9 Orbits Dragon Cargo Mission
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 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 likely weighed more than 8 tonnes at liftoff. 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 performed a reentry burn to slow its velocity. The
stage, the first equipped with landing legs folded against the lower part of the vehicle,
was expected to perform a second landing burn and extend its legs as it approached the
surface of the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's northern coast in a test of reentry and
recovery techniques. The stage was unlikely to be recovered, and recovery was not
necessary for the purposes of this test.
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,
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.
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
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
Atlas 5 Launches
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
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 Ministrys Space
Administration, which is a part of the Administration for the Development of Weapons and
MAFAT, the research and development department of Israels 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.
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
It was the 55th Progress flight to ISS and the 146th launch of all types to the station
since construction began in 1998.
PSLV-XL C24 orbited Indias 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
IRNSS-1B, the second of seven planned IRNSS missions, was developed by the Indian Space
C24 was the 6th PSLV-XL and the 24th success in 26th PSLV flights.
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.
Atlas 5 Orbits
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Delta 4 Launches
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
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
Turksat 4A, a Mitsubishi Electric Corporation DS2000 series
satellite that weighed 4.85 tonnes, was inserted into orbit using a five burn Briz M
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
The mission was performed by Proton serial number 93543,
which was the 394th Proton launched.
Ariane 5 Orbits
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Orb-1 Cygnus Approaches ISS Berthing on January 12,
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.
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
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.
India's Cryogenic Stage Succeeds
Indias 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.
Soyuz 2-1v Inaugural Launch Success
Russia's Soyuz 2-1v, a new small satellite launch
vehicle, achieved success during its inaugural launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on December
28, 2013. The two stage rocket, topped by a multiple-restart capable Volga third stage for
orbit trim maneuvers, carried the 50 kg Aist satellite and two lightweight SKRL-765 radar
calibration spheres into a roughly 600 x 625 km x 82.42 deg orbit following a 12:30 UTC
liftoff from Site 43 Pad 4. The first two stages lifted Volga and its payloads into an
initial roughly 260 x 600 km x 82.43 deg transfer orbit. Volga fired at apogee to
circularize the orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred at about 14:10 UTC.
Soyuz 2-1v stands 44 meters tall and weighs about 157 tonnes at liftoff. It uses the
existing Soyuz 2-1b third stage as a second stage. The first stage is newly developed
except for the top portion of the upper LOX tank, which is borrowed from the Soyuz 2-1b
core stage. A single chamber NK-33A staged combustion LOX/kerosene engine, augmented by a
four-chamber RD-0110R steering engine, powers the first stage. At liftoff, the engines
combine to produce more than 179 tonnes of sea level thrust. About 88% of the total thrust
is produced by the NK-33A, an engine originally created as part of the Soviet Union's N1
lunar rocket program during the 1970s.
The first stage kerosene tank and the
lower part of the LOX tank are 2.66 meters in diameter, fatter than the old Soyuz core's
2.15 meters diameter. The common upper tank section still flares out to 2.95 meters in
diameter, allowing both Soyuz launcher types to share launch pad equipment.
The first stage burns for about 250 seconds. The
Blok I second stage, which is also powered by a staged combustion LOX/kerosene engine,
burns for about 270 seconds.
Soyuz 2-1v can lift 2.85 tonnes to a 200 km x 51.6 deg orbit from Baikonur, or 1.4 tonnes
to an 835 km sun synchronous orbit from Plesetsk.
Soyuz 2-1v plans call for the NK-33A engine to be
replaced by a more powerful Energomash RD-193 engine derived from the RD-191 Angara
engine, which in turn was derived from the RD-170/180 family that power Zenit and Atlas 5
rockets. The decision to use RD-193 rather than restarting long-shelved NK-33A
production will also likely affect the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket, which is currently
using up a dwindling stock of refurbished NK-33 engines.
Launches Ekspress AM5
A Proton M/Briz M launched Russia's Ekspress-AM5
communications satellite into near-geosynchronous orbit from snow-covered Baikonur,
Kazakhstan on December 26, 2013. The four-stage rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad
24 at 10:49:56 UTC and quickly disappeared into the frozen haze hovering above the
steppe. The Briz M upper stage performed a more than nine hour long, four-burn
mission to lift the 3.2 tonne satellite into its final orbit. Spacecraft separation
occurred at about 20:10 UTC.
