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January-March, 2015

rokot24.jpg (6071 bytes)Rokot Launch

A Russian Rokot/Briz KM launch vehicle orbited three Gonets 3M data relay satellites and an unidentified military satellite from Area 133 Pad 3 at Plesetsk space center on March 31, 2015. The three stage rocket lifted off at 13:48 UTC. Its Briz-KM third stage performed two burns to lift the three 282 kg Gonets satellites, identified as 21L, 22L, and 23L, and the presumed Kosmos 2504 into roughly 1,500 km x 82.5 deg orbits.

The first Briz KM burn began about five minutes after liftoff and lasted for about 9.5 minutes to insert the vehicle into an elliptical parking orbit. The second, circulization burn began about 1.5 hours after liftoff near apogee and lasted for less than one minute. Spacecraft separation occurred shortly thereafter.

It was the year's first Rokot launch and the year's 20th orbital launch world-wide.

cz3cy11.jpg (14500 bytes)China Launches Navsat

China launched a new type of navigation satellite into orbit, using a new type of upper stage, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest Sichuan Province on March 30, 2015. A Chang Zheng 3C topped by a new hypergolic bipropellant space maneuvering stage named Yuanzheng 1 (YZ-1) lifted off from Pad 2 at 13:52 UTC with Beidou 17 (also identified as Beidou 3I-1).

The rocket's LH2/LOX third stage inserted YZ-1 and Beidou 17 into a 194 x 25,307 km x 55 deg orbit. YZ-1 then fired its UDMH/N2O4 fueled 663 kgf thrust engine twice, first to raise the apogee to 35,785 km and then, hours later, to circularize the orbit at 35,786 km, creating an inclined geosynchronous orbit.

It was China's first orbital launch of 2015 and the world's seventh orbital launch in five days.

pslvc27.jpg (12641 bytes)India Launches Navsat

PSLV-C27, India's 29th Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, launched IRNSS-1D, the fourth Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System satellite, into orbit from Sriharikota on March 28, 2015. The 320 tonne, 4.5 stage rocket, flying in the "XL" configuration with four stretched strap-on solid motors, lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at 11:49 UTC.

The first three core stages fired in succession during the first 10 minutes 19 seconds of the mission, boosting the vehicle into a temporary parking orbit. After an 8 minute 29 second coast, the fourth stage fired to boost the vehicle into a 284 km x 20,650 km x 19.2 deg sub synchronous transfer orbit. IRNSS-1D, which weighed 1,425 kg at launch, will subsequently fire its Liquid Apogee Motor several times to lift itself into a 35,786 km x 30.5 deg inclined geosynchronous orbit.

Subsynchronous injection was necessary because IRNSS-1D exceeded the PSLV-XL capability for standard geosynchronous transfer orbit mass.

vs11.jpg (16919 bytes)Soyuz Orbits European Navsats

A Soyuz 2-1b with a Fregat upper stage launched a pair of European Galileo navigation satellites into orbit from Kourou Space Center on March 27, 2015.  Flying the VS11 mission for Arianespace, the 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from the ELS pad at 21:46 UTC to begin a planned 3 hour 47 minute mission designed to loft the two 733 kg satellites into 23,522 km x 55.04 deg circular orbits.

Fregat performed two burns during the mission.  The first, completed 24 minutes after liftoff, placed the vehicle into an elliptical orbit with a 23,500 km apogee.   The second, which began about 3 hours 39 minutes into the flight, aimed the stage and spacecraft toward their insertion orbit. 

It was the first Galileo launch since a Fregat failure placed two Galileo satellites into an improper orbit on August 22, 2014.  Investigation found that the stage attitude control system was compromised by thruster propellant lines that were frozen by adjacent helium lines during the long coast to apogee.  Galileo missions introduce a longer coast than has been used during prior Fregat missions, exposing a previously unsuspected configuration control issue in the routing of propellant lines by stage manufacturer NPO Lavochkin.

OHB-System and SSTL built the satellite bus and payload, respectfully, for the seventh and eighth Galileo satellites.  After the 2014 failure, these will become the first two “Full Operational Capability" satellites of a planned 22 satellite constellation.

soytma16m.jpg (8342 bytes)ISS Crew Launch

A 2.5-stage Soyuz FG rocket lofted the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft with three International Space Station crewmembers from Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 27, 2015. Onboard were Russian Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikail Kornienko, and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. Kornienko and Kelly are expected to spend an entire year on ISS.

