5 Orbits SBIRS GEO 3
AV-066, a basic Atlas 5-401 variant, launched the third Space Base Infrared System
Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (SBIRS GEO 3) into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida
on January 21, 2017. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 00:42 UTC..
Centaur fired twice to insert the 4.54 tonne, Lockheed-Martin-built early warning
satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The launch campaign included a record short, 13-day period from first stage stacking to
rollout. An initial launch attempt 24 hours earlier was scrubbed by a sensor issue and by
an aircraft intruding on a downrange safety zone.
Rocket Orbit Try Fails
Japan's SS-520-4, a small experimental three-stage orbital launcher based on an existing
two-stage sounding rocket, failed during its inaugural attempt from Uchinoura Space Center
at Kagoshima on January 14, 2017. The solid-fueled rocket zipped skyward from its rail
launcher at the KS sounding rocket pad at 23:33 UTC, aiming to place Tricom 1, a 3kg
Cubesat, into a 180 x 1,500 km x 31 deg orbit after a rapid ascent lasting just over four
The first stage burn appeared to be good, ending after about 31 seconds, but the second
stage never ignited as planned after a 140 second coast. Reports indicated that telemetry
was lost even before first stage cutoff. Second stage ignition needed to be enabled from
the ground, which was impossible without an established downlink. The vehicle apparently
fell into the expected first stage drop zone, indicating that the first stage propulsion
phase had more or less succeeded.
SS-520-4 (SS-520 serial number 4) weighed about 2.6 tonnes at launch, which would have
made it the lightest-ever orbital rocket had it succeeded. The rocket was 9.54 meters long
and 0.52 meters diameter. It's first stage HTPB solid fuel motor produced about 18
tonnes of liftoff thrust.
The launch was to be a one-off experiment, so no additional SS-520-4 orbital attempts are
Falcon 9 Returns
Ending a four-month failure investigation stand-down, SpaceX Corporation's Falcon 9 launch
vehicle returned to service on January 14, 2017, orbiting ten IridiumNEXT satellites from
Vandenberg AFB in California. The v1.2 variant, informally designated F9-30 by outside
observers (it used first stage number B1029), lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East
at 17:54 UTC to begin a hour-long mission that inserted the 860 kg, Thales Alenia
Space-built satellites into roughly 610 x 620 km x 86.4 deg orbits. The satellites will
raise themselves into 780 km operational orbits.
After a 43 minute, 16 second coast, the Falcon 9 second stage restarted for a brief
second, circularization burn at first apogee about 52 minutes 31 seconds after liftoff to
complete the powered phase of the flight. Spacecraft separation began at about the 59
minutes 16 seconds mark, with each satellite separating individually separated by about
The first stage performed boost-back, reentry, and
landing burns before landing on the converted barge "drone ship" Just Read
the Instructions. It was the first successful first stage landing in two West Coast
attempts. Six previous first stage recoveries had been made after Cape canaveral liftoffs.
The launch was the first of seven planned IridiumNext Falcon 9 flights that will replace
the company's orbiting "Little LEO" communication satellite constellation.
Falcon 9 had been grounded since F9-29 and its $200 million AMOS 6 satellite payload were
destroyed during a pre-launch propellant loading and hot fire test exercise at Cape
Canveral on September 1, 2016. SpaceX determined that the cause was sudden
overpressurization of the second stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank due to the failure of a
composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV) containing pressurized helium that was
mounted inside the LOX tank. Improper control of subcooled-LOX temperatures may have been
involved. Elon Musk of SpaceX suggested that LOX froze within or beneath the composite
overwrapping, causing loss of COPV structural integrity.
SpaceX performed cryogenic loading tests, with some leading to failure, of small test
vessels at its McGregor, Texas test site to confirm the failure mode. The company also
changed its propellant loading procedures, more than doubling the LOX loading time.
The F9-30 first and second stages were test fired at the company's McGregor, Texas test
site during late October and early November, 2016. The first stage was hot fired at SLC 4E
on January 5, 2017 after a scrub the previous day. The IridiumNEXT payload was not atop
the vehicle during the wet dress rehearsal and hot fire exercise.
F9-30 was the 29th Falcon 9 launch and the ninth v1.2 variant to fly, not including the
lost AMOS 6 launch vehicle. It was the first v1.2 to fly from VAFB.
China's Kuaizhou 1A (KZ-1A), an improved variant of previously-flown Kuaizhou 1, flew for
the first time on January 9, 2016 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The three-stage
solid fuel rocket lifted off from a mobile launcher on a flat pad at 04:11 UTC. Three
satellites, including remote-sensing JL-1 and CubeSats XY-S1 and Caton-1, separated into
sun synchronous orbits.
Expace Technology Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corp,
handled the launch as a commercial enterprise.
KZ-1A can loft 200kg into a 700 km sun synchronous orbit, or up to 300 kg to lower
inclincation low earth orbits. It is 20 meters tall, 1.4 meters in diameter, and weighs 30
tonnes at liftoff. The three solid motor stages weigh 16.621 tonnes, 8.686 tonnes, and
3.183 tonnes and have 65 second, 62 second, and 55 second burn times, respectively. The
first two stages are 1.4 meters diameter. The third stage is 1.2 meters diameter. 1.2 and
1.4 meter diameter fairing are available. This launch appeared to use the 1.4 meter
A small N2O4/MMH bipropellant insertion fourth stage
provided final orbit trim during a roughly 13 minute long period that included nearly six
minutes of low-thrust burn. Spacecraft separation began about 17.7 minutes after
China Kicks Off
China performed the first orbital launch of 2017 with a
CZ-3B/E launch from XiChang on January 5. The 3.5 stage rocket carried TJSW 2 (Tongxin
Jishu Shiyan Weixing, or Communications Engineering Test Satellite) aloft from LC 2 at
15:18 UTC. TJSW 2 entered a geosynchronous transfer orbit about one-half hour later after
two burns by the liquid hydrogen-fueled third stage.
Like the first TJSW launched September 12, 2015, TJSW 2's appears to have a classified
purpose. The first TJSW was used, in part, to test Ka-band technology for broadband
It was the 38th CZ-3B launch.
Launch Falters (12/29/16 Update)
A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D failed to properly orbit the first pair of SuperView-1
remote sensing satellites from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on December 28, 2016. The
satellites separated into roughly 214 x 524 km x 97.58 deg orbits, lower than the planned
roughly 500 km circular. The satellites began to spend their own propellant to raise
their low perigees within a day of the launch. If they had been unable to do so,
they would likely have decayed from orbit in several weeks.
The cause of the failure, the first ever for the CZ-2D
variant, was not immediately certain, but the first staging event between stages one and
two appeared to take place about 7 seconds later than planned. The subsequent
payload fairing separation also occurred about 7 seconds late.
It was the first CZ-2D launch from Taiyuan. Liftoff from
LC9 took place at 03:23 UTC.
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. They will operate in 500 km sun synchronous orbits.
It was the 19th DF-5 based CZ launch and 22nd Chinese orbital launch attempt of the year.
Launches Two Comsats
An Ariane 5 ECA orbited two communication satellites from Kourou on December 21, 2016.
Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 20:30 UTC. The Arianespace VA234 mission placed
6,433.1 kg StarOne D1 and 3,407.5 kg JCSat 15 into geosynchronous transfer orbits. About
28.5 minutes after liftoff, SS/Loral-built StarOne D1 deployed first from atop a Sylda 5
dual payload carrier. SS/Loral-built JCSat 15 separated several minutes later.
Both satellites will raise themselves into geostationary orbits. StarOne D1 will be
positioned at 84 deg West. JCSat 15 will work from 110 deg East.
VA234 was the seventh and final Ariane 5 launch of 2016.
CZ-2D Orbits CO2 Mapper
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D launched TanSat, a high resolution carbon dioxide
mapping satellite, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on December 21, 2016. The
two-stage hypergolic fueled rocket lifted off from the 43/603 pad at 19:22 UTC. The 620 kg
TanSat entered a sun synchronous earth orbit, along with at least two microsatellites.
It was the 18th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year, four
more than Russia's second-place R-7. It was also China's 21st orbital launch attempt
of the year, one less than the United Staes and two more than Russia. With several
more launches planned, China appears on track to lead the world in calendar year orbital
launch attempts for the first time.
Japan's second Epsilon launch vehicle, the first
improved "Enhanced" variant, boosted the Energization and Radiation in Geospace
(ERG) satellite into an elliptical orbit passing through the Van Allen radiation belts
from Kagoshima on December 20, 2016. ERG, which separated into an orbited targeted to be
219 x 33,200 km x 31.4 deg about 13.5 minutes after liftoff, was nicknamed
"Arase", the name of a river near Kagoshima, upon activation.
Enhanced Epsilon began its E-02 mission with an 11:00 UTC launch from the former M-5 pad
at Uchinoura Space Center. The SRB-A based first stage produced about 219 tonnes of
liftoff thrust to lift the 26 meter tall, 75.3 tonne rocket. The first stage fired for
about 105 seconds. After the burn the entire vehicle coasted for 56 seconds. The payload
fairing separated during the coast at the 2 min 30 sec mark. The second stage, a newly
developed, 15 tonne M-35 solid motor that is 4.2 tonnes heavier than the M-34c motor used
by the original Epsilon on its 2013 inaugural flight, ignited at T+2 min 45 sec and fired
for about 1 min 58 sec, producing about 45 tonnes of thrust.
