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SPACE LAUNCH REPORT
by
Ed Kyle




Space Launch Report Archive

July-September, 2017

 


VA-239 (Arianespace)Ariane 5 Launch

After suffering a last-second launch abort on September 5, Ariane 5 ECA vehicle number L5100 successfully boosted two communication satellites to geosynchronous transfer orbit on its second try from Kourou on September 29, 2017. Arianespace Mission VA239 began with a 21:56 UTC liftoff from from ELA-3. After a single long burn by the ESC-A second stage, 6,438 kg Intelsat 37e separated at T+29 minutes, followed by 3,520 kg BSAT 4a, which rode up inside the rocket's Sylda 5 adapter, at T+47 minutes.

Investigation found that the September 5 launch abort had been caused by an electrical issue in one of the two solid-propellant boosters (EAP) that forced an automatic cut off of the launch sequence after the core stage Vulcain 2 engine had ignited. Ariane 5 had to be rolled back to its assembly building in order to replace the failed component.

Intelsat 37e is a Boeing 702MP satellite with Ku, Ka, and S-band transponders. It will provide high-data-rate communications services to the Americas, Africa, and Europe from its geostationary position at 342 deg East.

GSAT 17 is a Space Systems/Loral 1300-series satellites. It will provide Direct-to-Home television service in Japan using its 24 Ku-band transponders from geostationary orbit at 110 deg East.

At 9,958 kg revenue payload, VA-239 carried the second-heaviest GTO payload yet by an Ariane 5, trailing VA-237 by 11 kg.

It was the year's fifth Ariane 5 launch, and the 64th Ariane 5 ECA flight since the type began flying in 2002.

CZ-2C September 29, 2017CZ-2C Launch


China performed its first orbital launch in nearly three months on September 29, 2017 when its Chang Zheng 2C rose from Xichang Satellite Launch Center's LC 3 with a satellite triplet named Yaogan-30 Group 1.  Liftoff took place at 04:21 UTC.  The "electromagnetic detection" satellites were inserted into 592 x 601 km x 35 deg orbits.
 
The satellites may be formation flyers similar to the U.S. NOSS system, which perform a signals intelligence mission designed to monitor surface ship electronic emissions. 


It was the first CZ-2C orbital launch since 2014, and the first CZ-2C to fly from Xichang since 2004.


Proton 416 (Roskosmos)Proton Launches AsiaSat 9


Russia's Proton M/Briz M launched the AsiaSat 9 communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 28, 2017. The 416th Proton rocket, a "Phase 4" Proton M variant, lifted off from Baikonur's Area 200 Pad 39 at 18:52 UTC to begin a planned 9 hr 13 min ascent phase that included five burns by the Briz M upper stage. The 6,140 kg Space Systems/Loral-built SSL 1300 series satellite was aimed toward a planned 4,050 x 35,786 km x 23.4 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

AsiaSat 9 will be stationed at 122 deg East, after it raises itself to geostationary orbit, to serve the Asia-Pacific region using 28 C-band and 32 Ku-band transponders, and a regional Ka-band payload.

It was the year's fourth Proton launch and the 96th flown for International Launch Services.  It was also the year's 60th known orbital launch attempt, world-wide.

AV-072 (ULA)Atlas 5 Launches NROL-42

The second Atlas 541 to fly from Vandenberg AFB, a variant that uses four solid rocket motors and a five meter diameter payload fairing, launched the classified National Reconnaissance Office NROL-42 mission on September 24, 2017. The 522 tonne rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 East at 05:49 UTC and quickly flew into a news blackout. Atlas 541 is the most powerful Atlas variant to yet fly from the California base.

Analysts expected the launch to orbit a payload bound for an elliptical 12-hour Molniya type orbit. Potential payloads included communications or signals intelligence satellites (SIGINTs). The flight followed a profile similar to the Atlas 541 NROL-35 launch in December, 2014, which went to a 2,101 x 37,748 km x 62.85 Molniya orbit. The use of Atlas 541 for these missions suggest that the satellites are likely heavier than any previously launched by the U.S. to a Molniya orbit. A previous launch of a "Trumpet"-type SIGINT to 1,120 x 37,600 km x 63.56 deg Molniya orbit used a less-capable Atlas 5-411 with only one strap-on solid motor.

