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SPACE LAUNCH REPORT
by
Ed Kyle



Recent Space Launches

12/23/17, 01:27 UTC, Falcon 9 with Iridium NEXT 4 from VA 4E to LEO
12/23/17, 04:11 UTC, CZ-2D with LKW 2 from JQ 43/603 to LEO/S
12/25/17, 19:44 UTC, CZ-2C with YG 30-3 from XC 3 to LEO
12/26/17, 19:00 UTC, Zenit 3F with Angosat 1 from TB 45/1 to GEO
01/08/18, 01:00 UTC, Falcon 9 with Zuma from CC 40 to LEO?
01/09/18, 03:17 UTC, CZ-2D with Gaojing-1 3/4 from TY 9 to LEO/S
01/11/18, 19:44 UTC, CZ-3B/YZ-1 with 2xBeidou 3M from XC 2 to MEO
01/12/18, 03:58 UTC, PSLV-XL with Cartosat 2F from SR 1 to LEO/S
01/12/18, 22:10 UTC, Delta 4M with NROL-47 from VA 6 to LEO/R
01/13/17, 07:10 UTC, CZ-2D with LKW 3 from JQ 43/603 to LEO/S

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 01/13/18
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)

2018:  6(0)
2017:  90(6)
2016:  85(3)
2015:  86(5)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)2018:  0(0)
2017:  4(0)
2016:  5(0)
2015:  4(0)


CZ-2D LKW-3 LaunchCZ-2D Launches LKW 3

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited Ludikancha Weixin 3 (LKW 3, or Land Survey Satellite No. 3) from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on January 13, 2018. It was the third CZ-2D launch of an LKW satellite from the same launch pad in less than six weeks time.

Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 07:10 UTC. The new-type Earth imaging satellite was expected to enter a roughly 500 km x 97.46 deg sun synchronous orbit.

Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China, has reported that the satellites, made by CAST, will be used for remote sensing of land resources.

Delta 379 NROL-47 (ULA)Delta 4 Orbits Spysat

Delta 379, a Delta 4M+5,2 with two GEM-60 solid boosters, a five-meter upper stage, and a five-meter payload fairing, launched from Vandenberg AFB with a secret National Reconnaisance Office satellite on January 12, 2018. After rising from Space Launch Complex 6 at 22:10 UTC, the rocket headed on a southwest azimuth with the NROL-47 payload toward what analysts expected to be a 108-ish degree inclination retrograde orbit. Previous similar missions, including the 2010 Atlas 5 launch of NROL-41, the 2012 Delta 4 launch of NROL-25, and the 2013 Atlas 5 launch of NROL-39, which were all believed to be Topaz Future Imaging Architecture radar imaging satellites, entered 1,100 km x 123 deg inclination retrograde orbits. NROL-47 is thought to be a fifth Topaz, but if it goes to a different orbit it might something different.

Delta 4M+5,2 is capable of lifting 7.85 tonnes to sun synchronous orbit or 4.68 tonnes to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The upper stage likely performed two ascent burns before deploying the satellite, followed by a deorbit burn.

The launch followed scrubs on January 10 and 11 caused by weather and ground equipment issues.  Delta 379 was the 36th Delta 4, the 27th Delta 4 Medium, and the third Delta 4 M+5,2. It was the first Delta 4 launch from SLC 6 since the February 10, 2016 NROL-45 launch.  It was also the final Medium-type Delta 4 expected to fly from Vandeberg AFB.

PSLV-C40 (ISRO)PSLV Orbits Cartosat 2F/Microsats

PSLV-C40, an XL version of Indian Space Research Organizaion's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, boosted 710 kg Cartosat 2F - a cartographic mapping satellite - and 31 micro and nanosatellites that together weighed about 613 kilograms into sun synchronous orbits from Sriharikota, India on January 12, 2018.

Liftoff from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center took place at 03:58 UTC. The 4.5-stage, 320 tonne, 44 meter tall rocket fired its four stages (solid, liquid, solid, and liquid fueled, respectively) in succession during the first 16 minutes 37 seconds of the ascent, with a 10 second coast before fourth stage ignition. Six strap-on solid motors (four ground lit and two air lit) augmented thrust during the first stage burn. The liquid MMH/MON-3 fourth stage fired for about 8 minutes 15 seconds during its insertion burn.

Cartosat 2F and nine co-passenger satellites then separated into roughly 505 km x 97.47 deg orbits. The fourth stage then performed two additional burns, at T+58 min 14 sec and T+1 Hr 44 min 54 sec, to move to a different orbital altitude, where the remaining microsatellites were deployed. A final fourth stage deorbit burn took place about 2 hours after liftoff.

It was the 42nd PSLV launch, and the first PSLV flight since an August, 2017 failure caused by a failed payload fairing separation. An investigation determined that an inflatable bellows in the fairing separation system had ruptured, preventing its pressurization for aiding fairing half separation.

CZ-3B Beidou 3M LaunchCZ-3B/YZ-1 Orbits Beidou 3M Duo

China's Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) orbited the third and fourth Beidou 3M navigation satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on January 11, 2018. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 23:18 UTC.

The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then inserted the roughly 1.04 tonne satellites into their final 21,500 km x 55.26 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

 It was the second launch of operational Beidou 3 satellites, according to Xinhua. The Beidou 3 series will offer improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

CZ-2D Superview-1 2/3 LaunchCZ-2D SuperView Launch

A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited the second pair of Gaojing-1 (SuperView-1) remote sensing satellites from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on January 9, 2018. Liftoff from LC9 took place at 03:17 UTC. The satellites separated into roughly 515 x 535 km x 97.58 deg sun synchronous orbits.

SuperView-1 will be a civilian remote sensing satellite constellation operated by the Siwei Star Co. of Beijing. Four 560 kg optical imaging satellites will ultimately comprise the SuperView-1 constellation.

The first SuperView launch, on December 28, 2016, placed its satellite pair into low orbits after its CZ-2D suffered a failure during ascent. The satellites had to lift themselves to higher orbits at the expense of on-orbit propellant.

F9-46 (SpaceX)F9 Launches Zuma, Satellite Reported Lost (January 9, 2018 Update)

Falcon 9 performed the year's first orbital launch on January 8, 2018, boosting a mysterious classified payload named Zuma toward earth orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40. Liftoff took place at 01:00 UTC. New Falcon 9 v1.2 (Block 4) first stage B1043 performed a 2 minute 23 second ascent boost before separating and performing 3-engine boost-back and reentry burns, following by a single-engine landing burn to return to Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.

The second stage continued down-range, flying into a media black-out period due to the classified mission. Northrop Grumman is known to be the prime contractor for the payload. The stage flew toward the northeast on a trajectory similar to those used during ISS missions and during the NROL-76 and X-38B launches.  The second stage was scheduled to reenter southwest of Australia about 2.5 hours after liftoff, hinting of a possible two-burn to payload insertion mission for the stage.  Amatuer observations of venting after the reentry burn suggested that the stage was at the time in a 900 to 1,000 km x 50-ish deg orbit.

No announcements confirming a launch success were made, though one object, listed as USA-280, was officially cataloged, indicating that an orbit of some type had been achieved at least for some period of time. Nearly one day after the liftoff, Peter B. de Selding of Spaceintelreport reported that sources had told him that Zuma might have died in orbit after it separated from the Falcon 9 second stage. Eric Berger of Ars Technica reported similar rumors about Zuma. He said that SpaceX told him that its Falcon 9 had experienced "no anomalies" during its mission while Northrop Grumman had said that it could not comment on the classified mission. A few hours later, the Wall Street Journal reported that "lawmakers and congressional staffers" had been briefed about a mission failure that was "believed to have plummeted back into the atmosphere, they said, because it didn't separate as planned from the upper part of the rocket".

The Wall Street Journal report triggered additional reporting that assumed that the SpaceX Falcon 9 was responsible for the presumed satellite separation failure. On January 9, Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, responded directly to those reports as follows. “For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible."

Based on the available information, Space Launch Report will list F9-46 as a launch vehicle success unless new, verifiable, contradictory information becomes available.

It was the second launch from SLC 40 since it was returned to service during December, 2017 after repairs of damage caused by a Falcon 9 explosion on the pad on September 1, 2016.

The F9-46/Zuma launch was originally planned to take place from LC 39A, but the campaign was halted after a fleet-wide fairing problem was discovered during ground testing. Zuma's F9-46 booster had completed a static test fire on the pad on November 11, 2017 in preparation for a planned November 15 launch, but the fairing issue stopped the campaign. The Zuma launch vehicle was moved to SLC 40 on December 15, 2017, allowing LC 39A to be turned over to preparations for the Falcon Heavy Demo Mission.

F9-46 performed wet dress rehearsals at SLC 40 on January 3 and 4, 2018.  The Falcon 9 first and second stages were originally test fired at the SpaceX McGregor, Texas test site during early October, 2017.

