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Space Launch Report Archive

April-June, 2013

peg42iris.jpg (4845 bytes)Pegasus and Strela Fly to Orbit

Two more successful orbital launches occurred on June 27 and 28, ending a four-day span that saw four orbital launches world-wide. 

Russia’s Strela boosted a Kondor radar imaging satellite into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 175 Silo 59 on June 27.  The three-stage rocket, a minimally modified UR-100NUTTKh ICBM (also known as RS-18B or in NATO as SS-19 Mod 2 "Stilleto"), lifted off at 17:53 UTC.   Kondor, weighing 1.15 tonnes, was inserted into a 499 x 521 km x 74.74 orbit. 

It was the first Strela launch since a 2003 inaugural test flight.  The more commonly flown Rokot is also based on the UR-100NUTTKh, but is fitted with a Briz KM third stage rather than Strela's slightly modified ICBM warhead bus.   Strela burns storable hypergolic propellant, weighs about 105 tonnes at liftoff, is 28.27 meters long and 2.5 meters in diameter, and can lift 1.7 tonnes to LEO.

Orbital's Pegasus XL made an increasingly rare appearance on June 28 when it successfully lofted NASA's IRIS solar telescope into sun synchronous orbit after a drop launch off California's coast near Vandenberg AFB.   The drop from Orbital's Stargazer L-1011 aircraft occurred at 02:27:46 UTC.   IRIS (the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph) entered a 670 x 623 km x 97.9 deg orbit.  The third stage coasted for about five minutes to apogee before firing to accelerate IRIS into its orbit.  Lockheed Martin built the 183 kg IRIS satellite.   It will perform ultraviolet wavelength observations of the sun.

It was the 42nd Pegasus launch and the 32nd flight of a Pegasus XL, but it was also only the second Pegasus to fly since 2008.  No additional firm Pegasus launch commitments have been announced, though possibilities exist for a flight or two several years from now.

vs05.jpg (9381 bytes)Two Soyuz Launches in Two Hours

Two Russia Soyuz rockets performed successful orbital launches from bases in different hemispheres within a two hour period on June 25, 2013. 

A Soyuz 2-1b flew first, carrying 6.58 tonne Resurs P1 into a low Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrone Area 31 Pad 6.  The rocket lifted off at 17:28 UTC and reached orbit about nine minutes later.  Resurs P1 is a remote sensing satellite that will provide high-resolution digital imagry of Earth for the Russian government and for international customers.  

Another Soyuz 2-1b, topped by a Fregat upper stage, performed the second launch from the ELS pad at French Guiana at 19:27 UTC.  The rocket, flying Arianespace mission VS05, carried four 700 kg O3b broadband communications satellites into an unusual 7,830 km x 0.04 deg orbit.  Fregat performed three burns prior to separation of the first pair of satellites.  A short fourth burn by the Fregat reaction control system preceeded separation of the second pair of satellites, which occurred 2 hours 22 minutes after liftoff.  After separation, Fregat performed two more burns to reach a slightly higher disposal orbit.    O3b intends to deploy a constellation of spacecraft to provide broadband internet services.  Thales Alenia Space built the satellites.

cz2f11.jpg (9707 bytes)China Launches Crew to Orbit

A Chang Zheng 2F rocket launched Shenzhou 10 with three Chinese crew into orbit from Jiuquan space center on June 11, 2012.  Liftoff from the Mongolian desert base occurred at 09:38 UTC.   The 7.7 tonne spacecraft separated into a 200 x 329.8 km x 42.8 deg orbit about 10 minutes later.

On board were Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang, and Wang Yaping, China's second female "Hang Kong Yuan", or astronaut.  All are Chinese military officers.

Shenzhou 10 is slated to dock with China's Tiangong 1 module after two days.  They will remain docked for what is planned to be China's longest crewed space flight.  Tiangong 1, launched in 2011, hosted Shenzhou 9 last year.  After this mission the space module will be replaced by a larger lab named Tiangong 2.

r71806-2.jpg (13516 bytes)Soyuz 2-1b Orbits Advanced Russian Spysat

A Russian Soyuz 2-1b launch vehicle orbited that country's second Persona optical reconnaissance satellite on June 7, 2013.  Launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Area 43/4 took place at 18:37 UTC.  The approximately 6.5 tonne digital sensor based spy telescope was inserted into a low earth orbit about 10 minutes later.  Persona appeared to be in an initial 186 x 683 km x 98.3 deg sun synchronous orbit.

