Debuts CZ-7, Wenchang Launch Site
(June 26, 2016 Update)
CZ-7 Inaugural Liftoff
Zheng (Long March) 7 flew successfully on its first try from the country's new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on June 25,
2016. The liftoff, from Pad 201, the easternmost of two new launch pads at the Center,
took place at 12:00 UTC. The launch site, on Hainan Island off China's southern coastline,
is China's first sea-side launch site, which allowed the rocket stages to fall into the
South China Sea as the vehicle ascended on a southeast azimuth toward orbit.
CZ-7 flew to a 200 x 394 km x 40.8 deg initial orbit with several demonstration payloads,
including a 2.6 tonne blunt cone-shaped, scaled-down Next Generation Crew Vehicle that
reentered and landed in China after about one day in orbit. Several microsatellites and
ballast were also carried within the payload fairing atop a restartable YZ-1A upper stage.
Total payload mass was reportedly about 12 tonnes.
After entering orbit, the YZ-1A stage, which may use
four 408 kgf thrust YF-85 hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engines, appeared to have performed
several maneuvers, with objects tracked in orbits with apogees as high as 580 km.
CZ-7 is the second of Chinas Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology's (CALT) new
family of launchers to enter service, following the smaller CZ-6 in September 2015. CZ-7
uses a 3.35 meter diameter core stage powered by two 122.5 tonne thrust YF-100 RP/LOX
staged combustion engines. Four 2.25 meter diameter strap-on boosters, each powered by one
YF-100, augment the core to produce a total of 734.1 tonnes (1.618 million pounds) of
thrust at liftoff. Four 18 tonne thrust YF-115 RP/LOX staged combustion engines power the
3.35 meter diameter second stage. The rocket weighs about 594 tonnes at liftoff and stands
about 53.1 meters tall.
Rollout on June 22, 2016, Pad 101 in Background (CZ-7 Diverged to East (Left), Toward Pad
The 2.5 stage CZ-7 version can lift 13.5 tonnes to 200 x
400 km x 42 deg or 5.5 tonnes to a 700 km sun synchronous orbit. A liquid hydrogen third
stage could be added in the future to lift payloads to GTO.
The CZ-7 core stage will serve as a strap-on booster for
China's next, biggest-ever rocket, CZ-5, which may debut later this year. CZ-5 will have a
5 meter diameter liquid hydrogen fueled core stage and will be able to lift 25 tonnes to
LEO, making it among the world's most powerful orbital launchers.
CZ-5 will fly from Pad 101, the west pad at Wenchang. The Center features two vertical
assembly buildings, one for CZ-7 and one for CZ-5, which are located about 2.7 km north of
the sea-side pads. Stacked launch vehicles move on rail-based mobile transporters from the
VAB to the pad. A complete CZ-7 Ground Test Vehicle was assembled at Wenchang during early
2015 and moved to Pad 201 to check out the new site.
Atlas 5 Launches
AV-063, an Atlas 5-551, the most powerful Atlas 5 version, boosted the U.S. Navy's MUOS 5
(Mobile User Objective System) communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit
from Cape Canaveral on June 24, 2016. The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Space Launch
Complex 41 at 14:30 UTC to begin its 2 hour 53 minute 17 second mission.
During the flight, the liquid hydrogen fueled Centaur stage performed three burns. The
first placed the vehicle into a low parking orbit. The second, which began at T+20:27,
boosted the stage and satellite into a 194 x 34,447 km x 26 deg transfer orbit. After a
2.5 hour coast to apogee, Centaur ignited a third time to boost itself into a 3,841 by
35,706 km x 19.1 deg insertion orbit.
MUOS 5 is the fifth and final first generation MUOS satellite. The first was launched in
2012. It and all subsequent MUOS satellites were orbited by Atlas 5-551 rockets. Lockheed
Martin assembled the 6,740 kg A2100M series satellites. MUOS provides video, voice, and
data communications to mobile terminals using UHF and WCDMA communications systems.
AV-063 was the first Atlas 5 launch since a faulty RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve
(MRCV) nearly doomed the the OA-6 Cygnus mission during March, 2016. The problem caused a
shift to an improper fuel/oxidizer mix during the final minute of the first stage flight,
causing LOX to be depleted six seconds before the planned RD-180 shutdown. The Centaur
stage burned more than 60 seconds longer than planned to compensate for the error, but
nearly ran out of propellant while doing so. A subsequent investigation pinpointed the
MRCV problem and identified a solution. The MUOS 5 flight was delayed for several weeks
while the investigation was underway.
Launches Cartosat 2
PSLV-C34, Indian Space Research Organization's 36th
PSLV, orbited the 727.5 kg Cartosat 2 earth observation satellite and 19 co-passenger
satellites that together weighed 560 kg from Sriharikota, India on June 22, 2016. Liftoff
from the Second Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan space Center took place at 03:55 UTC. The 4.5
stage PSLV-XL rocket boosted its payloads into a 505 km x 97.48 deg sun synchronous orbit
during a 25.5 minute mission.
Cartosat 2 will provide remote sensing services using its panchromatic and multispectral
It was the year's 40 orbital launch, which have taken
place with no failures.
Launches Two Comsats
Ariane 5 ECA L584 launched two communication satellites into orbit from Kourou Space
Center on June 18, 2016. Echostar 18 and BRIsat reached geosynchronous transfer orbit
about 30 minutes after the 21:38 UTC liftoff from ELA 3. The VA230 Arianespace mission
took place after a weather scrub the previous day.
