||Space Launch Report Archive
Orbits Eight Satellites
India's PSLV boosted the SCATSAT 1 weather satellite and seven smaller non-Indian
co-passenger satellites into sun synchronous orbits from Satish Dhawan Space Centre,
Sriharikota on September 26, 2016. The standard "G" series 4.5 stage rocket,
fitted with six of the smaller S9 strap-on solid rocket motors for the first time since
2011, lifted of from the First Launch Pad at 03:42 UTC, beginning a complex 2 hour 15
minute mission that saw three burns by the hypergolic bipropellant PS4 fourth stage.
The four stage rocket's stages fired in succession to reach the initial, 720 km SCATSAT 1
orbit, into which the primary payload separated about 17.5 minutes after liftoff. The PS4
stage fired two more times, at about 1 hour 22 minutes and 2 hours 11 minutes into the
mission, to reach a 670 km orbit where, after a dual payload adapter was jettisonned, the
remaining satellites separated. They included 102 kg Alsat-1B, 110 kg Alsat-2B, and
microsatellites Alsat Nano, Pathfinder 1, NLS 19, PISat, and Pratham. The satelites were
from Algeria, Canada, USA and India. Total payload mass was 675 kg.
It was the first time that PSLV had inserted payloads into two separate orbit altitudes
and it was the longest PSLV mission to date.
Europe's Vega launch vehicle boosted five mapping
satellites, one for Peru and four for Terra Bella, a Google company, into sun synchronous
orbits from Kourou Space Center on September 16, 2016. The nearly two hour mission began
with a 01:43 UTC liftoff from the ZLV pad on nearly 137 tonnes of solid motor thrust.
Vega's P80 first stage fired for 114 seconds and its Zefire 23 second stage for 104
seconds. After a 21 second coast, the Zefiro 9 third stage fired for 162 seconds,
completing the solid motor phase of the ascent. The AVUM storable liquid fourth stage then
coasted for 86 seconds before beginning its first, 363 second, 250 kgf burn to reach an
initial transfer orbit. Following a nearly 24 minute coast, AVUM fired its RD-843 engine
again for 89 seconds to reach a 491 x 508 km x 97.4 deg orbit where SkySat 4, 5, 6, and 7,
the Terra Bella satellites, were released. During the next hour, AVUM fired twice more to
reach PeruSAT 1's 667 x 684 km x 98.2 deg insertion orbit. After PeruSAT separation, AVUM
was expected to finish the mission with a fifth, orbit-reduction burn.
The four Space Systems/Loral-built SkySat satellites, which rode atop the Vega Secondary
Payload Adaptor, weighed 110 kg each. They will provide sub-meter resolution mapping
images of the Earth. PeruSAT 1, an Airbus Defence and Space AstroBus satellite, weighed
430 kg. PeruSAT-1 is Perus first Earth observation satellite.
China Orbits Tiangong 2
China launched its 8.5 tonne Tiangong 2 space lab into
orbit from Jiuquan Satellite
Launch Center on September 15, 2016. The launch, by the second CZ-2FT
launch vehicle, took place at 14:04 UTC from the same LC 43/921 pad used for crewed
Shenzhou launches. Tiangong 2, believed to weigh about 8.5 tonnes at launch, entered
a low earth orbit about 10 minutes after liftoff.
Tiangong 2 will serve as a small space station for the manned
Shenzhou 11spacecraft beginning in October, 2016. A 30 day crewed mission is
planned. During the mission, an unmanned cargo ship named "Tianzhou" is
expected to visit.
CZ-2FT is an improved CZ-2F equipped with longer strap-on boosters
that each carry nearly 3 tonnes more propellant than their predecessors. The
boosters burn for 155 seconds, about 18 seconds longer than the previous boosters,
allowing CZ-2FT to boost up to 8.6 tonnes to LEO. The rocket also uses a 12.7 x 4.2
meter payload fairing in place of the usual CZ-2F Shenzhou spacecraft and its launch
It was the first Tiangong launch since the first on September 29,
Launches Israeli Spysat
Israel's Shavit-2 rocket launched Ofeq 11, a
reconnaissance satellite, into a retrograde low earth orbit from Palmachim Air Base on
September 13, 2016. Liftoff took place at 14:38 UTC. Ofeq 11, a 400 kg optical imaging
satellite built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI Ltd), was reported later in the day to
have suffered some problems in orbit, but no details were provided. The launch
itself was apparently successful. A 600 km retrograde orbit was expected.
