Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report, No. 610

By SpaceRef Editor
April 29, 2009
Filed under ,

Shuttle and Station

Gennadiy Padalka, Mike Barratt, and Koichi Wakata are aboard the Station with Progress M-66 and Soyuz TMA-14 docked to it. Mike Fincke, Yuriy Lonchakov, and Charles Simonyi undocked at 0355 UTC on Apr 8 aboard Soyuz TMA-13, landing in Kazakhstan at 0716 UTC at 48 33 56N 69 23 51E, 151 km northeast of Dzezhkazgan.


At 0218 UTC on Apr 8, Kepler ejected its 7.5 kg dust cover; the telescope is now open to space. The dust cover will orbit the Sun in a fractionally different path thanks to its 1.1 m/s ejection velocity, its orbital period different by less than an hour. Kepler was 3.1 million km from Earth at the time of ejection, in a 0.97 x 1.04 AU orbit inclined 0.46 deg to the ecliptic plane, at ecliptic latitude 0.3 deg and ecliptic longitude 197.3 deg. Light travel time to Earth was 10 seconds. (Thanks to JPL’s Whitney Clavin for the dust cover mass and velocity).


North Korea’s Unha-2 rocket was launched from the Tonghae space center at 0230 UTC on Apr 5. The second stage was tracked by Japan as it flew over that country and fell in the Pacific.

According to North Korean statements, a third rocket stage placed the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite in a 490 x 1426 km x 40.6 deg orbit at 9min 2 sec after launch, but the US claims the launch failed and no other nation has reported the detection of any orbiting objects from the launch. I am recording the attempt as a failure. If the third stage did not separate from the second, the orbit may have been around (very roughly) -4550 x 490 km x 40.8 deg; An Apr 5 Yoimuri Shimbun report forwarded to me by David Wright said the impact was 1270 km E of Japan, but on Apr 6 the same paper was reporting a longer range and it seems that the second stage impact was in fact in the region expected before launch.

The North Korean news agency KCNA quoted 0220:00 UTC as the launch time. Western press reported the launch time as 0230 UTC, and Russian sources say they tracked the launch at 0232 UTC. The Worldview-1 satellite took an image of the launch contrail from space reportedly at 0231:16 UTC, which must have been within a couple minutes of launch, so I will adopt 0230 UTC as the best current estimate of the launch time.

Western analysts have assumed that the Unha-2 uses a larger-diameter first stage than the Paektusan-1 rocket used in the 1998 launch attempt; this has now been confirmed by images of the rocket released by North Korea. The pictures are consistent with a rocket about 27m high and 2.2m in diameter, including a 14m long first stage, an 8m long second stage with a diameter of 1.2-1.4m, and a third stage fairing with a diameter around 1.0m (but possibly enclosing a smaller actual third stage).

Eutelsat W2A

International Launch Services delivered the Eutelsat W2A satellite to orbit on a Khrunichev Proton-M/Briz-M on Apr 3. The Thales-Alenia Spacebus 4000C4 carries a Ku, S and C-band communications payload. Eutelsat W2A separated from the Briz-M stage at 0133 UTC on Apr 4 into a 4990 x 35899 km x 20.7 deg geostationary transfer orbit; intermediate orbits in the five-burn ascent were -448 x 186 km x 48.0 deg, 132 x 274 km x 48.0 deg, 239 x 5002 km x 46.8 deg, 299 x 14988 km x 46.1 deg and 398 x 35666 km x 45.6 deg. The Briz-M DTB tank was jettisoned into the 299 x 14988 km orbit at 2002 UTC. By late April, W2A was on station at 1.7 deg E.


The second Wideband Global Satcom satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral on Apr 4. The Boeing-702 class satellite will provide communications for the US Dept. of Defense. Central Command (CENTCOM). WGS 2 is believed to now be in geostationary orbit.


On Apr 14 China launched the second “second generation” (‘erdai’) Beidou navigation satellite, COMPASS-G2 or ‘er ke Beidou Daohang Weixing’ using the CZ-3C (Chang Zheng sanhao bing) launch vehicle. The satellite was initially placed in geostationary transfer orbit. The first four Beidou were called ‘Beidou Daohang Shiyan Weixing’, or Beidou Navigation Test Satellite; the most recent two are the operational ‘Beidou Daohang Weixing’. Beidou is probably now in geostationary orbit, but no orbital data have been released.


India’s PSLV-C12 launch put the RISAT-2 satellite in orbit on Apr 20. RISAT-2 is a Tecsar-class radar imaging satellite that India bought from Israel to make up for delays in the Indian-built RISAT-1.

The PSLV took off at 0115 UTC from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on riharikota Island north of Chennai, and the first three stages placed the PS4 fourth stage with its payloads on a suborbital trajectory of about -1000 x 560 km x 20 deg, heading east to avoid Sri Lanka. After a few minutes coast, the package reached apogee at 0130 UTC over the equator at 116 deg E, and the PS4 yawed to burn the vehicle into a more southerly-bound 400 x 552 km x 41.1 deg orbit. (One source suggests the yaw burn may be at around 5 deg N rather than on the equator, and
confirmation of details would be appreciated). The third stage reentered over the ocean east of Australia at around 0146 UTC. After a depletion burn the fourth stage is in a slightly higher 453 x 559 km orbit.

