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SPACE LAUNCH REPORT
by
Ed Kyle



Recent Space Launches

07/02/14, 09:56 UTC, Delta 2 with OCO-2 from VA 2W to LEO/S
07/03/14, 12:43 UTC, Rokot/Briz KM with 3xGonets 3M from PL 133/3 to LEO
07/08/14, 15:58 UTC, Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat with Meteor M2 from TB 31/6 to LEO/S
07/09/14, 12:00 UTC, Angara 1.2PP from PL 35/1 to Kura/Suborbital
07/10/14, 18:55 UTC, Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat with 4xO3b from KO ELS to MEO
07/13/14, 16:52 UTC, Antares with Cygnus/Orb-2 from WI 0A to LEO/ISS
07/14/14, 15:14 UTC, Falcon 9 v1.1 with Orbcomm OG2 from CC 40 to LEO
07/18/14, 20:50 UTC, Soyuz 2-1a with Foton M4 from TB 31/6 to LEO
07/23/14, 21:44 UTC, Soyuz U with Progress M-24M from TB 1/5 to LEO/ISS

Worldwide Space Launch Box Score
as of 07/23/14
All Orbital Launch Attempts(Failures)
2014: 43(1)
2013:  81(3)
2012:  78(6)
2011:  84(6)
Crewed Launch Attempts(Failures)
2014:  2(0)
2013:  5(0)
2012:  5(0)
2011:  7(0)

progm24m.jpg (7589 bytes)Progress M-24M Flies to ISS

Russia's Soyuz U launched Progress M-24M, with cargo for the International Space Station, into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 23, 2014. The robot spacecraft flew a fast track, four-orbit, six hour approach to ISS.  Progress M-24M lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 21:44 UTC. The spacecraft carried about 2.6 tonnes of cargo and fuel to the station.

ISS currently houses a crew of six that includes NASA's Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman, European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst, and Russia's Maxim Suraev, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev.

It was the 56th Progress flight to ISS, and the 151st flight of any type to the station since construction began in 1998.



r71825.jpg (6372 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a Launches Foton M4

A 2.5 stage Soyuz 2-1a launch vehicle orbited Foton M4 from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 18, 2014. Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 20:50 UTC. 6.84 tonne Foton M4, equipped with a recoverable reentry capsule packed with biological samples, entered low earth orbit about 10 minutes later. The capsule is expected to return after about two months in orbit.

Russia's webcast of the launch was not available in the United States and the United Kingdom.

f9-10a.jpg (18453 bytes)Long Falcon 9 Campaign Ends with Success

The fifth SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1, and tenth Falcon 9 overall, launched six Orbcomm data relay satellites into low earth orbit following a July 14, 2014 Cape Canaveral launch.  Liftoff from SLC 40 took place at 15:15 UTC.  The second stage performed a single direct insertion burn to place the Orbcomm OG 2 payload, consisting of an adapter with six 172 kg Orbcomm satellites and two 172 kg mass simulators, into a 614 x 743 km x 47 deg orbit.   Sierra Nevada Corporation and Boeing Corporation built the satellites, which will maneuver themselves into 715 km circular operational orbits.

The launch culminated a difficult campaign that endured more than two months of delays.   An early May launch date had to be postponed after a May 8, 2014 static test was called off due to ground support equipment issues.  A helium leak occurred inside the first stage during propellant loading for a second static test attempt on May 9, 2014.   The leak required rollback of the rocket for inspection and replacement of an unspecified part from the stage, along with a review of designs and procedures.

The Orbcomm payload was deencapsulated and removed from the rocket after the leak.   After the rocket was repaired, the launch campaign restarted, leading to a successful static test on June 13, 2014.  Then the launch was delayed for five days due to issues that appeared during testing of the Orbcomm satellites after their period of storage at SLC 40.


f9-10c.jpg (16257 bytes)On June 20, 2014, a launch attempt was scrubbed several minutes before liftoff due to a decay in second stage pressurization, apparently due to an issue with ground support equipment.  A June 21 attempt was scrubbed due to weather after the propellant was loaded.  Another attempt was scrubbed on June 22 before propellant loading began after a problem with a first stage thrust Vector Control actuator was detected.  Once again, Falcon 9 was rolled back into its hangar for repairs.

While repairs were underway, the Cape Canaveral range entered a pre-planned two-week shutdown for maintenance, which prevented launch attempts.  The rocket was static tested on July 1, 2014.  On the evening of July 10, 2014, Falcon 9 No. 10 rolled out to its pad for the final time.

The Falcon 9 first stage burned for about 2 minutes 38 seconds as the rocket climbed on a steeper than typical trajectory while aiming for a 620 km insertion altitude.  The trajectory also allowed the first stage to attempt a landing closer to Cape Canaveral than achieved during the previous flight.  The second stage fired for about 6 minutes 46 seconds to reach its insertion orbit. Orbcomm deployment began about 15 minutes after launch.

After staging, the first stage perrformed a reentry burn, followed by reentry and a final landing burn to attempt soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean, in a continuation of a test series evaluating the possibility of recovering the first stage by having it fly back and land near its launch site.  SpaceX head Elon Musk tweeted that the burn and leg deployment were successful, but that the stage "lost hull integrity right after splashdown (aka kaboom)". He said that a review of data was needed to determine if the issue was due to splashdown forces or to the tip over and "body slam" after landing.  

The second stage performed a reentry burn after payload separation, a maneuver aided by the substantial excess delta-v for this mission.  Total deployed operational mass was only 1.032 tonnes. Total mass including the two mass simulators and deployment adapter was likely only about 1.5 tonnes.  Falcon 9 v1.1 capability to the Orbcomm insertion orbit was likely more than 10 tonnes, though some of that capability was likely expended in the steep ascent.


orb2-13.jpg (13900 bytes)Antares Launches Cygnus/Orb-2

Orbital Sciences' Antares boosted a Cygnus spacecraft into orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia on July 13, 2014 to begin NASA's Orb-2 International Space Station resupply mission. Cygnus Orb-2, named "Janice Voss" in honor of the late former Orbital employee and NASA astronaut, carried 1,493.8 kg of crew supplies, vehicle hardware, science equipment, and other equipment inside its cylindrical pressure hull.  Including cargo, Cygnus weighed about 4.923 tonnes at liftoff.