Together, the satellites weighed 9,840 kg at liftoff, making this the heaviest GTO payload
yet launched by an Ariane 5. EchoStar 18, a 6,300 kg Space Systems Loral 1300 series
satellite, will be operated at 110 deg West by Echostar for for DISH Network. It will
provide Ku-band coverage, using 61 Ku-band transponders, for the U.S., Puerto Rico, and
BRIsat, also an SSL 1300 series satellite, rode beneath Echostar 18 within a long version
Sylda 5 shroud. It is the first communications satellite owned by a bank, P.T. Bank
Rakyat Indonesia. The 3,540 kg satellite will use 36 C-band and 0 Ku-band transponders to
serve bank branches in Indonesia and South East Asia from its 150.5 deg East position in
Launches Comsat Pair
The 26th SpaceX Falcon 9, and sixth v1.2 variant, launched Eutelsat 117 West B and ABS 2A
to supersynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 15, 2016. The
two-stage kerosene/LOX rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at 14:49 UTC.
Eutelsat 117 West B, which was stacked directly atop ABS 2A, was deployed about 30 minutes
after liftoff. ABS 2A followed about 5 minutes later.
After firing for 2 minutes 36 seconds during the ascent, the first stage separated and
attempted another experimental landing on the Of Course I Still Love You
landing platform. The landing was not successful. The stage appeared to have reached the
platform but was soon replaced in webcast views by images of flames and smoke. Elon
Musk subsequently tweeted that "thrust was low on 1 of 3 landing engines. High g
landings v[ery] sensitive to all engines operating at max."
Boeing built both of the BSS-702SP series communications satellites. Both have 48
transponders and 4 dedicated Ku-band transmitters. Both use XIPS-25 Xenon gas-fueled
all-electric propulsion systems. Eutelsat 117 West B will serve Latin America from 116.8
deg West in geosynchronous orbit. ABS-2A will be positioned in geosynchronous orbit at 75
deg East to serve Africa, Europe, Russia, South Asia and South East Asia. BSS-702SP
satellites typically weigh 1,800 to 2,500 kg at launch. Eutelsat 117 West B weighed
1,963 kg, according to Eutelsat. The combined payload mass may have been 4,000 to
It was the year's sixth Falcon 9 launch. The
vehicle's first and second stages were test fired at McGregor, Texas during mid-May.
The first stage arrived at Cape Canaveral on May 27, 2016, shortly after the F9-25 Thaicom
8 launch. The vehicle was assembled without payload and on June 12, 2016 was rolled
out and briefly test fired on the SLC 40 pad. After the early-morning hot fire, the
vehicle returned to the horizontal integration facility for payload integration.
A Chang Zheng (Long March) 3C launched China's 23rd Beidou navigation satellite from
Xichang Satellite Launch Center on June 12, 2016. Liftoff from LC 3 took place at 15:30
UTC. The 3.5-stage rocket boosted Beidou 23, identified by some Western analysts as Beidou
2 G7, into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite will lift itself into a
Beidou is based on the DFH-3 bus. China has been steadily building its first navigation
satellite constellation during the last few years. As many as 35 satellites are planned,
including three in inclined geosynchronous orbits, five in geostationary orbits, and 27 in
12-hour, 21,500 km circular orbits.
It was the year's seventh CZ launch.
Delta 4 Heavy Orbits NROL 37
The ninth Delta 4-Heavy orbited NROL 37 for the National
Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral, Florida on June 11, 2016. The big, triple core
rocket, currently the world's most capable orbital launcher, rose from its SLC 37B launch
pad on nearly 955.28 tonnes (2.1 million pounds) of combined thrust from its three liquid
hydrogen fueled RS-68A engines. Liftoff occurred at 17:51 UTC, following a weather scrub
on June 9.
NROL 37 may be a Mentor (or Advanced Orion) signals intelligence satellite aimed for
near-geosynchronous orbit using three burns by the upper stage RL10B-2 engine during a
roughly six hour mission. Six previous Mentor satellites, described as the largest
satellites ever deployed, are believed to have been orbited by Titan 4 and Delta 4 Heavy
launch vehicles since 1993.
The most recent Mentor launch, in June 2012, used the
first set of improved RS-68A engines. RS-68A was said to have been developed specifically
to lift the latest Mentor versions, which could weigh as much as 6 metric tons. The
satellites are believed to have a huge antenna reflector, or arrays of reflectors, that
deploy after they reach their operational orbits.
It was the 32nd Delta 4 launch. The flight, designated "Delta 374", was
the last Delta 4 Heavy until 2018.
An upgraded "Phase 4" Proton M/Briz M launched Intelsat 31 toward a planned
supersynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on June 9, 2016. The
four-stage, 705 tonne rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 07:10 UTC, beginning a
planned 15.5 hour mission involving five-burns by the Briz M upper stage. Intelsat 31, a
6.32 tonne Space Systems Loral 1300 series communications satellite, was aimed toward a
3,503 x 65,000 km x 29.6 deg transfer orbit. The planned GTO was only about 1,500
m/s short of geosynchronous orbit.
During the Proton ascent phase, one of the four second stage main engines shut down nine
seconds early, causing a small delta-v shortfall. Staging was otherwise nominal and, after
the third stage completed its burn, the Briz M upper stage fired 32.66 seconds longer than
planned to reach its initial low earth parking orbit. Briz M completed its subsequent four
burns roughly on time. The fifth and final burn followed a long coast to apogee.
Spacecraft separation took place at about 22:41 UTC.
Soon after spacecraft separation, launch service
provider ILS and satellite owner Intelsat declared the launch a success.
It was the 412th Proton launch, the third Proton flight of the year, and the 35th orbital
launch of the year worldwide.
Orbits Geo-IK-2 No. 12L
Russia's Rokot/Briz KM orbited a Russian Defense
Ministry gravity mapping satellite from Plestesk Cosmodrome on June 4, 2016. The
three-stage rocket, consisting of a retired two-stage RS-18 ICBM topped by a Khrunichev
Briz KM upper stage, lifted off from LC 133/3 at 13:45 UTC. The satellite, named Geo-IK-2
No. 12L, entered a sun synchronous orbit.
