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Space Launch Report Archive

April-June, 2014

pslvc23.jpg (6483 bytes)India's PSLV Orbits SPOT-7

India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) orbited SPOT-7 and four microsatellites from Satish Dhawan Space Center near Sriharikota on June 30, 2014.  Liftoff of the C23 mission from the First Launch Pad took place at 04:22 UTC.  A Core Alone PSLV variant (PSLV-CA) performed the flight.  SPOT-7, a 714 kg earth observation satellite, was placed into a roughly 655 km x 98.23 deg sun-synchronous orbit slightly less than 18 minutes later.  

Airbus Defense and Space built SPOT-7 as part of a private venture that will sell data to the French government and to commercial clients.  

The four microsatellites were built in Canada, Germany, and Singapore. Germany's 14 kg AISSat, built by DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen,   will recieve naval vessel tracking signals.  NLS 7.1 and 7.2 were 15 kg satellites built by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies to perform formation flying experiments using a cold gas propulsion system.  VELOX-1 was a 7 kg satellite built by Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, which will eject smartphone-sized submicrosatellites during its mission.

It was the 27th PSLV flight since 1993 and the 23rd consecutive success.

dnepr20.jpg (5044 bytes)Dnepr Launches 37 Satellites

Russia's Dnepr, a modified R-36MU ICBM, boosted 37 small satellites into a 630 km sun synchronous low earth orbit on June 19, 2014 from Yasny Launch Base at Dombarovsky in Russia's Orenburg Region. The 211 tonne rocket was ejected from an underground missile silo at Site 370/13 at 19:11 UTC to begin the mission.

The 37 satellites represented a record for a single launch.  Deimos-2 and KazEOSat-2 were the heaviest of the 37 satellites. Deimos 2 was a 300 kg imaging satellite built by SATREC of South Korea for Deimos Imaging of Spain. KazEOSat 2 was a 185 kg earth observation satellite built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited of the United Kingdom for Kazakhstan's Gharysh Sapary.

Twenty one of the satellites were "cubesats" that likely weighed less than 1.5 kg each.

It was the 20th Dnepr launch. The first took place in 1999. Developed by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, the hypergolic fueled R-36MU, like the R-36M before it, was derived from earlier R-36 “Tsyklon” type rockets that dated from the late 1960s.

r71822.jpg (14469 bytes)Russia Orbits Glonass-M

Russia's Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat rocket boosted a Glonass-M (Uragan-M) navigation satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on June 14, 2014.   The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Area 43 Pad 4 at 17:16 UTC. After the Soyuz rocket boosted Fregat and its payload into low earth orbit, the Fregat upper stage performed three burns to lift the 1.415 tonne satellite into a roughly 19,130 x 19,150 km x 64.8 deg orbit.   Spacecraft separation occurred at 20:53 UTC.

It was the second Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat launch with a Glonass M payload from Plesetsk in 2014.

soytma13m.jpg (5016 bytes)Soyuz TMA-13M Carries Three to Orbit

Russia's Soyuz FG launched Soyuz TMA-13M with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency flight engineer Alexander Gersttwo into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 28, 2014. The 2.5 stage LOX/kerosene rocket lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 19:57 UTC, beginning a planned four-orbit ascent to rendezvous with the International Space Station.

The 7.12 tonne Soyuz TMA-13M three-part spacecraft separated into a 190 x 230 km x 51.6 deg orbit nine minutes after liftoff.  It was the year's second crewed orbital launch.

The crew will join the Expedition 40 crew - Commander Steve Swanson of NASA and Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, on ISS.

z3sl36b.jpg (8947 bytes)Sea Launch Returns

Sea Launch returned to the orbital launch scene on May 26, 2014 for the first time since a February 2013 launch failure. The company's Ukrainian built two-stage Zenit 3SL rocket, topped by a Russian-built Blok DMSL third stage, boosted Eutelsat 3B into geosynchronous transfer orbit after lifting off from Odyssey Launch Platform floating on the Pacific Ocean near the equator at 154 deg. West Longitude.

Zenit 3SL/DMSL lifted off at 21:10 UTC on 740 tonnes of liftoff thrust from its four-chamber RD-171M Russian engine. The first two stages fired in sequence during the first 8.5 minutes of the mission. Blok DMSL then performed two burns separated by a 30 minute long coast to insert the 5.967 tonne satellite into a 385 x 35,686 km x 0 deg transfer orbit. The first burn lasted 4 minutes 40 seconds. The second burn was 6 minutes 57 seconds long.