The vehicle coasted again, building up an axial spin, before the KM-V2c third stage
ignited at T+6 min 42 sec. The stage fired for 1 min 29 sec to insert itself and 365 kg
ERG into the deployment orbit. ERG separated at T+13 min 27 sec.
Enhanced Epsilon features a new second stage that is the same diameter as the first stage.
This allowed the payload fairing to move higher, providing more payload space. The second
and third stages now have fixed, rather than extendible nozzles, a reliability-improving
provision provided by use of longer interstage sections. Avionics was improved and
structures were made lighter. Enhanced Epsilon can lift 30% more mass to orbit than the
original "Test" Epsilon.
Atlas 5 Launches
AV-071, an Atlas 5-431 with three solid rocket motors
and a 4.27 meter diameter extra extended payload fairing orbited EchoStar 19, a Hughes
Network Systems communications satellite, from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 18,
2016. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 19:13 UTC. After two burns by the
Centaur second stage, 6,637 kg Echostar 19 separated into a geosynchronous transfer orbit
targeted to be 204 x 65,000 km x 25.44 deg.
Echostar 19, a Space Systems/Loral 1300 series satellite, carried Ka-band transponders and
antenna arrays capable of creating more than 100 spot beams for 150 gigabit per second or
higher data transfer rates. The satellite will be positied in geostationary orbit at 97.1
After a 4 min 26 sec first stage burn, Centaur fired for 8 min 56 sec. The stage then
coasted for about 9.5 minutes before restarting to perform a 5 min 48 sec burn to reach
its transfer orbit. Echostar 19 separated 32 min 3 sec after liftoff.
It was the 8th Atlas 5 flight of the year and the 67th launch vehicle success in 68
attempts during the 14 year Atlas 5 program.
Orbital ATK's air-launched Pegasus rocket returned to service after a three year hiatus by
successfully orbiting NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), a
constellation of eight small satellites, from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 15,
2016. Stargazer, the L-1011 mother ship, took off from the Cape Skid Strip before
drop-launching the three-stage Pegasus-XL off the coast at 13:37 UTC.
Pegasus fired its first two stages in succession. The third stage, still attached to the
second stage, then coasted for 3 minutes 49 seconds before separating and beginning its
orbital insertion burn. CYGNSS reached orbit in just over 8 minutes. The eight satellites
were deployed in pairs beginning about 13 minutes after launch. The target orbit was
510 km x 35 deg.
Southwest Research Institute and the University of Michigan built the 28.9 kg satellites.
Together with their Sierra Nevada Corporation deployer, total payload mass was 345.6
It was the 43rd Pegasus launch, the 33rd Pegasus XL, and the year's 80th orbital launch
Orbits Weather Satellite
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 3B orbited the first of a new weather satellite family
from XiChang Satellit Launch Center on December 10, 2016. The 3.5 stage CZ-3BE, tail
number Y42, lifted off from Launch Complex 3 at 16:11 UTC. Fengyun 4A separated into a
geosynchronous transfer orbit about one-half hour later after two burns by the liquid
hydrogen fueled upper stage.
Fengyun 4A uses China's new SAST5000 satellite bus. It is designed for a seven year
lifespan in geostationary orbit. CZ-3BE, until this year China's most-powerful rocket, can
lift 5.5 tonnes to GTO, suggesting that Fengyun 4A weighed more than 5 tonnes at liftoff.
It was China's 20th orbital launch attempt of 2016, and
H-2B Orbits ISS
Japan's H-2B launched JAXA's H-2 Transfer Vehicle 6 (HTV 6) ISS cargo hauling spacecraft
from Tanegashima's Yoshinobu Launch Pad No. 2 on December 9, 2016. After a 13:26 UTC
liftoff and 15 minute ascent, the 531 tonne, 2.5 stage rocket placed the roughly 15 tonne
spacecraft (named "Kounotori", or "White Stork") into a 200 x 300 km x
51.6 deg insertion orbit. Kounotori 6 was expected to gradually raise its orbit to 400 km
to reach the International Space Station on Tuesday, December 13.
Kounotori 6 carried about 3.9 tonnes of cargo, including about 2.6 tonnes in the forward
pressurized compartment and 1.3 tonne in the mid-unpressurized compartment. Cargo included
food and crew supplies, scientific hardware, and spare parts.
H-2B lifted off on about 1,100 tonnes of thrust, including about 180 tonnes thrust from
its twin LH2/LOX LE-7A core main engines and about 920 tonnes of thrust produced by its
four SRB-A monolithic solid motors. The solid motors ignited at liftoff and burned out 1
minute 52 seconds after liftoff. The LE-5A engines ignited about five seconds before
liftoff and cut off at T+5 min 47 sec. The second stage's single LH2/LOX 14 tonne thrust
LE-5B engine performed a single burn that lasted 8 minutes 19 seconds.
It was the sixth H-2B flight since the type began flying in 2009. It was also the 12th
launch attempt and 11th success for ISS in 2016.
Delta 4 Launches
Delta 367, a Delta 4M+5,4 with four solid rocket motors and a five meter diameter Delta
cryogenic second stage (DCSS), lofted Wideband Global SATCOM No. 8 into supersynchronous
transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida on December 7, 2016. The 66.3 meter tall liquid
hydrogen fueled rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B at 23:53 UTC.
DCSS performed two burns of its 11.23 tonne thrust RL10B-2 LOX/LH2 engine during the
ascent. The first placed the vehicle in a 185 x 6,078 km x 27.6 deg parking orbit about 20
minutes after liftoff. After a 9.5 minute coast to the equator the second, roughly 3.5
minute burn pushed the 5.987 tonne Boeing 702 series satellite into a 435 x 44,377 km x 27
deg transfer orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred 41 minutes 44 seconds after liftoff.
WGS-8 will provide up to 11 Gbps data transfer rates for the U.S. military using X-band
and Ka-band transponders and on-board data processors.
It was the fourth Delta 4 launch of 2016, a mark achieved in only two previous years.
It was also the 25th flight of the Delta 4 Medium, single-core type, all of which
Lofts Resourcesat 2A
PSLV-C36, an XL version of Indian Space Research
Organizaion's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, boosted 1,235 kg Resourcesat 2A into a sun
synchronous orbit from Sriharikota, India on December 7, 2016. The remote sensing
satellite will provide multispectral imaging to monitor resources for India.
Liftoff from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center took place at 04:55 UTC.
The 4.5-stage, 321 tonne, 44.4 meter tall rocket fired its four stages (solid, liquid,
solid, and liquid fueled, respectively) in succession during the first 1,028 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 496 seconds during its insertion burn. Resourcesat 2A
separated 1,075 seconds after liftoff into a 821 x 822 km x 98.7 deg orbit.
It was the sixth PSLV launch of the year.
Europe's Vega launch vehicle launched Turkey's Gokturk 1, a high resolution optical
imaging satellite, into sun synchronous orbit from Kourou Space Center on December 5,
2016. The nearly one hour VV08 Arianespace mission began with a 13:51 UTC liftoff from the
ZLV pad on nearly 137 tonnes of solid motor thrust.
Vega's first three solid motor stages fired in succession during the first 6 minutes 36
seconds of the flight, with a 17 second pause between the second and third stage burns.
The AVUM storable liquid fourth stage and payload then coasted for 1 minute 45 seconds
before beginning its first, 6 minute 20 second, 250 kgf burn to reach an initial transfer
orbit. Following a nearly 40 minute coast, AVUM fired its RD-843 engine again for 1 minute
42 seconds to reach an approximate 700 km x 98.11 deg orbit.
Thales Alenia Space built the 1,060 kg Proteus-platform satellite for Turkey's defense
It was the year's second Vega flight.
U/Progress MS-04 Failure
The penultimate Soyuz U launch vehicle launched Russia's Progress MS-04 robotic cargo
hauler toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 1,
2016. Liftoff from Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 14:51:52 UTC.
Telemetry was lost at T+383 seconds, during the third stage burn, according to TASS.
Nominal third stage cutoff should have occurred at about T+526 seconds. The
vehicle was at 180 km altitude when the failure occurred. A destructive reentry
followed, with objects falling into Russia's Tuva region.
Progress MS-04 would have docked with ISS after a two
day ascent. The multi-module spacecraft weighed about 7,290 kg at liftoff, including 2,444
kg of cargo. It was the third Progress launch of the year.
After the launch, only one more Soyuz U launch vehicle remains. Soyuz U, which has
been in service since 1973, is the most oft-flown launch vehicle variant of all time.
The type is being replaced by Soyuz FG and Soyuz 2 models.
Launches Tianlian 1-4
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 3CE (a G2 variant) orbited Tianlain (Sky Link) 1-4, the
fourth such tracking and data relay satellite, from XiChang satellite Launch Center on
November 22, 2016. Liftoff from Launch Complex 2 took place at 15:24 UTC. The rocket's
liquid hydrogen fueled third stage performed two burns to insert Tianlain 1-4 into a
geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Tianlain 1-4, which likely weighed about 2,460 kg at launch, will maneuver into a
geostationary orbit where it will provide links between other satellites and ground
stations, and between ground stations. China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) developed
the DFH-3 (Dongfanghong-3) based satellite.
