||Space Launch Report Archive
Ariane 5 Launch
Ariane 5 ECA vehicle number L591 lofted two
communication satellites to geosynchronous transfer
orbit from Kourou on June 28, 2017. Arianespace
Mission VA238 began with a 21:15 UTC liftoff from
from ELA-3. After a single long burn by the ESC-A
second stage 5,780 kg Hellasat 3 separated at T+28
minutes 17 seconds, followed by 3,477 kg GSAT 17,
which rode up inside the rocket's Sylda 5 adapter,
at T+41 minutes 47 seconds.
Hellasat 3 is a Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000C4
satellite with Ku, Ka, and S-band transponders. It
will provide direct to home TV services. The S-band
transponders serve as a second payload named
"Inmarsat S EAN" that will serve the European
Aviation Network. It will be positioned at 39 deg
East in geostationary orbit.
GSAT 17 was built by ISRO/ISAC. It carries C and
S-band transponders. It will serve India from 93.5
It was the
year's fourth Ariane 5 launch, and the 63rd Ariane 5
ECA flight since the type began flying in 2002.
Falcon 9 Launches
SpaceX Corporation's Falcon 9 performed its second
launch within roughly 49.5 hours on June 25, 2017
when F9-38 boosted the second set of ten IridiumNEXT
satellites from Vandenberg AFB in California. The
v1.2 variant, using new first stage number B1036,
lifted off from foggy Space Launch Complex 4 East at
20:24 UTC to begin an hour-long mission that
inserted the 860 kg, Thales Alenia Space-built
satellites into roughly 625 km x 86.4 deg orbits.
The satellites will raise themselves into 780 km
roughly 43 minute parking orbit coast, the Falcon 9
second stage restarted for a brief second,
circularization burn at first apogee about 52
minutes 6 seconds after liftoff to complete the
powered phase of the flight. Spacecraft separation
began at about the 57 minute 10 seconds mark, with
each satellite separating individually separated by
about 1.5 minutes.
stage performed 3-engine boostback, 3-engine
reentry, and single-engine landing burns before
landing on the converted barge "drone ship" “Just
Read the Instructions”. The stage descended
using, for the first time, enlarged titanium grid
fins for flight control. It was the second
successful first stage landing in three West Coast
attempts and the 13th successful first stage
landing. Eleven first stages have now been
recovered, two having flown twice.
was the second of seven planned IridiumNext Falcon 9
flights that will replace the company's orbiting
"Little LEO" communication satellite constellation.
first and second stages were test fired at the
company's McGregor, Texas test site during mid-May,
2017. The first stage was briefly hot fired at SLC
4E on June 20, 2017 with the second stage, but no
payload, attached to the top of the rocket.
the 37th Falcon 9 launch and the 17th v1.2 variant
to fly, not including AMOS 6 launch vehicle
destroyed during a pre-launch static test countdown.
It was the second v1.2 to fly from VAFB and the
first to fly from VAFB with what appeared to be a
"Block 4" second stage.
Falcon 9 Orbits Bulgariasat (06/24/17
SpaceX launched a previously-flown Falcon 9 first
stage for the second time on June 23, 2017. The
stage, B1029 (flying for the second time as
B1029.2), boosted the F9-37 mission that flung the
Bulgariasat 1 communications satellite to
supersynchronous transfer orbit from Kennedy Space
Center Launch Complex 39 Pad A. B1029 had previously
flown during the F9-30 Iridium Next 1-10 launch from
VAFB SLC 4E on January 14, 2017 and landed downrange
on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions".
This time, after a 19:10 UTC liftoff and 2 min 36
sec ascent burn, B1029.2 landed again on a downrange
floating platform (named "Of Course I Still Love
You", or "OCISLY") after performing three-engine
reentry and landing burns.
After the first stage completed its ascent burn, the
Falcon 9 second stage fired its Merlin 1D Vacuum
engine for 351 sec to reach a parking orbit. After a
19 minute 30 second coast to the equator above the
west African coast, the stage restarted for 65
seconds to accelerate the 3,669 kg Bulgariasat 1
satellite toward a planned supersynchronous transfer
orbit. Bulgariasat 1 separated from the stage at
T+plus 34 minutes, 55 seconds.