ISS Reshetnev developed the 900 kg Geo-IK-2 No. 12L geodesy satellite, which will map the
earth's gravitational field and land and sea surface heights from its operational 1,000 km
x 98.6 deg orbit. The satellite will perform the mission of Geo-IK-2 No. 11, which was
placed into an incorrect orbit by another Rokot/Briz KM in February 2011.
A Russian Aerospace Force combat crew performed the launch. It was the 26th Rokot/Briz KM
orbital attempt. The launch vehicle's development also included two suborbital and
one orbital Rokot/Briz K flights during the early 1990s.
The flight garnered the attention of Canadian environmentalists because the second stage
debris impact zone was in the northern part of Baffin Bay between Greenland and Elsemere
Island. Although in international waters, the impact zone was within the claimed exclusive
economic zones of Canada and Denmark.
Orbits Remote Sensing Satellite
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B launched Ziyuan 3-2, a high-resolution remote sensing
satellite, from Taiyaun Satellite Launch Center on May 30, 2016. Liftoff from LC 9 took
place at 03:17 UTC. Ziyuan 3-2, a 2,630 kg satellite built by Chinas Academy
of Space Technology/Beijing Institute of Spacecraft System Engineering for the Chinese
Ministry of Land and Resources, was injected into sun synchronous orbit. Two Aleph 1
microsatellite were also orbited.
Ziyuan 3-2, fitted with multiple cameras and an infrared multispectral scanner, will be
used for civil mapping purposes. It will operate in a 506 km x 97.42 deg orbit.
Orbits Glonass Navsat
Russia's Soyuz 2-1B/Fregat launched a GLONASS-M
navigation satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 43/4 on May 29, 2016. Liftoff took
place at 08:44 UTC. The 1,415 kg satellite was identified as Glonass 53. It was
slated to be named Kosmos 2516 after a successful orbit had been achieved.
Spacecraft separation occurred at 12:16 UTC. After the
Soyuz rocket boosted Fregat and its payload into low earth orbit, the Fregat upper stage
performed three burns to lift the 1.415 tonne satellite into a roughly 19,140 km x 64.8
It was the ninth R-7 launch of 2016.
9 Launches Thaicom 8
SpaceX Corporation's 25th Falcon 9 rocket, and its fifth
upgraded Falcon 9 v1.2 variant, launched Thailand's Thaicom 8 communication satellite into
orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 27, 2016. Liftoff of the 69.98 meter (229.6
foot) tall rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 21:39 UTC. After a 2 minute
35 second first stage burn, the Merlin 1D Vacuum powered, stretched second stage performed
two burns, with a roughly 18 minute parking orbit coast between, to accelerate the 3.025
metric ton (tonne) Orbital ATK GEOStar 2 satellite toward a targeted 250 x 90,000 km
supersynchronous transfer orbit.
After its ascent burn, the first stage reoriented itself to perform experimental reentry
and landing retro-burns, while using four grid-fins to steer toward a SpaceX landing
platform positioned on the Atlantic Ocean surface about 680 km downrange. The stage
achieved the third consecutive successful sea platform landing.
The initial second stage burn lasted for about 6 minutes 10 seconds to reach a low earth
parking orbit. Payload fairing separation occurred about 51 seconds after the start of the
burn. After a roughly 18 minute coast, the second stage reignited for a one minute 13
seconds burn to loft the payload toward its insertion orbit. Spacecraft separation
occurred about 31 minutes 56 seconds after liftoff.
First Stage on Landing Platform
After maneuvering itself to geosynchronous orbit,
Thaicom 8, equipped with 24 Ku-band transponders, will be located at 78.5 degrees East.
During the launch campaign, the Thaicom 8 stages performed qualification burns at
McGregor, Texas during mid-April. The first stage performed a hot fire test at SLC 40 on
May 24, 2016. The first launch attempt was scrubbed on May 26 during the final hour of the
countdown to investigate a potential second stage actuator problem
2-1b/Fregat Orbits Navsat Pair
A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat successfully orbited two more European Galileo navigation satellites
from the Kourou Soyuz Launch Zone on May 24, 2016. Liftoff for the VS15 mission for
Arianespace took place at 08:48:43 UTC. After the 2.5-stage R-7/Soyuz rocket completed its
ascent, the Fregat MT upper stage performed two burns during a nearly four hour FOC 5
mission to place Galileo FM10 and FM11 into 23,522 kilometer circular orbits at an
inclination of 57.4 degrees.
OHB-System and SSTL built the satellite bus and payload, respectfully, for the 715 kg
Galileo satellites. After a 2014 failure that placed two satellites into an improper
orbit, these will become the fourth pair of properly placed "Full Operational
Capability" satellites of a planned 22 satellite constellation. Including the
mis-placed pair and four initial operating capability test satellites launched in 2011 and
2012, there are now 14 Galileo satellites in orbit.
Russia's Roscosmos was in charge of range operations for the launch. TsENKI handled
systems engineering. Crews from RKTs-Progress (Soyuz) and NPO Lavochkin (Fregat) handled
It was the year's 30th orbital launch, all of which have
Orbits Yaogan 30
A Chang Zheng 2D (CZ-2D) orbited a remote sensing satellite for China from Jiuquan
Satellite Launch Center on May 15, 2016. The two-stage hypergolic propellant rocket lifted
off from LC 43-603 at 02:43 UTC. The satellite, named Yaogan 30, entered a roughly 626 x
655 km x 98.07 deg sun synchronous low earth orbit, an orbit to which CZ-2D is capable of
lifting at least 2 metric tonnes.
China announced that the satellite will be used for scientific experiments, land survey,
and crop and disaster monitoring. Western analysts suspect that Yaogan 30 is an
electro-optical reconnaisance satellite used primarily for military purposes.
It was the fifth CZ launch of 2016.
