Jonathan's Space Report No. 573 2006 Nov 18

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Monday, November 20, 2006

Shuttle and Station

Progress M-58 was launched on Oct 23 carrying supplies for the Station. It soft-docked with the Zvezda module at 1429 UTC on Oct 26. However there were indications that the Kurs rendezvous orientation antenna mounted on the docking ring at the forward end of the Progress did not retract correctly. The Station remained in free drift for several hours; eventually it was decided that the antenna was fine, the latches between Progress and Zvezda were driven closed at around 1806 UTC, and the Station resumed active attitude control.


NASA's STEREO mission was launched on Oct 26 at 0052 UTC. The Delta entered a 165 x 171 km parking orbit at 0102 UTC; the second burn raised it to 166 x 3179 km x 28.49 deg at 0109 UTC. Stage 2 separated and the spinning stage 3 fired to place itself in a translunar orbit, planned prelaunch to be 182 x 403810 km x 28.5 deg. At 0117 UTC two despin weights were jettisoned and the STEREO A/B pair separated from the Star 48B stage. At 0119 UTC STEREO A and B were scheduled to separate from one another. They will remain in the translunar orbit several months and then use lunar gravity assists to enter solar orbit. The third stage was expected to reenter early on Nov 6; it was not cataloged. On Dec 15 at 1350 UTC STEREO B will pass 10745 km above the lunar surface and be thrown into a 130000 x 870000 km x 27.9 deg phasing orbit. Five minutes later, STEREO A will fly 5937 km above the Moon and enter a 180000 x 1750000 km x 33.6 deg orbit; ignoring the Sun's gravity, the instantaneous Keplerian orbit is formally bound (below escape velocity) but in fact STEREO A will escape the Earth-Moon system around Dec 24. On Jan 21 at 1552 UTC, STEREO B will re-encounter the Moon with a 16029 km altitude flyby and also end up on a departure orbit. STEREO A will end up in a 0.95 x 0.97 AU x 0.12 deg, 344 day orbit around the Sun, leading the Earth. STEREO B will end up in a 0.99 x 1.09 AU x 0.03 deg, 389 day orbit trailing the Earth.

The two spacecraft will observe the Sun, allowing coordinated observations of solar activity from vantage points inaccessible for Earth-orbiting spacecraft. Optical and UV imagers, radio burst monitors and particle detectors will provide space weather information and allow study of Earthbound coronal mass ejections from the side.


The Messenger probe, launched in 2004, made its first Venus flyby on Oct 24. It passed 2990 km from the surface of Venus at 0834 UTC on a hyperbolic trajectory with an inclination of 116 deg to the Venus equator and an eccentricity of 3.27.

Before the flyby Messenger's orbit around the Sun was 0.60 x 1.05 AU inclined 2.6 deg to the ecliptic. Now it is 0.55 x 0.90 AU with an increased inclination of 8.1 deg.

 Date               Flyby          Closest Approach
 2004 Aug  3 0616   Launch          
 2005 Aug  2 1913   Earth-1        2336 km
 2006 Oct 24 0834   Venus-1        2990 km
 2007 Jun  6        Venus-2         300 km
 2008 Jan 14        Mercury-1       200 km
 2008 Oct  6        Mercury-2       200 km
 2009 Sep 30        Mercury-3       200 km
 2011 Mar 18        Mercury-4       200 km, orbit insertion


Xinnuo-2 (Sinosat-2) was launched on Oct 28 by a Chang Zheng 3B rocket into geostationary transfer orbit. It is the first of a new heavy Chinese communication satellite series, DFH-4, with a communications payload by Alcatel Alenia.

Xinnuo-2 and the CZ-3B third stage were placed in a 186 x 35797 km x 28.7 deg geostationary transfer orbit. After the first burn of Sinosat-2's apogee motor its orbit was 3372 x 35827 km x 18.1 deg. It reached geosynchronous orbit at 92E on Nov 5.

XM Radio-4

Boeing Sea Launch orbited another Zenit-3SL on Oct 30 (reaching initial parking orbit early on Oct 31). The rocket put a Boeing 702 class satellite for XM Satellite Radio into geostationary transfer orbit. XM Radio-4, or XM Blues, joins the company's existing fleet of three satellites (XM Rock, Roll and Rhythm). By Nov 13 Blues was in geosynchronous drift orbit over 111 deg W.


A Boeing Delta 4M launched a US Air Force weather satellite on Nov 4. The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Block 5D-3 spacecraft S-17, which became F-17 (Flight 17) when assigned to a launch, reached an 846 x 850 km x 98.8 deg sun-synchronous orbit after a single burn of the Delta 4 second stage, and separated at 1411 UTC. The Delta 4M could have launched a much heavier satellite and the stage had a lot of fuel left over. This was meant to be used to nosedive the used rocket stage into the Pacific with impact at around 1550 UTC, leaving only the DMSP in orbit together with two instrument covers from the main OLS (Operational Linescan System) imager. Justin Ray of confirms to me that the stage was indeed tracked to reentry. However, SpaceTrack has now cataloged a large number of debris objects in orbit; this debris appears to have been generated around the time of the Delta deorbit, suggesting some kind of problem during the firing. The payload appears to be operating correctly although NOAA reports indicate a safemode associated with software issues.

In addition to the OLS, DMSP S-17 also carries a microwave imager-sounder, ultraviolet spectrometers, particle detectors, a magnetometer, and a laser threat warning sensor which will alert operators if the spacecraft is attacked with a laser.

Mass of DMSP F-17 is probably about 1200 kg, slightly smaller than its civilian cousin NOAA 18. Both DMSP and NOAA satellites are now operated by the NOAA weather agency.

Badr 4

Arabsat 4B, also known as Badr 4, was launched from Baykonur on Nov 8 by a Proton-M with a Briz-M upper stage. Dry mass of the EADS-Astrium Eurostar 2000+ satellite is 1487 kg; fully fuelled it is 3304 kg. It provides Ku-band communications for the Arab League.

The Proton reached a near-orbital -390 x 173 km x 51.5 deg trajectory; the Arabsat/Briz separated and at the end of the first Briz burn was in a low 173 x 174 km orbit. Briz made 4 burns and deployed Arabsat into a 3127 x 35802 km x 14.1 deg orbit. It reached a near-geosynchronous 35593 x 35782 km x 0.1 deg orbit on Nov 16.

----------- The Sep 25 GPS launch was SVN 52, not SVN 58.

GPS 58

GPS navigation spacecraft SVN 58, the 3rd of the IIRM type, was launched by a Boeing Delta 2 on Nov 17.


Russia's Don spy satellite, Kosmos-2423, was destroyed in orbit on Nov 17 at the end of its mission.

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 52            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
Oct 26 0052   STEREO Ahead  )   Delta 7925-10L  Canaveral SLC17B Science     47A
              STEREO Behind )                                    Science     47B
Oct 28 1620   Xinnuo 2          Chang Zheng 3B  Xichang          Comms       48A
Oct 30 2349   XM-Blues          Zenit-3SL       SL Odyssey       Radio       49A
Nov  4 1353   DMSP 5D-3 F-17    Delta 4M        Vandenberg SLC6  Weather     50A
Nov  8 2001   Badr 4            Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms      51A
Nov 17 1912   GPS 58            Delta 7925-9.5  Canaveral SLC17A Navigation  52A
|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
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