Jonathan's Space Report, No. 577 - 2007 Feb 25

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Sunday, February 25, 2007

Shuttle and Station

Lopez-Alegria, Williams and Tyurin continue on ISS as Expedition 14. LA and Williams began another EVA on Feb 4. The Quest airlock was depressurized and the hatch opened at 1336 UTC. The spacewalkers completed reconfiguration of the ammonia cooling system, retracted the aft radiator on the P6 truss, and began installation of cables that will allow a docked Shuttle to get electrical power from the ISS solar arrays. The astronauts returned to the airlock at 2025 UTC and closed the hatch at 2033 UTC. The airlock was repressurized at 2049 UTC.

On Feb 8 at 1322 UTC Quest was again depressurized, with hatch open at 1324 UTC. Suni Williams emerged at 1332 UTC with LA exiting the lock at 1340 UTC. They went to the CETA carts on the truss, and took them to the P3 truss segment where two small and two large thermal covers were removed and stuffed into bags. The two bags, each about 9 kg and perhaps 0.5m across, were jettisoned at 1536 and 1542 UTC. After deploying cargo attachment adapters on P3, and preparing the P5 truss for its connection to P6 later in the year, the astronauts went to the PMA-2 docking port outside the Destiny lab to install the remaining SSPTS cables for supplying visiting Shuttles with electrical power. The hatch was closed at 2002 UTC and the airlock was repressurized at 2006 UTC.

On Feb 22 Lopez-Alegria and Tyurin made a spacewalk from the Pirs airlock wearing spacesuits Orlan M-25 and M-27. The airlock was depressurized by around 1005 UTC, and the hatch was opened at 1027 UTC; egress was at 1045-1049 UTC; the Progress antenna was freed using cutting tools by about 1245 UTC; at 1407 UTC, having left the aft end of Zvezda, the astronauts jettisoned two cleaning towels used to protect against thruster fuel contamination. After other minor inspection and hardware installation tasks, they re-entered the Pirs airlock at 1622-1627 UTC and closed the hatch at 1645 UTC, with repressurizaton at 1649 UTC. Thanks to Andrey Krasil'nikov for help with some of the EVA times in this report.

Atlantis is now on the pad at KSC, being prepared for launch on mission STS-117.

Iranian sounding rocket (not satellite)

On Feb 25 the Iranian Aerospace Research Institute announced the launch of a 'space system' called 'Kavesh' (search). The Iranian news agency talks about launching a rocket into space. At first it wasn't entirely clear whether this reflected a successful orbital launch but a later clarification established that it was a sounding rocket test. The rocket has a maximum apogee of 150 km. Iran has launched missiles to that height in the past, so what's new here is that it's a quasi-civilian research payload, possibly testing systems for a later satellite launch. It is not clear when the launch took place, what the name of the launch vehicle is (possibly based on the Shahab-3 ('Meteor') missile, itself derived from the North Korean Nodong) or what the launch site was (perhaps the Shahroud missile test base at about 36.4N 55.0E; there is also reportedly a test site at Qom, 34.7N 50.9E and one at Dasht-E-Kabir, 32.8N 51.9E; all these locations are uncertain). The Iranian Aerospace Research Institute is based in Tehran and is, I believe, conducting the launch under the auspices of the Iranian National Space Agency formed in 2003 as part of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Rosetta and New Horizons

The European comet probe Rosetta made a 250 km flyby of Mars at 0157 UTC on Feb 25. The probe will arrive at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014; it was launched in Mar 2004 and made an Earth flyby in Mar 2005. As Rosetta leaves the Mars gravitational sphere of influence it enters a 0.78 x 1.59 AU solar orbit inclined 1.9 deg to the ecliptic, setting it up for another Earth flyby in November.

Pluto New Horizons makes its closest approach to Jupiter on Feb 28 at 0541 UTC, at a distance of 2.305 million km just outside the orbit of Callisto; the inert Star 48 third stage of the New Horizons launch flies past Jupiter at 2.8 million km at 0144 UTC the same day. New Horizons' Centaur AV-010 second stage has been left far behind, meandering through the asteroid belt 2.8 AU from the Sun.


