Voss" approaches ISS
It was the fourth Antares launch, the third Cygnus
spacecraft flight, and the second contracted ISS cargo supply mission for Cygnus.
"Antares 120", a variant with a Castor 30B second stage, flew for the second and
final time during the mission. "Antares 130" with a longer, more powerful Castor
30XL motor will perform subsequent ISS cargo missions beginning later in 2014.
The launch was originally scheduled for May, 2014, but ISS conflicts forced an initial
delay. Then, on May 22, 2014, an AJ-26 being test fired at Stennis Space Center suffered a
catastrophic failure 30 seconds into a planned 54 second burn. The failure destroyed the
engine and triggered an investigation. Orbital did not reveal the cause of the failure.
The Orb-2 Antares engines were cleared for flight following borescope inspections and a
review of their own test firing data.
Cygnus "Janice Voss" reached ISS on July 16,
Soyuz Completes Internet
A Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat orbited four broadband Internet trunking satallites for O3b Networks
(O3b stands for the "Other 3 billion") from Guiana Space Center at Kourou on
July 10, 2014. The 3.5 stage Russian rocket lifted off from Kourou's ELS pad at 18:55 UTC
to kick off the VS08 mission for Arianespace. After a nearly 2.5 hour mission involving
four Fregat upper stage burns, the four 700 kg satellites were released into 7,850 km x
0.04 deg equatorial orbits designed to provide coverage for emerging markets in Asia,
Africa, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East.
Thales Alenia Space built the O3b constellation satellites, which join the first four that
were launched in June, 2013 by an identical rocket to form an initial, fully operational
After satellite deployment, Fregat performed two more burns to raise itself into a planned
8,003 x 8,041 km x 0.02 deg disposal orbit.
It was the fourth Russian space launch in seven days.
Angara Flies from Plesetsk
After a two decade long, stop-start development program, Russia's new LOX/kerosene fueled
Angara rocket performed its first test launch from Russian soil on July 9, 2014. The
suborbital flight from Plesetsk Cosmodrome was made by an Angara 1.2PP, a special
two-stage version specifically prepared by Khrunichev for this inaugural test. The launch
should herald the start of a new modular launch vehicle family capable of lifting a range
of payloads ranging from light to heavy.
Angara 1.2PP (PP for Pervy Polyot, or "First Flight") consisted of a 2.9 meter
diameter URM-1 (Universal Rocket Module) first stage topped by a 3.6 meter diameter URM-2
second stage. Heavy lifter Angara 5, planned to fly later this year, will use five
clustered URM-1 modules topped by a URM-2 second stage, so the flight served served as an
Angara 5 precursor test. The 171 tonne, 42.8 meter tall white rocket lifted off from
Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 35/1 at 12:00 UTC, rising slowly on 196 tonnes of thrust produced
by a single Energomash RD-191 staged combustion engine.
First stage burnout was expected to occur about 3 minutes, 39 seconds after launch, as
Angara headed east across Russia's missile test range. Stage separation was planned to
occur about 3 seconds later, followed 2 seconds after that by ignition of the 30 tonne
thrust RD-0124A second stage engine. This staged-combustion, four-chamber engine, similar
to the engine developed to power the upgraded Soyuz-2-1b upper stage, was expected to
perform a 4 minute 28 second burn to boost the stage and instrumented test payload to
near-orbital velocity with an apogee of nearly 190 km. The rocket's 2.9 meter diameter
payload fairing was to separate shortly after second stage ignition.
According to official Russian media, the remains of the stage and payload impacted the
Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula about 21 minutes after liftoff, some 5,700 km
The launch took place after an aborted launch attempt on June 27 that was caused by a loss
of pressure in the first stage LOX tank. That, like most non-defense launch
attempts, was broadcast live to Russian citizens and to the world, but such long-standard
live coverage was not provided for both the June 8 Meteor M2 launch and the inaugural
Orbits Seven Satellites
Russia's Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat orbited that country's Meteor M2 weather satellite, along with
six smaller satellites from several countries, from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on
July 8, 2014. Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 15:58 UTC to start a slighly-more
than 1.5 hour mission.