Liftoff of the fourth Antares rocket took place from Wallops Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at 16:52 UTC. Antares' twin AJ-26 engines produced about 332 tonnes of   liftoff thrust and burned for 3 minutes 55 seconds to lift the vehicle to more than 158 km altitude and a velocity of about 4.5 km/sec. The second stage and payload section separated and coasted for about 1 minute 45 seconds before the Castor 30B second stage
motor ignited to produce an average of more than 28 tonnes of thrust during a 2 minute 17 second burn. Just before second stage ignition, the payload fairing and interstage sections separated. Cygnus separated into a 191 x 284 km x 51.64 deg orbit.


orb2b.jpg (20362 bytes)"Janice Voss" approaches ISS

It was the fourth Antares launch, the third Cygnus spacecraft flight, and the second contracted ISS cargo supply mission for Cygnus. "Antares 120", a variant with a Castor 30B second stage, flew for the second and final time during the mission. "Antares 130" with a longer, more powerful Castor 30XL motor will perform subsequent ISS cargo missions beginning later in 2014.

The launch was originally scheduled for May, 2014, but ISS conflicts forced an initial delay. Then, on May 22, 2014, an AJ-26 being test fired at Stennis Space Center suffered a catastrophic failure 30 seconds into a planned 54 second burn. The failure destroyed the engine and triggered an investigation. Orbital did not reveal the cause of the failure. The Orb-2 Antares engines were cleared for flight following borescope inspections and a review of their own test firing data.

Cygnus "Janice Voss" reached ISS on July 16, 2014.

O3bF2.jpg (15495 bytes)Soyuz Completes Internet Constellation

A Soyuz 2.1b/Fregat orbited four broadband Internet trunking satallites for O3b Networks (O3b stands for the "Other 3 billion") from Guiana Space Center at Kourou on July 10, 2014. The 3.5 stage Russian rocket lifted off from Kourou's ELS pad at 18:55 UTC to kick off the VS08 mission for Arianespace. After a nearly 2.5 hour mission involving four Fregat upper stage burns, the four 700 kg satellites were released into 7,850 km x 0.04 deg equatorial orbits designed to provide coverage for emerging markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East.

Thales Alenia Space built the O3b constellation satellites, which join the first four that were launched in June, 2013 by an identical rocket to form an initial, fully operational constellation.

After satellite deployment, Fregat performed two more burns to raise itself into a planned 8,003 x 8,041 km x 0.02 deg disposal orbit.

It was the fourth Russian space launch in seven days. 

angara1-2pp1.jpg (6156 bytes)angara1-2pp5.jpg (1960 bytes)Russia's Angara Flies from Plesetsk

After a two decade long, stop-start development program, Russia's new LOX/kerosene fueled Angara rocket performed its first test launch from Russian soil on July 9, 2014. The suborbital flight from Plesetsk Cosmodrome was made by an Angara 1.2PP, a special two-stage version specifically prepared by Khrunichev for this inaugural test. The launch should herald the start of a new modular launch vehicle family capable of lifting a range of payloads ranging from light to heavy.

Angara 1.2PP (PP for Pervy Polyot, or "First Flight") consisted of a 2.9 meter diameter URM-1 (Universal Rocket Module) first stage topped by a 3.6 meter diameter URM-2 second stage. Heavy lifter Angara 5, planned to fly later this year, will use five clustered URM-1 modules topped by a URM-2 second stage, so the flight served served as an Angara 5 precursor test. The 171 tonne, 42.8 meter tall white rocket lifted off from Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 35/1 at 12:00 UTC, rising slowly on 196 tonnes of thrust produced by a single Energomash RD-191 staged combustion engine.

First stage burnout was expected to occur about 3 minutes, 39 seconds after launch, as Angara headed east across Russia's missile test range. Stage separation was planned to occur about 3 seconds later, followed 2 seconds after that by ignition of the 30 tonne thrust RD-0124A second stage engine. This staged-combustion, four-chamber engine, similar to the engine developed to power the upgraded Soyuz-2-1b upper stage, was expected to perform a 4 minute 28 second burn to boost the stage and instrumented test payload to near-orbital velocity with an apogee of nearly 190 km. The rocket's 2.9 meter diameter payload fairing was to separate shortly after second stage ignition.

According to official Russian media, the remains of the stage and payload impacted the Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula about 21 minutes after liftoff, some 5,700 km downrange.

The launch took place after an aborted launch attempt on June 27 that was caused by a loss of pressure in the first stage LOX tank.  That, like most non-defense launch attempts, was broadcast live to Russian citizens and to the world, but such long-standard live coverage was not provided for both the June 8 Meteor M2 launch and the inaugural Angara launch.


r71823.jpg (17766 bytes)Soyuz 2-1b Orbits Seven Satellites

Russia's Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat orbited that country's Meteor M2 weather satellite, along with six smaller satellites from several countries, from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on July 8, 2014. Liftoff from Area 31 Pad 6 took place at 15:58 UTC to start a slighly-more than 1.5 hour mission.

The storable propellant Fregat stage performed two burns before deploying the 2.7 tonne primary payload into an 835 km x 98.8 deg sun synchronous orbit about one hour after liftoff.

During the next 30+ minutes, Fregat performed two more burns while maneuvering into lower orbits to deploy the smaller satellites. The first to be released was Russia's Relek (MKA-FKI), a 0.25 tonne magnetospheric science satellite. Next was the 0.1 tonne U.S. Skysat 2 commercial imaging satellite. A 0.15 tonne UK satellite named TechDemoSat 1 was released next, followed by 6.5 kg AISSat 2 and 3 kg UKube 1, two nanosatellites from Norway and Scotland, respectively.

A 9.5 kg dummy mass was carried in place of Canada's M3MSat, which was pulled from the manifest by Canada's government in protest of Russia's 2014 actions in Ukraine.

After the payloads were deployed, Fregat performed a fifth, deorbit burn to remove itself from orbit.

Roscosmos cancelled its previously announced webcast of the launch only minutes before it was expected to begin, without explanation.

rokot23.jpg (6343 bytes)Rokot Orbits Gonets 3M Satellites

Russia's Rokot/Briz KM orbited three Gonets 3M data relay satellites from Area 133 Pad 3 at Plesetsk space center on July 3, 2014.  The three stage rocket lifted off at 12:43 UTC.  Its Briz-KM thired stage performed two burns to lift the 282 kg satellites, identified as 18L, 19L, and 20L, into 1,480 x 1,510 km x 82.5 deg orbits. 

The first Briz KM burn began about five minutes after liftoff and lasted for about 9.5 minutes to insert the vehicle into an elliptical parking orbit. The second, circulization burn began about 1.5 hours after liftoff near apogee and lasted for less than one minute.  Spacecraft separation occurred at about 14:28 UTC.   