5 Orbits GOES-R
AV-069, an Atlas 5-541 with four solid rocket boosters
and a five meter payload fairing, boosted GOES-R, the first of a new generation of weather
satellites, into orbit on November 19, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Liftoff
from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 23:42 UTC after an hour delay to investigate
unspecified launch vehicle and/or range issues. The 5,192 kg Lockheed A2100 series
satellite separated into a 8,099 x 35,286 km x 10.6 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit
about 3.5 hours later.
The Centaur second stage fired its RL10C-1 engine three
times during the mission. The first burn put the stage and payload into a 167 x 540
km x 28.1 deg parking orbit 736 seconds after liftoff. The second burn began 1,319
seconds after liftoff and lasted 336 seconds, resulting in a 187 x 32,717 km x 25.68 deg
transfer orbit. The final 93 second burn at apogee began 12,453 seconds after
GOES-R will use its own LEROS-1C Hydrazine/MON engine to
raise itself to geostationary orbit.
Russia's Soyuz FG launched the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three
International Space Station crew on November 17, 2016. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome
Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 20:20 UTC. About nine minutes later, the Soyuz FG second stage
inserted Soyuz MS-03 into a low earth orbit at the 51.6 deg ISS inclination.
Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's Oleg
Viktorovich Novitskiy, Europe's Thomas Pesquet, and NASA's Peggy Whitson. They will serve
during ISS Expeditions 50 and 51.
It was the third Soyuz MS model spacecraft with improved, navigation, communications, and
computer systems that were previously introduced on unmanned Progress MS flights. Soyuz
MS-03 will take two days before its schedule ISS rendezvous to allow for systems testing.
It was 2016's fifth crewed orbital launch and the second crewed Soyuz flight in just under
Orbits Four Navsats
L594, the first Ariane 5 ES version tailored to launch Europe's Galileo satellites,
successfully orbited four of the navigation beacons from Kourou on November 17, 2016. The
Arianespace VA233 mission lifted off from ELA 3 at 13:06 UTC. Ariane 5's EPS storable
propellant stage performed two burns, with a more than three-hour coast between, to insert
the 15th through 18th Galileo satellites into a 22,925 km x 54.57 deg orbit. Total payload
mass was 2,865 kg, not including the new, 430 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 about 11 minutes during its first burn and for about
6.5 minutes during its second burn.
It was the year's 70th known orbital launch attempt, and
69th success. It was also the 6th Ariane 5 ES.
Launches Weather Satellite
A Chang Zheng (Long March ) 2D rocket orbited Yunhai 1, a new generation weather
satellite, for China from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on November 11, 2016. The
two-stage storable propellant rocket lifted of from LC 43/603 at 23:14 UTC. Yunhai 1
separated into a sun synchronous low earth orbit after the ascent phase.
It was the 15th DF-5 based CZ orbital launch attempt of the year, including eight from
Jiquan. It was also the 18th orbital launch attempt and 17th success of 2016, by China.
Orbits WorldView 4
Atlas 5 AV-062, a 401 variant with a four meter diameter payload fairing and no solid
rocket boosters, orbited WorldView 4 for DigitalGlobe from Vandenberg AFB on November 11,
2016. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 3 East took place at 18:30 UTC.
The rocket's 390 tonne thrust first stage RD-180 main
engine fired for 243 seconds before the first stage completed its work. Centaur then took
over, its LH2/LOX RL10C engine burning for 687 seconds during a direct ascent to the
planned 610 x 628 km x 97.96 deg sun synchronous deployment orbit. Payload fairing
separation took place 267 seconds after liftoff.
WorldView 4, a 2,485 kg Lockheed Martin LM-900 series earth imaging satellite, separated
from Centaur less than four minutes after Centaur shutdown. It joins WorldView 1 through 3
and GeoEye 1 in the DigitalGlobe constellation.
In addition to WorldView 4, four cubesats deployed from Centaur about 2 hours 11 minutes
after liftoff. After the final deployment, Centaur fired to send itself into solar
One WorldView 4 launch attempt was scrubbed on September 16 by a hydrogen leak in launch
pad ground support equipment. The more than 12,000 acre Canyon Fire that began a few days
later at Vandenberg AFB caused a longer delay. After firefighting ended, base
infrastructure had to be methodically checked out during October before the launch
campaign could resume.
China's four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 launched an X-ray pulsar navigation experimental
satellite namved XPNAV 1, along with several microsatellites, into low earth orbit from
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on November 9, 2016. Liftoff from a
canister attached to a mobile transporter/erector parked on a flat pad took place at 23:42
UTC. The site was likely one of two flat pads built in recent years northeast of the CZ-2F
XPNAV 1 (X-Ray Pulsar Navigation, or Maichong Xing Shiyan Weixing), a 240 kg satellite
built by affiliates of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporationk will test
on-orbit satellite navigation by measuring periodic X-rays from pulsars. Up to four
additional microsatellites, one of which may have remained attached to the CZ-11 fourth
stage, also entered orbit. The U.S. tracked objects from the launch in a 500 km
circular orbit and in a 500 x 1,000 km orbit.
It was the second known CZ-11 flight, following an inaugural launch on September 25, 2015.
The 58 tonne rocket may be based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile,
because the canister used to launch CZ-11 is similar to launch canisters used by the
road-mobile DF-31A. CZ-11 is reportedly 20.8 meters long (other reports suggest 18.7
meters), and 2 meters in diameter with a 58 tonne launch mass and a 120 tonne liftoff
thrust. Its fourth stage has demonstrated in-space maneuvering capability. CZ-11 may
be able to lift 350 kg or more to sun synchronous orbit.
China launched its first Chang Zheng (Long March) 5 from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center
on Hainan Island off China's southern coastline on November 3, 2016, debuting a powerful
new launch capability after nearly two decades of development.
The liftoff, from Pad 101, the westernmost of two new launch pads at the Center, took
place at 12:43 UTC after about 2 hours 43 minutes of holds. A YZ-2 (Yuanzheng) restarable
hypergolic upper stage and Shijian 17 experimental ion-propulsion satellite that together
may have weighed 12 tonnes or more topped the 2.5 stage CZ-5 vehicle on this inaugural
test flight. Shijian 17 itself likely weighed nearly 4 tonnes.
The initial, half-hour phase of the flight used two
second stage burns to put the YZ-2/Shijian 17 combination into a 178 x 29,127 km x 19.5
orbit. YZ-2 fired immediately after second stage separation to inserted Shijian 17 into a
212 x 35,802 km x 19.5 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). About six hours
after launch, YZ-2 performed an apogee kick burn to insert Shijian into
At more than 870 tonnes, CZ-5 became the world's highest active gross liftoff weight
launch vehicle. It's 5 meter diameter LH2/LOX core stage and four 3.35 meter diameter
kerosene/LOX strap-on boosters produced a total 1,080 tonnes liftoff thrust using a total
of 10 liquid rocket engines. The rocket stood 56.97 meters tall.
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, burned for 471 seconds, with the YF-77 engines operating at 430
seconds vacuum specific impulse.
Vehicle Y-1 Rollout
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 during the previous 14 months. 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 12 x 5 meter second stage was powered by two YF-75D LH2/LOX engines that together made
32.6 tonnes of thrust at 438 second specific impulse. Similar YF-75 engines have powered
CZ-3A and CZ-3B upper stages for years. The stage weighed 26 tonnes and carried 22.9
tonnes of propellant. It performed an initial 355 second burn to reach a low earth parking
orbit, then restarted after a 592 second coast to the first equator crossing. The
345 second long second burn lofted the payload to an orbit that was about 300 meters per
sec short of GTO.
The YZ-2 stage added an initial 80 second burn to reach
the GTO velocity. According to some accounts, this burn was planned as an early test
of the new stage, which may have produced 1.33 tonnes total thrust at 316 seconds specific
impulse. At first apogee about 6 hours 11 minutes after liftoff, the stage began a
40 second burn to circularize the orbit. Shijian 17 separation took place around the
6 hour 14 minute mark.
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.
Japan's H-2A successfully boosted the country's Himawari 9 weather satellite into
geosynchronous transfer orbit on November 2, 2016. H-2A-202 F31 lifted off from Yoshinobu
launch complex Pad 1 at Tanegashima at 06:20 UTC. Himawari 9 separated about 28 minutes
later into a 245 x 35,855 km x 22.39 deg orbit.
The 3,500 kg satellite was launched by a now-standard H-2A variant that uses two
monolithic composite case SRB-A boosters to augment the LH2/LOX core stage LE-7A engine
thrust during the first 98 seconds of flight. The rocket's four-meter diameter payload
fairing separated at T+245 seconds. First stage cutoff occurred at T+396 seconds. The
LE-5B powered LH2/LOX second stage then performed two burns totalling 519 seconds, with a
roughly 9 minute coast between, to complete the ascent.
It was the 30th H-2A success in 31 flights, the second H-2A launch of 2016, and the 65th
known orbital launch attempt of the year.
Russia's 2.5 stage Soyuz FG launched the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan
with three International Space Station crew on October 19, 2016. Liftoff from Baikonur
Cosmodrome Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 08:05 UTC. Soyuz MS-02 entered a low earth orbit at
the 51.6 deg ISS inclination. Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's Sergey
Nikolayevich Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko and NASA astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough,
comprising the Expedition 49/50 crew.
