Jonathan's Space Report No. 593 2008 Mar 15

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shuttle and Station

On Mar 11 Orbiter OV-105 Endeavour launched on Shuttle mission STS-123, Station flight 1J/A. I observed STS-123's naked-eye ascent from the roof of the Harvard Observatory in Cambridge, MA as a bright rapidly moving object, vanishing at MECO, then, just as on previous occasions that I've seen it from here, reappearing with only slightly lower brightness with a roughly regular period for about 1 second every 6 or 7 seconds until it set - presumably I'm seeing RCS burns, but I'm a bit surprised that they are so bright.

Launch of STS-123 was at 0628:14 UTC. MECO put Endeavour in a 58 x 220 km orbit; OMS-2 came 38m 30s after launch and raised the orbit to roughly 220 x 233 km. On Mar 13 at 0220 UTC Endeavour reached a point 0.2 km below the Station and began its final approach; it docked with PMA-2 at 0349 UTC.

Astronaut Garrett Reisman has joined the Expedition 16 crew of Whitson and Malenchenko, replacing Leo Eyharts.

Added to the Station on this mission will be the Canadian Dextre robot manipulator (to go on the end of the Canadarm-2) and the Japanese Kibo ELM-PS, to be temporarily stowed on the zenith port of Harmony. Japan's Kibo station module complex will eventually consist of the Kibo JEM-PM (Pressurized Module; the main lab), the Kibo JEM-EF (Exposed Facility, for external experiments), the ELM-PS (Experiment Logistics Module - Pressurized Section), which plays a role similar to the MPLM logistics modules, the ELM-ES (Experiment Logistics Module - Exposed Section) for supply of temporary experiments, a bit like the deployable ICC or SLP pallets, and the JEM-RMS Japanese robot arm. The ELM-PS was built by MHI (Mitsubishi Heavy Industry) at its Tobishima factory in Nagoya; it will be controlled from the Tsukuba facility of the Japanese space agency JAXA.

The Station arm grappled the Dextre pallet at around 0700 on Mar 13 and attached it to the Mobile Base System on the Station truss by around 0800. At 0113 UTC on Mar 14 the Quest airlock was depressurized, and Rick Linnehan (in EMU 3004) and Garrett Reisman (in EMU 3006) began a spacewalk to prepare the ELM-PS for installation and begin assembling Dextre from its component pieces. The airlock was repressurized to end the spacewalk at 0819 UTC.

STS-123 also carries a lot of small payloads. The MISSE 6 payload consists of two suitcase-like materials exposure trays, PEC 6a and PEC 6b, which will be attached to a lightweight adapter plane (LWAPA) to be fixed to the Columbus External Payload Facility. The PEC cases are on APC class sidewall carriers in the cargo bay, while the heavier LWAPA needs the heftier SPA beam (GAS beam) carrier. Three more SPA beams carry a spare Canadarm-2 Yaw Joint and a pair of DCSU (Direct Current Switching Unit) boxes, to be stowed on the Station ESP platform as spares. Another SPA beam carries RIGEX, a US Air Force Space Test Program payload which will evaluate inflatable materials inside a closed canister. More APC carriers host EVA cargo stowage (ECSH), SIP (standard interface panels, for what I'm not sure) and SPDU (the Station Power Distribution Unit to let the Shuttle run off Station electricity while docked).

Here is my version of the STS-123 payload bay manifest:

  Name                             Bay location   Mass (kg,guess)

  Orbiter Docking System           1-2            1800
   with EMU 3003, 3004 suits                       260?
  APC/SPDU                         3 port          100?
  SPA/Yaw Joint                    3 stbd          336
  ICAPC/MISSE PEC 6a               4 port          103
  SPA/DCSU 1                       4 stbd          363
  ICAPC/MISSE PEC 6b               5 port          103
  SPA/DCSU 2                       5 stbd          363
  APC/SIP                          6 stbd          ?
  SLP-D1/Dextre                    7-8            3485
  APC/ECSH                         9 port          100?
  Kibo ELM-PS                      10-12          8484
  APC/SIP?                         11 stbd?        ?
  SPA/MISSE LWAPA                  13 port         244
  SPA/RIGEX                        13 stbd         315
  RMS 202                          Sill            410
  OBSS IBA S/N 003                 Sill            450?
                                     Cargo total 16916 kg

The Dextre robot is carried up on a Spacelab Pallet (SLP), a flexible unpressurized cargo bay carrier built by British Aerospace (in their Stevenage plant, I think?) in the late 1970s. At least 11 different pallets seem to have flown, some at least 3 times, for a total of 32 missions to date including the current one.

