Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 605 2009 Jan 27, Somerville, MA

By SpaceRef Editor
January 29, 2009
Filed under ,

Shuttle and Station

The Expedition 18 crew of Michael Fincke, Yuriy Lonchakov and Sandra Magnus continue work on board ISS.

Soyuz TMA-13 is docked to the Zarya port and Progress M-01M is docked to the Pirs module.

On Dec 23, Lonchakov and Fincke performed a spacewalk (Russian EVA-21) from the Pirs module using the Orlan M-26 and M-27 spacesuits. Magnus remained inside the station. The airlock was depressurized at 0011 UTC; following a problem with a depressurization valve, extended pressure leak checks were carried out. The hatch was opened at 0051 UTC. Fincke installed a Langmuir probe on Pirs while Lonchakov retrieved the Biorisk canister 2. Then, the Impuls and Expose-R experiments were installed on Zvezda. Expose-R failed to activate and was removed and returned to the airlock. The hatch was closed at 0629 UTC and the airlock repress began at 0639 UTC, reaching the 35mm fiducial pressure I use at 0640 UTC, for a spacewalk duration of 06h29m (depress/repress) or 5h38 (hatch open/close).


Secret launch NRO L-26 for the National Reconnaissance Office took off on a Delta 4 Heavy from complex 37B at Cape Canaveral on Jan 18. The payload was designated USA 202. Analysts suggest it was probably placed in geostationary orbit and is a new large-diameter-antenna signals intelligence satellite in the series whose earlier codenames were RHYOLITE, AQUACADE, MAGNUM, and ORION.

The Delta 4 final stage has been found by indepedent observers in a 35943 x 38077 km x 3.0 deg near-synchronous orbit.

Probable satellites in the RHYOLITE lineage

RH  Desig.    Unclass. Name           Launch date  Launch vehicle flight
 1  1970-46A  OPS 5346 (Program 720)  1970 Jun 19  Atlas Agena S/N 5201A
 2  1973-13A  OPS 6063 (Program 720)  1973 Mar  6  Atlas Agena S/N 5202A
 3  1977-114A OPS 4258 (Program 472)  1977 Dec 11  Atlas Agena S/N 5504A
 4  1978-38A  OPS 8790 (Program 472)  1978 Apr  7  Atlas Agena S/N 5505A
 5  1985-10B  USA 8                   1985 Jan 24  Shuttle Mission 51-C
 6  1985-90B  USA 48                  1989 Nov 23  Shuttle Mission STS-33
 7  1995-22A  USA 110                 1995 May 14  Titan-Centaur 17
 8  1998-29A  USA 139                 1998 May  9  Titan-Centaur 18
 9  2003-41A  USA 171                 2003 Sep  9  Titan-Centaur 20
10  2009-01A  USA 202                 2009 Jan 18  Delta 337  (4H No. 3)

Yaogan Weixing 5

The Yaogan weixing wuhao (Resource satellite No. 5) was launched on Dec 15 from Taiyuan only two weeks after YW 4 was launched from Jiuquan. This confirms the pattern of two different series within the Yaogan series, but also complicates the picture since YW 5 is in a lower orbit than previous satellites in the series – although similar to the ZY-2 satellites.

The launch vehicle was announced as a CZ-4B, although a CZ-4C had been expected; the CZ-4C upper stage has a restartable YF-40A engine. Pictures of the latest launch show the larger nose fairing previously used on the CZ-4C.

        Launch Date  LV         Orbit (km x km x deg) Rocket orbit

 Taiyuan launches               
 ZY-2-1 2000 Sep  1  CZ-4B      474 x 481 x 97.1      469 x 492 x 97.4
 ZY-2-2 2002 Oct 27  CZ-4B      484 x 499 x 97.1      396 x 575 x 97.3
 ZY-2-3 2004 Nov  6  CZ-4B      559 x 615 x 97.4      397 x 580 x 97.2
 YW 1   2006 Apr 26  CZ-4B      627 x 629 x 97.8      450 x 617 x 97.8
 YW 3   2007 Nov 11  CZ-4C      626 x 629 x 97.8      456 x 614 x 97.8
 YW 5   2008 Dec 15  CZ-4B?     480 x 492 x 97.4      359 x 487 x 97.3

 Jiuquan launches
 YW 2   2007 May 25  CZ-2D      630 x 655 x 97.9      Not tracked
 YW 4   2008 Dec  1  CZ-2D      633 x 651 x 97.9      Not tracked

Note that the ZY-2-3 satellite was initially in a 480 x 500 km orbit like the other ZY-2 satellites. In 2008 June its apogee slowly increased, and by September it was in a 520 x 533 km orbit. The orbit was then changed to 530 x 590 km and by November to 550 x 610 km.

Fengyun 2-06

The Fengyun erhao 06 xing (Fengyun No. 2 satellite 06) weather satellite was launched on Dec 23 by a CZ-3A (changzheng sanhao jia) three-stage rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (xichang weixing fashe zhongxin). I will refer to the satellite as FY 2-06.

