|Space Launch Report Archive
2-1v Inaugural Launch Success
Russia's Soyuz 2-1v, a new small satellite launch
vehicle, achieved success during its inaugural launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on December
28, 2013. The two stage rocket, topped by a multiple-restart capable Volga third stage for
orbit trim maneuvers, carried the 50 kg Aist satellite and two lightweight SKRL-765 radar
calibration spheres into a roughly 600 x 625 km x 82.42 deg orbit following a 12:30 UTC
liftoff from Site 43 Pad 4. The first two stages lifted Volga and its payloads into an
initial roughly 260 x 600 km x 82.43 deg transfer orbit. Volga fired at apogee to
circularize the orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred at about 14:10 UTC.
Soyuz 2-1v stands 44 meters tall and weighs about 157 tonnes at liftoff. It uses the
existing Soyuz 2-1b third stage as a second stage. The first stage is newly developed
except for the top portion of the upper LOX tank, which is borrowed from the Soyuz 2-1b
core stage. A single chamber NK-33A staged combustion LOX/kerosene engine, augmented by a
four-chamber RD-0110R steering engine, powers the first stage. At liftoff, the engines
combine to produce more than 179 tonnes of sea level thrust. About 88% of the total thrust
is produced by the NK-33A, an engine originally created as part of the Soviet Union's N1
lunar rocket program during the 1970s.
The first stage kerosene tank and the
lower part of the LOX tank are 2.66 meters in diameter, fatter than the old Soyuz core's
2.15 meters diameter. The common upper tank section still flares out to 2.95 meters in
diameter, allowing both Soyuz launcher types to share launch pad equipment.
The first stage burns for about 250 seconds. The
Blok I second stage, which is also powered by a staged combustion LOX/kerosene engine,
burns for about 270 seconds.
Soyuz 2-1v can lift 2.85 tonnes to a 200 km x 51.6 deg orbit from Baikonur, or 1.4 tonnes
to an 835 km sun synchronous orbit from Plesetsk.
Soyuz 2-1v plans call for the NK-33A engine to be
replaced by a more powerful Energomash RD-193 engine derived from the RD-191 Angara
engine, which in turn was derived from the RD-170/180 family that power Zenit and Atlas 5
rockets. The decision to use RD-193 rather than restarting long-shelved NK-33A
production will also likely affect the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket, which is currently
using up a dwindling stock of refurbished NK-33 engines.
Launches Ekspress AM5
A Proton M/Briz M launched Russia's Ekspress-AM5
communications satellite into near-geosynchronous orbit from snow-covered Baikonur,
Kazakhstan on December 26, 2013. The four-stage rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad
24 at 10:49:56 UTC and quickly disappeared into the frozen haze hovering above the
steppe. The Briz M upper stage performed a more than nine hour long, four-burn
mission to lift the 3.2 tonne satellite into its final orbit. Spacecraft separation
occurred at about 20:10 UTC.
It was the year's 80th announced orbital launch attempt
and 77th success. Iran may have performed an unannounced, failed attempt during the
early months of the year. It was also Proton's tenth launch of 2013, one of which
failed on July 2.
Orbits Russian Milcomsats
A Rokot/Briz KM successfully orbited three Rodnik (Strela 3M) "store/dump"
communication satellites for the Russian military on December 25, 2013. The three-stage
rocket lifted off from Plestesk Site 133 Pad 3 at 00:31 UTC under the direction of a
Russian missile launch crew. After the initial ascent sent Briz KM and its payload into a
100 x 1,500 km x 82.5 deg transfer orbit, Briz KM performed a cirularization burn at
around 01:45 UTC.
Satellite separation occurred around 02:16 UTC. The
satellites, subsequently tracked in roughly 1,480 x 1,510 km x 82.48 deg orbits, were
named Kosmos 2488, 2489 and 2490. Each satellite weighed about 225 kg.
It was the fourth Rokot/Briz KM, and the fifth UR-100N based, orbital launch of 2013, more
than in any previous year.
