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Space Launch Report Archive

October-December, 2010

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 12/31/10
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)
2010:  74(4)
2009:  78(5)
2008:  68(3)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)
2010:  7(0)
2009:  9(0)
2008:  7(0)
v199.jpg (12620 bytes)Ariane 5 Orbits Comsat Pair

Ariane 5 ECA Launcher 557 orbited Hispasat 1E and Koreasat 6 from Kourou ELA 3 on December 29, 2010.   Arianespace mission V199 lifted off at 21:27 UTC at sunset.  The 34 minute missions deployed both satellites into a 249.4 x 35,922 km x 2.99 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Hispasat 1E, which weighed 5.32 tonnes at liftoff, was built by Space Systems Loral for Spain's Hispasat.  Koreasat 6 was a 2.85 tonne satellite built by Orbital and Thales Alenia Space for the Republic of Korea’s KT Corporation.

V199 was the sixth and final Ariane 5 launch of 2010. 

p363.jpg (3646 bytes)Proton Returns to Service

A Proton M/Briz M orbited KA-SAT for Eutelsat Communications of France from Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 26, 2010.  The four stage rocket lifted off at 21:51 UTC from Area 200 Pad 39 to begin a 9 hour 12 minute mission that carried thhe 6.15 tonne satellite toward a planned 3,713 x 35,786 km x 24.6 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit. 

The flight was the 12th Proton launch of 2010 and the 8th commercial Proton launch for Russia's International Launch Services, most ever for ILS.  The launch was also the 363rd Proton mission.

KA-SAT, an Astrium Eurostar E3000 Ka band data communications satellite with a total capacity of 70 Gbps, making it the world’s most powerful in terms of commercial data throughput.

The launch proceeded despite failure of a previous Proton on December 5, 2010.  The latter's failure was caused by a propellant overload of that Proton's Blok DM-03 upper stage.  Since the ILS Proton used a Briz M upper stage, it was not significantly delayed by the failure investigation.

gslvf06b.jpg (2415 bytes)India's GSLV Suffers Second Failure of 2010

India Space Research Organization's GSLV-F06, a Mark 1 variant, suffered a control failure 47 seconds after liftoff from Sriharikota's Second Launch Pad on December 25, 2010.  The three stage launch vehicle turned sideways at an altitude of 9-10 km and began to disintegrate, a process completed by the transmission of a range destruct command 63 seconds after liftoff.  ISRO officials said that steering control commands had stopped reaching actuators on one or more of the four liquid strap on boosters.  The precise cause of the failure is under investigation.

GSLV-F06 carried 2.31 tonne GSAT-5P, a communications satellite bound for geosynchronous transfer orbit.  In order to lift GSAT-5P, GSLV-F06 was fitted with an enlarged 8.6 x 4 meter composite payload fairing and a stretched Russian powered third stage loaded with 15.2 tonnes of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellant.

It was the second failure of a GSLV in two 2010 attempts.  GSLV-D3, a Mark 2 variant with India's first cryogenic upper stage, failed on April 15, 2010 when the third stage engine failed at startup.  Only two of the seven GSLV launches performed since the rocket premiered in 2001 have flown as planned.
cz3a19.jpg (6483 bytes)China Orbits Navsat

China successfully orbited another Beidou navigation satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan Province on December 17, 2010.  Beidou 2-I2 lifted off from Pad 3 atop the 19th Chang Zheng 3A (CZ-3A) at 20:20 UTC.  The three-stage, 52.5 meter, 241 tonne rocket boosted Beidou 2-I2 into an inclined geoysynchronous transfer orbit with a 55 degree inclination.  It was China's seventh Beidou satellite, of a planned 30+ constelltion. 

It was China's 15th orbital launch of 2010, matching for the first time the U.S. launch number for a calendar year and setting a new record for China. 

r71765.jpg (4906 bytes)Soyuz FG Orbits ISS Crew

A Soyuz FG rocket orbited three ISS-bound crew in the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 15,  2010.  NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Coleman, Russian cosmonaut Dmitri "Dima" Kondratyev, and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 19:09 UTC and arrived in a 51 deg inclination low earth orbit less than 10 minutes later.

The crew will join the three member Expedition 26 crew aboard the International Space Station.   

