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Space Launch Report Archive

July-September, 2010

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 10/01/10
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)
2010:  52(2)
2009:  78(5)
2008:  68(3)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)
2010:  5(0)
2009:  9(0)
2008:  7(0)
r71760.jpg (7261 bytes)Molniya M Performs Final Launch

The final Molniya-M rocket successfully launched an Oko early warning satellite for Russia on September 30, 2010.  The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Plesetsk Northern Cosmodrome Area 16 Pad 2 at 17:01 UTC.  Its 2BL kerosene/LOX upper stage completed the mission within an hour by firing to place the satellite, named Kosmos 2469, into a 12 hour elliptical orbit inclined 62.8 degrees from the equator.  

It was the final Molniya-M launch, and the 229th Molniya-M launched from Plestesk since 1970.  Most were used to place early warning and communication satellites into 12-hour elliptical, high inclination "Molniya" orbits.  A total of 296 Molniya-M launches took place from both Plestesk and Baikonur beginning in 1964  An additional 26 Molniya and Molniya-L vehicles flew from Baikonur between 1960 and 1965.  Early Molniyas launched probes to Venus, Mars, and the Moon.  Soyuz-2 will now replace Molniya-M.

mt4-2.jpg (12634 bytes)Minotaur 4 Orbits OBSS

Minotaur 4 performed its first orbital launch on September 26, 2010 from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 8.  The four stage solid fuel rocket orbited SBSS, the 1.03 tonne Space Based Space Surveilance satellite, for the U.S. Strategic Command.  SBSS is designed to track objects in orbit using an on-board gimbaled optical sensor. 

Minotaur 4 lifted off at 04:41 UTC.  Its first three, MX missile based stages burned in succession during the first 3 minutes 27 seconds of the flight, lifting the vehicle to a 192 km altitude and propelling it 580 km downrange.  The fourth stage then coasted for about eight minutes before its Orion 38 motor ignited for a 67 second burn to inject SBSS into a 541 x 538 km x 98 deg orbit.  Spacecraft separation occured about 15 minutes after liftoff.

The rocket is a four-stage solid fuel expendable that uses three retired MX (Peacekeeper) ICBM stages and one commercial Orion 38 fourth stage.  Orion 38, originally developed for Orbital's air launched Pegasus rocket, also serves as the fourth stage for Orbital's Taurus launch vehicle.  Minotaur 4 uses a 2.34 meter diameter Taurus payload fairing and Orbital's Pegasus/Taurus avionics. 

Orbital developed Minotaur 4 under the U.S. Air Force Orbital Suborbital Program 2 (OSP-2).  Minotaur 4 first flew on April 22, 2010 as a three stage "lite" variant, using only the three MX stages but controlled by Orbital avionics.  That inaugural launched DARPA's Hypersonic Test Vehicle (HTTV)-2a from Vandenberg AFB SLC 8.  The launch was successful, but HTV-2a, meant to glide through upper atmosphere at up to Mach 20 toward Kwajalein, disappeared about 9 minutes after liftoff as it reentered the upper atmosphere. 

Like its Minuteman-based Minotaur cousin, Minotaur 4 is launched from a basic pedestal platform with a fallback umbilical using minimal support equipment.  Planned launch sites include Vandenberg AFB SLC 8 and Kodiak Island, Alaska. East coast launches are also plausible from Wallops Island, Virginia and Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Development of the LSG-118 MX missile, the most powerful U.S. ICBM of its time, began in 1979.  The first of 51 MX test launches took place in 1983.  50 MX missiles were deployed in underground missile silos from 1988 until 2005, when the system was retired to meet post Cold-War treaty requirements.

It was the year's 50th orbital launch attempt.

cz2d14.jpg (2878 bytes)China Orbits Remote Sensing Satellite

China launched a remote-sensing satellite named Yaogan Weixing 11 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern Gansu Province on September 22, 2010.  A CZ-2D rocket performed the launch from Jiuquan's Launch Area 4 Left.  The satellite was reported to have entered a 625 x 655 km x 98 deg sun synchronous orbit.   

It was the ninth Chang Zheng (Long March) launch of the year, moving the CZ family to the top of the world's "most-flown in 2010" launch vehicle list.  Two-stage CZ-2D has flown 14 times without failure since 1993. 

av025r.jpg (8893 bytes)Atlas Launches NRO Satellite

AV-025, the 23rd Atlas 5, orbited a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) mission from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex-3 East on September 21, 2010.  The 343.5 tonne two-stage rocket, flying as a "501" model with no strap on boosters and topped by a 5.4 meter diameter, 23.5 meter long composite payload fairing, lifted off at 04: 03 UTC. 