Liftoff from Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 19:43 UTC, starting a now-standard "fast-track" six-hour flight to the station.  It was the year's first crewed launch to orbit.

h2af28.jpg (8618 bytes)H-2A Launches Spysat

Japan's H-2A boosted IGS Optical 5 reconnaissance satellite into sun synchronous orbit from Tanegashima on March 26, 2015.  Flying in the standard 202 configuration with two SRB-A strap on solid boosters, H-2A F28 lifted off from Yoshinobu Pad 1 at 01:21 UTC and flew directly to low earth orbit. 

It was the second H-2A launch of 2015. 

dnepr22.jpg (5607 bytes)Dnepr Orbits Korean Satellite

The 22nd Ukrainian-Russian Dnepr launch vehicle, a converted R-36 series ICBM, placed Kompsat 3A into orbit from Russia's Dombarovsky launch site near Yasny in southwest Russia on March 25, 2015. Liftoff from an underground silo at Site 370/13 took place at 22:08 UTC.

Korea Aerospace Research Institute developed Kompsat 3A. It will perform an imaging mission from its position in sun synchronous low earth orbit.

The launch was the 15th consecutive Dnepr success. International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras, a Ukrainian/Russian joint venture, handled the launch services portion of the mission while Russian Missile Forces crews performed the launch. Dnepr's long-term future is in doubt due to the now one-year-long conflict in Ukraine.

d4gps2f9.jpg (16044 bytes)Delta 4 Launches GPS 2F-9

A Delta 4 rocket orbited GPS 2F-9 from foggy Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 25, 2015. The 2.5 stage Delta 4M+4,2, with two GEM-60 solid boosters and a four meter diameter upper stage and payload fairing, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B at 18:36 UTC. It was the sixth and final GPS 2F series launch performed by a Delta 4. Atlas 5 will launch the final three GPS 2F satellites during coming months to complete the upgraded navigation satellite constellation.

Delta 4's Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) performed two burns during a 3.25 hour mission to lift the 1.63 tonne satellite into a 20,459 km x 55 deg circular orbit. The first, long burn lifted the vehicle into a 197 x 20,431 km transfer orbit on a northeast heading. RL10B-2 cutoff came more than 15.5 minutes after liftoff.  After a 3 hour coast, DCSS peformed a short apogee burn to circularize the orbit.

It was first Delta 4 launch of 2015, the 21st Delta 4 Medium-series launch, and the 29th flight by any type of Delta 4.  It was also the last launch using a standard RS-68 engine.  All future launches will use the improved RS-68A type.   

ULA CEO Tory Bruno's recent announcement of plans to shelve the Delta 4 Medium launch vehicle after 2017 mean that only about eight more examples of the single-core vehicle are currently expected to fly. As many as five more Delta 4 Heavy launch vehicles are still on the manifest with launches planned into at least 2020.

p403.jpg (8727 bytes)Proton Orbits Express AM7

Russia's Proton orbited the Express AM7 communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 18, 2015. The 705 tonne, four-stage rocket lifted off from Site 200 Pad 39 at 22:05 UTC to begin a 9 hour 13 minute mission that included five burns by the Briz M upper stage.

Briz M fired first, just after the three Proton stages completed their burns, to place itself into a 182 km x 52.56 deg parking orbit. It fired three more times during the first 3.8 hours and two orbits of the mission to place itself into a 430 x 35,806 km x 49.1 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit. After a 5.4 hour coast to first apogee, Briz M fired a fifth time to raise the perigee and reduce inclination. Express AM7 separated into a targeted 5,410 x 35,786 km x 20 deg transfer orbit.

Express AM7 is a 5.712 tonne Eurostar E3000 series satellite with 24 C-band, 36 Ku-band and 2 L-band transponders. It will provide digital broadcasting services, government communications services, and Internet based services across Russia.

av053.jpg (10106 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches MMS

An Atlas 5-421 boosted NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) Mission into a highly elliptical Earth orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 13, 2015. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 02:44 UTC, beginning a 1 hour 47 minute long flight.

A 543 second long RL-10 burn put the Centaur second stage into a 167 x 591 km x 28.72 degree parking orbit. After a 59 minute coast, the stage fired again for 342 seconds to boost itself into a 580 x 70,279 km x 28.779 degree insertion orbit.

