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October-December, 2016

cz2d32.jpg (20107 bytes)CZ-2D SuperView Launch Falters (12/29/16 Update)

A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D failed to properly orbit the first pair of SuperView-1 remote sensing satellites from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on December 28, 2016. The satellites separated into roughly 214 x 524 km x 97.58 deg orbits, lower than the planned roughly 500 km circular.  The satellites began to spend their own propellant to raise their low perigees within a day of the launch.  If they had been unable to do so, they would likely have decayed from orbit in several weeks. 

The cause of the failure, the first ever for the CZ-2D variant, was not immediately certain, but the first staging event between stages one and two appeared to take place about 7 seconds later than planned.  The subsequent payload fairing separation also occurred about 7 seconds late.  

It was the first CZ-2D launch from Taiyuan. Liftoff from LC9 took place at 03:23 UTC.

SuperView-1 will be a civilian remote sensing satellite constellation operated by the Siwei Star Co. of Beijing. Four 560 kg optical imaging satellites will ultimately comprise the SuperView-1 constellation. They will operate in 500 km sun synchronous orbits.

It was the 19th DF-5 based CZ launch and 22nd Chinese orbital launch attempt of the year.  

va234.jpg (16693 bytes)Ariane 5 Launches Two Comsats

An Ariane 5 ECA orbited two communication satellites from Kourou on December 21, 2016.   Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 20:30 UTC. The Arianespace VA234 mission placed 6,433.1 kg StarOne D1 and 3,407.5 kg JCSat 15 into geosynchronous transfer orbits. About 28.5 minutes after liftoff, SS/Loral-built StarOne D1 deployed first from atop a Sylda 5 dual payload carrier. SS/Loral-built JCSat 15 separated several minutes later.

Both satellites will raise themselves into geostationary orbits.  StarOne D1 will be positioned at 84 deg West.  JCSat 15 will work from 110 deg East. 

VA234 was the seventh and final Ariane 5 launch of 2016.   

cz2d31.jpg (11948 bytes)CZ-2D Orbits CO2 Mapper

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D launched TanSat, a high resolution carbon dioxide mapping satellite, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on December 21, 2016. The two-stage hypergolic fueled rocket lifted off from the 43/603 pad at 19:22 UTC. The 620 kg TanSat entered a sun synchronous earth orbit, along with at least two microsatellites.

It was the 18th DF-5 based CZ launch of the year, four more than Russia's second-place R-7.  It was also China's 21st orbital launch attempt of the year, one less than the United Staes and two more than Russia.  With several more launches planned, China appears on track to lead the world in calendar year orbital launch attempts for the first time.

e02.jpg (5451 bytes)Epsilon Launch

Japan's second Epsilon launch vehicle, the first improved "Enhanced" variant, boosted the Energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) satellite into an elliptical orbit passing through the Van Allen radiation belts from Kagoshima on December 20, 2016. ERG, which separated into an orbited targeted to be 219 x 33,200 km x 31.4 deg about 13.5 minutes after liftoff, was nicknamed "Arase", the name of a river near Kagoshima, upon activation.

Enhanced Epsilon began its E-02 mission with an 11:00 UTC launch from the former M-5 pad at Uchinoura Space Center. The SRB-A based first stage produced about 219 tonnes of liftoff thrust to lift the 26 meter tall, 75.3 tonne rocket. The first stage fired for about 105 seconds. After the burn the entire vehicle coasted for 56 seconds. The payload fairing separated during the coast at the 2 min 30 sec mark. The second stage, a newly developed, 15 tonne M-35 solid motor that is 4.2 tonnes heavier than the M-34c motor used by the original Epsilon on its 2013 inaugural flight, ignited at T+2 min 45 sec and fired for about 1 min 58 sec, producing about 45 tonnes of thrust.

The vehicle coasted again, building up an axial spin, before the KM-V2c third stage ignited at T+6 min 42 sec. The stage fired for 1 min 29 sec to insert itself and 365 kg ERG into the deployment orbit. ERG separated at T+13 min 27 sec.