It was the second Soyuz MS model spacecraft with improved, navigation, communications, and
computer systems that were previously introduced on unmanned Progress MS flights. Like
Soyuz MS-01, Soyuz MS-02 will take two days before its schedule ISS rendezvous to allow
for systems testing.
It was 2016's fourth crewed orbital launch, 12th R-7 launch, and ninth launch to ISS.
Orbital ATK's Antares launch vehicle returned to flight on October 17, 2016, successfully
orbiting the company's Cygnus OA-5 cargo hauling mission from Wallops Island, Virginia.
The success came two years after the previous Antares exploded above Pad 0A, damaging the
pad and forcing a re-design of the launch vehicle itself. The resulting "Antares
230" retained the basic structure and avionics of the original, but gained two new
Energomash RD-181 engines in place of the AJ-26 engines that powered the first five
flights. An AJ-26 turbopump failure triggered the 2014 explosion.
Cygnus OA-5 was the third enhanced Cygnus with a stretched cargo module, but the first to
fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the first two enhanced Cygnus spacecraft on
Missions OA-4 and OA-6 during the two-year Antares stand-down. OA-5 carried a total 2,209
kg of cargo for the International Space Station, along with 133 kg of packaging. The
spacecraft weighed about 6,163 kg at liftoff, easily making it the heaviest-ever Antares
payload . Cygnus OA-5 was named in honor of former astronaut Alan Poindexter, who flew two
space shuttle missions.
Two RD-181 engines powered the Antares 230
Ukrainian-built first stage during its 23:45 UTC liftoff, each producing about 186 tonnes
of sea level thrust to lift the roughly 300 tonne launch vehicle and payload. The first
stage burned for about 200 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the second stage and
payload section separated and coasted for about 45 seconds before the Castor 30XL second
stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its roughly
160 second burn. It was the first in-space test of Castor 30XL, which had previously
attempted a debut on the failed 2014 launch. Just before second stage ignition, the
payload fairing and interstage sections separated.
Cygnus separated into a 214 x 362 km x 51.62 deg orbit at the 541.31 second mark. The
spacecraft will wait in orbit until October 23 to approach ISS to allow for the next
crewed Soyuz mission docking.
Another Antares first stage performed a roughly 30 second-long static fire test of the new
RD-181 engined Antares on Pad 0A on May 31, 2016. That stage will be used on a future
A Chang Zheng 2FY (CZ-2FY) launch vehicle boosted China's Shenzhou 11 with two Chinese
crew into orbit from Jiuquan space center on October 16, 2016. It was China's sixth crewed
flight, but the first since June, 2013. Liftoff from LC 43 Pad 921 at the Mongolian desert
base occurred at 23:30 UTC. The 7.7 tonne spacecraft separated into a low earth orbit
about 10 minutes later.
On board were Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. Jing Haipeng, who flew previously on Shenzhou 7
and Shenzhou 9, is China's most experienced astronaut. They are slated to dock with
China's Tiangong 2 orbital module, where they will stay for up to 30 days. Tiangong 2 was
launched from the same pad on September 15, 2016.
It was the 13th CZ-2F launch. The rocket has only served Shenzhou and Tiangong since its
first flight in 1999.
Orbits Australian, Indian Satellites
Ariane 5 ECA L585 orbited communication satellites for Australia and India from Kourou on
October 5, 2016. Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 20:30 UTC. The Arianespace VA231 mission
placed 6,405 kg Sky Muster 2 and 3,404 kg GSAT 18 into geosynchronous transfer orbits.
About 28.5 minutes after liftoff, SS/Loral-built Sky Muster 2 deployed first from atop a
Sylda 5 dual payload carrier. GSAT 18, built by Indian Space Research Organization,
separated several minutes later.
Sky Muster 2 will serve Australia's government-owned NBN Co., providing high speed
internet service. GSAT 18 will provide communication services for India.
VA231 was the fifth Ariane 5-ECA launch of 2016 and the 58th since the type premiered in
Orbits Eight Satellites
India's PSLV boosted the SCATSAT 1 weather satellite and seven smaller non-Indian
co-passenger satellites into sun synchronous orbits from Satish Dhawan Space Centre,
Sriharikota on September 26, 2016. The standard "G" series 4.5 stage rocket,
fitted with six of the smaller S9 strap-on solid rocket motors for the first time since
2011, lifted of from the First Launch Pad at 03:42 UTC, beginning a complex 2 hour 15
minute mission that saw three burns by the hypergolic bipropellant PS4 fourth stage.
The four stage rocket's stages fired in succession to reach the initial, 720 km SCATSAT 1
orbit, into which the primary payload separated about 17.5 minutes after liftoff. The PS4
stage fired two more times, at about 1 hour 22 minutes and 2 hours 11 minutes into the
mission, to reach a 670 km orbit where, after a dual payload adapter was jettisonned, the
remaining satellites separated. They included 102 kg Alsat-1B, 110 kg Alsat-2B, and
microsatellites Alsat Nano, Pathfinder 1, NLS 19, PISat, and Pratham. The satelites were
from Algeria, Canada, USA and India. Total payload mass was 675 kg.
It was the first time that PSLV had inserted payloads into two separate orbit altitudes
and it was the longest PSLV mission to date.
Europe's Vega launch vehicle boosted five mapping
satellites, one for Peru and four for Terra Bella, a Google company, into sun synchronous
orbits from Kourou Space Center on September 16, 2016. The nearly two hour mission began
with a 01:43 UTC liftoff from the ZLV pad on nearly 137 tonnes of solid motor thrust.
Vega's P80 first stage fired for 114 seconds and its Zefire 23 second stage for 104
seconds. After a 21 second coast, the Zefiro 9 third stage fired for 162 seconds,
completing the solid motor phase of the ascent. The AVUM storable liquid fourth stage then
coasted for 86 seconds before beginning its first, 363 second, 250 kgf burn to reach an
initial transfer orbit. Following a nearly 24 minute coast, AVUM fired its RD-843 engine
again for 89 seconds to reach a 491 x 508 km x 97.4 deg orbit where SkySat 4, 5, 6, and 7,
the Terra Bella satellites, were released. During the next hour, AVUM fired twice more to
reach PeruSAT 1's 667 x 684 km x 98.2 deg insertion orbit. After PeruSAT separation, AVUM
was expected to finish the mission with a fifth, orbit-reduction burn.
The four Space Systems/Loral-built SkySat satellites, which rode atop the Vega Secondary
Payload Adaptor, weighed 110 kg each. They will provide sub-meter resolution mapping
images of the Earth. PeruSAT 1, an Airbus Defence and Space AstroBus satellite, weighed
430 kg. PeruSAT-1 is Perus first Earth observation satellite.
China Orbits Tiangong 2
China launched its 8.5 tonne Tiangong 2 space lab into
orbit from Jiuquan Satellite
Launch Center on September 15, 2016. The launch, by the second CZ-2FT
launch vehicle, took place at 14:04 UTC from the same LC 43/921 pad used for crewed
Shenzhou launches. Tiangong 2, believed to weigh about 8.5 tonnes at launch, entered
a low earth orbit about 10 minutes after liftoff.
Tiangong 2 will serve as a small space station for the manned
Shenzhou 11spacecraft beginning in October, 2016. A 30 day crewed mission is
planned. During the mission, an unmanned cargo ship named "Tianzhou" is
expected to visit.
CZ-2FT is an improved CZ-2F equipped with longer strap-on boosters
that each carry nearly 3 tonnes more propellant than their predecessors. The
boosters burn for 155 seconds, about 18 seconds longer than the previous boosters,
allowing CZ-2FT to boost up to 8.6 tonnes to LEO. The rocket also uses a 12.7 x 4.2
meter payload fairing in place of the usual CZ-2F Shenzhou spacecraft and its launch
It was the first Tiangong launch since the first on September 29,
Launches Israeli Spysat
Israel's Shavit-2 rocket launched Ofeq 11, a
reconnaissance satellite, into a retrograde low earth orbit from Palmachim Air Base on
September 13, 2016. Liftoff took place at 14:38 UTC. Ofeq 11, a 400 kg optical imaging
satellite built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI Ltd), was reported later in the day to
have suffered some problems in orbit, but no details were provided. The launch
itself was apparently successful. A 600 km retrograde orbit was expected.
The launch was jointly carried out by IAI and the
Defense Ministrys Space Administration, which is a part of the Administration for
the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure. It was the first Shavit
launch since 2014. It may have been the 11th Shavit launch attempt since 1988.
Atlas 5 Launches
Atlas 5 AV-067, a 411 variant with one solid rocket booster and a 4 meter (14 foot)
diameter large payload fairing, launched NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft into solar orbit
from Cape Canaveral, Florida on September 8, 2016. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41
took place at 23:05 UTC. After two burns by the Centaur stage RL10A-4-2 engine, with the
second burn preceded by a 22.5 minute coast and followed by a 15 minute coast, 1,529 kg
OSIRIS-REx separated about 55.5 minutes after liftoff.