It was the year's second Rokot launch. 


d367-1.jpg (5119 bytes)Delta 2 Returns with OCO-2 Launch

After a three year hiatus, and a one-day delay caused by a faulty launch pad water deluge system, Delta 2 returned to service on July 2, 2014, successfully orbited NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The 2.5 stage United Launch Alliance Delta 2-7320-10, with three strap-on solid boosters and a 10 foot diameter composite fairing, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at 09:56 UTC. The 39 meter tall, 152 tonne rocket lifted off on 227 tonnes (about 500,000 lbs) of thrust produced by three Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEMs) and the RS-27A RP/LOX first stage engine. Delta's hypergolic (Aerozine 50 and Nitrogen Tetroxide) fueled second stage fired its 4.47 tonne thrust AJ-10-118K engine twice during a 56 minute long mission to aim OCO-2 toward a targeted 686 km x 98.2 km sun synchronous orbit.

OCO-2 is NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated entirely to measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The 453 kg satellite, built by Orbital Sciences for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will map the geographic and seasonal variations of both human and natural sources of carbon dioxide, and the "sinks" that pull CO2 out of the atmosphere.   OCO-2 replaces OCO-1, which was lost in a Taurus launch failure on February 24, 2009 due to a payload fairing separation failure.


d367-2.jpg (7081 bytes)During the ascent, the three GEM boosters burned out 64 seconds after liftoff, but were not jettisonned until the 99 second mark in order to clear offshore oil rigs. The RS-27A main engine shut down at T+264 seconds, followed 8 seconds later by stage separation. The first second stage burn extended from T+278 seconds to T+621 seconds (T+10m 21s), leaving the stage and payload in an elliptical transfer orbit. Payload fairing separation occurred during the burn at the 301 second mark.

After coasting over Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to Madagascar on the east African coast, Delta's second stage reignited 50 minutes and 50 seconds after liftoff for a 12.4 second burn that circularized the orbit. OCO-2 separated about five minutes later.

Vandenberg AFB SLC 2W was one of seven Thor launch pads built during the late 1950s at the California launch site.  Known originally as 75-1-2, the pad hosted its first Thor launch on September 17, 1959.  After serving as a Thor-Agena launch pad during the 1960s, it was converted to host NASA's Delta launch vehicles beginning in 1967.

It was the 152nd Delta 2 launch, the 51st NASA Delta 2, the 42nd Delta 2 from SLC 2W, and the 97th consecutive success.  Only three more Delta 2 flights are currently scheduled.  Parts for a fourth, unassigned Delta 2 exist.


pslvc23.jpg (6483 bytes)India's PSLV Orbits SPOT-7

India's workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) orbited SPOT-7 and four microsatellites from Satish Dhawan Space Center near Sriharikota on June 30, 2014.  Liftoff of the C23 mission from the First Launch Pad took place at 04:22 UTC.  A Core Alone PSLV variant (PSLV-CA) performed the flight.  SPOT-7, a 714 kg earth observation satellite, was placed into a roughly 655 km x 98.23 deg sun-synchronous orbit slightly less than 18 minutes later.  

Airbus Defense and Space built SPOT-7 as part of a private venture that will sell data to the French government and to commercial clients.  

The four microsatellites were built in Canada, Germany, and Singapore. Germany's 14 kg AISSat, built by DLR Institute of Space Systems in Bremen,   will recieve naval vessel tracking signals.  NLS 7.1 and 7.2 were 15 kg satellites built by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies to perform formation flying experiments using a cold gas propulsion system.  VELOX-1 was a 7 kg satellite built by Nanyang Technical University in Singapore, which will eject smartphone-sized submicrosatellites during its mission.

It was the 27th PSLV flight since 1993 and the 23rd consecutive success.


dnepr20.jpg (5044 bytes)Dnepr Launches 37 Satellites

Russia's Dnepr, a modified R-36MU ICBM, boosted 37 small satellites into a 630 km sun synchronous low earth orbit on June 19, 2014 from Yasny Launch Base at Dombarovsky in Russia's Orenburg Region. The 211 tonne rocket was ejected from an underground missile silo at Site 370/13 at 19:11 UTC to begin the mission.

The 37 satellites represented a record for a single launch.  Deimos-2 and KazEOSat-2 were the heaviest of the 37 satellites. Deimos 2 was a 300 kg imaging satellite built by SATREC of South Korea for Deimos Imaging of Spain. KazEOSat 2 was a 185 kg earth observation satellite built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited of the United Kingdom for Kazakhstan's Gharysh Sapary.

Twenty one of the satellites were "cubesats" that likely weighed less than 1.5 kg each.

It was the 20th Dnepr launch. The first took place in 1999. Developed by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, the hypergolic fueled R-36MU, like the R-36M before it, was derived from earlier R-36 “Tsyklon” type rockets that dated from the late 1960s.


r71822.jpg (14469 bytes)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 June 14, 2014.   The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from Area 43 Pad 4 at 17:16 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 19,130 x 19,150 km x 64.8 deg orbit.   Spacecraft separation occurred at 20:53 UTC.

It was the second Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat launch with a Glonass M payload from Plesetsk in 2014.

soytma13m.jpg (5016 bytes)Soyuz TMA-13M Carries Three to Orbit

Russia's Soyuz FG launched Soyuz TMA-13M with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency flight engineer Alexander Gersttwo into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 28, 2014. The 2.5 stage LOX/kerosene rocket lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 19:57 UTC, beginning a planned four-orbit ascent to rendezvous with the International Space Station.

The 7.12 tonne Soyuz TMA-13M three-part spacecraft separated into a 190 x 230 km x 51.6 deg orbit nine minutes after liftoff.  It was the year's second crewed orbital launch.

The crew will join the Expedition 40 crew - Commander Steve Swanson of NASA and Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos, on ISS.




z3sl36b.jpg (8947 bytes)Sea Launch Returns

Sea Launch returned to the orbital launch scene on May 26, 2014 for the first time since a February 2013 launch failure. The company's Ukrainian built two-stage Zenit 3SL rocket, topped by a Russian-built Blok DMSL third stage, boosted Eutelsat 3B into geosynchronous transfer orbit after lifting off from Odyssey Launch Platform floating on the Pacific Ocean near the equator at 154 deg. West Longitude.

Zenit 3SL/DMSL lifted off at 21:10 UTC on 740 tonnes of liftoff thrust from its four-chamber RD-171M Russian engine. The first two stages fired in sequence during the first 8.5 minutes of the mission. Blok DMSL then performed two burns separated by a 30 minute long coast to insert the 5.967 tonne satellite into a 385 x 35,686 km x 0 deg transfer orbit. The first burn lasted 4 minutes 40 seconds. The second burn was 6 minutes 57 seconds long.

