Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 575 2006 Dec 26

By SpaceRef Editor
December 26, 2006
Filed under ,

Shuttle and Station

The STS-116 shuttle mission to the Space Station was completed on Dec 22; details below.

The P5 truss was unberthed from Discovery and grappled by the Station arm early on Dec 12. The first spacewalk of the mission began on Dec 12, featuring astronauts Bob Curbeam in EMU 3003 and Christer Fuglesang in EMU 3018. The Station’s Quest airlock was depressurized by 2026 UTC and the hatch was opened at 2030 UTC; astronaut egress began at around 2040 UTC. P5 was installed on the end of P4 between 2208 and 2245 UTC. The hatch was closed at about 0302 UTC on Dec 13 with repressurization at 0307 UTC. At 0245 UTC Fuglesang lost an extension socket for the PGT tool; it is now an independent satellite.

Retraction of the SAW-4B solar array began at 1828 on Dec 13. The array has been retracted far enough that it will not interfere with the rotation of the new arrays on the P4 truss, but multiple attempts to retract it completely were unsuccessful on that day.

The second spacewalk was on Dec 14-15. The airlock was depressurized around 1938 UTC, with hatch open at 1940. Astronauts Curbeam and Fuglesang rewired half of the station’s electrical power system. They repressurized the airlock at 0041 UTC on Dec 15.

The second half of the power system was to be rewired on Dec 16 on the third spacewalk, this time by Curbeam and Sunita Williams. The airlock was depressurized around 1923 UTC; hatch open was around 1924 UTC. By 2140 UTC the pump modules were activated and the station power system was working.

The next task was to unload three bundles of orbital debris protection shields from the ICC in the payload bay and store them on the Station exterior. An earlier bundle was delivered on STS-111 and installed on Zvezda during a later spacewalk. Bundles 2, 3 and 4 were installed on an adapter on the PMA-3 docking port. At 2325 UTC a digital camera floated loose and became another unintentional satellite.

The astronauts climbed the P6 tower and shook the solar arrays, freeing some of the stuck panels. However, after retracting some more another section of the array got stuck. The astronauts returned to the airlock with hatch close at 0252 UTC and repress at 0256 UTC.

On Dec 18 Curbeam and Fuglesang made a fourth spacewalk. The airlock was depressurized by 1855 UTC and the hatch was opened at 1859 UTC. After much jiggling, the solar array was closed and latched by 0034 UTC on Dec 19. The astronauts closed the airlock hatch at 0135 UTC and began repressurization at 0138 UTC.

Discovery undocked at 2210 UTC on Dec 19. Remaining aboard the station are Mike Lopez-Alegria, Mikhail Tyurin, and Sunita Williams. On Discovery are Mark Polansky, Bill Oefelein, Nick Patrick, Robert Curbeam, Joan Higginbotham, Christer Fuglesang, Thomas Reiter, as well as Sunita Williams’ ponytail (which she apparently cut off for charity).

The MEPSI-2 satellite was launched at 0019 UTC on Dec 21. It consists of two 0.1m cubes connected by a 15-meter tether, with a total mass of 3.5 kg. RAFT-1 and NMARS (formerly MARScom) were launched at 0156 UTC on Dec 21; the two US Naval Academy cubesats are 3-4 kg each and deployed 1.3-meter antennas. The four picosats were deployed from the USAF Space Test Program STP-H2 payload attached to the ICC (Integrated Cargo Carrier) in Discovery’s payload bay. The ANDE Risk Reduction Mission ICU canister was ejected from STP-H2 at 1822:47 UTC on Dec 21; at 1823:29 the top section of the canister separated from the central canister avionics disk, and at 1823:35 the FCAL (NRL Fence Calibration) sphere separated from the top section, while the canister avionics disk separated from the lower section. However, the Mock Ande Active (MAA) sphere remained inside the lower section and did not initially deploy. Telemetry is being received from ANDE-MAA, and it may now have separated.

Discovery is heading home to KSC Runway 15 after a deorbit burn at 2127 UTC on Dec 22. The Orbiter landed safely at 2232 UTC.


An ILS/Krunichev Proton-M (S/N 53521) launched upper stage Briz-M No. 88518 from Baykonur on Dec 11 with the Malaysian Measat 3 satellite aboard. Measat 3 is a Boeing 601HP with a launch mass of 4765 kg and an on-orbit mass of 3220 kg. The satellite carries a C and Ku band communications payload to support data and TV broadcasting in Malaysia, China and India. It is operated by Binariang Satellite Systems Sdn. Bhd. of Kuala Lumpur.

The Proton reached a near-orbital -949 x 165 km x 51.5 deg trajectory, from which the first Briz-M burn went to 172 x 175 km at 2348 UTC. Burn 2 reached 258 x 5009 km x 50.3 deg at 0054 UTC on Dec 12, followed by Burn 3 at 0309 UTC. At this point the DTB supplementary fuel tank was jettisoned. Burn 4 went to geostationary transfer orbit at 400 x 35813 km x 49.1 deg; Burn 5 was from 0809 to 0827 UTC, following which Measat separated at 0840 into a 7360 x 35782 km x 16.5 deg orbit. It reached near-geosynchronous orbit on Dec 21.


