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April-June, 2016

cz4by35.jpg (3225 bytes)CZ 4B Launch
(June 30, 2016 Update)

China's CZ-4B (Chang Zheng, or Long March) orbited the second Shijian 16 satellite from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 29, 2016. Liftoff from LC 43/603 took place at 03:21 UTC. The satellite, announced by China state media to be used for “space environment measurements and technology testing", entered a 595 x 616 km x 75 deg orbit. 

Some Western analysts suspect that Shijian 16 is an electronic intelligence (ELNIT) satellite designed to intercept radio signals.  

Another CZ-4B had orbited the first Shijian-16 satellite in October 2013.

It was the eighth DF-5 based CZ orbital launch, and the ninth orbital launch by China, of the year.

cz7-1ax.jpg (6322 bytes)China Debuts CZ-7, Wenchang Launch Site
(June 30, 2016 Update)

CZ-7 Inaugural Liftoff

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 7 flew successfully on its first try from the country's new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on June 25, 2016. The liftoff, from Pad 201, the easternmost of two new launch pads at the Center, took place at 12:00 UTC. The launch site, on Hainan Island off China's southern coastline, is China's first sea-side launch site, which allowed the rocket stages to fall into the South China Sea as the vehicle ascended on a southeast azimuth toward orbit.

CZ-7 flew to a 200 x 394 km x 40.8 deg initial orbit with several demonstration payloads, including a 2.6 tonne blunt cone-shaped, scaled-down Next Generation Crew Vehicle that reentered and landed in China after about one day in orbit. Several microsatellites and ballast were also carried within the payload fairing atop a restartable YZ-1A upper stage. Total payload mass was reportedly about 12 tonnes, which would be the heaviest payload orbited since Japan's HTV-5 ISS cargo hauler in August, 2015. 

After entering orbit, the YZ-1A stage, which may use four 408 kgf thrust YF-85 hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engines, appeared to have performed several maneuvers, with objects tracked in orbits with apogees as high as 580 km.   The stage is also believed to have performed the NGCV deorbit burn.

CZ-7 is the second of China’s Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology's (CALT) new family of launchers to enter service, following the smaller CZ-6 in September 2015. CZ-7 uses a 3.35 meter diameter core stage powered by two 122.5 tonne thrust YF-100 RP/LOX staged combustion engines. Four 2.25 meter diameter strap-on boosters, each powered by one YF-100, augment the core to produce a total of 734.1 tonnes (1.618 million pounds) of thrust at liftoff. Four 18 tonne thrust YF-115 RP/LOX staged combustion engines power the 3.35 meter diameter second stage. The rocket weighs about 594 tonnes at liftoff and stands about 53.1 meters tall.

cz7-1bs.jpg (14559 bytes)CZ-7 Rollout on June 22, 2016, Pad 101 in Background (CZ-7 Diverged to East (Left), Toward Pad 201).

The 2.5 stage CZ-7 version can lift 13.5 tonnes to 200 x 400 km x 42 deg or 5.5 tonnes to a 700 km sun synchronous orbit. A liquid hydrogen third stage could be added in the future to lift payloads to GTO.

The CZ-7 core stage will serve as a strap-on booster for China's next, biggest-ever rocket, CZ-5, which may debut later this year. CZ-5 will have a 5 meter diameter liquid hydrogen fueled core stage and will be able to lift 25 tonnes to LEO, making it among the world's most powerful orbital launchers.

CZ-5 will fly from Pad 101, the west pad at Wenchang. The Center features two vertical assembly buildings, one for CZ-7 and one for CZ-5, which are located about 2.7 km north of the sea-side pads. Stacked launch vehicles move on rail-based mobile transporters from the VAB to the pad. A complete CZ-7 Ground Test Vehicle was assembled at Wenchang during early 2015 and moved to Pad 201 to check out the new site.

av063.jpg (9883 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches MUOS 5

AV-063, an Atlas 5-551, the most powerful Atlas 5 version, boosted the U.S. Navy's MUOS 5 (Mobile User Objective System) communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral on June 24, 2016. The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 14:30 UTC to begin its 2 hour 53 minute 17 second mission.