AV-072 was the fifth Atlas 5 launch of the year and the second from SLC 3E.  It was the first Atlas of the year fitted with solid motors.  It was the 73rd Atlas 5 flight and the 63rd consecutive Atlas 5 launch vehicle success.

Glonass M 52 LaunchSoyuz Orbits Glonass Navsat

Russia's Soyuz 2-1B/Fregat launched GLONASS-M (Uragan-M) No.52, a navigation satellite, from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 43/4 on September 22, 2017. Liftoff took place at 00:02 UTC.  The satellite was named Kosmos 2522 after reaching orbit.

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. Spacecraft separation occurred about 3.5 hours after liftoff.

It was the 10th R-7 launch of 2017.


Soyuz MS-06 (NASA TV)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

Russia's Soyuz FG orbited Russia's Soyuz MS-06 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on September 12, 2017. It was the year's third crewed launch. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 21:17 UTC. The spacecraft entered a roughly 197 x 255 km x 51.67 deg initial orbit. Onboard were Russia's Alexander Misurkin and NASA's Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba, comprising the Expedition 53/54 crew.

Soyuz MS-06 aimed for a 6 hour, four orbit fast-track ascent to ISS. The MS-06 crew will join Randy Bresnik, Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Paolo Nespoli at the station.

It was the ninth R-7 flight of 2017.

Proton 415 (ILS)Proton Launches Amazonas 5

Russia's Proton M/Briz M launched the Amazonas 5 communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 11, 2017. The 415th Proton rocket, a "Phase 3" Proton M variant, serial number 93565, lifted off from Baikonur's Area 200 Pad 39 at 19:23 UTC to begin a planned 9 hr 12 min ascent phase that included five burns by the Briz M upper stage. The 5,900 kg Space Systems/Loral-built SSL 1300 series satellite was aimed toward a planned 4,450 x 35,286 km x 22.9 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Amazonas 5, built for HISPASAT Group, is equipped by 24 Ku-band transponders and a Ka-band spot beam with spot beams. It will provide fixed and broadband services in South America, Central America and Mexico. The satellite will be positioned at 61 deg West after it raises itself to geostationary orbit.

It was the year's third Proton launch.  It was also the 95th Proton flown for International Launch Services.

F9-42 with OTV-5 (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Launches X-37B

Falcon 9-42, the second v1.2 variant to fly with a "Block 4" first stage, launched the fifth U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) mission into orbit from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on September 7, 2017. Liftoff took place at 14:00 UTC. X-37B entered a low earth orbit likely inclined 40 to 45 deg to the equator after a single burn by the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine.

This was the first X-37B launch by Falcon 9. Atlas 5 performed the first four launches, which are believed to have used two different X-37B spacecraft. The winged robot mini-shuttle, which carries classified payload in its small payload bay, is believed to weigh about 5 metric tons at launch.

First stage B1040 performed a 2 min 23 sec ascent burn before separating from the second stage, turning 180 deg, and restarting three engines for a roughly 34 second boost-back burn that pushed it back towards Florida even as it continued to gain altitude. The stage performed a roughly 20 second three-engine reentry burn starting at about T+6 min 34 sec and a final single-engine landing burn that began about 30 seconds before it settled onto the circular pad at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.  Landing took place about 8 min 14 sec after liftoff.

It was the 16th successful first stage landing and the 7th landing at LZ 1. Fourteen first stages have now been recovered, two having flown twice. All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.

The second stage was expected to perform a deorbit burn after payload separation, possibly after performing an extended coast mission.  Its post-reentry remains were to be aimed toward a zone far south of Australia.

The F9-42 stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during late July or early August, 2017. The first stage engines performed a brief static test at LC 39A on August 31, 2017 before OTV-5 was stacked atop the rocket.

PSLV-C39, ISROPSLV Fails

India's most-reliable launch vehicle, PSLV, suffered its first launch failure since 1997 during an attempt to orbit IRNSS 1H, the country's eighth-planned navigation satellite, from Sriharikota on August 31, 2017. The 4.5-stage PSLV-XL variant, flying the C-39 mission, lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Center's Second Launch Pad at 13:30 UTC. All of the propulsion elements appeared to work as expected, but the payload fairing failed to separate as planned about 3 minutes 23 seconds after liftoff. The extra mass caused the fourth stage and its still-encapsulated payload to fall short, only reaching a 167 x 6,555 km x 19.18 deg orbit, far short of the planned 675 x 20,650 km x 19.2 deg transfer orbit.