MMS consisted of four 1,360 kg spacecraft that were stacked atop one another during launch in an extended payload fairing. The satellites, which separated from Centaur sequentially, will fly in formation to study how magnetic fields around Earth connect and disconnect in a process called magnetic reconnection.

It was the 2nd Atlas 5 launch of 2015 and the 53rd overall. It was also the 5th orbital launch of the year from Cape Canaveral.

f9-16.jpg (6938 bytes)Falcon 9 Orbits Ion Engine Satellite Pair

Falcon 9 No. 16 During Final Minutes of Countdown

The 16th SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, and the 11th Falcon 9 v1.1 variant, launched two landmark communications satellites into orbit from Cape Canaveral on March 2, 2015. Liftoff from Cape Canaveral SLC 40 took place at 03:50 UTC. ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B, the first two all-ion-engine powered Boeing HS-702SP satellites, were stacked atop one another inside the 5.2 meter diameter payload fairing.

The first stage was not equipped with landing legs or grid fins for a landing attempt due to the requirements of the mission. The first stage fired for 2 min 56 seconds before separating. After a 10 second unpowered interval, the second stage started its Merlin 1D Vacuum engine for a 5 min 44 second burn that boosted the vehicle into a 174 x 953 km x 28.19 deg parking orbit. The stage coasted for 16 min 52 seconds before reigniting for a 59 second burn that boosted the stage and payloads toward a reportedly targeted supersynchronous transfer orbit of 408 x 63,928 km x 24.83 deg.  The satellites separated in sequence during the subsequent nine minutes and were subsequently tracked in roughly 400 x 63,300 to 63,400 km x 24.8 deg orbits that exceeded customer requirements.   They will gradually maneuver themselves to geostationary orbit, a process that will take at least eight months due to the low thrust provided by the ion engines.

f9-16b.jpg (12340 bytes)ABS-3A stacked atop Eutelsat 115 West B During Payload Processing

By dispensing with standard liquid monomethyl hydrazine propellants in favor of highly efficient xenon-ion propulsion system (XIPS), Boeing developed satellites that could weigh substantially less. Each satellite has at least four 25 cm diameter XIPS, each producing about 8.2 grams thrust at an average ISP of 3,420 seconds.

ABS-3A weighed 1.954 tonnes and Eutelsat 115 West B weighed 2.205 tonnes, about half the weight of a standard satellite of equal capability. The Eutelsat satellite weighed more than ABS-3A because it was the lower of the two satellites and was designed to support the weight of ABS-3A.  This arrangement allowed for a standard Falcon 9 payload fairing and payload attach fitting to be used.

The total 4.159 tonne payload mass was the heaviest boosted to a supersynchronous transfer orbit by Falcon 9 to date. The rocket performed a static test firing on the pad on February 25 with no payloads or payload fairing attached.

barsm1.jpg (26520 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a Launches Spysat

A 2.5 stage Soyuz 2-1a boosted Russia's new Bars-M reconnaissance satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on February 27, 2015. The 4 tonne satellite, designated No. 1L, entered a 328 x 540 km x 97.64 deg transfer orbit about 8-9 minutes after an 11:01 UTC liftoff from Site 43/4. Soyuz 2-1a flew north by northwest from Plesetsk, skirting past Norway's northern coast.

Bars-M is the first of its type. It will maneuver itself to a likely 700 km sun synchronous orbit. There it will capture wide-area digital images for mapping and other purposes. TssKB Progress developed Bars-M, which uses a Karat camera made by the Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Association (LOMA).

It was the fifth Soyuz 2-1a launch to orbit without an upper stage, not including a 2004 suborbital test flight. An additional 15 Soyuz 2-1a vehicles have flown with Fregat upper stages.

progm26m.jpg (5520 bytes)Soyuz Orbits Progress

A Soyuz U boosted Russia's Progress M-26M unmanned cargo spacecraft into orbit bound for the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 17, 2015. The 2.5 stage kerosene fueled rocket lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 11:00 UTC. Progress M-26M docked with the station 5 hours 57 minutes later.

Progress weighed 7.287 tonnes at liftoff. It entered an initial 194 x 247 km x 51.65 deg orbit, from which it quickly maneuvered to rendezvous with ISS. The ship carried 2.8 tonnes of dry cargo, food, rocket propellant, water and oxygen to the space station.

