Jonathan's Space Report No. 639 2011 Mar 16

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Best wishes to my colleagues and readers in Japan. I understand that ISAS/Sagamihara is largely undamaged, but the ISS control center at JAXA/Tsukuba is out of action for the time being, thankfully with no casualties. I have not yet heard reports from the Kakuda hypersonic propulsion research center at Miyagi, near the epicenter.

I expect to be in Montreal on Apr 7 - do my Quebecois readers know if there are tours of CSA/St-Hubert?

Shuttle and Station

Soyuz TMA-01M undocked from the Station's Poisk module at 0427 UTC Mar 16. Crewmembers Aleksandr Kaleri (commander), Oleg Skripochka and Scott Kelly, formerly of Expedition 26, returned to Earth with landing in Kazakhstan at 0753 UTC. On the Station, Expedition 27 has now begun under the command of Dmitri Kondratev, together with flight engineer 5 Paolo Nespoli and flight engineer 6 Cady Coleman.

Space Shuttle Discovery was launched on Feb 25 on mission STS-133. Discovery's main cargo is Leonardo, the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM), a cargo storage unit now added to the station.

Discovery docked with the Station at 1914 UTC on Feb 26. On Feb 27 the Express Logistics Carrier 4 (ELC-4) was transferred from the Shuttle to the S3 segment of the stationt russ. ELC-4 carries spare parts for station external systems. On Feb 28 astronauts Bowen and Drew made a spacewalk from the Quest airlock to install a power cable between the Unity and Tranquility modules and move the failed Pump Module S/N 0002 from the mobile base system (where it was stashed during a previous spacewalk) to a longer term home on the ELC-2 carrier, freeing up the MBS attachment point to be used for other things. They also adjusted the track system for the Mobile Transporter so that it can move the robot arm down further along the S3 segment than before. The airlock was depressurized at 1541 UTC and repressurized at 2220 UTC; hatch open/close was 1546 to 2215 UTC.

The Station's SSRMS arm was used to move Leonardo from Discovery's cargo bay to the nadir port on the Unity module between 1346 and 1505 UTC on Mar 1.

On Mar 2 Drew and Bowen again used Quest to go outside, depressurizing it at 1535 UTC, and opening the hatch at 1541 UTC. Among other tasks they vented the failed Pump Module, retreived the LWAPA experiment support plate from Columbus and stowed it in the Shuttle payload bay, installed a camera on the Dextre arm, adjusted a camera sunshade and added a lighting system on the truss, and relocated the Strela adapter to the Zarya module from PMA3, where it had been stowed since 2006; the adapter was launched on STS-96 in 1999.

Discovery undocked from the PMA-2 adapter on the Harmony module at 1200 UTC on Mar 7, reducing the station's crew complement from 12 to 6. The spaceship made its 39th and final landing on runway 15 of Kennedy Space Center at 1657 UTC on Mar 9.

The Johannes Kepler ATV is docked at the Zvezda module; Kounotori-2 is berthed at Harmony nadir (on Mar 10, after the departure of Discovery, the SSRMS arm moved it there from Harmony zenith); Progress M-09M is at the Pirs module; and Soyuz TMA-20 at Rassvet. Launch of Soyuz TMA-21 has been delayed until April.

Taurus XL launch failure

The Orbital Sciences Taurus rocket suffered its second launch failure in a row on Mar 4. Once again the fairing failed to separate, and the extra mass being carried by the rocket meant that after stage 4 burnout the velocity was a few tenths of a km/s too low, giving the payload the correct orbital apogee but a negative perigee with impact probably in the Antarctic.

Orbital says that they used a different fairing separation system on this flight, one that has flown successfully in the past year on the Minotaur rocket, but the similar nature of the failure to the one that destroyed the Orbiting Carbon Observatory mission on the previous launch will inevitably be a blow to the company's reputation. The T8 failure was thought to be due to the failure of the separation system to pressurize; on this T9 flight, the system did pressurize but the fairing still did not separate. It may turn out that the pressurization issue wasn't the true cause of the T8 problem either.

The main instrument on NASA's Glory satellite lost in the Taurus flight 9 failure was an aerosol polarimetry sensor (APS) that would have provided a global map of aerosol particulates (soot and sulphates) which would have helped calibrate climate change models. This compounds the loss of OCO on Taurus flight 8, which would have made a global map of carbon dioxide. Even if a replacement APS is built, the delay of several years in these projects seems to me to be a significant blow to climate change research - in contrast to my own field of astronomy, a few years delay in improving our understanding of climate change may really matter to the world. Glory also carried a radiometer to measure the total solar output; this would have replaced the one that has been flying on the SORCE satellite since 2003.

Three cubesat payloads were also lost in the launch: Montana State University's Explorer 1 Prime, the University of Colorado's Hermes and the University of Kentucky's KySat-1.

Taurus flight history:

T1 1994 Mar 13 Taurus 1110 USAF STEP 0
T2 1998 Feb 10 Taurus 2210 US Navy Geosat Follow-On
T3 1998 Oct 3 Taurus 1110 NRO STEX
T4 1999 Dec 21 Taurus 2110 KOMPSAT (Korea) and ACRIMSAT (NASA)
T5 2000 Mar 12 Taurus 1110 USAF/DoE MTI
T6* 2001 Sep 21 Taurus 2110 USAF Orbview-4/NASA QuickTOMS
T7 2004 May 20 Taurus 3210 ROCSAT-2 (Taiwan)
T8* 2009 Feb 24 Taurus 3110 OCO (NASA)
T9* 2011 Mar 4 Taurus 3110 Glory (NASA)

T6, T8 and T9 failed to reach orbit: three failures in four launches.