Plans had called for the 1,425 kg satellite to raise itself from the planned subsynchronous transfer orbit to a geosynchronous orbit with a 29 deg inclination, tracing a small figure-8 pattern over the Earth's surface, centered on 55 deg East longitude.

India's first generation navigation constellation consists of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial geostationary orbits.

It was the 41st PSLV flight and the 18th by a PSLV-XL variant. The failure ended a string of 36 consecutive successes for the PSLV family. No PSLV-XL failures had previously occurred. PSLV began flying in 1993.

Minotaur 4 Launches ORS-5 (OATK)Minotaur 4 Cape Inaugural

Orbital ATK's Minotaur 4 performed its first launch from Cape Canaveral on August 26, 2017 when it boosted the ORS-5 (Operationally Responsive Space) satellite into equatorial low earth orbit. The 87 tonne rocket lifted off from SLC 46 at 06:04 UTC, rising rapidly on 209 tonnes of thrust from the SR-118 first stage motor.

An Orion 38 fifth stage was added to the standard four-stage Minotaur 4 to perform the unusual ascent. ORS-5 only weighed 140 kg, but the fifth stage was needed to perform the largest-ever low earth orbit plane change maneuver to insert the satellite into a 600 km x 0.0 deg orbit.

Minotaur 4 uses surplus Peacekeeper ICBM motors for its first three stages. An Orion 38 motor serves as the fourth stage. On this flight the first stage fired for 0.94 minutes and the second stage for 0.96 minutes before begininng a 0.18 minute coast. The third stage then separated from the second stage and performed a 1.21 minute burn. The stack coasted until the third stage separated at T+13.74 minutes. The fourth stage ignited 0.18 minutes later to begin its 1.11 minute burn to reach orbital velocity, entering a roughly 400 x 600 km x 24.6 deg transfer orbit.  After a coast to the equator, during which three small cubesats deployed, the fifth stage began its 1.15 minute burn at T+25.31 minutes to raise perigee to about 600 km and to reduce inclination to 0 deg.

MIT/Lincoln Labs led the effort to develop ORS-5, which will stare up at the geosynchronous orbit belt to provide an operational demonstration of situational awareness about the movement of satellites operating in the belt.

It was the fourth orbital launch mission by a Minotaur 4, the sixth Minotaur 4 launch, and the seventh launch of a Minotaur 4 or 5. Minotaur 5 uses a Star 48V, rather than an Orion 38, fourth stage motor. Cape Canaveral became the fourth launch range to see a Minotaur 4 or 5. Previous launches took place from Vandenberg AFB, Kodiak, and Wallops Island. It was the first launch from SLC 46 since a Lockheed Martin Athena lifted off in 1999.

Orbital ATK conducts Minotaur 4 launches under the U.S. Air Force's Orbital/Suborbital-2 contract.

F9-40 (SpaceX)Falcon 9 Orbits Formosat 5

Falcon 9 F9-40, a v1.2 variant with a "Block 3" first stage, orbited Formosat 5, an Earth observation satellite for Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO), from Vandenberg AFB on August 24, 2017. First stage number B1038 boosted the rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East at 18:51 UTC to begin an 11 minute 18 second mission that inserted the 475 kg satellite directly into a roughly 720 km x 98.28 deg sun synchronous orbit.

The first stage fired for 2 minutes 28 seconds. Stage 2 performed a single 6 minute 38 second burn. After staging, the first stage performed a 39 second long 3-engine reentry burn and a 33 second single-engine landing burn before landing on the converted barge "drone ship" “Just Read the Instructions” about 10 minutes 47 seconds after liftoff. The second stage performed a deorbit burn after spacecraft separation.

Formosat 5 carries a primary optical imager and a secondary ionospheric sensor.

It was the 15th successful Falcon 9 first stage landing. Thirteen first stages have now been recovered, two having flown twice. It was the 40th Falcon 9 launch, a number that does not include the AMOS 6 launch vehicle destroyed during a propellant loading test on September 1, 2016.

The first and second stages were test fired at the company's McGregor, Texas test site during late June or early July. The first stage was briefly hot fired at SLC 4E on August 19, 2017 with the second stage, but no payload, attached to the top of the rocket.