It was the year's first R-7 launch, and the first Soyuz U launch since July, 2014 as the long-running type is beginning to be phased out in favor of Soyuz 2.1.

f9-15.jpg (4502 bytes)Falcon 9 Launches DSCOVR

SpaceX's tenth Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket, and 15th Falcon 9 overall, launched the NASA/NOAA/USAF Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on February 11, 2015. The 500+ tonne two-stage rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 22:03 UTC and steered on an eastward track, rising into the light of a setting sun for a spectacular dusk ascent.

The first stage shut down its nine Merlin 1D engines about 164 seconds after liftoff and the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine began a 5 minute 44 second burn to boost the vehicle into a parking orbit. After coasting across the Atlantic Ocean, the second stage reignited at the 30 minute 9 second mark to begin a 58 second burn aimed to boost DSCVR into a highly elliptical earth orbit. The target orbit was 187 x 1,241,000 km x 37 degrees. The achieved orbit was 187 x 1,371,156 km x 37 degrees.

DSCOVR is a 570 kg satellite that was originally built by Lockheed Martin during the 1990s. It will move itself into a Lissajous orbit around the Sun-Earth L1 Lagrangian point, 1,500,000 km from Earth in line with the Sun. There it will monitor the solar wind and provide images of the fully-illuminated side of the Earth. The spacecraft will take 110 days to reach its final L1 orbit.

It was the third launch attempt for DSCOVR. A February 8 attempt was scrubbed with a little more than 2 minutes remaining in the count due to a range tracking issue. A February 10 attempt was scrubbed due to excessive high altitude winds. The rocket performed its static fire test at SLC 40 on January 31, 2015 during the day's second attempt.

After the first stage separated, it performed a reentry burn followed by a terminal landing burn, but a second attempt to land on a converted barge had to be abandoned due to high seas.  The landing attempt would have been more than 400 km downrange. An initial boost-back burn performed during previous recovery missions was not performed due to the need to assign propellant to the DSCOVR ascent.

It was the second Falcon 9 launch of 2015.

vv04a.jpg (28892 bytes)Vega Launches Space Plane

Europe's solid-fuel Vega rocket launched a small atmospheric reentry demonstrator space plane on a 100 minute suborbital flight from Kourou on February 11, 2015. The flight tested heat shield technology, hypersonic aerodynamics, and other systems during the vehicle's reentry before a Pacific Ocean splashdown beneath a 30 meter diameter parachute.

Vega lifted off from the ZLV pad at 13:40 UTC to begin the VV04 mission. The rocket's solid-fueled first three stages burned in sequence during the first 6 minutes 37 seconds of the mission, with the payload fairing separating after the second stage burn, about four minutes into the flight. The AVUM upper stage with its payload then performed a 6 minute burn using its KB Yuzhnoye RD-869 derived UDMH/N2O4 engine before separating from the payload 17 minutes 59 seconds after liftoff.

The 1.845 tonne space plane, identified as the Intermediate Experimental Vehicle (IXV) was was released from Vega at a 340 km altitude into a 76 x 416 km x 5.4 deg orbit. IXV climbed to apogee before falling back into the atmosphere to begin reentry at 7.5 km/sec. IXV was steered by four hydrazine thrusters augmented in the atmosphere by two rear-mounted aerodynanic flaps.  During the final minutes of the flight, IXV deployed a supersonic parachute, followed by a drogue and the main chute. Splashdown occurred at about 15:19 UTC west of the Galapagos Islands. 

After spacecraft separation, the AVUM performed two burns.  The first may have accelerated the stage briefly into orbit.  The second likely deorbited the stage into the Atlantic Ocean.

The 5 meter long, 2.2 meter diameter IXV was built by Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA).  Italy provided most of the funding for the mission.

Vega had stood stacked at ZLV for months after a planned November 2014 launch date was cancelled just before final launch preparations due to European Space Agency and French space agency, CNES, concerns about the planned flight path out of Kourou.  It was the first non-polar flight for Vega.  On previous missions, Vega had flown north from its launch pad. This was the first flight aimed toward the northeast. The delay "allowed time for additional analyses of the flight trajectory", according to Arianespace.

safir2315a.jpg (17298 bytes)Iran Orbits Satellite

Iran achieved its fourth successful orbital launch on February 2, 2015, when a Safir 1B lofted a 50 kg satellite named "Fajr" ("Dawn") into low earth orbit from a base in the Dasht-e-Kavir desert southeast of Semnan.  Iran did not announce the liftoff time, which was estimated by outsiders to have been approximately 08:50 UTC.