The storable propellant Fregat stage performed two burns before deploying the 2.7 tonne
primary payload into an 835 km x 98.8 deg sun synchronous orbit about one hour after
During the next 30+ minutes, Fregat performed two more burns while maneuvering into lower
orbits to deploy the smaller satellites. The first to be released was Russia's Relek
(MKA-FKI), a 0.25 tonne magnetospheric science satellite. Next was the 0.1 tonne U.S.
Skysat 2 commercial imaging satellite. A 0.15 tonne UK satellite named TechDemoSat 1 was
released next, followed by 6.5 kg AISSat 2 and 3 kg UKube 1, two nanosatellites from
Norway and Scotland, respectively.
A 9.5 kg dummy mass was carried in place of Canada's M3MSat, which was pulled from the
manifest by Canada's government in protest of Russia's 2014 actions in Ukraine.
After the payloads were deployed, Fregat performed a
fifth, deorbit burn to remove itself from orbit.
Roscosmos cancelled its previously announced webcast of the launch only minutes before it
was expected to begin, without explanation.
Orbits Gonets 3M Satellites
Russia's Rokot/Briz KM orbited three Gonets 3M data
relay satellites from Area 133 Pad 3 at Plesetsk space center on July 3, 2014. The
three stage rocket lifted off at 12:43 UTC. Its Briz-KM thired stage performed two
burns to lift the 282 kg satellites, identified as 18L, 19L, and 20L, into 1,480 x 1,510
km x 82.5 deg orbits.
The first Briz KM burn began about five minutes after
liftoff and lasted for about 9.5 minutes to insert the vehicle into an elliptical parking
orbit. The second, circulization burn began about 1.5 hours after liftoff near apogee and
lasted for less than one minute. Spacecraft separation occurred at about 14:28 UTC.
It was the year's second Rokot launch.
2 Returns with OCO-2 Launch
After a three year hiatus, and a one-day delay caused by
a faulty launch pad water deluge system, Delta 2 returned to
service on July 2, 2014, successfully orbited NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2)
satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The 2.5 stage United Launch
Alliance Delta 2-7320-10, with three strap-on solid boosters and a 10 foot diameter
composite fairing, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at 09:56 UTC. The 39 meter
tall, 152 tonne rocket lifted off on 227 tonnes (about 500,000 lbs) of thrust produced by
three Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEMs) and the RS-27A RP/LOX first stage engine. Delta's
hypergolic (Aerozine 50 and Nitrogen Tetroxide) fueled second stage fired its 4.47 tonne
thrust AJ-10-118K engine twice during a 56 minute long mission to aim OCO-2 toward a
targeted 686 km x 98.2 km sun synchronous orbit.
OCO-2 is NASAs first spacecraft dedicated entirely to measuring atmospheric carbon
dioxide (CO2). The 453 kg satellite, built by Orbital Sciences for NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, will map the geographic and seasonal variations of both human and natural
sources of carbon dioxide, and the "sinks" that pull CO2 out of the atmosphere.
OCO-2 replaces OCO-1, which was lost in a Taurus launch failure on February 24,
2009 due to a payload fairing separation failure.
During the ascent, the three GEM boosters burned out 64
seconds after liftoff, but were not jettisonned until the 99 second mark in order to clear
offshore oil rigs. The RS-27A main engine shut down at T+264 seconds, followed 8 seconds
later by stage separation. The first second stage burn extended from T+278 seconds to
T+621 seconds (T+10m 21s), leaving the stage and payload in an elliptical transfer orbit.
Payload fairing separation occurred during the burn at the 301 second mark.
After coasting over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to Madagascar on the east African
coast, Delta's second stage reignited 50 minutes and 50 seconds after liftoff for a 12.4
second burn that circularized the orbit. OCO-2 separated about five minutes later.
Vandenberg AFB SLC 2W was one of seven Thor launch pads built during the late 1950s at the
California launch site. Known originally as 75-1-2, the pad hosted its first Thor
launch on September 17, 1959. After serving as a Thor-Agena launch pad during the
1960s, it was converted to host NASA's Delta launch vehicles beginning in 1967.
