Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 556 – 2005 Nov 8

By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 2005
Filed under ,


Expedition 11 crew Sergey Krikalyov and John Phillips, and EP-9 tourist Greg Olsen, have returned to Earth. Soyuz TMA-6 undocked from the Zarya module at 2149 UTC on Oct 10. The deorbit burn at 0019 UTC on Oct 11 lowered the orbit from 346 x 348 km to about -40 x 348 km; the orbital and service modules separated at 0043 UTC and after reentry the spacecraft landed at 0109 UTC on Oct 11. There was some concern due to an apparent small pressure leak in the spacecraft, but the crew were recovered safe and well.

The Expedition 12 crew of Bill McArthur and Valeriy Tokarev made a spacewalk on Nov 7. The airlock reached 240 mbar at around 1429 UTC, but because of a valve left in an incorrect position, the pressure did not drop below 130 mbar and at 1448 UTC the airlock was repressurized. I count this as a `partial depressurization’ only and not as a full EVA. After opening the crew lock door and resetting the valve, the airlock was depressurized again, reaching 50 mbar at 1527 UTC. The airlock hatch was opened at 1529 UTC, with the spacesuits on battery power at 1532 UTC. McArthur and Tokarev emerged at 1544 and 1550 UTC respectively. The first task was to take a camera from the airlock and a camera support assembly from the ESP-2 storage platform, and install them at the far end of the P1 truss segment (a similar camera is already at the end of S1). At 1800 UTC they headed for the other end of the truss to remove a failed rotary joint motor controller on S1; by 1836 UTC, after returning to the airlock, they set off for the top of the P6 tower to remove the failed FPP experiment. At 1920 McArthur threw the FPP (Floating Potential Probe) into space, where it is now being tracked in a 338 x 346 km orbit. After returning to the truss and replacing a power module on the mobile transporter, the astronauts went back to the airlock. Tokarev went inside at 2025 UTC followed by McArthur at 2035 UTC. The hatch was closed at 2046 UTC with repressurization at 2054 UTC, for a duration of 5h27m (depress/repress), 5h17m (hatch open/close) or 5h22m (NASA rule).

Shenzhou 6

China’s second piloted spaceflight was launched at 0100 UTC on Oct 12. Two astronauts, Fei Junlong and Nie Haishen, were aboard the Shenzhou 6 spacecraft which reached a 330 x 337 km x 42.4 deg orbit. The crew entered the orbital module of Shenzhou, in contrast to the previous flight where Yang Liwei remained in the descent vehicle throughout the flight. The vehicle landed safely at 2032 UTC on Oct 16, leaving the orbital module in space for tests.


The last Titan rocket, 4B-26, was launched on Oct 19. It deployed USA 186, a classified NRO satellite, into polar orbit. Hobbyists have observed the satellite and determined its orbit to be 264 x 1050 km x 97.9 deg. This confirms that the satellite is one of the improved CRYSTAL series (KH-11 derived) imaging reconnaissace satellites, replacing a satellite launched in 1996.


ESA’s Cryosat was launched on Oct 8 but failed to reach orbit. Because of a software error, the Rokot second stage failed to shut down, and did not separate from the third stage. The vehicle impacted in the Arctic. It would have studied polar ice to look for effects of global warming. There is some hope that this important mission will get a reflight.


Novosti Kosmonavtiki reports that on Oct 6 at 2130 UTC the Russian Navy carried out a suborbital test of the inflatable Demonstrator reentry vehicle, but once again the reentry vehicle was not recovered.


The European heavy launch vehicle has made another successful flight. Ariane 5GS, flight V168, vehicle L524, was launched on Oct 13. The EPC core stage reached a 44 x 1609 km x 7.9 deg orbit and reentered over the Pacific. The EPS upper stage placed two satellites in a 577 x 35789 km x 7.0 deg geostationary transfer orbit. Syracuse 3A is a Spacebus 3000B3 communications satellite built by Alenia Alcatel for the French military procurement agency DGA. The smaller Galaxy 15 was built for the US company Panamsat by Orbital Sciences using the Star 2 platform, and will provide services over the US. Both satellites have now reached geostationary orbit.

Many thanks to Arianespace for their hospitality on my recent visit to Evry!