From its roughly 210 x 65,640 km x 23.9 deg transfer
orbit, the Space Systems/Loral 1300 series satellite
will raise itself to geostationary orbit at 1.9 deg
East to provide direct broadcast and fixed
communication services to Europe, North Africa, and
the Middile East using 33 Ku-band transponders.
Following its January flight, the B1029 stage was
apparently shipped directly to Florida, with no
known testing performed at the company's McGregor,
Texas test site. The stage was static test fired for
a few seconds at LC 39A with the second stage
attached on June 15, 2017. A planned launch
two days later was delayed for a week to replace a
faulty valve in the payload fairing.
It was the
12th successful first stage landing and the 6th
landing on OCISLY. Ten first stages have now
been recovered, two having flown twice.
Before the launch, Elon Musk tweeted, "Falcon 9 will
experience its highest ever reentry force and heat
in today's launch. Good chance rocket booster
doesn't make it back". After the flight, he
tweeted that the first stage had returned "extra
toasty" and had landed hard on OCISLY, using almost
all of the "emergency crush core" in the landing
legs. The stage was visible in video views standing
near the edge of the deck, exhibiting a slight lean.
Soyuz 2-1v Launch
Russia's third Soyuz 2-1v launched with a classified
payload from Plesetsk on June 23, 2017. Liftoff from
Pad 4 Site 43 took place at 18:04 UTC. The two-stage
Soyuz 2-1v was topped by a Volga third stage. Volga
performed an initial burn as the vehicle headed
north above the Arctic Ocean to reach an elliptical
parking orbit. The stage fired again at some point
during the next 1.5 hours, presumably to circularize
the orbit. The satellite, identity and purpose
unannounced, was named Kosmos 2519 upon reaching
satellite was subsequently tracked in a roughly 660
km by 98 deg sun synchronous orbit.
It was the first Soyuz 2-1v launch since December 5,
2015, when Volga reached its planned orbit with
Kanopus ST, but then failed to separate from the
satellite when one of four clamps on Volga failed to
open. The Volga stage was used to deorbit the
useless satellite after about two days in orbit. The
first Soyuz 2-1v/Volga launch successfully placed a
small test payload into orbit on December 28, 2013.
All missions have launched from Plesetsk 43/4.
Orbits Cartosat 2E/Nanosats (06/23/17
PSLV-C38, an XL version of Indian Space Research
Organizaion's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle,
boosted 712 kg Cartosat 2E and 30 nanosatellites
that together weighed about 243 kg into sun
synchronous orbits from Sriharikota, India on June
Liftoff from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan
Space Center took place at 03:59 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 16
minutes 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 about 7 minutes 39 seconds
during its insertion burn.
Satellite deployment into roughly 500 km x 97.45 deg
orbits took about eight minutes, beginning with the
cartographic mapping Cartosat 2e at T+16 minutes 41
It was the
40th PSLV and the 17th PSLV-XL.
Leaves ChinaSat 9A in Low Orbit (Updated 07/14/17)
China's Chang Zheng (Long March )3B/E launched
Zhongxing 9A (ChinaSat 9A) from Xichang Satellite
Launch Center on June 18, 2017. Liftoff from Launch
Pad 2 took place at 16:08 UTC. After performing two
burns, the launch vehicle's liquid hydrogen fueled
third stage was slated to place the 5.1 tonne
communications satellite in a geosynchronous
transfer orbit. However, no announcement of
mission success was made as the hours passed.
Finally, more than 12 hours later, China Aerospace
Science and Technology Corporation announced that
the launch had failed to place the satellite in its
intended orbit due to a problem with the third
tracking data showed the second stage and payload in
roughly 193 x 16,350 km x 25.68 deg orbits, well
short of the typical 35,800-plus km apogee.
