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Space Launch Report Archive

April-June, 2011

mt1-10.jpg (7639 bytes)Minotaur 1 Launches ORS-1

Orbital Science Corporation's tenth Minotaur 1 launch vehicle boosted the first Operationally Responsive Space satellite (ORS-1) into orbit from Wallops Island on June 30, 2011.  The four-stage solid-fuel rocket lifted off from Launch Area 0B at 03:09 UTC.  ORS-1 separated into a 400 km x 40 deg orbit 11 minutes 48 seconds later.

ORS-1 is a 434 kg Pentagon Operationally Responsive Space Office satellite designed to provide tactical reconnaissance to forces in the field.   ORS-1 employs a Goodrich Corporation optical sensor that flies on the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.  Goodrich integrated the sensor onto an ATK satellite bus at its Danbury, Conn., facility.  The satellite cost less than $100 million and was launched less than 30 months after it was ordered.

It was the fourth Minotaur launch from Wallops Island.   The flight was also the 30th orbital launch attempt of 2011..

r71773.jpg (4542 bytes)Soyuz Launches Spysat

A Soyuz-U rocket launched Kosmos 2472 toward low earth orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on June 27, 2011.  The satellite was believed to be a Kobalt M military photo reconnaissance satellite.  Liftoff from Area 16 Pad 2 occurred at 1600 UTC.  The ascent took about eight minutes. 

Kobalt M satellites have, in the past, periodically returned film in reentry canisters during their multi-month missions, which end with a primary capsule reentry. They typically enter orbits that range from 240 to 485 km altitude.  

r71772.jpg (5921 bytes)Soyuz-U Launches Progress M-11M Cargo Ship

Russia launch its third Progress cargo ship of 2011 on June 21, 2011.  A Soyuz-U boosted Progress M-11M with 2.6 tonnes of cargo into orbit from Baikonur's Area 1 Pad 5 at 14:38 UTC.   Progress reached a 194 x 240 km x 51.6 deg orbit about nine minutes after liftoff.

Progress M-11M is expected to dock with ISS on June 23.  The ship will bring food, water, propellant, and gifts from families for the six ISS crewmembers.  Cargo included fresh apples, grapefruits, lemons, onions, pickles, cheese, condensed milk, chocolate candies, dry fruit, nuts, DVDs and books.

The spaceship is carrying a new filling for the shield, which protects astronauts from space radiation. It lessens the radiation impact by 20% to 60%.

slsrefs.jpg (7510 bytes)Space Launch System Winners and Losers

Descriptions of SLS alternatives studied by NASA's Requirements Analysis Cycle (RAC) teams, including the Shuttle-Derived "winner" and the kerosene/LOX and modular "losers".

by:  Ed Kyle, June 17, 2011.

cz3b14.jpg (3586 bytes)China Orbits Communication Satellite

China's most powerful rocket, a CZ-3B, boosted Chinasat 10 (Zhongxing 10) into supersynchronous transfer orbit from XiChang launch center on June 20, 2011.   The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Pad 2 at 16:13 UTC on more than 600 tonnes of thrust provided by eight UDMH/N2O4 hypergolic YF-20B engines, four on the first stage and one on each of four strap-on boosters.  Chinasat 10, a 5.1 tonne satellite, was injected into a 207 km x 42,225 km x 26.3 deg orbit about 26 minutes after liftoff, after the rocket's liquid hydrogen upper stage had performed its second burn.

Zhongxing-10, a DFH-4 series spacecraft, was manufactured by China Academy of Space Technology (CALT).  It will provide communication, broadcasting and data transmission services for China and the Asia-Pacific region, replacing Zhongxing-5B, which was launched in 1998.