During the flight, the liquid hydrogen fueled Centaur stage performed three burns. The first placed the vehicle into a low parking orbit. The second, which began at T+20:27, boosted the stage and satellite into a 194 x 34,447 km x 26 deg transfer orbit. After a 2.5 hour coast to apogee, Centaur ignited a third time to boost itself into a 3,841 by 35,706 km x 19.1 deg insertion orbit.

MUOS 5 is the fifth and final first generation MUOS satellite. The first was launched in 2012. It and all subsequent MUOS satellites were orbited by Atlas 5-551 rockets. Lockheed Martin assembled the 6,740 kg A2100M series satellites. MUOS provides video, voice, and data communications to mobile terminals using UHF and WCDMA communications systems.

AV-063 was the first Atlas 5 launch since a faulty RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV) nearly doomed the the OA-6 Cygnus mission during March, 2016. The problem caused a shift to an improper fuel/oxidizer mix during the final minute of the first stage flight, causing LOX to be depleted six seconds before the planned RD-180 shutdown. The Centaur stage burned more than 60 seconds longer than planned to compensate for the error, but nearly ran out of propellant while doing so. A subsequent investigation pinpointed the MRCV problem and identified a solution. The MUOS 5 flight was delayed for several weeks while the investigation was underway.

pslvc34.jpg (34344 bytes)PSLV Launches Cartosat 2

PSLV-C34, Indian Space Research Organization's 36th PSLV, orbited the 727.5 kg Cartosat 2 earth observation satellite and 19 co-passenger satellites that together weighed 560 kg from Sriharikota, India on June 22, 2016. Liftoff from the Second Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan space Center took place at 03:55 UTC. The 4.5 stage PSLV-XL rocket boosted its payloads into a 505 km x 97.48 deg sun synchronous orbit during a 25.5 minute mission.

Cartosat 2 will provide remote sensing services using its panchromatic and multispectral cameras.

It was the year's 40 orbital launch, which have taken place with no failures.

va230.jpg (11090 bytes)Ariane 5 Launches Two Comsats

Ariane 5 ECA L584 launched two communication satellites into orbit from Kourou Space Center on June 18, 2016. Echostar 18 and BRIsat reached geosynchronous transfer orbit about 30 minutes after the 21:38 UTC liftoff from ELA 3. The VA230 Arianespace mission took place after a weather scrub the previous day.

Together, the satellites weighed 9,840 kg at liftoff, making this the heaviest GTO payload yet launched by an Ariane 5.  EchoStar 18, a 6,300 kg Space Systems Loral 1300 series satellite, will be operated at 110 deg West by Echostar for for DISH Network. It will provide Ku-band coverage, using 61 Ku-band transponders, for the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

BRIsat, also an SSL 1300 series satellite, rode beneath Echostar 18 within a long version Sylda 5 shroud.  It is the first communications satellite owned by a bank, P.T. Bank Rakyat Indonesia. The 3,540 kg satellite will use 36 C-band and 0 Ku-band transponders to serve bank branches in Indonesia and South East Asia from its 150.5 deg East position in geosynchronous orbit.

f9-26.jpg (9487 bytes)Falcon 9 Launches Comsat Pair

The 26th SpaceX Falcon 9, and sixth v1.2 variant, launched Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS 2A to supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 15, 2016. The two-stage kerosene/LOX rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 14:49 UTC. Eutelsat 117 West B, which was stacked directly atop ABS 2A, was deployed about 30 minutes after liftoff. ABS 2A followed about 5 minutes later.

After firing for 2 minutes 36 seconds during the ascent, the first stage separated and attempted another experimental landing on the “Of Course I Still Love You” landing platform. The landing was not successful. The stage appeared to have reached the platform but was soon replaced in webcast views by images of flames and smoke.  Elon Musk subsequently tweeted that "thrust was low on 1 of 3 landing engines. High g landings v[ery] sensitive to all engines operating at max."

Boeing built both of the BSS-702SP series communications satellites. Both have 48 transponders and 4 dedicated Ku-band transmitters. Both use XIPS-25 Xenon gas-fueled all-electric propulsion systems. Eutelsat 117 West B will serve Latin America from 116.8 deg West in geosynchronous orbit. ABS-2A will be positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 75 deg East to serve Africa, Europe, Russia, South Asia and South East Asia.  BSS-702SP satellites typically weigh 1,800 to 2,500 kg at launch.   Eutelsat 117 West B weighed 1,963 kg, according to Eutelsat.  The combined payload mass may have been 4,000 to 4,200 kg.  