It was the 152nd Delta 2 launch, the 51st NASA Delta 2,
the 42nd Delta 2 from SLC 2W, and the 97th consecutive success. Only three more
Delta 2 flights are currently scheduled. Parts for a fourth, unassigned Delta 2
PSLV Orbits SPOT-7
India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)
orbited SPOT-7 and four microsatellites from Satish Dhawan Space Center near Sriharikota
on June 30, 2014. Liftoff of the C23 mission from the First Launch Pad took place at
04:22 UTC. A Core Alone PSLV variant (PSLV-CA) performed the flight. SPOT-7, a
714 kg earth observation satellite, was placed into a roughly 655 km x 98.23 deg
sun-synchronous orbit slightly less than 18 minutes later.
Airbus Defense and Space built SPOT-7 as part of a
private venture that will sell data to the French government and to commercial clients.
The four microsatellites were built in Canada, Germany,
and Singapore. Germany's 14 kg AISSat, built by DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen,
will recieve naval vessel tracking signals. NLS 7.1 and 7.2 were 15 kg
satellites built by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies to perform
formation flying experiments using a cold gas propulsion system. VELOX-1 was a 7 kg
satellite built by Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, which will eject
smartphone-sized submicrosatellites during its mission.
It was the 27th PSLV flight since 1993 and the 23rd
Launches 37 Satellites
Russia's Dnepr, a modified R-36MU ICBM, boosted 37 small
satellites into a 630 km sun synchronous low earth orbit on June 19, 2014 from Yasny
Launch Base at Dombarovsky in Russia's Orenburg Region. The 211 tonne rocket was ejected
from an underground missile silo at Site 370/13 at 19:11 UTC to begin the mission.
The 37 satellites represented a record for a single launch. Deimos-2 and KazEOSat-2
were the heaviest of the 37 satellites. Deimos 2 was a 300 kg imaging satellite built by
SATREC of South Korea for Deimos Imaging of Spain. KazEOSat 2 was a 185 kg earth
observation satellite built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited of the United Kingdom
for Kazakhstan's Gharysh Sapary.
Twenty one of the satellites were "cubesats"
that likely weighed less than 1.5 kg each.
It was the 20th Dnepr launch. The first took place in 1999. Developed by the Yuzhnoye
Design Bureau of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, the hypergolic fueled R-36MU, like the R-36M
before it, was derived from earlier R-36 Tsyklon type rockets that dated from
the late 1960s.
Russia's Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat rocket boosted a Glonass-M
(Uragan-M) navigation satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on June 14,
2014. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Area 43 Pad 4 at 17:16 UTC. After
the Soyuz rocket boosted Fregat and its payload into low earth orbit, the Fregat upper
stage performed three burns to lift the 1.415 tonne satellite into a roughly 19,130 x
19,150 km x 64.8 deg orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred at 20:53 UTC.
It was the second Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat launch with a
Glonass M payload from Plesetsk in 2014.
TMA-13M Carries Three to Orbit
Russia's Soyuz FG launched Soyuz TMA-13M with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA
astronaut Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency flight engineer Alexander Gersttwo into
orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 28, 2014. The 2.5 stage LOX/kerosene rocket lifted
off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 19:57 UTC, beginning a planned four-orbit ascent to rendezvous
with the International Space Station.
The 7.12 tonne Soyuz TMA-13M three-part spacecraft separated into a 190 x 230 km x 51.6
deg orbit nine minutes after liftoff. It was the year's second crewed orbital
The crew will join the Expedition 40 crew - Commander Steve Swanson of NASA and Flight
Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, on ISS.
Sea Launch returned to the orbital launch scene on May
26, 2014 for the first time since a February 2013 launch failure. The company's Ukrainian
built two-stage Zenit 3SL rocket, topped by a Russian-built Blok DMSL third stage, boosted
Eutelsat 3B into geosynchronous transfer orbit after lifting off from Odyssey Launch
Platform floating on the Pacific Ocean near the equator at 154 deg. West Longitude.
Zenit 3SL/DMSL lifted off at 21:10 UTC on 740 tonnes of liftoff thrust from its
four-chamber RD-171M Russian engine. The first two stages fired in sequence during the
first 8.5 minutes of the mission. Blok DMSL then performed two burns separated by a 30
minute long coast to insert the 5.967 tonne satellite into a 385 x 35,686 km x 0 deg
transfer orbit. The first burn lasted 4 minutes 40 seconds. The second burn was 6 minutes
57 seconds long.