Soyuz TMA-20 was the seventh crewed launch of 2010, and the 70th orbital launch attempt of the year.  

f9-2.jpg (14386 bytes)Falcon 9 Orbits Dragon C1 (Updated 12/8/10)

The second SpaceX Falcon 9 successfully boosted the company's Dragon C1 spacecraft into orbit from Cape Canaveral on December 8, 2010.  The two-stage, 313 tonne, kerosene/LOX rocket thundered aloft off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 15:43 UTC.  After a nearly nine-minute propulsion phase and a 20 second coast, Dragon C1 separated from Falcon 9's second stage into a reported 288 x 301 km x 34.53 deg orbit, beginning a test flight planned for at least two orbits.  

Dragon subsequently completed two orbits, demonstrating active flight control through use of 17 of its 18 Draco thrusters.  One Draco failed to function, but redundancy in the flight control system design allowed the flight to continue.  After two orbits, Dragon fired four Dracos beginning at about 18:17 UTC to initiate reentry.  The capsule reentered over the Pacific Ocean and splashed down at about 19:02 UTC beneath three parachutes about 800 km off the northwest coast of Mexico.  

Dragon C1 was the first spacecraft successfully launched and recovered from orbit by a commercial company.  Only countries - the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency  - have previously performed the feat.

Dragon is the SpaceX spacecraft for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract, designed to deliver cargo to, and return cargo from, the International Space Station.

After Dragon deployed, several "CubeSat" microsatellites were released into low Earth orbit, likely from the Dragon trunk section that remained attached to the top of the orbiting Falcon 9 second stage on this test mission.  One flew for the Naval Research Laboratory.   Another, the first U.S. Army built satellite in more than 50 years, was identified as the Space and Missile Defense Command - Operational Nanosatellite Effect, or SMDC-ONE.

After the flight, CEO and Chief Engineer Elon Musk announced that the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine had successfully restarted in a test, propelling the stage to an elliptical orbit with an 11,000 km apogee.  The first stage was not recovered, but telemetry of the stage reentry was recovered through use of a data pod.  

p362.jpg (7486 bytes)Proton Fails to Orbit Glonass Triplet (Updated 12/07/2010)

A Proton M topped with the first Blok DM-03 upper stage, failed to orbit three Glonass-M navigation satellites on December 5, 2010.  The upper stage and payload reportedly fell back into the Pacific Ocean about 1,500 km northwest of Honolulu, Hawaii.  It was the first Proton launch system failure since a Briz M upper stage faltered in March 2008, leaving AMC-14 in a low orbit.  Twenty seven Protons had flown successfully since that launch.

The four-stage rocket lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 81 Pad 24 at 10:25 UTC.  Plans called for Proton to boost the RSC Energia Blok DM-03 fourth stage into a parking orbit, from which it would perform a two burn ascent to a 19,100 km x 64.39 deg orbit where the three 1,415 kg Glonass-M satellites would be deployed about 3.5 hours after liftoff.  Instead, some type of failure occurred during the Proton phase of flight that resulted in a reported 8 degree pitch deviation.  The problem robbed enough velocity to prevent the upper stage and payload from reaching orbit.  By some accounts, the upper stage separated into a suborbital path with a much higher altitude than planned.  

Russia's Interfax reported that an overload of propellant into the DM-03 stage is one possible failure cause being studied by investigators.  The new stage can hold up to 18.7 tonnes of propellant, about 25% more than the 15 tonne capacity of precursor Blok DM-2M stages.  A one tonne overload would have resulted in a 100 meter per second velocity shortfall at third stage separation, approximately equal to the actual flight profile.  Other potential failure modes include faulty flight programming.

The Block DM–03 stage, which includes a new digital control system, was developed to improve Zenit 3 and Proton GTO and GEO performance.   

It was the 362nd Proton and the 11th to fly in 2010.

v198.jpg (2765 bytes)Ariane 5 Launches Two Satellites

Ariane 5 ECA Launcher 556 orbited Intelsat 17 and Hylas 1 from Kourou ELA 3 on November 26, 2010.   Flying Arianespace mission V198, the 2.5 stage rocket lifted off at 18:39 UTC in a rare daylight launch from Kourou.  Within 40 minutes, both satellites had been deployed toward a targeted 250 x 35,786 km x 2 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Intelsat 17 was a 5.54 tonne satellite built by Space Systems Loral for Intelsat.  Hylas 1 was a 2.542 tonne machine built by ISRO and Astrium.  Hylas 1 was originally signed to a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch, but the launch service work was subsequently lost to Arianespace.  

During the previous V197 mission, giant satellite W3B was lost, apparantly due to damage caused by the spacecraft separation charges, but the V198 launch was able to proceed because Intelsat 17 did not share the W3B configuration in areas near the separation plane. 