China launched a navigation satellite towards geostationary orbit on Feb 2. The CZ-3A rocket put the fourth Beidou payload in a 192 x 41772 km x 25.0 deg supersynchronous transfer orbit. As of Feb 24, the Beidou satellite - reportedly the first of a new generation - remained in this transfer orbit and had not moved to geostationary, suggesting the possibility that it may have failed.


710 pieces of debris were cataloged from the previous record debris event, an accidental fragmentation of the Pegasus/HAPS rocket stage from the 1994-029 launch. As of Feb 20, 786 pieces had been cataloged from the destruction of the Chinese FY-1C satellite in a space weapons test, breaking the record and officially making the FY-1C destruction the worst orbital debris event since the formation of the Moon. By Feb 25 the number had reached 916 pieces. The accidental explosion on Feb 19 of the Arabsat-4 Briz upper stage 2006-06B, stranded in orbit in 2006 with tonnes of propellant left on board, is thought to have generated hundreds more debris objects, none of which have yet been cataloged.


Failure of the Hubble Space Telescope's ACS (Advanced Camera for Surveys) is a major blow to space astronomy: ACS was being used for about 80 percent of observations, although some programs can be switched to the less capable WFPC-2 camera. One of ACS's three sub-cameras has been recovered - the ultraviolet SBC (Solar Blind Channel) camera is now operable again, but the main visible-light imagers are thought to be lost for good.


NASA's THEMIS mission was launched on Feb 17 by United Launch Alliance using a Boeing Delta 7925-10C vehicle. The Delta 7925 rocket entered a 182 x 563 km x 28.5 deg initial orbit; the second burn of the second stage moved it to a 518 x 1528 km x 26.6 deg orbit. The third stage then spun up, separated and fired to go to a 469 x 87337 km x 16.0 deg orbit. After a five minute coast, two despin weights were unreeled and then the five THEMIS probes were separated. The second stage later made a third burn to lower its orbit to 184 x 1510 km x 22.1 deg, ensuring a short orbital life for this stage.

The THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) probes, built by Swales Aerospace, are 76 kg dry, 125 kg fully fuelled, and 0.8m across with booms spanning 40.2 m. They carry four 4.4N orbit adjust thrusters and will end up in a variety of high apogee orbits, measuring particles and fields to study magnetospheric storms. The mission is a NASA MIDEX Explorer led by UC Berkeley.


Japan launched two spy satellites on Feb 24, the Information Gathering Satellite Radar-2 and the IGS Optical-3 Verification Satellite. Earlier IGS satellites were placed in 490 km sun-synchronous orbits. Optical-1 and Radar-1 were launched in Mar 2003; two satellites lost in a Nov 2003 launch failure would have been Optical-2 and Radar-2 on reaching orbit - I'll call them Optical-2a and Radar-2a although those are not official names. In an effort to recover quickly, a second Optical-2 was launched on its own in Sep 2006 while the new Radar-2 was still being completed. The Optical-3 Verification Satellite is an experimental second-generation optical imaging craft that hitched a ride with Radar-2; I'll unofficially call it Optical-3V for short (it's not 100 percent clear from translations that the Verification qualifier applies to just the Optical satellite, but that seems to be the balance of evidence).

The H2A rocket serial number F-12 used the 2024 version with two large and four small strapons, and the 4/4D-LC fairing which releases into orbit the upper satellite adapter and two side lower fairing panels as well as the two payloads.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Jan 10 0416   Cartosat-2  )     PSLV            Sriharikota LP1  Imaging     01B
              SRE-1       )                                      Tech        01C
              LAPAN Tubsat)                                      Imaging     01A
              Pehuensat   )                                      Comms       01D
Jan 18 0212   Progress M-59     Soyuz-U         Baykonur LC1     Cargo       02A
Jan 30 2322   NSS 8             Zenit-3SL       SL Odyssey, POR  Comms       F01
Feb  2 1628   Beidou 2A         Chang Zheng 3A  Xichang          Navigation  03A
Feb 17 2301   THEMIS P1 )       Delta 7925      Canaveral SLC17B Science     04A
              THEMIS P2 )                                        Science     04B
              THEMIS P3 )                                        Science     04C
              THEMIS P4 )                                        Science     04D
              THEMIS P5 )                                        Science     04E
Feb 24 0441   IGS Radar-2    )  H-2A 2024       Tanegashima YLP1 Radar       05A
              IGS Optical-3V )                                   Imaging     05B
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