Jonathan's Space Report No. 563 2006 Apr 26

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2006


There's been a lot of traffic at the International Space Station over the past month.

The Progress M-54 cargo ship undocked from the Zvezda module on Mar 3 at 1006 UTC and fired its engines to reenter over the Pacific at 1305 UTC. Progress M-55 remains docked to the Pirs module.

At 0649 UTC on Mar 20 McArthur and Tokarev flew Soyuz TMA-7 from the Zarya docking port to the docking port at the aft end of Zvezda, with docking at 0711 UTC. This leaves Zarya free to welcome Soyuz TMA-8 early on Apr 1.

At 0230 UTC on Mar 30 spacecraft Soyuz TMA-8 was launched from Baykonur with commander Pavel Vinogradov, NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams and Brazilian astronaut Marcos Pontes. TMA-8 docked with the Zarya nadir port at 0419 UTC on Apr 1.

McArthur, Tokarev and Pontes transferred to TMA-7 on Apr 8, closing the hatches at 1715 UTC and undocking from Zvezda at 2028 UTC, leaving Vinogradov and Williams as Expedition 13 in charge of the station. Soyuz TMA-7 fired its engines at 2258 UTC for the deorbit burn and landed in Kazakhstan at 2348 UTC.

The Progress M-56 cargo ship was launched on Apr 24 and is en route for docking with the Zvezda module.

Falcon 1

The first launch of SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket ended in a failure within the first minute of flight (available video ends at about 41s after launch with the vehicle heading back down to the ocean). According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, a fuel leak at T+25s caused a fire in the first stage engine area. The Falcon 1 was launched from Omelek Island, Kwajalein Atoll on Mar 24 carrying the 20 kg Falconsat-2 test/science payload for the USAF Academy and DARPA. It's been reported from Kwaj ( that the payload fell back to Earth through the roof of SpaceX's machine shop.

Arabsat 4A

The Arabsat 4A satellite, stranded in transfer orbit by a Krunichev Briz-M failure on Feb 28, was removed from orbit on Mar 24. The satellite probably fired its apogee engine around 0020 UTC to lower its perigee into the atmosphere; according to an MSNBC press report it reentered over the South Pacific at 0207 UTC.

Space Technology 5

Space Technology 5, one of NASA's New Millenium Program projects, was launched on 2006 Mar 22. ST5 consists of three small spacecraft 25 kg in mass, 0.5m high 0.5m diaemter with a small extensible magnetometer boom. The Goddard-built craft will study the magnetosphere, but the main point of the project -also known as Nanosat Constellation Trailblazer - is to demonstrate fully functional satellites in a very small package. The satellites include a cold gas microthruster, and miniaturized telemetry/command and power systems.

The Orbital Sciences L-1011 Stargazer carrier aircraft took off from RW30/12 at Vandenberg on Mar 22 at 1304 UTC. The Pegasus rocket was dropped from the aircraft at 1403 UTC over approximately 123W 36N. At 1409 UTC the vehicle reached a 301 x 4568 km x 105.6 deg polar orbit. A special dispenser ejected the three satellites.

Venus Express

ESA's Venus Express arrived in orbit around Venus on Apr 11. The 53-minute orbit insertion burn begain at 0710 UTC and left VEx in a highly elliptical polar orbit around Venus with an apoapsis of 350000 km. Orbit lowering is in progress; as of the final main engine burn scheduled for Apr 23 the orbit was expected to be 257 x 70463 km.


On Apr 12 Sea Launch orbited the JCSAT-9 communications satellite using a Zenit-3SL rocket. JCSAT-9, built by Lockheed Martin using an A2100AX bus, will provide comms services for the Japanese JSAT company. The satellite was placed in an initial 1710 x 35667 km x 0.04 deg orbit. By Apr 23 it was in a 35664 x 35769 km x 0.03 deg orbit drifting over 130 deg E.


The US-Taiwanese FORMOSAT-3 mission was launched on Apr 15 by a Orbital Sciences Minotaur from Vandenberg Air Force Base. FORMOSAT-3 consists of six small 62 kg Orbcomm-type satellites with GPS receivers which will measure atmospheric conditions by studying the effect of the atmosphere on GPS satellite signals passing through it. The satellites, also known as COSMIC (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate), will eventually be positioned in equally spaced orbit planes at around 800 km altitude. Initial orbits were around 500 x 540 km x 72 deg.


A new 290 kg satellite for the Israeli ImageSat company (incorporated in the Cayman Is.) was launched on Apr 25 by a Russian Start-1 solid launch vehicle from the far Eastern launch base at Svobodniy into a 503 x 513 km x 97.3 deg orbit.

Astra 1KR

Lockheed Martin launched an Atlas V 411, serial AV-008, from Cape Canaveral on Apr 20. The unusual long first Centaur burn went to a 167 x 22442 km x 24.8 deg transfer orbit, followed by a second burn to 6470 x 36240 km x 23.8 deg. The payload, a Lockheed Martin A2100 Ku-band comms satellite for SES Astra, will use its own propulsion to head for geostationary orbit.

Note: The Dawn mission (JSR 562) has now been uncancelled... -----

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Mar 11 2233   Hotbird 7A )      Ariane 5 ECA    Kourou ELA3      Comms       07A
              Spainsat   )
Mar 22 1403   ST5-FWD )         Pegasus XL      L1011,WTR        Tech        08A
              ST5-MID )                                                      08B
              ST5-AFT )                                                      08C
Mar 24 2230   Falconsat-2       Falcon 1        Omelek           Tech        F01
Mar 30 0230   Soyuz TMA-8       Soyuz-FG        Baykonur LC1     Spaceship   09A
Apr 12 2330   JCSAT-9           Zenit-3SL       Odyssey, POR     Comms       10A
Apr 15 0140   Formosat-3 FM1 )  Minotaur        Vandenberg SLC8  Science     11A
              Formosat-3 FM2 )                                   Science     11B
              Formosat-3 FM3 )                                   Science     11C
              Formosat-3 FM4 )                                   Science     11D
              Formosat-3 FM5 )                                   Science     11E
              Formosat-3 FM6 )                                   Science     11F
Apr 20 2027   Astra 1KR         Atlas V 411     Canaveral SLC41  Comms       12A
Apr 24 1603   Progress M-56     Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC1     Cargo       13A
Apr 25 1647   EROS B            Start-1         Svobodniy        Imaging     14A
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