|Space Launch Report Archive
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Delta 4 Launches
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
(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
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 Ministrys Space
Administration, which is a part of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and
MAFAT, the research and development department of Israels 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.
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
It was the 55th Progress flight to ISS and the 146th launch of all types to the station
since construction began in 1998.
PSLV-XL C24 orbited Indias 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
IRNSS-1B, the second of seven planned IRNSS missions, was developed by the Indian Space
C24 was the 6th PSLV-XL and the 24th success in 26th PSLV flights.
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.
Atlas 5 Orbits
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