It was the 21st successful Falcon 9 first stage landing and the 26th landing attempt. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, nine at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, and eight on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Seventeen first stages have now been recovered. Five have flown twice, but one was purposefully expended during its second flight. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

Zenit 3F Angolasat 1 (Roskosmos)Zenit Returns

Flying for the fourth time with an improved Fregat SB third stage, a Zenit 3F (also called Zenit 3SLBF), successfully boosted Angosat 1, a communications satellite for Angola, directly into geosynchronous orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 26, 2017.   The rocket lifted off from Area 45 Pad 1 at 19:00 UTC in snowy winter weather to begin a nearly nine hour mission involving three burns by the Fregat SB stage.

It was the first Zenit launch in more than two years. Launch of the Ukrainian-built booster, powered by Russian-built engines and topped by a Russian-built third stage, faced stiff political challenges in the wake of Russia's invasion of Crimea and Russia's subsequent support of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Nonetheless, the participants found a way to cooperate to accomplish the launch, using the last Zenit delivered to Baikonur before fighting began.

The Zenit 3F consisted of a Zenit 2SB80 two-stage booster topped by a Fregat SB third stage.  Fregat SB uses a propellant drop tank added to the standard Fregat stage.  With the tank, Fregat can carry up to 7.1 tonnes of hypergolic propellant for its 2 tonne thrust S5.92 engine. 

After the second stage boosted the vehicle into a 166 x 562 km x 51.6 deg parking orbit, Fregat SB coasted for 1 hour 5.5 minutes before firing its engine for nearly six minutes to raise itself and payload into a planned 282 x 4,087 km x 50.48 deg intermediate orbit.  Fregat SB dropped its tank after this burn. Two hours later, Fregat performed its second, just over 11 minute-burn to lift the vehicle into a planned 341 x 36,061 km x 48.62 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit. After a more-than five-hour coast to apogee, Fregat fired a third time, for more than 8.5 minutes, to push itself into geosynchronous orbit.
 
Angosat, a 1.647 tonne satellite built by RKK Energia, separated nearly 8 hours 54 minutes after launch. The satellite was expected to move itself to 14.5 deg East to serve Angola. However, after some time had passed after it separated, communication with the satellite was lost. It had apparantly deployed or begun to deploy its solar arrays and antennas when contact was lost. A power supply failure was suspected. On December 28, after hours of attempts, communications with Angosat 1 were restored, possibly after the solar arrays had recharged the spacecraft batteries.

After spacecraft separation, Fregat burned a fourth time to move to a slightly lower orbit.

CZ-2C YG 30-3 (Xinhua)CZ-2C Orbits Yaogan 30-03

China orbited its third set of Yaogan 30 triplet satellites on December 25, 2017 with a Chang Zheng 2C launch vehicle. The two stage rocket rose from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC 3 at 19:44 UTC. The satellite triplet was named Yaogan-30 Group 3.  The "electromagnetic detection" satellites were inserted into roughly 600 km x 35 deg orbits.
 
The satellites may be formation flyers similar to the U.S. NOSS system, which perform a signals intelligence mission designed to monitor surface ship electronic emissions. 

It was the third CZ-2C to fly from Xichang this year, and is believed to be the 13th and final DF-5 based CZ launch of 2017.

CZ-2D Y48 (Xinhua)CZ-2D Launches LKW 2

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited Ludikancha Weixin 2 (LKW 2, or Land Survey Satellite No. 2) from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on December 23, 2017. The flight came only 20 days after another CZ-2D orbited LKW 1 from the same launch pad.

Liftoff of CZ-2D No. Y48 from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 04:14 UTC, making this the world's third orbital launch in less than three hours. The new-type Earth imaging satellite was sent to a 491 x 502 km x 97.46 deg sun synchronous orbit that was shifted 180 degrees in longitude from LKW 1's similar orbit.

Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China, has reported that the satellites, made by CAST, will be used for remote sensing of land resources.

F9-48 (SpaceX)Iridium NEXT 4

The 18th Falcon 9 v1.2 launch of 2017 delivered 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into 625 km 86.6 deg orbits on December 23, 2017. Liftoff of the Iridium NEXT 4 mission took place at 01:27 UTC from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 4 East. The 860 kg Thales Alenia Space satellites deployed about an hour after launch after the second stage performed an 11 second, second burn. It was the fourth of eight planned Falcon 9 Iridium NEXT launches.

A used first stage (B1036.2), which previously flew during the Iridium NEXT 2 launch on June 25, 2017, performed the initial boost. For reasons not announced, the stage was expended and was not fitted with landing legs, although it retained four steering grid fins. Although a landing platform was not deployed for a stage landing, the booster nonetheless performed the usual boost-back, reentry, and landing burns before impacting the Pacific Ocean. It was the fifth Falcon 9 mission to use a previously-flown first stage, but was the first time that a reflown stage was purposely expended.

B1036.2 apparently returned to the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California during July for refurbishment. It then returned to Vandenberg AFB where, with the second stage attached, it performed a static test firing on December 17.

All of 2017's Falcon 9 v1.2 flights were successful. The last time a specific U.S. launch vehicle variant performed as many successful launches was in 1966, when 23 of 24 Atlas Agena D rockets made orbit.


H-2A F37 (JAXA)H-2A Multi-Orbit Mission

Japan's H-2A No. F37, an H-2A-202 model with two SRB-A strap on solid motors and a 4 meter fairing, demonstrated a new capability by placing two satellites into two different orbits on December 23, 2017. The rocket's liquid hydrogen fueled second stage performed three burns during the course of a 1 hour 48 minute mission to, first, place the Climate Change Observing Satellite "Shikisai" (GCOM-C) into a 788 x 806 km x 98.68 deg sun synchronous orbit and, second, put the Super Low Altitude Testing Satellite "Tsubame" (SLATS) into a 450 x 643 km x 98.7 deg orbit.

F37 lifted off from Tanegashima Yoshinobu Pad 1 at 01:26 UTC. Its SRB-A pair fired for 1 minute 31 seconds and separated 17 seconds later. Fairing separation took place 4 minutes 5 seconds into the flight. Stage 1 completed its burn at T+6 minutes 38 seconds and separated 8 seconds later.

The first Stage 2 burn lasted from T+6 minutes 53 seconds to T+15 minutes 6 seconds to reach the GCOM-C deployment orbit. GCOM-C, a roughly 2 tonne satellite equipped with a multi-wavelength optical radiometer designed to measure clouds, aerosols, vegetation, surface and sea surface temperatures, snow cover, sea ice distribution, and climate change monitoring, separated at T+16 minutes 21 seconds.

After a roughly 45 minute coast, the second stage performed an 8 second burn to lower the orbit perigee. A second coast of nearly an hour, completing the first orbit, was followed by a third, 68-second long burn above China that began at T+1 hour 45 minutes 45 seconds. SLATS, a 400 kg optical imaging satellite designed to test ultra low orbit techniques, separated at about 1 minute after the end of the third burn. SLATS will use atmospheric drag to lower itself to 268 km. It will use an ion engine to keep its altitude above 180 km during a 2-year mission.

It was the year's sixth H-2A launch, a record not only for H-2A, but for any launch vehicle flown during Japan's 51 years of orbital spaceflight.

Soyuz MS-07 Launch (Roscosmos)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

Russia's Soyuz FG orbited the Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on December 17, 2017. It was the year's fourth and final crewed launch. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 07:21 UTC. The spacecraft entered a low earth orbit inclined roughly 51.6 deg to the equator. Onboard were Russia's Anton Shkaplerov, NASA's Scott Tingle, and JAXA's Norishige Kanai, comprising the Expedition 54/55 crew.

Soyuz MS-07 aimed for a two-day ascent to ISS. The MS-07 crew will join Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba at the station.

It was the 14th, and likely final, R-7 launch of 2017.

F9-47 CRS-13 (NASA)SpaceX Launches CRS-13

On December 15, 2017, a used first stage helped orbit a used cargo Dragon for NASA, and re-inaugurated Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 in the process. Falcon 9 first stage B1035.2, which had previously boosted the CRS-11 mission from LC 39A on June 3, 2017 and returned to Landing Zone 1, provided the impulse during the first 2 minutes 25 seconds of this CRS-13 mission. Dragon 8.2, which performed its first flight during the CRS-6 mission on April 14, 2015, rode atop the two-stage LOX/kerosene rocket. It was the second flight of a previously-flown Dragon.

F9-47 liftoff from SLC 40 took place at 15:36 UTC. After performing its part of the ascent, the first stage separated and performed 3-engine boostback and reentry burns before performing a final, single-engine landing burn to set down once more at LZ-1. Meanwhile, the second stage completed its burn about 9 minutes after liftoff to insert Dragon 8.2 into a low earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator. Dragon was expected to rendevous with ISS on December 17.

It was the first launch from SLC 40 since August 14, 2016, when F9-28 orbited JCSAT 16. The pad was subsequently heavily damaged when the F9-29 launch vehicle exploded during propellant loading for a planned hot fire test on September 1, 2016. AMOS 6, the mission payload, was destroyed in the explosion along with the rocket and many parts of the launch infrastructure. The site was substantially rebuilt during the interim, including upgrades to bring it up to the standards of LC 39A and Vandenberg AFB SLC 4E. A new transporter erector was installed, for example.

