|Space Launch Report Archive
3B Launches Comsat
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 3B rocket orbited
Apstar 7, a French-built communications satellite, on March 31, 2012. Liftoff from
Xichang LC 2 occurred at 10:27 UTC. An "Enhanced" CZ-3B, with improved
first stage and strap-on boosters, performed the mission.
The rockets's liquid hydrogen fueled third stage
performed two burns to lift 5,054 kg Apstar 7 into a 240 x 50,127 km x 27.42 deg
geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Apstar 7 is a Thales Alenia/Cannes Spacebus 4000C2
"ITAR-free" satellite built for Asia Pacific Telecom Satellite Co. Ltd. of Hong
Kong. It will serve China, the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, Australia, and part
Final Proton K Launched
Russia's final Proton K rocket, topped by the final Blok DM-2 upper
stage, successfully orbited an Oko-1 early warning satellite for Russia's Ministry of
Defense on March 30, 2012. Liftoff from Area 81 Pad 24 at Baikonur Cosmodrome in
Kazakhstan took place at 05:49 UTC. The Blok DM-2 upper stage inserted Oko-1,
identified as Kosmos 2479, into a 219 x 35,906 km x 49.28 deg geosynchronous transfer
orbit, then fired again several hours later to circularize the orbit.
Proton K serial 41018 with Blok DM-2 serial 117L
performed the mission. Proton K,
based on the two-stage UR-500 rocket, was developed by Vladimir Chelomei during the 1960s.
The first launch took place on March 10, 1967. During the past decade, the updated
Proton M series has gradually replaced Proton-K. Likewise, the Blok DM upper
stage is being replaced by the Krunichev Briz M stage.
Russia's Proton M/Briz M orbited Intelsat 22 from
Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 25, 2012. The 705 tonne, 58.2 meter tall
Khrunichev-built four-stage rocket lifted off from Area 200 Pad 39 at 12:10 UTC to begin
an unprecendented 15.5 hour long ascent to supersynchronous transfer orbit. During
the extended mission, the hypergolic storable fueled Briz M upper stage performed five
burns to lift the 6,199 kg Boeing 702MP communications satellite, the first of its type,
into a 3,791 km x 65,000 km x 28.5 degree orbit.
Intelsat 22 will be positioned at 72 degrees East in
geostationary orbit to provide Ku-band capacity for the Middle East and eastern Africa,
C-band coverage for most of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and eastern Asia. The
satellite also carries an Ultra-High Frequency payload for the Australian Defence Force.
The first three Proton stages placed Briz M and payload
into a sub-orbital trajectory. Briz M fired to reach a circular parking orbit, then
fired four more times to reach its final transfer orbit.
Launches ISS Cargo Ship
Ariane 5 ES vehicle L553 successfully orbited Europe's
third ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle), named Edoardo Amaldi, toward the International
Space Station (ISS) on March 23, 2012. Liftoff from Kourou's ELA 3 occurred at
At 19.714 tonnes, ATV-3 was Ariane's heaviest-ever
payload. Edoardo Amaldi carried 6.96 tonnes of cargo, including on-board propellant,
The rocket's hypergolic EPS stage fired twice to deploy
ATV-3 into a 260 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Separation occurred about one hour after
liftoff. About 90 minutes later, EPS performed a third, deorbit burn.
It was the 61st Ariane 5 launch and the third Ariane 5
ES flight. Prior ES missions orbited ATV-1 "Jules Verne" in 2008 and ATV-2
"Johannes Kepler" in 2011.
Atlas 5 with
200th Centaur Orbits its Heaviest Payload
AV-030, an Atlas 5-551 with five strap on
solid motors and a five meter diameter payload fairing, lifted the U.S. Navy's Mobile User
Objective System (MUOS 1) communications satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida
on February 24, 2012. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at at 22:15
UTC. The Centaur upper stage, performing a landmark 200th Centaur flight, performed
three burns during a 3 hour mission to place MUOS 1 into a 35,786 x 3,461 km x 19 deg
geosynchronous transfer orbit.
At 6.8 tonnes, MUOS 1
was the heaviest payload launched to date by an Atlas 5. It was the 29th Atlas 5 and
the third by Atlas 5-551, the most powerful variant.
Centaur, the world's
first liquid hydrogen fueled upper stage, was originally developed by NASA to fly atop
Rocketdyne powered balloon-tank Atlas boosters. Beginning in 1962, 148 Atlas-Centaur
launch attempts occurred. During the 1970s, seven Centaurs flew on Titan 3E rockets,
boosting, among other payloads, NASA's Viking Mars landers and Voyager deep space probes.
Subsequently, 16 fat-tank Centaur stages flew atop Titan 4 launch vehicles
for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Over five decades of service, 12 of the 200 flown
Centaur stages suffered an in-flight failure. These included propulsion, structural,
control, and guidance/control system failures. Of the 12 Centaur failures, 9 were on
Atlas Centaur and one each were on Atlas 5, Titan 3E, and Titan 401B.
Zheng Orbits Navsat
China supplemented its navigation satellite
constellation on February 24, 2012 when a CZ-3C rocket orbited Beidou 11 (2-G5) from
Xichang space center. The 3.5 stage launch vehicle lifted off at 16:12 UTC from Pad
2. After two liquid hydrogen fueled upper stage burns, the satellite separated into
a 203 x 36,012 km x 20.54 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.
China is in the process of building a 30-satellite
It was China's third orbital launch of the year.