FY 2-06 reached geostationary orbit on Dec 23, firing its apogee motor to enter a 35055 x 35447 x 2.7; after orbit circularization it ejected its apogee motor into a 35117 x 35450 km x 2.7 deg orbit. On Dec 26 reported that the satellite was on station at 123.5E and called it Fengyun erhao E xing (FY-2E). I believe that FY 2-06 is the prelaunch, factory production number name and FY-2E is a post launch name, similar to the former NASA practice.

AMC 14

The Americom 14 satellite, which was stranded in transfer orbit after launch on Mar 14, finally reached geosynchonous altitude in December after months of low-thrust burns. By Nov 20 it was in a 1380 min, 32952 x 36408 km x 13.8 deg orbit and on Dec 19 its orbit was 1435.63 min, 35094 x 36459 x 13.1 deg drifting near 61 deg E.


The European satellite telecoms company Eutelsat SA saw the launch of two of its satellites on a single Ariane 5ECA rocket on Dec 20.

Hot Bird 9, an EADS Astrium Ku-band Eurostar 3000, has a dry mass of 2338 kg and will replace Hot Bird 3 at 13E. Eutelsat W2M is also a Ku-band satellite and will operate at 10E; built by EADS Astrium and ANTRIX/ISRO, it uses the ISRO I3K (Insat) bus and represents the first foreign sale of an Indian-built satellite.


Three Uragan-M navigation satellites were launched on Dec 25 to supplement the Glonass navigation system. The satellites, with the cover names Kosmos-2447 to 2449, are serial numbers 727, 728 and 729.


Japan’s H2A No. 15 rocket took off from Tanegashima on Jan 23 and placed the GOSAT (Greenhouse Gas Observing Satellite) in a 669 x 672 km x 98.0 deg sun-synchronous orbit. GOSAT has been given the name ‘Ibuki’ (‘breath’); it carries the TANSO-FTS IR spectrometer and the TANSO-CAI cloud and aerosol imager. GOSAT was developed by the Japanese space agency JAXA and built by Mitsubishi Electric/Kamakura.

The 1750 kg Ibuki was accompanied by a cluster of small satellites released from the H2A second stage.

SDS-1 is JAXA’s Small Demonstration Satellite, a 100 kg microsatellite with a camera, GPS receiver and sun sensor.

SpriteSat is a 50 kg small satellite with a gravity gradient boom which will study flashes from lightning ‘sprites’. It was developed by Tohoku University in Sendai.

SOHLA-1 was devloped by the Space Oriented Higashi-osaka Leading Association (SOHLA), a group of aerospace companies in the Osaka region. It carries a cloud cover imager and has a mass of 50 kg.

Kagayaki is a 28 kg technology satellite from the Sorun Corp. in Tokyo with a variety of technology payloads.

Prism is a 5 kg remote sensing picosatellite from the University of Tokyo. It has a 10-cm aperture Earth imager on a 1-meter deployable boom.

KKS-1 was built by Kouku-kosen (Tokyo Metropolitan College of Aeronautical Engineering) and has a mass of 3 kg. It carries an Earth imager.

STARS, also named Kukai is a 7 kg Kagawa University picosatellite demonstrating a tethered space robot. It consists of two boxes, Ku and Kai, connected by a tether.


In last issue’s suborbital launch log, the NASA 36.221DS entry was spurious. The launch has been delayed until 2009 Feb.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Dec  1 0442   Yaogan Weixing 4  Chang Zheng 2D   Jiuquan           Imaging?  61A
Dec  2 0500   Kosmos-2446       Molniya-M        Plesetsk LC16/2   Early Warn 62A
Dec 10 1343   Ciel-2            Proton-M/Briz    Baykonur LC200/39 Comms     63A
Dec 15 0322   Yaogan Weixing 5  Chang Zheng 4B?  Taiyuan           Imaging?  64A
Dec 20 2235   Hot Bird 9  )     Ariane 5ECA      Kourou ELA3       Comms     65A
              Eutelsat W2M)                                        Comms     65B
Dec 23 0054   FY 2E             Chang Zheng 3A   Xichang           Weather   66A
Dec 25 1043   Kosmos-2447 )     Proton-M/DM      Baykonur LC81/24  Nav       67A
              Kosmos-2448 )                                        Nav       67C
              Kosmos-2449 )                                        Nav       67B
Jan 18 0247   USA 202 (NROL-26) Delta 4H         Canaveral SLC37B  Sigint    01A
Jan 23 0354   Ibuki      )      H-IIA 202        Tanegashima       Rem.Sens. 02A
              SDS-1      )                                         Tech      02C
              SOHLA-1    )                                         Imaging   02
              SpriteSat  )                                         Science   02
              Kagayaki   )                                         Tech      02
              KKS 1      )                                         Imaging   02
              Kukai      )                                         Tech      02G
              PRISM      )                                         Imaging   02B

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

Date UT     Payload/Flt Name  Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    Apogee/km
Dec 23 0300   RV-1 )          Bulava          TK-208, Barents R&D          100?
              RV-2 )
              RV-3 )
              ?    ) (Number of reentry vehicles unknown)
Jan 10 2317   NASA 30.073UO   Imp. Orion      Poker Flat      Ionosphere    98
Jan 26 0015   S-310-39        S-310           Andoya          Atmosphere   140?
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SpaceRef staff editor.