F9-47 B1035.2 Landing (NASA)B1035.2 Landing

Dragon carried about 2,205 kg of cargo for the International Space Station to support Expeditions 54 and 55. CRS-13 was the 13th of up to 20 CRS missions contracted with NASA. After the 20th mission, SpaceX will begin performing its part of the CRS-2 contract, which will involve use of a Crew Dragon variant to carry cargo.

The CRS-13 flight was the first Falcon 9 launch since F9-45 orbited Koreasat 5A from LC 39A on October 30, 2017. The next launch campaign at LC 39A with the classified Zuma payload atop F9-46 was halted after a fleet-wide fairing problem was discovered during ground testing. Zuma's F9-46 booster (B1043) had completed a static test fire on the pad on November 11, 2017 in preparation for a planned November 15 launch, but the fairing issue stopped the campaign. Zuma will likely end up flying from SLC 40 in January, 2018, as LC 39A is turned over to preparations for the Falcon Heavy Demo Mission. An unrelated Block 5 Merlin 1D engine test failure that did not affect the F9-46/Zuma launch decision occurred on November 4 at McGregor, Texas.

B1035.2 performed a roughly 7-second hot fire test at SLC 40, with the second stage attached, on December 6, 2017. The stage had apparently remained at the Cape since its June launch. The stage retained its engines during the checkout and refurbishment period. Checkout included testing of tank welds, a process that left white "stripes" on the tank surface because SpaceX for the first time elected not to clean most of the rest of the structure.

It was the 20th successful Falcon 9 first stage landing and the 25th landing attempt. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, eight at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, and eight on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Sixteen first stages have now been recovered, four having flown twice. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

VA240 (Arianespace)Ariane Orbits Galileo Quadruplet

L595, the second Ariane 5 ES version tailored to launch Europe's Galileo satellites, successfully orbited four of the navigation beacons from Kourou on December 12, 2017. The Arianespace VA240 mission lifted off from ELA 3 at 18:36 UTC. Ariane 5's EPS storable propellant stage performed two burns, with a more than three-hour coast between, to insert the 19th through 22nd Galileo satellites into a 22,922 km x 57 deg orbit. Total payload mass was 2,860 kg, not including the 416 kg Airbus Safran dispenser that held the satellites atop the EPS/VEB until their separation.

Ariane 5 ES was tweaked from its earlier ATV launch configuration to handle Galileo. Dry mass was shaved from the Vehicle Equipment Bay (VEB). EPS carried a full 10 tonne propellant load, and the propellant was heated before launch. The 2.957 tonne-thrust MMH/N2O4 EPS Aestus engine fired for almost 11 minutes during its first burn and for 6 min 18 sec during its second burn.

It was the year's sixth and final Ariane 5 flight, and the 7th Ariane 5 ES mission since the type premiered in 2008 as an ATV ISS cargo mission booster.

CZ-3B/E Launches Alcomsat 1CZ-3B/E Orbits Alcomsat 1

China's Chang Zheng 3B/E boosted Alcomsat 1, a communications satellite designed to serve Algeria, into geosynchronous transfer orbit on December 10, 2017. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Xichange Satellite Launch Center's Launch Complex 2 at 16:41 UTC. After two burns by the liquid hydrogen fueled third stage, Alcomsat 1 separated into 200 x 41,991 km x 26.4 deg orbit less than 26 minutes after liftoff.

Alcomsat 1 is a DFH-4 based satellite built by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST). The satellite has Ku, Ka and X-band transponders. It weighed about 5.2 tonnes at liftoff. It will maneuver itself to geostationary position at 24.8 deg longitude.

CZ-3B/E is an enhanced version of the original CZ-3B. It uses a stretched first stage and stretched boosters.

CZ-2D 12/03/17CZ-2D Orbits Remote Sensing Sat

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D orbited Land Survey Satellite No. 1 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on December 3, 2017. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 603 took place at 04:11 UTC. The new-type Earth imaging satellite was sent to a sun synchronous orbit.

Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China, reported that the satellite, made by CAST, will be used for remote sensing of land resources.

Soyuz 2-1b Lotos-S1 1 Launch Soyuz 2-1b Orbits Lotos-S1 1

A Soyuz-2-1b launch vehicle orbited Russia's Lotos S1 No. 1 signals intelligence satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on December 2, 2017. Liftoff of the 2.5 stage rocket from Site 43/4 took place at 10:43 UTC. Lotos-S1 1, a 6 tonne satellite built by TsSKB Progress using a Yantar type bus, was inserted into an initial 239 x 900 km x 67.14 deg orbit. The satellite will later raise itself into a 900 km circular operational orbit.

The Arsenal bureau developed the ELINT payload carried by Losot-S1 1.

The launch was allowed to proceed after it was determined that the failed November 28 launch of Meteor M2-1 was caused by a problem on a Fregat M upper stage that was not used for the Lotos-S1 1 launch.

It was the 13th R-7 based launch of 2017, and the 5th orbital launch by any type of rocket from Plesetsk this year.

Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat 11-28-17, RoscosmosSoyuz 2-1b/Fregat Failure

An apparent Fregat upper stage failure caused the loss of Russia's Meteor M2-1 weather satellite, along with 18 microsatellites, after launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East on November 28, 2017. The Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat launch vehicle lifted off from Site 1 at 05:41:46 UTC, beginning the second orbital mission from the base. Interfax reported several hours after the launch that an improper software upload to Fregat's flight computer had resulted in incorrect positioning during the stage's first, 77-second long burn. The stage did not achieve the planned parking orbit, likely causing it and its payloads to reenter over the Atlantic Ocean.

It was the first of several planned Fregat burns designed to, first, place the 2,750-kilogram Meteor M2-1 satellite into an 826 km sun synchronous orbit and to subsequently place the remaining satellites into three different orbits. Among the microsatellites was Telesat’s 70 kg LEO Vantage 2, which was supposed to be inserted into a 620 km orbit.

The mission was the first for Fregat from Vostochny. A Volga upper stage rode atop a Soyuz 2-1a during the April 28, 2016 inaugural launch.

CZ-2C November 24, 2017 Yaogan 30-02 LaunchCZ-2C Orbits Yaogan 30-02

China orbited its second set of Yaogan 30 triplet satellites on November 24, 2017 with a Chang Zheng 2C launch vehicle. The two stage rocket rose from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC 3 at 18:10 UTC. The satellite triplet was named Yaogan-30 Group 2.  The "electromagnetic detection" satellites were inserted into roughly 600 km x 35 deg orbits.
 
The satellites may be formation flyers similar to the U.S. NOSS system, which perform a signals intelligence mission designed to monitor surface ship electronic emissions. 

It was the second CZ-2C to fly from Xichang this year.

CZ-6 No. 2 CZ-6 Launch

China successfully launched its second Chang Zheng 6 (CZ-6) rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on November 21, 2017. The rocket carried three remote sensing satellites into sun synchronous orbit. The satellites are the fourth, fifth, and sixth of 16 planned for the Jilin 1 constellation. The system will provide rapid response imaging for commercial clients.

CZ-6, the first of China's all-new launch vehicle generation, debuted from the same site on September 19, 2015. A single 122 tonne thrust, staged-combustion cycle YF-100 LOX/kerosene engine powered the routhly 103 tonne, three-stage launch vehicle off of its LC 16 launch pad. YF-100, China's first big LOX/kerosene engine, also powers the country's larger CZ-5 and CZ-7 launch vehicles.

Liftoff took place at 04:50 UTC. The first stage burned for about 155 seconds. The second stage, powered by a YF-115 staged combustion engine producing 18 tonnes of thrust, burned LOX/kerosene for about 290 seconds. At apogee, a small kick stage, powered by four 408 kgf thrust YF-85 hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engines, fired to circularize the orbit.

CZ-6 was developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). It's 3.35 meter diameter first stage carried 76 tonnes of propellant while its 2.25 meter diameter second stage carried about 15 tonnes of propellant. The 29.237 meter tall rocket is capable of lifting more than 1,000 kg of payload into a 700 km sun synchronous orbit. Payloads ride within a 2.6 meter diameter fairing.

CZ-6 is integrated horizontally in a hangar. A large wheeled transporter/erector carries it to its flat launch pad and erects it shortly before launch.

Delta 378 (NASA)Delta 2 Orbits JPSS 1

ULA's next-to-last Delta 2 rocket orbited the first Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellite from Vandenberg AFB on November 18, 2017, following two scrubbed attempts on November 14 and 15. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 2 West took place at 09:47 UTC. After two second-stage burns, JPSS separated into a roughly 820 km x 98.7 deg sun synchronous orbit about 57.5 minutes after liftoff. The pressure-fed hypergolic second stage performed a third burn to move to a lower orbit where five PPod microsats deployed. A final deorbit burn ended the mission a little less than two hours after it began.

JPSS, a collaborative effort between NOAA and NASA, is a new family of weather and environmental monitoring satellites. JPSS 1 will be renamed NOAA 20 on orbit. Ball Aerospace built the 2,540 kg, BCP-2000 series satellite.