Here is a list of pallet flights; I don't have serial numbers for the more recent flights, and would be glad to receive them. (The ISS Cupola used to be planned for a pallet launch on STS-132, but I understand it is now to be launched directly attached to Node 3. Pallet MD003 is probably the same as F003, but I think E002 and E003 were separate builds of engineering models for the pallet system and are not the same as F002 and F003.)

 Flt No. SLP S/N  Cargo              STS Mission

  1      E002     OSTA-1                 STS-2
  2      E003     OSS-1                  STS-3
  3      F001     Spacelab 1             STS-9
  4      F006     OSTA-3                 STS 41-G
  5      F007     HS-376R (Westar)       STS 51-A
  6      F008     HS-376R (Palapa)       STS 51-A
  7      F002     Spacelab 2 Fwd         STS 51-F
  8      F005     Spacelab 2 Mid         STS 51-F
  9      F003     Spacelab 2 Aft         STS 51-F
 10      F010     Spacelab Astro 1 Fwd   STS-35
 11      F002     Spacelab Astro 1 Aft   STS-35
 12      F004     Spacelab Atlas 1 Fwd   STS-45
 13      F005     Spacelab Atlas 1 Aft   STS-45
 14      F003     TSS-1                  STS-46
 15      F008     Spacelab Atlas 2       STS-56
 16      ?        HST SM-1 ORU Carrier   STS-61
 17      F006     Spacelab SRL-1         STS-59
 18      F007     LITE                   STS-64
 19      F006     Spacelab SRL-2         STS-68
 20      F008     Spacelab Atlas 3       STS-66
 21      F010     Spacelab Astro 2 Fwd   STS-67
 22      F002     Spacelab Astro 2 Aft   STS-67
 23      F003?    TSS-1R                 STS-75
 24      ?        HST SM-2 ORU Carrier   STS-82
 25      ?        HST SM-3A ORU Carrier  STS-103
 26      ?        SRTM                   STS-99
 27      MD003    ISS PMA-3              STS-92
 28      ?        ISS SSRMS              STS-100
 29      ?        ISS Airlock O2/N2 Fwd  STS-104
 30      ?        ISS Airlock O2/N2 Aft  STS-104
 31      ?        HST SM-3B RA Carrier   STS-109
 32      ?        ISS Dextre             STS-123
 33 (Planned) ?   HST SM-4 ORU Carrier   STS-125

Meanwhile, the Jules Verne ATV has resumed its rendezvous sequence, now that a propulsion anomaly has been resolved; by late on Mar 11 it was in a 275 x 291 km orbit. Dan Deak confirms from CSG sources that the EPS stage did indeed reenter following its deorbit burn at 0628 UTC on Mar 9. Two more burns were made on Mar 12 and raised the orbit to 302 x 316 km; a test of the collision avoidance manuever is planned on Mar 14.

AMC 14

An International Launch Services/Khrunichev Proton-M was launched from Baykonur on Mar 14. The Proton third stage was suborbital; the Briz-M upper stage entered a 173 km parking orbit at 2337 UTC, but the second burn at 0017 UTC on Mar 15, meant to send it to an 890 x 35745 km x 49.1 deg transfer orbit, failed in some way, stranding the Lockheed Martin A2100AXS communications satellite payload, AMC 14 out of reach of geostationary orbit. The burn was planned as an extremely long duration one: 34 minutes. No further details are available at the moment.

AMC 14 was to be owned by SES Americom and leased by Echostar, replacing Echostar 3 at 61.5W. The satellite has a launch mass of 4140 kg, probably including around 2000 kg of MON-3 nitrogen tetroxide and MMH (monomethyl hydrazine) propellant.

Recent Proton failures include Arabsat 4A in 2006 Nov, a similar failure in which the long 30-minute second burn of the Briz ended prematurely; Arabsat was deliberately deorbited a month later to avoid an uncontrolled reentry. Another failure in 2007, JCSAT 11, was unrelated (stage 1/2 separation failure).