CASC reported that the satellite had deployed its
solar arrays and antennas. It seemed unlikley
that Zhongxing 9A would be able to make up the
roughly 550 m/s delta-v shortfall.
suggested that the third stage had suffered a
problem that affected its second burn. Typical
failure modes for such results include propulsion
system and flight control issues. A mid-July
report stated that the stage had suffered a roll
It was the
third orbital launch vehicle failure in less than a
year for China's DF-5 based launch vehicle family.
It was also the first CZ-3B or 3C failure since
August 31, 2009 after 40 consecutive successes.
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
(CASC) built the DFH-4 series satellite. China
Satcom was to operate ChinaSat 9A from a 92 degrees
East position in geostationary orbit. The satellite
was equipped with 22 Ku-band transponders designed
to provide direct broadcasting and other services.
It was the
40th CZ-3B launch and the third this year.
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B orbited the Hard
X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) from Jiuquan
Satellite Launch Center on June 15, 2017. Liftoff of
CZ-4B serial number Y31 from Pad 43, Site 603 took
place at 03:00 UTC. HXMT, a 2.5 tonne 3-axis
controlled satellite, was targeted toward a roughly
550 km x 43 deg low earth orbit.
HXMT is China's first orbiting X-ray astronomy
telescope. It will map X-ray emitting objects like
black holes, pulsars, and neutron stars. The Chinese
Academy of Space Technology (CAST) assembled the
satellite, incorporating a payload module developed
by IHEP and Tsinghua University.
Two microsatellites, weighing a combined total of 87
kg (other reports suggested 130 to 150 kg) were
orbited along with XMHT.
Launches ISS Cargo (Updated)
Russia's Soyuz 2-1a launched the Progress MS-06
International Space Station cargo hauling mission
from Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 14, 2017. Liftoff
from Site 31 Pad 6 took place at 09:20:13 UTC. The
roughly 7,300 kg spacecraft carried around 2,500 kg
of cargo by some accounts - 2,398 kg, 2,450 kg, and
2,739 kg by other accounts - into a 193 x 240.8 km x
51.67 deg initial orbit. The heaviest account,
attributed to NASA, said that cargo included 1,392
kg dry pressurized materials, 880 kg of propellant
for transfer to ISS, 420 kg of water, and 47 kg of
oxygen and air. The lighter accounts only gave
620 kg for propellant.
The flight marked a return to Soyuz 2-1a for
Progress after three final launches by Soyuz-U, one
of which (Progress MS-04 on December 1, 2016) failed
to reach orbit. It was the 69th Progress launch
meant to reach ISS and the 158th Progress launch
since the program began in 1978.
Nearly one year after its last flight, Russia's
Proton M/Briz M finally returned to flight on June
8, 2017. The 413th Proton rocket, a "Phase 4" Proton
M variant, lifted off from Baikonur's Area 81 Pad 24
at 03:45 UTC with Echostar 21, beginning a planned 9
hr 13 min ascent phase that included five burns by
the Briz M upper stage. The 6,871 kg Space
Systems/Loral-built SSL 1300 series satellite was
aimed toward a 2,300 x 35,786 km x 30.5 deg
geosynchronous transfer orbit.
previous Proton flight, on June 9, 2016, one of the
four second stage main engines shut down nine
seconds early, causing a small delta-v shortfall
that had to be made up by the Briz M upper stage.
The make-up was possible because the Intelsat 31
payload was relatively light. An investigation found
defects in RD-0210, RD-0211, and RD-0214 second and
third stage engines made at the Voronezh Mechanical
Factory due to a change in a solder used in the
production process. The company also made Soyuz U
and Soyuz FG third stage engines that fell under
investigation after a December 1, 2016
Soyuz/Progress launch failure.