Persona uses a 1.5 meter diameter primary mirror and has a 20 meter focal length.   The first Persona, Kosmos 2441, was orbited on July 26, 2008, but suffered an electrical failure in orbit.  

va213.jpg (8726 bytes)Ariane 5 Orbits ATV-4 Cargo Ship

An Ariane 5ES with a storable propellant upper stage orbited Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) with cargo for the International Space Station on June 5, 2013.  The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from ELA 3 at Kourou Space Center in French Guiana at 21:52 UTC, shortly after sunset local time, to begin the Arianespace VA-213 mission.   ATV-4, named in honor of Albert Einstein, weighed 19,887 kg at launch making it the heaviest Ariane payload to date. 

The upper, or second, stage fired twice during the one hour mission to lift ATV-4 into a 259.4 km x 51.59 deg orbit.  It was the year's sixth launch to ISS.

ATV Albert Einstein carried 2,479 kg of dry cargo and 4,105 kg of water and propellants assigned to ISS use.

It was the fourth Ariane 5ES flight, the 44th "E" series Ariane 5, and the 69th Ariane 5 of all types. 

p387.jpg (8084 bytes)Proton Launches SES 6

A four-stage Proton M/Briz M rocked boosted the SES 6 communications satellite into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 3, 2013.  Liftoff from Area 200 Pad 39 took place at 09:18 UTC, beginning a more than 15.5 hour mission that included five Briz M upper stage burns.  The long duration mission was the result of a long coast to a planned final apogee burn for a targeted 4,482 x 65,000 km x 26.3 degree insertion orbit. 

SES 6 is a 6.1 tonne Astrium E3000 series satellite that will provide Ku-band and C-band communication services. 

It was the year's fourth Proton launch and the 387th flight overall of the Krunichev rocket.  It was the year's 10th orbital launch from Baikonur, twice as many as runner up Cape Canaveral.  Finally, it was the year's 13th launch powered by a Russian-built first stage and the 19th powered by Russian-built first stage engines.  No other country has accounted for more than two first stage engine sets year to date.   

r71805.jpg (17453 bytes)Soyuz TMA-09M Flies to ISS

A Soyuz FG rocket boosted Russia's Soyuz TMA-09M with three crew members on a four orbit, six hour ascent to the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 28, 2013.   Liftoff frrom Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 20:31 UTC.  It was the second use of the fast track ascent for crewed Soyuz spacecraft. 

On board were Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin, European Space Agency flight engineer Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg.  The three crewmembers are expected to stay at the station for 167 days. 

It was the year's seventh R-7 launch and the second crewed launch of the year. 

d362-2.jpg (27095 bytes)Delta 4 Orbits WGS-5

The 22nd Delta 4 launch vehicle, 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. 5 into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida on May 25, 2013.  The 66.3 meter tall liquid hydrogen fueled rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B at 00:27 UTC.  

DCSS performed two burns.  The first placed the vehicle in a 184.8 x 6,874.6 km x 25.297 deg parking orbit about 20 minutes after liftoff.   After an eight minute coast, the second, 3-minute long burn pushed the 5.988 tonne Boeing 702 series satellite into a 440.8 x 66,853.5 km x 24 deg transfer orbit.   Spacecraft separation occurred 40 minutes 38.5 seconds after liftoff. 

d362-10.jpg (11623 bytes)WGS-5 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 first Delta 4 launch since October 2012, when a successful mission was just barely achieved after a leak developed in the RL10B-2 second stage engine, reducing thrust and increasing burn times.  The WGS-5 launch was delayed by an extensive review of the problem, an inspection of the RL10B-2 engine, and by implementation of several changes to engine operation.    

av039.jpg (11377 bytes)Atlas 5 Boosts GPS 2F-4

An Atlas 5-401 lofted the U.S. Air Force GPS 2F-4 navigation satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral on May 15, 2013.   It was the first Atlas 5 launch of a GPS satellite.  The two-stage rocket launched from SLC 41 at 21:38 UTC on a mission identified as AV-039 in prior records but no longer identified as such on press materials by launch provider United Launch Alliance.  Atlas 5 flew on a northeast trajectory from the Cape. 

The Centaur second stage performed a long first burn to reach a 167 x 20,200 km x 55 deg transfer orbit.  After a three hour coast to apogee, Centaur ignited again to lift itself and its payload to a 20,200 km x 55 deg circular orbit.  The 1.54 tonne satellite separated from Centaur 3 hours and 24 minutes after liftoff.  