The 26th Chang Zheng 3B rocket orbited Tupac Katari, a Chinese built communications
satellite for Bolivia, from XiChang on December 20, 2013. The 3.5 stage CZ-3B/E lifted off
from Launch Complex 2 at 17:02 UTC. The liquid hydrogen fueled third stage performed two
burns during a roughly half-hour mission to lift the satellite into geosynchronous
Tupac Katari, also known as TKSat 1, weighed 5.1 tonnes at liftoff. It was manufactured by
China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) using a DFH-4 platform. The satellite carries 26
Ku-band, 2 C-band, and 2 Ka-bank transponders. It will be positioned at 87.2 degrees west.
It was the 14th Chang Zheng launch of 2013 and the 15th orbital attempt by China during
A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat launched Europe's Gaia observatory
toward deep space from Kourou, French Guiana on December 19, 2013. Liftoff of the
Arianespace VS06 mission from the Soyuz Launch Complex at Kourou took place at 09:12
UTC. The Fregat upper stage fired twice during the mission to boost Gaia toward a
highly elliptical Earth orbit on a trajectory aimed toward the L2 Lagrange point.
The target orbit was 6,722 km x 952,022 km x 14.98 deg. Spacecraft separation
occurred at 09:54 UTC. Gaia's own propulsion system will provide course correction
maneuvers during the transit toward L2.
The 2.034 tonne satellite is fitted with a super-high
resolution camera that will be used to survey the stars of the Milky Way galaxy in fine
detail. The survey will catalog the three-dimensional positions and motions of
After completing its mission, Fregat performed a
depletion burn that propelled it deeper into space.
Chang'e 3 Lands on Moon
On December 14, 2013, China's Chang'e 3 performed the first soft landing on the Moon
since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 landed during August 1976. The mission began with
a December 1, 2013 launch by a CZ-3B rocket from XiChang space center. Chang'e 3 had
orbited the Moon for more than one week, waiting for the two-week lunar day to begin at
the landing site. A few hours after the 1.2 tonne Chang'e 3 lander set down on Mare
Imbrium, the 140 kg "Yutu" ("jade rabbit") six-wheeled rover rolled
down a ramp onto the lunar surface. Both the lander and the Yutu rover are equipped
with plutonium heaters to keep the spacecraft warm during the two-week long lunar nights.
CZ-4B Fails to Orbit Brazilian
A Chang Zheng 4B rocket launched Brazil's CBERS-3 satellite from Taiyuan Satellite
Launch Center on December 9, 2013. The three-stage rocket lifted off at 03:26 UTC
from the center's Launch Complex 9. CBERS-3 was aimed toward a 778 km sun
synchronous earth orbit, but something went wrong during the ascent and no orbit was
CBERS, which stands for "China-Brazil Earth
Resources Satellite", was a 2.1 tonne earth observation satellite jointly developed
by China and Brazil.
According to Oswaldo Duarte Miranda, the deputy
director of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, the CZ-4B third stage cut off
11 seconds before it's planned T+16 minute shut down time, leaving CBERS-3 in a suborbital
After a five minute propulsion phase
performed by its first two stages, the CZ-4B third stage coasts upward for more than four
minutes to orbital altitude. The stage then performs a single burn of its two YF-40
engines, burning UDMH/N2O4 hypergolic propellants to produce 10.3 tonnes of thrust for
durations that can exceed 6 minutes. If the 11 second early cutoff report is
correct, the stage performed all but the final roughly 3% of its burn, but that is enough
to fall well short of orbital velocity.
It was the 13th CZ launch of the year, and China's 14th
orbital attempt of 2013.
Lauches Inmarsat 5-F1
Russia's Proton M/Briz M successfully boosted Inmarsat-5 F1 into supersynchronous
transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 8, 2013. Liftoff
from Area 200 Pad 39 occurred at 12:12 UTC to begin a 15 hour 31 minute mission that
included five burns by the Briz M upper stage.