V198 was the fifth Ariane 5 launch of 2010. 

cz3a18.jpg (5817 bytes)China Orbits Military Comsat

China launched its Zhongxing-20A military communications satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Nov 24, 2010.  A three-stage Chang Zheng 3A rocket carried the satellite from Xichang Pad 3 at 16:09 UTC.  The rocket's liquid hydrogen fueled upper stage fired twice to boost ZX-20A into a 41,756 x 197 km x 24.9 deg supersynchronous transfer orbit. 

It was China's 14th orbital launch of the year, tying the current U.S. total for second behind Russia's 28 launches.

d351s.jpg (12934 bytes) ULADelta 4 Heavy Launches NRO Mission

The fourth Delta 4 Heavy rocket launched a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 21, 2010.  The NROL-32 mission lifted off from Space Launch Complex-37B at 22:58 UTC.  NROL-32 is thought by many analysts to be a large electronic intelligence satellite aimed toward a geosynchronous orbit. 

The flight, designated Delta 351, was the 14th Delta 4 launch, the 4th Delta 4 Heavy, and the third and final Delta 4 flight of 2010.  All three Delta 4 missions flew from Canaveral's Pad 37B.

Delta 4 Heavy, the world's most-powerful expendable rocket, stands 72 meters tall and weighs 732 tonnes at liftoff. It rises on 901 tonnes (1.99 million pounds) of liftoff thrust created by three RS-68 engines powering the rocket's three Common Booster Cores.

m4-3.jpg (4562 bytes)Minotaur 4 Reaches Orbit from Alaska

The third Minotaur 4 rocket boosted seven satellites and an upper stage test vehicle into orbit from Alaska's Kodiak Launch Complex on November 20, 2010.  The 24 meter tall, 88 tonne, four-stage rocket lifted off from Pad 1 at 01:25 UTC.  Minotuar 4 successfully deployed its primary and secondary Space Test Program S26 satellite payloads into a 652 x 641 km x 72 deg orbit during a 15 minute span that began about 16.5 minutes after liftoff.  

A HAPS (Hydrazine Auxiliary Propulsion System) stage, positioned as a fifth stage but carried as a test payload on this mission, subseqently performed a pair of burns to raise itself into a 1,200 km x 72 deg orbit. 

It was the first orbital launch from Kodiak in nine years, and only the second of all time. 

Minotaur 4 uses three retired MX (Peacekeeper) ICBM solid propellant stages and is topped by a commercial Orion 38 solid motor 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.  A 2.34 meter diameter Taurus payload fairing tops the rocket.   Minotaur 4’s avionics are derived from Orbital's Pegasus and Taurus systems.

Its first three, MX missile based stages burned in succession during the first 3 minutes 8 seconds of the flight, propelling the fourth stage and payload on a suborbital trajectory with a 650 km apogee.  Minotaur's fourth stage coasted for about 10 minutes before firing when it reached that apogee, providing orbital velocity. 

p361.jpg (11962 bytes)Proton Orbits SkyTerra 1

The 361st Proton, a four-stage Proton M/Briz M model, successfully boosted the 5.36 tonne SkyTerra 1 communications satellite into orbit on November 14, 2010.  Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Area 200 Pad 39 occurred at 17:29 UTC, beginning a 9 hour, 14 minute mission that put the communications satellite into a 6,050 x 35,786 km x 19 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.   Proton's Briz M upper stage performed five burns lasting a total of 49 minutes 2 seconds during the 2.5 orbit ascent. 

SkyTerra 1, a Boeing 702HP satellite,  is owned by LightSquared.  The satellite is fitted with a 22 meter L-band reflector antenna - the largest such commercial reflector.  SkyTerra 1 will be used to provide links in a 4G wireless network. 

It was the tenth Proton flight of 2010 and the seventh for Russian-owned International Launch Services. 

d350.jpg (4328 bytes)Delta 2 Orbits Radarsat for Italy

Delta 350, a Delta 2-7420-10 model with four strap-on GEM-40 boosters and a 10 foot diameter composite payload fairing, successfully orbited COSMO 4 for the Italian Ministry of Defense on November 6, 2010.  The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 2 West at 02:20 UTC.  Delta 350's second stage performed two burns to boost the 1,900 kg COSMO ("Constellation of Small Satellites for Mediterranean Basis Observation") radar imaging satellite toward a targeted 637.5 x 619.7 km x 97.86 deg sun synchronous orbit, where it joins three other COSMO satellites previously launched by Delta 2 rockets. 