It was the second CZ-3B success 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.   Twelve of 14 CZ-3B launches performed since 1996 have succeeded.

safir3.jpg (11108 bytes)Iran Orbits Second Satellite

Iran used its two-stage Safir launch vehicle to successfully orbit its second satellite, named Rassad (Observation), on June 15, 2011.  The launch took place from the Dasht-e-Kavir desert southeast of Semnan, Iran

Rassad was tracked in a 236 x 299 km x 55.7 deg orbit along with the second stage, although Iranian reports said that the satellite was expected to enter a 260 km orbit.  The satellite, reported to weigh 15.3 kg, carries an Earth imager and is powered by solar panels.

Iran launched its first satellite
, Omid (Hope), in 2009, which made it the ninth country to join the "Space Club".  The success followed an initial Safir launch failure in 2008.

Iran's Safir launcher is believed to have been derived from Iran's Shahab ("Shooting Star") 3 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) series, itself thought to have been based on North Korea's No Dong missile.   The road-mobile rocket is erected by a transporter-erector next to a retractable umbilical tower on a flat pad.  The tower, which is retracted shortly before launch, is used to fuel the rocket and to provide arming access to the vehicle and payload.   Launches are aimed toward the southeast, toward the Arabian Sea.

d354.jpg (8673 bytes)Delta 2 Orbits SAC-D

Delta 354, a Delta 2-7320-10C with three strap-on motors boosting a two-stage core vehicle topped by a 10 foot diameter composite payload fairing, launched Argentina's SAC-D earth observing spacecraft into sun synchronous orbit from NASA's Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on June 10, 2011. Liftoff occurred at 14:20 UTC.

SAC-D (Satelite de Aplicaciones Cientificas) carried NASA's Aquarius sensor package.   Argentina's space agency, Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE) built the SAC-D spacecraft and some sensors. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and Goddard Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md were responsible for the Aquarius sensor package, which will map ocean surface salinity to better understand the links between ocean circulation, the global cycling of freshwater and climate.  SAC-D also carried instruments from France and Italy.

Delta's second stage fired twice to place 1,350 kg SAC-D into a 657 km x 98 deg orbit.  Spacecraft separation occurred about 54 minutes after liftoff.

Delta 354 was the 149th Delta 2, the 338th Thor-based Delta, and the 604th Thor-based orbital launch attempt.  It was also the 717th Thor-based launch, including suborbital attempts, in the family's 54 years of service.   Only two more Delta 2 launches remain on the schedule.  Unassembled parts for several more additional unassigned vehicles exist.
r71771.jpg (6619 bytes)Soyuz-FG Launches "Digital" Soyuz TMA-02M with ISS Crew

Soyuz TMA-02M with three crew for International Space Station Expedition 28 lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Area 1 Pad 5 on June 7, 2011.  The 1,771st R-7 rocket, flying in a  Soyuz-FG configuration, orbited the 7.2 tonne spacecraft after a 20:12 UTC liftoff.  On board were NASA's Michael Fossum, Russia's Sergei Volkov, and Japan's Satoshi Furukawa.

It was the 27th crewed Soyuz launch in support of ISS, and the 113th launch, manned or unmanned,  for ISS since 1998.  One-third of worldwide orbital launches year to date have been for ISS.

va202.jpg (1923 bytes)Ariane 5 Orbits Comsat Pair

An Ariane 5 ECA launched two communication satellites from Kourou Space Center on May 20, 2011.  The VA-202 mission lifted off from ELA-3 at 20:38 UTC with Asia's ST-2 and India's GSAT-8.   Both satellite's were deployed into geosynchronous transfer orbit during a 31-minute mission.

ST-2 is a 5.09 tonne DS2000 satellite built by Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Corporation for Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom Company.   in delivering IP-based fixed and mobile, voice and data transmission satellite services to businesses – especially direct broadcast TV operators and maritime companies in Asia and the Middle East. ST-2 is the first Mitsubishi satellite built for a non-Japanese customer.