OSIRIS-REx, which stands for "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource
Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer", is designed to perform a seven year
mission to asteroid Bennu, a 492 meter diameter near-Earth asteroid. It will collect
samples from Bennu in 2020 and return them to Earth in a return capsule.
It was the 65th Atlas 5 launch and the 4th by a 411 variant. It was also the 55th
consecutive Atlas 5 launch success. AV-067 was stacked in the SLC 41 VIF in early
August and performed a wet dress rehearsal on the pad without a payload during August 25
Orbits Insat 3DR
India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle orbited the Insat 3DR weather satellite
from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on September 8, 2016. The GSLV Mk 2
variant, flying the GSLV-F05 mission, lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at 11:20 UTC.
The 3.5 stage rocket placed 2,211 kg Insat 3DR into a 170 x 35,975 km x 20.6 deg
geosynchronous transfer orbit. Insat 3DR will use its own propulsion system to reach
a circular 35,786 km x 0 deg geostationary orbit, positioned at 75 deg East longitude.
The 3.5 stage, 415 tonne rocket, India's most-powerful operational launcher, rose on about
770 tonnes of thrust generated by its solid motor core and four Vikas 2 powered liquid
strap-on boosters. The Vikas 4 powered second stage took over after about 2.5 minutes. At
T+4 min 49 sec, the liquid hydrogen fueled "Cryogenic Upper Stage" third stage,
powered for the fourth time by an Indian-developed CE-7.5, 7.495 tonne thrust engine,
began a 12 minute burn to reach the deployment orbit.
It was the 10th GSLV flight, and the fifth success, including successes during the
most-recent three launches. It was the third success in four launches by GSLV Mk 2,
which uses the Indian-developed third stage engine.
Falcon 9 and
AMOS 6 Destroyed in Pre Launch Test (9/8/16 Update)
A Falcon 9 rocket and its $200 million AMOS 6 satellite
payload were destroyed during a pre-launch propellant loading and hot fire test exercise
at Cape Canveral on September 1, 2016. The test was planned to assure all was ready
for a September 3 launch that would have placed 5.5 tonne AMOS 6 in geosynchronous
Reports indicate that propellant loading was nearly
completed and the test was about eight minutes away when a powerful explosion destroyed
the rocket and satellite at about 9:07 AM Eastern Time. A series of smaller
explosions occurred during the following minutes as a fire raged at SLC 40 and a large
plume of black smoke drifted across the Florida space center. It was the largest pad
explosion in the history of Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center.
A few hours after the explosion, Elon Musk tweeted that
the failure appeared to have begun at the second stage liquid oxygen tank. SLC 40
was reported to have been heavily damaged, knocking it out of service. A day after
the failure, SpaceX announced that East Coast launch campaigns would move to Kennedy Space
Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A, which should be ready to support operations beginning in
The AMOS 6 launch would have been the 29th Falcon
launch, and the ninth by a Falcon 9 v1.2 variant. The AMOS 6 first stage was test
fired at McGregor, Texas on August 5, 2016 and arrived at Cape Canaveral some time after
Launch Apparently Fails
China's attempt to orbit its Gaofen 10 earth observation
satellite apparently failed on August 31, 2016. The three-stage CZ-4C launch
reportedly took place from LC 9 at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 18:55 UTC.
Photos of debris from the first stage and payload fairing laying in or near their expected
impact zones were posted hours later, but the satellite and upper stage were not tracked
in orbit, hinting at a possible issue during the flight of one of the upper stages.
China's state-controlled media had not even reported that a launch took place at all some
It was the first orbital launch failure of 2016, and
China's first orbital failure since December 2013. The failure ended a string of 65
consecutive orbital launch successes world-wide since early December 2015. The
previous best such string was 69 consecutive successes spanning the end of 1988 and the
beginning of 1989.
Launches Intelsat Pair
The 57th Ariane 5 ECA, flying the VA232 Arianespace mission, orbited two Intelsat
communication satellites from Kourou Space Center on August 24 2016. Intelsat 33e
and Intelsat 36 separated into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half hour after the
22:17 UTC liftoff from ELA 3.
Together, the satellites weighed 9,853 kg at liftoff, bettering the previous Ariane 5 GTO
payload record set in June. Intelsat 33e, a 6,600 kg Boeing Space Systems 702MP
series satellite, has 20 C, 249 Ku, and 1 Ka band transponders to provide communication
services for Europe and Africa. Intelsat 36, a 3,253 kg Space Systems/Loral 1300
series satellite, will provide service to Africa and South Asia from 68.5 deg East using
34 Ku band transponders.
It was the fourth Ariane 5 launch of 2016.
Delta 4 Boosts
Delta 375, a Delta 4M+4,2 with a four meter diameter second stage and fairing and two
GEM-60 strap-on solid motors, launched two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness
Program satellites into near-geosynchronous orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August
19, 2016. The 62.8 meter tall rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B at 04:52
UTC. The RL 10B-2 powered upper stage likely fired three times during a six hour ascent to
complete the mission.
GSSAP is the U.S. Air Force neighborhood watch program that uses multiple
surveillance satellites to monitor other satellites and debris in geosynchronous or
near-geosynchronous orbit. The satellites orbited on this flight were GSSAP 3 and GSSAP 4.
It was the 24th Delta 4 Medium, and the 33rd Delta 4, to fly.
Orbits Quantum Science Satellite
China launched its Quantum Science Satellite, named "Mozi" after a fifth century
Chinese scientist, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on August 15, 2016. The Chang
Zheng (CZ) 2D rocket lifted off from the 43/603 pad at 17:40 UTC. The 600+ kg satellite
entered a 500 km sun synchronous earth orbit.
"Mozi" will perform quantum entanglement experiments.
It was the 11th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year, matching the world-leading year-to-date
R-7 total. With the flight, China had performed five of the world's last ten orbital
Falcon 9 Orbits
JCSAT 16 (8/16/16 Update)
The 28th Falcon 9, and 8th Falcon 9 v1.2, boosted JCSAT 16, for SKY Perfect JSAT, into
geosynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 14, 2016. Liftoff
from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 05:26 GMT. Thirty two minutes later, after two
second-stage burns totalling 410 seconds duration, the 4.6 tonne Space Systems/Loral 1300
series satellite separated into a 184 x 35,912 km x 20.85 deg transfer orbit.
After performing its 153 second boost, the first stage separated from the second stage,
reoriented itself, deployed four grid-fins, and, after coasting for several minutes above
the atmosphere, reignited three of its Merlin 1D engines for a 23 second reentry burn. The
center engine ignited alone for a final landing burn as the stage deployed four legs and
landed, about 9 minutes after liftoff, on the converted landing barge "Of Course I
Still Love You" positioned about 645 km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was the sixth Falcon 9 first stage recovered in eleven attempts.
After raising itself to geostationary orbit, JCSAT 16 will initally be positioned at 162
degrees East longitude to stand in for Superbird 8, which was damaged in transit to its
planned Ariane 5 launch earlier this year. When Superbird 8 is repaired and launched,
JCSAT 16 will move to 150 deg East. The satellite has Ku and Ka band transponders.
The F9-28 stages were tested at McGregor, Texas in mid-July and arrived at the Cape during
the week of July 26. The rocket was rolled out without its payload for a first stage
static fire test on August 11.
It was the 50th orbital launch of 2016. All have
Launches Gaofen 3
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 4C orbited the Gaofen 3 earth observation satellite from
Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on August 9, 2016. The three-stage rocket lifted off from
LC 9 at 22:55 UTC. It successfully boosted the 2,950 kg, CS-L3000B bus satellite into a
735 x 747 km x 98.41 deg sun synchronous orbit.
Gaofen 3 was equipped with a C-band synthetic aperature radar with 1 meter ground
resolution. It was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology.
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 3BE orbited a mobile communications satellite named
Tiantong 1, the first of its type, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on August 5, 2016.
Liftoff from Launch Complex 3 took place at 16:22 UTC. The satellite was inserted into a
geosynchronous transfer orbit after two burns by the rocket's liquid hydrogen fueled upper
After it raises itself to geostationary orbit, the satellite will provide mobile
communications coverage to China, the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian and Pacific
It was the ninth DF-5 based CZ launch, and 10th orbital launch by China, of 2016.
Atlas 5 Orbits
Atlas 5 AV-065 successfully boosted NROL-61 into geosynchronous transfer orbit for the
U.S. National Reconnaissance Office on July 28, 2016. The Atlas 5-421 vehicle with two
strap-on solid rocket motors and a 4-meter diameter Extra Extended Payload Fairing (XEPF),
lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 at 12:37 UTC. The rocket's Centaur
upper stage performed two burns prior to satellite separation, followed by a third,
While the satellite's mission is classified, some analysts believe that NROL-61 is a new
generation data relay satellite 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
It was the fourth Atlas 5 launch of the year.
Launches CRS 9
F9-27 Liftoff from SLC 40
The 27th Falcon 9 orbited the Dragon 11 spacecraft on
NASA's CRS 9 International Space Station cargo hauling mission on July 18, 2016. After
performing the initial boost, the rocket's first stage performed three-engine boost back
and reentry burns and a single-engine landing burn and landed at Cape Canaveral's Landing
Zone 1. It was the fifth first stage to land successfully and the second to fly back
and land at Cape Canaveral.