It was the year's 80th announced orbital launch attempt
and 77th success. Iran may have performed an unannounced, failed attempt during the
early months of the year. It was also Proton's tenth launch of 2013, one of which
failed on July 2.
Orbits Russian Milcomsats
A Rokot/Briz KM successfully orbited three Rodnik (Strela 3M) "store/dump"
communication satellites for the Russian military on December 25, 2013. The three-stage
rocket lifted off from Plestesk Site 133 Pad 3 at 00:31 UTC under the direction of a
Russian 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 01:45 UTC.
Satellite separation occurred around 02:16 UTC. The
satellites, subsequently tracked in roughly 1,480 x 1,510 km x 82.48 deg orbits, were
named Kosmos 2488, 2489 and 2490. Each satellite weighed about 225 kg.
It was the fourth Rokot/Briz KM, and the fifth UR-100N based, orbital launch of 2013, more
than in any previous year.
The 26th Chang Zheng 3B rocket orbited Tupac Katari, a Chinese built communications
satellite for Bolivia, from XiChang on December 20, 2013. The 3.5 stage CZ-3B/E lifted off
from Launch Complex 2 at 17:02 UTC. The liquid hydrogen fueled third stage performed two
burns during a roughly half-hour mission to lift the satellite into geosynchronous
Tupac Katari, also known as TKSat 1, weighed 5.1 tonnes at liftoff. It was manufactured by
China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) using a DFH-4 platform. The satellite carries 26
Ku-band, 2 C-band, and 2 Ka-bank transponders. It will be positioned at 87.2 degrees west.
It was the 14th Chang Zheng launch of 2013 and the 15th orbital attempt by China during
A Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat launched Europe's Gaia observatory
toward deep space from Kourou, French Guiana on December 19, 2013. Liftoff of the
Arianespace VS06 mission from the Soyuz Launch Complex at Kourou took place at 09:12
UTC. The Fregat upper stage fired twice during the mission to boost Gaia toward a
highly elliptical Earth orbit on a trajectory aimed toward the L2 Lagrange point.
The target orbit was 6,722 km x 952,022 km x 14.98 deg. Spacecraft separation
occurred at 09:54 UTC. Gaia's own propulsion system will provide course correction
maneuvers during the transit toward L2.
The 2.034 tonne satellite is fitted with a super-high
resolution camera that will be used to survey the stars of the Milky Way galaxy in fine
detail. The survey will catalog the three-dimensional positions and motions of
After completing its mission, Fregat performed a
depletion burn that propelled it deeper into space.
Chang'e 3 Lands on Moon
On December 14, 2013, China's Chang'e 3 performed the first soft landing on the Moon
since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 landed during August 1976. The mission began with
a December 1, 2013 launch by a CZ-3B rocket from XiChang space center. Chang'e 3 had
orbited the Moon for more than one week, waiting for the two-week lunar day to begin at
the landing site. A few hours after the 1.2 tonne Chang'e 3 lander set down on Mare
Imbrium, the 140 kg "Yutu" ("jade rabbit") six-wheeled rover rolled
down a ramp onto the lunar surface. Both the lander and the Yutu rover are equipped
with plutonium heaters to keep the spacecraft warm during the two-week long lunar nights.
CZ-4B Fails to Orbit Brazilian
A Chang Zheng 4B rocket launched Brazil's CBERS-3 satellite from Taiyuan Satellite
Launch Center on December 9, 2013. The three-stage rocket lifted off at 03:26 UTC
from the center's Launch Complex 9. CBERS-3 was aimed toward a 778 km sun
synchronous earth orbit, but something went wrong during the ascent and no orbit was
CBERS, which stands for "China-Brazil Earth
Resources Satellite", was a 2.1 tonne earth observation satellite jointly developed
by China and Brazil.