Enhanced Epsilon features a new second stage that is the same diameter as the first stage. This allowed the payload fairing to move higher, providing more payload space. The second and third stages now have fixed, rather than extendible nozzles, a reliability-improving provision provided by use of longer interstage sections. Avionics was improved and structures were made lighter. Enhanced Epsilon can lift 30% more mass to orbit than the original "Test" Epsilon.

av071.jpg (9882 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches Echostar 19

AV-071, an Atlas 5-431 with three solid rocket motors and a 4.27 meter diameter extra extended payload fairing orbited EchoStar 19, a Hughes Network Systems communications satellite, from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 18, 2016. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 19:13 UTC. After two burns by the Centaur second stage, 6,637 kg Echostar 19 separated into a geosynchronous transfer orbit targeted to be 204 x 65,000 km x 25.44 deg.

Echostar 19, a Space Systems/Loral 1300 series satellite, carried Ka-band transponders and antenna arrays capable of creating more than 100 spot beams for 150 gigabit per second or higher data transfer rates. The satellite will be positied in geostationary orbit at 97.1 deg west.

After a 4 min 26 sec first stage burn, Centaur fired for 8 min 56 sec. The stage then coasted for about 9.5 minutes before restarting to perform a 5 min 48 sec burn to reach its transfer orbit. Echostar 19 separated 32 min 3 sec after liftoff.

It was the 8th Atlas 5 flight of the year and the 67th launch vehicle success in 68 attempts during the 14 year Atlas 5 program.

peg43.jpg (4642 bytes)Pegasus Orbits CYGNSS

Orbital ATK's air-launched Pegasus rocket returned to service after a three year hiatus by successfully orbiting NASA's Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS), a constellation of eight small satellites, from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 15, 2016. Stargazer, the L-1011 mother ship, took off from the Cape Skid Strip before drop-launching the three-stage Pegasus-XL off the coast at 13:37 UTC.

Pegasus fired its first two stages in succession. The third stage, still attached to the second stage, then coasted for 3 minutes 49 seconds before separating and beginning its orbital insertion burn. CYGNSS reached orbit in just over 8 minutes. The eight satellites were deployed in pairs beginning about 13 minutes after launch.  The target orbit was 510 km x 35 deg. 

Southwest Research Institute and the University of Michigan built the 28.9 kg satellites. Together with their Sierra Nevada Corporation deployer, total payload mass was 345.6 kilograms.

It was the 43rd Pegasus launch, the 33rd Pegasus XL, and the year's 80th orbital launch attempt.

cz3bfy4a.jpg (10751 bytes)China Orbits Weather Satellite

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 3B orbited the first of a new weather satellite family from XiChang Satellit Launch Center on December 10, 2016. The 3.5 stage CZ-3BE, tail number Y42, lifted off from Launch Complex 3 at 16:11 UTC. Fengyun 4A separated into a geosynchronous transfer orbit about one-half hour later after two burns by the liquid hydrogen fueled upper stage.

Fengyun 4A uses China's new SAST5000 satellite bus. It is designed for a seven year lifespan in geostationary orbit. CZ-3BE, until this year China's most-powerful rocket, can lift 5.5 tonnes to GTO, suggesting that Fengyun 4A weighed more than 5 tonnes at liftoff.

It was China's 20th orbital launch attempt of 2016, and 19th success.

h2bf6.jpg (12134 bytes)H-2B Orbits ISS Cargo

Japan's H-2B launched JAXA's H-2 Transfer Vehicle 6 (HTV 6) ISS cargo hauling spacecraft from Tanegashima's Yoshinobu Launch Pad No. 2 on December 9, 2016. After a 13:26 UTC liftoff and 15 minute ascent, the 531 tonne, 2.5 stage rocket placed the roughly 15 tonne spacecraft (named "Kounotori", or "White Stork") into a 200 x 300 km x 51.6 deg insertion orbit. Kounotori 6 was expected to gradually raise its orbit to 400 km to reach the International Space Station on Tuesday, December 13.

Kounotori 6 carried about 3.9 tonnes of cargo, including about 2.6 tonnes in the forward pressurized compartment and 1.3 tonne in the mid-unpressurized compartment. Cargo included food and crew supplies, scientific hardware, and spare parts.