Delta 378, as it was identified, was a the final Delta 2-7920C variant, with nine Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) solid rocket motors boosting an RS-27A powered Extra Long Extended Tank first stage and an AJ10-118K power second stage, topped by a 10 foot diameter composite payload fairing. The RS-27A engine provided 90.72 tonnes of thrust at liftoff, which was augmented by six ground-lit GEMs producing 272.88 tonnes of thrust - a total of 363.6 tonnes (801,593 lbf) of liftoff thrust, sufficient to quickly lift the 228 tonne rocket off its pad. The ground-lit motors fired for about 63 seconds, then the three air-lit motors ignited to burn for another roughly 63 seconds. The first six motors were jettisoned at T+86 seconds. The air-lit solids jettisoned at about T+132 seconds and the first stage cut off at T+263 seconds.

The second stage began a 361 second burn at T+277 seconds that accelerated the vehicle into an elliptical parking orbit. The fairing separated shortly after the second stage ignited. After a roughly 40 minute coast to apogee, the stage reignited, performing a 24 second burn to reach its JPSS 1 deployment orbit. The stage fired a third time after JPSS 1 separated, for about 10 seconds, to lower itself to a 450 x 811 km x 97.7 deg orbit. The PPod ejections began about 1 hour 21 minutes 40 seconds after liftoff. Stage 2 began its deorbit burn at about T+1 hour 51 minutes 15 seconds.

It was the 154th Delta 2 launch and the 99th consecutive success. It was also the 340th Thor-family Delta to fly with a hypergolic second stage.

NASA began flying Thor-Delta in 1960. The rocket, which married the USAF Thor IRBM with NASA's Vanguard upper stages, quickly became the Agency's most reliable launch vehicle. Over the years, it succeeded around 96% of the time in all of its variations even as it steadily grew more capable. Delta 2, the final version that began flying in 1989, has only failed twice.

CZ-4D Y21China Orbits Weather Satellite

A three stage Chang Zheng (Long March) 4C launch vehicle successfully orbited the Fengyun 3D weather satellite and the HEAD 1 maritime traffic data communications minisatellite from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China's Shanxi province on November 14, 2017. Liftoff took place at 18:35 UTC UTC from the second CZ pad (Launch Complex 9) at Taiyuan.

The 2.45 tonne primary satellite and the 45 kg secondary satellite were injected into roughly 792 x 812 km x 98.65 deg sun synchronous, near polar orbits.

Three previous Fengyun 3 launches occurred in 2008, 2010, and 2013.

It was the first CZ-4C launch since the August 31, 2016 Gaofen 10 launch failure and the year's first orbital launch from Taiyuan. The flight was performed by CZ-4C number Y21.

Antares OA-8 (NASA)Antares OA-8

Orbital ATK's Antares launch vehicle successfully orbited the company's Cygnus OA-8 cargo hauling spacecraft from Wallops Island, Virginia on November 12, 2017, one day after the first attempt was scrubbed when an aircraft entered restricted airspace downrange. Liftoff from Pad 0A took place at 12:19:51 UTC. It was the second flight of a Antares 230 variant, the redesigned Antares powered by two Energomash RD-181 engines in place of the AJ-26 engines that powered the first five Antares flights. The change was made after an AJ-26 turbopump failure triggered a destructive Antares launch explosion above Pad 0A in 2014.

Cygnus OA-8 was the fifth enhanced Cygnus with a stretched cargo module, but only the second to fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the other three. OA-8 carried 3,229 kg of cargo for the International Space Station, along with 14 Cubesats that with deployer hardware added another roughly 120 kg. According to Orbital ATK, Cygnus OA-8 weighed 6,173 kg at launch, making it the heaviest payload yet launched by Antares. Cygnus OA-8 was named in honor of former astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon.

The RD-181 engines produced a total of about 392 tonnes of thrust (864,000 lbf) at liftoff to power the nearly 293 tonne rocket off its pad. The Ukrainian-built first stage, Serial No. 8, burned for about 214 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the second stage, interstage, and payload section separated and coasted "up hill" for about 43 seconds before the Orbital ATK Castor 30XL second stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its 163 second burn. The payload fairing separated 12 seconds before second stage ignition. Interstage separation took place 7 seconds before the Castor 30XL burn. Cygnus separated into a 200 x 330 km x 51.63 deg orbit about 9 min 6 sec after liftoff.

Vega VV11 (Arianespace)Vega Orbits Satellite for Morocco

Europe's Vega launch vehicle orbited an earth observation satellite for Morocco, named after King Mohammed VI of that northwest African country, on November 8, 2017. The four-stage rocket lifted off on Arianespace Mission VV11 from the Vega Launch Complex (ZLV) at 01:42 UTC. The roughly 55.5 minute mission included two AVUM fourth stage burns to insert the 1,110 kg Thales Alenia Space built satellite into roughly 630 km sun synchronous orbit.

Vega's P80 solid motor first stage burned for 1 min 57 seconds. Its Z23 solid motor second stage fired for 1 min 47 sec. After a 12 second coast the Z9 solid motor third stage ignited for its 2 min 31 second burn. The payload fairing separated shortly after the third stage ignited. The liquid AVUM fourth stage began its first burn after a 1.5 minute coast.

AVUM completed its first, 7 min 45 sec burn to reach an initial elliptical orbit about 15 min 48 sec after liftoff. After a coast to apogee, the stage restarted at T+52 min 06 sec for a nearly 1 min 51 sec burn to reach a 450 km x 97 deg orbit. Satellite separation took place 55 min 33 sec after liftoff. AVUM performed a third, deorbit burn beginning at T+1 hour 47 min 44 sec.

It was the third Vega launch of the year.

CZ-3B Nov 5, 2017CZ-3B/YZ-1 Orbits Beidou 3 Pair

China's Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B) returned to service with a successful launch of two Beidou 3 navigation satellites (Beidou 3 M1 and M2) from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on November 5, 2017. Liftoff took place at 11:45 UTC. It marked a return to service for CZ-3B after a failed June 18, 2017 attempt to place ChinaSat 9A into geosynchronous transfer orbit. That launch suffered a third stage failure caused by a roll control issue.

This time, the CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage successfully fired twice to inject the vehicle into a transfer orbit. A hypergolic propellant Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) upper stage then inserted the roughly 1 tonne satellites into their final 21,500 km x 55.26 deg orbits about four hours after liftoff.

It was the first launch of operational Beidou 3 satellites, according to Xinhua. The Beidou 3 series will offer improved navigation accuracy compared to previous Beidou and Beidou 2 constellations. Plans call for 18 Beidou 3 satellites to be orbited by the end of 2018 and more than 30 by 2020.

Minotaur-C Launch (OATK)Taurus, Renamed, Returns

Orbital ATK launched its tenth Taurus rocket, rebranded for the first time with the "Minotaur-C" (Commercial) moniker, hauling ten commercial earth observation satellites into orbit from Vandenberg AFB on October 31, 2017. The name change heralded the adoption of Minotaur avionics for flight guidance and control. It was the first Taurus launch since the last failed to orbit NASA's Glory satellite more than 6.5 years ago, on March 4, 2011, and the first to succeed since 2004, after failures in 2009 and 2011.

The Minotaur-C 3210 variant, with a Castor 120 "Zero Stage" topped by three Pegasus XL stages and a 92 inch diameter payload fairing, lifted off from Vandenberg AFB SLC 576 East at 21:37 UTC. Aboard were ten Planet mutispectral earth imaging spacecraft, including six 110 kg SkySat and four 4.08 kg Dove satellites.

Stage Zero provided 163 tonnes of liftoff thrust to boost the 77 tonne, 32 meter tall solid-propellant rocket off of its launch pedestal. After 85.5 seconds, the stage burned out at 49 km altitude and 1,824 m/s velocity.

Stage 1, an Orion 50SXLT motor, then fired for 78.5 seconds to accelerate the vehicle to 4,267 m/s and 144.7 km altitude. After a roughly seven-second coast, the Orion 50XL "Stage 2" motor started to perform a 77.8 second burn, pushing Minotaur-C to 6,667 m/s velocity and 314.9 km altitude, now some 1,165 km downrange. Payload fairing separation took place about 6.5 seconds after "Stage 2" ignition.

After "Stage 2" burnout, the vehicle coasted toward apogee for about 5 min 5 sec, with the reaction control system in the 63 inch diameter avionics skirt providing 3-axis control. "Stage 2" separated about 1 min 4 sec into the coast. The Orion 38 "Stage 3" began its 71 second burn about 9 min 16 sec after liftoff to insert the stage and payload stack into a roughly 507 km sun synchronous orbit.

Satellite separation began at T+13 min 22 sec and ended at about T+19 min 44 sec, with the larger SkySats seperating first. After the first four SkySats separated from atop the Dual Payload Adapter Fairing (DPAF), a bulkhead atop DPAF jettisonned to allow two SkySats inside the DPAF to separate. The four Dove satellites then separated from canisters mounted on the sides of the DPAF.

Failure of the clamshell payload fairing to separate was the cause of both of the previous consecutive failures. In both cases, the payload fairing's extra mass caused the rocket's fourth stage and payload to fall short of orbital velocity. The 2009 failure destroyed NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory. After the 2009 failure, Orbital spent two years re-designing the payload fairing separation system, replacing a hot-gas pressurization system with a cold gas system, to no avail. Subsequent investigation found that a supplier may have provided metallurgically substandard parts for the separation system.

