|Space Launch Report Archive
Performs First Crew Launch of 2013
A Soyuz FG rocket boosted Russia's Soyuz TMA-08M with
three crew members into a planned fast track orbit to the International Space Station from
Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 28, 2013. Liftoff frrom Area 1 Pad 5 took place at
20:43 UTC. For the first time, the Soyuz was planned to dock with ISS less than five
hours after liftoff.
On board were Russia's Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander
Misurkin and U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy. They will join the Expedition 35
crew at ISS, which includes Canada's Chris Hadfield, NASA's Thomas Marshburn, and Russia's
It was the 1,800th R-7, according to TsSKB Progress
lists, but those numbers include several pre-launch on-pad accidents that are not counted
as launch attempts in other launch databases. R-7, the world's most oft-flown
orbital launcher, has flown continously since 1957, initially as an ICBM but primarily as
the booster for a long series of manned and unmanned launch vehicles.
On March 26, 2013, Russia's Proton M/Briz M returned to
flight after a nearly four month grounding following a December failure. The 384th
Proton lifted Mexico's Satmex 8 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer
orbit. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 200 Pad 39 in Kazakhstan occurred at
19:06 UTC to start a 9 hour 13 minute long mission. The Briz M upper stage performed
five burns during the mission. Satmex 8 is a SS/Loral 1300 series satellite that
weighed nearly 5.5 tonnes at liftoff.
It was the 78th International Launch Services Proton
Khrunichev Research and Production Space Center of
Moscow builds both Proton and Briz. On December 8, 2012, a Briz M upper stage failed
during the fourth of five planned burns, leaving Yamal 402 in a low transfer orbit.
The satellite subsequently raised itself into an operational geostationary orbit, but at a
cost of four years of its planned 15 year life. A Failure Review Oversight Board
(FROB) determined that a turbopump was damaged during the third burn, leading to its
failure during the fourth burn. The turbopump was damaged when it ingested oxidizer
in gas, rather than liquid form. Oxidizer was heated to a gas state due to high
thermal soak-back of the engine to the Briz M stage prior to the third burn.
Atlas 5 Launches Early Warning Satellite
An Atlas 5-401 successfully boosted SBIRS GEO-2 (Space
Based Infrared System Geosynchronous) into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) from Cape
Canaveral on March 19, 2013. The two-stage rocket lifted off from SLC 41 at 2121 UTC
to begin its 43 minute, 12.6 second mission - a mission identified as AV-037 in prior
records, but no longer identified as such publically by launch provider United Launch
Alliance. It was the third Atlas 5 to fly in 2013.
Atlas 5 flew east from the Cape. Its Energomash
RD-180 first stage engine burned for 243 seconds. Six seconds after RD-180 shut
down, the Centaur second stage separated. Centaur's RL10A-4-2 LH2/LOX engine ignited
259 seconds after liftoff to perform the first of two burns. The first nearly 11
minute burn put the vehicle into a parking orbit. The 4 meter diameter payload
fairing separated 8 seconds after Centaur ignited. After a 9 minute coast, Centaur's
second, 4-minute long burn lofted SBIRS GEO-2 into a planned 185 x 35,786 km x 22.19 deg
GTO. Spacecraft separation occurred 15 minutes later at the 43 minute 12.6 second
SBIRS is a follow-on to the long-running,
once-classified Defense Support Program (DSP), which used infrared sensing telescopes
mounted in spinning satellites in geosynchronous orbit to provide early warning to the
U.S. for Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launches. SBIRS GEO-2 is a 3-axis
stabilized A2100M Lockheed Martin satellite believed to weigh about 4.5 tonnes. It
has a scanning sensor and a staring sensor and is more capable than DSP, but is also far
more expensive - so expensive that the entire program at one point had to be scaled back
from original plans.
Epsilon, and Delta 2
Space Launch Report has added new reports on Europe's Ariane 6 development efforts, Japan's upcoming low-cost Epsilon launch vehicle, and has wrapped up a 15 part review
of the U.S. Thor/Delta family. These join many other
launch vehicle fact sheets on the Library page.
Propulsion Anomaly Resolved After Successful Falcon 9 Launch (Updated 3/26/13)
The fifth SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket orbited a Dragon
spacecraft on NASA's CRS-2 International Space Station resupply mission on March 1, 2013,
but Dragon suffered a problem shortly after reaching orbit. The initally unannounced
problem occurred around the time that Dragon's solar arrays should have deployed, a
process that occurs within minutes of spacecraft separation from the Falcon 9 second
Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Launch
Complex 40 at 15:10 UTC and provided an uneventful nine minute, two-stage ascent to orbit.