The Boeing-built BSS-702HP model, 6.1 tonne satellite was aimed toward a 4,341 x 65,000
km x 26.75 deg orbit.
It was the ninth Proton launch of 2013 and the 22nd launch from Baikonur this year.
One Proton launch failed during the year.
Atlas Launches Secret Satellite
An Atlas 5-501 launched NROL-39, a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance
Office, into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on December 6, 2013. The
two-stage, 337 tonne rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 East at 07:14 UTC, then
rose into the night sky and, as its 5 meter diameter European built payload fairing
separated, entered a news blackout. A little less than two hours later, United Launch
Alliance announced that the launch had been a success.
According to Notice to Mariners warnings posted before the launch, the Atlas flew a
southwest trajectory consistent with a retrograde orbit. Two prior launches along similar
flight paths (NROL 41 in September 2010 and NROL-25 in April 2012) were believed to have
placed Topaz radar imagery satellites into 1,100 km x 123 deg orbits. Such missions would
likely have called for the Atlas 5 Centaur second stage to perform two burns, with the
second occurring about 45 minutes after the first.
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden confirmed that Topaz radar
imagery satellites are replacing a previous generation named Onyx.
It was the eighth and final Atlas 5 launch of 2013, the highest one year total during the
12 year history of the Lockheed Martin developed vehicle. It was also the 32nd
consecutive Atlas 5 success and the 42nd Atlas 5 launch since the RD-180 powered rocket
began flying in 2002.
Falcon 9 Performs First Geosynchronous
The second SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1,
and the seventh Falcon 9 overall, performed the Hawthorne, California company's first
commercial geosynchronous transfer orbit launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December
3, 2013. The launch boosted SES 8, a 3,138 kg communications satellite built by
Orbital Sciences for SES of Luxembourg, toward a targeted 295 x 80,000 km x 20.75 degree
supersynchronous transfer orbit.
Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 occurred at 22:41 UTC. The on-time launch took
place after two prior scrubbed attempts. A November 25 attempt was halted 3 min. 40
sec before launch by pressure fluctuations in the first stage LOX tank. A
last-second abort during engine start ended the launch attempt on Thanksgiving Day,
November 28, 2013. SpaceX replaced a gas generator on one Merlin 1D engine after
nine Merlin 1D first stage engines produced about 600 tonnes of liftoff thrust to boost
the 69 meter tall, more than 500 tonne rocket slowly off its pad. The first stage
burn ended about two minutes 54 seconds after liftoff, with two engines cutting off
shortly before the remining seven. The second stage Merlin 1D Vacuum engine peformed
two burns, with the first lasting about five minutes 20 seconds and the second about 71
seconds. The stage coasted in a parking orbit for about 18 minutes toward the first
equator crossing over the Atlantic Ocean before the restart.
SES separated about 31 minutes 15 seconds after liftoff.
The second stage restart was a critical event. A
restart had failed to occur during the inaugural September 29, 2013 Falcon 9 v1.1 flight
in a test of the stage after payloads had successfully separated into their planned low
earth orbits. SpaceX determined that hypergolic igniter fluid had been frozen by
gaseous oxygen impingement during the flight. The company added insulation to
prevent a recurrence.
SES 8 became the first satellite boosted to
geosynchronous transfer orbit by a two-stage hydrocarbon fueled rocket.
It was the third Falcon 9 launch of 2013, the most in
one year to date. The launch was also the 10th of the year by all launch vehicles
from Cape Canaveral.
China launched its first attempt at a robotic lunar landing mission on December 1, 2013
from XiChang space center in southwest China's Sichuan province. If successful, it would
be the first lunar landing since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 landed during August 1976.
