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Space Launch Report Archive

January-March 2012

cz3b19.jpg (6200 bytes)CZ 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 of Europe.

p375.jpg (6197 bytes)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.

p374.jpg (6683 bytes)Proton Orbits Intelsat 22

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.

va205.jpg (9963 bytes)Ariane 5 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 04:34 UTC.

At 19.714 tonnes, ATV-3 was Ariane's heaviest-ever payload.  Edoardo Amaldi carried 6.96 tonnes of cargo, including on-board propellant, for ISS. 

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.

av030-5.jpg (4173 bytes)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.

cz3c8.jpg (7243 bytes)Chang 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 Beidou constellation.

It was China's third orbital launch of the year.

p373.jpg (17762 bytes)Proton Orbits 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.

vv01a.jpg (6506 bytes)vv01b.jpg (7170 bytes)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 Italy’s 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.  Vega’s 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, Italy’s ASI space agency, and the French CNES space agency.  ELV SpA is the prime contractor. 

safir04.jpg (8090 bytes)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 Rassad satellite.   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.

r71785.jpg (8481 bytes)Soyuz U 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 for 2012.

d358.jpg (12270 bytes)d358b.jpg (10473 bytes)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

cz3a23.jpg (19038 bytes)CZ-3A 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 liftoff.

It was the 23rd CZ-3A launch, performed by CZ-3A tail number Y22.

cz4b16.jpg (5586 bytes)China Orbits Mapping Satellite

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 UTC. 

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.