Spacecraft separation occurred 58 minutes after liftoff.   The second stage fired twice more after separation to lower itself toward a planned 179 x 617 x 98.35 deg orbit, from which it should readily decay.

It was the first Delta 2 flight in nearly a year.   Only three more Thor-derived Delta 2 launches remain on the schedule.  During the mission, Delta flew for the final time in the four strap-on motor configuration. 

Although identified as "Delta 350", it was only the 337th Thor-derived Delta launch, because the 350 total includes 13 Delta 4 missions.  Thor-Delta, originally developed as an temporary "interim" orbital launcher for NASA by Douglas Aircraft and Aerojet, celebrated its 50th anniversary during 2010.    

Delta 350 was the 93rd consecutive Delta 2 success, and the 716th Thor-family launch.  It was also the year's 60th successful orbital flight.

cz4c8.jpg (10399 bytes)China Launches Weather Satellite

China orbited a new weather satellite, named Fengyun 3B (FY-3B), on November 4, 2010.  A Chang Zheng (CZ) 4C carried the 2.299 tonne satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center's second launch pad.  The three-stage rocket lifted off at 18:37 UTC.   FY-3B entered its 800 km x 98.7 deg orbit about 19 minutes later.

FY-3B joins FY-3A in orbit.  FY-3A was launched on May 27, 2008. 

The Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology affiliated to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation developed the satellite and its launch vehicle. 

CZ-4C-8 was China's 13th orbital launch of 2010, a record for that country.  The United States has only performed 11 launches year to date, setting up the possibility that the U.S. could, for the first time, be "outlaunched" by China during a calendar year.

r71764.jpg (7828 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a /Fregat Boosts Meridian Comsat to Orbit

Russian Space Forces orbited the Meridian 3 communications satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrone on November 2, 2010.  A Soyuz 2-1a with a Fregat upper stage performed the mission, lifting off from Area 43 Pad 4 at 00:59 UTC.  Fregat fired multiple times during a 2 hour 14 minute mission to boost Meridian 3 into an elliptical 12-hour "Molniya" type orbit inclined about 65 degrees to the equator. 

The success represented a recovery from a May 21, 2009 mission failure during the launch of Meridian 2.  During that flight, the Fregat stage ran out of propellant during its final burn.  The cause was later determined to have been due to incorrect payload data having been provided for the rocket's flight control system, the result of incomplete communications between payload and launch vehicle groups. 

With orbits designed with apogees at high inclinations, Meridian provides communication services tailored for the high latitudes of Russia's northern regions. 

cz3c6.jpg (18704 bytes)China Launches Navigation Satellite

A three stage CZ-3C orbited China's Beidou 2-G4 navigation satellite on October 31, 2010.   The three-stage rocket lifted off from XiChang Pad 2 at 16:26 UTC.  The rocket's liquid hydrogen third stage fired twice to accelerate Beidou 2-G4 into a 215 x 35849 km x 20.48 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.  

Beidou 2-G4 was the sixth of 35 planned "Compass" navigation satellites that will provide China with an indigineous GPS-like capability. 

It was China's 12th orbital launch of 2010, more than during any previous calendar year.


v197.jpg (9097 bytes)Ariane 5 Orbits Comsat Pair (10/29/10 Update)

Ariane 5 ECA Launcher 555 orbited W3B and BSAT3B from Kourou ELA 3 on October 28, 2010.   Arianespace mission V197 lifted off at 21:51 UTC and ended about one half hour later after the standard 2.5 stage continuous burn profile inserted the 7.43 tonne combined payload into a 249 x 35,907 km x 2 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

W3B was a 5.37 tonne Spacebus 4000 series satellite built by Thales Alenia Space.  BSAT-3B was a 2.06 tonne A2100 satellite built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems. 

Shortly after W3B separated from the Ariane 5 ECA stage, ground controllers detected a large oxidizer leak in the satellite's propulsion system.   So large was the leak that the satellite had to be written off almost immediately as a total loss.  The cause of the leak has yet to be determined.  Arianespace noted no vehicle anomalies during the V197 ascent. 

V197 was the fourth Ariane 5 launch of 2010. 

r71763.jpg (15022 bytes)Soyuz-U Orbits Progress M-08M

A Soyuz-U orbited Progress M-08M from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Area 1 Pad 5 on October 27, 2010.  The 7.289 tonne robot spacecraft carried 2.572 tonnes of cargo for the International Space Station.  Liftoff occurred at 15:11 UTC. 

