Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 551 2005 Aug 9

By SpaceRef Editor
August 10, 2005
Filed under ,

Shuttle and Station

The Shuttle has completed its return-to-flight mission, but continuing problems with debris marred the otherwise successful flight.

Discovery was launched at 1439:00 UTC on Jul 26, reaching a 54 x 229 km orbit at 1447 UTC. The OMS-2 burn at 1517 UTC raised the perigee out of the atmosphere, with a 155 x 230 km orbit. NC-1 and NC-2 burns resulted in 226 x 285 km and 270 x 287 km orbits, as the Shuttle slowly matched altitude and speed with the Station in a 350 x 356 km x 51.6 deg orbit. Meanwhile, external tank ET-121 fell back into the Pacific with reentry at around 1550 UTC.

Spectacular camera views from the External Tank showed minor tile damage during ascent, and the loss of a half-meter piece of foam from the ET at the time of SRB separation. Although the foam did not hit Discovery, the failure to stop large foam loss (a 15-cm piece was also lost from near the bipod ramp) will have to be investigated and fixed before Atlantis can fly the next mission.

On Jul 19 the Station crew flew Soyuz TMA-6 from the Pirs docking port, undocking at 1038 UTC, and redocked with the Zarya docking port at 1108 UTC.

On Jul 28 at 1118 UTC Discovery docked at the Space Station. Hatch opening was at 1250 UTC. The first spacewalk was carried out on Jul 30 and saw tile repair tests in the payload bay, and installation of a mounting bracket for the ESP-2 stores platform on the Station’s Quest module.

The second spacewalk on Aug 1 saw replacement of the Station’s CMG-1 gyro. The third spacewalk on Aug 3 saw installation of the ESP-2 platform, and the removal of two protruding pieces of tile gap-filler material from the Shuttle’s heat shield.

Discovery undocked from Station at 0724 UTC on Aug 6 and landed safely on Runway 22 at Edwards Air Force Base at 1211 UTC on Aug 9.


The newly-launched Suzaku mission has lost the use of its premier instrument, the XRS, according to a JAXA press release on Aug 9. This is a big blow to X-ray astronomy, following a 15-year struggle to get the experiment into orbit.

Suzaku extended its optical bench on Jul 12, completing the most critical events of its early orbit operations. The first few element sets from Space Command seem to have confused Suzaku and its M34 final stage; the final stage is in a 248 x 540 km orbit and Suzaku was initially in a higher-perigee 295 x 540 km orbit. The satellite carries 100 kg of hydrazine for its four 23N main orbit raise thrusters which were used to reach its 565 x 573 km operational orbit by Jul 22. The XRS instrument was cooled down to 60 milliKelvin and showing good resolution on the internal calibration source by Jul 29. The three-stage cooler involves an active cooler surrounded by liquid helium and solid neon. Sadly, on around Aug 7 a leak in the cooler system resulted in loss of the liquid helium, and without the coolant XRS can’t return the planned high resolution spectra.

XRS, the first X-ray microcalorimeter detector in orbit, was developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Japan’s ISAS science division of the JAXA space agency. It was originally planned to be aboard the AXAF (Chandra) mission, then split off into a separate AXAF-S mission that was later cancelled, and eventually added to the Japanese ASTRO-E mission which failed in 2000.

Calorimeter detectors are expected to play an important role in future X-ray missions, but although an XRS-type instrument successfully made astronomical observations on suborbital rocket flight NASA 27.140UH in 1996, there has been no long duration test of the technology to date. Suzaku’s other instruments – four X-ray CCD telescopes and a high energy X-ray detector – are still being checked out and so far appear to be operating well.

Chinese recoverable satellite

A Chinese recoverable satellite, FSW 21, was launched on Aug 2 from Jiuquan into a 165 x 494 km x 63.0 deg orbit.


The temperature of the XRS on ASTRO-E2 is 60 mK, not 1.5 mK – sorry. Deep Space 1 flew past Borrelly at 2230:37TT 2001 Sep 22, not Sep 17.

Delta Confusion

In a number of NASA documents in the past year, I’ve seen alternative designations for Boeing’s Delta rockets that don’t seem to be used in Boeing’s public documents. For example:

  Boeing designation  NASA designation       
  7320-10,7326-9.5    2320-10,2326-9.5
  7420-10             2420-10
  7920-10L            2920-10L
  7925H-9.5           2925H-9.5
  4M                  4040
  4M+(4,2)            4240
  4M+(5,4)            4450
  4H                  4050H

So I’m confused. Are these new names just NASA renaming things to confuse the issue (as they have done with their own names for Russian Progress and Soyuz spacecraft) or are these official Boeing designations and Boeing haven’t updated their press kits and web sites? I’d appreciate email from anyone who can clarify the status of these designation systems. [Indeed, one correspondent seems to confirm my suspicion that this is another random NASA renaming of someone else’s product. I will continue to use the manufacturer’s designations.]

I’ve ranted in the past that the Boeing Delta 4M/4H designation scheme is ugly. The form of the new scheme is better, but there’s a bit of a problem. The first digit in the Delta 4-digit designations indicates the first stage configuration; in the new scheme it looks nice and sensible, 2 for Delta 2 and 4 for Delta 4. But the reason it’s 7 in the old scheme for Delta 2 is that there were 6 earlier variants of first stage, and indeed earlier Deltas included the Delta 2310, 2313, 2910, 2913, 2914 and 4925-8. It’s a bit confusing that the 2310 (old scheme, 1970s Delta) and the 2320 (new scheme, Delta II) are such completely different vehicles, and sheer luck that there are no exact duplications. I understand the marketing people don’t care since no-one is trying to sell a 2310 anymore… but for those who maintain historical records it’s very confusing. How about just renaming Delta II and Delta IV to Delta IX and Delta X instead?