Prognoz 6

The SO-M No. 506 solar particles observatory was launched in September 1977 and given the code name Prognoz 6. It and the Blok SO-L fourth stage of the 8K78M Molniya launch vehicle entered a 488 x 200000 km x 65.0 deg elliptical orbit. On 2008 Mar 6 Prognoz-6 was in a 26274 x 171974 km x 51.7 orbit; the Blok SO-L was never tracked, but has now finally been cataloged in a 33653 x 161978 x 48.1 deg orbit. I hope this indicates a new interest at Space Command in documenting the deep space population of objects, which is very poorly cataloged at present.


United Launch Alliance launched a Lockheed Martin Atlas V 411 from Space Launch Complex 3-East at Vandenberg on Mar 13. The mission, which used vehicle AV-006, was a National Reconnaissance Office launch designated NROL-28 and placed a payload designated USA 200 in an elliptical 12-hour 63-degree inclination orbit. Observers in Beijing saw the venting of the Centaur after separation as a bright naked-eye transient 'comet'.

Analysts believe that this launch is the second in a new series of satellites carrying combined signals intelligence and early warning payloads, and is similar to USA 184 launched on NROL-22 (a Delta 4) in 2006 Jun. USA 184 probably carried the SBIRS HEO-1 infrared missile early warning package and the NASA/Los Alamos TWINS-A magnetospheric research payload; I expect that HEO-2 and TWINS-B are aboard the new launch. This is believed to be the 12th highly elliptical orbit NRO signals intelligence mission since the launch of the first JUMPSEAT mission in 1971, although there is some uncertainty about the identity of flights 6 and 7:

   Flight Designation Date         LV                  Orbit km x km x deg
       [First generation]
   1      -           1971 Mar 21  Titan 23B/Agena     328 x 39264 x 63.2
   2      -           1972 Feb 16  Titan 23B/Agena     Failed to orbit
   3      -           1973 Aug 21  Titan 23B/Agena     392 x 39132 x 63.3
   4      -           1975 Mar 10  Titan 34B/Agena     295 x 39338 x 63.5
   5      -           1978 Aug  5  Titan 34B/Agena     315 x 39053 x 62.5
   6      -           1981 Apr 24  Titan 34B/Agena     Orbital data unknown
   7      USA 4       1984 Aug 28  Titan 34B/Agena     342 x 38347 x 63.6
       [Second generation]
   8      USA 103     1994 May  3  Titan 401A/Centaur  1551 x 38802 x 63.1
   9      USA 112     1995 Jul 10  Titan 401A/Centaur  1575 x 38780 x 63.4
   10     USA 136     1997 Nov  8  Titan 401A/Centaur  1960 x 38395 x 63.4
       [Third generation]
   11     USA 184     2006 Jun 28  Delta 4M+(4,2)      1139 x 39210 x 63.3
   12     USA 200     2008 Mar 13  Atlas V 411         Orbit to be determined

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Jan 15 1149   Thuraya 3         Zenit-3SL        Odyssey, Pacific  Comms     01A
Jan 21 0345   Polaris (TecSAR)  PSLV             Sriharikota FLP   Radar     02A
Jan 28 0018   Ekspress AM-33    Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur LC200/39 Comms     03A
Feb  5 1303   Progress M-63     Soyuz-U          Baykonur LC1      Cargo     04A
Feb  7 1945   Atlantis (STS-122) Space Shuttle   Kennedy LC39A     Spaceship 05A 
              Columbus         )                                   Module    -
Feb 11 1134   Thor 5            Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur          Comms     06A
Feb 23 0855   Kizuna            H-IIA 2024       Tanegashima       Comms     07A
Mar  9 0403   Jules Verne ATV   Ariane 5ES       Kourou ELA3       Cargo     08A
Mar 11 0628   Endeavour(STS-123) Space Shuttle   Kennedy LC39A     Spaceship 09A
Mar 13 1002   USA 200           Atlas V 411      Vandenberg SLC3E  Sigint    10A
Mar 14 2318   AMC 14            Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur LC200/39 Comms     11A?
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