Airbus Defence and Space built Eutelsat 3B, which was based on the Eurostar 3000 platform. The satellite was equipped with up to 51 C, Ku, and Ka band transponders. it will serve Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South America.

No more Sea Launch missions are currently planned until 2016. Following its bankruptcy reorganization, Sea Launch became 95% Russian-owned.  Its next payloads are Russian built satellites for Russian users. Accordingly, Russia has been contemplating moving Sea Launch operations from Long Beach, California to an eastern Russian port.

h2af24b.jpg (16575 bytes)H-2A Orbits Radar Imager

H-2A F-24 lifted Japan's second Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS-2) and four microsatellites into sun synchronous low earth orbit from Tanegashima on May 24, 2014. Liftoff from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 took place at 03:05 UTC. The 2.12 tonne radar imaging satellite was inserted into a 628 km x 98 deg orbit about 16 minutes after liftoff, following a single burn of the LE-5B powered second stage.

Four microsatellites separated after ALOS-2. They were the 7.1 kg Space Research On Unique Technology (SPROUT) spacecraft, the 50 kg Raijin-2, the 50 kg University International Formation Mission (UNIFORM), and the 48 kg Space Optical Communications Research Advanced Technology Satellite (SOCRATES) satellite.

F24 was an H-2A-202 variant with two SRB-A solid motor boosters. The boosters burned for about 115 seconds along with the LE-7A powered core stage. The core shut down about 4.5 minutes after liftoff. The second stage then performed its single 8 minute 24 second burn.



rokot22.jpg (9176 bytes)Rokot Launches Milcomsats

A Rokot/Briz KM launched three Rodnik (Strela 3M) "store/dump" communication satellites for the Russian military, along with a fourth unknown satellite, on May 23, 2014. The three-stage rocket lifted off from Plestesk Site 133 Pad 3 at 05:27 UTC under the direction of a Russian Space Forces missile launch crew. After the initial ascent sent Briz KM and its payload into a 100 x 1,500 km x 82.5 deg transfer orbit, Briz KM performed a cirularization burn at around 07:12 UTC.

The 225 kg Rodnik satellites were named Kosmos 2496-2498. The fourth unannounced satellite will presumably be named Kosmos 2499.

It was the first Rokot launch of 2014.



av046.jpg (8333 bytes)Atlas Flies Despite Rogozin Threats

AV-046, an Atlas 5-401 variant, launched NROL-33, a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) into orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 41 on May 22, 2014. Liftoff took place at 13:09 UTC. Atlas flew an eastward trajectory consistent with a geosynchronous transfer orbit mission.

The two-stage rocket entered a news blackout after the RD-180 powered first stage completed its burn and the Centaur stage RL-10 engine ignited. About 90 minutes later, United Launch Alliance announced that the launch had been a success. An additional Notice to Mariners for Centaur de-orbit debris was listed to begin about 10 hours after liftoff near Kwajalein in the Pacific Ocean.

The launch took place nine days after Russia's Deputy Prime Miniter Dmitryi Rogozin threatened to cut off U.S. access to Russia's RD-180 engine for military missions. Despite the threat, ULA officials received no notice of any change in policy by builder NPO Energomash or importer RD-AMROSS. A Russian technical team monitored engine systems from its Cape Canaveral control room as usual.

In the wake of Rogozin's statement, a proposal was made in Congress to fund a U.S. replacement for RD-180 and ULA announced that it intended to speed up purchases that could allow Delta 4 production to increase if needed.

d366.jpg (22742 bytes)Delta 4 Launches GPS 2F-6

Delta 4 completed a back-to-back series of GPS launches by orbiting GPS 2F-6 from Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 17, 2014.   Delta 366, a Delta 4M+4,2 with two solid boosters and a four meter payload fairing, performed the mission that began with an 00:03 UTC lift off from SLC 37B.  An idential Delta 4 with an identical payload rose from the same pad on February 21, 2014.

Delta 4's Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) performed two burns during a 3.25 hour mission to lift the 1.63 tonne navigation satellite into a 20,459 km x 55 deg circular orbit.  This profile differed from the February launch, which used three DCSS burns.  On this mission, DCSS performed an initial long burn to reach a 186 x 20,459 km transfer orbit on a northeast heading.  After a 3 hour coast, DCSS peformed a short apogee burn to circularize the orbit. 

It was the 26th Delta 4 launch and the second of the year. 


p397.jpg (10472 bytes)Proton Fails (Updated June 12, 2014)

Khrunichev's mainstay Proton rocket suffered a launch failure on May 15, 2014 - the first failure by any of the world's launch vehicles this year -  while attempting to place Russia's Ekspress AM4R communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. The failure appeared to occur during the third stage burn about 540 seconds after a 21:42 UTC liftoff, around the time when the payload fairing was supposed to be jettisonned. No orbit was achieved.

The 397th Proton lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 200 Pad 39. Its Express AM4R payload was an Astrium Eurostar 3000 series satellite that weighed 5.775 tonnes at liftoff. It was built as a replacement for Express AM4, which was stranded in a useless orbit by a Briz M upper stage failure during a 2011 Proton flight.

An inter-agency investigating commission was formed on the day of the failure.  The team found that the payload fairing and control systems had functioned correctly.  It soon focused on telemetry that showed a dramatic pressure drop in the third stage steering engine, indicating a drop in pressure developed by the generator turbine.  On June 11, 2014 Roscosmos announced that the cause had   been determined to have been a failed bearing in the RD-0214 steering engine turbopump.

The 4.1 meter diameter third stage is powered by an RD-0212 propulsion system that consists of a single fixed RD-0213 engine that produces 59 tons thrust for about 232 seconds and a four-nozzle RD-0214 vernier/steering engine that produces 11.7 tonnes of vacuum thrust for about 247 seconds.  A single turbopump feeds propellant to the four steering engine nozzles.

It was the 75th Proton M/Briz M variant flight and the 7th failure, ending a streak of 12 consecutive successes. 




antsolids.jpg (16264 bytes)Future Antares

Orbital is planning for a future after Aerojet Rocketdyne's dwindling supply of NK-33 engines runs out. 

Could a solid motor Antares provide a solution?



r71820.jpg (13456 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a Launches Russian Spy Satellite

A Soyuz 2-1a rocket launched a 6.7 tonne Kobalt-M optical film return reconnaisance satellite from Plestesk Cosmodrome on May 6, 2014.  The 2.5 stage R-7 based vehicle lifted off from Area 43 Pad 4 at 13:49 UTC, beginning a 10 minute long ascent to low Earth orbit.  The spacecraft, cataloged as Cosmos 2495, was inserted into a 176 x 285 km x 81.41 deg orbit.