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 Technological Infrastructure. It was the first Shavit
launch since 2014. It may have been the 11th Shavit launch attempt since 1988.
Atlas 5 Launches
Atlas 5 AV-067, a 411 variant with one solid rocket booster and a 4 meter (14 foot)
diameter large payload fairing, launched NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft into solar orbit
from Cape Canaveral, Florida on September 8, 2016. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41
took place at 23:05 UTC. After two burns by the Centaur stage RL10A-4-2 engine, with the
second burn preceded by a 22.5 minute coast and followed by a 15 minute coast, 1,529 kg
OSIRIS-REx separated about 55.5 minutes after liftoff.
OSIRIS-REx, which stands for "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource
Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer", is designed to perform a seven year
mission to asteroid Bennu, a 492 meter diameter near-Earth asteroid. It will collect
samples from Bennu in 2020 and return them to Earth in a return capsule.
It was the 65th Atlas 5 launch and the 4th by a 411 variant. It was also the 55th
consecutive Atlas 5 launch success. AV-067 was stacked in the SLC 41 VIF in early
August and performed a wet dress rehearsal on the pad without a payload during August 25
Orbits Insat 3DR
India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle orbited the Insat 3DR weather satellite
from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on September 8, 2016. The GSLV Mk 2
variant, flying the GSLV-F05 mission, lifted off from the Second Launch Pad at 11:20 UTC.
The 3.5 stage rocket placed 2,211 kg Insat 3DR into a 170 x 35,975 km x 20.6 deg
geosynchronous transfer orbit. Insat 3DR will use its own propulsion system to reach
a circular 35,786 km x 0 deg geostationary orbit, positioned at 75 deg East longitude.
The 3.5 stage, 415 tonne rocket, India's most-powerful operational launcher, rose on about
770 tonnes of thrust generated by its solid motor core and four Vikas 2 powered liquid
strap-on boosters. The Vikas 4 powered second stage took over after about 2.5 minutes. At
T+4 min 49 sec, the liquid hydrogen fueled "Cryogenic Upper Stage" third stage,
powered for the fourth time by an Indian-developed CE-7.5, 7.495 tonne thrust engine,
began a 12 minute burn to reach the deployment orbit.
It was the 10th GSLV flight, and the fifth success, including successes during the
most-recent three launches. It was the third success in four launches by GSLV Mk 2,
which uses the Indian-developed third stage engine.
Falcon 9 and
AMOS 6 Destroyed in Pre Launch Test (9/8/16 Update)
A Falcon 9 rocket and its $200 million AMOS 6 satellite
payload were destroyed during a pre-launch propellant loading and hot fire test exercise
at Cape Canveral on September 1, 2016. The test was planned to assure all was ready
for a September 3 launch that would have placed 5.5 tonne AMOS 6 in geosynchronous
Reports indicate that propellant loading was nearly
completed and the test was about eight minutes away when a powerful explosion destroyed
the rocket and satellite at about 9:07 AM Eastern Time. A series of smaller
explosions occurred during the following minutes as a fire raged at SLC 40 and a large
plume of black smoke drifted across the Florida space center. It was the largest pad
explosion in the history of Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center.
A few hours after the explosion, Elon Musk tweeted that
the failure appeared to have begun at the second stage liquid oxygen tank. SLC 40
was reported to have been heavily damaged, knocking it out of service. A day after
the failure, SpaceX announced that East Coast launch campaigns would move to Kennedy Space
Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A, which should be ready to support operations beginning in
The AMOS 6 launch would have been the 29th Falcon
launch, and the ninth by a Falcon 9 v1.2 variant. The AMOS 6 first stage was test
fired at McGregor, Texas on August 5, 2016 and arrived at Cape Canaveral some time after
Launch Apparently Fails
China's attempt to orbit its Gaofen 10 earth observation
satellite apparently failed on August 31, 2016. The three-stage CZ-4C launch
reportedly took place from LC 9 at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center at 18:55 UTC.
Photos of debris from the first stage and payload fairing laying in or near their expected
impact zones were posted hours later, but the satellite and upper stage were not tracked
in orbit, hinting at a possible issue during the flight of one of the upper stages.
China's state-controlled media had not even reported that a launch took place at all some
It was the first orbital launch failure of 2016, and
China's first orbital failure since December 2013. The failure ended a string of 65
consecutive orbital launch successes world-wide since early December 2015. The
previous best such string was 69 consecutive successes spanning the end of 1988 and the
beginning of 1989.
