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Space Launch Report Archive

January-March, 2014

cz2c41.jpg (6224 bytes)CZ-2C Launch

A CZ-2C rocket launched China's Shijian 11-06 into sun synchronous orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on March 31, 2014. It was China's first orbital launch of the year.

The 213 tonne, two stage rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 43, Pad 603 at 02:46 UTC. The satellite, sixth in a series, entered a roughly 700 km x 98.3 deg orbit. 

Shijian 11-06 was developed by China Spacesat Co. Ltd for China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. It likely weighed less than 1 tonne, given CZ-2C's near-polar orbit capability. 

The purpose of the satellite is unknown by outsiders. China announced only that it will be used to conduct scientific experiments in space.

soytma12m.jpg (5873 bytes)Soyuz TMA-12M Launch

A Soyuz FG orbited the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft with two Russians and one American from Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 25, 2014. Liftoff from Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 21:17 UTC. The launch was successful, but Soyuz TMA-12M had to abort its planned fast-track, four-orbit rendezvous with the International Space Station when a problem occurred during an orbit changing burn. Crewmates Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson were expected to revert to a back-up plan that called for at least a two-day approach to ISS.

The crew was expected to join the current Expedition 39 team at ISS, which includes Japan's Koichi Wakata, Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio.

The flight took place even as tensions grew between the U.S. and Russian governments after Russia's military occupation and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

It was the first crewed space launch of 2014.

r71815.jpg (5294 bytes)Russia Orbits Glonass-M

A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat rocket boosted a Russian Glonass-M navigation satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 23, 2014. Liftoff from Area 43 Pad 4 took place at 22:54 UTC. The 2.5 stage Soyuz accelerated Fregat and its payload into low earth orbit during a nine minute ascent. Fregat subsequently performed three burns to lift the 1.415 tonne Glonass-M (Uragan-M No. 42) into a 19,128 x 19,154 km x 64.81 deg orbit, with spacecraft separation taking place at 02:26 UTC on March 24.

It was the first Glonass launch attempt since three similar satellites were lost in a spectacular July 2013 Proton launch failure at Baikonur.

va216.jpg (13171 bytes)Ariane 5 Launches from Kourou

Ariane 5 Launcher Number 571, an Ariane 5 ECA, boosted ASTRA 5B and Amazonas 4A into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kourou on March 22, 2014. The 772.3 tonne rocket lifted off from ELA 3 at 22:04 UTC to begin Arianespace Mission VA-216. 5.724 tonne ASTRA 5B and 2.938 tonne Amazonas 4A were inserted into 250 x 35,786 km x 3 deg orbits about 25 minutes after liftoff. Amazonas 4A rode in the lower position inside a SYLDA 5A adapter.

Ariane 5's EPC core stage burned for about 8.75 minutes to push the upper stage into a -1027 x 179 km x 6.95 deg suborbital trajectory. The ESC-A upper stage then performed a single, roughly 16 minute long burn to complete the ascent.

ASTRA 5B was manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space (former Astrium). AMAZONAS 4A was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation.

It was the 43rd consecutive Ariane 5 ECA success, moving the rocket marginally back ahead of Atlas 5 in the Space Launch Report reliability list.

p395.jpg (15614 bytes)Proton Orbits Comsat Pair

Russia's 395th Proton rocket successfully placed two broadcast TV satellites into geosynchronous orbit after a March 15, 2014 launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Proton M/Briz M lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 23:08 UTC to begin its more than nine-hour mission. During the flight, Briz M fired four times to lift Express AT1 and Express AT2 into their deployment orbits.

The satellites were stacked directly on top of each other within the Proton payload fairing. Express AT2, which weighed 1.326 tonnes, was positioned below 1.672 tonne Express AT1. Russia's ISS Reshetnev built the Express 1000-series satellites, which were equipped with Thales Alenia Space communications payloads.

With the flight, Proton became the first orbital launch vehicle to fly a second time during 2014.  It was the 10th orbital flight of the year, worldwide.

h2af23.jpg (9874 bytes)H-2A Orbits NASA/JAXA Precipitation Observatory

Japan's 23rd H-2A launch vehicle, an H-2A-202 with two SRB-A strap on motors, orbited the joint JAXA/NASA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 at the Tanegashima Space Center on February 27, 2014. H-2A F23 lifted off at 18:37 UTC. Its second stage performed a single burn to insert the 3,850 kg GPM Core Observatory into a 407 km x 65 deg orbit about 16 minutes later.

The observatory, built by Goddard Space Center in Maryland, will provide near real-time observations of rain and snow precipitation. It is equipped with a microwave imager built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies and a precipitation detecting radar built by NEC Toshiba Space Systems.

F-23 was the 17th consecutive H-2A success.  The only H-2A failure in occurred in November 2003.

d365.jpg (15957 bytes)Delta 4 Launches GPS 2F-5

Delta 365, a Delta 4M+4,2 with two solid boosters and a four meter payload fairing, launched GPS 2F-5 into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on February 21, 2014.    Liftoff took place from SLC 37B at 01:59 UTC.