H-2B lifted off on about 1,100 tonnes of thrust, including about 180 tonnes thrust from its twin LH2/LOX LE-7A core main engines and about 920 tonnes of thrust produced by its four SRB-A monolithic solid motors. The solid motors ignited at liftoff and burned out 1 minute 52 seconds after liftoff. The LE-5A engines ignited about five seconds before liftoff and cut off at T+5 min 47 sec. The second stage's single LH2/LOX 14 tonne thrust LE-5B engine performed a single burn that lasted 8 minutes 19 seconds.

It was the sixth H-2B flight since the type began flying in 2009. It was also the 12th launch attempt and 11th success for ISS in 2016.

d376.jpg (32297 bytes)Delta 4 Launches WGS-8

Delta 367, a Delta 4M+5,4 with four solid rocket motors and a five meter diameter Delta cryogenic second stage (DCSS), lofted Wideband Global SATCOM No. 8 into supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Florida on December 7, 2016. The 66.3 meter tall liquid hydrogen fueled rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37B at 23:53 UTC.

DCSS performed two burns of its 11.23 tonne thrust RL10B-2 LOX/LH2 engine during the ascent. The first placed the vehicle in a 185 x 6,078 km x 27.6 deg parking orbit about 20 minutes after liftoff. After a 9.5 minute coast to the equator the second, roughly 3.5 minute burn pushed the 5.987 tonne Boeing 702 series satellite into a 435 x 44,377 km x 27 deg transfer orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred 41 minutes 44 seconds after liftoff.

WGS-8 will provide up to 11 Gbps data transfer rates for the U.S. military using X-band and Ka-band transponders and on-board data processors.

It was the fourth Delta 4 launch of 2016, a mark achieved in only two previous years.   It was also the 25th flight of the Delta 4 Medium, single-core type, all of which have succeeded.

pslvc36.jpg (23225 bytes)PSLV Lofts Resourcesat 2A

PSLV-C36, an XL version of Indian Space Research Organizaion's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, boosted 1,235 kg Resourcesat 2A into a sun synchronous orbit from Sriharikota, India on December 7, 2016. The remote sensing satellite will provide multispectral imaging to monitor resources for India.

Liftoff from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Center took place at 04:55 UTC. The 4.5-stage, 321 tonne, 44.4 meter tall rocket fired its four stages (solid, liquid, solid, and liquid fueled, respectively) in succession during the first 1,028 seconds of the ascent, with a 10 second coast before fourth stage ignition. Six strap-on solid motors (four ground lit and two air lit) augmented thrust during the first stage burn. The liquid MMH/MON-3 fourth stage fired for 496 seconds during its insertion burn. Resourcesat 2A separated 1,075 seconds after liftoff into a 821 x 822 km x 98.7 deg orbit.

It was the sixth PSLV launch of the year.

vv08.jpg (26887 bytes)Vega Orbits Turkish Spysat

Europe's Vega launch vehicle launched Turkey's Gokturk 1, a high resolution optical imaging satellite, into sun synchronous orbit from Kourou Space Center on December 5, 2016. The nearly one hour VV08 Arianespace mission began with a 13:51 UTC liftoff from the ZLV pad on nearly 137 tonnes of solid motor thrust.

Vega's first three solid motor stages fired in succession during the first 6 minutes 36 seconds of the flight, with a 17 second pause between the second and third stage burns. The AVUM storable liquid fourth stage and payload then coasted for 1 minute 45 seconds before beginning its first, 6 minute 20 second, 250 kgf burn to reach an initial transfer orbit. Following a nearly 40 minute coast, AVUM fired its RD-843 engine again for 1 minute 42 seconds to reach an approximate 700 km x 98.11 deg orbit.

Thales Alenia Space built the 1,060 kg Proteus-platform satellite for Turkey's defense department.

It was the year's second Vega flight.

progms04.jpg (7931 bytes)Soyuz U/Progress MS-04 Failure

The penultimate Soyuz U launch vehicle launched Russia's Progress MS-04 robotic cargo hauler toward the International Space Station from Baikonur Cosmodrome on December 1, 2016. Liftoff from Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 14:51:52 UTC.