Big SES Satellite
A previously twice-delayed Proton M Briz M rocket
successfully orbited the SES 4 communications satellite for SES of Luxembourg on February
14, 2012. The 373rd Krunichev Proton lifted off from Baikonur's Area 200 Pad 39 at
19:36 UTC to begin its 9 hour 13 minute mission. The Briz M fourth stage performed
five burns to lift the 6.18 tonne Space Systems/Loral 1300 series satellite into a 3,714 x
35,786 km x 24.6 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The launch was the 70th Proton mission performed for
International Launch Services.
SES 4 will provide extensive C and Ku-band coverage
across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Western Africa and Latin America.
Vega Qualification Flight Success
Europe's new Vega launch vehicle performed a successful
inaugural qualification flight on February 13, 2012. The small launcher lifted off
at 10:00 UTC from the former ELA 1 pad, rebuilt as the Vega Launch Site (ZLV: Zone de
Lancement Vega) at the Guiana Space Centre, in Kourou, French Guiana. Flying the
VV01 mission for the European Space Agency (ESA), Vega orbited two scientific satellites
and seven picosatellites. These included Italys 400 kg LARES laser relativity
satellite, the 12.5 kg ALMASat-1 technology microsatellite demonstrator from the
University of Bologne, and seven 1kg university CubeSats.
Vega is powered by three solid propellant stages and a
liquid-propellant fourth stage. The P80FW first stage, roughly speaking, corresponds
to one segment of the standard P230 Ariane 5 booster, but is only loaded with 88.365
tonnes of HTPB propellant. A P230 uses two 100 tonne segments and one 30 tonne
segment. In addition, P80FW uses a carbon-epoxy
filament-wound motor casing rather than the steel casing used by P230.
The Zefiro-Z23 second stage and Zefiro-Z9A third stage
were developed in Italy for Vega. Vegas liquid fourth stage, the restartable,
hypergolic bipropellant Attitude and Vernier Upper Module (AVUM), is powered by a 250 kgf
Ukranian RD-869 engine. AVUM is loaded with 550 kg of UDMH/NTO propellant in four
tanks. Vega is topped by a 2.6 meter diameter payload fairing.
The four-stage rocket is designed to inject
1,500 kg into a 700 km x 90 deg polar orbit. Vega weighed 136.7 tonnes at liftoff
and stood 30.1 meters with a maximum diameter of 3 meters.
During the VV01 mission, AVUM performed
three burns. The first burn trimmed the vehicle into a transfer orbit. After a
40 minute coast, the second burn pushed the stage into a 1,450 km x 69.5 deg circular
orbit, where it released LARES. AVUM then fired again to reduce the perigee to 350
km before deploying the other payloads.
Vega was developed by the European Space
Agency, Italys ASI space agency, and the French CNES space agency. ELV SpA is
the prime contractor.
Iran Orbits Third Satellite
Iran performed its fourth Earth orbiting satellite
attempt using its Safir launch
vehicle on February 3, 2012. The home-built Navid-e Elm-o Sanat satellite, fitted
with an imaging payload, reportedly weighed 50 kg. Safir
lifted off from the Dasht-e-Kavir
desert southeast of Semnan, Iran at about 00:04 UTC and boosted
Navid-e Elm-o Sanat into a 375 x 276 km x 56 deg orbit.
Iran launched its first
satellite, Omid (Hope), in 2009, which made it the ninth country to join the
"Space Club". A second success occurred in 2011 when a Safir orbited the
The successes 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.
Orbits Progress M-14M
Russia's Soyuz U launched Progress M-14M, loaded with
2.66 tonnes of cargo for the International Space Station (ISS), from Baikonur Space Center
in Kazakhstan on January 25, 2012. The 3-stage rocket lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5
at 23:06 UTC.
It was the first of five Progress cargo flights planned
Delta 4 Lifts MilComSat WGS-4
Delta 358, a Delta 4M+5,4 consisting of a common booster
core augmented by four solid rocket motors, a five meter diameter Delta cryogenic second
stage (DCSS), and a five meter diameter payload fairing, boosted Wideband Global SATCOM
No. 4 into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida on January 20,
2012. The 66.3 meter tall orange and white rocket lifted off from Space Launch
Complex 37B at 00:38 UTC. DCSS performed two burns to push the 5.988 tonne Boeing
built satellite into a 439 x 66,872 km x 24 deg transfer orbit during the 40 minute 47
second long mission.
WGS-4 will provide 500 MHz range, X-band,
and 1 GHz range (Ka-band) communication links for the Pentagon. It can support up to
3.6 Gbps data transmission rates.
It was the 18th Delta 4 mission, but only
the second flight of a Delta 4M+5,4 variant, the only single-core version that flies a
five-meter DCSS. The RL10-powered DCSS is under consideration for use as an interim
cryogenic propulsion stage for NASA's planned Space Launch System.
Launches Weather Satellite
China's CZ-3A successfully launched Fengyun
2-07, a weather satellite, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on January 13, 2012.
Liftoff from LC3 occurred at 00:56 UTC. The rocket's liquid hydrogen fueled third
stage performed two burns to insert the satellite into a 224 x 35,941 km x 24.3 deg
geosynchronous transfer orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred 28 minutes after
It was the 23rd CZ-3A launch, performed by
CZ-3A tail number Y22.
A CZ-4B orbited China's Ziyuan 3 remote sensing
satellite, along with a smaller VesselSat 2 satellite from Luxemburg, from the Taiyuan
Satellite Launch Center in northern Shanxi province. Liftoff occurred at 03:17
The 2,650 kg primary satellite entered an approximate
500 km x 97.5 deg sun sychronous orbit about 12 minutes after it was launched.
VesselSat 2 entered a similar orbit.
Ziyuan 3 will provide information for
"land-resources surveys, natural-disaster prevention, agriculture development,
water-resources management, and urban planning", according to China news sources.