Delta 4's Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) performed three burns during a 3.5 hour mission to lift the 1.63 tonne navigation satellite into a 20,459 km x 55 deg circular orbit.  DCSS fired first during the initial ascent to reach a low earth parking orbit.  It performed a second burn after a 9-minute coast to enter an elliptical transfer orbit with a roughly 20,459 km apogee.  Following a three hour coast, DCSS fired a third time to reach the GPS 2F-5 insertion orbit. 

It was the 25th Delta 4 launch.  The flight came after a six-month launch gap party due to an additional investigation into a propellant leak on a second stage RL10B-2 engine during a 2012 Delta 4 mission that barely managed to place GPS 2F-3 into its orbit.  GPS 2F-5 was the first Delta 4 GPS launch since that 2012 mission.

Proton Orbits Satellite for Turkey

2014's first Proton M/Briz M successfully boosted Turksat 4A into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on February 14.   Liftoff from Area 81 Pad 24 occurred at 21:09 UTC to start a 9 hour 13 minute mission.

p394s.jpg (15798 bytes)Turksat 4A, a Mitsubishi Electric Corporation DS2000 series satellite that weighed 4.85 tonnes, was inserted into orbit using a five burn Briz M profile. 

After the three Proton stages completed their ascent burns to achieve a velocity just short of orbital speed, Briz M fired to reach a circular parking orbit.  The upper stage fired one orbit later to reach an intermediate orbit.   One orbit after that it fired twice, dropping its toroidial external tank between burns, to reach a transfer orbit.  Finally it fired at apogee to raise its perigee and reduce its inclination to complete the mission.  The target orbit was 9,673 x 35,786 km x 12.7 deg.

Turksat 4A will provide communications services for government-owned Turksat.

The mission was performed by Proton serial number 93543, which was the 394th Proton launched. 

va217.jpg (16495 bytes)Ariane 5 Orbits Satellite Pair

Ariane 5 ECA Launcher 572 boosted two communications satellites into geosychronous transfer orbit from Kourou space center on February 6, 2014. The 773.4 tonne rocket lifted off from ELA 3 at 21:30 UTC to begin the Arianespace VA-217 mission. Launcher 572 rose on 1,326 tonnes of thrust produced by its two EAP solid motors and its single Vulcain 2 liquid core engine. Within 32 minutes, 6.33 tonne ABS-2 and 3.08 tonne Athena-Fidus separated into 244 x 35,786 km x 6 deg orbits.

ABS-2 (Asia Broadcast Satellite), which rode atop the Sylda 5B dual payload system, was an FS-1300 series satellite built by Canadian-owned Space Systems/Loral for East Asia commercial service.

Athena-Fidus, a Spacebus 4000B2 model built by Thales Alenia Space for French and Italian military use, rode within the Slyda 5B adapter.

It was the first Ariane 5 launch in more than five months.

progm22m.jpg (20926 bytes)Progress ISS Cargo Launch

A 2.5 stage Soyuz-U launched Progress M-22M, an unmanned cargo spacecraft headed for the International Space Station (ISS), into low earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 on February 5, 2014.  Liftoff took place at 16:23 UTC from a cold winter landscape. 

Progress M-22M will use the fast-rendezvous technique to reach ISS in about four orbits, or six hours.  The spacecraft carries about 2 tonnes of supplies for ISS.

With the New Year's holiday period concluded, the liftoff begin's Russia's launch year.

av043b.jpg (10626 bytes)Atlas Orbits TDRS-L

The year's first Atlas 5, a two-stage 401 model, successfully orbited NASA's TDRS-L (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) from Cape Caneveral on January 24, 2014.  Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 02:33 UTC.  TDRS-L, a Boeing Space System 601 model that weighed 3.454 tonnes, was aimed toward a 4,839 x 35,788 km x 25.5 deg high perigee geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).  Spacecraft separation took place 1 hour 45 minutes 57 seconds after liftoff.

The RD-180 powered first stage burned for 4 minutes 2 seconds.  This was followed by a 13 minute 55 second long Centaur second stage burn that boosted the vehicle into a 185 x 24,919 km x 26.5 deg parking orbit.  After a 1 hour, 21 minute 55 second coast, Centaur reignited for a 63 second burn to accelerate TDRS-L into its final orbit.

The success, the 42nd in 43 Atlas 5 attempts, moves Atlas 5 past Ariane 5 for the first time on the Space Launch Report reliability list.  The incremental difference, which essentially represents a statistical tie, will likely shift back and forth between the two launch vehicles during the coming months.

orb1.jpg (9218 bytes)Antares Launches Cygnus Cargo Mission

Orbital Sciences launched its third Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virgina on Janaury 9, 2014 with the company's first operational Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station. The Orb-1 Commercial Resupply Services mission, the first of eight currently planned for NASA, began from Launch Complex 0A - part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport - with an 18:07 UTC liftoff.