Airbus Defence and Space built Eutelsat 3B, which was based on the Eurostar 3000 platform. The satellite was equipped with up to 51 C, Ku, and Ka band transponders. it will serve Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America.

No more Sea Launch missions are currently planned until 2016. Following its bankruptcy reorganization, Sea Launch became 95% Russian-owned.  Its next payloads are Russian built satellites for Russian users. Accordingly, Russia has been contemplating moving Sea Launch operations from Long Beach, California to an eastern Russian port.

h2af24b.jpg (16575 bytes)H-2A Orbits Radar Imager

H-2A F-24 lifted Japan's second Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS-2) and four microsatellites into sun synchronous low earth orbit from Tanegashima on May 24, 2014. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 took place at 03:05 UTC. The 2.12 tonne radar imaging satellite was inserted into a 628 km x 98 deg orbit about 16 minutes after liftoff, following a single burn of the LE-5B powered second stage.

Four microsatellites separated after ALOS-2. They were the 7.1 kg Space Research On Unique Technology (SPROUT) spacecraft, the 50 kg Raijin-2, the 50 kg University International Formation Mission (UNIFORM), and the 48 kg Space Optical Communications Research Advanced Technology Satellite (SOCRATES) satellite.

F24 was an H-2A-202 variant with two SRB-A solid motor boosters. The boosters burned for about 115 seconds along with the LE-7A powered core stage. The core shut down about 4.5 minutes after liftoff. The second stage then performed its single 8 minute 24 second burn.

rokot22.jpg (9176 bytes)Rokot Launches Milcomsats

A Rokot/Briz KM launched three Rodnik (Strela 3M) "store/dump" communication satellites for the Russian military, along with a fourth unknown satellite, on May 23, 2014. The three-stage rocket lifted off from Plestesk Site 133 Pad 3 at 05:27 UTC under the direction of a Russian Space Forces 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 07:12 UTC.

The 225 kg Rodnik satellites were named Kosmos 2496-2498. The fourth unannounced satellite will presumably be named Kosmos 2499.

It was the first Rokot launch of 2014.

av046.jpg (8333 bytes)Atlas Flies Despite Rogozin Threats

AV-046, an Atlas 5-401 variant, launched NROL-33, a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) into orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 on May 22, 2014. Liftoff took place at 13:09 UTC. Atlas flew an eastward trajectory consistent with a geosynchronous transfer orbit mission.

The two-stage rocket entered a news blackout after the RD-180 powered first stage completed its burn and the Centaur stage RL-10 engine ignited. About 90 minutes later, United Launch Alliance announced that the launch had been a success. An additional Notice to Mariners for Centaur de-orbit debris was listed to begin about 10 hours after liftoff near Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean.

The launch took place nine days after Russia's Deputy Prime Miniter Dmitryi Rogozin threatened to cut off U.S. access to Russia's RD-180 engine for military missions. Despite the threat, ULA officials received no notice of any change in policy by builder NPO Energomash or importer RD-AMROSS. A Russian technical team monitored engine systems from its Cape Canaveral control room as usual.

In the wake of Rogozin's statement, a proposal was made in Congress to fund a U.S. replacement for RD-180 and ULA announced that it intended to speed up purchases that could allow Delta 4 production to increase if needed.

d366.jpg (22742 bytes)Delta 4 Launches GPS 2F-6

Delta 4 completed a back-to-back series of GPS launches by orbiting GPS 2F-6 from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 17, 2014.   Delta 366, a Delta 4M+4,2 with two solid boosters and a four meter payload fairing, performed the mission that began with an 00:03 UTC lift off from SLC 37B.  An idential Delta 4 with an identical payload rose from the same pad on February 21, 2014.

Delta 4's Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) performed two burns during a 3.25 hour mission to lift the 1.63 tonne navigation satellite into a 20,459 km x 55 deg circular orbit.  This profile differed from the February launch, which used three DCSS burns.  On this mission, DCSS performed an initial long burn to reach a 186 x 20,459 km transfer orbit on a northeast heading.  After a 3 hour coast, DCSS peformed a short apogee burn to circularize the orbit. 