Launches JCSAT 14
The 24th Falcon 9, and fourth Falcon 9 v1.2 with full-thrust Merlin 1D engines, boosted
SKY Perfect JSAT Corparation's JCSAT 14 communications satellite into geosynchronous
transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 6, 2016. Liftoff from SLC 40 took place
at 05:21 UTC. The 4,696.2 kg Space Systems Loral 1300-series satellite separated about 32
minutes 2 seconds later, after two burns by the second stage Merlin 1D Vacuum engine that
together totaled 7 minutes 3 seconds. The first stage fired for 2 minutes 38
JCSAT 14 separated into a 189 x 35,957 km x 23.7 deg transfer orbit 32 minutes 2 seconds
after liftoff. It was the third Falcon 9 v1.2 geosynchronous transfer orbit mission.
As it had before the SES 9 launch, SpaceX announced before the liftoff that it did not
expect a successful first stage recovery, although more landing propellant was available
due to the lighter payload and lower energy orbit compared to SES 9. The first
stage performed a three-engine reentry burn and a three-engine final landing burn to
land successfully on the deck of a converted barge positioned about 658 km
downrange. It was the second successful barge landing in six attempts.
The success followed a brief launch vehicle static test firing at SLC 40 on May 1.
The vehicle's stages performed acceptance test firings at McGregor, Texas during
India's PSLV-XL orbited IRNSS 1G, the country's seventh navigation satellite, from
Sriharikota on April 28, 2016. The 4.5 -stage rocket lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space
Center's First Launch Pad at 07:20 UTC. The 20 minute, 19 second PSLV C-33 mission boosted
the 1,425 kg satellite toward a planned 284 x 20,657 km x 17.86 deg subsychronous transfer
orbit. IRNSS 1G will raise itself to a nearly 36,000 km circular geosynchronous orbit
inclined 5 degrees to the equator. IRNSS 1G will trace a small figure-8 pattern over the
Earth's surface, centered on 129.5 deg East longitude.
The flight completed India's first generation navigation constellation, which will consist
of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial geostationary
It was the 35th PSLV flight and the 31th consecutive success. PSLV began flying in 1993.
Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome hosted its first orbital launch on April 28, 2016, when a
Soyuz 2-1a with a Volga upper stage boosted three satellites to sun synchronous low earth
orbit. Liftoff took place at 02:01 UTC. Primary satellite Mikhailo Lomonosov, designed to
study cosmic and gamma rays, was joined by two small secondary satellites named Aist 2 and
The hypergolic liquid fueled Volga stage, which has
flown atop Soyuz 2-1v, was slated to perform two burns, at about T+50 and T+95
minutes. Spacecraft separation was to follow the second burn. A third, deorbit
burn was then scheduled to aim the stage toward the Pacific Ocean.
Vostochny, Russia's new Eastern spaceport, is being
built around the former Svobodny Cosmodrome, which last hosted a Start 1 orbital launch in
2006. Svobodny was orignally a mobile ICBM site. The site is in Russia's Far East near the
51st parallel in Amur Oblast. It lies 600-800 km from the Pacific Ocean. This first flight
ascended on a northwesterly track across Siberia toward the Arctic Ocean.
Vostochny, under construction since 2010, consists of the new "Site 1" Soyuz
launch pad and a "Site 2" comprising large launch vehicle and payload processing
buildings. The new Soyuz launch site has the familiar rail-based transport/erector, deep
R-7 flame trench, and trussed counterbalanced launcher, but also includes a mobile service
tower similar to Kourou ELS Soyuz launch site. The first Soyuz 2 launch vehicle arrived at
Vostochny in late September, 2015 by train. It was used to test facilities for several
months, an effort that culminated in a full propellant loading exercise.
Plans call for a second launch pad to be built for Russia's new Angara launch vehicle
family. Eventually, Vostochny may host crewed launches, which would allow Russia to pull
out of Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is located outside Russian borders in Kazakhstan.
2-1a/Fregat Launches Sentinel 1B
Russian contractor teams launched a Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat from Kourou Space Center in French
Guiana for Arianespace on April 25, 2016. The VS14 launch orbited the European Space
Agency's Sentinel 1B environmental monitoring satellite. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off
from the ELS pad at 21:02 UTC to begin the Arianespace VS14 mission. The 2,164 kg Thales
Alenia Space-built satellite was boosted into a 686 km x 98.18 deg sun synchronous orbit
after the Fregat stage completed a single burn about 20 minutes after liftoff.
Sentinel 1B will use a C-band synthetic aperture radar to provide imagery of both ocean
and land surfaces.
After deploying Sentinel 1B, Fregat perfomed a second burn to deploy three 1 kg CubeSats
in 453 x 665 km orbits. The stage performed two more burns before deploying the 303 kg
Microscope satellite into a 711 km x 98.23 deg orbit some 4 hours 52 minutes after
liftoff. Fregat then performed a final deorbit burn.
Launches CRS 8, First Stage Lands at Sea
The 23rd Falcon 9 launch vehicle successfully orbited
the Dragon 10 spacecraft on NASA's CRS 8 International Space Station cargo hauling mission
on April 8, 2016. After performing the initial mission boost, the rocket's first stage
accomplished the first successful landing on a floating platform - the company's converted
landing barge - positioned about 300 km northeast of the Cape Canaveral Space Launch
Complex 40 launch site. It was the fifth such attempt.
Liftoff took place at 20:43 UTC after no delays or scrubs. Dragon was targeted
toward a 200 x 360 km x 51.6 deg orbit. The spacecraft carried 3,136 kg of cargo,
including the 1,413 kg Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) experiment in the
unpressurized trunk section. At roughly 10.4 tonnes, the combined Dragon and cargo mass
was the heaviest-payload yet launched by a Falcon 9.
F9-23 First Stage After Landing
During its descent, the first stage perform three-engine
boost-back and reentry burns, followed by a final single-engine landing burn.