Liftoff took place at 04:45 UTC from SLC 40. Falcon 9 aimed on a northeast azimuth during
its nine minute ascent. Dragon was targeted toward a 200 x 360 km x 51.6 deg orbit. The
spacecraft carried nearly 2,222 kg of cargo, including the first of two international
docking adapters, to allow commercial crew spacecraft dockings, in the unpressurized trunk
section. Combined Dragon and cargo mass was about 9.5 tonnes.
During the ascent, the first stage fired for 141 seconds, with stage separation three
seconds later. Stage 2 ignited at 152 seconds to begin its 390 second burn to orbit.
The first stage boost back burn began only 21 seconds after first stage main engine
cutoff, after a rapid maneuver to align the stage thrust vector back toward Cape
Canaveral. This three-engine burn lasted more than 50 seconds. The stage
coasted on a sligthly lofted trajectory before beginning its 18-plus second entry burn at
the 361 second mark. 458 seconds after liftoff, the final landing burn began and
continued for about 31 seconds until the stage settled on its Landing Zone 1 circular
concrete pad. Elon Musk soon reported that the stage appeared to be in good
Landing at LZ-1
Dragon separated from the second stage at the 577 second
mark. The spacecraft's solar arrays deployed about 1.5 minutes later. The
second stage subsequently performed a reentry burn that targeted a Southern Ocean zone
south of Australia.
The F9-27 first stage had performed a static firing at
SLC 40 on July 16. Both stages had been test fired at McGregor, Texas during June.
It was the year's 10th orbital launch from Cape
Canaveral, more than any other launch center this year to date.
U Orbits Progress MS-03
One of the final Soyuz U launch vehicles orbited Russia's Progress MS-03 robotic cargo
hauler toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 16, 2016.
Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 21:41 UTC. It was the second Progress launch of
the year and the 45th orbital flight worldwide in 2016.
Progress MS-03 will dock with ISS on July 18 if plans hold. The multi-module spacecraft
weighed 7,281 kg at liftoff, including 2,405 kg of cargo.
After the launch, only two more Soyuz U launch vehicles remain. Both should fly by the end
of 2017. Soyuz U, which has been in service since 1973, is, with 774 launch attempts to
date, the most oft-flown launch vehicle variant in history. The type is being replaced by
Soyuz FG and Soyuz 2 variants.
Launches ISS Crew
A 2.5 stage Soyuz FG rocket orbited Russia's Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft from Baikonur,
Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on July 7, 2016. Liftoff from
Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 01:36 UTC. The spacecraft entered a
230 x 190 km x 51.6 deg initial orbit. Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's
Anatoly Ivanishin, Japan's Takuya Onishi, and NASA's Kate Rubins, comprising the
Expedition 48/49 crew.
This first example of the Soyuz MS model spacecraft features improved, navigation,
communications, and computer systems that were previously introduced on unmanned Progress
MS flights. Since it is the inaugural crewed flight, Soyuz MS-01 will take a 34 orbit, 51
hour journey before its schedule ISS rendezvous.
It was 2016's second crewed orbital launch, and was the 10th R-7 launch of the year.
(June 30, 2016 Update)
China's CZ-4B (Chang Zheng, or Long March) orbited the second Shijian 16 satellite from
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 29, 2016. Liftoff from LC 43/603 took place at
03:21 UTC. The satellite, announced by China state media to be used for space
environment measurements and technology testing", entered a 595 x 616 km x 75 deg
Some Western analysts suspect that Shijian 16 is an
electronic intelligence (ELNIT) satellite designed to intercept radio signals.
Another CZ-4B had orbited the first Shijian-16 satellite in October 2013.
It was the eighth DF-5 based CZ orbital launch, and the ninth orbital launch by China, of
Debuts CZ-7, Wenchang Launch Site
(June 30, 2016 Update)
CZ-7 Inaugural Liftoff
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 7 flew successfully on
its first try from the country's new Wenchang
Satellite Launch Center on June 25, 2016. The liftoff, from Pad 201, the easternmost
of two new launch pads at the Center, took place at 12:00 UTC. The launch site, on Hainan
Island off China's southern coastline, is China's first sea-side launch site, which
allowed the rocket stages to fall into the South China Sea as the vehicle ascended on a
southeast azimuth toward orbit.
CZ-7 flew to a 200 x 394 km x 40.8 deg initial orbit with several demonstration payloads,
including a 2.6 tonne blunt cone-shaped, scaled-down Next Generation Crew Vehicle that
reentered and landed in China after about one day in orbit. Several microsatellites and
ballast were also carried within the payload fairing atop a restartable YZ-1A upper stage.
Total payload mass was reportedly about 12 tonnes, which would be the heaviest payload
orbited since Japan's HTV-5 ISS cargo hauler in August, 2015.
After entering orbit, the YZ-1A stage, which may use
four 408 kgf thrust YF-85 hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engines, appeared to have performed
several maneuvers, with objects tracked in orbits with apogees as high as 580 km.
The stage is also believed to have performed the NGCV deorbit burn.
CZ-7 is the second of Chinas Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology's (CALT) new
family of launchers to enter service, following the smaller CZ-6 in September 2015. CZ-7
uses a 3.35 meter diameter core stage powered by two 122.5 tonne thrust YF-100 RP/LOX
staged combustion engines. Four 2.25 meter diameter strap-on boosters, each powered by one
YF-100, augment the core to produce a total of 734.1 tonnes (1.618 million pounds) of
thrust at liftoff. Four 18 tonne thrust YF-115 RP/LOX staged combustion engines power the
3.35 meter diameter second stage. The rocket weighs about 594 tonnes at liftoff and stands
about 53.1 meters tall.
Rollout on June 22, 2016, Pad 101 in Background (CZ-7 Diverged to East (Left), Toward Pad
The 2.5 stage CZ-7 version can lift 13.5 tonnes to 200 x
400 km x 42 deg or 5.5 tonnes to a 700 km sun synchronous orbit. A liquid hydrogen third
stage could be added in the future to lift payloads to GTO.
The CZ-7 core stage will serve as a strap-on booster for
China's next, biggest-ever rocket, CZ-5, which may debut later this year. CZ-5 will have a
5 meter diameter liquid hydrogen fueled core stage and will be able to lift 25 tonnes to
LEO, making it among the world's most powerful orbital launchers.
CZ-5 will fly from Pad 101, the west pad at Wenchang. The Center features two vertical
assembly buildings, one for CZ-7 and one for CZ-5, which are located about 2.7 km north of
the sea-side pads. Stacked launch vehicles move on rail-based mobile transporters from the
VAB to the pad. A complete CZ-7 Ground Test Vehicle was assembled at Wenchang during early
2015 and moved to Pad 201 to check out the new site.
Atlas 5 Launches
AV-063, an Atlas 5-551, the most powerful Atlas 5 version, boosted the U.S. Navy's MUOS 5
(Mobile User Objective System) communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit
from Cape Canaveral on June 24, 2016. The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Space Launch
Complex 41 at 14:30 UTC to begin its 2 hour 53 minute 17 second mission.
During the flight, the liquid hydrogen fueled Centaur stage performed three burns. The
first placed the vehicle into a low parking orbit. The second, which began at T+20:27,
boosted the stage and satellite into a 194 x 34,447 km x 26 deg transfer orbit. After a
2.5 hour coast to apogee, Centaur ignited a third time to boost itself into a 3,841 by
35,706 km x 19.1 deg insertion orbit.
MUOS 5 is the fifth and final first generation MUOS satellite. The first was launched in
2012. It and all subsequent MUOS satellites were orbited by Atlas 5-551 rockets. Lockheed
Martin assembled the 6,740 kg A2100M series satellites. MUOS provides video, voice, and
data communications to mobile terminals using UHF and WCDMA communications systems.
AV-063 was the first Atlas 5 launch since a faulty RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve
(MRCV) nearly doomed the the OA-6 Cygnus mission during March, 2016. The problem caused a
shift to an improper fuel/oxidizer mix during the final minute of the first stage flight,
causing LOX to be depleted six seconds before the planned RD-180 shutdown. The Centaur
stage burned more than 60 seconds longer than planned to compensate for the error, but
nearly ran out of propellant while doing so. A subsequent investigation pinpointed the
MRCV problem and identified a solution. The MUOS 5 flight was delayed for several weeks
while the investigation was underway.
Launches Cartosat 2
PSLV-C34, Indian Space Research Organization's 36th
PSLV, orbited the 727.5 kg Cartosat 2 earth observation satellite and 19 co-passenger
satellites that together weighed 560 kg from Sriharikota, India on June 22, 2016. Liftoff
from the Second Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan space Center took place at 03:55 UTC. The 4.5
stage PSLV-XL rocket boosted its payloads into a 505 km x 97.48 deg sun synchronous orbit
during a 25.5 minute mission.
Cartosat 2 will provide remote sensing services using its panchromatic and multispectral
It was the year's 40 orbital launch, which have taken
place with no failures.
Launches Two Comsats
Ariane 5 ECA L584 launched two communication satellites into orbit from Kourou Space
Center on June 18, 2016. Echostar 18 and BRIsat reached geosynchronous transfer orbit
about 30 minutes after the 21:38 UTC liftoff from ELA 3. The VA230 Arianespace mission
took place after a weather scrub the previous day.