It was the first Vandenberg AFB orbital launch of the year, and the third Atlas 5 launched from the U.S. West Coast base since the first in 2008.  While the satellite type and orbit was not announced, the use of a large payload fairing suggested either a radar imager in low earth orbit or an electronic intel satellite with a large antenna array placed into a higher orbit.  The southwesterly launch azimuth was consistent with a possible retrograde (inclination substantially greater than 90 degrees) orbit.   Subsequent amateur observations found a new object in a roughly 1,000 km x 123 deg orbit.

The first "501" Atlas 5 flew earlier this year from Cape Canaveral with the first X-37B orbital space plane.

sls1s.jpg (8636 bytes)Space Launch System

NASA's Future, or Dead on Arrival?

Can the U.S. find a mission for a Shuttle-Derived Space Launch System

Can it afford the cost?


h2af18.jpg (14398 bytes)H-2A Launches Navsat for Japan

H-2A F18 successfully launched the 4 tonne Michibiki navigation satellite for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency from Tanegashimi Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 on September 11, 2010.  F18 flew in the "202" configuration with two strap on "SRB-A" monolithic solid motors and two liquid hydrogen/oxygen core stages.  The rocket's second stage performed two burns to inject Michibiki into a 280 x 35,336 km x 31.8 deg transfer orbit.   

Michibiki will raise itself into 32,000 x 40,000 km x 41 deg "quasi zenith" stationary orbit that will trace a north-south "Figure 8" across the Earth's surface at Japan's longitude.  From this orbit, the satellite will be able to augment existing GPS signals, allowing better coverage in urban areas with tall buildings.

It was the second H-2A launch of the year, the 18th in total, and the 12th consecutuve H-2A success.

r71759.jpg (24978 bytes)Soyuz Launches Progress Toward Space Station

A Soyuz-U boosted Progress M-07M into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 10, 2010.  The 7.16 tonne spacecraft carried 2.52 tonnes of cargo for the International Space Station.  Launch took place from Area 31, Pad 6 at 10:22 UTC.  It was the fourth Progress mission, and the seventh R-7 launch, year to date.  It was also the 1,759th R-7 launch.

rokot15.jpg (3002 bytes)Rokot Orbits Three Russian Comsats

A Rokot/Briz KM orbited three small Russian communication satellites from Plesetsk Northern Cosmodrome on September 8, 2010.  The store/dump data satellites included two Strela-3 military satellites identified as Kosmos 2467 and Kosmos 2468 and a third civilian version named Gonets M-2.  The 280 kg satellites were inserted into 1,400 km x 82.6 deg orbits.  

The 107 tonne storable propellant launch vehicle, consisting of two retired Khrunichev UR-100NU ICBM stages topped by a restartable Khrunichev Briz KM stage, lifted off from Area 133 Pad 3 at 03:30 UTC.  Briz performed two burns prior to spacecraft separation at 05:14 UTC, then likely performed a third orbit-reducing burn.  It was the 14th Rokot/Briz KM flight, and the 15th Rokot orbital launch attempt.

cz3c13.jpg (6045 bytes)China Orbits Communication Satellite

China's most powerful rocket, a CZ-3B, boosted Chinasat 6A into supersynchronous transfer orbit from XiChang launch center on September 4, 2010.   The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Pad 2 at 16:14 UTC on more than 600 tonnes of thrust provided by eight YF-20B engines, four on the first stage and one on each of four strap-on boosters, burning UDMH/N2O4. Chinasat 6A, a roughly 5 tonne satellite, was injected into a 197 x 41,866 km x 25.2 deg orbit about 30 minutes after liftoff, after the rocket's liquid hydrogen upper stage had performed its second burn.

It was the first CZ-3B flight since a failed August 2009 launch deposited Palapa D1 into a lower than planned orbit.  That failure was caused by a burn through of one of the two upper stage YF-75 engine gas generators due to foreign matter or ice blocking a liquid hydrogen injector. 

p359.jpg (9204 bytes)Russian Proton Launches Navsat Triplet

Russia's Proton, world leader in year to date launch numbers, successfully boosted another navigation satellite triplet into orbit on September 2, 2010.  A Krunichev Proton M with an RSC Energia DM-2 fourth stage lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Area 81, Pad 24 at 00:53 UTC with three Glonass M satellites within its payload fairing.  About 3.5 hours after the dawn liftoff, after multiple DM-2 burns, the satellites separated into their 19,100 km x 64.8 deg near-operational orbit.