Telemetry was lost at T+383 seconds, during the third stage burn, according to TASS.   Nominal third stage cutoff should have occurred at about T+526 seconds.  The vehicle was at 180 km altitude when the failure occurred.  A destructive reentry followed, with objects falling into Russia's Tuva region. 

Progress MS-04 would have docked with ISS after a two day ascent. The multi-module spacecraft weighed about 7,290 kg at liftoff, including 2,444 kg of cargo. It was the third Progress launch of the year.

After the launch, only one more Soyuz U launch vehicle remains.  Soyuz U, which has been in service since 1973, is the most oft-flown launch vehicle variant of all time.   The type is being replaced by Soyuz FG and Soyuz 2 models.

cz3ctl1-4.jpg (18793 bytes)China Launches Tianlian 1-4

China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 3CE (a G2 variant) orbited Tianlain (Sky Link) 1-4, the fourth such tracking and data relay satellite, from XiChang satellite Launch Center on November 22, 2016. Liftoff from Launch Complex 2 took place at 15:24 UTC. The rocket's liquid hydrogen fueled third stage performed two burns to insert Tianlain 1-4 into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Tianlain 1-4, which likely weighed about 2,460 kg at launch, will maneuver into a geostationary orbit where it will provide links between other satellites and ground stations, and between ground stations. China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) developed the DFH-3 (Dongfanghong-3) based satellite.

av069.jpg (12491 bytes)Atlas 5 Orbits GOES-R

AV-069, an Atlas 5-541 with four solid rocket boosters and a five meter payload fairing, boosted GOES-R, the first of a new generation of weather satellites, into orbit on November 19, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 23:42 UTC after an hour delay to investigate unspecified launch vehicle and/or range issues.   The 5,192 kg Lockheed A2100 series satellite separated into a 8,099 x 35,286 km x 10.6 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit about 3.5 hours later.

The Centaur second stage fired its RL10C-1 engine three times during the mission.  The first burn put the stage and payload into a 167 x 540 km x 28.1 deg parking orbit 736 seconds after liftoff.  The second burn began 1,319 seconds after liftoff and lasted 336 seconds, resulting in a 187 x 32,717 km x 25.68 deg transfer orbit.  The final 93 second burn at apogee began 12,453 seconds after launch. 

GOES-R will use its own LEROS-1C Hydrazine/MON engine to raise itself to geostationary orbit.

ms03.jpg (6000 bytes)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

Russia's Soyuz FG launched the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on November 17, 2016. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 20:20 UTC. About nine minutes later, the Soyuz FG second stage inserted Soyuz MS-03 into a low earth orbit at the 51.6 deg ISS inclination.

Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's Oleg Viktorovich Novitskiy, Europe's Thomas Pesquet, and NASA's Peggy Whitson. They will serve during ISS Expeditions 50 and 51.

It was the third Soyuz MS model spacecraft with improved, navigation, communications, and computer systems that were previously introduced on unmanned Progress MS flights. Soyuz MS-03 will take two days before its schedule ISS rendezvous to allow for systems testing.

It was 2016's fifth crewed orbital launch and the second crewed Soyuz flight in just under a month.

va233.jpg (16297 bytes)Ariane Orbits Four Navsats

L594, the first Ariane 5 ES version tailored to launch Europe's Galileo satellites, successfully orbited four of the navigation beacons from Kourou on November 17, 2016. The Arianespace VA233 mission lifted off from ELA 3 at 13:06 UTC. Ariane 5's EPS storable propellant stage performed two burns, with a more than three-hour coast between, to insert the 15th through 18th Galileo satellites into a 22,925 km x 54.57 deg orbit. Total payload mass was 2,865 kg, not including the new, 430 kg Airbus Safran dispenser that held the satellites atop the EPS/VEB until their separation.

Ariane 5 ES was tweaked from its earlier ATV launch configuration to handle Galileo. Dry mass was shaved from the Vehicle Equipment Bay (VEB). EPS carried a full 10 tonne propellant load, and the propellant was heated before launch. The 2.957 tonne-thrust MMH/N2O4 EPS Aestus engine fired for about 11 minutes during its first burn and for about 6.5 minutes during its second burn.