A Chang Zheng (Long March) 3B rocket, performing the 25th flight of China's most powerful
launch vehicle, lifted off at 17:30 UTC from Launch Complex 2 with the 1.2 tonne Chang'e 3
lander, which carried the 140 kg "Yutu" ("jade rabbit") six-wheeled
rover. The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage performed two burns during a 19 minute
long mission to boost Chang'e 3 into a 210 x 389,109 km x 28.5 deg. elliptical earth
orbit. After a four day transit to the vicinity of the Moon, the spacecraft is expected to
insert itself into lunar orbit. It is expected to attempt a landing upon the Sinus
Iridum plain just northwest of Mare Imbrium on December 14.
Chang'e 3, China's third lunar mission, following two lunar orbiters, is planned to be the
first of a series of landings.
Both the lander and the Yutu rover are equipped with plutonium heaters to keep the
spacecraft warm during the two-week long lunar nights.
It was the year's 12th CZ launch and China's 13th orbital flight, but only the second
launch from XiChang in 2013.
Russia's Soyuz-U launched Progress M-21M, an unmanned
cargo hauler bound for the International Space Station (ISS), into orbit from Baikonur
Cosmodrome Area 31 Pad 6 on November 25, 2013. Liftoff took place at 20:53
Progress M-21M was equipped with a new rendezvous system
that will be tested during a four-day period prior to docking with ISS. The
spacecraft carries nearly 3 tonnes of supplies for the Expedition 38 crew on the station.
It was the year's 14th R-7 launch and the 4th Progress.
Eight of the R-7 launches were in support of ISS.
Launches Remote Sensing Satellite
China's 20th CZ-2D lofted Shiyan Weixing 5, a high
resolution remote sensing satellite, into a 739 x 755 km x 98 deg sun synchronous orbit on
November 25, 2013. Liftoff from Jiuquan LC 43 Pad 603 took place at 02:12 UTC.
It was the second CZ-2D launch of the year and the 11th
Chang Zheng family launch.
Orbits ESA Swarm Satellites
A Rockot/Briz KM successfully lofted a trio of European
Space Agency Swarm satellites into low earth orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on November
22, 2013. The Swarm satellites, each weighing 473 kg, will map dynamics of the
Earth's magnetic field from slightly differing orbits.
The three stage rocket, its first two stages from a
retired RS-18/SS-19 ICBM, lifted off at 12:02 UTC from Area 133/Pad 3. After the
first two stages burned and fell away, the Briz KM third stage performed an initial burn
to place itself and its payloads into a 153 x 476 km parking orbit. The vehicle
coasted for about an hour to apogee before the stage performed a 16 second long second
burn to enter a 490 km x 87.55 circular orbit. Satellite deployment occurred at
13:33 UTC. The Swarm satellites will use their own cold gas Freon thrusters to
manuever to operational orbits.
It was the third Rokot launch of 2013 and the 18th
success in 20 attempts since 1994. The first launch used a Briz K stage.
Subsequent flights used the current, upgraded Briz KM, beginning in 2000.
Orbits Satellite Cluster
A Ukrainian built Dnepr launch vehicle orbited 32 small
satellites on November 21, 2013 after rising from an underground missile silo at
Dombarovsky missile base near Yasny, Russia. Liftoff from LC 370/13 took place at
07:10 UTC. The three-stage storable propellant rocket, a retired R-36MU/SS-18 ICBM,
reached a sun sunchronous low earth orbit several minutes later.
Most of the satellites were CubeSats weighing less than 5 kg.
Two thirds of them were deployed from the rocket's modified multiple reentry
vehicle warhead "bus"third stage. Kosmotras, a Russian-Ukrainian company,
oversaw the payload portion of the launch while Russian military forces performed the
launch. Among the larger satellites deployed conventionally were DubaiSat2, a South
Korean/Emirates earth observation satellite and SkySat 1, a commercial imager for
California's Skybox Imaging.
It was the year's second Dnepr launch of 2013 and the 19th Dnepr
launch attempt since the type entered service in 1999.