Kobalt-M (or Yantar 4K2M) is equipped with two small film return capsules.  It is the last in a long line of Soviet and Russian film-return spy satellites that is being phased out in favor of Persona electro-optical imaging satellites.  Only one more satellite of this type is thought to remain.   This was the first Kobalt-M launched by a Soyuz 2-1a.

It was the year's 25 orbital launch, and 25th success.


vv03a.jpg (19040 bytes)Vega Orbits Kazakh Satellite

Europe's Vega performed its third launch on April 30, 2014. The VV03 mission boosted 830 kg DZZ-HR, an earth observation satellite for the Republic of Kazakhstan, into a 750 km x 98.5 deg sun synchronous orbit from Kourou space center. The four stage rocket lifted off from ZLV (Vega Launch Zone) at 01:35 UTC and headed north across the Atlantic Ocean.

Vega's first three solid motor stages burned in succession during the first 6 minutes 14 seconds of the mission to lift the upper stage and payload to orbital velocity. The AVUM (Attitude & Vernier Upper Module) stage then fired its hypergolic bipropellant Ukrainian built engine for about 5 minutes to reach an elliptical transfer orbit.

After a 40+ minute coast to apogee, AVUM performed a 2 minute burn to circularize the orbit for DZZ-HR separation.

DZZ-HR, Vega's heaviest payload to date, was built by Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France.


p93546.jpg (3450 bytes)Proton Orbits Two Satellites

Russia's Proton M/Briz M orbited two communication satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 28, 2014. The 705 tonne rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 04:25 UTC in a rare daylight launch, kicking off a 9.5 hour ascent that included five burns of the launch vehicle's Briz M upper stage. Russia's 1.15 tonne Luch 5v data relay satellite rode atop Kazhakstan's Kazsat-3, which likely weighed about 1.7 tonnes at liftoff. Both satellites were inserted directly into geosynchronous orbit.

The first Briz M burn put the vehicle into a 180 km x 51.56 deg parking orbit. The second burn raised the orbit to 270 x 5,007 km x 50 deg. The third burn ended with a 404 x 35,810 km x 47.8 deg transfer orbit. Briz M released its drop tank after the burn. After a long coast to apogee, a fourth burn put the stage into a 35,753 x 35,793 km x 5 deg orbit for Luch 5v release. A short fifth burn was made prior to release of KazSat 3 into a 35,793 km x 0 deg orbit.

It was the year's third Proton launch.


f9-9x.jpg (12026 bytes)Falcon 9 Orbits Dragon Cargo Mission (Updated 4/25/14)

The ninth SpaceX Falcon 9 - and the fourth upgraded "1.1" version - launched a Dragon spacecraft on the CRS-3 resupply mission for NASA's International Space Station from Cape Canaveral on April 18, 2014. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 20:25 UTC. The two-stage rocket boosted Dragon into a 313 x 332 km x 51.6 deg low earth orbit during a 9 minute 40 second ascent.  Dragon controllers had to bypass a faulty quad thruster helium pressurization system isolation valve during the spacecraft initiation phase, but the problem was quickly solved using a backup system.

Dragon was loaded with either 2.09 or 2.27 tonnes of supplies (sources vary) for ISS - the heaviest Dragon cargo load to date a result of the first use of Falcon 9 v1.1 to launch a cargo mission.  The spacecraft weighed more than 8.6  tonnes at liftoff, including cargo, making it the heaviest Falcon 9 payload to date.  It was expected to return to a splashdown off California's coast in several weeks with 1.59 tonnes of returning cargo.

After the first stage separated, it restarted three of its Merlin 1D engines to perform a reentry burn to eliminate most of its horizontal velocity. The stage, the first equipped with landing legs folded against the lower part of the vehicle, then dropped through the atmosphere and restarted a single Merlin 1D as it approached the surface of the Atlantic Ocean to eliminate vertical velocity.  During the burn, the stage was expected to extend its legs in a test of future land landing techniques. The stage was unlikely to be recovered, and recovery was not necessary for the purposes of this test.

f9-9y.jpg (33365 bytes)Landing Legs on F9-9 First Stage Prior to Rollout

Several hours after the flight, Elon Musk tweeted that data from a tracking plane had showed that the final landing phase had been performed successfully, meaning that the stage had remained stable, that the landing burn had fired for its full duration, and presumably that the landing legs had deployed.  Several boats were enroute to the landing zone located about 520 km downrange from the Cape and about 400 km east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, though heavy seas were reported in the area.  

After Dragon separated, the second stage coasted for 35 minutes before performing a brief depletion burn as it flew over the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia.  The burn was intended to determine propellant residuals and to lower the orbit of the stage, hastening its reentry.

Dragon successfully berthed with ISS two days after launch.


crs3.jpg (5401 bytes)CRS-3 Dragon Approaches ISS

On April 21, 2014, SpaceX President and Chief Executive Officer Gwynne Shotwell said that the first stage had landed softly at near zero velocity, but that recovery was unlikely due to rough seas.  She said that the stage, or that parts of the stage, had been located.  A Coast Guard navigation hazard notice briefly listed a floating stage obstruction at about 31 North, 76 West, but the notice was subsequently canceled. 

Four days later, Elon Musk confirmed that the stage had deployed its legs and landed softly, but had subsequently sunk due to wave action.   High seas prevented any ships from searching for the stage for two days.  Only floating fragments were located, included pieces of the carbon composite interstage and of one of the landing legs.  Mr. Musk said that the company would try another first stage ocean landing on the next Falcon 9 flight.

esat2-2.jpg (20519 bytes)Russia Launches Spy Satellite for Egypt

One of Russia's final Soyuz-U rockets launched EgyptSat 2, an optical reconnaissance satellite, into low earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 16, 2014. The 2.5 stage rocket lifted off from Area 31 Pad 6 at 16:20 UTC and quickly lifted the 1.05 tonne satellite into a 435 x 700 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Orbital insertion occurred 520 seconds after liftoff.

Russia's RKK Energia developed and built the new imaging satellite for Egypt's military and other government agencies. If successful, the design could be the first of many to fly for Egypt and other countries.