According to Oswaldo Duarte Miranda, the deputy
director of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, the CZ-4B third stage cut off
11 seconds before it's planned T+16 minute shut down time, leaving CBERS-3 in a suborbital
After a five minute propulsion phase
performed by its first two stages, the CZ-4B third stage coasts upward for more than four
minutes to orbital altitude. The stage then performs a single burn of its two YF-40
engines, burning UDMH/N2O4 hypergolic propellants to produce 10.3 tonnes of thrust for
durations that can exceed 6 minutes. If the 11 second early cutoff report is
correct, the stage performed all but the final roughly 3% of its burn, but that is enough
to fall well short of orbital velocity.
It was the 13th CZ launch of the year, and China's 14th
orbital attempt of 2013.
Lauches Inmarsat 5-F1
Russia's Proton M/Briz M successfully boosted Inmarsat-5 F1 into supersynchronous
transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 8, 2013. Liftoff
from Area 200 Pad 39 occurred at 12:12 UTC to begin a 15 hour 31 minute mission that
included five burns by the Briz M upper stage.
The Boeing-built BSS-702HP model, 6.1 tonne satellite was aimed toward a 4,341 x 65,000
km x 26.75 deg orbit.
It was the ninth Proton launch of 2013 and the 22nd launch from Baikonur this year.
One Proton launch failed during the year.
Atlas Launches Secret Satellite
An Atlas 5-501 launched NROL-39, a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance
Office, into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on December 6, 2013. The
two-stage, 337 tonne rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 3 East at 07:14 UTC, then
rose into the night sky and, as its 5 meter diameter European built payload fairing
separated, entered a news blackout. A little less than two hours later, United Launch
Alliance announced that the launch had been a success.
According to Notice to Mariners warnings posted before the launch, the Atlas flew a
southwest trajectory consistent with a retrograde orbit. Two prior launches along similar
flight paths (NROL 41 in September 2010 and NROL-25 in April 2012) were believed to have
placed Topaz radar imagery satellites into 1,100 km x 123 deg orbits. Such missions would
likely have called for the Atlas 5 Centaur second stage to perform two burns, with the
second occurring about 45 minutes after the first.
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden confirmed that Topaz radar
imagery satellites are replacing a previous generation named Onyx.
It was the eighth and final Atlas 5 launch of 2013, the highest one year total during the
12 year history of the Lockheed Martin developed vehicle. It was also the 32nd
consecutive Atlas 5 success and the 42nd Atlas 5 launch since the RD-180 powered rocket
began flying in 2002.
Falcon 9 Performs First Geosynchronous
The second SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1,
and the seventh Falcon 9 overall, performed the Hawthorne, California company's first
commercial geosynchronous transfer orbit launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on December
3, 2013. The launch boosted SES 8, a 3,138 kg communications satellite built by
Orbital Sciences for SES of Luxembourg, toward a targeted 295 x 80,000 km x 20.75 degree
supersynchronous transfer orbit.
Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 occurred at 22:41 UTC. The on-time launch took
place after two prior scrubbed attempts. A November 25 attempt was halted 3 min. 40
sec before launch by pressure fluctuations in the first stage LOX tank. A
last-second abort during engine start ended the launch attempt on Thanksgiving Day,
November 28, 2013. SpaceX replaced a gas generator on one Merlin 1D engine after
nine Merlin 1D first stage engines produced about 600 tonnes of liftoff thrust to boost
the 69 meter tall, more than 500 tonne rocket slowly off its pad. The first stage
burn ended about two minutes 54 seconds after liftoff, with two engines cutting off
shortly before the remining seven. The second stage Merlin 1D Vacuum engine peformed
two burns, with the first lasting about five minutes 20 seconds and the second about 71
seconds. The stage coasted in a parking orbit for about 18 minutes toward the first
equator crossing over the Atlantic Ocean before the restart.
SES separated about 31 minutes 15 seconds after liftoff.
The second stage restart was a critical event. A
restart had failed to occur during the inaugural September 29, 2013 Falcon 9 v1.1 flight
in a test of the stage after payloads had successfully separated into their planned low
earth orbits. SpaceX determined that hypergolic igniter fluid had been frozen by
gaseous oxygen impingement during the flight. The company added insulation to
prevent a recurrence.
SES 8 became the first satellite boosted to
geosynchronous transfer orbit by a two-stage hydrocarbon fueled rocket.
It was the third Falcon 9 launch of 2013, the most in
one year to date. The launch was also the 10th of the year by all launch vehicles
from Cape Canaveral.