21, the heaviest GTO payload yet launched by Proton,
will be positioned at 10.25 degrees East after it
raises itself to geostationary orbit. From there it
will serve a European Internet Protocol based mobile
GSLV Mk3 Orbital Launch (06/07/2017 Update)
India's GSLV Mk 3, for the first time topped by a
live third stage, successfully boosted GSAT 19 to
geosynchronous transfer orbit from Sriharikota on
June 5, 2017. The D1 mission was the second GSLV Mk3
flight but the first orbital attempt. GSLV Mk3 had
previously performed a successful inaugural
suborbital flight with a dummy third stage on
December 18, 2014. GSLV Mk3 D1 lifted off from the
Second Launch Pad at 11:58 UTC.
Now India's most powerful rocket, GSLV Mk3 (formerly
known as LVM3) is capable of lifting 4 tonnes to GTO
or 10 tonnes to low earth orbit. GSAT 19, a
communications technology demonstration satellite,
weighed 3,136 kg on this development flight, less
than the rocket's capability but still the heaviest
satellite yet launched by India.
satellite was targeted toward a 170 x 35,975 km x
21.5 deg transfer orbit. GSAT 19 was
subsequently tracked in a 163 x 34,592 km x 21.5 deg
orbit, about 13 m/s short of the goal. A small
shortfall of this amount on an inaugural
direct-to-GTO mission was apparently acceptable.
The 640 tonne GSLV Mk3 consisted of two S200 solid
rocket boosters, an L110 hypergolic liquid core
stage powered by two Vikas 2 engines, and a C25
LH2/LOX upper stage powered by a single Indegenous
The solid boosters together weighed 472 tonnes and
provided 1,050 tonnes of liftoff thrust. They were
3.2 meters in diameter and 26.2 meters tall. They
burned for 2 min 20 sec and provided all of the
tonne, twin-engine core stage ignited at T+1 min 54
sec, about 26 seconds before the solids burned out
and separated. The core, which acted like a second
stage, provided about 163 tonnes of thrust for 3 min
23 sec. It separated at T+5 min 20 sec, by which
time the vehicle had reached 168 km altitude and
4,430 m/s velocity.
The 33 tonne Cryo Stage ignited two seconds after
Core Stage separation. Its 20 tonne thrust CE-20
engine was expected to perform a single, 10 min 43
sec burn to push GSAT 19 to its 10,260 m/sec
insertion velocity, but the stage apparently cut off
a bit more than 19 seconds early. Spacecraft
sepration took place at T+16 min 20 sec.
9 Launches CRS-11
Falcon 9-36, a v1.2 "Block 3" variant, boosted
CRS-11, with the first "used" Dragon cargo
spacecraft, back into orbit from Kennedy Space
Center LC 39A on June 3, 2017. Liftoff took place at
21:07 UTC. Dragon entered a low earth orbit inclined
51.6 deg to the equator after a single 6 min 38 sec
burn by the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine.
spacecraft separation took place at T+10 min 20 sec.
On this, the 13th Dragon flight, Dragon spacecraft
C106, which performed the CRS-4 mission in 2014,
became the first Dragon to fly a second time. After
its 2014 flight, the capsule was refurbished and its
heat shield replaced. Dragon carried 2,708 kg of
cargo, including 1,593 kg in its unpressurized
trunk. Dragon's total liftoff weight including cargo
was likely about 8,200 kg.
First stage B1035 performed a 2 min 22 sec ascent
burn before separating from the second stage,
turning 180 deg, and restarting three engines only
13 seconds after separation for a boost-back burn
that pushed it back towards Florida even as it
continued to gain altitude. The stage performed a
three-engine reentry burn starting at T+6 min 10 sec
and a final single-engine landing burn that began a
few seconds before it settled onto the circular pad
at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1. Landing took place
at T+7 min 27 sec. It was the 11th successful
first stage landing and the 5th landing at LZ 1.
Ten first stages have now been recovered, one
having flown twice.
stage performed a deorbit burn after Dragon
separated. Its post-reentry remains were aimed
toward a zone south and west of Australia.