It was the year's sixth Falcon 9 launch.  The vehicle's first and second stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during mid-May.  The first stage arrived at Cape Canaveral on May 27, 2016, shortly after the F9-25 Thaicom 8 launch.  The vehicle was assembled without payload and on June 12, 2016 was rolled out and briefly test fired on the SLC 40 pad.  After the early-morning hot fire, the vehicle   returned to the horizontal integration facility for payload integration.

cz3cbd23.jpg (8203 bytes)China Launches Navsat

A Chang Zheng (Long March) 3C launched China's 23rd Beidou navigation satellite from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on June 12, 2016. Liftoff from LC 3 took place at 15:30 UTC. The 3.5-stage rocket boosted Beidou 23, identified by some Western analysts as Beidou 2 G7, into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite will lift itself into a geosynchronous orbit.

Beidou is based on the DFH-3 bus. China has been steadily building its first navigation satellite constellation during the last few years. As many as 35 satellites are planned, including three in inclined geosynchronous orbits, five in geostationary orbits, and 27 in 12-hour, 21,500 km circular orbits.

It was the year's seventh CZ launch.

d374.jpg (17401 bytes)d374b.jpg (3006 bytes)Delta 4 Heavy Orbits NROL 37

The ninth Delta 4-Heavy orbited NROL 37 for the National Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 11, 2016. The big, triple core rocket, currently the world's most capable orbital launcher, rose from its SLC 37B launch pad on nearly 955.28 tonnes (2.1 million pounds) of combined thrust from its three liquid hydrogen fueled RS-68A engines. Liftoff occurred at 17:51 UTC, following a weather scrub on June 9.

NROL 37 may be a Mentor (or Advanced Orion) signals intelligence satellite aimed for near-geosynchronous orbit using three burns by the upper stage RL10B-2 engine during a roughly six hour mission.  Six previous Mentor satellites, described as the largest satellites ever deployed, are believed to have been orbited by Titan 4 and Delta 4 Heavy launch vehicles since 1993.

The most recent Mentor launch, in June 2012, used the first set of improved RS-68A engines. RS-68A was said to have been developed specifically to lift the latest Mentor versions, which could weigh as much as 6 metric tons. The satellites are believed to have a huge antenna reflector, or arrays of reflectors, that deploy after they reach their operational orbits.

It was the 32nd Delta 4 launch.  The flight, designated "Delta 374", was the last Delta 4 Heavy until 2018.

p412.jpg (28313 bytes)Proton Launches Intelsat 31

An upgraded "Phase 4" Proton M/Briz M launched Intelsat 31 toward a planned supersynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on June 9, 2016. The four-stage, 705 tonne rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 07:10 UTC, beginning a planned 15.5 hour mission involving five-burns by the Briz M upper stage. Intelsat 31, a 6.32 tonne Space Systems Loral 1300 series communications satellite, was aimed toward a 3,503 x 65,000 km x 29.6 deg transfer orbit.  The planned GTO was only about 1,500 m/s short of geosynchronous orbit.

During the Proton ascent phase, one of the four second stage main engines shut down nine seconds early, causing a small delta-v shortfall. Staging was otherwise nominal and, after the third stage completed its burn, the Briz M upper stage fired 32.66 seconds longer than planned to reach its initial low earth parking orbit. Briz M completed its subsequent four burns roughly on time.  The fifth and final burn followed a long coast to apogee.   Spacecraft separation took place at about 22:41 UTC.

Soon after spacecraft separation, launch service provider ILS and satellite owner Intelsat declared the launch a success. 

It was the 412th Proton launch, the third Proton flight of the year, and the 35th orbital launch of the year worldwide. 

rokot29.jpg (4180 bytes)Rokot Orbits Geo-IK-2 No. 12L

Russia's Rokot/Briz KM orbited a Russian Defense Ministry gravity mapping satellite from Plestesk Cosmodrome on June 4, 2016. The three-stage rocket, consisting of a retired two-stage RS-18 ICBM topped by a Khrunichev Briz KM upper stage, lifted off from LC 133/3 at 13:45 UTC. The satellite, named Geo-IK-2 No. 12L, entered a sun synchronous orbit.