Taurus first flew in 1994. Its first five launches were successful, but the sixth, in 2001, failed when a second stage thrust vector control actuator briefly stuck. NASA lost its QuickTOMS satellite in that mishap, which also destroyed Orbview-4. The seventh Taurus launch, in 2004, successfully orbited Taiwan's ROCSAT-2. Five years passed without a Taurus flight before the T8 failure in 2009.

F9-45 Koreasat 5A Launch (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Launches Koreasat 5A

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.2 F9-45, using new first stage B1042, launched Koreasat 5A into geostationary transfer orbit from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A on October 30, 2017. Liftoff took place at 3:34 p.m. EDT (19:34 GMT).

After firing for about 2 min 33 sec to boost the launch vehicle downrange, B1032 separated, turned 180 degrees, and restarted three of its engines about 6.5 minutes after launch for a reentry burn.  The stage performed a 30 second single-engine landing burn to land on the downrange floating platform "Of Course I Still Love You" about 8.5 minutes after liftoff. After the landing, the aft end of the stage was seen engulfed in flames when SpaceX initially cut away from the video feed. A later view showed that the fire had subsequently been extinguished.

Falcon 9's Merlin 1D Vacuum powered second stage performed two burns to boost the 3.7 tonne Thales Alenia Spacebus 4000B2 commuincations satellite into a 285 x 50,185 km x 22.0 deg geosynchronous (supersynchronous) transfer orbit. Koreasat 5A will fire its own thrusters to gradually raise itself into a 35,900 km geostationary orbit positioned at 113 deg East. The satellite will serve Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Guam, Indochina, and South Asia with its 36 Ku-band transponders powered by two solar arrays generating up to 7 kW of power.

The rocket stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during mid to late September. The first stage was hot-fired for 3.5 seconds at LC 39A on October 26, with the second stage, but no payload, stacked atop the vehicle. The payload, already encapsulated within its fairing, was the added to the top of the Falcon 9 inside the HIF. The rocket rolled to the pad and was erected one day before launch.

SpaceX crews had to scramble to return OCISLY to sea after equipment on board the vessel was damaged by a fire that started on board after the SES-11 first stage landing on October 11.

It was the 19th successful Falcon 9 first stage landing and the 24th landing attempt. Four of the successful landings have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, seven at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, and eight on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Sixteen first stages have now been recovered, three having flown twice. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

AV075 (ULA)Atlas 5 Launches NROL 52

AV-075, Atlas 5-421 with two strap-on solid rocket motors and a four meter diameter extra extended payload fairing, launched NROL 52 for the National Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral, Florida on October 15, 2017. Liftoff on nearly 735 tonnes of thrust took place at 07:28 UTC from Space Launch Complex 41. It was the fifth launch attempt after four scrubs during the previous week. Three were caused by bad weather. One scrub on October 7 was caused by a failed S-band telemetry transmitter, which forced a rollback to the SLC 41 Vertical Integration Facility for repair. It was the most scrubs in the 15-year history of the Atlas 5 program.

NROL 52 was likely deployed into geosynchronous transfer orbit during a mission that was similar to NROL 61 in 2016. While the satellite's mission is classified, some analysts believe that NROL 61 and NROL 52 are new generation data relay satellites designed to transfer the massive volumes of data collected by digital imaging spy satellites that reside in low earth orbit from space to ground stations. Previous satellites of this type, which have flown since the mid-1970s, have been identified as Satellite Data System (SDS) and Quasar, operating in both Molniya and geosynchronous orbits.


Progress MS-07 (RSC Energia)Progress MS-07 Launch

Russia's Soyuz 2-1a launched the Progress MS-07 International Space Station cargo hauling mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 14, 2017, two days after a rare last-minute R-7 launch abort. Liftoff from Site 31 Pad 6 took place at 08:46:53 UTC. The 7,428 kg spacecraft carried around 2,697 kg of cargo into an initial low earth orbit inclined 51.67 deg to the equator orbit. The cargo included 1,350 kg dry pressurized materials, 880 kg of propellant for transfer to ISS, 420 kg of water, and 47 kg of oxygen and air.

The October 12 abort prevented use of a planned express ascent to ISS that would have resulted in a docking only 3.5 hours after liftoff. The two-day delay meant that the station's orbital track was no longer aligned for the express trip, requiring use of a standard two-day ascent.

It was the 11th R-7 launch of the year.

Rokot Sentinel 5p (ESA)Rokot Orbits Sentinel 5p

Russia's Rokot/Briz KM launched the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 5 Precursor satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on October 13, 2017. The 820 kg atmospheric monitoring satellite is a gap-filler that will fill-in for the lost Envisat satellite until a new generation of satellites enters service in several years. Liftoff from Site 133 Pad 3 took place at 09:27 UTC.

Rokot's RD-0233 first stage engine ignited to drive the UDMH/N2O4 fueled, ICBM-based rocket out of its Transport and Launch Container, upward on a rapid ascent into low clouds, and into a pitch toward a northwest heading. The first stage fired for two minutes, then the second stage, powered by a fixed RD-0253 main engine with four RD-0236 verniers, ignited to perform a roughly three minute burn. The payload fairing separated about one minute into the second stage burn. The Briz KM stage then ignited its S5.92 engine to accelerate the payload into an elliptical parking orbit.

After a long coast to apogee, Briz KM re-ignited to circularize the roughly 824 km x 98.7 deg orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred about 1 hour 19 minutes after liftoff.

It was the 27th Rokot/Briz KM launch. The type entered service in 2000, but Rokot is set to be retired soon in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the war that followed. Ukrainian companies supply avionics for the former Soviet UR-100 missile that comprises the first two Rokot stages.

F9-43 with EchoStar 105/SES 11Falcon 9 Reflies First Stage, Orbits EchoStar 105/SES 11

SpaceX launched its third previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage on October 11, 2017. The stage, B1031.2, boosted the F9-43 mission that lofted the EchoStar 105/SES-11 communications satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A. B1031 had previously flown during the F9-32 CRS-10 mission from LC 39A on February 19, 2017, when it returned to land at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1. After a 22:53 UTC liftoff for EchoStar 105/SES-11, B1031.2 landed this time on the downrange floating platform "Of Course I Still Love You" after performing reentry and landing burns.

The first stage performed a 2 min 35 sec ascent burn before the Falcon 9 second stage fired its Merlin 1D Vacuum engine for 5 min 58 sec to reach a parking orbit. After an 18 min 21 sec coast to the equator above the west African coast, the stage restarted for 59 seconds to accelerate the satellite toward a planned geosynchronous transfer orbit. Spacecraft seperation took place 36 min 7 sec after liftoff.

EchoStar 105/SES-11, a 5,200 kg Airbus Eurostar E3000 satellite, will serve both US-based EchoStar and Luxembourg-based SES. The satellite provides 24 Ku-band transponders for EchoStar and 24 C-band transponders for SES. After raising itself to geostationary orbit, EchoStar 105/SES-11 will serve the Americas from its 105 degrees West orbital slot.

After its first flight, the B1031 stage was examined and refurbished at Cape Canaveral and/or LC 39A. It did not go to McGregor, Texas for a test firing. Instead, it was briefly static test fired with the assembled F9-43 second stage, sans payload, on October 2. A problem in the first stage propulsion section discovered after the test firing forced a launch delay from October 7 to 11.  This caused F9-43 to launch after F9-44, which flew from California on October 9 as originally planned.

It was the 18th successful Falcon 9 first stage landing. Four have been on "Just Read the Instructions" off California, seven at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, and seven on drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Fifteen first stages have now been recovered, three having flown twice. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

H-2A F36 (JAXA)H-2A Launches Navsat for Japan

H-2A F36 successfully launched the 4 tonne Michibiki 4 navigation satellite for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency from Tanegashimi Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 on October 9, 2017. Liftoff took place at 22:01:37 UTC. F36 flew in the "202" configuration with two strap on "SRB-A" monolithic solid motors and two liquid hydrogen/oxygen core stages. The rocket's second stage performed two burns to inject Michibiki 4 into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Michibiki will raise itself into 32,600 x 39,000 x 41 deg "quasi zenith" geosynchronous orbit that will trace a north-south "Figure 8" across the Earth's surface at Japan's longitude. From this orbit, the roughly 4 tonne satellite will be able to augment existing GPS signals, allowing better coverage in urban areas with tall buildings.

It was the fifth H-2A launch of the year, more orbital launches in a calendar year than by any previous Japan launcher.

 F9-44, IridiumNEXT 3 (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Launches IridiumNEXT 3

SpaceX Corporation's Falcon 9 performed its third launch for IridiumNEXT on October 9, 2017 when F9-44 boosted ten IridiumNEXT satellites from Vandenberg AFB in California. The v1.2 variant, using new first stage number B1041, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East at 12:37 UTC to begin an hour-long mission that inserted the 860 kg, Thales Alenia Space-built satellites into roughly 625 km x 86.6 deg orbits. The satellites will raise themselves into 780 km operational orbits.

After a roughly 43 minute parking orbit coast, the Falcon 9 second stage restarted for a brief second, circularization burn at first apogee about 52 minutes 2 seconds after liftoff to complete the powered phase of the flight. Spacecraft separation began at about the 57 minute 6 second mark, with each satellite separating individually separated by about 1.5 minutes.