The launch was unusual because a Progress payload fairing housed the satellite. It was likely the final launch of a Soyuz-U with a non-Progress payload. In the not too distant future, likely during 2015, Soyuz 2-1a, with modernized flight control systems and upgraded engines, will replace the older, but highly reliable Soyuz-U design even for Progress missions.


av045.jpg (6405 bytes)Atlas 5 Launches NROL-67

The 45th Atlas 5, a 541 model with a five meter diameter payload fairing and four solid rocket boosters, launched a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 10, 2014. AV-045 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 17:45 UTC to begin the NROL-67 mission. A bit more than four hours later, United Launch Alliance announced that the rocket had completed its mission successfully. The timing of the announcement, and the eastward launch azimuth, was generally consistent with a launch directly to geosynchronous orbit involving three Centaur upper stage burns.

The launch had been delayed by more than two weeks due to failure of hard-to-replace equipment at a range radar tracking station.

It was only the second flight of an Atlas 5-541, and was the first time that the variant performed an NRO launch. Some analysts suspect that the NROL-67 could be a new-generation signals intelligence satellite. Others believe that it might be a new type of data relay satellite.


ofek10.jpg (6955 bytes)Shavit-2 Launches Israeli Spy Satellite (Updated 4/11/14)

Israel's Shavit-2 rocket launched a synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite named Ofek 10 into orbit from Palmachim Air Base on April 9, 2014. Liftoff took place at 19:06 UTC. Ofek 10 was expected to operate in a 600 km orbit, though some sources described a 330 x 610 km x 141 deg insertion orbit. 

The launch was jointly carried out by IAI and the Defense Ministry’s Space Administration, which is a part of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.

MAFAT, the research and development department of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, contracted Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI Ltd) and other Israeli companies to develop both the Ofek 10 satellite and the Shavit 2 launcher. It was the third Shavit-2 launch.



progm23m.jpg (7202 bytes)Progress Cargo Spacecraft Launches, Docks with ISS

A Soyuz U rocket launched the unmanned Progress M-23M cargo spacecraft into orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 9, 2014. The spacecraft flew a fast track, four-orbit, six hour approach to an International Space Station docking. Docking took place at 21:14 UTC.

Progress M-23M lifted off from Area 1 Pad 5 at 15:26 UTC. The spacecraft carried about 2.7 tonnes of cargo and fuel to the station. The Expedition 38 crew currently occupies the station. It consists of Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Russia, and NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson.

It was the 55th Progress flight to ISS and the 146th launch of all types to the station since construction began in 1998.



pslvc24.jpg (16398 bytes)PSLV Launches Navsat

PSLV-XL C24 orbited India’s IRNSS 1B, a navigation satellite, from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota on April 4, 2014. The four stage rocket lifted off from the First Launch Pad at 11:44 UTC. The stages fired in succession, with a nearly four minute coast occurring between the third and fourth stage burns. The fourth stage inserted 1.432 tonne IRNSS 1B into a subsynchronous transfer orbit targeted to be 284 x 20,650 km x 19.2 deg. Mission plans call for the satellite to use its own propulsion system to perform a series of burns to reach its final 35,786 km x 0 deg geosynchronous orbit.

IRNSS-1B, the second of seven planned IRNSS missions, was developed by the Indian Space Research Organization.

C24 was the 6th PSLV-XL and the 24th success in 26th PSLV flights.


vs07.jpg (10168 bytes)Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat Launches Europe's Sentinel 1A

Russian contractor teams launched a Soyuz 2-1a/Fregat from Kourou Space Center in French Guiana for Arianespace on April 3, 2014. The launch orbited the European Space Agency's Sentinel 1A environmental monitoring satellite. The 3.5 stage rocket lifted off from the ELS pad at 21:02 UTC to begin the Arianespace VS07 mission. The 2.257 tonne Thales Alenia Space-built satellite was boosted into a 693 km x 98.2 deg sun synchronous orbit after the Fregat stage completed a single burn about 20 minutes after liftoff..

Sentinel 1A will use a C-band synthetic aperture radar to provide imagery of both ocean and land surfaces.


av044.jpg (8434 bytes)Atlas 5 Orbits DMSP F-19

Atlas 5-401 number AV-044 lofted Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 19 into sun synchronous orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base on April 3, 2014. The two-stage rocket, powered by a Russian-built RD-180, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 East at 14:46 UTC. After the first stage completed its 244 second burn, the Centaur second stage performed a single, nearly 12 minute burn to insert DMSP F19 into an 853 km x 98.87 deg orbit.

Lockheed Martin built the 1.2 tonne weather satellite, which will serve the needs of the U.S. Department of Defense.

It was the 43rd successful Atlas 5 launch in 44 attempts, and the 34th consecutive success.

cz2c41.jpg (6224 bytes)CZ-2C Launch

A CZ-2C rocket launched China's Shijian 11-06 into sun synchronous orbit from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on March 31, 2014. It was China's first orbital launch of the year.

The 213 tonne, two stage rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 43, Pad 603 at 02:46 UTC. The satellite, sixth in a series, entered a roughly 700 km x 98.3 deg orbit. 

Shijian 11-06 was developed by China Spacesat Co. Ltd for China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. It likely weighed less than 1 tonne, given CZ-2C's near-polar orbit capability. 

The purpose of the satellite is unknown by outsiders. China announced only that it will be used to conduct scientific experiments in space.




soytma12m.jpg (5873 bytes)Soyuz TMA-12M Launch

A Soyuz FG orbited the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft with two Russians and one American from Baikonur Cosmodrome on March 25, 2014. Liftoff from Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 21:17 UTC. The launch was successful, but Soyuz TMA-12M had to abort its planned fast-track, four-orbit rendezvous with the International Space Station when a problem occurred during an orbit changing burn. Crewmates Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, and NASA astronaut Steven Swanson were expected to revert to a back-up plan that called for at least a two-day approach to ISS.

The crew was expected to join the current Expedition 39 team at ISS, which includes Japan's Koichi Wakata, Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio.

The flight took place even as tensions grew between the U.S. and Russian governments after Russia's military occupation and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

It was the first crewed space launch of 2014.


r71815.jpg (5294 bytes)Russia Orbits Glonass-M

A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat rocket boosted a Russian Glonass-M navigation satellite into orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 23, 2014. Liftoff from Area 43 Pad 4 took place at 22:54 UTC. The 2.5 stage Soyuz accelerated Fregat and its payload into low earth orbit during a nine minute ascent. Fregat subsequently performed three burns to lift the 1.415 tonne Glonass-M (Uragan-M No. 42) into a 19,128 x 19,154 km x 64.81 deg orbit, with spacecraft separation taking place at 02:26 UTC on March 24.

