Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 636 2010 Dec 30

By SpaceRef Editor
December 31, 2010
Filed under ,

Shuttle and Station

Expedition 26 is now underway with crew commander Scott Kelly, flight engineer-2 Aleksandr Kaleri, flight engineer-3 Oleg Skripochka, flight engineer-4 Dmitri Kondratev, flight engineer-5 Paolo Nespoli and flight engineer-6 Cady Coleman aboard the Station. Soyuz TMA-01M is docked at Poisk, Progress M-07M at Zvezda, and Progress M-08M at Pirs, and Soyuz TMA-20 at Rassvet.

Soyuz TMA-20 was launched on Dec 15, carrying Kondratev, Nespoli and Coleman. It docked with the Rassvet module at 2011 UTC on Dec 17.

On Dec 22-23, the SPDM robot hand was used to relocate a cargo container (CTC-3) between two locations on the ELC-2 storage pallet.

Proton failure

A Proton-M was launched on Dec 6 carrying three Uragan-M satellites for the Glonass system. The third stage went off course because an extra 1500 kg of propellant was loaded in the fourth stage by mistake; the extra mass caused the final velocity to be around 100 m/s too low, leading to an orbit which I estimate to have been around -150 x 165 km x 64.8 deg. (For what it’s worth, an anonymous post on citing unidentified Russian sources reported an orbit of -154 x 189 km x 64.8 deg). The third stage and, separately, the upper composite consisting of the satellites mounted on the Blok DM-3 stage reentered over the Pacific on their first revolution.

Federal Space Agency news releases reported the satellite names as “Glonass-M”. (Successful Glonass satellites have all been given Kosmos cover names).

Proton launch

Another Proton-M was launched on Dec 26, carrying the commercial KA-SAT payload for Eutelsat. This time Proton-M was successful and the Briz-M stage made 5 burns from a -496 x 171 km injection orbit to a deployment orbit of 3704 x 35763 km x 24.6 deg.

KA-SAT is an Astrium Eurostar 3000 satellite with a launch mass of 6150 kg and a dry mass of 3200 kg, providing broadband services in the Ka-band with 80 spot beams.

Akatsuki at Venus

Japan’s Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter probe reached Venus on Dec 6 but a malfunction at the time of the insertion burn at 2349 UTC prevented the probe from entering Venus orbit. The probe remains in solar orbit. The Ikaros solar sail craft flew past Venus at 80000 km at 0739 UTC on Dec 8.


SpaceX launched its second Falcon 9 rocket at 1543 UTC on Dec 8, successfully putting the first Dragon spacecraft into a 279 x 308 km x 34.5 deg orbit for a test flight. The capsule was recovered in the Pacific a few hours later, splashing down 800 km W of Mexico at 1903 UTC.

The actual splashdown location and the mass of the Dragon spacecraft have not been reported.

The Dragon C1’s Trunk Module remained attached to the Falcon 9 second stage after orbit insertion; the capsule separated from the trunk module. About 45 min after launch six small satellites were also ejected from the trunk.

The small satellites used the 1U (0.1 x 0.1m) and 3U (0.1 x 0.3m) cubesat buses, some with deployable solar panels. SMDC-ONE is an Operational Nanosatellite Experiment for the US Army Space and Missile Defense Center (Huntsville, Alabama), possibly carrying a communications payload. QbX-1 and QbX-2 are Cubesat Experiments built by Pumpkin Inc. of San Francisco for the National Reconaissance Office’s Colony-1 technology development project. They also carry communications payloads, developed by the Naval Research Laboratory. These first three payloads are 3U cubesats. Caerus/Mayflower is an experiment for Northrop Grumman NovaWorks and the University of Southern California, a 3U cubesat made up of the 2U (double cube) Mayflower Next Generation Technology Nanosat from Northrop Grumman and a 1U (single cube) from USC’s engineering schools in Los Angeles and Marina del Rey, with deployable solar panels. Not much information is available about four 1U-size Los Alamos National Laboratory `Perseus’ cubesats; they may be monitoring the ionosphere.


An attempt to eject the Nanosail-D2 experiment from Fastsat was made at 0631 UTC on Dec 6, but the satellite has not been tracked and it seems possible that the ejection may have failed.


The X-37B spaceplane landed successfully at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 0916 UTC on Dec 3. Launched on Apr 23 by an Atlas V, the X-37B completed its mission with the second ever automated runway landing following orbital re-entry; the first was the USSR’s Buran in 1988.

Suborbital launches

Russia launched a Topol’ missile from Kapustin Yar to Sary Shagan on Dec 5. India launched an Agni I missile on Nov 25; an Agni 2P launch on Dec 10 failed to leave the atmosphere. On Dec 15 a modified Trident I missile was launched as a target from Kwajalein Atoll’s Meck Island in the Pacific, and a Pegasus-derived Ground Based Interceptor launched from Vandenberg failed to intercept it.

A Terrier Orion from White Sands carried a JPL technology experiment to 120 km on Dec 6; it will be used to refine methods for planetary lander terrain recognition (thanks to the forum for details).