Landing took place about 8 minutes 35 seconds after liftoff.
The F9-23 first stage had performed a static firing at
SLC 40 on April 5. After its successful static testing at McGregor, Texas during
February, a ground equipment failure damaged multiple engines during a non-propulsive
test. The engines were repaired or replaced without causing significant delay to the
Dragon arrived at ISS on April 10, 2016.
The landing platform with the first stage returned to
Port Canaveral during the pre-dawn hours of April 12, 2016. During the day, a crane
picked up the stage from the barge and placed it onto a work stand on the dock.
Orbits Shijian 10
China's Chang Zheng (Long March) 2D launched a recoverable spacecraft named Shijian 10
into orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on April 5, 2016. The two-stage rocket,
serial number Y36, lifted off from LC 43 Pad 603 at 17:38 UTC. Shijian 10, a 3,600 kg
satellite with a cylindrical section topped by a conical reentry vehicle, was inserted
into a 234 x 268 km x 42.89 deg orbit. It housed 29 physics and biology experiments.
Shijian 10 is slated to return to earth after two weeks in orbit.
It was the 27th CZ-2D launch, all of which have succeeded. The type began flying in 1992.
Launches ISS Cargo
Russia's Soyuz 2-1a launched the Progress MS-2 International Space Station cargo hauling
mission from Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 31, 2016. Liftoff from Site 31 Pad 6 took place
at 16:23:58 UTC. The 7,285 kg spacecraft carried 2,425 kg of cargo into a low earth orbit
inclined 51.6 deg to the equator.
It was the 65th Progress launch meant to reach ISS and the 154th Progress launch since the
program began in 1978.
China's Chang Zheng 3A launched the country's 22nd Beidou navigation satellite from
Xichang Satellite Launch Center on March 29, 2016. Liftoff from LC 2 took place at 20:11
UTC. The three-stage rocket boosted Beidou 22, identified by some Western analysts as
Beidou 2 I6, into a 200 x 35,798 km x 55.035 deg transfer orbit. The satellite will likely
lift itself into a geosycnronous orbit inclined 55.5 deg to the equator.
Beidou is based on the DFH-3 bus. China has been steadily building its first navigation
satellite constellation during the last few years. As many as 35 satellites are planned,
including three in inclined geosynchronous orbits, five in geostationary orbits, and 27 in
12-hour, 21,500 km circular orbits.
CZ-3A serial number Y26 performed the launch. It was the first CZ-3A launch since December
2-1a Launches Spysat
A 2.5 stage Soyuz 2-1a boosted a second Bars-M reconnaissance satellite into orbit from
Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 24, 2016. The 4 tonne satellite, designated No. 2L, entered a
roughly 327 x 540 km x 97.65 deg transfer orbit about 8-9 minutes after a 09:42 UTC
liftoff from Site 43/4. Soyuz 2-1a flew north by northwest from Plesetsk, skirting past
Norway's northern coast.
Bars-M will maneuver itself to a likely 700 km sun synchronous orbit. There it will
capture wide-area digital images for mapping and other purposes. TssKB Progress developed
Bars-M, which uses a Karat camera made by the Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Association
It was the fourth R-7 launch of 2016, and the third orbital launch from Plesetsk - a total
that includes one Rokot liftoff. It was also the year's 20th orbital flight,
Atlas 5 Launches
OA-6, Survives Premature Booster Cutoff [Updated 05/02/16]
United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 launched Orbital-ATK's Cygnus cargo hauling spacecraft
toward the International Space Station on March 23, 2016. The OA-6 Commercial Resupply
Services flight was the second of two planned to fill-in in the wake of Orbital-ATK's 2014
Antares rocket failure. OA-6 used the second enhanced Cygnus with a longer pressurized
module packed this time with 3,395 kg of cargo, including packing.
The 59.13 meter tall AV-064 Atlas 5-401 used an extra extended payload fairing. Liftoff
from Cape Canaveral SLC 41 took place at 03:05 UTC. As it flew northeastward off the
Eastern U.S. Seaboard, the Centaur second stage performed a burn expected to last roughly
13 minute 38 seconds to insert itself and Cygnus into a roughly 230 km x 51.6 deg orbit.
Centaur ended up cutting off at least 1 minute 10 seconds later than expected, but
reached the planned orbit. Payload separation occurred about 2 minutes 50 seconds
after Centuar cutoff. Centaur performed a subsequent deorbit burn.
In addition to the longer than expected Centaur burn,
observers noted that, according to a timing of the webcast events, the Atlas first stage
appeared to have ended its burn a few seconds before the planned cutoff at the 255.5
second mark. ULA confirmed the anomaly on March 24. The short first stage
burn - cutoff came about 6 seconds early - caused the extended Centaur burn. Centaur
ran out of propellant during its subsequent deorbit burn, causing debris to fall further
downrange than the planned target zone.
On April 29, 2016, United Launch Alliance revealed that
the anomaly had been caused by a faulty RD-180 Mixture Ratio Control Valve (MRCV).
The valve system, which controls the ratio of RP-1 kerosene fuel and liquid oxygen being
pumped into the engine, caused a reduction in fuel flow during the latter portion of the
first stage flight. Investigators had ruled out the possibility that debris
obstructed valve operations. Inspections of engines on pending launch vehicles were
planned. Meanwhile, Atlas launches were being delayed until late June at the
Cygnus, dubbed "S.S. Rick Husband" in memory
of the late astronaut, likely weighed at least 7,495 kg at liftoff, including the cargo
and 828 kg of service module propellant. It was the heaviest known Atlas 5 payload to
date. In addition to its stretched, 5.1 meter long by 3.05 meter diameter pressurized
cargo module, the spacecraft's service module sports new, lighter weight, circular solar
It was the 62nd Atlas 5 launch and the 61st success.