It was the year's fourth Atlas 5 launch.

p386.jpg (23424 bytes)Proton Launches Eutelsat 3D

A Proton M/Briz M launched Eutelsat 3D into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 14, 2013.  The four stage rocket lifted off from Area 200 Pad 39 at 16:02 UTC, beginning a 9 hour 13 minute mission featuring five Briz M upper stage burns.  The 5.5 tonne satellite was built by Europe's Thales Alenia Space using its Spacebus 4000 platform.  The Ku and Ka-band satellite will provide coverage across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.

It was the 80th International Launch Services Proton launch and the 386th Proton.

vv02-1.jpg (5383 bytes)Vega Flight VV-02

Europe's second Vega lifted off from Kourou French Guiana on May 7, 2013, carrying three satellites toward sun synchronous orbits.  Vega lifted off from the ZLV pad at 02:06 UTC to start a two hour mission.  The VV-02 flight orbited 140 kg Proba-V (Project for On-Board Autonomy and Vegetation), 120 kg VNREDSat-1 (a Vietnamese optical satellite), and 1.33 kg ESTCube-1 (the first Estonian cubesat).  The flight also tested Vega's VESPA  (Vega Secondary Payload Adapter) multiple satellite dispenser for the first time. 

Vega’s three solid propellant stages (P80, Zefiro-23 and Zefiro-9) performed the initial 6 minute 19 second ascent.  Vega's AVUM liquid fourth stage then performed five burns.  The first two burns put Proba-V into an 820 km x 98.7 deg orbit, with spacecraft separation occurring 55 minutes 27 seconds after liftoff.  The second two burns were to place the other two satellites, which rode inside VESPA, into a 665 x 98.1 deg km orbit.  The fifth burn was a planned deorbit burn for the KB Yuzhnoye powered, EADS built AVUM stage.
vv02-2.jpg (11821 bytes)VV-02 Liftoff

With satellites weighing a total of 255 kg and the 383 kg VESPA, Vega was lightly loaded during this VERTA (Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment) test flight.  The rocket is designed to lift 1,500-kg to a 700 km x 90 deg polar orbit.

The first Vega, VV-01, flew successfully in February 2012 on a qualification mission.

cz3b24.jpg (9668 bytes)China Launches Comsat

A CZ-3B rocket boosted Chinasat 11, a state-owned communications satellite, into geosynchronous transfer orbit on May 1, 2013 from Xichang launch center in Sichuan province in southwest China.   Liftoff occurred at 16:06 UTC.  Satellite separation into a 225 x 43,086 km x 26.64 deg orbit took place about 30 minutes later when the CZ-3B liquid hydrogen third stage completed its second burn.   

Chinasat 11 is a 5,234 kg DFH-4 series satellite developed by the China Academy of Space Technology.  It has Ku-band and C-band transponders. 

It was the 24th CZ-3B launch all time, and the second CZ launch of 2013.

r71804.jpg (13015 bytes)Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat Launches Navsat

Russia launched a Glonass M navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on April 26, 2013.   The launch by a Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat took place at 05:23 UTC from Area 43 Pad 4.   Glonass M separated into a 19,100 km x 64.8 deg orbit at 08:55 UTC after the Fregat stage performed an apogee burn.

Glonass has 23 operational satellites and five that are either spares or are undergoing "in-orbit maintenance". 

It was the year's 20th orbital attempt and the sixth R-7 launch, a world-leading number at the moment.  This was also the 1,800th R-7 to actually lift off, the 1,801th to attempt a lift off, and the 1,804th to either lift off or to be destroyed on the launch pad.  TsSKB Progress counts this as number 1,804.

cz2dy18.jpg (11476 bytes)CZ-2D Orbits Gao Fen 1 Observation Satellite

China's first orbital launch of 2013 placed the Gao Fen 1 earth observation satellite into orbit on April 26, 2013.  A two-stage CZ-2D, serial number Y18, performed the launch from Jiuquan launch center in northwest China.   Liftoff took place at 04:13 UTC.  Spacecraft separation occurred about 13 minutes later in a 630 x 654 x 98.06 deg km sun-synchronous orbit.

Three microsatellites were also released, including Ecuador's first satellite, named NEE-01 Pegasus, and satellites from Turkey (Turksat 3USAT) and Argentina (CubeBug 1).

r71802.jpg (3987 bytes)Progress M-19M Launched Toward ISS

A Soyuz U orbited ISS cargo ship Progress M-19M from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 24, 2013.   The 2.5 stage liquid oxygen/kerosene-burner lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 10:12 UTC.  Progress M-19M, loaded with 2.83 tonnes of supplies and propellant, entered a 193.5 x 247.2 km x 51.65 deg initial orbit. 