Together, the satellites weighed 9,840 kg at liftoff, making this the heaviest GTO payload
yet launched by an Ariane 5. EchoStar 18, a 6,300 kg Space Systems Loral 1300 series
satellite, will be operated at 110 deg West by Echostar for for DISH Network. It will
provide Ku-band coverage, using 61 Ku-band transponders, for the U.S., Puerto Rico, and
BRIsat, also an SSL 1300 series satellite, rode beneath Echostar 18 within a long version
Sylda 5 shroud. It is the first communications satellite owned by a bank, P.T. Bank
Rakyat Indonesia. The 3,540 kg satellite will use 36 C-band and 0 Ku-band transponders to
serve bank branches in Indonesia and South East Asia from its 150.5 deg East position in
Launches Comsat Pair
The 26th SpaceX Falcon 9, and sixth v1.2 variant, launched Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS 2A
to supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 15, 2016. The
two-stage kerosene/LOX rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 14:49 UTC.
Eutelsat 117 West B, which was stacked directly atop ABS 2A, was deployed about 30 minutes
after liftoff. ABS 2A followed about 5 minutes later.
After firing for 2 minutes 36 seconds during the ascent, the first stage separated and
attempted another experimental landing on the Of Course I Still Love You
landing platform. The landing was not successful. The stage appeared to have reached the
platform but was soon replaced in webcast views by images of flames and smoke. Elon
Musk subsequently tweeted that "thrust was low on 1 of 3 landing engines. High g
landings v[ery] sensitive to all engines operating at max."
Boeing built both of the BSS-702SP series communications satellites. Both have 48
transponders and 4 dedicated Ku-band transmitters. Both use XIPS-25 Xenon gas-fueled
all-electric propulsion systems. Eutelsat 117 West B will serve Latin America from 116.8
deg West in geosynchronous orbit. ABS-2A will be positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 75
deg East to serve Africa, Europe, Russia, South Asia and South East Asia. BSS-702SP
satellites typically weigh 1,800 to 2,500 kg at launch. Eutelsat 117 West B weighed
1,963 kg, according to Eutelsat. The combined payload mass may have been 4,000 to
It was the year's sixth Falcon 9 launch. The
vehicle's first and second stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during mid-May.
The first stage arrived at Cape Canaveral on May 27, 2016, shortly after the F9-25 Thaicom
8 launch. The vehicle was assembled without payload and on June 12, 2016 was rolled
out and briefly test fired on the SLC 40 pad. After the early-morning hot fire, the
vehicle returned to the horizontal integration facility for payload integration.
A Chang Zheng (Long March) 3C launched China's 23rd Beidou navigation satellite from
Xichang Satellite Launch Center on June 12, 2016. Liftoff from LC 3 took place at 15:30
UTC. The 3.5-stage rocket boosted Beidou 23, identified by some Western analysts as Beidou
2 G7, into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite will lift itself into a
Beidou is based on the DFH-3 bus. China has been steadily building its first navigation
satellite constellation during the last few years. As many as 35 satellites are planned,
including three in inclined geosynchronous orbits, five in geostationary orbits, and 27 in
12-hour, 21,500 km circular orbits.
It was the year's seventh CZ launch.
Delta 4 Heavy Orbits NROL 37
The ninth Delta 4-Heavy orbited NROL 37 for the National
Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 11, 2016. The big, triple core
rocket, currently the world's most capable orbital launcher, rose from its SLC 37B launch
pad on nearly 955.28 tonnes (2.1 million pounds) of combined thrust from its three liquid
hydrogen fueled RS-68A engines. Liftoff occurred at 17:51 UTC, following a weather scrub
on June 9.
NROL 37 may be a Mentor (or Advanced Orion) signals intelligence satellite aimed for
near-geosynchronous orbit using three burns by the upper stage RL10B-2 engine during a
roughly six hour mission. Six previous Mentor satellites, described as the largest
satellites ever deployed, are believed to have been orbited by Titan 4 and Delta 4 Heavy
launch vehicles since 1993.
The most recent Mentor launch, in June 2012, used the
first set of improved RS-68A engines. RS-68A was said to have been developed specifically
to lift the latest Mentor versions, which could weigh as much as 6 metric tons. The
satellites are believed to have a huge antenna reflector, or arrays of reflectors, that
deploy after they reach their operational orbits.
It was the 32nd Delta 4 launch. The flight, designated "Delta 374", was
the last Delta 4 Heavy until 2018.
An upgraded "Phase 4" Proton M/Briz M launched Intelsat 31 toward a planned
supersynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on June 9, 2016. The
four-stage, 705 tonne rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 07:10 UTC, beginning a
planned 15.5 hour mission involving five-burns by the Briz M upper stage. Intelsat 31, a
6.32 tonne Space Systems Loral 1300 series communications satellite, was aimed toward a
3,503 x 65,000 km x 29.6 deg transfer orbit. The planned GTO was only about 1,500
m/s short of geosynchronous orbit.
During the Proton ascent phase, one of the four second stage main engines shut down nine
seconds early, causing a small delta-v shortfall. Staging was otherwise nominal and, after
the third stage completed its burn, the Briz M upper stage fired 32.66 seconds longer than
planned to reach its initial low earth parking orbit. Briz M completed its subsequent four
burns roughly on time. The fifth and final burn followed a long coast to apogee.
Spacecraft separation took place at about 22:41 UTC.
Soon after spacecraft separation, launch service
provider ILS and satellite owner Intelsat declared the launch a success.
It was the 412th Proton launch, the third Proton flight of the year, and the 35th orbital
launch of the year worldwide.
Orbits Geo-IK-2 No. 12L
Russia's Rokot/Briz KM orbited a Russian Defense
Ministry gravity mapping satellite from Plestesk Cosmodrome on June 4, 2016. The
three-stage rocket, consisting of a retired two-stage RS-18 ICBM topped by a Khrunichev
Briz KM upper stage, lifted off from LC 133/3 at 13:45 UTC. The satellite, named Geo-IK-2
No. 12L, entered a sun synchronous orbit.
ISS Reshetnev developed the 900 kg Geo-IK-2 No. 12L geodesy satellite, which will map the
earth's gravitational field and land and sea surface heights from its operational 1,000 km
x 98.6 deg orbit. The satellite will perform the mission of Geo-IK-2 No. 11, which was
placed into an incorrect orbit by another Rokot/Briz KM in February 2011.
A Russian Aerospace Force combat crew performed the launch. It was the 26th Rokot/Briz KM
orbital attempt. The launch vehicle's development also included two suborbital and
one orbital Rokot/Briz K flights during the early 1990s.
The flight garnered the attention of Canadian environmentalists because the second stage
debris impact zone was in the northern part of Baffin Bay between Greenland and Elsemere
Island. Although in international waters, the impact zone was within the claimed exclusive
economic zones of Canada and Denmark.
Orbits Remote Sensing Satellite
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B launched Ziyuan 3-2, a high-resolution remote sensing
satellite, from Taiyaun Satellite Launch Center on May 30, 2016. Liftoff from LC 9 took
place at 03:17 UTC. Ziyuan 3-2, a 2,630 kg satellite built by Chinas Academy
of Space Technology/Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering for the Chinese
Ministry of Land and Resources, was injected into sun synchronous orbit. Two Aleph 1
microsatellite were also orbited.
Ziyuan 3-2, fitted with multiple cameras and an infrared multispectral scanner, will be
used for civil mapping purposes. It will operate in a 506 km x 97.42 deg orbit.
Orbits Glonass Navsat
Russia's Soyuz 2-1B/Fregat launched a GLONASS-M
navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 43/4 on May 29, 2016. Liftoff took
place at 08:44 UTC. The 1,415 kg satellite was identified as Glonass 53. It was
slated to be named Kosmos 2516 after a successful orbit had been achieved.
Spacecraft separation occurred at 12:16 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 19,140 km x 64.8
It was the ninth R-7 launch of 2016.
9 Launches Thaicom 8
SpaceX Corporation's 25th Falcon 9 rocket, and its fifth
upgraded Falcon 9 v1.2 variant, launched Thailand's Thaicom 8 communication satellite into
orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 27, 2016. Liftoff of the 69.98 meter (229.6
foot) tall rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 21:39 UTC. After a 2 minute
35 second first stage burn, the Merlin 1D Vacuum powered, stretched second stage performed
two burns, with a roughly 18 minute parking orbit coast between, to accelerate the 3.025
metric ton (tonne) Orbital ATK GEOStar 2 satellite toward a targeted 250 x 90,000 km
supersynchronous transfer orbit.
After its ascent burn, the first stage reoriented itself to perform experimental reentry
and landing retro-burns, while using four grid-fins to steer toward a SpaceX landing
platform positioned on the Atlantic Ocean surface about 680 km downrange. The stage
achieved the third consecutive successful sea platform landing.
The initial second stage burn lasted for about 6 minutes 10 seconds to reach a low earth
parking orbit. Payload fairing separation occurred about 51 seconds after the start of the
burn. After a roughly 18 minute coast, the second stage reignited for a one minute 13
seconds burn to loft the payload toward its insertion orbit. Spacecraft separation
occurred about 31 minutes 56 seconds after liftoff.
First Stage on Landing Platform
After maneuvering itself to geosynchronous orbit,
Thaicom 8, equipped with 24 Ku-band transponders, will be located at 78.5 degrees East.