The United Launch Alliance launched a Boeing Delta 7920 on Dec 14 carrying a secret National Reconnaissance Office payload. The payload was to be deployed into an initial 354 x 376 km x 58.5 deg orbit. In contrast to most secret launches, analysts appear to have little clue as to what this payload may be. It has been given the cover name USA 193; it was on launch manifests as NRO launch 21 (NROL-21).

Tacsat 2

Tacsat 2 was launched from Launch Area 0B at Wallops Island on Dec 16. LA0B, within the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, is operated by the commercial Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS). The Air Force Research Lab satellite carries a half-meter telescope and experiments for rapid activation and on-board automatic commissioning. Tacsat 2 reached a 414 x 422 km x 40.0 deg orbit.

The launch deployed a small 3 kg satellite, Genesat-1, for Ames Research Center. It carries an experiment studying E.coli bacteria.


Japan’s Engineering Test Satellite 8, now called Kiku-8, was launched on Dec 18 by an H2A model 204, the most powerful of JAXA’s H2A family with four strapon solid boosters.

ETS-8, developed by JAXA and NICT (National Inst. of Comms. Technology) with NTT (Nippon Telephone and Telegraph), and built by Mitsubishi Electric and NEC, has been in development for many years. The satellite has a launch mass of 5800 kg and carries two large reflector antennas; span of the satellite is 40 meters. It has an Aerojet-Redmond R-4D bipropellant liquid apogee engine which will be used to send it to geostationary orbit. By Dec 19 Kiku-8 had reached a 4058 x 35992 km x 16.8 deg orbit and by Dec 24 it was in a 35752 x 35971 km x 0.2 deg geosynchronous drift orbit. One of its two large dish antennas has now been deployed.


Germany’s first SAR-Lupe military radar imaging satellite was launched on Dec 19 by a Russian Kosmos-3M (11K65M-SL) rocket into a 468 x 504 km x 98.2 deg orbit. The satellite is built by OHB System and carries a 3-meter dish radar antenna.


The first Meridian satellite was launched on Dec 24. Meridian, built by NPO Prikladnoi Mekhaniki, is a new communications satellite “designed to ensure communications of sea-going ships and ice reconnaissance planes in the area of the Northern Sea Route with coastal stations as well as expansion of the network of satellite communication stations in northern areas of Siberia and the Russian Far East” (TASS). It was launched into a 278 x 39801 km x 62.8 deg `Molniya’ orbit; the new series will replace the old Molniya-1 satellites launched from 1965 to 2004.

Launch of Meridian was by Soyuz-2-1a/Fregat. The upgraded Soyuz-2-1a – on its third launch – put the payload section in a suborbital trajectory. The Fregat stage then fired to reach low Earth parking orbit, and once again to reach the Molniya orbit. At around 0930 UTC the second Fregat burn put the stack in a 278 x 39801 km x 62.8 deg transfer orbit. The third burn at first apogee, around 1530 UTC, raised the perigee to 1011 km and Fregat separated from Meridian at 1534 UTC.


Russia launched a triplet of Glonass-M navigation satellites on Dec 25. To date, Glonass and Glonass-M satellites were given “Kosmos-” cover names, but so far the Russian wire services have not uses such Kosmos names for this launch. The launch vehicle was a Proton-K (serial 410-15 or 410-19 according to different reports) with a Blok-DM2 upper stage (serial 108L). One of the payloads is in a 19137 x 19156 km x 64.8 deg orbit typical of Glonass launches.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Nov  4 1353   DMSP 5D-3 F-17    Delta 4M        Vandenberg SLC6  Weather     50A
Nov  8 2001   Badr 4            Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms      51A
Nov 17 1912   GPS 58            Delta 7925-9.5  Canaveral SLC17A Navigation  52A
Dec  8 0053   Fengyun 2D        Chang Zheng 3A  Xichang          Weather     53B
Dec  8 2208   WildBlue 1 )      Ariane 5ECA     Kourou ELA3      Comms       54A
              AMC 18     )                                       Comms       54B
Dec 10 0147   Discovery STS-116 Shuttle         Kennedy LC39B    Spaceship   55A
Dec 11 2328   Measat 3          Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms      56A
Dec 14 2100   USA-193 (NROL-21) Delta 7920      Vandenberg SLC2W Unknown     57A
Dec 16 1200   Tacsat 2  )       Minotaur        Wallops LA0B    Imaging/Tech 58A
              Genesat-1 )
Dec 18 0632   ETS-8             H2A 204         Tanegashima      Comms       59A
Dec 19 1400   SAR-Lupe 1        Kosmos-3M       Plesetsk LC132/1 Radar       60A
Dec 21 0019   MEPSI-2A/2B       -               Discovery, LEO   Tech        55B
Dec 21 0156   RAFT     )                        Discovery, LEO   Calibration 55C
              NMARS    )                                         Comms       55
Dec 21 1822   ANDE-MAA )                        Discovery, LEO   Science     55
              FCAL     )                                         Calibration 55
Dec 24 0834   Meridian No. 1    Soyuz-2-1A      Plesetsk LC43/4  Comms       61A
Dec 25 2018   Glonass-M )       Proton-K/DM-2   Baykonur LC81/24 Navigation  62A
              Glonass-M )                                        Navigation  62B
              Glonass-M )                                        Navigation  62C

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SpaceRef staff editor.