ISS Reshetnev developed the 900 kg Geo-IK-2 No. 12L geodesy satellite, which will map the earth's gravitational field and land and sea surface heights from its operational 1,000 km x 98.6 deg orbit. The satellite will perform the mission of Geo-IK-2 No. 11, which was placed into an incorrect orbit by another Rokot/Briz KM in February 2011.

A Russian Aerospace Force combat crew performed the launch. It was the 26th Rokot/Briz KM orbital attempt.  The launch vehicle's development also included two suborbital and one orbital Rokot/Briz K flights during the early 1990s. 

The flight garnered the attention of Canadian environmentalists because the second stage debris impact zone was in the northern part of Baffin Bay between Greenland and Elsemere Island. Although in international waters, the impact zone was within the claimed exclusive economic zones of Canada and Denmark.

cz4bzy3-2.jpg (2834 bytes)CZ-4B Orbits Remote Sensing Satellite

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B launched Ziyuan 3-2, a high-resolution remote sensing satellite, from Taiyaun Satellite Launch Center on May 30, 2016. Liftoff from LC 9 took place at 03:17 UTC.  Ziyuan 3-2, a 2,630 kg satellite built by China’s Academy of Space Technology/Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering for the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources, was injected into sun synchronous orbit. Two Aleph 1 microsatellite were also orbited.

Ziyuan 3-2, fitted with multiple cameras and an infrared multispectral scanner, will be used for civil mapping purposes. It will operate in a 506 km x 97.42 deg orbit.

r7-1860.jpg (18494 bytes)Soyuz Orbits Glonass Navsat

Russia's Soyuz 2-1B/Fregat launched a GLONASS-M navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 43/4 on May 29, 2016. Liftoff took place at 08:44 UTC. The 1,415 kg satellite was identified as Glonass 53.  It was slated to be named Kosmos 2516 after a successful orbit had been achieved.

Spacecraft separation occurred at 12:16 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 19,140 km x 64.8 deg orbit.

It was the ninth R-7 launch of 2016.

f9-25c.jpg (7442 bytes)Falcon 9 Launches Thaicom 8

F9-25 Liftoff

SpaceX Corporation's 25th Falcon 9 rocket, and its fifth upgraded Falcon 9 v1.2 variant, launched Thailand's Thaicom 8 communication satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 27, 2016. Liftoff of the 69.98 meter (229.6 foot) tall rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 21:39 UTC. After a 2 minute 35 second first stage burn, the Merlin 1D Vacuum powered, stretched second stage performed two burns, with a roughly 18 minute parking orbit coast between, to accelerate the 3.025 metric ton (tonne) Orbital ATK GEOStar 2 satellite toward a targeted 250 x 90,000 km supersynchronous transfer orbit.

After its ascent burn, the first stage reoriented itself to perform experimental reentry and landing retro-burns, while using four grid-fins to steer toward a SpaceX landing platform positioned on the Atlantic Ocean surface about 680 km downrange. The stage achieved the third consecutive successful sea platform landing.

The initial second stage burn lasted for about 6 minutes 10 seconds to reach a low earth parking orbit. Payload fairing separation occurred about 51 seconds after the start of the burn. After a roughly 18 minute coast, the second stage reignited for a one minute 13 seconds burn to loft the payload toward its insertion orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred about 31 minutes 56 seconds after liftoff.

f9-25b.jpg (11914 bytes)First Stage on Landing Platform

After maneuvering itself to geosynchronous orbit, Thaicom 8, equipped with 24 Ku-band transponders, will be located at 78.5 degrees East.

During the launch campaign, the Thaicom 8 stages performed qualification burns at McGregor, Texas during mid-April. The first stage performed a hot fire test at SLC 40 on May 24, 2016. The first launch attempt was scrubbed on May 26 during the final hour of the countdown to investigate a potential second stage actuator problem

vs15.jpg (12316 bytes)Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat Orbits Navsat Pair

A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat successfully orbited two more European Galileo navigation satellites from the Kourou Soyuz Launch Zone on May 24, 2016. Liftoff for the VS15 mission for Arianespace took place at 08:48:43 UTC. After the 2.5-stage R-7/Soyuz rocket completed its ascent, the Fregat MT upper stage performed two burns during a nearly four hour FOC 5 mission to place Galileo FM10 and FM11 into 23,522 kilometer circular orbits at an inclination of 57.4 degrees.