Airbus Defence and Space built Eutelsat 3B, which was based on the Eurostar 3000 platform.
The satellite was equipped with up to 51 C, Ku, and Ka band transponders. it will serve
Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America.
No more Sea Launch missions are currently planned until 2016. Following its bankruptcy
reorganization, Sea Launch became 95% Russian-owned. Its next payloads are Russian
built satellites for Russian users. Accordingly, Russia has been contemplating moving Sea
Launch operations from Long Beach, California to an eastern Russian port.
Orbits Radar Imager
H-2A F-24 lifted Japan's second Advanced Land
Observation Satellite (ALOS-2) and four microsatellites into sun synchronous low earth
orbit from Tanegashima on May 24, 2014. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 took place
at 03:05 UTC. The 2.12 tonne radar imaging satellite was inserted into a 628 km x 98 deg
orbit about 16 minutes after liftoff, following a single burn of the LE-5B powered second
Four microsatellites separated after ALOS-2. They were the 7.1 kg Space Research On Unique
Technology (SPROUT) spacecraft, the 50 kg Raijin-2, the 50 kg University International
Formation Mission (UNIFORM), and the 48 kg Space Optical Communications Research Advanced
Technology Satellite (SOCRATES) satellite.
F24 was an H-2A-202 variant with two SRB-A solid motor boosters. The boosters burned for
about 115 seconds along with the LE-7A powered core stage. The core shut down about 4.5
minutes after liftoff. The second stage then performed its single 8 minute 24 second burn.
Rokot Launches Milcomsats
A Rokot/Briz KM launched three Rodnik (Strela 3M) "store/dump" communication
satellites for the Russian military, along with a fourth unknown satellite, on May 23,
2014. The three-stage rocket lifted off from Plestesk Site 133 Pad 3 at 05:27 UTC under
the direction of a Russian Space Forces missile launch crew. After the initial ascent sent
Briz KM and its payload into a 100 x 1,500 km x 82.5 deg transfer orbit, Briz KM performed
a cirularization burn at around 07:12 UTC.
The 225 kg Rodnik satellites were named Kosmos
2496-2498. The fourth unannounced satellite will presumably be named Kosmos 2499.
It was the first Rokot launch of 2014.
Despite Rogozin Threats
AV-046, an Atlas 5-401 variant, launched NROL-33, a
classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) into orbit from Cape
Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 on May 22, 2014. Liftoff took place at 13:09 UTC. Atlas
flew an eastward trajectory consistent with a geosynchronous transfer orbit mission.
The two-stage rocket entered a news blackout after the RD-180 powered first stage
completed its burn and the Centaur stage RL-10 engine ignited. About 90 minutes later,
United Launch Alliance announced that the launch had been a success. An additional Notice
to Mariners for Centaur de-orbit debris was listed to begin about 10 hours after liftoff
near Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean.
The launch took place nine days after Russia's Deputy Prime Miniter Dmitryi Rogozin
threatened to cut off U.S. access to Russia's RD-180 engine for military missions. Despite
the threat, ULA officials received no notice of any change in policy by builder NPO
Energomash or importer RD-AMROSS. A Russian technical team monitored engine systems from
its Cape Canaveral control room as usual.
In the wake of Rogozin's statement, a proposal was made
in Congress to fund a U.S. replacement for RD-180 and ULA announced that it intended to
speed up purchases that could allow Delta 4 production to increase if needed.
Delta 4 Launches
Delta 4 completed a back-to-back series of GPS launches
by orbiting GPS 2F-6 from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 17, 2014. Delta 366, a Delta 4M+4,2 with two solid
boosters and a four meter payload fairing, performed the mission that began with an 00:03
UTC lift off from SLC 37B. An idential Delta 4 with an identical payload rose from
the same pad on February 21, 2014.
Delta 4's Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) performed
two burns during a 3.25 hour mission to lift the 1.63 tonne navigation satellite into a
20,459 km x 55 deg circular orbit. This profile differed from the February launch,
which used three DCSS burns. On this mission, DCSS performed an initial long burn to
reach a 186 x 20,459 km transfer orbit on a northeast heading. After a 3 hour coast,
DCSS peformed a short apogee burn to circularize the orbit.