It was the 26th Delta 4 launch and the second of the year. 

p397.jpg (10472 bytes)Proton Fails (Updated June 12, 2014)

Khrunichev's mainstay Proton rocket suffered a launch failure on May 15, 2014 - the first failure by any of the world's launch vehicles this year -  while attempting to place Russia's Ekspress AM4R communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The failure appeared to occur during the third stage burn about 540 seconds after a 21:42 UTC liftoff, around the time when the payload fairing was supposed to be jettisonned. No orbit was achieved.

The 397th Proton lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 200 Pad 39. Its Express AM4R payload was an Astrium Eurostar 3000 series satellite that weighed 5.775 tonnes at liftoff. It was built as a replacement for Express AM4, which was stranded in a useless orbit by a Briz M upper stage failure during a 2011 Proton flight.

An inter-agency investigating commission was formed on the day of the failure.  The team found that the payload fairing and control systems had functioned correctly.  It soon focused on telemetry that showed a dramatic pressure drop in the third stage steering engine, indicating a drop in pressure developed by the generator turbine.  On June 11, 2014 Roscosmos announced that the cause had   been determined to have been a failed bearing in the RD-0214 steering engine turbopump.

The 4.1 meter diameter third stage is powered by an RD-0212 propulsion system that consists of a single fixed RD-0213 engine that produces 59 tons thrust for about 232 seconds and a four-nozzle RD-0214 vernier/steering engine that produces 11.7 tonnes of vacuum thrust for about 247 seconds.  A single turbopump feeds propellant to the four steering engine nozzles.

It was the 75th Proton M/Briz M variant flight and the 7th failure, ending a streak of 12 consecutive successes. 

antsolids.jpg (16264 bytes)Future Antares

Orbital is planning for a future after Aerojet Rocketdyne's dwindling supply of NK-33 engines runs out. 

Could a solid motor Antares provide a solution?

r71820.jpg (13456 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a Launches Russian Spy Satellite

A Soyuz 2-1a rocket launched a 6.7 tonne Kobalt-M optical film return reconnaisance satellite from Plestesk Cosmodrome on May 6, 2014.  The 2.5 stage R-7 based vehicle lifted off from Area 43 Pad 4 at 13:49 UTC, beginning a 10 minute long ascent to low Earth orbit.  The spacecraft, cataloged as Cosmos 2495, was inserted into a 176 x 285 km x 81.41 deg orbit.

Kobalt-M (or Yantar 4K2M) is equipped with two small film return capsules.  It is the last in a long line of Soviet and Russian film-return spy satellites that is being phased out in favor of Persona electro-optical imaging satellites.  Only one more satellite of this type is thought to remain.   This was the first Kobalt-M launched by a Soyuz 2-1a.

It was the year's 25 orbital launch, and 25th success.



vv03a.jpg (19040 bytes)Vega Orbits Kazakh Satellite

Europe's Vega performed its third launch on April 30, 2014. The VV03 mission boosted 830 kg DZZ-HR, an earth observation satellite for the Republic of Kazakhstan, into a 750 km x 98.5 deg sun synchronous orbit from Kourou space center. The four stage rocket lifted off from ZLV (Vega Launch Zone) at 01:35 UTC and headed north across the Atlantic Ocean.

Vega's first three solid motor stages burned in succession during the first 6 minutes 14 seconds of the mission to lift the upper stage and payload to orbital velocity. The AVUM (Attitude & Vernier Upper Module) stage then fired its hypergolic bipropellant Ukrainian built engine for about 5 minutes to reach an elliptical transfer orbit.

After a 40+ minute coast to apogee, AVUM performed a 2 minute burn to circularize the orbit for DZZ-HR separation.

DZZ-HR, Vega's heaviest payload to date, was built by Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France.

p93546.jpg (3450 bytes)Proton Orbits Two Satellites

Russia's Proton M/Briz M orbited two communication satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 28, 2014. The 705 tonne rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 04:25 UTC in a rare daylight launch, kicking off a 9.5 hour ascent that included five burns of the launch vehicle's Briz M upper stage. Russia's 1.15 tonne Luch 5v data relay satellite rode atop Kazhakstan's Kazsat-3, which likely weighed about 1.7 tonnes at liftoff. Both satellites were inserted directly into geosynchronous orbit.