It was the first Glonass launch attempt since three similar satellites were lost in a spectacular July 2013 Proton launch failure at Baikonur.

va216.jpg (13171 bytes)Ariane 5 Launches from Kourou

Ariane 5 Launcher Number 571, an Ariane 5 ECA, boosted ASTRA 5B and Amazonas 4A into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Kourou on March 22, 2014. The 772.3 tonne rocket lifted off from ELA 3 at 22:04 UTC to begin Arianespace Mission VA-216. 5.724 tonne ASTRA 5B and 2.938 tonne Amazonas 4A were inserted into 250 x 35,786 km x 3 deg orbits about 25 minutes after liftoff. Amazonas 4A rode in the lower position inside a SYLDA 5A adapter.

Ariane 5's EPC core stage burned for about 8.75 minutes to push the upper stage into a -1027 x 179 km x 6.95 deg suborbital trajectory. The ESC-A upper stage then performed a single, roughly 16 minute long burn to complete the ascent.

ASTRA 5B was manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space (former Astrium). AMAZONAS 4A was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation.

It was the 43rd consecutive Ariane 5 ECA success, moving the rocket marginally back ahead of Atlas 5 in the Space Launch Report reliability list.

p395.jpg (15614 bytes)Proton Orbits Comsat Pair

Russia's 395th Proton rocket successfully placed two broadcast TV satellites into geosynchronous orbit after a March 15, 2014 launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Proton M/Briz M lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 23:08 UTC to begin its more than nine-hour mission. During the flight, Briz M fired four times to lift Express AT1 and Express AT2 into their deployment orbits.

The satellites were stacked directly on top of each other within the Proton payload fairing. Express AT2, which weighed 1.326 tonnes, was positioned below 1.672 tonne Express AT1. Russia's ISS Reshetnev built the Express 1000-series satellites, which were equipped with Thales Alenia Space communications payloads.

With the flight, Proton became the first orbital launch vehicle to fly a second time during 2014.  It was the 10th orbital flight of the year, worldwide.

h2af23.jpg (9874 bytes)H-2A Orbits NASA/JAXA Precipitation Observatory

Japan's 23rd H-2A launch vehicle, an H-2A-202 with two SRB-A strap on motors, orbited the joint JAXA/NASA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory satellite from Yoshinobu Launch Complex 1 at the Tanegashima Space Center on February 27, 2014. H-2A F23 lifted off at 18:37 UTC. Its second stage performed a single burn to insert the 3,850 kg GPM Core Observatory into a 407 km x 65 deg orbit about 16 minutes later.

The observatory, built by Goddard Space Center in Maryland, will provide near real-time observations of rain and snow precipitation. It is equipped with a microwave imager built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies and a precipitation detecting radar built by NEC Toshiba Space Systems.

F-23 was the 17th consecutive H-2A success.  The only H-2A failure in occurred in November 2003.

d365.jpg (15957 bytes)Delta 4 Launches GPS 2F-5

Delta 365, a Delta 4M+4,2 with two solid boosters and a four meter payload fairing, launched GPS 2F-5 into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on February 21, 2014.    Liftoff took place from SLC 37B at 01:59 UTC.

Delta 4's Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS) performed three burns during a 3.5 hour mission to lift the 1.63 tonne navigation satellite into a 20,459 km x 55 deg circular orbit.  DCSS fired first during the initial ascent to reach a low earth parking orbit.  It performed a second burn after a 9-minute coast to enter an elliptical transfer orbit with a roughly 20,459 km apogee.  Following a three hour coast, DCSS fired a third time to reach the GPS 2F-5 insertion orbit. 

It was the 25th Delta 4 launch.  The flight came after a six-month launch gap party due to an additional investigation into a propellant leak on a second stage RL10B-2 engine during a 2012 Delta 4 mission that barely managed to place GPS 2F-3 into its orbit.  GPS 2F-5 was the first Delta 4 GPS launch since that 2012 mission.


Proton Orbits Satellite for Turkey

2014's first Proton M/Briz M successfully boosted Turksat 4A into geosynchronous transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on February 14.   Liftoff from Area 81 Pad 24 occurred at 21:09 UTC to start a 9 hour 13 minute mission.

p394s.jpg (15798 bytes)Turksat 4A, a Mitsubishi Electric Corporation DS2000 series satellite that weighed 4.85 tonnes, was inserted into orbit using a five burn Briz M profile. 

After the three Proton stages completed their ascent burns to achieve a velocity just short of orbital speed, Briz M fired to reach a circular parking orbit.  The upper stage fired one orbit later to reach an intermediate orbit.   One orbit after that it fired twice, dropping its toroidial external tank between burns, to reach a transfer orbit.  Finally it fired at apogee to raise its perigee and reduce its inclination to complete the mission.  The target orbit was 9,673 x 35,786 km x 12.7 deg.

Turksat 4A will provide communications services for government-owned Turksat.

The mission was performed by Proton serial number 93543, which was the 394th Proton launched. 


va217.jpg (16495 bytes)Ariane 5 Orbits Satellite Pair

Ariane 5 ECA Launcher 572 boosted two communications satellites into geosychronous transfer orbit from Kourou space center on February 6, 2014. The 773.4 tonne rocket lifted off from ELA 3 at 21:30 UTC to begin the Arianespace VA-217 mission. Launcher 572 rose on 1,326 tonnes of thrust produced by its two EAP solid motors and its single Vulcain 2 liquid core engine. Within 32 minutes, 6.33 tonne ABS-2 and 3.08 tonne Athena-Fidus separated into 244 x 35,786 km x 6 deg orbits.

ABS-2 (Asia Broadcast Satellite), which rode atop the Sylda 5B dual payload system, was an FS-1300 series satellite built by Canadian-owned Space Systems/Loral for East Asia commercial service.

Athena-Fidus, a Spacebus 4000B2 model built by Thales Alenia Space for French and Italian military use, rode within the Slyda 5B adapter.

It was the first Ariane 5 launch in more than five months.


progm22m.jpg (20926 bytes)Progress ISS Cargo Launch

A 2.5 stage Soyuz-U launched Progress M-22M, an unmanned cargo spacecraft headed for the International Space Station (ISS), into low earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome Area 1 Pad 5 on February 5, 2014.  Liftoff took place at 16:23 UTC from a cold winter landscape. 

Progress M-22M will use the fast-rendezvous technique to reach ISS in about four orbits, or six hours.  The spacecraft carries about 2 tonnes of supplies for ISS.