H-2A F35 (JAXA)H-2A Launches Navsat for Japan

H-2A F35 successfully launched the 4.7 tonne Michibiki 3 navigation satellite for Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency from Tanegashimi Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 on August 19, 2017. Liftoff took place at 05:30 UTC. F35 flew in the "204" configuration with four strap on "SRB-A" monolithic solid motors and two liquid hydrogen/oxygen core stages. After a 115 second SRB phase that augmented a 398 second first stage burn, the rocket's second stage performed two burns, of 271 seconds and 250 seconds duration with a 736 second coast between, to inject Michibiki 3 into a geostationary transfer orbit.

Michibiki 3 will raise itself into geosynchronous orbit, augmenting two previous satellites that trace north-south "Figure 8" patterns across the Earth's surface at Japan's longitude.

The launch, which came after a one week delay caused by a problem during propellant loading during the initial launch attempt, was the fourth H-2A launch of the year.

AV-074 (ULA)Atlas Orbits TDRS-M

AV-074, an Atlas 5 two-stage 401 model, successfully orbited NASA's TDRS-M (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) from Cape Caneveral on August 18, 2017. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 12:29 UTC. TDRS-M, a Boeing Space System 601 model that weighed 3.454 tonnes, was aimed toward a 4,640 x 35,787 km x 26.2 deg high perigee geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). Spacecraft separation took place 1 hour 53 minutes 46 seconds after liftoff.

The RD-180 powered first stage burned for 4 minutes 2 seconds. This was followed by a 13 minute 39 second long Centaur second stage burn that boosted the vehicle into a 183 x 25,672 km x 27 deg parking orbit. After a 1 hour, 30 minute 6 second coast across the equatorial Atlantic, southern Africa, and part of the Indian Ocean, Centaur reignited for a 57 second burn to accelerate TDRS-M into its final orbit.

TDRS-M's arrival at the launch pad was delayed by a few weeks after one of its antennas was damaged on July 14 during processing at Astrotech, the same day that the Centaur stage was stacked atop the first stage at SLC 41.  The launch vehicle ended up standing on its launch platform for more than a month before liftoff.

The launch was the world's 50th known orbital attempt of 2017.  It was also  the fourth Atlas 5 launch of the year, the 62nd consecutive Atlas 5 success, and the 71st success in 72 flights to date.

Proton Launches BlagovestProton Orbits Blagovest (8/21/17 Update)

A Proton M Briz M launched Russia's first Blagovest military communications satellite from Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 16, 2017. The liftoff from Site 81 Pad 24 took place at 22:07 UTC, with no live TV coverage provided.  The Briz M upper stage performed a series of burns (most likely four burns) to insert the satellite into near-geosynchronous orbit.   Upon reaching orbit the satellite was named Kosmos 2520. 

Blagovest ("good news") is an Ekspress-2000 series satellite built by ISS Reshetnev in Zheleznogorsk, Russia, for Russia's Ministry of Defense. It carries Ka and C-band transponders. Europe's Thales Alenia provided attitude control system sensors and communications payload elements. Blagovest 11L is the first of four planned in the series.


Falcon 9 Launches CRS-12


Falcon 9-41, the first v1.2 variant to fly with a "Block 4" first stage, launched Dragon CRS-12 into orbit from Kennedy Space Center LC 39A on August 14, 2017. Liftoff took place at 16:31 UTC. Cargo-hauling Dragon entered a low earth orbit inclined 51.6 deg to the equator after a single 6 min 58 sec burn by the second stage Merlin Vacuum engine. spacecraft separation took place at T+10 min 20 sec.

This 14th Dragon flight used Dragon spacecraft C113, the 13th and final new Dragon spacecraft capsule planned to be manufactured by SpaceX.  Future missions will use refurbished recovered capsules.

Dragon carried 2,910 kg of cargo and packing, including 1,258 kg in its unpressurized trunk. Dragon's total liftoff weight including cargo was likely about 8,400 kg.

First stage B1039 performed a 2 min 25 sec ascent burn before separating from the second stage, turning 180 deg, and restarting three engines for a roughly 55 second boost-back burn that pushed it back towards Florida even as it continued to gain altitude. The stage performed a roughly 14 second three-engine reentry burn starting at about T+6 min 8 sec and a final single-engine landing burn that began about 28 econds before it settled onto the circular pad at Cape Canaveral Landing Zone 1.  Landing took place about 7 min 43 sec after liftoff. 

