Jonathan's Space Report No. 572 2006 Oct 24

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Shuttle and Station

With the return of mission STS-115 and Soyuz TMA-8, the Expedition 14 crew of Mikhail Tyurin, Mike Lopez-Alegria, and Thomas Reiter continue on board the International Space Station. Note that the record number of people in space at once is still 13; on 1995 Mar 14 with the launch of Soyuz TM-21 there were 13 people in space:

STS-67 Steve Oswald, William Gregory, John Grunsfeld, Wendy Lawrence, Tammy Jernigan, Sam Durrance, Ron Parise

Mir (Ex18) Aleksandr Viktorenko, Yelena Kondakova, Valeriy Polyakov

Soyuz TM-21 Vladimir Dezhurov, Gennadiy Strekalov, Norm Thagard

The record for the largest number of people on a single spacecraft is 10, which happened for the first time aboard the Mir/Atlantis/Soyuz TM-21 complex on 1995 Jun 29 and has been repeated numerous times since on Mir and the ISS.

Soyuz TMA-8 undocked from Zarya on Sep 28 at 2153 UTC, carrying Vinogradov, Williams and Ansari. It landed in Kazakstan at 0113 UTC on Sep 29. On Oct 10 Soyuz TMA-9 was undocked from Zvezda at 1914 UTC and redocked with Zarya at 1934 UTC.

Progress M-58 was launched on Oct 23 carrying supplies for the Station.

Erratum: Atlantis undocking was of course on Sep 17, not Sep 20. Thanks to Alexander Anikeev for pointing out this goof.


Japan successfully launched the SOLAR-B satellite on Sep 22. It carries a large optical telescope and an X-ray telescope. The X-ray telescope was built by Leon Golub's group at Smithsonian Observatory.

JAXA's Japanese web site has announced that the post-launch name for SOLAR-B is "Hinode", meaning 'sunrise'. Hinode took its first high-quality X-ray image on Oct 23; the optical telescope door opening is scheduled for Oct 25.

Two small secondary payloads were carried by the M-V rocket final stage: HIT-SAT, a cubesat from Hokkaido Inst. of Technology and SSSAT, an ISAS-JAXA solar sail experiment. JAXA has released almost no information about SSSAT - I do not know its dimensions, mass, or whether it deployed correctly.

Cataloging of the Hinode objects is confused; A is the payload, launched into a 271 x 678 km x 98.3 orbit and now in a 674 x 695 km x 98.1 deg orbit after three perigee raise burns. B is the M-34 rocket casing. F is HIT-SAT; C and D decayed rapidly - maybe pieces of insulation, or possibly the solar sail experiment. A number of other debris objects are in slowly decaying orbits.


Japan's secret spy satellite, launched in September, is being tracked by hobbyist observers in a 484 x 491 km x 97.3 deg orbit.

GPS 58

Navstar GPS Block IIR-M satellite SVN 58 was launched on Sep 25 as Blok IIR-15(M). The Boeing Delta 7925 put it in a transfer orbit with a 20000 km apogee. The GPS satellite's solid apogee motor was ignited on Sep 28 and put the payload in a 20252 x 20471 km x 54.9 deg orbit.

SJ-8 and Kosmos-2423

The SJ-8 seeds satellite was recovered in Sichuan province at 0243 UTC on Sep 24. The Russian Kosmos-2423 (Don) imaging satellite remains in a 205 x 300 km x 64.9 deg orbit as of Oct 23.


China has launched two more Shi Jian 6 satellites, designated SJ-6 Group 2 satellites A and B. They replace the SJ-6 Group 1 satellites A and B. China reports the purpose of these satellites is to measure the space environment, but to my knowledge no scientific results have been published, and an intelligence role seems possible.

The SJ-6 Group 2 satellites were launched into a 592 x 600 km x 97.1 deg orbit.


