Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report: 24th anniversary edition No. 672 2013 Jan 2

By SpaceRef Editor
January 9, 2013
Filed under ,

Happy perihelion to all my readers in the Earth-Moon system!

International Space Station

Expedition 34 is underway with commander Kevin Ford and flight engineers FE-1 Oleg Novitskiy and FE-2 Yevgeniy Tarelkin. Their ferry ship, Soyuz TMA-06M, is docked at the Poisk module.

Soyuz TMA-07M (spacecraft 704A, flight ISS 33S) went up on Dec 19 with crew Roman Romanenko of Russia, Chris Hadfield of Canada, and Tom Marshburn of the USA. Initial orbit was 194 x 236 km x 51.6 deg. The spaceship docked with the Rassvet module at 1409 UTC on Dec 21.

Two cargo ships are also docked: Progress M-16M at the Pirs module and Progress M-17M at the Zvezda aft port.


Hobbyists have located the US Air Force X-37B spaceplane in a 343 x 360 km x 43.5 deg orbit.

North Korean satellite

Four objects have been cataloged in orbit associated with the NK launch: the Kwangmyongsong-3 F2 satellite, the Unha-3 rocket stage and two debris pieces. Optical observations by Greg Roberts in S Africa show a 16-s periodic brightening indicating the satellite is spinning or tumbling, which is the natural state of a satellite if its size and shape. The satellite was thought to carry reaction wheels or some similar three-axis stabilization system, but this does not seem to be working at the moment. News reports describing the satellite as ‘out of control’ could be premature, as it is possible that the stabilization system is designed to be activated some time after launch. However, the failure to pick up signals at 470 MHz by independent observers in the US and UK, including a long-time member of the Kettering Group, Bob Christy of, is strong circumstantial evidence that the satellite’s transmitter is not working and that the satellite is most likely dead. At this point in early January, the continuing lack of signal reports make this conclusion all the more likely.

On Jan 1 the orbits were

  A (satellite)  497 x 581 km x 97.40 deg
  B (rocket)     496 x 589 km x 97.40 deg
  C (debris)     497 x 571 km x 97.45 deg
  D (debris)     497 x 586 km x 97.36 deg


The two GRAIL spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, completed their gravity mapping mission and impacted the lunar surface at 75.62N 26.63W at 2229 UTC on Dec 17. On Dec 6 their orbit was lowered to only 15 km above the surface for a final low-altitude data take. NASA is giving the impact region the unofficial (non-IAU) name of ‘Sally Ride Impact Site’. The name appears to apply to the general region of the impact, which consists of the two impact points several km apart and any associated secondary debris. The impact velocity was 1.7 km/s. Congratulations to MIT’s Maria Zuber on an outstanding science mission.


China’s Chang’e-2 space probe made a remarkable 3.2 km flyby of minor planet (4179) Toutatis on Dec 13 at 0830:09 UTC and returned images of the asteroid. Chang’e-2 is in a 1.02 x 1.03 AU x 0.2 deg solar orbit.

Gokturk 2

Gokturk is an earth observing satellite for the Turkish Defense Ministry. The CZ-2D rocket put it in a 669 x 689 km x 98.2 deg orbit and then made a depletion burn to a 144 x 688 km orbit. The satellite was built by Turk Havacikik ve Uzay Sanayii (Turkish Aerospace Inc) and the TUBITAK research council.


Arianespace launched two communications satellites on Dec 19. Skynet 5D is an Astrium/Paradigm satellite for UK military communications; Mexsat-Bicentenario will provide domestic Mexican communications. The satellites reached a 263 x 25821 km x 2.0 deg geostationary transfer orbit. On Jan 1 Skynet 5D was in GEO over 24E and Mexsat was over 114.8W.

Iranian Launch Failures

Discussion on has drawn my attention to claims by defense analyst publication IHS Jane’s that Iran had a further launch failure on or soon after Sep 22. The failure appears to have taken place on the pad, so it is hard to be sure that an orbital launch was intended. Nevertheless I will include it in my lists for the time being, to give the possible launch some visibility, until further information should come to light that affects my assessment of it.