With the New Year's holiday period concluded, the liftoff begin's Russia's launch year.

av043b.jpg (10626 bytes)Atlas Orbits TDRS-L

The year's first Atlas 5, a two-stage 401 model, successfully orbited NASA's TDRS-L (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) from Cape Caneveral on January 24, 2014.  Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 took place at 02:33 UTC.  TDRS-L, a Boeing Space System 601 model that weighed 3.454 tonnes, was aimed toward a 4,839 x 35,788 km x 25.5 deg high perigee geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).  Spacecraft separation took place 1 hour 45 minutes 57 seconds after liftoff.

The RD-180 powered first stage burned for 4 minutes 2 seconds.  This was followed by a 13 minute 55 second long Centaur second stage burn that boosted the vehicle into a 185 x 24,919 km x 26.5 deg parking orbit.  After a 1 hour, 21 minute 55 second coast, Centaur reignited for a 63 second burn to accelerate TDRS-L into its final orbit.

The success, the 42nd in 43 Atlas 5 attempts, moves Atlas 5 past Ariane 5 for the first time on the Space Launch Report reliability list.  The incremental difference, which essentially represents a statistical tie, will likely shift back and forth between the two launch vehicles during the coming months.
  

orb1.jpg (9218 bytes)Antares Launches Cygnus Cargo Mission

Orbital Sciences launched its third Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virgina on Janaury 9, 2014 with the company's first operational Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station. The Orb-1 Commercial Resupply Services mission, the first of eight currently planned for NASA, began from Launch Complex 0A - part of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport - with an 18:07 UTC liftoff.

It was the first flight of an Antares 120 variant outfitted with an upgraded ATK Castor 30B second stage solid motor. Castor 30B was the same size and produced about the same thrust as the Castor 30A motor used during the first two launches, but it used a longer, larger nozzle that improved specific impulse to about 300 seconds. One more Antares 120 will fly this year, to be followed by the first Antares 130 with a more powerful, longer, and heavier Castor 30XL second stage motor.

The Yuzhnoye/Yuzhmash first stage burned its Kuznetsov/Aerojet AJ-26 engines for 3 minutes 54 seconds to lift the rocket to an altitude of about 100 km. After shutdown, the stage separated and the upper portion of the vehicle coasted upward to about 179 km altitude until the Castor 30B ignited about 1 minute 52 seconds after first stage shutdown. The payload fairing and interstage adapter separated shortly before the 128 second long second stage burn began.

Second stage burnout occurred about 7 minutes 54 seconds after liftoff. Cygnus, named "C. Gordon Fullerton" in honer of the NASA astronaut and test pilot who died in August, 2013, separated two minutes later in a 219 x 280 km x 51.654 deg orbit. Cygnus carried 1.261 tonnes of ISS cargo, including equipment, crew supplies, and 33 CubeSat microsatellites that will be released from ISS later this year. The spacecraft weighed about 4.69 tonnes including cargo.

orb1b.jpg (14744 bytes)Orb-1 Cygnus Approaches ISS Berthing on January 12, 2013

After a three day long series of orbit raising manuvers, Cygnus successfully berthed with ISS on January 12, 2013 at 13:05 UTC.

Orbital Sciences officials had delayed the launch one day to study high solar radiation levels after a January 7 solar flare. A winter storm producing very cold temperatures had delayed the launch by one day earlier in the week. The entire mission had been delayed by three weeks when a coolant leak developed on the space station that required a pair of space walks by the ISS crew to repair.

f9-8d.jpg (8569 bytes)Falcon 9 Launches Thaicom 6

SpaceX Corporation's eighth Falon 9 rocket, and its third upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 variant, launch Thailand's Thaicom 6 commuication satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 6, 2014.  Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 took place at 22:06 UTC.  The Merlin 1D Vacuum powered second stage performed two burns to accelerate the 3.016 tonne Orbital Sciences GEOStar 2 satellite toward a targeted 295 x 90,000 km x 22.5 deg supersynchronous transfer orbit.  

After maneuvering itself to geosynchronous orbit, Thaicom 6, equipped with Ku and C-band transponders, will be co-located with Thaicom 5 at 78.5 degrees East. 

After a 174 second long first stage burn, the second stage burned for about 350 seconds to place itself and its payload into a 173 x 497 x 27.3 deg parking orbit.  Payload fairing separation occurred during the early part of the second stage burn.  After an 18 minute coast, the second stage reignited for just over one minute to loft the payload toward its insertion orbit.  Spacecraft separation occurred about 31 minutes 13 seconds after liftoff.

SpaceX performed its quickest launch pad turnaround for Thaicom 6, which lifted off just more than one month after Falcon 9 No. 7 orbited SES 8.  During the campaign, the Thaicom 6 booster performed a hot fire test at SLC 40 on December 28, 2013.  


gslvd5.jpg (17894 bytes)GSLV with India's Cryogenic Stage Succeeds

India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) successfully boosted the GSAT 14 communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit on January 5, 2013.  It was the first success for the launch vehicle since 2004, and the first success for India's indigenously-developed, liquid hydrogen fueled Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS). 

The 415 tonne, 49 meter tall three-stage GSLV Mk 2 rocket, fitted with a 3.4 meter diameter payload fairing, lifted off at 10:48 UTC from the Second Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota to begin the GSLV-D5 development mission.  It rose on 690.7 tonnes (1.52 million lbf) of liftoff thrust produced by a solid core motor augmented by four L40 liquid non-separating strap-on motors, each powered by a Vikas 2 engine that burned UDMH/N2O4 until cutoff 149 seconds after liftoff, about 60 seconds after the core burned out.  The liquid second stage, powered by a single Vikas 4 UDMH/N2O4 engine, performed a 140.5 second burn to lift the vehicle to a 132 km altitude and a velocity of more than 4,900 m/sec. 

The CUS LOX/LH2 third stage then fired its 7.5 tonne thrust CE-7.5 engine one time for more than 12 minutes to finish the mission.  The 1.982 tonne satellite payload was accelerated toward a targeted 180 x 35,975 km x 19.3 deg orbit.  ISRO's CE-7.5 is a staged combustion engine designed to operate at 454 seconds specific impulse - more efficient than the Aerojet-Rocketdyne RL10A-4-1 engine that powers the Atlas 5 Centaur stage.  The fixed CE-7.5 engine is augmented by a pair of small steering engines.

An August, 2012 attempt to fly GLSV-D5 was thwarted by a second stage propellant leak during the early stages of the countdown.  Damage caused by the leak forced ISRO to roll back and dismantle the rocket.  Its core first stage and second stage were replaced entirely while its first stage liquid units were refurbished.

It was the third GSLV success in eight flights since 2001. 

See Older Launch Reports in the Space Launch Report Archive