It was the first flight of an Antares 120 variant outfitted with an upgraded ATK Castor 30B second stage solid motor. Castor 30B was the same size and produced about the same thrust as the Castor 30A motor used during the first two launches, but it used a longer, larger nozzle that improved specific impulse to about 300 seconds. One more Antares 120 will fly this year, to be followed by the first Antares 130 with a more powerful, longer, and heavier Castor 30XL second stage motor.

The Yuzhnoye/Yuzhmash first stage burned its Kuznetsov/Aerojet AJ-26 engines for 3 minutes 54 seconds to lift the rocket to an altitude of about 100 km. After shutdown, the stage separated and the upper portion of the vehicle coasted upward to about 179 km altitude until the Castor 30B ignited about 1 minute 52 seconds after first stage shutdown. The payload fairing and interstage adapter separated shortly before the 128 second long second stage burn began.

Second stage burnout occurred about 7 minutes 54 seconds after liftoff. Cygnus, named "C. Gordon Fullerton" in honer of the NASA astronaut and test pilot who died in August, 2013, separated two minutes later in a 219 x 280 km x 51.654 deg orbit. Cygnus carried 1.261 tonnes of ISS cargo, including equipment, crew supplies, and 33 CubeSat microsatellites that will be released from ISS later this year. The spacecraft weighed about 4.69 tonnes including cargo.

orb1b.jpg (14744 bytes)Orb-1 Cygnus Approaches ISS Berthing on January 12, 2013

After a three day long series of orbit raising manuvers, Cygnus successfully berthed with ISS on January 12, 2013 at 13:05 UTC.

Orbital Sciences officials had delayed the launch one day to study high solar radiation levels after a January 7 solar flare. A winter storm producing very cold temperatures had delayed the launch by one day earlier in the week. The entire mission had been delayed by three weeks when a coolant leak developed on the space station that required a pair of space walks by the ISS crew to repair.

f9-8d.jpg (8569 bytes)Falcon 9 Launches Thaicom 6

SpaceX Corporation's eighth Falon 9 rocket, and its third upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 variant, launch Thailand's Thaicom 6 commuication satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 6, 2014.  Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 22:06 UTC.  The Merlin 1D Vacuum powered second stage performed two burns to accelerate the 3.016 tonne Orbital Sciences GEOStar 2 satellite toward a targeted 295 x 90,000 km x 22.5 deg supersynchronous transfer orbit.  

After maneuvering itself to geosynchronous orbit, Thaicom 6, equipped with Ku and C-band transponders, will be co-located with Thaicom 5 at 78.5 degrees East. 

After a 174 second long first stage burn, the second stage burned for about 350 seconds to place itself and its payload into a 173 x 497 x 27.3 deg parking orbit.  Payload fairing separation occurred during the early part of the second stage burn.  After an 18 minute coast, the second stage reignited for just over one minute to loft the payload toward its insertion orbit.  Spacecraft separation occurred about 31 minutes 13 seconds after liftoff.

SpaceX performed its quickest launch pad turnaround for Thaicom 6, which lifted off just more than one month after Falcon 9 No. 7 orbited SES 8.  During the campaign, the Thaicom 6 booster performed a hot fire test at SLC 40 on December 28, 2013.  

gslvd5.jpg (17894 bytes)GSLV with India's Cryogenic Stage Succeeds

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) successfully boosted the GSAT 14 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit on January 5, 2013.  It was the first success for the launch vehicle since 2004, and the first success for India's indigenously-developed, liquid hydrogen fueled Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS). 

The 415 tonne, 49 meter tall three-stage GSLV Mk 2 rocket, fitted with a 3.4 meter diameter payload fairing, lifted off at 10:48 UTC from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota to begin the GSLV-D5 development mission.  It rose on 690.7 tonnes (1.52 million lbf) of liftoff thrust produced by a solid core motor augmented by four L40 liquid non-separating strap-on motors, each powered by a Vikas 2 engine that burned UDMH/N2O4 until cutoff 149 seconds after liftoff, about 60 seconds after the core burned out.  The liquid second stage, powered by a single Vikas 4 UDMH/N2O4 engine, performed a 140.5 second burn to lift the vehicle to a 132 km altitude and a velocity of more than 4,900 m/sec. 

The CUS LOX/LH2 third stage then fired its 7.5 tonne thrust CE-7.5 engine one time for more than 12 minutes to finish the mission.  The 1.982 tonne satellite payload was accelerated toward a targeted 180 x 35,975 km x 19.3 deg orbit.  ISRO's CE-7.5 is a staged combustion engine designed to operate at 454 seconds specific impulse - more efficient than the Aerojet-Rocketdyne RL10A-4-1 engine that powers the Atlas 5 Centaur stage.  The fixed CE-7.5 engine is augmented by a pair of small steering engines.

An August, 2012 attempt to fly GLSV-D5 was thwarted by a second stage propellant leak during the early stages of the countdown.  Damage caused by the leak forced ISRO to roll back and dismantle the rocket.  Its core first stage and second stage were replaced entirely while its first stage liquid units were refurbished.

It was the third GSLV success in eight flights since 2001.