OHB-System and SSTL built the satellite bus and payload, respectfully, for the 715 kg Galileo satellites. After a 2014 failure that placed two satellites into an improper orbit, these will become the fourth pair of properly placed "Full Operational Capability" satellites of a planned 22 satellite constellation. Including the mis-placed pair and four initial operating capability test satellites launched in 2011 and 2012, there are now 14 Galileo satellites in orbit.

Russia's Roscosmos was in charge of range operations for the launch. TsENKI handled systems engineering. Crews from RKTs-Progress (Soyuz) and NPO Lavochkin (Fregat) handled launch operations. 

It was the year's 30th orbital launch, all of which have been successful.

cz2dy27.jpg (2647 bytes)China Orbits Yaogan 30

A Chang Zheng 2D (CZ-2D) orbited a remote sensing satellite for China from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on May 15, 2016. The two-stage hypergolic propellant rocket lifted off from LC 43-603 at 02:43 UTC. The satellite, named Yaogan 30, entered a roughly 626 x 655 km x 98.07 deg sun synchronous low earth orbit, an orbit to which CZ-2D is capable of lifting at least 2 metric tonnes.

China announced that the satellite will be used for scientific experiments, land survey, and crop and disaster monitoring. Western analysts suspect that Yaogan 30 is an electro-optical reconnaisance satellite used primarily for military purposes.

It was the fifth CZ launch of 2016.

f9-24.jpg (11112 bytes)Falcon 9 Launches JCSAT 14

The 24th Falcon 9, and fourth Falcon 9 v1.2 with full-thrust Merlin 1D engines, boosted SKY Perfect JSAT Corparation's JCSAT 14 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 6, 2016. Liftoff from SLC 40 took place at 05:21 UTC. The 4,696.2 kg Space Systems Loral 1300-series satellite separated about 32 minutes 2 seconds later, after two burns by the second stage Merlin 1D Vacuum engine that together totaled 7 minutes 3 seconds.  The first stage fired for 2 minutes 38 seconds.

JCSAT 14 separated into a 189 x 35,957 km x 23.7 deg transfer orbit 32 minutes 2 seconds after liftoff.  It was the third Falcon 9 v1.2 geosynchronous transfer orbit mission.  

As it had before the SES 9 launch, SpaceX announced before the liftoff that it did not expect a successful first stage recovery, although more landing propellant was available due to the lighter payload and lower energy orbit compared to SES 9.   The first stage  performed a three-engine reentry burn and a three-engine final landing burn to land successfully on the deck of a converted barge positioned about 658 km downrange.  It was the second successful barge landing in six attempts. 

The success followed a brief launch vehicle static test firing at SLC 40 on May 1.   The vehicle's stages performed acceptance test firings at McGregor, Texas during March.  

pslvc33.jpg (12823 bytes)PSLV Orbits Navsat

India's PSLV-XL orbited IRNSS 1G, the country's seventh navigation satellite, from Sriharikota on April 28, 2016. The 4.5 -stage rocket lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Center's First Launch Pad at 07:20 UTC. The 20 minute, 19 second PSLV C-33 mission boosted the 1,425 kg satellite toward a planned 284 x 20,657 km x 17.86 deg subsychronous transfer orbit. IRNSS 1G will raise itself to a nearly 36,000 km circular geosynchronous orbit inclined 5 degrees to the equator. IRNSS 1G will trace a small figure-8 pattern over the Earth's surface, centered on 129.5 deg East longitude.

The flight completed India's first generation navigation constellation, which will consist of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial geostationary orbits.

It was the 35th PSLV flight and the 31th consecutive success. PSLV began flying in 1993.

vost1.jpg (31803 bytes)Vostochny Cosmodrome Inaugural

Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome hosted its first orbital launch on April 28, 2016, when a Soyuz 2-1a with a Volga upper stage boosted three satellites to sun synchronous low earth orbit. Liftoff took place at 02:01 UTC. Primary satellite Mikhailo Lomonosov, designed to study cosmic and gamma rays, was joined by two small secondary satellites named Aist 2 and SamSat 218.

The hypergolic liquid fueled Volga stage, which has flown atop Soyuz 2-1v, was slated to perform two burns, at about T+50 and T+95 minutes.  Spacecraft separation was to follow the second burn.  A third, deorbit burn was then scheduled to aim the stage toward the Pacific Ocean. 

