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SPACE LAUNCH REPORT
by
Ed Kyle



Recent Space Launches

08/09/14, 05:45 UTC, CZ-4C with Yaogan 20 from JQ 43/603 to LEO
08/13/14, 18:30 UTC, Atlas 5-401 with Worldview 3 from VA 3E to LEO/S
08/19/14, 03:15 UTC, CZ-4B with Gaofen 2 from TY 9 to LEO/S
08/22/14, 12;27 UTC, Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat with Galileo 5/6 from KO ZLS to [EEO][FAILED]
09/04/14, 00:15 UTC, CZ-2D with Chuangxin 1-04/Ling Qiao from JQ 43/603 to LEO/S
09/07/14, 05:00 UTC, Falcon 9 v1.1 with Asiasat 6 from CC 40 to GTO
09/08/14, 03:22 UTC, CZ-4B with YG 21/Tiantuo 1from TY 9 to LEO/S
09/11/14, 22:05 UTC, Ariane 5 ECA with Measat 3b/Optus 10 from KO 3 to GTO
09/17/14, 00:10 UTC, Atlas 5-401 with CLIO from CC 41 to GTO+
09/21/14, 05:52 UTC, Falcon 9 v1.1 with Dragon CRS-4 from CC 40 to LEO/ISS

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 09/21/14
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)
2014:  57(2)
2013:  81(3)
2012:  78(6)
2011:  84(6)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)
2014:  2(0)
2013:  5(0)
2012:  5(0)
2011:  7(0)

f9-13a.jpg (13515 bytes)Falcon Lofts Dragon

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.

f9-13b.jpg (11828 bytes)Dragon Separation

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 (CRS) contract.

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.


be4.jpg (17594 bytes)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 sea level.

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 ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets", including the strap-on solid boosters, and said that details would be announced at a later date.


cst100x.jpg (14495 bytes)NASA Awards Commercial Crew to Boeing, SpaceX

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.

dragonv2x.jpg (11756 bytes)Dragon V2

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.

av049a.jpg (12478 bytes)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. 


 

av049b.jpg (16803 bytes)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 orbit. 

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.


va218.jpg (23173 bytes)Ariane 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.

 
cz4byg21.jpg (18671 bytes)China 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.



f9-12.jpg (10617 bytes)Falcon 9 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.

cz2d21.jpg (3968 bytes)China 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 succeeded.

vs09.jpg (11194 bytes)Soyuz 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 constellation.


cz4by27.jpg (14881 bytes)Gaofen 2 Launch

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.



av047.jpg (12684 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches Commercial Spysat

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 after liftoff.

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.



cz4cyg20.jpg (8833 bytes)China 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.  



f9-11.jpg (12618 bytes)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 payloads.    

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.




av048b.jpg (10558 bytes)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 2014.



va219.jpg (11679 bytes)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 5’s 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.


d368-1.jpg (5013 bytes)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 after separation.

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 been successful.


progm24m.jpg (7589 bytes)Progress 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 station.

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.



r71825.jpg (6372 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a 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 Kingdom.

f9-10a.jpg (18453 bytes)Long 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.


f9-10c.jpg (16257 bytes)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 launch.

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.


orb2-13.jpg (13900 bytes)Antares Launches Cygnus/Orb-2

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.

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.


orb2b.jpg (20362 bytes)"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, 2014.

O3bF2.jpg (15495 bytes)Soyuz Completes Internet Constellation

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 constellation.

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. 

angara1-2pp1.jpg (6156 bytes)angara1-2pp5.jpg (1960 bytes)Russia's 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 downrange.

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 Angara launch.


r71823.jpg (17766 bytes)Soyuz 2-1b 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 liftoff.

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.

rokot23.jpg (6343 bytes)Rokot 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. 


d367-1.jpg (5119 bytes)Delta 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 NASA’s 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.


d367-2.jpg (7081 bytes)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 exist.


pslvc23.jpg (6483 bytes)India's 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 consecutive success.


dnepr20.jpg (5044 bytes)Dnepr 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.


r71822.jpg (14469 bytes)Russia Orbits Glonass-M

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.

soytma13m.jpg (5016 bytes)Soyuz 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 launch.

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.




z3sl36b.jpg (8947 bytes)Sea Launch Returns

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.

h2af24b.jpg (16575 bytes)H-2A 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 stage.

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.



rokot22.jpg (9176 bytes)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.



av046.jpg (8333 bytes)Atlas Flies 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.

d366.jpg (22742 bytes)Delta 4 Launches GPS 2F-6

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 year. 


p397.jpg (10472 bytes)Proton Fails (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 was achieved.

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 turbopump.

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. 




antsolids.jpg (16264 bytes)Future Antares

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?



r71820.jpg (13456 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a 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.


vv03a.jpg (19040 bytes)Vega Orbits Kazakh Satellite

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 Toulouse, France.


p93546.jpg (3450 bytes)Proton Orbits Two Satellites

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.


f9-9x.jpg (12026 bytes)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 returning cargo.

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.

f9-9y.jpg (33365 bytes)Landing 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 launch.


crs3.jpg (5401 bytes)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 subsequently canceled. 

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.

esat2-2.jpg (20519 bytes)Russia 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 after liftoff.

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 Progress missions.


av045.jpg (6405 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches NROL-67

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 satellite.


ofek10.jpg (6955 bytes)Shavit-2 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 Ministry’s Space Administration, which is a part of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.

MAFAT, the research and development department of Israel’s 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.



progm23m.jpg (7202 bytes)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 Steve Swanson.

It was the 55th Progress flight to ISS and the 146th launch of all types to the station since construction began in 1998.



pslvc24.jpg (16398 bytes)PSLV Launches Navsat

PSLV-XL C24 orbited India’s 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 geosynchronous orbit.

IRNSS-1B, the second of seven planned IRNSS missions, was developed by the Indian Space Research Organization.

C24 was the 6th PSLV-XL and the 24th success in 26th PSLV flights.


vs07.jpg (10168 bytes)Soyuz 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.


av044.jpg (8434 bytes)Atlas 5 Orbits DMSP F-19

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 success.


See Older Launch Reports in the Space Launch Report Archive