By the way, for those without a scorecard, the full scheme is: digit 1 – first stage type; digit 2 – number of small strapons; digit 3 – second stage type; digit 4 – third stage type; optional letter H for ‘Heavy’, means slightly bigger strapons for Delta 2 and strapon core stages for Delta 4; – stuff following dash, means diameter of fairing for Delta 2 (currently coupled to second stage type for Delta 4).


A number of Globalstar low orbit communications satellites have had their orbits raised recently, presumably indicating their retirement. The operational orbit is 1412 x 1414 km x 52.0 deg; of the 52 satellites which reached orbit, 45 are in this operational orbit. The retirement orbit is 1512 x 1514 km; satellite M002, put in the retirement orbit in Nov 2001, had its orbit raised again in Apr-Jul 2005 to a still higher orbit of 1808 km. I infer that the 1512 x 1514 km orbit is for satellites which are out of the operational constellation but still partly functional, and that satellite 2’s recent orbit raising involves depletion of remaining propellants prior to final switch-off. The lower 1450 km orbit of satellite 1 may indicate that it didn’t have enough fuel to reach the standard retirement orbit.

  Retired satellite   Date retired  Current orbit
? 64    2000-08D      2000 Feb 17    909 x  926 km x 52.0 deg (Never operational)
   2    1998-08C      2001 Nov 20   1807 x 1809 km x 52.0 deg
  14    1998-23A      2001 Oct  1?  1499 x 1525 km x 52.0 deg
  35    1999-37A      2005 Apr  6   1512 x 1514 km x 52.0 deg
   1    1998-08A      2005 Apr 22   1452 x 1455 km x 52.0 deg
  27    1999-43C      2005 May 15?  1513 x 1514 km x 52.0 deg  
  61    1999-62D      2005 May 23   1512 x 1514 km x 52.0 deg

It’s possible that satellite 64 is in reserve for future use, but I think it is more likely that its propulsion system failed to operate.


There are 66 Iridium satellites in the operational constellation. A further 11 working satellites are in orbital storage. 18 other satellites appear to have failed, but only three of these failures have happened since completion of the initial constellation in 1999. Iridium 16, retired in Apr 2005, was quickly replaced by Iridium vehicle 86.

  Retired satellite   Date retired  Current orbit
Iridium 21    1997-34E  1997 Jul     574 x 584 x 86.4
Iridium 11    1997-30G  1997 Sep     736 x 761 x 86.4
Iridium 27    1997-51D  1997 Oct     Reentered 2002 Feb  1
Iridium 20    1997-34C  1997 Dec     758 x 772 x 86.4
Iridium 46    1997-82B  1998 Apr     758 x 771 x 86.4
Iridium 51    1998-18A  1998 May     746 x 749 x 86.4
Iridium 44    1997-77B  1998 Jul     767 x 773 x 86.4
Iridium 71    1998-26B  1998 Jul     766 x 767 x 86.4
Iridium 69    1998-26A  1998 Aug     776 x 771 x 86.4
Iridium 79    1998-51D  1998 Sep     Reentered 2000 Nov 29
Iridium 14    1997-30A  1998 Nov     765 x 769 x 86.4
Iridium 85    1998-66C  1998 Nov     Reentered 2000 Dec 30
Iridium 73    1998-32C  1998 Dec     734 x 737 x 86.4
Iridium 48    1997-82D  1999 Apr     Reentered 2001 May  5
Iridium 87    1998-66A  1999 May?    572 x 583 x 85.6
Iridium  9    1997-30C  2000 Sep     Reentered 2003 Mar 11
Iridium 38    1997-69E  2003 Aug     775 x 778 x 86.4
Iridium 16    1997-30F  2005 Apr 11  771 x 777 x 86.4

In storage:

Iridium 77    1998-51E  1998         707 x 711 x 86.5
Iridium 89    1998-74B  1998         707 x 711 x 86.5
Iridium 92    1999-32A  1999         706 x 712 x 86.5
Iridium 93    1999-32B  1999         707 x 711 x 86.5

Iridium 90,91,94,95,96,97 in a 670 x 673 km storage orbit

Iridium 98 (2002-31B) raised to a pre-operational 744 x 752 km orbit in Jun 2005.

Iridium 86 put in operation Apr 2005 after 6.5 years of storage.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Jun 16 2310   Progress M-53     Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC1     Cargo       21A
Jun 21 0049   Molniya-3K        Molniya-M       Plesetsk LC16/2  Comms       F01
Jun 21 1946   Cosmos-1          Volna           Borisoglebsk,BAR Tech        F02
Jun 23 1402   Intelsat A-8      Zenit-3SL       Odyssey,POR      Comms       22A
Jun 24 1941   Ekspress AM-3     Proton-K/DM2    Baykonur         Comms       23A
Jul  5 2240   SJ-7              CZ-2D           Jiuquan          Sci         24A
Jul 10 0330   Suzaku            M-V             Uchinoura        XR Astron.  25A
Jul 26 1439   Discovery         Shuttle         Kennedy LC39B    Spaceship   26A
Aug  2 0730   FSW 21            CZ-2C           Jiuquan          Imaging     27A 
|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
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SpaceRef staff editor.