Arianespace launched Ariane 5ECA vehicle 533, flight V175 on Oct 13. DirectTV is a Loral 1300 satellite for US television broadcasting; Optus D1 is an Orbital Star-2 for the Australia (Singapore-owned) Optus system. The upper stage carried an ASAP5 secondary payload structure with a JAXA payload called LDREX-2. LDREX-2 deployed and then ejected a 6.5-meter antenna as a rehearsal for Japan's ETS-8 experimental satellite (LDREX-1 on 2000 Dec 20 failed to deploy correctly).

Ariane 533 took off at 2056 UTC and the core stage separated into a -1105 x 159 km x 6.7 deg sub-orbit at 2105. The ESC-A upper stage then reached a 250 x 35780 km x 6.9 deg geostationary transfer orbit at 2140 UTC. DirecTV 9S, the Sylda 5 dual-payload adapter, and the Optus D1 satellite separated between 2142 and 2148 UTC and deployment of the LDREX experiment was meant to start at 2158 UTC, with separation of the antenna scheduled for 2224 UTC.


Europe's METOP A (METOP 2) polar weather satellite was launched on Oct 19 by a Starsem Soyuz-2-1A/Fregat with an ST fairing from Baykonur. It inaugurates the Eumetsat Polar System, a European equivalent of NOAA's polar satellites (just as Eumetsat's METEOSAT series are the analog of NOAA's GOES geostationary weather platforms). METOP A carries a wide range of advanced instruments including ozone monitors, a GPS atmospheric sounding device, and a wind scatterometer, as well as the usual visible and IR imagers and sounders. It also carries a search and rescue package.

Soyuz-2-1A consists of an improved stage 1/2 'packet', still similar in overall external design to the 1957-era 8K71 (R-7) ballistic missile. The Blok I third stage has the same propulsion system as that used on the existing Soyuz-U and Soyuz-FG; it will be replaced with a new engine in the forthcoming Soyuz-2-1B variant. Soyuz-2-1A was tested on a suborbital mission in Nov 2004, but this was its first orbital launch and the first use with Fregat.

The Soyuz vehicle third stage reached a -2280 x 230 km x 98.7 deg orbit; the Fregat upper stage (S/N 1011) ignited at 1638 UTC and shut down at 1645 UTC in a 170 x 820 km transfer orbit. Reignition at 1731 UTC was followed by separation of METOP at 1737 UTC into a 818 x 826 km x 98.7 deg orbit. The Fregat made its third burn at 1815 UTC into a -31 x 824 km orbit with reentry over the Pacific at around 1855 UTC.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Sep  9 0700?  SJ-8              Chang Zheng 2C  Jiuquan          Micrograv.  35A
Sep  9 1515  Atlantis (STS-115) Shuttle         Kennedy LC39B    Spaceship   36A
Sep 11 0435   IGS Optical-2     H2A             Tanegashima      Imaging     37A
Sep 12 1602   Zhongxing-22A     Chang Zheng 3A  Xichang          Comms       38A
Sep 14 1341   Kosmos-2423       Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC31    Imaging     39A
Sep 18 0408   Soyuz TMA-9       Soyuz-FG        Baykonur LC1     Spaceship   40A
Sep 22 2136   Hinode   )        M-V             Uchinoura        Astronomy   41A
              HIT-SAT  )                                         Tech        41F
              SSSAT    )                                         Tech        41D?
Sep 25 1850   GPS 58            Delta 7925-9.5  Canaveral SLC17A Navigation  42A
Oct 13 2056   DirecTV 9S  )     Ariane 5ECA     Kourou ELA3      Comms       43
              Optus D1    )                                      Comms       43
              LDREX 2     )                                      Tech        43
Oct 19 1628   METOP A           Soyuz-2-1A      Baykonur LC31    Weather     44A
Oct 23 1340   Progress M-58     Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC1     Cargo       45A
Oct 23 2334   SJ-6-2A )         Chang Zheng 4B  Taiyuan          Sigint?     46A
              SJ-6-2B )                                          Sigint?     46B

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