China launched its first attempt at a robotic lunar landing mission on December 1, 2013
from XiChang space center in southwest China's Sichuan province. If successful, it would
be the first lunar landing since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 landed during August 1976.
A Chang Zheng (Long March) 3B rocket, performing the 25th flight of China's most powerful
launch vehicle, lifted off at 17:30 UTC from Launch Complex 2 with the 1.2 tonne Chang'e 3
lander, which carried the 140 kg "Yutu" ("jade rabbit") six-wheeled
rover. The CZ-3B liquid hydrogen fueled third stage performed two burns during a 19 minute
long mission to boost Chang'e 3 into a 210 x 389,109 km x 28.5 deg. elliptical earth
orbit. After a four day transit to the vicinity of the Moon, the spacecraft is expected to
insert itself into lunar orbit. It is expected to attempt a landing upon the Sinus
Iridum plain just northwest of Mare Imbrium on December 14.
Chang'e 3, China's third lunar mission, following two lunar orbiters, is planned to be the
first of a series of landings.
Both the lander and the Yutu rover are equipped with plutonium heaters to keep the
spacecraft warm during the two-week long lunar nights.
It was the year's 12th CZ launch and China's 13th orbital flight, but only the second
launch from XiChang in 2013.
Russia's Soyuz-U launched Progress M-21M, an unmanned
cargo hauler bound for the International Space Station (ISS), into orbit from Baikonur
Cosmodrome Area 31 Pad 6 on November 25, 2013. Liftoff took place at 20:53
Progress M-21M was equipped with a new rendezvous system
that will be tested during a four-day period prior to docking with ISS. The
spacecraft carries nearly 3 tonnes of supplies for the Expedition 38 crew on the station.
It was the year's 14th R-7 launch and the 4th Progress.
Eight of the R-7 launches were in support of ISS.
Launches Remote Sensing Satellite
China's 20th CZ-2D lofted Shiyan Weixing 5, a high
resolution remote sensing satellite, into a 739 x 755 km x 98 deg sun synchronous orbit on
November 25, 2013. Liftoff from Jiuquan LC 43 Pad 603 took place at 02:12 UTC.
It was the second CZ-2D launch of the year and the 11th
Chang Zheng family launch.
Orbits ESA Swarm Satellites
A Rockot/Briz KM successfully lofted a trio of European
Space Agency Swarm satellites into low earth orbit from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on November
22, 2013. The Swarm satellites, each weighing 473 kg, will map dynamics of the
Earth's magnetic field from slightly differing orbits.
The three stage rocket, its first two stages from a
retired RS-18/SS-19 ICBM, lifted off at 12:02 UTC from Area 133/Pad 3. After the
first two stages burned and fell away, the Briz KM third stage performed an initial burn
to place itself and its payloads into a 153 x 476 km parking orbit. The vehicle
coasted for about an hour to apogee before the stage performed a 16 second long second
burn to enter a 490 km x 87.55 circular orbit. Satellite deployment occurred at
13:33 UTC. The Swarm satellites will use their own cold gas Freon thrusters to
manuever to operational orbits.
It was the third Rokot launch of 2013 and the 18th
success in 20 attempts since 1994. The first launch used a Briz K stage.
Subsequent flights used the current, upgraded Briz KM, beginning in 2000.
Orbits Satellite Cluster
A Ukrainian built Dnepr launch vehicle orbited 32 small
satellites on November 21, 2013 after rising from an underground missile silo at
Dombarovsky missile base near Yasny, Russia. Liftoff from LC 370/13 took place at
07:10 UTC. The three-stage storable propellant rocket, a retired R-36MU/SS-18 ICBM,
reached a sun sunchronous low earth orbit several minutes later.
Most of the satellites were CubeSats weighing less than 5 kg.
Two thirds of them were deployed from the rocket's modified multiple reentry
vehicle warhead "bus"third stage. Kosmotras, a Russian-Ukrainian company,
oversaw the payload portion of the launch while Russian military forces performed the
launch. Among the larger satellites deployed conventionally were DubaiSat2, a South
Korean/Emirates earth observation satellite and SkySat 1, a commercial imager for
California's Skybox Imaging.