It was the year's 70th known orbital launch attempt, and 69th success.  It was also the 6th Ariane 5 ES.

cz2d30.jpg (10374 bytes)China Launches Weather Satellite

A Chang Zheng (Long March ) 2D rocket orbited Yunhai 1, a new generation weather satellite, for China from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on November 11, 2016. The two-stage storable propellant rocket lifted of from LC 43/603 at 23:14 UTC. Yunhai 1 separated into a sun synchronous low earth orbit after the ascent phase.

It was the 15th DF-5 based CZ orbital launch attempt of the year, including eight from Jiquan. It was also the 18th orbital launch attempt and 17th success of 2016, by China.

av062.jpg (7089 bytes)Atlas Orbits WorldView 4

Atlas 5 AV-062, a 401 variant with a four meter diameter payload fairing and no solid rocket boosters, orbited WorldView 4 for DigitalGlobe from Vandenberg AFB on November 11, 2016. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 3 East took place at 18:30 UTC.

The rocket's 390 tonne thrust first stage RD-180 main engine fired for 243 seconds before the first stage completed its work. Centaur then took over, its LH2/LOX RL10C engine burning for 687 seconds during a direct ascent to the planned 610 x 628 km x 97.96 deg sun synchronous deployment orbit. Payload fairing separation took place 267 seconds after liftoff.

WorldView 4, a 2,485 kg Lockheed Martin LM-900 series earth imaging satellite, separated from Centaur less than four minutes after Centaur shutdown. It joins WorldView 1 through 3 and GeoEye 1 in the DigitalGlobe constellation.

In addition to WorldView 4, four cubesats deployed from Centaur about 2 hours 11 minutes after liftoff.  After the final deployment, Centaur fired to send itself into solar orbit.

One WorldView 4 launch attempt was scrubbed on September 16 by a hydrogen leak in launch pad ground support equipment. The more than 12,000 acre Canyon Fire that began a few days later at Vandenberg AFB caused a longer delay. After firefighting ended, base infrastructure had to be methodically checked out during October before the launch campaign could resume.

cz-11m.jpg (2754 bytes)CZ-11 Launch

China's four-stage solid fuel CZ-11 launched an X-ray pulsar navigation experimental satellite namved XPNAV 1, along with several microsatellites, into low earth orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on November 9, 2016. Liftoff from a canister attached to a mobile transporter/erector parked on a flat pad took place at 23:42 UTC. The site was likely one of two flat pads built in recent years northeast of the CZ-2F launch site.

XPNAV 1 (X-Ray Pulsar Navigation, or Maichong Xing Shiyan Weixing), a 240 kg satellite built by affiliates of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporationk will test on-orbit satellite navigation by measuring periodic X-rays from pulsars. Up to four additional microsatellites, one of which may have remained attached to the CZ-11 fourth stage, also entered orbit.  The U.S. tracked objects from the launch in a 500 km circular orbit and in a 500 x 1,000 km orbit.

It was the second known CZ-11 flight, following an inaugural launch on September 25, 2015. The 58 tonne rocket may be based on China's DF-31 series solid fuel ballistic missile, because the canister used to launch CZ-11 is similar to launch canisters used by the road-mobile DF-31A. CZ-11 is reportedly 20.8 meters long (other reports suggest 18.7 meters), and 2 meters in diameter with a 58 tonne launch mass and a 120 tonne liftoff thrust. Its fourth stage has demonstrated in-space maneuvering capability.  CZ-11 may be able to lift 350 kg or more to sun synchronous orbit.

cz5-y1.jpg (15277 bytes)CZ-5 Debut (Updated 11/7/16)

China launched its first Chang Zheng (Long March) 5 from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China's southern coastline on November 3, 2016, debuting a powerful new launch capability after nearly two decades of development.

The liftoff, from Pad 101, the westernmost of two new launch pads at the Center, took place at 12:43 UTC after about 2 hours 43 minutes of holds. A YZ-2 (Yuanzheng) restarable hypergolic upper stage and Shijian 17 experimental ion-propulsion satellite that together may have weighed 12 tonnes or more topped the 2.5 stage CZ-5 vehicle on this inaugural test flight.  Shijian 17 itself likely weighed nearly 4 tonnes.