It was the 26th Delta 4 launch and the second of the
(Updated June 12, 2014)
Khrunichev's mainstay Proton rocket suffered a launch failure on May 15, 2014 - the first
failure by any of the world's launch vehicles this year - while attempting to place
Russia's Ekspress AM4R communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The
failure appeared to occur during the third stage burn about 540 seconds after a 21:42 UTC
liftoff, around the time when the payload fairing was supposed to be jettisonned. No orbit
The 397th Proton lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 200 Pad 39. Its Express AM4R
payload was an Astrium Eurostar 3000 series satellite that weighed 5.775 tonnes at
liftoff. It was built as a replacement for Express AM4, which was stranded in a useless
orbit by a Briz M upper stage failure during a 2011 Proton flight.
An inter-agency investigating commission was formed on
the day of the failure. The team found that the payload fairing and control systems
had functioned correctly. It soon focused on telemetry that showed a dramatic
pressure drop in the third stage steering engine, indicating a drop in pressure developed
by the generator turbine. On June 11, 2014 Roscosmos announced that the cause had
been determined to have been a failed bearing in the RD-0214 steering engine
The 4.1 meter diameter third stage is powered by an
RD-0212 propulsion system that consists of a single fixed RD-0213 engine that produces 59
tons thrust for about 232 seconds and a four-nozzle RD-0214 vernier/steering engine that
produces 11.7 tonnes of vacuum thrust for about 247 seconds. A single turbopump
feeds propellant to the four steering engine nozzles.
It was the 75th Proton M/Briz M variant flight and the
7th failure, ending a streak of 12 consecutive successes.
Orbital is planning for a future after Aerojet
Rocketdyne's dwindling supply of NK-33 engines runs out.
Could a solid motor Antares
provide a solution?
Launches Russian Spy Satellite
A Soyuz 2-1a rocket launched a 6.7 tonne Kobalt-M
optical film return reconnaisance satellite from Plestesk Cosmodrome on May 6, 2014.
The 2.5 stage R-7 based vehicle lifted off from Area 43 Pad 4 at 13:49 UTC, beginning a 10
minute long ascent to low Earth orbit. The spacecraft, cataloged as Cosmos 2495, was
inserted into a 176 x 285 km x 81.41 deg orbit.
Kobalt-M (or Yantar 4K2M) is equipped with two small film return capsules. It is
the last in a long line of Soviet and Russian film-return spy satellites that is being
phased out in favor of Persona electro-optical imaging satellites. Only one more
satellite of this type is thought to remain. This was the first Kobalt-M launched
by a Soyuz 2-1a.
It was the year's 25 orbital launch, and 25th success.
Europe's Vega performed its third launch on April 30, 2014. The VV03 mission boosted 830
kg DZZ-HR, an earth observation satellite for the Republic of Kazakhstan, into a 750 km x
98.5 deg sun synchronous orbit from Kourou space center. The four stage rocket lifted off
from ZLV (Vega Launch Zone) at 01:35 UTC and headed north across the Atlantic Ocean.
Vega's first three solid motor stages burned in succession during the first 6 minutes 14
seconds of the mission to lift the upper stage and payload to orbital velocity. The AVUM
(Attitude & Vernier Upper Module) stage then fired its hypergolic bipropellant
Ukrainian built engine for about 5 minutes to reach an elliptical transfer orbit.
After a 40+ minute coast to apogee, AVUM performed a 2
minute burn to circularize the orbit for DZZ-HR separation.
DZZ-HR, Vega's heaviest payload to date, was built by Airbus Defence and Space in
Russia's Proton M/Briz M orbited two communication
satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 28, 2014. The 705 tonne rocket lifted off
from Area 81 Pad 24 at 04:25 UTC in a rare daylight launch, kicking off a 9.5 hour ascent
that included five burns of the launch vehicle's Briz M upper stage. Russia's 1.15 tonne
Luch 5v data relay satellite rode atop Kazhakstan's Kazsat-3, which likely weighed about
1.7 tonnes at liftoff. Both satellites were inserted directly into geosynchronous orbit.
