Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 553 2005 Sep 4

By SpaceRef Editor
September 6, 2005
Filed under ,


The Japanese OICETS and INDEX satellites were launched by the Russian Kosmotras company on a Dnepr rocket from Baykonur on Aug 23.

OICETS, the Optical Inter-Orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite, carries a laser communications experiment that will be used in conjunction with ESA’s Artemis geostationary satellite. The satellite was renamed Kirari after launch. Kirari means something like ‘glitter’ or ‘twinkle’, in an obvious reference to the laser (Japanese speakers help me out with the translation here?).

INDEX, renamed Reimei (“Dawn”) after launch, is a 70 kg ISAS/JAXA in-house test satellite with new lightweight satellite components, and a demonstration auroral imager payload.

Kosmotras reported (and I reproduce here without comment): “Along with the satellites, the launch vehicle delivered into orbit a special container that hosted the state symbols of Turkmenistan – the National Flag and the Book of Rukhnama – historical and philosophical work of Saparmurat Niyazov, the President of Turkmenistan, devoted to the past, present and the future of the Turkmen state.”

I’m guessing the container remained attached to the insertion stage.

Four objects were initially cataloged associated with the launch. My best guess at identifying the objects suggests that Kirari is in a 602 x 603 km x 97.8 deg orbit; Reimei is in a 601 x 621 km orbit; and the Dnepr gas-dynamic shield is in a 572 x 607 km orbit. The fourth object, in a higher apogee 595 x 1197 km orbit, is the insertion stage, which continues thrusting after it has dispensed its payloads.

It’s unusual for Japanese government satellites to launch on non-Japanese rockets. OICETS was originally intended for the now-abandoned J-1 light launch vehicle.


On Aug 24, Japan’s Hayabusa was 8880 km from asteroid Itokawa; by Sep 2 it was at only 1550 km. Hayabusa will rendezvous with Itokawa and return a sample of it to Earth.


The Russian Krunichev company, best known for the Proton rocket, launched the first Monitor Earth observing platform on Aug 26 on one of its Rokot/Briz-KM rockets. Monitor-E No. 1 is a prototype carrying 8-meter and 20-meter resolution cameras. The satellte’s Yachta bus is 1.2m high at launch (I don’t know the solar panel span, probably about 4m). A mockup was launched on an earlier Rokot flight in 2003.


A Russian Defense Ministry satellite, with the cover name Kosmos-2415, was launched on Sep 2 from Baykonur into a 197 x 284 km x 64.8 deg orbit. It is believed to be an 11F660 Kometa mapping satellite, and the initial orbit is consistent with this. I expect it will raise its orbit to about 210 x 270 km within one day. The last Kometa mission was in 2000. Kometa is built by TsSKB-Progress of Samara, who also build the Soyuz-U rocket.

FSW satellites

China’s FSW 21 recoverable satellite returned to Earth on Aug 29, the same day that FSW 22 was launched on a CZ-2D rocket from China’s Jiuquan Space Center. Neither the FSW 21 landing time nor the FSW 22 launch time were announced; from analysis of orbital data I estimate an FSW 22 launch time of 0845 UTC, and an FSW 21 landing time of 2335 UTC on Aug 28 (which is Aug 29 Chinese local time).

The FSW (Fanhui Shi Weixing, Experimental Recoverable Satellite) program began in 1974; the program went through several versions until launches stopped in 1996, performing both military imaging and commercial microgravity missions.

In 2003, a new series of FSW satellites (some sources believe their military code-name is Jian Bing 4) came into service, starting with FSW 18. With FSW 22, there are five launches in this series and we can now see two subgroups. The low perigee subgroup uses the older Long March 2C rocket and flies for 26 days in 168 x 550 km orbits – presumably for high resolution imaging. The high perigee subgroup uses the Long March 2D launch vehicle and its satellites operate in 200 x 320 km orbits, with recovery after 18 days. Their orbits are similar to the 8-day-duration FSW-1 series of 1987-1993. They are launched in pairs: a low-perigee mission followed soon after by a high perigee mission. It’s not clear whether the vehicles are two different spacecraft designs or just different mission profiles for the same spacecraft, but the longer life for the lower-perigee (and therefore higher fuel use) mission suggests that it’s probably two different designs.

                         Orbit ( km x km x deg)   Life (days)  Rocket
  Group 1 - Low perigee 

  FSW 19   2004 Aug 29   167 x 552 x 63.0         26.7         CZ-2C
  FSW 21   2005 Aug  3   166 x 552 x 63.0         26.7         CZ-2C

  Group 2 - High Perigee
  FSW 18   2003 Nov  3   193 x 324 x 63.0         17.8         CZ-2D
  FSW 20   2004 Sep 27   205 x 319 x 63.0         17.8         CZ-2D
  FSW 22   2005 Aug 29   204 x 323 x 63.0         ?            CZ-2D

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Aerojet provided me with more details on the MRO propulsion system: Mars orbit insertion is provided by six MR-107N engines with 270N thrust each (not 170N as I said in JSR552), salvaged from the backup Mars Polar Lander. The system also has six MR-106E engines with 22N thrust and eight small MR-103D engines with 1N thrust.

The propulsion system made a 7.8m/s course correction on Aug 27.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
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 
Aug 11 0820   Thaicom 4         Ariane 5GS      Kourou           Comms       28A
Aug 12 1143   MRO               Atlas V 401     Canaveral SLC41  Mars probe  29A
Aug 13 2328   Galaxy 14         Soyuz-FG/Fregat Baykonur LC31    Comms       30A
Aug 23 2110   Kirari (OICETS) ) Dnepr           Baykonur LC109   Tech        31A
              Reimei (INDEX)  )                                  Tech        31B
Aug 26 1834   Monitor-E         Rokot           Plesetsk         Imaging     32A
Aug 29 0845   FSW 22            CZ-2D           Jiuquan          Imaging     33A
Sep  2 0950   Kosmos-2415       Soyuz-U         Baykonir LC31    Imaging     34A
|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
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SpaceRef staff editor.