The first stage performed 3-engine boostback, 3-engine reentry, and single-engine landing burns before landing on the converted barge "drone ship" “Just Read the Instructions”. It was the 17th successful first stage landing. Four have been on JRTI off California, seven at Cape Canaveral LZ 1, and six on drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You" off Florida. Fifteen first stages have now been recovered, two having flown twice. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

The launch was the third of seven planned IridiumNext Falcon 9 flights that will replace the company's orbiting "Little LEO" communication satellite constellation.

The F9-44 first and second stages were test fired at the company's McGregor, Texas test site during late August or early September, 2017. The first stage was briefly hot fired at SLC 4E on October 5, 2017 with the second stage, but no payload, attached to the top of the rocket.

F9-44 was the 22nd Falcon 9 v1.2 to fly, not including the AMOS 6 launch vehicle destroyed during a pre-launch static test countdown in 2016.

CZ-2D VRSS 2 LaunchChina Launches Satellite for Venezuela

China's 33rd CZ-2D launched the second Venezuelan Remote Sensing Satellite, or VRSS 2, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu province on October 9, 2017. The two-stage hypergolic fueled rocket lifted off from the 603 pad at launch site 43 at 04:13 UTC and aimed its payload toward a roughly 620 x 650 km x 98 deg orbit a little more than 11 minutes later.  VRSS 2 will maneuver itself into a 645 km sun synchronous orbit.

The 942 kg satellite was built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) for Venezuela's government to map territory, study crops and natural resources, and to provide data for Venezuela's military. Another CZ-2D orbited VRSS 1 in 2012.

It was CZ-2D's first flight since a December 28, 2016 launch from Taiyuan placed two SuperView 1 satellites in low orbits after the first stage suffered a problem that caused it to burn about seven seconds longer than planned.

VA-239 (Arianespace)Ariane 5 Launch

After suffering a last-second launch abort on September 5, Ariane 5 ECA vehicle number L5100 successfully boosted two communication satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbit on its second try from Kourou on September 29, 2017. Arianespace Mission VA239 began with a 21:56 UTC liftoff from from ELA-3. After a single long burn by the ESC-A second stage, 6,438 kg Intelsat 37e separated at T+29 minutes, followed by 3,520 kg BSAT 4a, which rode up inside the rocket's Sylda 5 adapter, at T+47 minutes.

Investigation found that the September 5 launch abort had been caused by an electrical issue in one of the two solid-propellant boosters (EAP) that forced an automatic cut off of the launch sequence after the core stage Vulcain 2 engine had ignited. Ariane 5 had to be rolled back to its assembly building in order to replace the failed component.

Intelsat 37e is a Boeing 702MP satellite with Ku, Ka, and S-band transponders. It will provide high-data-rate communications services to the Americas, Africa, and Europe from its geostationary position at 342 deg East.

GSAT 17 is a Space Systems/Loral 1300-series satellites. It will provide Direct-to-Home television service in Japan using its 24 Ku-band transponders from geostationary orbit at 110 deg East.

At 9,958 kg revenue payload, VA-239 carried the second-heaviest GTO payload yet by an Ariane 5, trailing VA-237 by 11 kg.

It was the year's fifth Ariane 5 launch, and the 64th Ariane 5 ECA flight since the type began flying in 2002.

CZ-2C September 29, 2017CZ-2C Launch


China performed its first orbital launch in nearly three months on September 29, 2017 when its Chang Zheng 2C rose from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC 3 with a satellite triplet named Yaogan-30 Group 1.  Liftoff took place at 04:21 UTC.  The "electromagnetic detection" satellites were inserted into 592 x 601 km x 35 deg orbits.
 
The satellites may be formation flyers similar to the U.S. NOSS system, which perform a signals intelligence mission designed to monitor surface ship electronic emissions. 


It was the first CZ-2C orbital launch since 2014, and the first CZ-2C to fly from Xichang since 2004.


Proton 416 (Roskosmos)Proton Launches AsiaSat 9


Russia's Proton M/Briz M launched the AsiaSat 9 communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 28, 2017. The 416th Proton rocket, a "Phase 4" Proton M variant, lifted off from Baikonur's Area 200 Pad 39 at 18:52 UTC to begin a planned 9 hr 13 min ascent phase that included five burns by the Briz M upper stage. The 6,140 kg Space Systems/Loral-built SSL 1300 series satellite was aimed toward a planned 4,050 x 35,786 km x 23.4 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

AsiaSat 9 will be stationed at 122 deg East, after it raises itself to geostationary orbit, to serve the Asia-Pacific region using 28 C-band and 32 Ku-band transponders, and a regional Ka-band payload.

It was the year's fourth Proton launch and the 96th flown for International Launch Services.  It was also the year's 60th known orbital launch attempt, world-wide.

AV-072 (ULA)Atlas 5 Launches NROL-42

The second Atlas 541 to fly from Vandenberg AFB, a variant that uses four solid rocket motors and a five meter diameter payload fairing, launched the classified National Reconnaissance Office NROL-42 mission on September 24, 2017. The 522 tonne rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 East at 05:49 UTC and quickly flew into a news blackout. Atlas 541 is the most powerful Atlas variant to yet fly from the California base.

Analysts expected the launch to orbit a payload bound for an elliptical 12-hour Molniya type orbit. Potential payloads included communications or signals intelligence satellites (SIGINTs). The flight followed a profile similar to the Atlas 541 NROL-35 launch in December, 2014, which went to a 2,101 x 37,748 km x 62.85 Molniya orbit. The use of Atlas 541 for these missions suggest that the satellites are likely heavier than any previously launched by the U.S. to a Molniya orbit. A previous launch of a "Trumpet"-type SIGINT to 1,120 x 37,600 km x 63.56 deg Molniya orbit used a less-capable Atlas 5-411 with only one strap-on solid motor.

AV-072 was the fifth Atlas 5 launch of the year and the second from SLC 3E.  It was the first Atlas of the year fitted with solid motors.  It was the 73rd Atlas 5 flight and the 63rd consecutive Atlas 5 launch vehicle success.

Glonass M 52 LaunchSoyuz Orbits Glonass Navsat

Russia's Soyuz 2-1B/Fregat launched GLONASS-M (Uragan-M) No.52, a navigation satellite, from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 43/4 on September 22, 2017. Liftoff took place at 00:02 UTC.  The satellite was named Kosmos 2522 after reaching orbit.

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 19,140 km x 64.8 deg orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred about 3.5 hours after liftoff.

It was the 10th R-7 launch of 2017.


Soyuz MS-06 (NASA TV)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

Russia's Soyuz FG orbited Russia's Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on September 12, 2017. It was the year's third crewed launch. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 21:17 UTC. The spacecraft entered a roughly 197 x 255 km x 51.67 deg initial orbit. Onboard were Russia's Alexander Misurkin and NASA's Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, comprising the Expedition 53/54 crew.

Soyuz MS-06 aimed for a 6 hour, four orbit fast-track ascent to ISS. The MS-06 crew will join Randy Bresnik, Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Paolo Nespoli at the station.

It was the ninth R-7 flight of 2017.

Proton 415 (ILS)Proton Launches Amazonas 5

Russia's Proton M/Briz M launched the Amazonas 5 communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 11, 2017. The 415th Proton rocket, a "Phase 3" Proton M variant, serial number 93565, lifted off from Baikonur's Area 200 Pad 39 at 19:23 UTC to begin a planned 9 hr 12 min ascent phase that included five burns by the Briz M upper stage. The 5,900 kg Space Systems/Loral-built SSL 1300 series satellite was aimed toward a planned 4,450 x 35,286 km x 22.9 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Amazonas 5, built for HISPASAT Group, is equipped by 24 Ku-band transponders and a Ka-band spot beam with spot beams. It will provide fixed and broadband services in South America, Central America and Mexico. The satellite will be positioned at 61 deg West after it raises itself to geostationary orbit.

It was the year's third Proton launch.  It was also the 95th Proton flown for International Launch Services.

F9-42 with OTV-5 (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Launches X-37B

Falcon 9-42, the second v1.2 variant to fly with a "Block 4" first stage, launched the fifth U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) mission into orbit from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on September 7, 2017. Liftoff took place at 14:00 UTC. X-37B entered a low earth orbit likely inclined 40 to 45 deg to the equator after a single burn by the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine.

This was the first X-37B launch by Falcon 9. Atlas 5 performed the first four launches, which are believed to have used two different X-37B spacecraft. The winged robot mini-shuttle, which carries classified payload in its small payload bay, is believed to weigh about 5 metric tons at launch.

First stage B1040 performed a 2 min 23 sec ascent burn before separating from the second stage, turning 180 deg, and restarting three engines for a roughly 34 second boost-back burn that pushed it back towards Florida even as it continued to gain altitude. The stage performed a roughly 20 second three-engine reentry burn starting at about T+6 min 34 sec and a final single-engine landing burn that began about 30 seconds before it settled onto the circular pad at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.  Landing took place about 8 min 14 sec after liftoff.