The initial, half-hour phase of the flight used two second stage burns to put the YZ-2/Shijian 17 combination into a 178 x 29,127 km x 19.5 orbit. YZ-2 fired immediately after second stage separation to inserted Shijian 17 into a 212 x 35,802 km x 19.5 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).  About six hours after launch, YZ-2 performed an apogee kick burn to insert Shijian into near-geosynchronous orbit.

At more than 870 tonnes, CZ-5 became the world's highest active gross liftoff weight launch vehicle. It's 5 meter diameter LH2/LOX core stage and four 3.35 meter diameter kerosene/LOX strap-on boosters produced a total 1,080 tonnes liftoff thrust using a total of 10 liquid rocket engines. The rocket stood 56.97 meters tall.

The 31.02 x 5 meter first stage weighed 175.8 tonnes and was powered by two YF-77 LH2/LOX engines that together produced 104 tonnes of liftoff thrust. The stage, which carried 158 tonnes of propellant, burned for 471 seconds, with the YF-77 engines operating at 430 seconds vacuum specific impulse.

cz5-1bs.jpg (8226 bytes)CZ-5 Vehicle Y-1 Rollout

The four 26.28 x 3.25 meter strap-on boosters were powered by two YF-100 RP/LOX staged combustion engines that combined to produce 242 tonnes of liftoff thrust for each booster.  YF-100 had previously powered China's inaugural CZ-6 and CZ-7 launches during the previous 14 months. Each booster may have weighed about 165 tonnes at liftoff.  The boosters burned for nearly 173 seconds before separating from the still-burning first stage.

The 12 x 5 meter second stage was powered by two YF-75D LH2/LOX engines that together made 32.6 tonnes of thrust at 438 second specific impulse. Similar YF-75 engines have powered CZ-3A and CZ-3B upper stages for years. The stage weighed 26 tonnes and carried 22.9 tonnes of propellant. It performed an initial 355 second burn to reach a low earth parking orbit, then restarted after a 592 second coast to the first equator crossing.   The 345 second long second burn lofted the payload to an orbit that was about 300 meters per sec short of GTO. 

The YZ-2 stage added an initial 80 second burn to reach the GTO velocity.  According to some accounts, this burn was planned as an early test of the new stage, which may have produced 1.33 tonnes total thrust at 316 seconds specific impulse.  At first apogee about 6 hours 11 minutes after liftoff, the stage began a 40 second burn to circularize the orbit.  Shijian 17 separation took place around the 6 hour 14 minute mark.

CZ-5 in its fully developed form will lift as much as 25 tonnes to low earth orbit in 1.5 stage form or 14 tonnes to GTO using 2.5 stages, making it more capable than Proton or Ariane 5 and possibly matching or exceeding Delta 4.

h2af31.jpg (7593 bytes)H-2A Launches Weather Satellite

Japan's H-2A successfully boosted the country's Himawari 9 weather satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit on November 2, 2016. H-2A-202 F31 lifted off from Yoshinobu launch complex Pad 1 at Tanegashima at 06:20 UTC. Himawari 9 separated about 28 minutes later into a 245 x 35,855 km x 22.39 deg orbit.

The 3,500 kg satellite was launched by a now-standard H-2A variant that uses two monolithic composite case SRB-A boosters to augment the LH2/LOX core stage LE-7A engine thrust during the first 98 seconds of flight. The rocket's four-meter diameter payload fairing separated at T+245 seconds. First stage cutoff occurred at T+396 seconds. The LE-5B powered LH2/LOX second stage then performed two burns totalling 519 seconds, with a roughly 9 minute coast between, to complete the ascent.

It was the 30th H-2A success in 31 flights, the second H-2A launch of 2016, and the 65th known orbital launch attempt of the year.

ms02.jpg (6889 bytes)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

Russia's 2.5 stage Soyuz FG launched the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on October 19, 2016. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 08:05 UTC. Soyuz MS-02 entered a low earth orbit at the 51.6 deg ISS inclination. Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's Sergey Nikolayevich Ryzhikov and Andrei Borisenko and NASA astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough, comprising the Expedition 49/50 crew.

It was the second Soyuz MS model spacecraft with improved, navigation, communications, and computer systems that were previously introduced on unmanned Progress MS flights. Like Soyuz MS-01, Soyuz MS-02 will take two days before its schedule ISS rendezvous to allow for systems testing.