The F9-36 stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas
during March, 2017. The first stage engines
performed a brief static test at LC 39A on May 28,
2017 before Dragon was stacked atop the rocket. A
June 1 launch attempt was scrubbed by weather
It was the 100th launch from LC 39A, a total that
includes 82 Space Shuttle, 12 Saturn 5, and 6 Falcon
5 Dual Satellite Launch
Ariane 5 ECA boosted two communication satellites to
geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kourou on June 1,
2017. Arianespace Mission VA237 began with a 23:45
UTC liftoff from from ELA-3. On board were 6,418 kg
ViaSat 2 and 3,551 kg Eutelsat 172B, their 9,969 kg
combined mass setting a record for a commercial GTO
launch. ViaSat 2 separated about 29.5 minutes after
launch. Eutelsat 172B, housed inside the rocket's
Sylda 5 adapter, separated just under 42 minutes
ViaSat 2 is a Boeing 702HP satellite with a Ka-band
payload. Positioned at 70 deg West, it will provide
about 300 Gigabits per second total communications
capacity, more than any other commercial
Eutelsat 172B is the first Airbus Defense and Space
all-electric Eurostar E3000e satellite to fly on
Ariane 5. It will serve the Asia-Pacific region from
172 deg East using 14 C-band, 36 Ku-band, and 11
Navsat for Japan
H-2A F34 successfully
launched the 4 tonne Michibiki 2 navigation
satellite for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
from Tanegashimi Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 on June
1, 2017. Liftoff took place at 00:17
UTC. F34 flew in the "202" configuration with
two strap on "SRB-A" monolithic solid motors and two
liquid hydrogen/oxygen core stages. The
rocket's second stage performed two burns to inject
Michibiki 2 into a 250 x 36,140 km x 31.9 deg
Michibiki will raise
itself into 33,100 x 38,500 x 44 deg "quasi zenith"
geosynchronous orbit that will trace a north-south
"Figure 8" across the Earth's surface at Japan's
longitude. From this orbit, the satellite will
be able to augment existing GPS signals, allowing
better coverage in urban areas with tall buildings.
It was the third H-2A
launch of the year and the 30th known 2017 orbital
launch attempt by all rockets world-wide.
Early Warning Satellite
Russia's Soyuz-2.1b/Fregat launched an early warning
satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on May
25, 2017. Liftoff from Site 43 Pad 4 took place at
06:33 UTC. After reaching a low earth parking orbit,
the Fregat M stage fired multiple times to lift its
payload into an elliptical “Tundra” orbit of
approximately 1,620 x 38,500 km x 63.4 deg.
The satellite, named Kosmos 2518, is believed to be
an EKS type early warning satellite designed to
detect ballistic missile launches.
A Tundra orbit is an elliptical geosynchronous orbit
that traces a figure-8 pattern over the earth twice
each day. The satellite spends most of its time at
high altitude essentially hovering over high
latitudes in such orbits.
It was the year's
fifth R-7 launch.
Electron Inaugural Falls
Short of Orbit
Rocket Lab's Electron rocket fell short of orbit in
its inaugural test launch from New Zealand on May
25, 2017. The new small launch vehicle, named "It's
a Test", lifted off from Rocket Lab's Launch
Complex 1 on the Mahia Peninsula of New
Zealand's North Island at 04:20 UTC. The 17 meter
tall, 1.2 meter diameter rocket, its innovative
carbon composite case propellant tanks filled with
kerosene and liquid oxygen, was slated to steer
toward a south, south-east azimuth, rising on about
15.65 metric tons of thrust from its nine
Electron carried test instrumentation, rather than a
revenue payload, on this test flight.
The launch was not
broadcast live and post-launch information was
limited. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab’s CEO,
reported that Electron had a good first stage burn,
stage separation, second stage ignition, and fairing
separation, but orbital velocity was not achieved.
A 300 x 500 km x 83
deg orbit was planned. The company did not give a
cause for the failure. It did release several
videos showing portions of the first stage
flight. An on-board video showed a roll
developing during ascent.
Plans called for the
first stage to burn for 2 minutes 30 seconds. Stage
separation was to take place four seconds after
first stage shutdown. The second stage's single
vacuum-optimized Rutherford engine was then slated
to fire for 4 minutes 48 seconds to reach orbital
The launch took place
after several days of weather delays.