Launches Intelsat Pair
The 57th Ariane 5 ECA, flying the VA232 Arianespace mission, orbited two Intelsat
communication satellites from Kourou Space Center on August 24 2016. Intelsat 33e
and Intelsat 36 separated into geosynchronous transfer orbit about a half hour after the
22:17 UTC liftoff from ELA 3.
Together, the satellites weighed 9,853 kg at liftoff, bettering the previous Ariane 5 GTO
payload record set in June. Intelsat 33e, a 6,600 kg Boeing Space Systems 702MP
series satellite, has 20 C, 249 Ku, and 1 Ka band transponders to provide communication
services for Europe and Africa. Intelsat 36, a 3,253 kg Space Systems/Loral 1300
series satellite, will provide service to Africa and South Asia from 68.5 deg East using
34 Ku band transponders.
It was the fourth Ariane 5 launch of 2016.
Delta 4 Boosts
Delta 375, a Delta 4M+4,2 with a four meter diameter second stage and fairing and two
GEM-60 strap-on solid motors, launched two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness
Program satellites into near-geosynchronous orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August
19, 2016. The 62.8 meter tall rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B at 04:52
UTC. The RL 10B-2 powered upper stage likely fired three times during a six hour ascent to
complete the mission.
GSSAP is the U.S. Air Force neighborhood watch program that uses multiple
surveillance satellites to monitor other satellites and debris in geosynchronous or
near-geosynchronous orbit. The satellites orbited on this flight were GSSAP 3 and GSSAP 4.
It was the 24th Delta 4 Medium, and the 33rd Delta 4, to fly.
Orbits Quantum Science Satellite
China launched its Quantum Science Satellite, named "Mozi" after a fifth century
Chinese scientist, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on August 15, 2016. The Chang
Zheng (CZ) 2D rocket lifted off from the 43/603 pad at 17:40 UTC. The 600+ kg satellite
entered a 500 km sun synchronous earth orbit.
"Mozi" will perform quantum entanglement experiments.
It was the 11th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year, matching the world-leading year-to-date
R-7 total. With the flight, China had performed five of the world's last ten orbital
Falcon 9 Orbits
JCSAT 16 (8/16/16 Update)
The 28th Falcon 9, and 8th Falcon 9 v1.2, boosted JCSAT 16, for SKY Perfect JSAT, into
geosynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 14, 2016. Liftoff
from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 05:26 GMT. Thirty two minutes later, after two
second-stage burns totalling 410 seconds duration, the 4.6 tonne Space Systems/Loral 1300
series satellite separated into a 184 x 35,912 km x 20.85 deg transfer orbit.
After performing its 153 second boost, the first stage separated from the second stage,
reoriented itself, deployed four grid-fins, and, after coasting for several minutes above
the atmosphere, reignited three of its Merlin 1D engines for a 23 second reentry burn. The
center engine ignited alone for a final landing burn as the stage deployed four legs and
landed, about 9 minutes after liftoff, on the converted landing barge "Of Course I
Still Love You" positioned about 645 km downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
It was the sixth Falcon 9 first stage recovered in eleven attempts.
After raising itself to geostationary orbit, JCSAT 16 will initally be positioned at 162
degrees East longitude to stand in for Superbird 8, which was damaged in transit to its
planned Ariane 5 launch earlier this year. When Superbird 8 is repaired and launched,
JCSAT 16 will move to 150 deg East. The satellite has Ku and Ka band transponders.
The F9-28 stages were tested at McGregor, Texas in mid-July and arrived at the Cape during
the week of July 26. The rocket was rolled out without its payload for a first stage
static fire test on August 11.
It was the 50th orbital launch of 2016. All have
Launches Gaofen 3
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 4C orbited the Gaofen 3 earth observation satellite from
Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on August 9, 2016. The three-stage rocket lifted off from
LC 9 at 22:55 UTC. It successfully boosted the 2,950 kg, CS-L3000B bus satellite into a
735 x 747 km x 98.41 deg sun synchronous orbit.
Gaofen 3 was equipped with a C-band synthetic aperature radar with 1 meter ground
resolution. It was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology.
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 3BE orbited a mobile communications satellite named
Tiantong 1, the first of its type, from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on August 5, 2016.
Liftoff from Launch Complex 3 took place at 16:22 UTC. The satellite was inserted into a
geosynchronous transfer orbit after two burns by the rocket's liquid hydrogen fueled upper
After it raises itself to geostationary orbit, the satellite will provide mobile
communications coverage to China, the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian and Pacific
It was the ninth DF-5 based CZ launch, and 10th orbital launch by China, of 2016.