Dragon, filled with 847.8 kg of ISS supplies and 201.8 kg of packing materials,
separated into a 199 x 323 km x 51.66 deg orbit, and was visible moving away from the
second stage in an initially stable fashion.
Shortly after launch, SpaceX head Elon Musk tweeted that
three of Dragon's four thruster pods had been inhibited from initiallizing. Crews
were working to command an override of those inhibits. Solar array deployment was
delayed until at least two thruster pods were brought on line. Each pod contains
four or five hypergolic Draco thrusters, for a total of 18 thrusters.
After one orbit, Dragon was still in free drift with
only Thruster Pod 2 working. A problem had occurred that prevented helium
pressurization of the hypergolic thruster oxidizer tanks in the affected thruster pods,
but by 16:40 Mr. Musk was reporting that "Thruster Pod 3 tank pressure trending
positive" and that the team was "preparing to deploy solar arrays."
The arrays deployed shortly after that announcement.
Drifts from Falcon's Second Stage After Separation. The Trunk and Stowed Solar
Arrays are Visible
At 19:59 UTC, nearly 4.5 hours after liftoff, Musk
tweeted: "Pods 1 and 4 now online and thrusters engaged. Dragon transitioned from
free drift to active control." Dragon subsequently performed a series of orbit
raising burns, beginning with a brief five-second test burn at 21:37 UTC and a nearly 36
second long perigee-raising burn at 22:05 UTC.
Dragon's helium pressurization problems occurred after
main isolation valves were opened to release high pressure helium system. The helium
passes through regulators that drop its pressure to a level that can be safely fed into
the hypergolic propellant tanks of the pressure-fed Dragon reaction control system.
Check valves ensure that helium flows only into the tanks and that no propellant or helium
flows back out.
An obstruction, or obstructions, appeared somewhere in
the helium feed system. Elon Musk stated that one possibility was at the check
valves, but that other possibilities existed. Ice formation due to moisture in the
system is one possible explanation, for example. After waiting for ground station
passes to allow for command uplinks - satellite links were impossible due to Dragon's
drifting - SpaceX engineers cycled the helium isolation valves to "hammer" the
system with slugs of pressure, a process that eventually cleared the lines and allowed the
tanks to be pressurized.
Arrives at ISS
The issues delayed Dragon's planned orbit raising burns,
which in turn delayed its planned March 2 ISS rendezvous. On March 2, NASA announced
that after a safety review it had approved a March 3 attempt.
CRS-2 Dragon rendezvoused with and berthed to ISS on
March 3, 2013. The station's Canadarm 2, controled by astronaut Kevin Ford, captured
Dragon at 10:31 UTC. Ground controlers in Houston directed the arm to berth Dragon
to the station's Harmony module, a process completed at 13:56 UTC.
CRS-2 Dragon Approaches Spashdown
Dragon stayed at ISS until March 26. Astronauts
off-loaded cargo and then reloaded the capsule with 1,210.9 kg of materials and 159.7
kg of packaging to be returned to Earth. The CRS-2 Dragon reentered a few hours
after unberthing from ISS and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja,
Prior to the launch, the CRS-2 Falcon 9, which
reportedly will be the final Falcon v1.0 variant to fly, performed a two-second long
static test fire on the pad, on February 25, 2013.
Indias Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)
performed its C-20 mission on February 25, 2013, lofting seven satellites into sun
synchronous orbit from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota, India. The "Core
Alone" PSLV lifted off from the First Launch Pad at 12:31 UTC. The rocket boosted its
payloads to 781 x 791 km x 98.5 deg orbits.
SARAL (Satellite with ARGOS and AltiK) was the 409 kg primary payload. The satellite will
be operated jointly by ISRL and France's CNES to study ocean surface topography.
Secondary payloads included two Canadian satellites and four nanosatellites. Sapphire, a
148 kg surveillance satellite, was built by the U.K.'s Surrey Satellite Technolgy Ltd for
Canadas Department of National Defense. Canadian Space Agency's 74 kg NEOSSat (Near
Earth Object Surveillance Satellite) will look for asteroids with its 15 cm telescope.
The University of Toronto coordinated three nanaosatellites (UniBRITE, TUGSAT-1, and
AAUSAT3) involving organizations in Canada, Austria and Poland. Together these weighed
about 31 kg. A fourth nanosat was Britian's STRaND 1 (Surrey Training Research and
Nanosatellite Development), built and operated by SSTL. It included Android smartphone
Atlas 5 Launches
Landsat (updated March 5, 2013)
An Atlas 5-401 successfully orbited NASA's Landsat Data
Continunity Mission (LCDM) satellited from Vandenberg Air Force Base on February 11,
2013. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 3 East occurred at 18:02 UTC. After a
14.4 minute ascent to a 166 x 693 km x 92.65 deg parking orbit, a 55 minute Centaur coast,
and a three minute long second burn of the RL10 liquid hydrogen fueled engine, LCDM
separated into a 661 x 676 km x 98.2 deg sun synchronous orbit.