A Chang Zheng 4C rocket orbited China's Yaogan 19 satellite from Taiyuan Satellite
Launch Center on November 20, 2013. The three-stage rocket lifted off at 03:31 UTC
from the center's Launch Complex 9. The liftoff was not announced in advanced."
China's state media stated that the satellite, which entered a roughly 1,200 km x
100.48 deg orbit, was an earth observation spacecraft designed to "conduct scientific
experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and
reducing natural disasters". Western analysts belive that the satellite and
others like it are also used for military reconnaissance. Some believe that Yaogan
19 in particular carries a high resolution camera.
1 ORS-3 Launch
The 11th Orbital Sciences Minotaur 1 launch vehicle
carried 29 satellites into orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia on November 20, 2013.
Payloads included the primary STPSat 3 satellite and 28 CubeSats provided by NASA and by
university and high school students. Total payload mass was 400.68 kg.
The four stage all solid motor rocket lifted off from
Pad 0B at 01:15 UTC with the third Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) mission for the
U.S. military. Called "The Enabler Mission", ORS-3 demonstrated automated
launch vehicle trajectory targeting and range safety processes. These methods are
intended to decrease launch costs.
Initial boost was provided by two repurposed Minuteman
II missile stage motors (an M55A1 first stage and an SR19 second stage) fired
sequentially. An Orion 50XL motor performed the third stage burn, then remained
attached to the fourth stage during a more than 5.5 minute coast. About 10 minutes
14 seconds after liftoff, the rocket's Orion 38 fourth stage completed its burn to insert
the Integrated Payload Stack into a 500 km x 40.5 deg orbit.
STPSat 3 separated about 12.2 minutes after liftoff.
CubeSat deployment was expected to take place in stages during the subsequent 10
It was the the final Minotaur launch under the initial
Orbital/Suborbital Program-1 and -2 contracts. No Minotaur 1 launches are currently
planned, but future launches are theoretically possible under the OSP-3 contract.
Minotaur 1 uses upper stages and flight control systems from Pegasus XL, another rocket
that currently has no future launches backlogged. More powerful, Peacekeeper-based
Minotaur 4 and 5 rockets have flown more often than Minotaur 1 and Pegasus in recent
MAVEN Toward Mars
Atlas 5 tail number AV-038 launched NASA's Mars
Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft into a trans-Mars solar orbit from
Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 18, 2013. The two-stage, Russian-engined rocket
lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 18:28 UTC and quickly disappeared into a low
cloud cover. After the first stage completed its 4 minute 2 second long portion of
the ascent, the Centaur second stage took over to perform two burns of its Aerojet
Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2 LOX/LH2 engine.
The first 9.5 minute long Centaur burn placed AV-038 into a 161 x 315 km x 26.665 deg
parking orbit, where it coasted for 27 minutes, 36 seconds before the second burn.
The second burn was planned to be about 5.5 minutes in duration, but ran about four
Centaur propelled the 2.54 tonne Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft and its Centaur stage
into a solar orbit that will intersect with the orbit of Mars in ten months. MAVEN
will insert itself into orbit around Mars to study the Martian atmosphere for one year.
After its primary mission is complete, MAVEN will serve as a data relay station for
NASA's other Mars exploring spacecraft.
AV-038 was the 41st Atlas 5 and the fifth to perform a solar orbit mission. MAVEN
was the third Mars exploration launch by an Atlas 5.
Milcomsat Boosted by Proton M/Briz M
A Proton-M/Briz-M launched Russia's Raduga 1M (13L), a
military communications satellite, from Baikonur Cosmodrome on November 11, 2013.
The four-stage rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 23:46 UTC. Its hypergolic
propellant Briz M upper stage performed four burns during a 9-plus hour mission to lift
the 2.3 tonne satellite directly into geosynchronous orbit.