B1039.1 LandingB1039.1 Landing

It was the 14th successful first stage landing and the 6th landing at LZ 1.   Twelve first stages have now been recovered, two having flown twice.  All of the recovered stages have been v1.2 types.  CRS-12 was the 19th Falcon 9 v1.2 launch and the 20th v1.2 to stand on a launch pad, a tally that includes the AMOS 6 launch vehicle destroyed during propellant loading for a pre-launch static test firing on September 1, 2016. 

The second stage performed a deorbit burn after Dragon separated. Its post-reentry remains were aimed toward a zone south and west of Australia.

The F9-41 stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during July, 2017. The first stage engines performed a brief static test at LC 39A on August 10, 2017 before Dragon was stacked atop the rocket.



 

vv10.jpg (19244 bytes)Vega Orbits Earth Observation Satellites

Europe's Vega launch vehicle orbited Optsat 3000 and Venus, two Israeli-built earth observation satellites, from Kourou on August 2, 2017. The four-stage rocket lifted off on Arianespace Mission VV10 from the Vega Launch Complex (ZLV) at 01:58 UTC on a more than 97-minute mission that employed five burns by the AVUM fourth stage to deploy the two satellites into different orbits.

AVUM completed its first, 6 min 17 sec burn to reach an initial elliptical orbit about 14 min 9 sec after liftoff. After a coast to apogee, the stage restarted at T+40 min 37 sec for a nearly 1.5 minute burn to reach a 450 km x 97 deg orbit, where the 368 kg Optsat 3000 satellite separated. AVUM then performed two more burns during the next hour to reach a 720 km x 98 deg orbit, where 264 kg Venus separated. AVUM performed a fifth, deorbit burn beginning at T+1 hour 47 min 19 sec.

Vega's P80 solid motor first stage burned for 1 min 57 seconds. Its Z23 solid motor second stage ignited one second later and burned until the 3 min 40 sec mark. After a 23 second coast the Z9 solid motor third stage ignited for its 2 min 39 second burn. The payload fairing separated shortly after the third stage ignited. After a 1 min 10 sec coast, the liquid AVUM fourth stage began its first burn.

Optsat 3000 is a military optical survelliance satellite for the Itialian Ministry of Defense. Venus, a multi-spectral earth observation satellite, is an Israeli/French collaboration.


soyms05.jpg (10363 bytes)Soyuz Launches ISS Crew

A 2.5 stage Soyuz FG rocket orbited Russia's Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft from Baikonur, Kazakhstan with three International Space Station crew on July 28, 2017. It was the year's second crewed launch. Liftoff from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 15:41 UTC. The spacecraft entered a roughly 200 km x 51.6 deg initial orbit. Onboard the upgraded spacecraft were Russia's Sergey Ryazanskiy, NASA's Randy Bresnik and ESA's Paolo Nespoli, comprising the Expedition 52/53 crew.

Soyuz MS-05 aimed for a 6 hour, four orbit fast-track ascent to ISS. Ryazanskiy, Bresnik, and Nespoli will join Russia's Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA's Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson, the longest-space time NASA astronaut, at the station.

It was the eighth R-7 flight of 2017.  It was also the 50th 2.5-stage Soyuz FG launch since the type premiered in 2001.  None have failed.  This 50th consecutive success pushes Soyuz FG incrementally past Delta 2 to the top of the Space Launch Report Launch Vehicle Reliability table.


soy071417.jpg (17869 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat Launch

A Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 14, 2017 with Russia's 500+ kg Kanopus V-IK Earth observation satellite and 72 smaller satellites bound for a variety of sun synchronous orbits. Liftoff from Baikonur's Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 06:36 UTC. Fregat fired twice to place Kanopus V-IK into a roughly 479 x 523 km x 97.44 deg orbit during the first hour of the mission.

After two more Fregat burns to reach a 595 x 523 km x 97.44 deg orbit, 24 small satellites were released around 2.5 hours after liftoff. Two more Fregat burns then moved the stage to a roughly 460 x 480 km x 97 deg orbit, where 48 small satellites deployed beginning about 7.6 hours after launch. A seventh and final, deorbit burn took place about 8.25 hours after liftoff.