Launches ISS Crew
Russia's Soyuz FG launched the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft into orbit from Kazakhstan with
three crew for the International Space Station on March 18, 2016. Liftoff from Baikonur
Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 21:26 UTC to begin a "fast-track" six-hour
ascent to the station.
On board the 7,167 kg spacecraft, comprising the Expedition 47-48 crew, were Russia's
Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams.
It was 2016's first crewed orbital launch.
ExoMars Toward Mars
Proton Launches ExoMars 2016 (ESA Photo)
Russia's Proton M/Briz M successfully flung Europe's
ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander toward Mars after launching from
Baikonur on March 14, 2016. Liftoff of the "Phase 3" Proton M from Site 200 Pad
39 took place at 09:31 UTC, beginning a 10 hour 41+ minute ascent that required four Briz
M upper stage burns during three earth orbits. The 4,332 kg ExoMars spacecraft entered a
heliocentric orbit bound for Mars intercept in seven months.
The first Briz M burn put the vehicle into an inital low earth parking orbit. The second
and third burns took place after the first and second orbits, by which time the stack was
in a 697 x 21,086 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Briz M jettisonned its drop tank after the third
burn. The fourth and final burn began 10 hours 16 minutes after liftoff to accelerate
ExoMars into solar orbit. The spacecraft separated about 40 minutes later.
European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter will map methane in the Martian
atmosphere. Schiaparelli will test landing technoligies for future ESA Mars landing
It was the first successful Proton launch to solar orbit
since Vega 2 in 1984. Phobos 1 and 2 boosted themselves into solar orbit after
successful Proton launches into elliptical earth orbits in 1988. The Mars 96
mission was left stranded in LEO after a Blok D-2 upper stage failure in 1996.
Launches Resurs-P No. 3
A Soyuz 2-1b rocket orbited Resurs-P No. 3 from Baikonur
Area 31 Pad 6 on March 13 2016. Liftoff took place at 18:56 UTC. The 2.5 stage launch
vehicle boosted the remote sensing satellite into a 279 x 452 km x 97.3 transfer orbit.
Resurs-P will raise itself to a circular orbit during the next week.
Resurs-P No. 3 weighed 5,920 kg at launch. It was built by TSSKB Progress based on a
Yantar reconnaissance satellite bus.
The Soyuz 2-1b launch vehicle had experienced a rare pad abort on March 12 when the
ignition sequence shut down just before engine ignition was to begin.
India's PSLV-XL orbited IRNSS 1F, the country's sixth navigation satellite, from
Sriharikota on March 10, 2016. The 4.5 -stage rocket lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space
Center's Second Launch Pad at 10:31 UTC. The 20 minute, 11.5 second PSLV C-32 mission
boosted the 1,425 kg satellite into a 284 x 20,655 km x 17.86 deg subsychronous transfer
orbit. IRNSS 1F will raise itself to a nearly 36,000 km circular geosynchronous orbit
inclined 5 degrees to the equator. IRNSS 1F will trace a small figure-8 pattern over the
Earth's surface, centered on 32.5 deg East longitude.
One more launch this year will complete India's navigation constellation, which will
consist of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial
It was the 34th PSLV flight and the 30th consecutive success. PSLV began flying in 1993.
5 Launches Eutelsat 65 West A
An Ariane 5 ECA boosted Eutelsat 65 West A to
geosynchronous transfer orbit on March 9, 2016 after lifting off from Kourou Space Center.
Liftoff of the Arianespace VA229 mission from ELA 3 took place at 05:20 UTC. The Space
Systems Loral 1300 series 6,564 kg satellite separated into orbit about 30 minutes later.
The satellite will provide Ku and C-band communications services to Central and South
It was the second Ariane 5 launch of 2016, and the 55th Ariane 5 ECA to fly.
9 Launches SES 9 (Updated 03/06/16)
SpaceX's second Falcon 9 v1.2 with full thrust Merlin 1D engines boosted the SES 9
communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida
on March 4, 2016. Liftoff from SLC 40 took place at 23:35 UTC. The 5,271 kg Boeing
BSS-702HP satellite separated about 31 minutes 24 seconds later, after two burns by the
second stage Merlin 1D Vacuum engine.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that SES 9 had been inserted into a transfer orbit with a
40,600 km apogee. It was the first Falcon 9 v1.2 geosynchronous transfer orbit mission.
The second stage used a minimum residual shutdown to provide as much orbital energy as
possible, with a target of 290 km x at least 39,300 km x 28 deg. SpaceX modified earlier
plans to aim for a 26,000 km apogee at the behest of SES.
The insertion change made first stage recovery very unlikely, due to its extra velocity.
SpaceX announced before the launch that it did not expect a successful recovery.
A boost-back burn was not used. The first stage only performed a
three-engine reentry burn and a never-before-attempted three-engine final landing burn,
but did not survive its high-speed attempt to land on a converted barge positioned more
than 600 km downrange. It was the fourth failed barge landing attempt by a Falcon 9 first
The success followed scrubbed launch attempts on February 24 and 25 due to supercooled LOX
temperature issues, a T-0 abort on February 28 caused by a low thrust detection in one
engine, and a cancelled try on March 1 resulting from excessive high altitude winds. Prior
to the launch attempts, the first stage performed a brief static fire test on February 22.
Japan's H-2A launched Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) ASTRO-H X-ray astronomy
satellite into low earth orbit from Tanegashima on February 17, 2016. The Flight 30
H-2A-202 launch vehicle, boosted by two SRB-A3 solid rocket motors and topped by an 8
meter tall fairing, lifted off from Yoshinobu Launch Complex Pad 1 at 08:45 UTC. The 2.5
stage rocket performed a direct ascent to a 575 km x 31 deg orbit using a single 6 minute,
32 second burn of the second stage LE-5B engine. The ascent phase lasted 13 minutes 24
seconds, with the SRBs firing for 99 seconds and the first stage for 6 minutes 38 seconds.