It was the 16th successful first stage landing and the 7th landing at LZ 1. Fourteen first stages have now been recovered, two having flown twice. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

The second stage was expected to perform a deorbit burn after payload separation, possibly after performing an extended coast mission.  Its post-reentry remains were to be aimed toward a zone far south of Australia.

The F9-42 stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during late July or early August, 2017. The first stage engines performed a brief static test at LC 39A on August 31, 2017 before OTV-5 was stacked atop the rocket.

PSLV-C39, ISROPSLV Fails

India's most-reliable launch vehicle, PSLV, suffered its first launch failure since 1997 during an attempt to orbit IRNSS 1H, the country's eighth-planned navigation satellite, from Sriharikota on August 31, 2017. The 4.5-stage PSLV-XL variant, flying the C-39 mission, lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Center's Second Launch Pad at 13:30 UTC. All of the propulsion elements appeared to work as expected, but the payload fairing failed to separate as planned about 3 minutes 23 seconds after liftoff. The extra mass caused the fourth stage and its still-encapsulated payload to fall short, only reaching a 167 x 6,555 km x 19.18 deg orbit, far short of the planned 675 x 20,650 km x 19.2 deg transfer orbit.

Plans had called for the 1,425 kg satellite to raise itself from the planned subsynchronous transfer orbit to a geosynchronous orbit with a 29 deg inclination, tracing a small figure-8 pattern over the Earth's surface, centered on 55 deg East longitude.

India's first generation navigation constellation consists of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial geostationary orbits.

It was the 41st PSLV flight and the 18th by a PSLV-XL variant. The failure ended a string of 36 consecutive successes for the PSLV family. No PSLV-XL failures had previously occurred. PSLV began flying in 1993.

Minotaur 4 Launches ORS-5 (OATK)Minotaur 4 Cape Inaugural

Orbital ATK's Minotaur 4 performed its first launch from Cape Canaveral on August 26, 2017 when it boosted the ORS-5 (Operationally Responsive Space) satellite into equatorial low earth orbit. The 87 tonne rocket lifted off from SLC 46 at 06:04 UTC, rising rapidly on 209 tonnes of thrust from the SR-118 first stage motor.

An Orion 38 fifth stage was added to the standard four-stage Minotaur 4 to perform the unusual ascent. ORS-5 only weighed 140 kg, but the fifth stage was needed to perform the largest-ever low earth orbit plane change maneuver to insert the satellite into a 600 km x 0.0 deg orbit.

Minotaur 4 uses surplus Peacekeeper ICBM motors for its first three stages. An Orion 38 motor serves as the fourth stage. On this flight the first stage fired for 0.94 minutes and the second stage for 0.96 minutes before begininng a 0.18 minute coast. The third stage then separated from the second stage and performed a 1.21 minute burn. The stack coasted until the third stage separated at T+13.74 minutes. The fourth stage ignited 0.18 minutes later to begin its 1.11 minute burn to reach orbital velocity, entering a roughly 400 x 600 km x 24.6 deg transfer orbit.  After a coast to the equator, during which three small cubesats deployed, the fifth stage began its 1.15 minute burn at T+25.31 minutes to raise perigee to about 600 km and to reduce inclination to 0 deg.

MIT/Lincoln Labs led the effort to develop ORS-5, which will stare up at the geosynchronous orbit belt to provide an operational demonstration of situational awareness about the movement of satellites operating in the belt.

It was the fourth orbital launch mission by a Minotaur 4, the sixth Minotaur 4 launch, and the seventh launch of a Minotaur 4 or 5. Minotaur 5 uses a Star 48V, rather than an Orion 38, fourth stage motor. Cape Canaveral became the fourth launch range to see a Minotaur 4 or 5. Previous launches took place from Vandenberg AFB, Kodiak, and Wallops Island. It was the first launch from SLC 46 since a Lockheed Martin Athena lifted off in 1999.

Orbital ATK conducts Minotaur 4 launches under the U.S. Air Force's Orbital/Suborbital-2 contract.

F9-40 (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Orbits Formosat 5

Falcon 9 F9-40, a v1.2 variant with a "Block 3" first stage, orbited Formosat 5, an Earth observation satellite for Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO), from Vandenberg AFB on August 24, 2017. First stage number B1038 boosted the rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East at 18:51 UTC to begin an 11 minute 18 second mission that inserted the 475 kg satellite directly into a roughly 720 km x 98.28 deg sun synchronous orbit.

The first stage fired for 2 minutes 28 seconds. Stage 2 performed a single 6 minute 38 second burn. After staging, the first stage performed a 39 second long 3-engine reentry burn and a 33 second single-engine landing burn before landing on the converted barge "drone ship" “Just Read the Instructions” about 10 minutes 47 seconds after liftoff. The second stage performed a deorbit burn after spacecraft separation.

Formosat 5 carries a primary optical imager and a secondary ionospheric sensor.

It was the 15th successful Falcon 9 first stage landing. Thirteen first stages have now been recovered, two having flown twice. It was the 40th Falcon 9 launch, a number that does not include the AMOS 6 launch vehicle destroyed during a propellant loading test on September 1, 2016.

The first and second stages were test fired at the company's McGregor, Texas test site during late June or early July. The first stage was briefly hot fired at SLC 4E on August 19, 2017 with the second stage, but no payload, attached to the top of the rocket.

H-2A F35 (JAXA)H-2A Launches Navsat for Japan

H-2A F35 successfully launched the 4.7 tonne Michibiki 3 navigation satellite for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency from Tanegashimi Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 on August 19, 2017. Liftoff took place at 05:30 UTC. F35 flew in the "204" configuration with four strap on "SRB-A" monolithic solid motors and two liquid hydrogen/oxygen core stages. After a 115 second SRB phase that augmented a 398 second first stage burn, the rocket's second stage performed two burns, of 271 seconds and 250 seconds duration with a 736 second coast between, to inject Michibiki 3 into a geostationary transfer orbit.

Michibiki 3 will raise itself into geosynchronous orbit, augmenting two previous satellites that trace north-south "Figure 8" patterns across the Earth's surface at Japan's longitude.

The launch, which came after a one week delay caused by a problem during propellant loading during the initial launch attempt, was the fourth H-2A launch of the year.

AV-074 (ULA)Atlas Orbits TDRS-M

AV-074, an Atlas 5 two-stage 401 model, successfully orbited NASA's TDRS-M (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) from Cape Caneveral on August 18, 2017. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 12:29 UTC. TDRS-M, a Boeing Space System 601 model that weighed 3.454 tonnes, was aimed toward a 4,640 x 35,787 km x 26.2 deg high perigee geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Spacecraft separation took place 1 hour 53 minutes 46 seconds after liftoff.

The RD-180 powered first stage burned for 4 minutes 2 seconds. This was followed by a 13 minute 39 second long Centaur second stage burn that boosted the vehicle into a 183 x 25,672 km x 27 deg parking orbit. After a 1 hour, 30 minute 6 second coast across the equatorial Atlantic, southern Africa, and part of the Indian Ocean, Centaur reignited for a 57 second burn to accelerate TDRS-M into its final orbit.

TDRS-M's arrival at the launch pad was delayed by a few weeks after one of its antennas was damaged on July 14 during processing at Astrotech, the same day that the Centaur stage was stacked atop the first stage at SLC 41.  The launch vehicle ended up standing on its launch platform for more than a month before liftoff.

The launch was the world's 50th known orbital attempt of 2017.  It was also  the fourth Atlas 5 launch of the year, the 62nd consecutive Atlas 5 success, and the 71st success in 72 flights to date.

Proton Launches BlagovestProton Orbits Blagovest (8/21/17 Update)

A Proton M Briz M launched Russia's first Blagovest military communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 16, 2017. The liftoff from Site 81 Pad 24 took place at 22:07 UTC, with no live TV coverage provided.  The Briz M upper stage performed a series of burns (most likely four burns) to insert the satellite into near-geosynchronous orbit.   Upon reaching orbit the satellite was named Kosmos 2520. 

Blagovest ("good news") is an Ekspress-2000 series satellite built by ISS Reshetnev in Zheleznogorsk, Russia, for Russia's Ministry of Defense. It carries Ka and C-band transponders. Europe's Thales Alenia provided attitude control system sensors and communications payload elements. Blagovest 11L is the first of four planned in the series.


Falcon 9 Launches CRS-12


Falcon 9-41, the first v1.2 variant to fly with a "Block 4" first stage, launched Dragon CRS-12 into orbit from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on August 14, 2017. Liftoff took place at 16:31 UTC. Cargo-hauling Dragon entered a low earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator after a single 6 min 58 sec burn by the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine. spacecraft separation took place at T+10 min 20 sec.

This 14th Dragon flight used Dragon spacecraft C113, the 13th and final new Dragon spacecraft capsule planned to be manufactured by SpaceX.  Future missions will use refurbished recovered capsules.

Dragon carried 2,910 kg of cargo and packing, including 1,258 kg in its unpressurized trunk. Dragon's total liftoff weight including cargo was likely about 8,400 kg.