It was 2016's fourth crewed orbital launch, 12th R-7 launch, and ninth launch to ISS.

oa5.jpg (18900 bytes)Re-engined Antares Launches

Orbital ATK's Antares launch vehicle returned to flight on October 17, 2016, successfully orbiting the company's Cygnus OA-5 cargo hauling mission from Wallops Island, Virginia. The success came two years after the previous Antares exploded above Pad 0A, damaging the pad and forcing a re-design of the launch vehicle itself. The resulting "Antares 230" retained the basic structure and avionics of the original, but gained two new Energomash RD-181 engines in place of the AJ-26 engines that powered the first five flights. An AJ-26 turbopump failure triggered the 2014 explosion.

Cygnus OA-5 was the third enhanced Cygnus with a stretched cargo module, but the first to fly on Antares. Atlas 5 rockets orbited the first two enhanced Cygnus spacecraft on Missions OA-4 and OA-6 during the two-year Antares stand-down. OA-5 carried a total 2,209 kg of cargo for the International Space Station, along with 133 kg of packaging. The spacecraft weighed about 6,163 kg at liftoff, easily making it the heaviest-ever Antares payload . Cygnus OA-5 was named in honor of former astronaut Alan Poindexter, who flew two space shuttle missions.

oa5b.jpg (6686 bytes)OA-5 Liftoff

Two RD-181 engines powered the Antares 230 Ukrainian-built first stage during its 23:45 UTC liftoff, each producing about 186 tonnes of sea level thrust to lift the roughly 300 tonne launch vehicle and payload. The first stage burned for about 200 seconds. After first stage shutdown, the second stage and payload section separated and coasted for about 45 seconds before the Castor 30XL second stage motor ignited to produce an average of about 51 tonnes of thrust during its roughly 160 second burn. It was the first in-space test of Castor 30XL, which had previously attempted a debut on the failed 2014 launch. Just before second stage ignition, the payload fairing and interstage sections separated.

Cygnus separated into a 214 x 362 km x 51.62 deg orbit at the 541.31 second mark. The spacecraft will wait in orbit until October 23 to approach ISS to allow for the next crewed Soyuz mission docking.

Another Antares first stage performed a roughly 30 second-long static fire test of the new RD-181 engined Antares on Pad 0A on May 31, 2016. That stage will be used on a future flight.

cz2fysz11.jpg (8710 bytes)China Crew Orbited

A Chang Zheng 2FY (CZ-2FY) launch vehicle boosted China's Shenzhou 11 with two Chinese crew into orbit from Jiuquan space center on October 16, 2016. It was China's sixth crewed flight, but the first since June, 2013. Liftoff from LC 43 Pad 921 at the Mongolian desert base occurred at 23:30 UTC. The 7.7 tonne spacecraft separated into a low earth orbit about 10 minutes later.

On board were Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. Jing Haipeng, who flew previously on Shenzhou 7 and Shenzhou 9, is China's most experienced astronaut. They are slated to dock with China's Tiangong 2 orbital module, where they will stay for up to 30 days. Tiangong 2 was launched from the same pad on September 15, 2016.

It was the 13th CZ-2F launch. The rocket has only served Shenzhou and Tiangong since its first flight in 1999.

va231.jpg (13768 bytes)Ariane 5 Orbits Australian, Indian Satellites

Ariane 5 ECA L585 orbited communication satellites for Australia and India from Kourou on October 5, 2016. Liftoff from ELA 3 took place at 20:30 UTC. The Arianespace VA231 mission placed 6,405 kg Sky Muster 2 and 3,404 kg GSAT 18 into geosynchronous transfer orbits. About 28.5 minutes after liftoff, SS/Loral-built Sky Muster 2 deployed first from atop a Sylda 5 dual payload carrier. GSAT 18, built by Indian Space Research Organization, separated several minutes later.

Sky Muster 2 will serve Australia's government-owned NBN Co., providing high speed internet service. GSAT 18 will provide communication services for India.

VA231 was the fifth Ariane 5-ECA launch of 2016 and the 58th since the type premiered in 2002.