Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 517 2004 Jan 2

By SpaceRef Editor
January 6, 2004
Filed under ,

The European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe entered orbit around Mars
on Dec 25 at 0321 UTC, completing a 34 minute engine burn begun at 0247
UTC. (Note: I am fairly confident that these times are actual event
times as opposed to times the signals reached Earth, but would
appreciate confirmation. Light time at insertion was 8min 44s.) The
planned final orbit around Mars is 250 x 10243 km x 89 deg, and earlier
data suggested the initial orbit would be 3585 x 130000 km x 13 deg, but
I haven’t seen any full orbital elements quoted yet for the actual
orbit, although it appears the apogee was in fact around 188000 km. An
apogee burn on Dec 30 changed the inclination to polar.

The UK’s Beagle-2 lander reached the surface of Mars on Dec 25 at 0252
UTC, but no signals have yet been received from it. It is hoped that
Mars Express may pick up signals from it on Jan 4. The
heatshield-encapsulated Beagle-2 entered the Martian atmosphere (at a
fiducial height of 120 km) at 0247 UTC, at a speed of 5.5 km/s (does
anyone know the flight-path entry angle?). Over the next two minutes it
decelerated to a few hundred meters per second. If the descent went as
planned, at 0250 UTC the heat shield was ejected together with the
deployment of the pilot parachute, 7.1 km above the surface, and a
minute later the main parachute was deployed. At 0251:43 the airbags
were inflated at a height of 0.3 km and Beagle bounced onto the surface
at 0252:00 UTC, at which point the parachute and backshell are
jettisoned. The lander comes to rest and separates from the airbags by
0254 UTC. If for some reason the parachute system failed to operate,
Beagle-2 would have impacted the surface as early as 0251 UTC. However,
at this writing the British team at the control centers in Leicester and
Milton Keynes are still very much hunting for the Beagle, and I remain
mildly optimistic. Even if Beagle-2 is lost, it is still the first
non-US, non-Soviet artifact to reach the surface of Mars (note: Japan’s
Hiten impacted the Moon in April 1993).

The NASA/JPL Stardust space probe flew 230 km from the nucleus of comet
81P/Wild-2 at 1922 UTC on 2004 Jan 2. Stardust collected cometary
material using aerogel dust collectors, and will return the material to
the Earth in 2006. The flyby was at a relative velocity of 6.1 km/s;
light time to Earth was 21m 40s.

Israel’s Amos-2 communications satellite was launched on Dec 27 by
a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket. The Soyuz third stage was mildly
suborbital, and the Fregat made a brief insertion burn, followed
by two further burns to geostationary transfer orbit.

A Krunichev Proton-K (No. 410-04) was launched from Baykonur on Dec 28 with
an Energiya Blok DM-2M (No. 13L) and the Ekspress AM-22 communications
satellite, built by NPO PM and Alcatel Space for GPKS, the Russian
Space Communications Co. The Proton third stage entered low orbit, and
the Blok DM-2M made two burns to geosynchronous orbit.

China has launched Tan Ce 1 (Probe 1), also known in Europe as Double Star
DSP-E, the equatorial member of a pair of Chinese-European
magnetospheric research satellites carrying instrumentation from the
Cluster program. The Chang Zheng 2C rocket carried an SM (or CTS) upper
stage, derived from the Smart Dispenser used to deploy Iridium
satellites and believed to be using an FG-47 solid motor. TC-1 reached a
555 x 78051 km x 28.5 deg orbit according to Xinhua, which says the
probe has a mass of 350 kg (well, actually Xinhua’s English site says a
weight of 350 kilometers, but we know what they meant).

This was the first CZ-2C launch from Xichang (it has flown from both
Jiuquan and Taiyuan in the past). The flight profile doesn’t seem to
match the known properties of the FG-47, which is believed to carry only
160 kg of propellant. I expected the launch profile would have left
stage 2 in a 180 to 200 x 555 km parking orbit, with the SM burn at
apogee. In fact, is reporting the third stage burn
was complete by 12 min after launch, implying a direct ascent with a
suborbital stage 2; a third stage burn at 21 min after launch seems
more likely, since that would put apogee on the equator. No orbital
data have yet been released for TC-1 from either the European mission
center or USAF Space Command.

Table of Recent Launches


Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.
Nov  3 0720   JB-4?             CZ-2D           Jiuquan           Micrograv  51C
Nov 14 1601   Zhongxing-20      CZ-3A           Xichang           Comms      52A
Nov 24 0622   Yamal-200 KA-1 )  Proton-K/DM-2M  Baykonur PL81/23  Comms      53A
              Yamal-200 KA-2 )                                    Comms      53B
Nov 29 0433   IGS-2a )          H-IIA 2024      Tanegashima       Imaging    F02
              IGS-2b )                                            Radar      F02
Dec  2 1004   USA 173        )  Atlas IIAS      Vandenberg SLC3E  Sigint     54A
              USA 173 P/L 2? )                                    Sigint     54C
Dec  5 0600   Gruzomaket        Strela          Baykonur PL132    Test       55A
Dec 10 1742   Kosmos-2402 )     Proton-K/Briz   Baykonur PL81/24  Navigation 56A
              Kosmos-2403 )                                       Navigation 56B
              Kosmos-2404 )                                       Navigation 56C
Dec 18 0230   UHF F/O F11       Atlas IIIB      Canaveral SLC36B  Comms      57A
Dec 21 0805   GPS SVN 47        Delta 7925      Canaveral SLC17A  Navigation 58A
Dec 27 2130   Amos-2            Soyuz-FG/Fregat Baykonur PL31/6   Comms      59A
Dec 28 2300   Ekspress AM-22    Proton-K/DM-2M  Baykonur PL200/39 Comms      60A
Dec 29 1906   Tan Ce 1          CZ-2C           Xichang           Science    61A

|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
|  Somerville MA 02143               |                                    |
|   c/o                              |                                    |
|  Center for Astrophysics,          |                                    |
|  60 Garden St, MS6                 |                                    |
|  Cambridge MA 02138                |  inter :   |
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SpaceRef staff editor.