M Performs Final Launch
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The flight was the seventh CZ launch of the
year, matching Russia's world-leading Proton total.
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
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.
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
The flight was the 40th orbital attempt of
2010 and was the sixth CZ launch of the year, matching Russia's R-7 total.
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.
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.
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
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..