Vostochny, Russia's new Eastern spaceport, is being built around the former Svobodny Cosmodrome, which last hosted a Start 1 orbital launch in 2006. Svobodny was orignally a mobile ICBM site. The site is in Russia's Far East near the 51st parallel in Amur Oblast. It lies 600-800 km from the Pacific Ocean. This first flight ascended on a northwesterly track across Siberia toward the Arctic Ocean.

Vostochny, under construction since 2010, consists of the new "Site 1" Soyuz launch pad and a "Site 2" comprising large launch vehicle and payload processing buildings. The new Soyuz launch site has the familiar rail-based transport/erector, deep R-7 flame trench, and trussed counterbalanced launcher, but also includes a mobile service tower similar to Kourou ELS Soyuz launch site. The first Soyuz 2 launch vehicle arrived at Vostochny in late September, 2015 by train. It was used to test facilities for several months, an effort that culminated in a full propellant loading exercise.

Plans call for a second launch pad to be built for Russia's new Angara launch vehicle family. Eventually, Vostochny may host crewed launches, which would allow Russia to pull out of Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is located outside Russian borders in Kazakhstan.

vs14.jpg (10329 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat Launches Sentinel 1B

Russian contractor teams launched a Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat from Kourou Space Center in French Guiana for Arianespace on April 25, 2016. The VS14 launch orbited the European Space Agency's Sentinel 1B environmental monitoring satellite. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from the ELS pad at 21:02 UTC to begin the Arianespace VS14 mission. The 2,164 kg Thales Alenia Space-built satellite was boosted into a 686 km x 98.18 deg sun synchronous orbit after the Fregat stage completed a single burn about 20 minutes after liftoff.

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

After deploying Sentinel 1B, Fregat perfomed a second burn to deploy three 1 kg CubeSats in 453 x 665 km orbits. The stage performed two more burns before deploying the 303 kg Microscope satellite into a 711 km x 98.23 deg orbit some 4 hours 52 minutes after liftoff. Fregat then performed a final deorbit burn.

f9-23a.jpg (6223 bytes)Falcon 9 Launches CRS 8, First Stage Lands at Sea

The 23rd Falcon 9 launch vehicle successfully orbited the Dragon 10 spacecraft on NASA's CRS 8 International Space Station cargo hauling mission on April 8, 2016. After performing the initial mission boost, the rocket's first stage accomplished the first successful landing on a floating platform - the company's converted landing barge - positioned about 300 km northeast of the Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 launch site. It was the fifth such attempt.

Liftoff took place at 20:43 UTC after no delays or scrubs.  Dragon was targeted toward a 200 x 360 km x 51.6 deg orbit. The spacecraft carried 3,136 kg of cargo, including the 1,413 kg Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) experiment in the unpressurized trunk section. At roughly 8,626 kg, the combined Dragon and cargo mass was the heaviest-payload yet launched by a Falcon 9.

f9-23b.jpg (11046 bytes)F9-23 First Stage After Landing

During its descent, the first stage perform a three-engine boost-back burn, followed by a final single-engine landing burn.   Landing took place about 8 minutes 35 seconds after liftoff.

The F9-23 first stage had performed a static firing at SLC 40 on April 5.  After its successful static testing at McGregor, Texas during February, a ground equipment failure damaged multiple engines during a non-propulsive test.  The engines were repaired or replaced without causing significant delay to the launch schedule.

Dragon arrived at ISS on April 10, 2016. 

The landing platform with the first stage returned to Port Canaveral during the pre-dawn hours of April 12, 2016.  During the day, a crane picked up the stage from the barge and placed it onto a work stand on the dock.

cz2dy36.jpg (15230 bytes)CZ-2D Orbits Shijian 10

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D launched a recoverable spacecraft named Shijian 10 into orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on April 5, 2016. The two-stage rocket, serial number Y36, lifted off from LC 43 Pad 603 at 17:38 UTC. Shijian 10, a 3,600 kg satellite with a cylindrical section topped by a conical reentry vehicle, was inserted into a 234 x 268 km x 42.89 deg orbit. It housed 29 physics and biology experiments. Shijian 10 is slated to return to earth after two weeks in orbit.

It was the 27th CZ-2D launch, all of which have succeeded. The type began flying in 1992.