Each Glonass M weighed about 1.415 tonnes, for a total 4.245 tonne payload mass.

It was the year's 15 orbital flight from Baikonur.  

cz2d13.jpg (2651 bytes)China Orbits Mapping Satellite

A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D rocket orbited China's Tianhui 1 (Mapping Satellite 1) from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on August 24, 2010.  The two-stage storable propellant rocket lifted off from the Left pad at Launch Area 4 at 07:10 UTC, bound for sun synchronous low earth orbit. 

Tianhua 1, developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, reportedly carried a stereo imager with 5 meter resolution.   

The flight was the seventh CZ launch of the year, matching Russia's world-leading Proton total.

av019.jpg (16105 bytes)Atlas Launches First Advanced EHF Satellite

AV-019, an Atlas 531 with three strap-on solid boosters and a 5.4 meter diameter payload fairing, boosted the first U.S. Air Force Advanced EHF communications satellite (AEHF 1) into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 14, 2010.  The 6,169 kg satellite separated into a 222 x 50,245 km x 22.2 deg transfer orbit about 51 minutes after an 11:07 UTC dawn liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41. 

The separation occurred about 23 minutes after the second Centaur burn ended, allowing the vehicle to coast within range of the Diego Garcia tracking station.

AEHF 1 is the first of a Lockheed Martin A2100M satellite constellation meant to replace Milstar.  The satellite uses EHF uplinks and crosslinks and SHF downlinks.

AV-019 was the 22nd Atlas 5, but was the first to fly in the 531 configuration.

cz420.jpg (8856 bytes)China Launches Remote Sensing Satellite

China orbited a remote-sensing satellite named Yaogan 10, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi Province on August 9, 2010.  A Chang Zheng (Long March) 4C rocket boosted the satellite into a 600 km-plus sun synchronous orbit inclined 97.8 degrees to the equator.  Official reports stated that the satellite will be used to "conduct scientific experiments, carry out surveys on land resources, estimate crops yield and help with natural disaster-reduction and prevention".  Most analysts believe that the Yaogan satellites are actually part of a multi-satellite network used to monitor other nation's militaries.  

The flight was the 40th orbital attempt of 2010 and was the sixth CZ launch of the year, matching Russia's R-7 total.

v196.jpg (6244 bytes)Ariane 5 Launches Comsat Pair

Ariane 5 ECA No. 554 performed the 196th Arianespace mission from Kourou on August 4, 2010.  The 2.5 stage rocket boosted 3,200 kg Nilesat 201 and 3,050 kg Rascom QAF into geosynchronous transfer orbit from ELA 3.    Liftoff occurred at 20:59 UTC.  The satellites will provide communication services for different areas of Africa. 

cz3a17.jpg (6170 bytes)China Launches Navigation Satellite

A three stage CZ-3A orbited China's Beidou 2-5 navigation satellite from XiChang Pad 3 on July 31, 2010.  The 17th CZ-3A lifted off at 21:30 UTC.  The rocket's hydrogen-fueled third stage boosted its payload into a transfer orbit inclined 55 degrees to the equator.  

It was the 30th CZ-3 series launch since the type first flew in 1984. 

pslvc15.jpg (6307 bytes)PSLV Orbits Indian/Algerian Satellites

PSLV C-15, a four-stage "Core Alone" variant, orbited India's Cartosat 2B, Algeria's Altsat 2A, and three microsatellites from India's Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) at Sriharikota on June 12, 2010.  694 kg Cartosat 2B was the primary payload, while 116 kg Altsat 2A was deployed as a secondary payload from a dual payload adapter.  The satellites entered a 637 km x 98.1 deg sun sychronous orbit about 17 minutes after liftoff from Sriharikota's First Launch Pad (FLP).

C-15 was the 15th success in 17 PSLV flights, and the 6th "Core Alone" launch.  It was also the 13th consecutive successful PSLV launch. 

p358.jpg (12706 bytes)Proton Boosts Echostar 15

A four-stage Proton M/Briz M orbited Echostar 15 into orbit from from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 10, 2010.  Echostar 15, a 5,521 kg communciations satellite built by Space Systems Loral entered a 6,030 x 35,786 km x 18.7 deg orbit more than nine hours after Proton's 18:40 UTC liftoff from Area 200 Pad 39.  The flight included five burns of the rocket's Briz M upper stage.

It was the seventh Proton flight of 2010, and the 40th launch of a Proton M/Briz M..