It was the year's 20th orbital launch attempt from
Baikonur, a dozen more than current second-place Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Launches ISS Crew
Russia's Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft was launched into low
earth orbit with three crew members by a specially decorated Soyuz FG rocket from Baikonur
Cosmodrome on November 7, 2013. Liftoff frrom Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 04:14
UTC. Aboard were Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, NASA's Rick Mastracchio, and Japan's
Koichi Wakata. They joined Russia's Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Fyodor
Yurchiknin, NASA's Michael Hopkins and Karen Nyberg, and European Space Agency's Luca
Parmitano on the International Space Station.
The Soyuz launch schedule was rearranged in order to
send the Olympic torch to ISS as part of the torch relay for the Winter Games in Sochi in
February, 2014. As a result, an atypical three Soyuz spacecraft were expected to be
docked to ISS for several days until the Soyuz TMA-09M crew (Yurchikhin, Parmitano and
Nyberg) return to Earth with the Olympic torch on November 10. The returning crew
has been at ISS since May 28.
Like three previous Soyuz missions, TMA-11M used a four
orbit, six hour ascent to the station. It was the year's 14th R-7 launch and was the
fourth crewed Soyuz flight of 2013.
India Aims for Mars
India's Space Research Organization launched a
spacecraft designed to orbit Mars from Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island on
November 5, 2013. PSLV-C25, the fifth PSLV-XL rocket, lifted off from the First
Launch Pad at 09:08 UTC to boost the 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter Mission satellite into an
elliptical Earth orbit measuring 246 x 23,566 km x 19.2 deg. Plans call for the
satellite to perform a series of perigee burns using its own propulsion system during the
next several weeks. The probe will raise its orbital velocity (and apogee) with each
burn until propelling itself into solar orbit with a sixth and final burn on or around
For the first time, a PSLV mission performed an extended
coast prior to ignition of its hypergolic fueled fourth stage about 35 minutes after
liftoff. This was required to provide the orbital alignment needed for an ultimate
trans-Mars insertion trajectory. PSLV had to be modified with new guidance software,
additional batteries, and other changes to handle the 44 minute long mission. Ship
based tracking terminals also had to be deployed to provide telemetry links during the
It was the 25th PSLV launch and the 21st consecutive
CZ-2C Orbits Yaogan
A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2C launch vehicle orbited China's
Yaogan 18 satellite from the Taiyuan space center in northern China on October 29,
2013. The two-stage rocket lifted off from LC 9 at 02:50 UTC. Yaogan 18
separated into a 492 x 510 km x 97.6 deg sun synchronous orbit.
The satellite is believed by some analysts to be the third in a
series of synthetic aperture radar satellites. China's state media identified Yaogan
18 to be a remote sensing spacecraft that will perform scientific experiments, land
survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.
China did not announce the launch before it occurred. It
was the second CZ-2C launch of 2013, the ninth CZ launch of the year, and the 10th orbital
launch by China since January 1.
Proton/Sirius FM 6 Launch
A Proton M/Briz M boosted Sirius FM 6 to geosynchronous
transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 25, 2013. Liftoff from Area 200
Pad 39 took place at 18:08 UTC, beginning a 9-plus hour mission that included five burns
of the Briz M fourth stage.
Sirius FM 6 weighed 6,003 kg at liftoff. Built by
Canadian-owned Space Systems Loral on 1300 series spacecraft bus, Siurius FM 6 will
provide satellite radio services for Sirius XM Radio of New York.
It was the 390th Proton launch since the program began
in 1965, and the seventh Proton liftoff of 2013.
A three-stage Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B rocket
launched China's Shijian 16 satellite into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
on October 25, 2013. The unannounced liftoff from SLS 2 (LC 43/Pad 603) took place
at 03:50 UTC. After the satellite reached an approximately 600 km x 75 deg orbit,
China's state media announced the launch and reported that the satellite would provide
space environment measurements and technology testing.
It was the first flight of a CZ-4B from Jiuquan,
although three similar CZ-4C launch vehicles, which use a restartable version of the CZ-4B
third stage, have previously flown from Jiuquan. The CZ-4 family has one of the
world's most reliable launch records, with 33 successes and no failures.