First stage B1039 performed a 2 min 25 sec ascent burn before separating from the second stage, turning 180 deg, and restarting three engines for a roughly 55 second boost-back burn that pushed it back towards Florida even as it continued to gain altitude. The stage performed a roughly 14 second three-engine reentry burn starting at about T+6 min 8 sec and a final single-engine landing burn that began about 28 econds before it settled onto the circular pad at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.  Landing took place about 7 min 43 sec after liftoff. 

B1039.1 LandingB1039.1 Landing

It was the 14th successful first stage landing and the 6th landing at LZ 1.   Twelve first stages have now been recovered, two having flown twice.  All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.  CRS-12 was the 19th Falcon 9 v1.2 launch and the 20th v1.2 to stand on a launch pad, a tally that includes the AMOS 6 launch vehicle destroyed during propellant loading for a pre-launch static test firing on September 1, 2016. 

The second stage performed a deorbit burn after Dragon separated. Its post-reentry remains were aimed toward a zone south and west of Australia.

The F9-41 stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during July, 2017. The first stage engines performed a brief static test at LC 39A on August 10, 2017 before Dragon was stacked atop the rocket.



 

vv10.jpg (19244 bytes)Vega Orbits Earth Observation Satellites

Europe's Vega launch vehicle orbited Optsat 3000 and Venus, two Israeli-built earth observation satellites, from Kourou on August 2, 2017. The four-stage rocket lifted off on Arianespace Mission VV10 from the Vega Launch Complex (ZLV) at 01:58 UTC on a more than 97-minute mission that employed five burns by the AVUM fourth stage to deploy the two satellites into different orbits.

AVUM completed its first, 6 min 17 sec burn to reach an initial elliptical orbit about 14 min 9 sec after liftoff. After a coast to apogee, the stage restarted at T+40 min 37 sec for a nearly 1.5 minute burn to reach a 450 km x 97 deg orbit, where the 368 kg Optsat 3000 satellite separated. AVUM then performed two more burns during the next hour to reach a 720 km x 98 deg orbit, where 264 kg Venus separated. AVUM performed a fifth, deorbit burn beginning at T+1 hour 47 min 19 sec.

Vega's P80 solid motor first stage burned for 1 min 57 seconds. Its Z23 solid motor second stage ignited one second later and burned until the 3 min 40 sec mark. After a 23 second coast the Z9 solid motor third stage ignited for its 2 min 39 second burn. The payload fairing separated shortly after the third stage ignited. After a 1 min 10 sec coast, the liquid AVUM fourth stage began its first burn.

Optsat 3000 is a military optical survelliance satellite for the Itialian Ministry of Defense. Venus, a multi-spectral earth observation satellite, is an Israeli/French collaboration.


soyms05.jpg (10363 bytes)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

A 2.5 stage Soyuz FG rocket orbited Russia's Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on July 28, 2017. It was the year's second crewed launch. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 15:41 UTC. The spacecraft entered a roughly 200 km x 51.6 deg initial orbit. Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's Sergey Ryazanskiy, NASA's Randy Bresnik and ESA's Paolo Nespoli, comprising the Expedition 52/53 crew.

Soyuz MS-05 aimed for a 6 hour, four orbit fast-track ascent to ISS. Ryazanskiy, Bresnik, and Nespoli will join Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA's Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, the longest-space time NASA astronaut, at the station.

It was the eighth R-7 flight of 2017.  It was also the 50th 2.5-stage Soyuz FG launch since the type premiered in 2001.  None have failed.  This 50th consecutive success pushes Soyuz FG incrementally past Delta 2 to the top of the Space Launch Report Launch Vehicle Reliability table.


soy071417.jpg (17869 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat Launch

A Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 14, 2017 with Russia's 500+ kg Kanopus V-IK Earth observation satellite and 72 smaller satellites bound for a variety of sun synchronous orbits. Liftoff from Baikonur's Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 06:36 UTC. Fregat fired twice to place Kanopus V-IK into a roughly 479 x 523 km x 97.44 deg orbit during the first hour of the mission.

After two more Fregat burns to reach a 595 x 523 km x 97.44 deg orbit, 24 small satellites were released around 2.5 hours after liftoff. Two more Fregat burns then moved the stage to a roughly 460 x 480 km x 97 deg orbit, where 48 small satellites deployed beginning about 7.6 hours after launch. A seventh and final, deorbit burn took place about 8.25 hours after liftoff.

It was the year's 45th orbital launch attempt, worldwide.


f9-39.jpg (4322 bytes)Falcon 9 Orbits Intelsat 35e (Updated 07/07/17)

The year's tenth Falcon 9 boosted Intelsat 35e to geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39 Pad A on July 5, 2017.  Liftoff took place at 23:37 UTC.  The Merlin 1D Vacuum-powered second stage performed two burns to loft the 6.761 tonne communications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. It was by far the heaviest GTO payload yet for Falcon 9, a payload requiring use of the third fully-expendable Falcon 9 v1.2 variant, with no landing legs, grid fins, or other recoverable hardware on the first stage.

The first stage fired for about 164 seconds. The second stage then burned for about 346 seconds before beginning a roughly 1,000 second parking orbit coast to the equator. The stage completed its second, 57 second burn at the 27 min 20 sec mark. 

Spacecraft separation took place about 32 minutes after liftoff. F9-39 aimed toward a GTO with a perigee of about 250 km, an apogee of at least 31,230 km, and a 26 deg inclination. A minimum residual shutdown of the second stage was planned, which under best-case conditions could result in an apogee exceeding 35,500 km.  Shortly after the flight, Elon Musk of SpaceX tweeted that a 43,000 km apogee had been achieved.  Tracking data released a day later showed Intelsat 35e in a 296 x 42,742 km x 25.85 deg orbit.

The second stage was an improved "Block 4" type while the first stage appeared to be a standard "Block 3" variant. Cryogenic propellant loading began only 35 minutes before liftoff, a procedure implemented during the past few launches that is designed to minimize propellant temperatures for improved performance.

Boeing Network & Space Systems built the BSS-702MP satellite, which uses C and Ku-band transponders to provide communications services to the Caribbean, Europe to Africa, and Africa.

F9-39 used first stage number B1037. It and its second stage partner were test fired at McGregor, Texas during late May or early June, 2017. The assembled rocket performed a roughly 3 second hot fire at LC 39A on June 29, 2017 with no payload attached. A July 2 launch attempt was halted at T-10 seconds due to a guidance and navigation system issue, forcing a 24-hour turnaround.  The second attempt was also stopped at T-10 seconds by the ground sequencer when it saw a parameter out of range. SpaceX waited 48 hours while determining that the flight hardware had actually not exceeded flight limits.


cz5y2.jpg (9948 bytes)CZ-5 Failure (07/15/17 Update)

Eight months after its successful debut launch, China's second Chang Zheng (Long March) 5 (serial Y2) suffered a launch failure on July 2, 2017 during an attempt to orbit Shijian 18, a heavy (roughly 7.6 tonne) experimental communications satellite, from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China's southern coast.  CZ-5 Y2 was aiming for a 200 x 46,000 km x 19.5 deg target orbit on a mission that would have seen two second stage burns.

The liftoff from Pad 101 took place at 11:23 UTC. The 56.97 meter tall, 2.5 stage CZ-5, currently the world's heaviest rocket, rose cleanly on the combined 1,080 tonnes of thrust produced by 10 engines, two gas generator engines on the 5-meter diameter LH2/LOX core and two staged-combustion engines each on four 3.35 meter diameter kerosene/LOX strap-on boosters. At some point, however, something failed, likely involving first (core) stage propulsion.

The boosters completed their burns and separated cleanly and, apparently, on time, but the core stage continued to fire for more than 1.5 minutes longer than expected. A long burn of this type is consistent with one of the two YF-77 engines suffering a failure at some point during the ascent, but no official announcement of the failure mode was made in the hours following the launch.

Despite the first stage issue, the second stage separated and ignited its two YF-75D LH2/LOX engines that together made 32.6 tonnes of thrust at 438 second specific impulse. The stage was to have performed an initial nearly-five minute burn to reach a low earth parking orbit. It is not clear if the stage completed its burn as planned, but both engines were visible performing their burns in normal fashion in a an on-board view transmitted to the ground. The stage and its payload apparently reentered, unable to make up for the core stage velocity shortfall.

The 31.02 x 5 meter first stage weighed 175.8 tonnes and was powered by two YF-77 LH2/LOX engines that together produced 104 tonnes of liftoff thrust. The stage, which carried 158 tonnes of propellant, was to have burned for 471 seconds, with the YF-77 engines operating at 430 seconds vacuum specific impulse.

The four 26.28 x 3.25 meter strap-on boosters were powered by two YF-100 RP/LOX staged combustion engines that combined to produce 242 tonnes of liftoff thrust for each booster. YF-100 had previously powered China's inaugural CZ-6 and CZ-7 launches. Each booster may have weighed about 165 tonnes at liftoff. The boosters burned for nearly 173 seconds before separating from the still-burning first stage.

The second stage weighed 26 tonnes and carried 22.9 tonnes of propellant.

CZ-5 in its fully developed form will lift as much as 25 tonnes to low earth orbit in 1.5 stage form or 14 tonnes to GTO using 2.5 stages, making it more capable than Proton or Ariane 5 and possibly matching or exceeding Delta 4.

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