Although orbit was not
achieved, Mr. Beck expressed satisfaction with the
results of the heavily instrumented test flight- the
first of three such test flights currently planned.
Orbits SES 15
A Soyuz 2.1a/Fregat - also known as Soyuz ST-A for
its Kourou application - orbited the all-electric
SES 15 communications satellite from Kourou's Guiana
Space Center on May 18, 2017. Liftoff of the
Arianespace VS17 mission from the Soyuz launch zone
(ELS) took place at 11:54 UTC, beginning a roughly
5.4 hour mission to spacecraft separation.
The Fregat upper stage performed two burns to
accelerate the 2,302 kg Boeing 702SP satellite into
a 2,207 x 31,349 km x 5.99 deg orbit. The atypical
geosynchronous transfer orbit was selected to allow
the all-electric, low thrust satellite to more
easily and quickly raise itself to geostationary
orbit by starting with a higher perigee to reduce
drag. SES 15 will take about 6-7 months to raise its
The Soyuz rocket's
four boosters jettisoned at T+1 m 58 s. The
fairing jettisoned at T+ 3 m 39 s. The central
core "second stage" burned out and separated at T+4
m 47 s. The "third stage" completed its work
at T+ 8 m 49 s. Fregat performed its first
burn starting at T+ 9 m 49 s and ending at T+23 m 34
s. Fregat coasted to apogee where, at T+4 h 57
m 35 s it began a 52 second burn. Spacecraft
separation took place at T+5 h 18 m 28 s.
It was the 17th Soyuz
launch from Kourou and the second GTO mission.
Falcon 9 Orbits
Inmarsat 5 F4 (May 16 Update)
The year's sixth Falcon 9 boosted Inmarsat 5 F4 to
geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kennedy Space
Center's Launch Complex 39 Pad A on May 15, 2017.
Liftoff took place at 23:21 UTC. The Merlin 1D
Vacuum-powered second stage performed two burns to
loft the 6.086 tonne communications satellite into a
supersynchronous transfer orbit. It was the
heaviest GTO payload yet for Falcon 9.
According to the SpaceX press kit, the first stage
burned for 2 min 45 sec. The second stage then fired
for 5 min 42 sec before beginning a nearly 18.5
minute parking orbit coast to the equator. The stage
completed its second, 56 second burn at the 27 min
55 sec mark. Spacecraft separation occurred 31
minutes 48 seconds after liftoff into a 381 x 69,839
km x 24.5 deg orbit.
F9-35 was the second Falcon 9 v1.2 flown in fully
expendable mode, with no landing legs, grid fins, or
other recoverable hardware on the first stage.
Expendable mode was needed to accomodate the heavy
The second stage
exhibited the same external appearance as the
improved second stage used during the prior NROL 76
launch, leading outside observers to wonder if this
was the second example of a "Block 4" upper stage.
Additionally, cryogenic propellant loading
began only 35 minutes before liftoff, compared to
the previous 45 minutes, a new procedure designed to
minimize propellant temperatures for improved
Boeing Network & Space Systems built Inmarsat 5
F4, which uses Ka-band transponders to provide
broadband communications services.
The rocket used first stage number B1034. It
and its second stage partner were test fired at
McGregor, Texas during March 2017. The
assembled rocket performed a roughly 3 second static
test at LC 39A on May 11 with no payload attached.
Orbits GSAT 9
India's GSLV boosted its GSAT 9 communications
satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit from
Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota on May 5,
2017. Liftoff of the GSLV F09 mission from the
Second Launch Pad took place at 11:27 UTC. GSAT 9
separated about 17 minutes later, after a roughly
12-minute burn by the rocket's liquid hydrogen
fueled third stage. For unknown reasons, ISRO banned
press coverage of the launch.
ISRO-built GSAT-9 weighed 2.23 tonnes at liftoff. It
carries 12 Ku-band transponders to provide
communications services to India, Bangladesh,
Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
It was the fifth GSLV Mk 2 launch, using India's own
LH2/LOX Cryogenic Upper Stage engine, and the 11th
GSLV flight. It was also the 25th known
orbital launch attempt of 2017.