GSAT-8 was built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and weighed about 3.1 tonnes. 

p364.jpg (10118 bytes)Proton Orbits Canadian Comsat

A 705 tonne Proton M/Briz M rocket carried Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul 2 into orbit from Area 200 Pad 39 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on May 20, 2011.  Liftoff occurred at 19:15 UTC to begin a 9 hour 13 minute mission that included five burns by the Briz M upper stage.  The final targeted orbit was 8,850 x 35,786 km x 13.8 deg. 

Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul 2 is 5.0 tonne Space Systems/Loral communication satellite built for Telesat Canada.

It was the year's first Proton launch.

sts134.jpg (8102 bytes)Shuttle Endeavour's Finale

NASA space shuttle Endeavour lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida's Launch Pad 39A on May 16, 2011.  Liftoff ocurred at 12:56 UTC .  Endeavour's final launch began the STS-134 mission to the International Space Station.

During the STS-134 mission, Endeavour and its six-member crew will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 (AMS), Express Logistics Carrier-3, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for the Dextre robotic helper to the space station.  Crew members include Mission Specialists Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel, Roberto Vittori with the European Space Agency and Michael Fincke, Pilot Greg H. Johnson, and Commander Mark Kelly.

Endeavour's first launch attempt on April 29 was scrubbed because of a faulty power distribution box called the aft load control assembly-2 (ALCA-2).

One more Shuttle flight, by Atlantis this summer, will close out the 30-year long Shuttle program.  The solid rocket boosters and external tank for that STS-135 mission have already been stacked.

av022-17.jpg (2922 bytes)Atlas 5 Orbits Early Warning Satellite

Atlas 5-401 tail number AV-022 successfully boosted SBIRS GEO 1 into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 7, 2011.  The two-stage 333 tonne rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 18:10 UTC.  AV-022's Centaur upper stage burned twice to insert SBIRS toward a targeted 185 x 35,786 km x 21.64 deg orbit.  Spacecraft separation occurred about 43 minutes after launch, following a 15 minute post-insertion coast.

SBIRS GEO 1 is the first geosynchronous component of the updated Space Based Infrared System.  The Lockheed Martin A2100 satellite weighed 4,833 kg at liftoff.

AV-022 was the third of up to five Atlas 5 launches planned for 2011.  It was also the year's 20th world-wide orbital launch attempt.   The flight was the 50th combined Atlas 5, Delta 2, and Delta 4 launch performed under the United Launch Alliance umbrella since the consortium was formed in December 2006.  All 50 reached orbit, but one Atlas 5 launch vehicle suffered a 2007 upper stage failure that left its NRO payload short of its planned orbit.    

r71770.jpg (4335 bytes)Soyuz 2-1A/Fregat Launches Meridian Milcomsat

A Soyuz 2-1A with a Fregat upper stage launched a Meridian military communications satellite for Russia on May 4, 2011.  The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Plesetsk Cosmodrome's Area 43 Pad 4 at 1741 UTC.  Soyuz 2-1A, an updated Soyuz with a digital control system and a larger-diameter payload fairing, lofted the Fregat upper stage and its Meridian payload to near-orbital velocity.  Fregat fired to reach an initial orbit, then fired twice more to push Meridian toward its planned 1,000 x 39,712 km x 62.8 deg "Molniya" type 12 hour orbit.  A fourth and final Fregat burn after Meridian separated lowered the stage's orbit.

It was the year's fifth R-7 flight, accounting for more than one-quarter of the world's orbital launches in 2011 to date.

progM10M.jpg (9971 bytes)Soyuz-U Orbits Progress M-10M

Progress M-10M, lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Area 1 Pad 5 on April 27, 2011 with cargo for the International Space Station.  The 2.5 stage Soyuz-U launch vehicle lifted off at 13:05 UTC and reached orbit about nine minutes later.  The robot cargo ship carried 2.7 tonnes of dry cargo, propellant, water, and oxygen for the station.   