ASTRO-H separated from the H-2A second stage 14 minutes 14 seconds after liftoff. The
2,700 kg satellite carries four X-ray telescopes (two for "soft" and two for
"hard" X-rays) and two gamma ray detectors. NASA provided the two soft X-ray
telescopes. The Canadian Space Agency provided a laser alignment system. The European
Space Agency and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research also contributed to the
mission. ASTRO-H, which was nicknamed "Hitomi" ("eye") upon reaching
orbit, will operate for three years. It uses a finite supply of cryogenic helium to cool
some of the detectors.
It was the 30th H-2A launch and the 29th success.
Orbits Sentinel 3A
Russia's Rokot/Briz KM orbited Europe's Sentinel 3A earth observing satellite from
Plesetsk Cosmodrome on February 16, 2016. Liftoff from Site 133 Pad 3 took place at 17:57
UTC. The Briz KM stage performed a first burn during ascent to reach an elliptical parking
orbit. The stage restarted about 70 minutes later to insert the 1,150 kg satellite into a
815 km sun synchronous orbit.
Satellite separation took place 79 minutes after liftoff. Confirmation had to wait until
T+92 minutes until the European Space Agency could receive signals from the satellite at
the Kiruna station in Sweden.
Briz KM was to perform two deorbit burns after satellite separation to lower its orbit.
Sentinel 3A, a Thales Alenia Space Prima Bus satellite, Will be part of Europe's
Copernicus environmental monitoring network. The satellite will measure ocean
temperatures, color, surface height, and sea ice thickness. Over land, it will measure
river and lake height, monitor wildfires, provide land use mapping, and monitor the extent
Delta 4 Orbits
Delta 373, a Delta 4M+5,2 with two GEM-60 solid boosters, a five-meter upper stage, and a
five-meter payload fairing, launched from Vandenberg AFB with a secret National
Reconnaisance Office satellite on February 10, 2016. After rising from Space Launch
Complex 6 at 11:40 UTC, the rocket headed on a southwest azimuth with the NROL-45 payload
toward what analysts expected to be a 123 degree inclination retrograde orbit. Similar
orbits were used for the 2010 Atlas 5 launch of NROL-41, the 2012 Delta 4 launch of
NROL-25, and the 2013 Atlas 5 launch of NROL-39, which were all believed to be Topaz
Future Imaging Architecture radar imaging satellites. Amateurs have tracked the suspected
Topaz satellites in 1,100 km x 123 deg circular orbits.
Delta 4M+5,2 is capable of lifting 7.85 tonnes to sun synchronous orbit or 4.68 tonnes to
geosynchronous transfer orbit. The upper stage likely performed two ascent burns before
deploying the satellite, followed by a deorbit burn.
Delta 373 was the 31st Delta 4, the 23rd Delta 4 Medium, and the second Delta 4 M+5,2.
It was the first Delta 4 launch from SLC 6 since 2013.
Korea Returns to Orbit (Updated 2/17/16)
North Korea returned to orbit with a successful
satellite launch from its Sohae launch site on February 7, 2016. A three-stage Unha
3 rocket carried a Kwangmyongsong ("Star of Hope") satellite into a roughly 465
x 501 km x 97.06 deg near-sun synchronous orbit after a 00:30 UTC liftoff. Time from
liftoff to satellite separation was 567 seconds.
The rocket flew south across the Yellow and East China
Seas during its ascent before skirting the east coast of the Phillipines. After
crossing Antarctica, the upper stage and payload passed northbound above the Americas,
including the central United States.
It was the fifth Unha launch, and second success.
During the weeks following the launch, however, no signals were reportedly received from
the orbited object.
Russia Orbits Glonass-M
Russia's Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat rocket boosted a Glonass-M (Uragan-M) navigation satellite into
orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on February 7, 2016. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from
Area 43 Pad 4 at 00:21 UTC. After the Soyuz rocket boosted Fregat and its payload into low
earth orbit, the Fregat upper stage performed three burns to lift the 1.415 tonne
satellite into a roughly 19,130 x 19,150 km x 64.8 deg orbit. Spacecraft separation
occurred several hours after launch.
It was the first R-7 launch of 2016.
Last GPS 2F
AV-057, an Atlas 5-401 with no solid rocket boosters and a 4.267 meter (14 foot) diameter
payload fairing, orbited GPS 2F-12, the final 2F series Global Positioning Satellite, from
Cape Canaveral on February 5, 2016. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at
13:38 UTC. The 1.63 tonne Boeing-built satellite separated into a semisynchronous circular
orbit about 3 hours 23 minutes later.
The RD-180 powered first stage rose on 390.18 tonnes of sea level thrust and burned for 4
minutes 4 seconds before the RL10C powered Centaur second stage took over. Centaur's 10.39
tonne thrust liquid hydrogen fueled engine fired for 12 minutes 44 seconds to lift itself
into a 167 x 20,216 km x 55 deg transfer orbit. After a three hour coast to apogee,
Centaur fired again for about 1 minute 27 seconds to circularize the orbit at 20,459 km.
Delta 4 and Atlas 5 together orbited 12 GPS 2F satellites beginning in 2010. Upgraded GPS
3A series satellites will begin to fly no earlier than 2017.
A CZ-3C/YZ-1 launch vehicle boosted China's Beidou M3-S (Beidou 21) navigation satellite
into orbit from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on February 1, 2016. Liftoff from Pad 2
took place at 07:29 UTC. The 3.5-stage CZ-3C rocket boosted a YZ-1 hypergolic propellant
maneuvering stage and the Beidou 3 series satellite into a transfer orbit. The YZ-1 stage
then fired at apogee some time later to place the satellite into a roughly 21,510 x 21,980
km x 55 deg orbit.
Beidou M3-S weighed 1,014 kg at liftoff. CAS Micro-Satellite Engineering Center in
Shanghai built the satellite.