The two-stage rocket operated for about 8 minutes to reach orbit. Fajr was tracked in a 224 x 470 km x 55.53 deg orbit.

safir2315b.jpg (7095 bytes)Fajr is Iran’s fourth satellite. Previous successful missions, all performed by Safir boosters, took place in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Two unannounced, suspected launch failures may have occurred during 2012.

Safir is derived from Iran's Shahab 3 ballistic missile.

p402.jpg (11543 bytes)Proton Orbits Inmarsat 5F2

A Khrunichev Proton M/Briz M boosted Inmarsat 5F2 to supersynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 1, 2015. Liftoff took place began from Area 200 Pad 39 at 21:37 UTC.

The Briz M upper stage performed five burns during the more than 15.5 hour mission. The first burn placed the vehicle into a 173 km x 51.5 deg parking orbit during the initial ascent. The second burn, starting about 1 hour 50 minutes after liftoff, raised the orbit to 295 x 6,000 km x 51.0 deg. The third and fourth burns took place sequentially beginning at T+4 hours 23 minutes, with the APT drop tank jettisonned between burns. The vehicle was in a 475 x 65,044 km x 50.5 deg transfer orbit after the fourth burn, with a 10 hour coast to apogee for the fifth burn, which aimed Inmarsat 5F2 toward a 4,341 x 65,000 km x 26.75 deg delivery orbit.

Boeing Satellite Systems built the 6.07 tonne BSS-702HP series satellite for Inmarsat. It is equipped with 89 Ka-band beams for mobile broadband communications. It also has a xenon ion propulsion system. Inmarsat 5F2 will be positioned at 55 deg West.

It was the 402nd Proton launch, and the 80th Proton M/Briz M.

h2af27.jpg (5511 bytes)H-2A Orbits Radar Spysat

H-2A-202 F27 launched Japan's Radar Spare satellite into orbit from Tanegashima Space Centre on February 1, 2015. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Pad 1 took place at 01:21 UTC.

It was the sixth radar satellite in Japan's Information Gathering Satellite series, which have also included seven optical imaging satellites. Japan's Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center operates the IGS system. The Radar Spare satellite was a second generation synthetic aperature imaging spacecraft launched to backup existing satellites in orbit.

d370a.jpg (12105 bytes)Delta 2 Launches Moisture Mapper

The 153rd Delta 2 rocket, a 2.5-stage 7320-10C with three GEM strap-on solid motors and a 10 foot diameter composite fairing, launched NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite from Vandenberg AFB on January 31, 2015. The 152 tonne, 38.9 meter tall Delta lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at 14:22 UTC to begin a 57 minute mission that injected the 944 kg satellite into a 685 km x 98.1 deg sun synchronous orbit.

SMAP was built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Goddard Space Flight Center manages the program. The satellite will measure global soil moisture and freeze/thaw states to assess global water resources.

Delta lifted off on 227 tonnes of combined sea-level thrust from its three GEMs and its 90.72 tonne thrust Rocketdyne RS-27A LOX/RP engine. The three solid motors burned out 64.5 seconds after liftoff and jettisonned at the 99 second mark. The RS-27A first stage engine shut down at 261.8 seconds. The second stage separated at 268 seconds and its 4.45 tonne thrust Aerojet AJ10-118K pressure fed hypergolic engine ignited eight seconds later to begin the first of two burns. Fairing jettison occurred at 295 seconds. The first second stage burn ended at 643.6 seconds, leaving Delta and SMAP in a 176 x 701 km x 98.1 deg parking orbit. After coasting over Antarctica and the southern Indian Ocean, the second stage reignited over Madagascar at 3098 seconds and cut off at 3110.1 seconds. SMAP separated at 3410.5 seconds, or 56 minutes 50.6 seconds.

d370b.jpg (7371 bytes)About 48 minutes after SMAP separation the second stage was to perform a brief third burn before three PPOD microsatellites were scheduled to be released.  The second stage would perform a fourth and final burn at the end of the mission.