LCDM is a 2.77 tonne earth observation satelitte built
by Orbital Sciences. It was NASA's second satellite launched by an Atlas in two
weeks. Because Atlas 5-401 is able to lift 6.7 tonnes to sun synchronous orbit, the
excess capacity was used for a third RL10 burn to expel the Centaur stage from Earth orbit
into a heliocentric disposal orbit.
It was the sixth Atlas 5 launch from Vandenberg AFB and
the first for NASA. Including this flight, seven of the year's first nine launches
were powered off the pad by Russian rocket engines.
A Soyuz U rocket orbited Russia's Progress M-18M cargo
ship from Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 11, 2013 on a four orbit quick ascent to
the International Space Station. The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Area 1
Pad 5 at 14:41 UTC to start its "rapid rendezvous" profile designed to redezvous
with ISS about six hours after lift off.
Progress M-18M carried 2.64 tonnes of propellant, gases,
water, and dry cargo. With the launch, R-7 becomes the first rocket to fly more than
once during the year.
5 Orbits Two Satellites
An Ariane 5 ECA orbited two communication satellites
from Kourou, French Guiana on February 7, 2013. Arianespace mission VA-212 lofted
Amazonas 3 and Azerspace/Africasat-1a into geostationary transfer orbit during a 37 minute
flight that began with a 21:36 UTC liftoff from ELA 3.
The combined payload weighed 9.5 tonnes. Amazonas
3, a Space Systems/Loral 1300 platform, weighed 6.265 tonnes. It will provide high
power communication services in Europe, America and North Africa.
Azerspace/Africasat-1a is a 3 tonne Orbital Sciences Star-2 satellite built for
Azercosmos OJSC, Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of the Republic
of Azerbaijan. It will provide a communications services for Azerbaijan, Central
Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Amazonas 3 rode in the upper position atop the Sylda
payload adapter. Final orbit was 247 x 35,914 km x 5.99 deg. It was the 40th
Ariane 5 ECA flight and the 39th success.
2-1a/Fregat Orbits Six Globalstar Satellites
A Soyuz 2-1a with a Fregat upper stage performed the
ST-26 mission for Starsem on February 6, 2013 when it orbited six second-generation
Globalstar satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome. Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 occurred
at 16:04 UTC. The Fregat stage deployed the six 700 kg Thales Alenia Space-built
satellites into approximately 920 km x 52 deg orbits one hour 40 minutes later.
The launch completed Globalstar's second-generation
24-satellite constellation, an effort that required four launches beginning in 2010.
It was also the final Starsem launch planned from Baikonur.
Zenit Fails (Updated Febraury 2, 2013)
A Zenit 3SL/Blok DMSL failed shortly after launch from
Sea Launch Odyssey launch platform in the equatorial Pacific Ocean on February 1, 2013,
destroying the rocket and its Intelsat 27 satellite payload. It was the fourth Sea
Launch failure in 35 flights, breaking a string of 10 consecutive successes spanning six
Liftoff occurred at 06:56 UTC. The rocket rose for
about 23 seconds before appearing to veer just before its RD-171M main engine suddenly cut
out, darkening the scene. Webcast video then showed a brief flash of light about 58
seconds after liftoff, possibly indicating the time of impact with the ocean surface.
No injuries or damage to Sea Launch floating systems were reported.
The behavior was consistent with an emergency cut off
command given to the main engine, a range safety procedure used with Ukrainian and Russian
rockets that have flown out of control.
Sea Launch later announced that it had lost telemetry
signals about 40 seconds after liftoff, and that it would conduct an investigation to
determine the cause. Russian news services reported that the flight had been
terminated after drifting from its planned flight path. RD-171M engine manufacturer
NPO Energomash director Vladimir Solntsev stated that the engine had worked nominally and
that it was not involved in the failure.
Failure Review Oversight Board
On February 2, Sea Launch announced that 11.4 seconds into flight, "the Zenit flight
control system detected an exceedance of a pre-programmed roll limit" indicating a
loss of vehicle control, triggering the on-board thrust termination sequence. The
sequence terminated the RD-171M main engine thrust 20 seconds into the flight. The
rocket and its payload impacted the Pacific Ocean surface about 4 km from the Odyssey
Sea Launch announced that a Failure Review Oversight
Board (FROB) would investigate the failure, focusing on systems involved in the thrust
vector control of the first stage engine.