It was the fifth Progress mission, and the eleventh R-7 launch of 2010, matching China's Chang Zheng total.  The flight was the 50th consecutive launch success for the Soyuz-U variant.  It was the 20th orbital launch from Baikonur in 2010, 14 more than second-place Cape Canaveral. 

st22.jpg (20622 bytes)Soyuz/Fregat Orbits Globalstar Sextet

A three-stage Soyuz 2-1a with a storable hypergolic fueled Fregat fourth stage and a 4.1 meter "ST" payload fairing successfully orbited six second-generation Globalstar satellites from Baikonur on October 19, 2010.  The flight, performed as the ST-22 mission for the Russian/European Starsem consortium, lifted off from Area 31 Pad 6 at 17:11 UTC. 

The Soyuz 2-1a vehicle, a model equpped with an improved digital control system that first flew in 2004, accelerated the Fregat stage and its 4.2 tonne payload cluster to suborbital velocity.  Fregat then performed a burn to boost the stack into a 210 x 923 km x 51.7 deg parking orbit.  After a 50 minute coast to the southern tip of South America, Fregat burned again to lift the vehicle into a 920 km x 52 deg orbit.  The last of the six Globalstar satellites separated into that orbit about 100 minutes after liftoff.  Fregat was scheduled to fire a third time to deorbit itself after spacecraft separation.

It was the fourth Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat mission, and the first to fly May 21, 2009 when the Fregat stage prematurely ran out of propellant, inserting Russia's second Meridian spacecraft into a low orbit.  That problem was subsequently traced to incorrect payload data being entered into the flight program, a result of poor communication between the payload and rocket teams.

p360.jpg (10634 bytes)Proton Launches Sirius XM-5

A four-stage Proton M/Briz M orbited the XM-5 direct radio broadcast satellite for Sirius XM on October 14, 2010.  The Krunichev-built rocket lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Area 81 Pad 24 at 18:53 UTC.  XM-5, a 5,984 kg Space Systems Loral 1300 series satellite, was targeted toward a 4,235 x 35,786 km x 22.84 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit, reached via. five burns of the hypergolic Briz M upper stage during a nine hour mission.

It was the ninth Proton flight of 2010, and the 260th Proton launch, all time.

r71761.jpg (4604 bytes)Soyuz FG Orbits ISS Crew

A Soyuz FG rocket orbited three ISS-bound crew in the Soyuz TMA-01M spacecraft from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 7, 2010.  NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexander Kaleri, joining the International Space Station (ISS) Expedition 25 crew, lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 23:10 UTC and arrived in a 51 deg inclination low earth orbit less than 10 minutes later.

The crew will join Doug Wheelock, Fyodor Yurchikhin, and Shannon Walker aboard ISS. 

Soyuz TMA-01M is fitted with upgraded guidance, navigation, and control avionics. Its launcher was the 33rd Soyuz FG to fly since the type premiered in 2001.

cz4b17.jpg (6381 bytes)Long March Orbits Suspected ELNIT Pair

A Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B rocket orbited a suspected electronic intellegence satellite pair from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi Province on October 6, 2010.  Three-stage CZ-4B-17 boosted the satellite pair, named Shijian 6-4A and 4B, into sun synchronous orbits.   

The flight was the 11th CZ launch of the year and the seventh since July 31.  Eleven flights matches the existing record for the most orbital launches in a calendar year from China.  The eleven launches also match the total performed by the United States in 2010.  China has not previously "outlaunched" the United States in a given year.

cz3c5.jpg (6441 bytes)China Launches Second Lunar Orbiter

A 3.5 stage CZ-3C launched China's Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter from mountainous Xichang space center on October 1, 2010.  The 345 tonne rocket, flying for the fifth time in the "3C" configuration with two strap-on hypergolic liquid boosters, two hypergolic core stages, and a liquid hydrogen/oxygen third stage, lifted off from Xichang's Pad 2 at 11:00 UTC. 

The upper stage fired twice to propel 2.5 tonne Chang'e 2 into a lunar transfer orbit with an apogee of roughly 300,000 km.  Chang'e 2 will place itself into lunar orbit about five days after launch to begin a mapping mission.

Chang'e 2 was the 50th successful orbital launch of 2010.  CZ-3C-5 performed China's 10th Chang Zheng (Long March) launch of the year, and the fifth from Xichang in 2010.