The Russian Kometa mapping satellite Kosmos-2415 completed its standard 44-day mission with a landing at 2144 UTC on Oct 15, according to analyst Phillip Clark. (A landing 24 hours later is not entirely ruled out by the data I have, and Space Command reported an Oct 16 landing).

Multi-satellite launch

Russia’s Polyot company launched a group of small satellites on a Kosmos-3M rocket from Plesetsk on Oct 27.

The launch includes the first Iranian satellite, Sinah-1 (or Sina-1). This satellite is a 160 kg experimental payload built by Russia’s Polyot, based in Omsk, and carries a remote sensing (some reports implausibly allege `spy satellite’) payload. The satellite is 0.8 x 1.3 x 1.6m in size.

Earlier reports were confused: another Iranian satellite, a 100-kg class satellite called Mesbah built by Italy’s Carlo Gavazzi Space and based on the MITA satellite bus was also meant to be aboard, but has reportedly been delayed. Based on photos of the satellite cluster in final assembly, Sinah-1 uses a very similar design to MITA, covered by a prism-shaped cluster of solar-panels. Since Carlo Gavazzi Space and its partner OHB System of Bremen have been collaborating with Polyot on launch vehicle engineering, I’m guessing that there is also a collaboration of some sort on satellite buses and that explains the similarity between the Italian MITA and the Russian-built Sinah-1. I’m still a bit confused though, and any clarification is welcomed.

The other payloads are:

Topsat, built by Surrey Satellite, an imaging satellite for UK military research.

Beijing-1 (China-DMC), built by Surrey Satellite, part of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation and to be operated by Tsinghua University for a Chinese company, Beijing Landview Mapping Information Technology Ltd. It carries a 31-cm mapping telescope with a resolution of 4 meters.

SSETI-Express, a student-built satellite sponsored by the European Space Agency. Shortly after 0830 UTC it ejected three small 1 kg Cubesats: UWE-1 for the University of Wurzburg, NCube-2 for Norway, and XI-V for the University of Tokyo. (NCube-2 has not been heard from and its separation has not been confirmed). SSETI Express lost power by 2020 UTC on the day of launch.

Mozhaets-5, an experimental satellite built partly by students at the Mozhaiskiy military academy and carrying a laser communications experiment. Mozhaets-5 failed to separate from the rocket final stage and controllers haven’t established communications with it.

Rubin-5 is a technology/communications payload using the ORBCOMM system; it remains intentionally attached to the rocket final stage (in fact, it’s part of the adapter used to deploy the other satellites). It includes the AATiS SAFIR-S amateur transponder and the ESA ASOLANT solar-powered GPS antenna experiment.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Sep  2 0950   Kosmos-2415       Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC31    Imaging     34A
Sep  8 1308   Progress M-54     Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC1     Cargo       35A
Sep  8 2153   Anik F1R          Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms      36A
Sep 23 0224   STP-R1            Minotaur        Vandenberg SLC8  Tech        37A
Sep 26 0337   Navstar GPS 57    Delta 7925      Canaveral SLC17A Navigation  38A
Oct  1 0355   Soyuz TMA-7       Soyuz-FG        Baykonur LC1     Spaceship   39A
Oct  8 1502   Cryosat           Rokot           Plesetsk LC133   Science     F03
Oct 12 0100   Shenzhou 6        CZ-2F           Jiuquan          Spaceship   40A
Oct 13 2232   Syracuse 3A  )    Ariane 5GS      Kourou ELA3      Comms       41A
              Galaxy 15    )                                     Comms       41B
Oct 19 1805   USA 186           Titan 4B        Vandenberg SLC4E Imaging     42A
Oct 27 0652   Topsat        )   Kosmos-3M       Plesetsk LC132/1 Imaging     43B
              Beijing-1     )                                    Imaging     43A
              Sinah         )                                    Imaging?    43D
              SSETI Express )                                   Imaging/Tech 43E
              Mozhaets-5    )                                    Tech/Comms  43G
              UWE-1         )                                    Comms       43F
              NCube-2       )                                    Comms       43
              Cubesat XI-V  )                                    Tech        43C
              Rubin-5       )                                    Comms       43G
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SpaceRef staff editor.