Ariane 5 Launches
Ariane 5 ECA L589, performing Arianespace mission
VA236, launched two communication satellites -
Brazil's SGDC and Korea's Koreasat 7 - from Kourou
Space Center on May 4, 2017. Liftoff from ELA 3 took
place at 21:50 UTC. The satellites separated into
geosynchronous transfer orbits about one-half hour
VA236 was delayed by nearly six weeks after French
Guiana residents blockaded the space center as part
of a social movement. The blockades were finally
removed after the French government signed
agreements with the protesters.
SGDC was a 5,735 kg Thales Alenia Space Spacebus
4000C4 satellite. It will serve Brazil's government,
providing both civil and military communications
service, using its 57 Ka and X-band transponders at
a 75 deg West geostationary position.
Koreasat 7, the lower passenger, was a 3,680 kg
Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000B2 satellite. It's
Ka-band transponders will work from 116 deg. East
for KT SAT, Korea's satellite service provider.
9 Orbits NROL 76
SpaceX’s Falcon 9
orbited NROL 76, a secret payload for the National
Reconnaissance Office, from Kennedy Space Center
Launch Complex 39 Pad A on May 1, 2017.
Liftoff took place at 11:15 UTC, following an
aborted attempt one day earlier caused by a faulty
LOX outlet temperature sensor.
Falcon 9 headed on a
northeast azimuth. No coverage was provided of
the second stage performance as the flight entered a
press blackout. Elon Musk tweeted about 22
minutes after launch that the payload had been
successfully orbited, hinting at a low earth orbit
for NROL 76.
After completing its 2
min 17 sec ascent burn, the shortest such burn yet
for a v1.2 variant, the first stage did a 180 deg
flip and performed 40 second long 3-engine boostback
burn. It flipped again before performing a
roughly 24 second long 3-engine entry burn and a 30
second long single engine landing burn. The
stage landed at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1 just
under 9 minutes after liftoff. It was the
tenth successful first stage landing and the fourth
landing at LZ 1. Nine first stages have now
been recovered, one having flown twice.
The second stage was
expected to perform a deorbit burn nearly 4 hours
after liftoff. A targeted zone for the stage
to fall was listed off the southeast coast of
Africa. The delayed deorbit may be to allow
for a long coast experiment.
This 33rd Falcon 9
flight was performed by the F9-34 vehicle, which
used first stage number B1032. The
shorter than normal first stage burn, along with
design changes visible externally on the second
stage, initiated speculation that this was the first
so-called "Block 4" Falcon 9 with liftoff thrust
increased from the prior 694 tonnes, but no
confirmation has to date been provided.
The vehicle's stages
were test fired at McGregor, Texas, apparently
during February, 2017. The first stage
performed a brief static firing at LC 39A on April
25, 2017. The first and second stages without
payload were stacked for the test.
It was the fifth
Falcon 9 launch of the year and the fourth from LC
39A. The pad has now hosted a total of 98
launches, including 12 Saturn 5 and 82 Space Shuttle
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 7 launched Tianzhou
1, a robot cargo ship bound for the Tiangong 2 space
station, from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on
Hainan Island on April 20, 2017. Liftoff from Pad
201, the easternmost of two new launch pads at the
Center, took place at 11:41:35 UTC. Including
propellant, Tianzhou 1 weighed 12.91 tonnes, making
it the heaviest payload ever launched by a rocket
from China, and the heaviest payload launched by any
nation so far this year.
Tianzhou 1 was loaded with several tonnes of
propellant. It will test automatic docking equipment
when it attempts to dock with Tiangong 2 in a 42 deg
inclination low earth orbit two days after launch.
The mission is a test of procedures for China's
planned full-scale space station, which the country
may begin to launch in 2018.
It was the second CZ-7 launch, following a June,
2016 debut. CZ-7 is one of three of China’s Academy
of Launch Vehicle Technology's (CALT) new family of
launchers, which include the smaller CZ-6 and the
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 2.5 stage rocket weighs about 594
tonnes at liftoff and stands about 53.1 meters tall.