The first Briz M burn put the vehicle into a 180 km x 51.56 deg parking orbit. The second burn raised the orbit to 270 x 5,007 km x 50 deg. The third burn ended with a 404 x 35,810 km x 47.8 deg transfer orbit. Briz M released its drop tank after the burn. After a long coast to apogee, a fourth burn put the stage into a 35,753 x 35,793 km x 5 deg orbit for Luch 5v release. A short fifth burn was made prior to release of KazSat 3 into a 35,793 km x 0 deg orbit.

It was the year's third Proton launch.

f9-9x.jpg (12026 bytes)Falcon 9 Orbits Dragon Cargo Mission (Updated 4/25/14)

The ninth SpaceX Falcon 9 - and the fourth upgraded "1.1" version - launched a Dragon spacecraft on the CRS-3 resupply mission for NASA's International Space Station from Cape Canaveral on April 18, 2014. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 20:25 UTC. The two-stage rocket boosted Dragon into a 313 x 332 km x 51.6 deg low earth orbit during a 9 minute 40 second ascent.  Dragon controllers had to bypass a faulty quad thruster helium pressurization system isolation valve during the spacecraft initiation phase, but the problem was quickly solved using a backup system.

Dragon was loaded with either 2.09 or 2.27 tonnes of supplies (sources vary) for ISS - the heaviest Dragon cargo load to date a result of the first use of Falcon 9 v1.1 to launch a cargo mission.  The spacecraft weighed more than 8.6  tonnes at liftoff, including cargo, making it the heaviest Falcon 9 payload to date.  It was expected to return to a splashdown off California's coast in several weeks with 1.59 tonnes of returning cargo.

After the first stage separated, it restarted three of its Merlin 1D engines to perform a reentry burn to eliminate most of its horizontal velocity. The stage, the first equipped with landing legs folded against the lower part of the vehicle, then dropped through the atmosphere and restarted a single Merlin 1D as it approached the surface of the Atlantic Ocean to eliminate vertical velocity.  During the burn, the stage was expected to extend its legs in a test of future land landing techniques. The stage was unlikely to be recovered, and recovery was not necessary for the purposes of this test.

f9-9y.jpg (33365 bytes)Landing Legs on F9-9 First Stage Prior to Rollout

Several hours after the flight, Elon Musk tweeted that data from a tracking plane had showed that the final landing phase had been performed successfully, meaning that the stage had remained stable, that the landing burn had fired for its full duration, and presumably that the landing legs had deployed.  Several boats were enroute to the landing zone located about 520 km downrange from the Cape and about 400 km east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, though heavy seas were reported in the area.  

After Dragon separated, the second stage coasted for 35 minutes before performing a brief depletion burn as it flew over the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.  The burn was intended to determine propellant residuals and to lower the orbit of the stage, hastening its reentry.

Dragon successfully berthed with ISS two days after launch.

crs3.jpg (5401 bytes)CRS-3 Dragon Approaches ISS

On April 21, 2014, SpaceX President and Chief Executive Officer Gwynne Shotwell said that the first stage had landed softly at near zero velocity, but that recovery was unlikely due to rough seas.  She said that the stage, or that parts of the stage, had been located.  A Coast Guard navigation hazard notice briefly listed a floating stage obstruction at about 31 North, 76 West, but the notice was subsequently canceled. 

Four days later, Elon Musk confirmed that the stage had deployed its legs and landed softly, but had subsequently sunk due to wave action.    High seas prevented any ships from searching for the stage for two days.   Only floating fragments were located, included pieces of the carbon composite interstage and of one of the landing legs.  Mr. Musk said that the company would try another first stage ocean landing on the next Falcon 9 flight.

esat2-2.jpg (20519 bytes)Russia Launches Spy Satellite for Egypt

One of Russia's final Soyuz-U rockets launched EgyptSat 2, an optical reconnaissance satellite, into low earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 16, 2014. The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Area 31 Pad 6 at 16:20 UTC and quickly lifted the 1.05 tonne satellite into a 435 x 700 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Orbital insertion occurred 520 seconds after liftoff.

Russia's RKK Energia developed and built the new imaging satellite for Egypt's military and other government agencies. If successful, the design could be the first of many to fly for Egypt and other countries.