After reaching orbit, an antenna for the KURS automated rendezvous system failed to deploy on the Progress spacecraft.  Russian flight controllers have two days to troubleshoot the problem before Progress arrives at the International Space Station (ISS).  Backup manual procedures can be used if the antenna does not deploy.

aone1.jpg (4479 bytes)Inaugural Antares Reaches Orbit

After years of preparation, Orbital Science's Antares launch vehicle succeeded on its first, "COTS Risk Reduction" flight.  Antares A-ONE boosted its 3.8 tonne simulated Cygnus payload to orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia on April 21, 2013.  At about 277.45 tonnes gross liftoff weight, it was the largest rocket ever to fly from Wallops.

The Ukrainian/Russian/American built rocket rose from Pad 0A at 21:00 UTC on 332.94 tonnes of thrust produced by its two Aerojet AJ-26 (rebuilt Russian NK-33 engines dating from the 1970s) LOX/RP1 engines.  The engines burned for 230 seconds before shutting down.  Separation of the Ukrainian built first stage occurred five seconds later. 

The ATK Castor 30A powered second stage coasted for about 93 seconds before igniting.  During the coast, the payload fairing separated at 320 seconds, followed within ten seconds by separation of the 3.9 meter diameter interstage.  Second stage ignition occurred at T+328 seconds, beginning a 155 second burn that boosted the vehicle to a 241 x 260 km x 51.6 deg orbit.  Castor 30A averaged 29.83 tonnes of thrust during its burn.

Payload separation occurred about 10 minutes after engine start.  A set of microsatellites subsequently deployed.  All of the satellites and the upper stage are expected to reenter within a few weeks.

It was the first of ten Antares flights planned to occur during the next three years to haul cargo to the International Space Station.  The next flight will orbit the first live Cygnus cargo hauler on a test flight to ISS.   The remainder of the flights will be operational Cygnus missions, with most using a more powerful Castor 30XL second stage.

r71801.jpg (14126 bytes)Soyuz 2-1A Orbits Biology Research Craft

Russia's Soyuz 2-1A launched BION-M1, carrying a variety of small animals, into a 252 x 555 km x 64.9 deg orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on April 19, 2013.  Lift off took place at 10:00 UTC from Area 31 Pad 6.  BION-M1 includes a spherical reentry module that is planned to land after a one month flight. 

The payload includes mice, gerbils, geckos, snails, fish, and micro-organisms, which will be returned in the reentry module.

Bion-M is a 6.5 tonne modernized Vostok type spacecraft.   It uses Vostok's spherical reentry module, but a new Yantar type propulsion module replaces the original Vostok module.  The new propulsion module has solar arrays, which allow extended missions lasting up to six  months.

Six microsatellite payload rode along with Bion-M1, including AIST 2, Dove 2, BeeSat 2 and 3, SOMP, and OSSI 1.

p385.jpg (11426 bytes)Proton Launches Anik G1

The year's second Proton M/Briz M boosted Canada's Anik G1 into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 15, 2013.  Liftoff from Area 200 Pad 39 occurred at 19:36 UTC, beginning a 9-plus hour mission featuring five burns of the rocket's Krunichev-built Briz M upper stage.  The 4.9 tonne satellite was built by Canada's Space Systems/Loral. 

It was the 385th Proton flight, the 79th International Launch Services Proton launch, and the year's 15th confirmed orbital launch attempt by all rockets worldwide.

antares-a1-2.jpg (26421 bytes)Antares Rolls Out for A-ONE Test Flight

Second Antares First Stage Rolled Out with First "A-ONE" Flight Vehicle on April 6, 2013.

The first Antares flight vehicle, consisting of the second first stage to be delivered and the first Castor 30 stage, rolled out to Wallops Island, Virginia's Pad 0A on April 6, 2013.  The vehicle includes a dummy Cygnus spacecraft. 

The A-ONE flight, expected to take place in mid-April 2013, will be a ten minute test flight slated to boost the second stage and payload simulator into a 250 x 300 km x 51.6 deg orbit. 

Antares, with a Ukranian first stage powered by Russian engines, topped by an American second stage and payload fairing, is the world's most international launch vehicle.  It is designed to loft the Italian/American Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station.