RISAT-1 separated from the PS4 at 0132 UTC, and two minutes later Anusat, a small 40 kg imaging satellite from Anna University in Chennai, was also ejected from the stage.


Italy’s second military communications satellite, SICRAL 1B, was launched on Apr 20 by a Boeing-Sea Launch Zenit-3SL from the floating Odyssey launch platform in the equatorial Pacific. The satellite was built at Thales Alenia/Torino. The SICRAL (Sistema Italiano per Comunicazioni Riservate ed Allarmi, Italian System for Classified Communications and Alarms) 1B satellite supplements SICRAL 1A launched in 2001 Feb on an Ariane 4.

SICRAL 1B is an improved Thales Alenia Italsat-3000 design; the satellite is 7.8m high and the solar panels span 24.4m. Mass is 3038 kg full, 1680 kg dry. (thanks to Guiseppina Piccirilli of Thales Alenia (I) for details).

The Torino (Turin) plant of Thales Alenia built the ELDO STV satellites in the 1960s, when it was part of FIAT. In 1969 it became part of Aeritalia, in 1990 part of Alenia Spazio, in 2005 part of Alcatel Alenia Space, and in 2007 Thales Alenia.

The Zenit-3SL’s lower two stages put the Blok DM-SL upper stage in a -1949 x 233 km x 0.0 deg trajectory; the two DM burns went to an elliptical 200 x 14108 km x 0.0 deg intermediate orbit and then an 8528 x 35596 km x 0.0 high-perigee geostationary transfer orbit. Three debris objects have been cataloged in the transfer orbit – this is unusual for Zenit-3SL launches.

Yaogan 6

China has launched the Yaogan 6 “China remote sensing satellite No. 6” (Zhongguo yaogan weixing liuhao). It was built by the Shanghai hangtian jishu yanjiuyuan (Shanghai Academy of Space Technology, SAST), part of the Zhongguo hangtian keji jituan gongsi (China Aerospace Research and Technology Corp., CASC).

Launch was by CZ-2C. Six objects have been cataloged in orbit, with the payload raising its orbit from an initial 486 x 521 km x 97.6 deg to 511 x 513 km x 97.6 deg by Apr 29. The rocket stage is in a 431 x 583 km orbit; four small debris objects may be the second stage separation motors.


Kosmos-2450 was launched on a Soyuz-U from Plesetsk on Apr 29 into a 167 x 335 km x 67 degree orbit. It is probably a Kobal’t-M class imaging reconnaissance satellite. The previous such satellite was Kosmos-2445, which flew from 2008 Nov 14 to 2009 Feb 23.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches
Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL.
Mar 7 0350 Kepler Delta 7920-10L Canaveral SLC17B Astronomy 11A
Mar 15 2343 Discovery STS-119 Space Shuttle Kennedy LC39A Spaceship 12A
Mar 17 1421 GOCE Rokot Plesetsk LC133/3 Science 13A
Mar 24 0834 GPS 49 Delta 7925 Canaveral SLC17A Nav 14A
Mar 26 1149 Soyuz TMA-14 Soyuz-FG Baykonur LC1 Spaceship 15A
Apr 3 1624 Eutelsat W2A Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms 16A
Apr 4 0031 WGS SV2 (USA 204) Atlas V 421 Canaveral SLC41 Comms 17A
Apr 5 0230 Kwangmyongsong 2 Unha-2 Tonghae Test F02
Apr 14 1616 2 Beidou Dao.Wei. Chang Zheng 3C Xichang Nav 18A
Apr 20 0115 RISAT-2 ) PSLV-CA Sriharikota SLP Radar 19A
Anusat ) Imaging 19B
Apr 20 0816 SICRAL 1B Zenit-3SL SL Odyssey Comms 20A
Apr 22 0255 China Yaogan 6 Chang Zheng 2C Taiyuan Imaging? 21A
Apr 25 1658 Kosmos-2450 Soyuz-U Plesetsk Imaging 22A

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

Date UT Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission Apogee/km
Mar 6 1054 Target Dhanush Ship, Chandipur Target 120
Mar 6 1100? Interceptor Prithvi Chandipur IC4 ABM Test 75?
Mar 12 1008 SSC REXUS 6 Imp. Orion Esrange Ionos./Tech 88
Mar 13 0600 SSC REXUS 5 Imp. Orion Esrange Atmos./Tech 87
Mar 18 0025? THAAD Target Unknown Kauai Target 100?
Mar 18 0030 THAAD KV THAAD Kauai ABM Test 100?
Mar 18 0030 THAAD KV THAAD Kauai ABM Test 100?
Mar 20 1104 NASA 40.023UE Black Brant XII Poker Flat Aurora 560?
+ 4 subpayloads
Mar 25 1325 PAC-3 Target Hera Fort Wingate Target 100?
Apr 10 0810 RV Topol’ Plesetsk Op Test 1000?
Apr 17 1118 FalconLaunch 7 FalconLaunch White Sands Test 108

SpaceRef staff editor.