Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 652

By SpaceRef Editor
January 9, 2012
Filed under , ,

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 652 2012 Jan 8 Austin, Texas, USA

The Earth made its annual closest approach to the Sun at about 0030 UTC on Jan 5. A happy perihelion to all my readers!

Space Station

Launch of the Soyuz TMA-03M spaceship from Baykonur with Oleg Kononenko, Andre Kuipers and Don Pettit occurred on Dec 21. The ship docked with the Rassvet module at 1519 UTC on Dec 23.

Meridian failure

Launch of the fifth Meridian military communcations satellite from Plesetk failed on Dec 23, once again putting the Soyuz-2-1b launch vehicle in doubt. The Blok-I third stage malfunctioned 7 min 1 s after launch, a couple of minutes short of orbit insertion. Blok-I with the Fregat upper stage and the payload crashed near Novosibirsk.

It has been reported that this was the first launch under the auspices of the VVKO (Voyska Vosdushno-Kosmicheskoi Oborona, Aerospace Defence Forces), which on Dec 1 officially replaced the KVR (Russian Space Forces), although Aleksandr Zheleznakyov (personal comm.) says that the Nov 28 launch was actually the first for Voiska VKO. (The intermediate launches were civilian ones performed by the Roskosmos).


The GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B spacecraft entered lunar orbit on Dec 31 and Jan 1. The planned capture orbits were 88 x 8378 km x 87.2 deg for GRAIL-A, and 111 x 8359 km x 88.3 deg for GRAIL-B. According to the actual orbit for GRAIL-A is 90 x 8362 km. The GRAIL probes will now maneuver close to each other to begin their gravity mapping mission.


Six Globalstar low orbit telecom satellites were launched on Dec 28 on a Soyuz-2-1a from Plesetk. The successful launch by Roskosmos was a relief coming only days after the Soyuz-2-1b failure, which may – perhaps – be isolated to the RD-0124 engine that’s unique to the 1b variant. I don’t yet have the serial numbers for the six satellites.


The Aerospace Corporation’s PSSC Testbed 2 picosatellite, ejected from mission STS-135, reentered on Dec 8. The 4 kg satellite carried four tiny model-rocket motors to raise its orbit. One of those was fired on Nov 4 at around 1530 UTC and raised the orbit slightly from 90.9 min, 317 x 319 km to 91.0 min, 316 x 329 km, delaying decay by about 4 days. Based on the otherwise steady orbital decay rate, it appears that the remaining motors were not fired.

ZY-1 02C

China launched the Ziyuan yihao 02C satellite from Taiyuan on Dec 22. The satellite carries imaging cameras with a resolution of 2.4m. The two earlier ZY-1 satellites were launched as part of a joint Sino-Brazilian program (CBERS), but this one appears to be all-Chinese. China also has a ZY-2 series, thought to be used for defense related imaging, while ZY-1 is used for civilian mapping and resource monitoring.

Tiangong and X-37

The USAF’s X-37B OTV spaceplane launched in Mar 2011 remains in orbit. However, contrary to some recent media reports, its mission is unrelated to observations of the Tiangong-1 spacelab; the orbital planes of the two vehicles are perpendicular.


Of course, Cassini’s been in Saturn orbit since 2004 Jul 1, not 2005 – that should teach me not to send out JSR at 3am in future.

Suborbital flights

On Dec 23 the Russian Navy carried out a launch of two Bulava missiles from the submarine Yuriy Dolgorukiy, according to Pavel Podvig’s site Each missile carried several (probably six) reentry vehicles which flew from the White Sea to the Kura test range in Kamchatka. On Dec 27, a UR-100NU rocket was launched from Baykonur to Kura carrying an experimental reentry vehicle.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches
Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL.
Nov 4 1251 Glonass-M No. 43) Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC81 Navsat 64A
Glonass-M No. 44) Navsat 64B
Glonass-M No. 45) Navsat 64C
Nov 8 2016 Fobos-Grunt Zenit-2SB Baykonur LC45 Mars probe 65A
Nov 9 0321 Yaogan Weixing 12) Chang Zheng 4B Taiyuan Imaging? 66B
Tianxun 1 ) Imaging 66A
Nov 14 0414 Soyuz TMA-22 Soyuz-FG Baykonur LC1 Spaceship 67A
Nov 20 0015 Shiyan Weixing 4 ) Chang Zheng 2D Jiuquan Tech? 68B
Chuanxin 1-03 ) Tech 68A
Nov 25 1910 Asiasat 7 Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms 69B
Nov 26 1502 MSL Atlas V 541 Canaveral SLC41 Mars probe 70A
Nov 28 0826 Glonass-M No. 46 Soyuz-2-1B Plesetsk LC43 Navsat 71A
Nov 29 1850 Yaogan Weixing 13 Chang Zheng 2C Taiyuan Radar? 72A
Dec 1 2107 Beidou DW10 Chang Zheng 3A Xichang Navsat 73A
Dec 11 1117 Amos 5 ) Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur Comms 74A
Luch 5A ) DataRelay 74B
Dec 12 0121 JSE Reda-3 gouki H-IIA 202 Tanegashima Radar 75A
Dec 17 0203 Pleiades HR1 ) Soyuz ST-A CSG ELS Imaging 76A
Elisa 1 ) Sigint 76
Elisa 2 ) Sigint 76
Elisa 3 ) Sigint 76
Elisa 4 ) Sigint 76
Fasat-Charlie) Imaging 76
Dec 19 1641 Nigcomsat 1R Chang Zheng 3BE Xichang LC2 Comms 77A
Dec 21 1316 Soyuz TMA-03M Soyuz-FG Baykonur LC1 Spaceship 78A
Dec 22 0326 ZY-1 02C Chang Zheng 4B Taiyuan Imaging 79A
Dec 23 1208 Meridian Soyuz-2-1B Plesetsk Comms F04
Dec 28 1709 Globalstar ) Soyuz-2-1A Baykonur LC31 Comms 80A
Globalstar ) Comms 80B
Globalstar ) Comms 80C
Globalstar ) Comms 80D
Globalstar ) Comms 80E
Globalstar ) Comms 80F

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

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

Nov 2 0750 RV Jericho III Palmachim Test 300?
Nov 3 0645 RV Topol’ Plesetsk Test 1000?
Nov 6 NASA 36.264UH Black Brant 9 White Sands Astronomy 250?
Nov 15 0330 Agni RV Agni IV Chandipur Test 900
Nov 17 1130 AHW Flight 1A STARS Kauai LC42 Hypersonic 1000?
Nov 25 2300 Orion V05 Orion Natal Test 100?
Nov 27 0910 TEXUS 48 VSB-30 Kiruna Micrograv 270?
Dec 2 2200 VS30 V08 VS-30 Natal Space sci? 173?
Dec 3 0721 ICI-3 VS-30/Orion Svalbard Auroral 354
Dec 19? MR-30 payload MR-30 Kapustin Yar Test 304
Dec 23 RV x 6? Bulava K-535, White Sea Salvo test 1000?
Dec 23 RV x 6? Bulava K-535, White Sea Salvo test 1000?
Dec 27 1200 RV UR-100NU Baykonur Test 1000?

| Jonathan McDowell | phone : (617) 495-7176 |
| Somerville MA 02143 | inter : planet4589 at gmail |
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SpaceRef staff editor.