On Dec 17 the Yamal-402 satellite was in a 35693 x 35764 km x 0.05 deg orbit drifting at 1 deg per day over the Indian Ocean at 53E, completing the recovery effort for the satellite. It had reached a lower than planned initial orbit after the failure of its Briz-M upper stage.

Orbital Launch Stats 2012

Total 78 attempts: Russia 24, China 19, US 16, France/ESA 10, India 2, Japan 2, Iran 1 + 2 fail?, North Korea 1+1 fail The Iranian launch failures, as noted above, are not confirmed. This is the first year in which the number of Chinese launches has exceeded the corresponding US total.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Nov  2 2104   Yamal-300K  )      Proton-M/Briz-M   Baykonur LC81/24  Comms     61
             Luch-5B     )                                          Comms     61
Nov 10 2105   Star One C3  )     Ariane 5ECA       Kourou ELA3       Comms     62B
             Eutelsat 21B )                                         Comms     62A
Nov 14 1142   Meridian No. 16    Soyuz-2-1A/Fregat Plesetsk LC43/4   Comms     63A
Nov 18 2253   Huan Jing 1C    )  Chang Zheng 2C    Taiyuan           Radar     64A
             Xinyan-1        )                                      Tech
             Fengniao 1A/1B  )                                      Tech
Nov 20 1831   Echostar 16        Proton-M/Briz-M   Baykonur LC39/200 Comms     65A
Nov 25 0406   Yaogan Weixing 16) Chang Zheng 4C    Jiuquan           Sigint?   66A
             YW-16 Subsat 1   )                                     Sigint?   66B
             YW-16 Subsat 2   )                                     Sigint?   66C
Nov 27 1013   Zhongxing 12       Chang Zheng 3BE   Xichang LC2       Comms     67A
Dec  1 0202   Pleiades 1B        Soyuz ST-A/Fregat Kourou ELS        Imaging   68A
Dec  3 2044   Eutelsat 70B       Zenit-3SL         SL Odyssey        Comms     69A
Dec  8 1313   Yamal 402          Proton-M/Briz-M   Baykonur LC39/200 Comms     70A
Dec 11 1803   X-37B OTV-3        Atlas V 501       Canaveral SLC41   Spaceplane 71A
Dec 12 0049   Kwangmyongsong-3 F2 Unha-3            Sohae             Test      72A
Dec 18 1612   Gokturk 2          Chang Zheng 2D    Jiuquan           Imaging    73A
Dec 19 1212   Soyuz TMA-07M      Soyuz-FG          Baykonur LC1      Spaceship  74A
Dec 19 2149   Skynet 5D          ) Ariane 5ECA     Kourou ELA3       Comms      75A
             Mexsat-Bicentenario)                                   Comms      75B

Suborbital flights

The IMAGER payload developed by U Mass. Lowell’s Tim Cook and BU’s Meredith Danowski was launched from White Sands on Nov 21 for ultraviolet imaging of the nearby spiral galaxy M101 with a 0.5m telescope.

The DXL mission launched on Dec 13 studies soft X-ray emission from the solar wind and the local interstellar medium. The project is led by M. Galeazzi of Miami University.

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

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

Nov  2 1755   NASA 36.255US    Black Brant IX   White Sands           Solar X      321
Nov 14 1107   Mk 21 RV?        Minuteman 3      Vandenberg LF10       Op.Test     1300?
Nov 21 1055   NASA 36.260UG    Black Brant IX   White Sands           UV Astron    291
Nov 25 1120   MAPHEUS-3        Nike Imp. Orion  ESRANGE, Kiruna       Micrograv    145
Nov 28        Haft-5 RV        Ghauri           Tilla?, Pakistan      Op.Test      400?
Dec  8 2100   AEB VS30/O V10   VS-30/Orion      Alcantara             Ionosphere   428
Dec 13 0520   NASA 36.283UH    Black Brant IX   White Sands           XR Astron    257?
Dec 17 0700   S-520-28         S-520            Uchinoura             Micrograv    312
|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
|  Somerville MA 02143               |  inter : planet4589 at gmail       |
|  USA                               |       |
|                                                                         |
| JSR:                                 |
| Back issues:                  |
| Subscribe/unsub:         |

JSR mailing list

To unsubscribe, email

SpaceRef staff editor.