Jonathan's Space Report No. 557 - 2005 Nov 24

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Thursday, November 24, 2005


The Expedition 12 crew - Bill McArthur and Valeriy Tokarev - boarded the Soyuz TMA-7 ferry ship on Nov 18 and undocked from the Pirs module at 0846 UTC, backing off and then redocking with the Zarya module at 0905 UTC. The procedure allows spacewalks to be made from the Pirs module.

Venus Express

Europe's latest space probe was launched from Baykonur on Nov 9 and is now in solar orbit en route to Venus.

Venus Express (VEX) was built as a cheap copy of the Mars Express design, which itself used the basic bus developed for the Rosetta comet probe. VEX carries the VMC Venus Monitoring Camera, the VIRTIS ultraviolet-visible-infrared imaging spectrometer, the SPICAV solar-stellar ultraviolet/infrared spectrometer, the PFS infrared planetary fourier spectrometer, the ASPERA plasma instrument, the VERA Venus Radio Science instrument, and a magnetometer. The mission will study the atmosphere and environment of Venus.

VEX was launched by a Starsem Soyuz-FG/Fregat from Baykonur. (Starsem is a French company closely related to Arianespace which markets the Soyuz in its Europeanized FG/Fregat version). The first three stages of Soyuz fired to reach a marginal orbit of about 30 x 190 km x 51.6 deg; the third stage reentered over the Pacific at perigee at around 0410 UTC.

Meanwhile the Fregat stage made a small 50 m/s burn to circularize the orbit, raising perigee to 190 km. After a coast period, Fregat burned again with Fregat/VEX separation at 0511 UTC; Venus Express and Fregat each had a perigee of 344 km and an eccentricity of 1.132, putting them on hyperbolic orbits out of the Earth-Moon system.

Venus Express passed lunar orbit on Nov 10 at 1010 UTC and by Nov 24 was in a 0.702 x 0.993 AU orbit around the Sun with an inclination of 0.26 deg to the ecliptic. It will arrive in Venus orbit on 2006 Apr 11 at around 0840 UTC. The first orbit will be around 250 x 326550 km x 89.7 deg. It will arc out to apogee on Apr 15. Manuevers between then and Apr 30 will put it in a 24-hour Venus orbit of 282 x 66911 km x 90.0 deg, synchronizing it with Earth-based tracking stations. (These figures are derived by analysis of data on the JPL Horizons web site.)

Inmarsat 4F-2

Boeing Sea-Launch orbited Inmarsat's latest satellite on Nov 8. The Yuzhnoe Zenit-3SL with its Energiya Blok DM-SL upper stage lifted off from the equatorial floating Odyssey platform. Stages 1 and 2 flew eastward into a -2271 x 186 km x 3 deg trajectory; the first DM-SL burn boosted to a 180 x 294 km x 3 deg parking orbit, and the second burn put the payload in a 322 x 35803 km x 3.0 deg transfer orbit.

The payload, Inmarsat 4 F-2, is an Astrium/Toulouse Eurostar 3000 satellite with a large 10-meter diameter antenna for mobile communications. Launch mass was 5958 kg. The satellite entered the geostationary region on around Nov 13.


Japan's Hayabusa probe approached asteroid Itokawa on Nov 12 to within 55 m. The MINERVA lander was released, but floated away from the asteroid instead of falling to its surface. Hayabusa then retired to its safe parking distance at about 5 km. The first of three 10-cm target markers was released on Nov 9, also into solar orbit.

On Nov 19, the probe again approached Itokawa. Release of the second target marker happening around 2030 UTC with impact on the surface at 2036 UTC. The Hayabusa probe landed on Itokawa at 2110 UTC, bounced, and settled on the surface at 2130 UTC. Because an obstacle sensor had been triggered, the sampler did not operate although some dust may have entered it. The probe took off again at 2158 UTC. A safe-mode command sent it around 100 km from the asteroid and it is now heading back to the rendezvous position for another possible landing.


Arianespace launched an Ariane 5ECA (vehicle 522) on Nov 16; it placed two communications satellites in orbit. The EPC core stage flew a low-altitude -1047 x 161 km x 6.5 deg suborbital trajectory with impact in the Gulf of Guinea. The ESC-A upper stage then burned to geostationary transfer orbit. This was the third flight of ESC-A, which is a fatter version of the Ariane 4 upper stage; it also flew on vehicle 517 (a failure) and vehicle 521.

The upper payload on flight 167/vehicle 522 was DirecTV's massive Spaceway-2 broadcasting satellite. With a launch mass of 6116 kg, the Boeing/El-Segundo seres 702-2000 satellite is at the upper end of geostationary payload masses. Spaceway-1 was launched earlier this year on a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL. Underneath the Sylda-5 adapter flew Telkom-2, a factor of three lighter and using Orbital's Star 2 small geostationary satellite bus. Telkom-2 is an Indonesian communications satellite, continuing the series serving the archipelago that began with Palapa-1 in 1976. Spaceway 1 was drifting east over 117E by Nov 23; Telkom 2 raised itself to a supersynchronous transfer orbit of 563 x 41473 km x 6.6 deg by the same date.


It now seems likely that the Norwegian student sub-satellite NCUBE-2 did not eject from its SSETI-Express parent spacecraft.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Oct  1 0355   Soyuz TMA-7       Soyuz-FG        Baykonur LC1     Spaceship   39A
Oct  8 1502   Cryosat           Rokot           Plesetsk LC133   Science     F03
Oct 12 0100   Shenzhou 6        CZ-2F           Jiuquan          Spaceship   40A
Oct 13 2232   Syracuse 3A  )    Ariane 5GS      Kourou ELA3      Comms       41A
              Galaxy 15    )                                     Comms       41B
Oct 19 1805   USA 186           Titan 4B        Vandenberg SLC4E Imaging     42A
Oct 27 0652   Topsat        )   Kosmos-3M       Plesetsk LC132/1 Imaging     43B
              Beijing-1     )                                    Imaging     43A
              Sinah         )                                    Imaging?    43D
              SSETI Express )                                   Imaging/Tech 43E
              Mozhaets-5    )                                    Tech/Comms  43G
              UWE-1         )                                    Comms       43F
              NCube-2       )                                    Comms       43E
              Cubesat XI-V  )                                    Tech        43C
              Rubin-5       )                                    Comms       43G
Nov  8 1407   Inmarsat 4F-2     Zenit-3SL       Odyssey, POR     Comms       44A
Nov  9 0333   Venus Express     Soyuz-Fregat    Baykonur LC31    Space probe 45A
Nov 16 2346   Spaceway 2 )      Ariane 5ECA     Kourou ELA3      Comms       46A
              Telkom 2   )                                       Comms       46B
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