The first Briz M burn put the vehicle into a 180 km x 51.56 deg parking orbit. The second
burn raised the orbit to 270 x 5,007 km x 50 deg. The third burn ended with a 404 x 35,810
km x 47.8 deg transfer orbit. Briz M released its drop tank after the burn. After a long
coast to apogee, a fourth burn put the stage into a 35,753 x 35,793 km x 5 deg orbit for
Luch 5v release. A short fifth burn was made prior to release of KazSat 3 into a 35,793 km
x 0 deg orbit.
It was the year's third Proton launch.
Falcon 9 Orbits
Dragon Cargo Mission (Updated 4/25/14)
The ninth SpaceX Falcon 9 - and the fourth upgraded "1.1" version - launched a
Dragon spacecraft on the CRS-3 resupply mission for NASA's International Space Station
from Cape Canaveral on April 18, 2014. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at
20:25 UTC. The two-stage rocket boosted Dragon into a 313 x 332 km x 51.6 deg low earth
orbit during a 9 minute 40 second ascent. Dragon controllers had to bypass a faulty
quad thruster helium pressurization system isolation valve during the spacecraft
initiation phase, but the problem was quickly solved using a backup system.
Dragon was loaded with either 2.09 or 2.27 tonnes of supplies (sources vary) for ISS - the
heaviest Dragon cargo load to date a result of the first use of Falcon 9 v1.1 to launch a
cargo mission. The spacecraft weighed more than 8.6 tonnes at liftoff,
including cargo, making it the heaviest Falcon 9 payload to date. It was expected to
return to a splashdown off California's coast in several weeks with 1.59 tonnes of
After the first stage separated, it restarted three of its Merlin 1D engines to perform a
reentry burn to eliminate most of its horizontal velocity. The stage, the first equipped
with landing legs folded against the lower part of the vehicle, then dropped through the
atmosphere and restarted a single Merlin 1D as it approached the surface of the Atlantic
Ocean to eliminate vertical velocity. During the burn, the stage was expected to
extend its legs in a test of future land landing techniques. The stage was unlikely to be
recovered, and recovery was not necessary for the purposes of this test.
Legs on F9-9 First Stage Prior to Rollout
Several hours after the flight, Elon Musk tweeted that
data from a tracking plane had showed that the final landing phase had been performed
successfully, meaning that the stage had remained stable, that the landing burn had fired
for its full duration, and presumably that the landing legs had deployed. Several
boats were enroute to the landing zone located about 520 km downrange from the Cape and
about 400 km east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, though heavy seas were reported
in the area.
After Dragon separated, the second stage coasted for 35
minutes before performing a brief depletion burn as it flew over the Indian Ocean
southwest of Australia. The burn was intended to determine propellant residuals and
to lower the orbit of the stage, hastening its reentry.
Dragon successfully berthed with ISS two days after
CRS-3 Dragon Approaches ISS
On April 21, 2014, SpaceX President and Chief Executive
Officer Gwynne Shotwell said that the first stage had landed softly at near zero velocity,
but that recovery was unlikely due to rough seas. She said that the stage, or that
parts of the stage, had been located. A Coast Guard navigation hazard notice briefly
listed a floating stage obstruction at about 31 North, 76 West, but the notice was
Four days later, Elon Musk confirmed that the stage had
deployed its legs and landed softly, but had subsequently sunk due to wave action.
High seas prevented any ships from searching for the stage for two days. Only
floating fragments were located, included pieces of the carbon composite interstage and of
one of the landing legs. Mr. Musk said that the company would try another first
stage ocean landing on the next Falcon 9 flight.
Launches Spy Satellite for Egypt
One of Russia's final Soyuz-U rockets launched EgyptSat 2, an optical reconnaissance
satellite, into low earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 16, 2014. The 2.5 stage
rocket lifted off from Area 31 Pad 6 at 16:20 UTC and quickly lifted the 1.05 tonne
satellite into a 435 x 700 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Orbital insertion occurred 520 seconds
Russia's RKK Energia developed and built the new imaging satellite for Egypt's military
and other government agencies. If successful, the design could be the first of many to fly
for Egypt and other countries.