The rocket flew as Delta 370, but it was only the 339th Delta with a Thor-derived first stage and a hypergolic second stage. An additional three Delta 3 rockets flew with liquid hydrogen second stages. The remaining 28 "Deltas" were RS-68 powered Delta 4 rockets. "Delta 370" was the 721st Thor family launch and the 608th Thor family orbital attempt.  It was also the 98th consecutive Delta 2 success.

av052.jpg (13857 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches MUOS 3

The most powerful Atlas 5 variant, an Atlas 5-551 with five strap on solid motors and a five meter diameter payload fairing, lofted the third of five planned U.S. Navy Mobile User Objective System (MUOS 3) communications satellites into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 21, 2015. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at at 01:04 UTC. The 568 tonne rocket's Centaur upper stage fired its RL10C-1 engine three times during a nearly 3 hour mission to lift MUOS 3 toward a planned 3,817 x 35,787 km x 19.11 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

At 6.74 tonnes, the MUOS satellites are the heaviest known payloads launched by an Atlas 5, though the mass of several secret national security payloads launched by Atlas 5 have never been published. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the MUOS prime contractor. The satellites provide narrowband tactical voice and data communications and are equipped with a 14-meter diameter reflecting mesh antenna to provide links to ground-based users.

It was the 52nd Atlas 5 launch and the fifth 551 variant. It was also the second flight of an RL10C-1 engine. The vehicle's second stage was the 200th Centaur flown atop a first stage named "Atlas", though only 142 of those flew atop an original stange-and-a-half ICBM-derived Atlas.

f9-14.jpg (15829 bytes)Falcon 9 Orbits Dragon CRS-5

SpaceX's ninth Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket successfully orbited another of the company's Dragon spacecraft on the CRS-5 (Cargo Resupply Services) mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 10, 2015. Rising on nearly 590 tonnes of thrust produced by its nine first stage Merlin 1D engines, the 63.4 meter tall two-stage rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 09:47 UTC and steered on a northeastward track. The first stage shut down its nine Merlin 1D engines about 157 seconds after liftoff and the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine began a roughly 7 minute burn to boost the vehicle into a 206 x 353 km x 51.64 degree orbit.

Dragon carried 2.317 tonnes of cargo for International Space Station Expeditions 42 and 43. The spacecraft likely weighed as much as 7.8 tonnes at liftoff, including cargo. One unpressurized payload carried in Dragon's trunk was NASA Goddard's Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), a laser remote sensing experiment designed to measure clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere. It also carried an IMAX camera and tools for future spacewalks to prepare the station for the installation of the new international docking adapters.

After about four weeks at ISS, Dragon will return to a Pacific Ocean splashdown loaded with more than 1.633 tonnes of return cargo, packaging materials, and trash.

It was the second launch attempt for CRS-5. A January 6 attempt was scrubbed 1 minute 21 seconds before the planned liftoff because of a second stage engine thrust vector control actuator issue. SpaceX said that engineers had "observed drift on one of the two thrust vector actuators (Elon Musk identified it as the "Z actuator") on the second stage that would likely have caused an automatic abort". A similar problem had appeared during the rocket's initial hot fire test countdown at SLC 40 on December 17, 2014 but engineers had thought the problem subsequently solved.

That initial hot fire test was itself aborted after ignition due to a valve problem, causing the planned December 20 launch date to slip to January 6. A second hot fire test attempt was successful on December 19, 2014.

After the first stage separated, it performed another in a continuing series of SpaceX stage recovery experiments. This time, for the first time, a landing was attempted on a converted barge, parked more than 350 km downrange, that was equipped with a flat top landing platform and position-holding capabilities. Also, for the first time, four grid-fins attached to the interstage were used to help steer the stage toward a precise landing spot. The stage reignited three of its engines to perform an initial boost-back burn to shorten its range. Then, as it fell through the upper atmosphere, it fired its engines a second time to reduce reentry velocity.

A third single-engine landing burn took place during the final moments of the descent, designed to set the stage safely down on four landing legs that were to deploy just before landing. The stage apparently steered itself to the barge and attempted to land, but it crashed, or landed hard, on the barge and was destroyed. The barge itself remained afloat, but stage recovery equipment aboard the barge was destroyed. SpaceX head Elon Musk announced that the grid fins had worked during the hypersonic to subsonic velocity phase, but that they exhausted their hydraulic fluid supply shortly
before the landing, which may have contributed to the crash.

It was the first orbital launch of 2015 and the 14th Falcon 9 launch.