Russia's Proton M/Briz M (a Phase 3 variant) launched Eutelsat 9B, a communications
satellite, from Baikonur Cosmodrome Site 200 Pad 39 on January 29, 2016. Liftoff took
place at 22:20 UTC. The rocket's Briz M fourth stage performed five burns during a 9
hour 12 minute mission to aim the 5,175 kg Airbus Eurostar 3000 series satellite toward a
4,444 x 35,696 km x 12.18 deg geosynchronous transfer orbit.
Eutelsat 9B is equipped with 66 Ku band transponders and a European Data Relay System
(EDRS) package. It will operate from Eutelsats 9 deg East position.
It was the 410th Proton launch.
Ariane 5 Orbits
An Ariane 5 ECA launched Intelsat 29e into orbit from Kourou Space Center on January 27,
2016. The VA228 mission began with a 23:20 UTC liftoff from ELA 3. VA-228's upper stage
placed the Boeing Satellite Systems 702MP series communications satellite into
geosynchronous transfer orbit after a half-hour mission. The targeted insertion orbit was
250 x 35,546 km x 0.5 deg.
Intelsat 29e weighed 6,552 kg at liftoff. It has 20 C-band, 249 Ku-band, and one Ka-band
transponders. From its 310 deg East geostationary perch, it will provide communication
service over the Americas, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Carribbean.
It was the first Ariane launch of the year.
Launches, Lands, Again
On January 22, 2016, Blue Origin made history by reflying, and relanding, its New Shepard
booster and crew capsule. The combined launch vehicle topped 100 km altitude on November
23, 2015 when the booster performed the first successful vertical landing after a flight
above 100 km, to 100.5 km. On Janaury 22, 2016, the hardware repeated the feat from Blue
Origin's West Texas launch site near Van Horn, topping out this time at 101.7 km in
altitude. The crew capsule returned on three parachutes while the BE-3 powered LOX/LH2
booster restarted its engine at about 1,500 meters altitude to land on a circular concrete
BE-3 produces 49,896 kgf (110,000 pounds) of thrust at liftoff and can throttle deeply.
During the unpowered portion of its descent, the New Shepard propulsion module uses its
"ring fin" and eight large drag brakes to control its descent speed and
orientation. The terminal velocity is dropped to less than 200 meters/sec by the drag
It was the third New Shepard flight. During the first flight on April 25, 2015, the
vehicle ascended to 93.6 km (307,000 feet) and the capsule landed safely, but the
propulsion module was destroyed by impact due to a hydraulic system failure during
India's PSLV-XL orbited IRNSS 1E, the country's fifth navigation satellite, from
Sriharikota on January 20, 2016. Liftoff took place from the Satish Dhawan Space Center's
Second Launch Pad at 04:01 UTC. The 19 minute, 20 second PSLV C-31 mission boosted the
1,425 kg satellite into a 282 x 20,655 km x 19.21 deg transfer orbit. The satellite will
raise itself to a nearly 36,000 km circular geosynchronous orbit inclined 28 degrees to
the equator. IRNSS 1E will trace a figure-8 pattern over the Earth's surface, centered on
111.75 deg East longitude.
Two more launches this year will complete India's navigation constellation, which will
consist of four satellites in inclined geosynchronous orbit and three in equatorial
It was the 33rd PSLV flight and the 31st success. PSLV began flying in 1993.
Falcon 9 Orbits
Jason 3, Stage Landing Fails
The final SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket boosted Jason 3, an ocean monitoring satellite, into
low earth orbit from Vandenberg AFB on January 17, 2016. Liftoff from fog-enshrouded Space
Launch Complex 4 East (SLC 4E) took place at 18:42 UTC. The first stage burned for about 2
min 34 sec. The second stage then fired for about 6 min 15 sec to place itself into a 175
x 1,321 km orbit. The stage coasted until about 55 minutes after launch, when it fired
again while passing northward above the Indian Ocean east of Africa, for 12 seconds, to
reach a 1,305 x 1,320 km x 66 deg insertion orbit. Jason 3 separated soon after.
Four international agencies partnered for the Jason 3 mission. They include NOAA, NASA,
the French Space Agency CNES (Centre National dEtudes Spatiales), and EUMETSAT
(European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites). Thales Alenia
of France built the 553 kg spacecraft. NASA managed the launch service. Jason 3 will
perform ocean topography using a microwave radiometer and other instruments.
The second stage performed a deorbit burn after spacecraft separation, targeting a
mid-Pacific Ocean impact zone.
After staging, the first stage performed boostback, reentry, and landing burns while
aiming for a converted landing barge floating in the Pacific about 280 km downrange, west
of San Diego, California. The stage landed, but one of the landing legs did not fully lock
in place and the stage fell over. Parts of the destroyed stage remained on the
The first stage performed a static fire at SLC 4E on January 11, 2016 after rolling out
the previous day. The stage had completed its testing at McGregor, Texas in May, 2015, but
had to wait for flight after the mid-2015 Falcon 9 launch failure. The second stage was
tested at McGregor on November 4, 2015 to verify modifications mades after the F9-20
launch failure. It was the 14th success in 15 flights of the Falcon 9 v1.1 variant.
China's CZ-3B/E performed the first orbital launch of 2016 when it boosted Belintersat 1,
a communications satellite for Belarus, into orbit from XiChang on January 15, 2016. The
3.5 stage rocket lifted off from LC 3 at 16:57 UTC to begin a presumably half-hour flight
to geosynchronus transfer orbit.
Belintersat 1, a DFH-4 based satellite, weighed 5,223 kg at launch. Thales Alenia Space
provided the communications payload, which included 20 C-band, 18 Ku-band, and 4 enhanced
Ku-band transponders. The satellite will be stationed at 51.5 degrees East in
It was the 35th CZ-3B launch.
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