Orbital's broader stable of orbital space launchers is doing a bit better; so far this century we have:

Minotaur I 7 out of 7 successful orbital attempts
Minotaur IV 2 out of 2 successful orbital attempts
Pegasus XL 10 out of 10 successful orbital attempts
Taurus 1 out of 4 successful orbital attempts
Total 20 out of 23 (87 percent)


The first Glonass-K satellite was launched on Feb 26. The Soyuz-2-1B rocket entered an orbit with a perigee of less than 80 km, with reentry over the S Pacific, and deployed the Fregat upper stage whose three burns resulted in 212 x 241 km, 278 x 19145 km and 19279 x 19715 km x 64.8 deg orbit. The 935 kg payload, based on ISS Reshetnev's Ekspress-1000 bus, separated into the latter orbit. Earlier Glonass satellites used Reshetnev's Uragan pressurized bus; the new satellite bus is unpressurized and the payload includes both an extra nav signal in the GPS L3 band and a COSPAS-SARSAT search and rescue transponder payload. This first Glonass-K has serial number 11 (Reshentev satellite series always start with 11 - I think 1 to 10 may be used for ground test articles).


The X-37B spaceplane, called the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) by the US Air Force, is a reusable lifting body similar in concept to the Space Shuttle Orbiter but much smaller (5000 kg rather than 100000 kg) and with no crew. At least two OTVs have been built; OTV-1 made its first flight from 2010 Apr 23 to Dec 3, and OTV-2 was launched on its first flight on Mar 5. The craft is possibly in a circa 400 x 420 km x 40 deg orbit like that used by OTV-1; the mission is expected to last about 9 months with landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in around December. Launch was by United Launch Alliance with a Lockheed Martin Atlas V 501, serial AV-026. Centaur AV-026 was deorbited over the Indian Ocean on the first orbit.

OTV-2 has been found by Greg Roberts in a circa 315 x 341 km x 43 deg orbit.


The command to separate the two FASTRAC satellites, launched on 2010 Nov 20, was sent on 2011 Mar 14, but separation did not occur.


United Launch Alliance launched a Delta 4 Medium from Cape Canaveral on Mar 11 carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office. The payload is thought to be a Satellite Data System communications satellite headed for geostationary orbit. The launch was designated NROL-27; the payload has the codename USA 227. The Delta 4 second stage probably made three burns before deploying the payload and will have ended up in near-geosynchronous orbit.

Kosmos cover names

Since 1962 most Soviet/Russian military satellites have had a program name (Kometa, Gektor, Musson) and a cover name in the Kosmos series (Kosmos-1 onwards). The program names used to be secret, with only the Kosmos names publicly known. In recent years both names have been used in official public Russian statements, and now the program names are used almost exclusively. Kosmos numbers are still assigned, but belatedly, and are mostly ignored in the Russian media. Thus, Geo-IK-2 and Glonass-K are Kosmos-2470 and Kosmos-2471. I am considering relegating the Kosmos names to the status of 'alternate name' and using the Glonass-K, etc., names as the primary ones in my database for new launches - but this will depend a bit on how the latest launches are reported by Russia to the UN; as of the most recent official filings available at the Kosmos names were still used.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL.
Jan 18 0300 Nanosail-D2 Fastsat, LEO Tech 62L
Jan 20 1229 Elektro-L Zenit-3SLBF Baykonur LC45 Weather 01A
Jan 20 2110 USA 224 Delta 4H Vandenberg SLC6 Imaging 02A
Jan 22 0537 Kounotori 2 H-IIB Tanegashima Y2 Cargo 03A
Jan 28 0131 Progress M-09M Soyuz-U Baykonur Cargo 04A
Feb 1 1400 Geo-IK-2 No. 11 Rokot Plesetsk LC133/3 Geodetic 05A
Feb 6 1226 RPP (USA 225) Minotaur I Vandenberg SLC8 Tech 06A
Feb 16 2151 Johannes Kepler Ariane 5ES Kourou ELA3 Cargo 07A
Feb 24 2153 Discovery STS-133 Space Shuttle Kennedy LC39A Spaceship 08A
Feb 26 0307 Glonass-K No. 11 Soyuz-2-1B Plesetsk LC43/4 Navigation 09A
Mar 4 1009 Glory ) Taurus XL 3110 Vandenberg 576E Climate F01
E1P ) Sci F01
Hermes ) Tech F01
KySat-1) Tech F01
Mar 5 2246 OTV-2 F1 Atlas V 501 Canaveral SLC41 Spaceplane 10A
Mar 11 2338 USA 227 (NROL-27) Delta 4M+(4,2) Canaveral SLC37 Comms? 11A

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

Date UT Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission Apogee/km

Jan 22 0610 Aegis Target Terrier Oriole Wallops I. Target 100?
Jan 28 1049 NASA 36.257UG Black Brant IX Poker Flat UV Astron 240?
Feb 5 0811 NASA 36.256UE Black Brant IX Poker Flat Atmosphere 260?
Feb 22 1256 REXUS 9 Orion Kiruna Micrograv 81
Feb 23 1000 REXUS 10 Orion Kiruna Micrograv 82
Mar 1 2100 8 x Mk 5 RV Trident D-5 USS Nevada, Pacific Test 1000?
Mar 2 1340 Patriot Target Juno Fort Wingate Target 100?

| Jonathan McDowell | phone : (617) 495-7176 |
| Somerville MA 02143 | inter : planet4589 at gmail |
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