It was the year's second Dnepr launch of 2013 and the 19th Dnepr
launch attempt since the type entered service in 1999.
A Chang Zheng 4C rocket orbited China's Yaogan 19 satellite from Taiyuan Satellite
Launch Center on November 20, 2013. The three-stage rocket lifted off at 03:31 UTC
from the center's Launch Complex 9. The liftoff was not announced in advanced."
China's state media stated that the satellite, which entered a roughly 1,200 km x
100.48 deg orbit, was an earth observation spacecraft designed to "conduct scientific
experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and
reducing natural disasters". Western analysts belive that the satellite and
others like it are also used for military reconnaissance. Some believe that Yaogan
19 in particular carries a high resolution camera.
1 ORS-3 Launch
The 11th Orbital Sciences Minotaur 1 launch vehicle
carried 29 satellites into orbit from Wallops Island, Virginia on November 20, 2013.
Payloads included the primary STPSat 3 satellite and 28 CubeSats provided by NASA and by
university and high school students. Total payload mass was 400.68 kg.
The four stage all solid motor rocket lifted off from
Pad 0B at 01:15 UTC with the third Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) mission for the
U.S. military. Called "The Enabler Mission", ORS-3 demonstrated automated
launch vehicle trajectory targeting and range safety processes. These methods are
intended to decrease launch costs.
Initial boost was provided by two repurposed Minuteman
II missile stage motors (an M55A1 first stage and an SR19 second stage) fired
sequentially. An Orion 50XL motor performed the third stage burn, then remained
attached to the fourth stage during a more than 5.5 minute coast. About 10 minutes
14 seconds after liftoff, the rocket's Orion 38 fourth stage completed its burn to insert
the Integrated Payload Stack into a 500 km x 40.5 deg orbit.
STPSat 3 separated about 12.2 minutes after liftoff.
CubeSat deployment was expected to take place in stages during the subsequent 10
It was the the final Minotaur launch under the initial
Orbital/Suborbital Program-1 and -2 contracts. No Minotaur 1 launches are currently
planned, but future launches are theoretically possible under the OSP-3 contract.
Minotaur 1 uses upper stages and flight control systems from Pegasus XL, another rocket
that currently has no future launches backlogged. More powerful, Peacekeeper-based
Minotaur 4 and 5 rockets have flown more often than Minotaur 1 and Pegasus in recent
MAVEN Toward Mars
Atlas 5 tail number AV-038 launched NASA's Mars
Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft into a trans-Mars solar orbit from
Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 18, 2013. The two-stage, Russian-engined rocket
lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at 18:28 UTC and quickly disappeared into a low
cloud cover. After the first stage completed its 4 minute 2 second long portion of
the ascent, the Centaur second stage took over to perform two burns of its Aerojet
Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2 LOX/LH2 engine.
The first 9.5 minute long Centaur burn placed AV-038 into a 161 x 315 km x 26.665 deg
parking orbit, where it coasted for 27 minutes, 36 seconds before the second burn.
The second burn was planned to be about 5.5 minutes in duration, but ran about four
Centaur propelled the 2.54 tonne Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft and its Centaur stage
into a solar orbit that will intersect with the orbit of Mars in ten months. MAVEN
will insert itself into orbit around Mars to study the Martian atmosphere for one year.
After its primary mission is complete, MAVEN will serve as a data relay station for
NASA's other Mars exploring spacecraft.
AV-038 was the 41st Atlas 5 and the fifth to perform a solar orbit mission. MAVEN
was the third Mars exploration launch by an Atlas 5.
Milcomsat Boosted by Proton M/Briz M
A Proton-M/Briz-M launched Russia's Raduga 1M (13L), a
military communications satellite, from Baikonur Cosmodrome on November 11, 2013.
The four-stage rocket lifted off from Area 81 Pad 24 at 23:46 UTC. Its hypergolic
propellant Briz M upper stage performed four burns during a 9-plus hour mission to lift
the 2.3 tonne satellite directly into geosynchronous orbit.