The launch was unusual because a Progress payload fairing housed the satellite. It was
likely the final launch of a Soyuz-U with a non-Progress payload. In the not too distant
future, likely during 2015, Soyuz 2-1a, with modernized flight control systems and
upgraded engines, will replace the older, but highly reliable Soyuz-U design even for
Atlas 5 Launches
The 45th Atlas 5, a 541 model with a five meter diameter
payload fairing and four solid rocket boosters, launched a classified satellite for the
National Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 10, 2014. AV-045
lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 17:45 UTC to begin the NROL-67 mission. A bit
more than four hours later, United Launch Alliance announced that the rocket had completed
its mission successfully. The timing of the announcement, and the eastward launch azimuth,
was generally consistent with a launch directly to geosynchronous orbit involving three
Centaur upper stage burns.
The launch had been delayed by more than two weeks due to failure of hard-to-replace
equipment at a range radar tracking station.
It was only the second flight of an Atlas 5-541, and was the first time that the variant
performed an NRO launch. Some analysts suspect that the NROL-67 could be a new-generation
signals intelligence satellite. Others believe that it might be a new type of data relay
Launches Israeli Spy Satellite (Updated 4/11/14)
Israel's Shavit-2 rocket launched a synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite named Ofek
10 into orbit from Palmachim Air Base on April 9, 2014. Liftoff took place at 19:06 UTC.
Ofek 10 was expected to operate in a 600 km orbit, though some sources described a 330 x
610 km x 141 deg insertion orbit.
The launch was jointly carried out by IAI and the Defense Ministrys Space
Administration, which is a part of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and
MAFAT, the research and development department of Israels Ministry of Defense,
contracted Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI Ltd) and other Israeli companies to develop
both the Ofek 10 satellite and the Shavit 2 launcher. It was the third Shavit-2 launch.
Progress Cargo Spacecraft
Launches, Docks with ISS
A Soyuz U rocket launched the unmanned Progress M-23M cargo spacecraft into orbit from
Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 9, 2014. The spacecraft flew a fast track, four-orbit, six
hour approach to an International Space Station docking. Docking took place at 21:14 UTC.
Progress M-23M lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 15:26 UTC. The spacecraft carried about 2.7
tonnes of cargo and fuel to the station. The Expedition 38 crew currently occupies the
station. It consists of Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin,
Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Russia, and NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and
It was the 55th Progress flight to ISS and the 146th launch of all types to the station
since construction began in 1998.
PSLV-XL C24 orbited Indias IRNSS 1B, a navigation
satellite, from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on April 4, 2014. The four stage
rocket lifted off from the First Launch Pad at 11:44 UTC. The stages fired in succession,
with a nearly four minute coast occurring between the third and fourth stage burns. The
fourth stage inserted 1.432 tonne IRNSS 1B into a subsynchronous transfer orbit targeted
to be 284 x 20,650 km x 19.2 deg. Mission plans call for the satellite to use its own
propulsion system to perform a series of burns to reach its final 35,786 km x 0 deg
IRNSS-1B, the second of seven planned IRNSS missions, was developed by the Indian Space
C24 was the 6th PSLV-XL and the 24th success in 26th PSLV flights.
2-1a/Fregat Launches Europe's Sentinel 1A
Russian contractor teams launched a Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat
from Kourou Space Center in French Guiana for Arianespace on April 3, 2014. The launch
orbited the European Space Agency's Sentinel 1A environmental monitoring satellite. The
3.5 stage rocket lifted off from the ELS pad at 21:02 UTC to begin the Arianespace VS07
mission. The 2.257 tonne Thales Alenia Space-built satellite was boosted into a 693 km x
98.2 deg sun synchronous orbit after the Fregat stage completed a single burn about 20
minutes after liftoff..
Sentinel 1A will use a C-band synthetic aperture radar to provide imagery of both ocean
and land surfaces.
Atlas 5 Orbits
Atlas 5-401 number AV-044 lofted Defense Meteorological
Satellite Program Flight 19 into sun synchronous orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base on
April 3, 2014. The two-stage rocket, powered by a Russian-built RD-180, lifted off from
Space Launch Complex 3 East at 14:46 UTC. After the first stage completed its 244 second
burn, the Centaur second stage performed a single, nearly 12 minute burn to insert DMSP
F19 into an 853 km x 98.87 deg orbit.
Lockheed Martin built the 1.2 tonne weather satellite, which will serve the needs of the
U.S. Department of Defense.
It was the 43rd successful Atlas 5 launch in 44 attempts, and the 34th consecutive
See Older Launch Reports in the Space Launch Report Archive