Atlas 5 Orbits
Atlas 5 AV-065 successfully boosted NROL-61 into geosynchronous transfer orbit for the
U.S. National Reconnaissance Office on July 28, 2016. The Atlas 5-421 vehicle with two
strap-on solid rocket motors and a 4-meter diameter Extra Extended Payload Fairing (XEPF),
lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 at 12:37 UTC. The rocket's Centaur
upper stage performed two burns prior to satellite separation, followed by a third,
While the satellite's mission is classified, some analysts believe that NROL-61 is a new
generation data relay satellite designed to transfer the massive volumes of data collected
by digital imaging spy satellites that reside in low earth orbit from space to ground
stations. Previous satellites of this type, which have flown since the mid-1970s, have
been identified as Satellite Data System (SDS) and Quasar, operating in both Molniya and
It was the fourth Atlas 5 launch of the year.
Launches CRS 9
F9-27 Liftoff from SLC 40
The 27th Falcon 9 orbited the Dragon 11 spacecraft on
NASA's CRS 9 International Space Station cargo hauling mission on July 18, 2016. After
performing the initial boost, the rocket's first stage performed three-engine boost back
and reentry burns and a single-engine landing burn and landed at Cape Canaveral's Landing
Zone 1. It was the fifth first stage to land successfully and the second to fly back
and land at Cape Canaveral.
Liftoff took place at 04:45 UTC from SLC 40. Falcon 9 aimed on a northeast azimuth during
its nine minute ascent. Dragon was targeted toward a 200 x 360 km x 51.6 deg orbit. The
spacecraft carried nearly 2,222 kg of cargo, including the first of two international
docking adapters, to allow commercial crew spacecraft dockings, in the unpressurized trunk
section. Combined Dragon and cargo mass was about 9.5 tonnes.
During the ascent, the first stage fired for 141 seconds, with stage separation three
seconds later. Stage 2 ignited at 152 seconds to begin its 390 second burn to orbit.
The first stage boost back burn began only 21 seconds after first stage main engine
cutoff, after a rapid maneuver to align the stage thrust vector back toward Cape
Canaveral. This three-engine burn lasted more than 50 seconds. The stage
coasted on a sligthly lofted trajectory before beginning its 18-plus second entry burn at
the 361 second mark. 458 seconds after liftoff, the final landing burn began and
continued for about 31 seconds until the stage settled on its Landing Zone 1 circular
concrete pad. Elon Musk soon reported that the stage appeared to be in good
Landing at LZ-1
Dragon separated from the second stage at the 577 second
mark. The spacecraft's solar arrays deployed about 1.5 minutes later. The
second stage subsequently performed a reentry burn that targeted a Southern Ocean zone
south of Australia.
The F9-27 first stage had performed a static firing at
SLC 40 on July 16. Both stages had been test fired at McGregor, Texas during June.
It was the year's 10th orbital launch from Cape
Canaveral, more than any other launch center this year to date.
U Orbits Progress MS-03
One of the final Soyuz U launch vehicles orbited Russia's Progress MS-03 robotic cargo
hauler toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 16, 2016.
Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 21:41 UTC. It was the second Progress launch of
the year and the 45th orbital flight worldwide in 2016.
Progress MS-03 will dock with ISS on July 18 if plans hold. The multi-module spacecraft
weighed 7,281 kg at liftoff, including 2,405 kg of cargo.
After the launch, only two more Soyuz U launch vehicles remain. Both should fly by the end
of 2017. Soyuz U, which has been in service since 1973, is, with 774 launch attempts to
date, the most oft-flown launch vehicle variant in history. The type is being replaced by
Soyuz FG and Soyuz 2 variants.
Launches ISS Crew
A 2.5 stage Soyuz FG rocket orbited Russia's Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft Baikonur, Kazakhstan
with three International Space Station crew on July 7, 2016. Liftoff from Baikonur
Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 01:36 UTC. The spacecraft entered a 230 x 190
km x 51.6 deg initial orbit. Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's Anatoly
Ivanishin, Japan's Takuya Onishi, and NASA's Kate Rubins, comprising the Expedition 48/49
This first example of the Soyuz MS model spacecraft features improved, navigation,
communications, and computer systems that were previously introduced on unmanned Progress
MS flights. Since it is the inaugural crewed flight, Soyuz MS-01 will take a 34 orbit, 51
hour journey before its schedule ISS rendezvous.
It was 2016's second crewed orbital launch, and was the 10th R-7 launch of the year.