During the launch campaign, the Thaicom 8 stages performed qualification burns at
McGregor, Texas during mid-April. The first stage performed a hot fire test at SLC 40 on
May 24, 2016. The first launch attempt was scrubbed on May 26 during the final hour of the
countdown to investigate a potential second stage actuator problem
2-1b/Fregat Orbits Navsat Pair
A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat successfully orbited two more European Galileo navigation satellites
from the Kourou Soyuz Launch Zone on May 24, 2016. Liftoff for the VS15 mission for
Arianespace took place at 08:48:43 UTC. After the 2.5-stage R-7/Soyuz rocket completed its
ascent, the Fregat MT upper stage performed two burns during a nearly four hour FOC 5
mission to place Galileo FM10 and FM11 into 23,522 kilometer circular orbits at an
inclination of 57.4 degrees.
OHB-System and SSTL built the satellite bus and payload, respectfully, for the 715 kg
Galileo satellites. After a 2014 failure that placed two satellites into an improper
orbit, these will become the fourth pair of properly placed "Full Operational
Capability" satellites of a planned 22 satellite constellation. Including the
mis-placed pair and four initial operating capability test satellites launched in 2011 and
2012, there are now 14 Galileo satellites in orbit.
Russia's Roscosmos was in charge of range operations for the launch. TsENKI handled
systems engineering. Crews from RKTs-Progress (Soyuz) and NPO Lavochkin (Fregat) handled
It was the year's 30th orbital launch, all of which have
Orbits Yaogan 30
A Chang Zheng 2D (CZ-2D) orbited a remote sensing satellite for China from Jiuquan
Satellite Launch Center on May 15, 2016. The two-stage hypergolic propellant rocket lifted
off from LC 43-603 at 02:43 UTC. The satellite, named Yaogan 30, entered a roughly 626 x
655 km x 98.07 deg sun synchronous low earth orbit, an orbit to which CZ-2D is capable of
lifting at least 2 metric tonnes.
China announced that the satellite will be used for scientific experiments, land survey,
and crop and disaster monitoring. Western analysts suspect that Yaogan 30 is an
electro-optical reconnaisance satellite used primarily for military purposes.
It was the fifth CZ launch of 2016.
Launches JCSAT 14
The 24th Falcon 9, and fourth Falcon 9 v1.2 with full-thrust Merlin 1D engines, boosted
SKY Perfect JSAT Corparation's JCSAT 14 communications satellite into geosynchronous
transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 6, 2016. Liftoff from SLC 40 took place
at 05:21 UTC. The 4,696.2 kg Space Systems Loral 1300-series satellite separated about 32
minutes 2 seconds later, after two burns by the second stage Merlin 1D Vacuum engine that
together totaled 7 minutes 3 seconds. The first stage fired for 2 minutes 38
JCSAT 14 separated into a 189 x 35,957 km x 23.7 deg transfer orbit 32 minutes 2 seconds
after liftoff. It was the third Falcon 9 v1.2 geosynchronous transfer orbit mission.
As it had before the SES 9 launch, SpaceX announced before the liftoff that it did not
expect a successful first stage recovery, although more landing propellant was available
due to the lighter payload and lower energy orbit compared to SES 9. The first
stage performed a three-engine reentry burn and a three-engine final landing burn to
land successfully on the deck of a converted barge positioned about 658 km
downrange. It was the second successful barge landing in six attempts.
The success followed a brief launch vehicle static test firing at SLC 40 on May 1.
The vehicle's stages performed acceptance test firings at McGregor, Texas during
India's PSLV-XL orbited IRNSS 1G, the country's seventh navigation satellite, from
Sriharikota on April 28, 2016. The 4.5 -stage rocket lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space
Center's First Launch Pad at 07:20 UTC. The 20 minute, 19 second PSLV C-33 mission boosted
the 1,425 kg satellite toward a planned 284 x 20,657 km x 17.86 deg subsychronous transfer
orbit. IRNSS 1G will raise itself to a nearly 36,000 km circular geosynchronous orbit
inclined 5 degrees to the equator. IRNSS 1G will trace a small figure-8 pattern over the
Earth's surface, centered on 129.5 deg East longitude.
The flight completed India's first generation navigation constellation, which will consist
of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial geostationary
It was the 35th PSLV flight and the 31th consecutive success. PSLV began flying in 1993.
Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome hosted its first orbital launch on April 28, 2016, when a
Soyuz 2-1a with a Volga upper stage boosted three satellites to sun synchronous low earth
orbit. Liftoff took place at 02:01 UTC. Primary satellite Mikhailo Lomonosov, designed to
study cosmic and gamma rays, was joined by two small secondary satellites named Aist 2 and
The hypergolic liquid fueled Volga stage, which has
flown atop Soyuz 2-1v, was slated to perform two burns, at about T+50 and T+95
minutes. Spacecraft separation was to follow the second burn. A third, deorbit
burn was then scheduled to aim the stage toward the Pacific Ocean.
Vostochny, Russia's new Eastern spaceport, is being
built around the former Svobodny Cosmodrome, which last hosted a Start 1 orbital launch in
2006. Svobodny was orignally a mobile ICBM site. The site is in Russia's Far East near the
51st parallel in Amur Oblast. It lies 600-800 km from the Pacific Ocean. This first flight
ascended on a northwesterly track across Siberia toward the Arctic Ocean.
Vostochny, under construction since 2010, consists of the new "Site 1" Soyuz
launch pad and a "Site 2" comprising large launch vehicle and payload processing
buildings. The new Soyuz launch site has the familiar rail-based transport/erector, deep
R-7 flame trench, and trussed counterbalanced launcher, but also includes a mobile service
tower similar to Kourou ELS Soyuz launch site. The first Soyuz 2 launch vehicle arrived at
Vostochny in late September, 2015 by train. It was used to test facilities for several
months, an effort that culminated in a full propellant loading exercise.
Plans call for a second launch pad to be built for Russia's new Angara launch vehicle
family. Eventually, Vostochny may host crewed launches, which would allow Russia to pull
out of Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is located outside Russian borders in Kazakhstan.
2-1a/Fregat Launches Sentinel 1B
Russian contractor teams launched a Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat from Kourou Space Center in French
Guiana for Arianespace on April 25, 2016. The VS14 launch orbited the European Space
Agency's Sentinel 1B environmental monitoring satellite. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off
from the ELS pad at 21:02 UTC to begin the Arianespace VS14 mission. The 2,164 kg Thales
Alenia Space-built satellite was boosted into a 686 km x 98.18 deg sun synchronous orbit
after the Fregat stage completed a single burn about 20 minutes after liftoff.
Sentinel 1B will use a C-band synthetic aperture radar to provide imagery of both ocean
and land surfaces.
After deploying Sentinel 1B, Fregat perfomed a second burn to deploy three 1 kg CubeSats
in 453 x 665 km orbits. The stage performed two more burns before deploying the 303 kg
Microscope satellite into a 711 km x 98.23 deg orbit some 4 hours 52 minutes after
liftoff. Fregat then performed a final deorbit burn.
Launches CRS 8, First Stage Lands at Sea
The 23rd Falcon 9 launch vehicle successfully orbited
the Dragon 10 spacecraft on NASA's CRS 8 International Space Station cargo hauling mission
on April 8, 2016. After performing the initial mission boost, the rocket's first stage
accomplished the first successful landing on a floating platform - the company's converted
landing barge - positioned about 300 km northeast of the Cape Canaveral Space Launch
Complex 40 launch site. It was the fifth such attempt.
Liftoff took place at 20:43 UTC after no delays or scrubs. Dragon was targeted
toward a 200 x 360 km x 51.6 deg orbit. The spacecraft carried 3,136 kg of cargo,
including the 1,413 kg Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) experiment in the
unpressurized trunk section. At roughly 10.4 tonnes, the combined Dragon and cargo mass
was the heaviest-payload yet launched by a Falcon 9.
F9-23 First Stage After Landing
During its descent, the first stage perform three-engine
boost-back and reentry burns, followed by a final single-engine landing burn.
Landing took place about 8 minutes 35 seconds after liftoff.
The F9-23 first stage had performed a static firing at
SLC 40 on April 5. After its successful static testing at McGregor, Texas during
February, a ground equipment failure damaged multiple engines during a non-propulsive
test. The engines were repaired or replaced without causing significant delay to the
Dragon arrived at ISS on April 10, 2016.
The landing platform with the first stage returned to
Port Canaveral during the pre-dawn hours of April 12, 2016. During the day, a crane
picked up the stage from the barge and placed it onto a work stand on the dock.
Orbits Shijian 10
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D launched a recoverable spacecraft named Shijian 10
into orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on April 5, 2016. The two-stage rocket,
serial number Y36, lifted off from LC 43 Pad 603 at 17:38 UTC. Shijian 10, a 3,600 kg
satellite with a cylindrical section topped by a conical reentry vehicle, was inserted
into a 234 x 268 km x 42.89 deg orbit. It housed 29 physics and biology experiments.
Shijian 10 is slated to return to earth after two weeks in orbit.
It was the 27th CZ-2D launch, all of which have succeeded. The type began flying in 1992.
See Older Launch Reports in the Space Launch Report