Progress M-10M, the second Progress launch of 2011 and the sixth launch worldwide in support of ISS since January 1, will have to complete its planned ISS docking before the STS-134 launch can occur.  Both events are currently planned for April 29.   

v201.jpg (5998 bytes)Ariane 5 Launches Satcom Pair

The 30th Ariane 5 ECA launched communications satellites for Abu Dhabi and Intelsat from Guiana Space Center at Kourou on April 22, 2011. L558, a 2.5 stage 780 tonne rocket lifted off from ELA 3 at 21:37 UTC.  After a 35 minute mission, the ECA upper stage inserted both satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). 

Yahsat 1A, an Astrium Eurostar E3000 satellite weighing about 5,965 kg at launch, was deployed first.  Intelsat New Dawn, a 3,000 kg Star 2 series satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, was deployed after the Sylda 5 adapter was jettisonned.  The combined payload mass of 8,965 kg was the heaviest ever launched by an Ariane 5 to GTO.

The V201 launch had suffered an unprecedented last-second pad abort on March 30 when an actuator on the core stage Vulcain 2 main engine failed to respond properly during automated checks after the engine ignited but prior to solid motor ignition.  The rocket was rolled back to its assembly building where several actuators were replaced prior to the April 22 launch.

pslvc16.jpg (1880 bytes)India's PSLV-C16 Orbits Three Satellites

India's PSLV-C16, the 18th ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, orbited 1.206 tonne ResourceSat-2 and two microsatellites (0.092 tonne Indo-Russian YouthSat and Singapore's 0.106 tonne X-Sat) from Sriharikota on April 20, 2011.  PSLV-C16 was a standard PSLV with six S9 type solid strap-on motors.  The rocket lifted off from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota at 04:42 UTC.  PSLV-C16 aimed the satellites toward an 822 km polar sun synchronous orbit.

It was ISRO's first launch since the GSLV-F06 failure in December 2010.  PSLV-C16 scored the 16th PSLV success in 18 flights performed since the 1993 premier.  The rocket was the first standard PSLV to fly since 2007.

av027.jpg (6893 bytes)Atlas Launches NRO Payload

Atlas 5 AV-027, a 411 model with one strap on solid booster and a four meter diameter payload fairing, launched the NROL-34 mission from Vandenberg AFB on April 15, 2011.  The 2.5 stage, Russian-powered rocket lifted off from SLC 3E at 04:24 UTC.  A news blackout beginning shortly after second stage ignition prevented independent determination of launch success.

Observers spotted a pair of NOSS (Naval Ocean Surveillance System) type signals intelligence satellites in 1,100 x 63.4 deg orbits several days after the NROL-34 launch.

It was the 25th Atlas 5 launch since the EELV premiered in 2002, an average of less than three per year.  The low launch rate is responsible, in part, for recently announced substantial Atlas launch price increases.

cz3a20.jpg (11099 bytes)China Orbits Navsat

China continued building its Beidou navigation satellite constellation with a successful launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on April 9, 2011.  The 20th CZ-3A rocket boosted Beidou 8 into an inclined geoysynchronous transfer orbit with a 55 degree inclination after lifting off from Pad 3 at 20:47 UTC.  Three-stage CZ-3A is capable of lifting more than 2.6 tonnes to the achieved orbit. 

China plans to launch another two-dozen Beidou satellites to complete its initial constelltion.  The campaign swelled China's launch totals last year, and the tempo will continue in 2011.

soytma21.jpg (5985 bytes)Soyuz-FG Launches Soyuz TMA-21 with ISS Crew

Soyuz TMA-21 with three crew for the International Space Station launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome's Area 1 Pad 5 on April 4, 2011.  A 2.5 stage Soyuz-FG launch vehicle boosted the 7.2 tonne spacecraft into orbit after a 22:18 UTC liftoff.     

On board the year's first crewed Soyuz were commander Alexander Samokutyaev, flight engineer Andrey Borisenko and NASA astronaut Ronald Garan.  Their Soyuz orbital module was named "Gagarin" in honor of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic April 12, 1961 Vostok 1 orbital flight.