The launch was unusual because a Progress payload fairing housed the satellite. It was likely the final launch of a Soyuz-U with a non-Progress payload. In the not too distant future, likely during 2015, Soyuz 2-1a, with modernized flight control systems and upgraded engines, will replace the older, but highly reliable Soyuz-U design even for Progress missions.

av045.jpg (6405 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches NROL-67

The 45th Atlas 5, a 541 model with a five meter diameter payload fairing and four solid rocket boosters, launched a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 10, 2014. AV-045 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 17:45 UTC to begin the NROL-67 mission. A bit more than four hours later, United Launch Alliance announced that the rocket had completed its mission successfully. The timing of the announcement, and the eastward launch azimuth, was generally consistent with a launch directly to geosynchronous orbit involving three Centaur upper stage burns.

The launch had been delayed by more than two weeks due to failure of hard-to-replace equipment at a range radar tracking station.

It was only the second flight of an Atlas 5-541, and was the first time that the variant performed an NRO launch. Some analysts suspect that the NROL-67 could be a new-generation signals intelligence satellite. Others believe that it might be a new type of data relay satellite.

ofek10.jpg (6955 bytes)Shavit-2 Launches Israeli Spy Satellite (Updated 4/11/14)

Israel's Shavit-2 rocket launched a synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite named Ofek 10 into orbit from Palmachim Air Base on April 9, 2014. Liftoff took place at 19:06 UTC. Ofek 10 was expected to operate in a 600 km orbit, though some sources described a 330 x 610 km x 141 deg insertion orbit. 

The launch was jointly carried out by IAI and the Defense Ministry’s Space Administration, which is a part of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.

MAFAT, the research and development department of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, contracted Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI Ltd) and other Israeli companies to develop both the Ofek 10 satellite and the Shavit 2 launcher. It was the third Shavit-2 launch.

progm23m.jpg (7202 bytes)Progress Cargo Spacecraft Launches, Docks with ISS

A Soyuz U rocket launched the unmanned Progress M-23M cargo spacecraft into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 9, 2014. The spacecraft flew a fast track, four-orbit, six hour approach to an International Space Station docking. Docking took place at 21:14 UTC.

Progress M-23M lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 15:26 UTC. The spacecraft carried about 2.7 tonnes of cargo and fuel to the station. The Expedition 38 crew currently occupies the station. It consists of Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Russia, and NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson.

It was the 55th Progress flight to ISS and the 146th launch of all types to the station since construction began in 1998.

pslvc24.jpg (16398 bytes)PSLV Launches Navsat

PSLV-XL C24 orbited India’s IRNSS 1B, a navigation satellite, from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on April 4, 2014. The four stage rocket lifted off from the First Launch Pad at 11:44 UTC. The stages fired in succession, with a nearly four minute coast occurring between the third and fourth stage burns. The fourth stage inserted 1.432 tonne IRNSS 1B into a subsynchronous transfer orbit targeted to be 284 x 20,650 km x 19.2 deg. Mission plans call for the satellite to use its own propulsion system to perform a series of burns to reach its final 35,786 km x 0 deg geosynchronous orbit.

IRNSS-1B, the second of seven planned IRNSS missions, was developed by the Indian Space Research Organization.

C24 was the 6th PSLV-XL and the 24th success in 26th PSLV flights.

vs07.jpg (10168 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat Launches Europe's Sentinel 1A

Russian contractor teams launched a Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat from Kourou Space Center in French Guiana for Arianespace on April 3, 2014. The launch orbited the European Space Agency's Sentinel 1A environmental monitoring satellite. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from the ELS pad at 21:02 UTC to begin the Arianespace VS07 mission. The 2.257 tonne Thales Alenia Space-built satellite was boosted into a 693 km x 98.2 deg sun synchronous orbit after the Fregat stage completed a single burn about 20 minutes after liftoff..

Sentinel 1A will use a C-band synthetic aperture radar to provide imagery of both ocean and land surfaces.

av044.jpg (8434 bytes)Atlas 5 Orbits DMSP F-19

Atlas 5-401 number AV-044 lofted Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 into sun synchronous orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base on April 3, 2014. The two-stage rocket, powered by a Russian-built RD-180, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 East at 14:46 UTC. After the first stage completed its 244 second burn, the Centaur second stage performed a single, nearly 12 minute burn to insert DMSP F19 into an 853 km x 98.87 deg orbit.

Lockheed Martin built the 1.2 tonne weather satellite, which will serve the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense.

It was the 43rd su