It was the year's 20th orbital launch attempt from
Baikonur, a dozen more than current second-place Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Launches ISS Crew
Russia's Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft was launched into low
earth orbit with three crew members by a specially decorated Soyuz FG rocket from Baikonur
Cosmodrome on November 7, 2013. Liftoff frrom Area 1 Pad 5 took place at 04:14
UTC. Aboard were Russia's Mikhail Tyurin, NASA's Rick Mastracchio, and Japan's
Koichi Wakata. They joined Russia's Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy, and Fyodor
Yurchiknin, NASA's Michael Hopkins and Karen Nyberg, and European Space Agency's Luca
Parmitano on the International Space Station.
The Soyuz launch schedule was rearranged in order to
send the Olympic torch to ISS as part of the torch relay for the Winter Games in Sochi in
February, 2014. As a result, an atypical three Soyuz spacecraft were expected to be
docked to ISS for several days until the Soyuz TMA-09M crew (Yurchikhin, Parmitano and
Nyberg) return to Earth with the Olympic torch on November 10. The returning crew
has been at ISS since May 28.
Like three previous Soyuz missions, TMA-11M used a four
orbit, six hour ascent to the station. It was the year's 14th R-7 launch and was the
fourth crewed Soyuz flight of 2013.
India Aims for Mars
India's Space Research Organization launched a
spacecraft designed to orbit Mars from Satish Dhawan Space Center on Sriharikota Island on
November 5, 2013. PSLV-C25, the fifth PSLV-XL rocket, lifted off from the First
Launch Pad at 09:08 UTC to boost the 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter Mission satellite into an
elliptical Earth orbit measuring 246 x 23,566 km x 19.2 deg. Plans call for the
satellite to perform a series of perigee burns using its own propulsion system during the
next several weeks. The probe will raise its orbital velocity (and apogee) with each
burn until propelling itself into solar orbit with a sixth and final burn on or around
For the first time, a PSLV mission performed an extended
coast prior to ignition of its hypergolic fueled fourth stage about 35 minutes after
liftoff. This was required to provide the orbital alignment needed for an ultimate
trans-Mars insertion trajectory. PSLV had to be modified with new guidance software,
additional batteries, and other changes to handle the 44 minute long mission. Ship
based tracking terminals also had to be deployed to provide telemetry links during the
It was the 25th PSLV launch and the 21st consecutive
CZ-2C Orbits Yaogan
A Chang Zheng (Long March) 2C launch vehicle orbited China's
Yaogan 18 satellite from the Taiyuan space center in northern China on October 29,
2013. The two-stage rocket lifted off from LC 9 at 02:50 UTC. Yaogan 18
separated into a 492 x 510 km x 97.6 deg sun synchronous orbit.
The satellite is believed by some analysts to be the third in a
series of synthetic aperture radar satellites. China's state media identified Yaogan
18 to be a remote sensing spacecraft that will perform scientific experiments, land
survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.
China did not announce the launch before it occurred. It
was the second CZ-2C launch of 2013, the ninth CZ launch of the year, and the 10th orbital
launch by China since January 1.
Proton/Sirius FM 6 Launch
A Proton M/Briz M boosted Sirius FM 6 to geosynchronous
transfer orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome on October 25, 2013. Liftoff from Area 200
Pad 39 took place at 18:08 UTC, beginning a 9-plus hour mission that included five burns
of the Briz M fourth stage.
Sirius FM 6 weighed 6,003 kg at liftoff. Built by
Canadian-owned Space Systems Loral on 1300 series spacecraft bus, Siurius FM 6 will
provide satellite radio services for Sirius XM Radio of New York.
It was the 390th Proton launch since the program began
in 1965, and the seventh Proton liftoff of 2013.
A three-stage Chang Zheng (Long March) 4B rocket
launched China's Shijian 16 satellite into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
on October 25, 2013. The unannounced liftoff from SLS 2 (LC 43/Pad 603) took place
at 03:50 UTC. After the satellite reached an approximately 600 km x 75 deg orbit,
China's state media announced the launch and reported that the satellite would provide
space environment measurements and technology testing.
It was the first flight of a CZ-4B from Jiuquan,
although three similar CZ-4C launch vehicles, which use a restartable version of the CZ-4B
third stage, have previously flown from Jiuquan. The CZ-4 family has one of the
world's most reliable launch records, with 33 successes and no failures.
See Older Launch Reports in the Space Launch Report