It can lift 13.5 tonnes to 200 x 400 km x 42 deg
orbit or 5.5 tonnes to a 700 km sun synchronous
On this flight, the
strap-on boosters shut down and separated about 174
seconds after liftoff. The first stage cut off
and separated about 10 seconds later. Stage 2
burned its main engines for about 389 seconds.
Its vernier engines burned for about 20 more
seconds after the main engines shut down.
Spacecraft sepration took place shortly after the
verniers shut cut off, about 10 minutes after
Soyuz Launches ISS
A 2.5 stage Soyuz FG rocket orbited Russia's Soyuz
MS-04 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with two
International Space Station crew on April 20, 2017.
It was the year's first crewed launch. Liftoff from
Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 07:14
UTC. The spacecraft entered a roughly 200 km x 51.6
deg initial orbit. Onboard the upgraded spacecraft
were Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA's Jack
Fischer, comprising the Expedition 51/52 crew.
After a 6 hour, four orbit fast-track ascent, Soyuz
MS-04 docked with ISS at 13:18 UTC.
Yurchikhin and Fischer will join NASA's Peggy
Whitson, ESA's Thomas Pesquet, and Russia's Oleg
Novitskiy at the station.
Russia cut the normal three crew complement down to
two on this mission to save money. Cargo replaced
the missing crew member. Fewer Progress launches
will be needed to support Russia's reduced ISS crew
It was the first R-7 flight of a re-engined rocket
with crew since a Soyuz-U RD-0110 upper stage engine
suffered a turbopump failure on December 1, 2016
while attempting to orbit Progress MS-04.
Investigators found manufacturing defects and
unqualified alloys in other engines from the same
production batch. The investigation led to the
replacement of engines from a bad production lot.
Atlas 5 Launches
United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 launched
Orbital-ATK's Cygnus cargo hauling spacecraft toward
the International Space Station on April 18, 2017.
The OA-7 Commercial Resupply Services flight was the
third Atlas-launched Cygnus as part of orbital ATK's
plan to catch up in the wake of the company's 2014
Antares rocket failure. OA-7 used an enhanced Cygnus
with a longer pressurized module packed with 3,376
kg of cargo. An additional 83 kg of unpressurized
cargo, consisting of several cubesats, was also
carried. Including cargo, Cygnus weighed a reported
The 59.13 meter tall AV-070 Atlas 5-401 used an
extra extended payload fairing. Liftoff from Cape
Canaveral SLC 41 took place at 15:11:26 UTC. The
rocket flew a northeastward track off the Eastern
U.S. Seaboard. Centaur performed a single, 13 min 45
sec burn to insert itself and Cygnus into a roughly
230 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Payload separation occurred
about 21 minutes after liftoff. Centaur performed a
subsequent deorbit burn.
Cygnus OA-7 was dubbed "S.S. John Glenn" in memory
of the late astronaut.
The launch was originally planned for March 27, but
was delayed five days before launch by ground and
flight vehicle hydraulic system problems. A
hydraulic return line was found to have ruptured on
the Atlas first stage while technicians were
troubleshooting the ground system issue.
It was the 71st Atlas 5 launch, the 70th success,
and the 61st consecutive success.
Orbits Experimental Comsat
A Chang Zheng (Long
March) 3B/E rocket orbited Chinasat 16, an
experimental communications satellite, from Xichang
Satellite Launch Center on April 12, 2017. Liftoff
from Launch Pad 2 took place at 11:04 UTC. The
rocket's liquid hydrogen fueled upper stage
performed two burns to accelerate its payload into a
geosynchronous transfer orbit.
The 4.6 tonne China Academy of Space Technology
(CAST) DFH-3 satellite is equipped with a Ka-band
communications payload and an electric propulsion
system, both firsts for China. It will be positioned
at 110.5 degrees East.
It was the 40th
consecutive success by the CZ 3B/3C variant.