The Brazilian Space Agency completed Operation Maracati 2 with the launch of VSB-30 V07 carrying the MICROG 1A payload, following a test launch using Improved Orion V03 to check out operations at Alcantara.


China launched the 7th Beidou Navigation Satellite (di qi ke beidou daohang weixing) on Dec 17 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (xichang weixing fashe zhongxin). The launch vehicle was the “Changzheng sanhao jia” (Long March 3A). Beidou Daohang Weixing 7 will be the second in inclined geosynchronous orbit, following BDW5 launched in July, and is also referred to as Compass I2. It reached synchronous orbit on Dec 22 and as of Dec 29 was in a 35716 x 35857 km x 55.2 deg orbit.


India’s GSLV Mk I rocket flight F06 was destroyed one minute after launch on Dec 25 after the steering system on its strapon boosters failed to receive commands from the rocket’s computer. The vehicle reached an altitude of 15 km. The rocket carried the GSAT-5P communications satellite, and was to feature the first use of a stretched version of the Russian-developed third stage.

Ariane 5

Ariane 5ECA vehicle 557, flight V199, placed two satellites in orbit on Dec 29. The upper passenger was Hispasat 1E for Spain’s Hispasat, a 5320 kg full/2175 kg dry Loral 1300 satellite; the lower was Koreasat 6 for Korea Telecom, an Orbital Star-2 with 2850 kg mass at launch, 1150 kg dry. Transfer orbit was 273 x 35876 km x 3.1 deg. Both satellites carry Ku-band broadcasting/comms payloads.


The first SJ-12 rendezvous was with SJ-6/3A (2008-53B) on 2010 Aug 19. Thanks to Igor Lissov for pointing out the error in the last JSR.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL.
Nov 2 0059 Meridan Soyuz-2-1a/Fregat Plesetsk LC43/3 Comms 58A
Nov 5 1837 Fengyun 3 (01)B Chang Zheng 4C Taiyuan Weather 59A
Nov 6 0220 COSMO-SkyMed 4 Delta 7420-10 Vandenberg SLC2W Radar 60A
Nov 14 1729 SkyTerra 1 Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur Comms 61A
Nov 20 0125 STPSat-2 ) Minotaur IV Kodiak Tech 62A
Falconsat-5 ) Tech 62E
Fastsat-HSV ) Tech 62D
Fastrac 1 ) Tech 62F
Fastrac 2 ) Tech 62
O/OREOS ) Science 62C
RAX ) Science 62B
S26 Ballast A) Dummy 62J
S26 Ballast B) Dummy 62K
Nov 21 2258 USA 223 Delta IVH Canaveral SLC37B Sigint? 63A
Nov 24 1609 Zhongxing 20A Chang Zheng 3A Xichang Comms 64A
Nov 26 1839 Intelsat IS-17 ) Ariane 5ECA Kourou ELA3 Comms 65A
Hylas 1 ) Comms 65B
Dec 6 0631 Nanosail-D2 Fastsat,LEO Tech 62L?
Dec 6 1025 Glonass-M ) Proton-M/DM-3 Baykonur Navigation F03
Glonass-M ) Navigation F03
Glonass-M ) Navigation F03
Dec 8 1543 Dragon C1 ) Falcon 9 Canaveral SLC40 Spaceship 66A
SMDC-One ) Comms? 66C
QbX-1 ) Secret 66F
QbX-2 ) Secret 66B
Perseus 000 ) Tech? 66H
Perseus 001 ) Tech? 66E
Perseus 002 ) Tech? 66G
Perseus 003 ) Tech? 66D
Caerus/Mayflower) Tech 66J
Dec 15 1909 Soyuz TMA-20 Soyuz-FG Baykonur LC1 Spaceship 67A
Dec 17 2020 Beidou DW7 Chang Zheng 3A Xichang Navigation 68A
Dec 25 1034 GSAT-5P GSLV Sriharikota SLP Comms F04
Dec 26 2151 KA-SAT Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms 69A
Dec 29 2127 Hispasat 1E ) Ariane 5ECA Kourou Comms 70A
Koreasat 6 ) Comms 70B

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

Date UT Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission Apogee/km

Nov 25 0440 Agni I RV Agni 1 Wheeler Island Test 300?
Dec 4 0421 ECOMA 7 Nike Orion Andoya Meteor dust 135
Dec 5 1911 Topol' RV Topol' Kapustin Yar Test 1000?
Dec 6 1719 Maracati 2 Orion Alcantara Range Test 103
Dec 6 1730? NASA 41.087NT Terrier Orion White Sands Tech 120
Dec 12 0638 NASA 40.026UE Black Brant XII Andoya Aurora 500?
Dec 12 1535 MICROG 1A VSB-30 Alcantara Micrograv 242
Dec 13 0324 ECOMA 8 Nike Orion Andoya Meteor dust 138
Dec 15 1957? FTG-06A Target LV-2 Meck Island Target 1000?
Dec 15 2003 FTG-06A KV GBI Vandenberg LF23 Interceptor 1000?
Dec 19 0236 ECOMA 9 Nike Orion Andoya Meteor dust 135?

| Jonathan McDowell | phone : (617) 495-7176 |
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SpaceRef staff editor.