27 Launch Vehicle During Testing at Long Beach
Intelsat 27 was a 6.215 tonne satellite built by Boeing
Satellite Services. It would have been inserted into geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Zenit 3SL consists of a two-stage rocket Zenit 2S
developed by SDO Yuzhnoye of Ukraine, topped by a Blok DMSL upper stage manufactured by
Russia's RSC Energia, the majority owner of Sea Launch itself. Russia's NPO
Energomash provides engines for the first two stages.
It was the 80th Zenit series launch since the family
entered service in 1985, and the 13 failure.
Sea Launch had conducted four successful missions since
emerging from its 2009 bankruptcy.
A two-stage Atlas 5-401 successfully orbited NASA's
TDRS-K (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) from Cape Caneveral on January 31, 2013,
following the shortest ever Atlas 5 launch campaign. Liftoff from Space Launch
Complex 41 took place at 01:48 UTC. TDRS-K, a Boeing Space System 601 model that
weighed 3.454 tonnes, separated into a 4,313 x 35,789 km x 25.9 deg geosynchronous
transfer orbit (GTO) about 1 hour 46 minutes later.
The Russian powered first stage burned for 4 minutes 2
seconds. (It was the second Energomash powered orbital launch within 24 hours.)
This was followed by a 14 minute 12 second long Centaur second stage burn that
boosted the vehicle into a 183 x 24,854 km x 26.5 deg parking orbit. After a 1 hour,
33 minute coast, Centaur reignited for a brief burn to accelerate TDRS-K into its final
United Launch Alliance processed this Atlas faster by
skipping the standard wet dress rehearsal process. Skipping WDR saved time, but
slightly increased the odds of problems cropping up during the final propellant loading
phase of the countdown.
Orbital Launch from South Korea
A joint Russian/South Korean rocket named "Korean
Space Launch Vehicle-1" (KSLV-1) successfully orbited South Korea's STSAT-2C
satellite from Naro Space Center in South Korea on January 30, 2013. The success
followed two previous KSLV launch failures from the same site in 2009 and 2010. The
flight added South Korea to the list of 13 countries that have hosted orbital
The two-stage rocket, consisting of a Russian Krunichev
Angara-derived kerosene/LOX first stage topped by a South Korean KARI solid fuel second
stage, lifted off at 07:00 UTC. The 33 meter tall, 2.9 meter diameter,
140 tonne rocket rose on 170 tonnes of thrust produced by a single Energomash RD-151
staged combustion cycle engine. The stage burned for almost 229 seconds, with
payload fairing separation occuring shortly before the RD-151 shut down.
The KARI second stage, consisting of a solid motor
attached beneath an approximately 2 meter diameter structure that housed guidance and
flight control equipment, then separated and coasted for a couple of minutes,
approximately, before beginning its nearly 58 second long burn. The 2.4 meter long,
1 meter diameter second stage motor produced 8 tonnes of thrust while using 3-axis control
provided by reaction control thrusters during its coast and burn.
100 kg STSAT-2C separated into a 296 x 1,513 km x 80.3
deg orbit about nine minutes after liftoff.
The 2009 KSLV-1 failure was caused by one of the two
payload fairing halves failing to separate. In 2010, the second KSLV-1 exploded two
minutes into flight, during the first stage burn.
H-2A Launches Japan Spysats
An H-2A-202 with two SRB-A strap on motors orbited a
pair of intelligence gathering satellites for Japan on January 27, 2012. H-2A F-22
carried Information Gathering Satellite (IGS) Radar-4 and the IGS Optical 5 Demonstration
Satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 at the Tanegashima
Space Center. Both satellites separated within 26 minutes of the 04:40 UTC launch.
The radar satellite, which rode in the uppermost position in the
payload fairing, is believed to provide a resolution of less than a meter. The
demonstration optical satellite may provide resolution of less than 0.5 meters.
F-22 flew southeast from Tanegashima, then turned south in a
substantial dogleg maneuver in order to keep rocket debris off of the east coast of the
Philippines. The maneuver costs H-2A substantial performance, limiting it to about
4.4 tonnes payload to sun synchronous orbit.
Orbits Russian Defense Satellites
A Rokot with a Briz-KM upper stage orbited three
Strela-3M (Rodnik-S) military communication satellites from Area 133 Pad 3 at Russia's
Plesetsk cosmodrome on January 15, 2013, in the year's first orbital launch. Liftoff
occurred at 16:24 UTC. The satellites, identified as Kosmos-2482, 2483, and 2484, were
inserted by the upper stage into near 1,500 km x 83 deg orbits at 18:09 UTC. The
Briz KM stage performed an initial burn to reach orbit, then performed an insertion burn
at transfer orbit apogee.
Strela-3M satellites weigh about 225 kg each. The
flight had been postponed several weeks by problems with the Briz-KM control system.