It was the year's 45th orbital launch attempt, worldwide.


f9-39.jpg (4322 bytes)Falcon 9 Orbits Intelsat 35e (Updated 07/07/17)

The year's tenth Falcon 9 boosted Intelsat 35e to geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39 Pad A on July 5, 2017.  Liftoff took place at 23:37 UTC.  The Merlin 1D Vacuum-powered second stage performed two burns to loft the 6.761 tonne communications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. It was by far the heaviest GTO payload yet for Falcon 9, a payload requiring use of the third fully-expendable Falcon 9 v1.2 variant, with no landing legs, grid fins, or other recoverable hardware on the first stage.

The first stage fired for about 164 seconds. The second stage then burned for about 346 seconds before beginning a roughly 1,000 second parking orbit coast to the equator. The stage completed its second, 57 second burn at the 27 min 20 sec mark. 

Spacecraft separation took place about 32 minutes after liftoff. F9-39 aimed toward a GTO with a perigee of about 250 km, an apogee of at least 31,230 km, and a 26 deg inclination. A minimum residual shutdown of the second stage was planned, which under best-case conditions could result in an apogee exceeding 35,500 km.  Shortly after the flight, Elon Musk of SpaceX tweeted that a 43,000 km apogee had been achieved.  Tracking data released a day later showed Intelsat 35e in a 296 x 42,742 km x 25.85 deg orbit.

The second stage was an improved "Block 4" type while the first stage appeared to be a standard "Block 3" variant. Cryogenic propellant loading began only 35 minutes before liftoff, a procedure implemented during the past few launches that is designed to minimize propellant temperatures for improved performance.

Boeing Network & Space Systems built the BSS-702MP satellite, which uses C and Ku-band transponders to provide communications services to the Caribbean, Europe to Africa, and Africa.

F9-39 used first stage number B1037. It and its second stage partner were test fired at McGregor, Texas during late May or early June, 2017. The assembled rocket performed a roughly 3 second hot fire at LC 39A on June 29, 2017 with no payload attached. A July 2 launch attempt was halted at T-10 seconds due to a guidance and navigation system issue, forcing a 24-hour turnaround.  The second attempt was also stopped at T-10 seconds by the ground sequencer when it saw a parameter out of range. SpaceX waited 48 hours while determining that the flight hardware had actually not exceeded flight limits.


cz5y2.jpg (9948 bytes)CZ-5 Failure (07/15/17 Update)

Eight months after its successful debut launch, China's second Chang Zheng (Long March) 5 (serial Y2) suffered a launch failure on July 2, 2017 during an attempt to orbit Shijian 18, a heavy (roughly 7.6 tonne) experimental communications satellite, from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island off China's southern coast.  CZ-5 Y2 was aiming for a 200 x 46,000 km x 19.5 deg target orbit on a mission that would have seen two second stage burns.

The liftoff from Pad 101 took place at 11:23 UTC. The 56.97 meter tall, 2.5 stage CZ-5, currently the world's heaviest rocket, rose cleanly on the combined 1,080 tonnes of thrust produced by 10 engines, two gas generator engines on the 5-meter diameter LH2/LOX core and two staged-combustion engines each on four 3.35 meter diameter kerosene/LOX strap-on boosters. At some point, however, something failed, likely involving first (core) stage propulsion.

The boosters completed their burns and separated cleanly and, apparently, on time, but the core stage continued to fire for more than 1.5 minutes longer than expected. A long burn of this type is consistent with one of the two YF-77 engines suffering a failure at some point during the ascent, but no official announcement of the failure mode was made in the hours following the launch.

Despite the first stage issue, the second stage separated and ignited its two YF-75D LH2/LOX engines that together made 32.6 tonnes of thrust at 438 second specific impulse. The stage was to have performed an initial nearly-five minute burn to reach a low earth parking orbit. It is not clear if the stage completed its burn as planned, but both engines were visible performing their burns in normal fashion in a an on-board view transmitted to the ground. The stage and its payload apparently reentered, unable to make up for the core stage velocity shortfall.

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, was to have burned for 471 seconds, with the YF-77 engines operating at 430 seconds vacuum specific impulse.

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. 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 second stage weighed 26 tonnes and carried 22.9 tonnes of propellant.

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.