Jonathan's Space Report No. 589 2007 Dec 21

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2007


Shuttle and Station

The next launch is Shuttle mission STS-122, Station flight 1E, carrying the European Columbus module to the Station. Launch will be no earlier than 2008 Jan.

Peggy Whitson and Dan Tani made a spacewalk, US EVA-13, on Dec 18. The Quest airlock was depressurized at about 0948 UTC and repressurized at 1646 UTC; the astronauts inspected the malfunctioning solar array rotation joint and beta gimbal assembly.


A Globus communications satellite built by NPO PM for the Russian Defense Ministry was launched on Dec 9 on a Proton-M/Briz-M and given the cover name Kosmos-2434. Previous Globus satellites were given the Raduga-1 cover name. The Briz-M probably entered an initial 173 x 173 km orbit; it then reached a 273 x 4991 km x 49 deg intermediate orbit, and next a 400 x 35815 km x 49 deg geostationary transfer orbit. By Dec 18 the payload was at 79.6E in a 35569 x 35956 km x 0.1 deg orbit. It's not clear what happened to the Briz-M jettisonable propellant tank.

Cosmo 2

The second Italian military radar satellite in the Cosmo-Skymed system was launched on Dec 9 by a Boeing Delta 7420-10. At second stage first cutoff the orbit was 185 x 645 km x 97.8 deg; a second burn at 0325 UTC put the satellite in a 620 x 637 km orbit.

Space Command is now calling the satellite Skymed 2, but the Boeing launch booklet referred to it as Cosmo.

Radarsat 2

Canada's Radarsat 2 satellite was launched on Dec 14 by a Russian Soyuz-FG/Fregat into a 790 x 798 km x 98 deg orbit. The Soyuz third stage was in a 169 x 206 km parking orbit and reentered later the same day; the Fregat stage was deorbited after releasing Radarsat.

-------- In my discussion of the Delta 4 Heavy launch I inadvertently referred to the upper stage as a Centaur. Although it uses a similar RL-10 family rocket engine, the Delta 4 Second Stage is of course not a Centaur.

A source reports that the orbit of the Nanosat-2 satellite launched in Dec 2004 on the first Delta 4 Heavy was 105 x 196 km x 27 deg. Nanosat-2, which consisted of two small satellites which remained attached to each other, is believed to have reentered less than one hour after launch.

Yaogan 3

As I reported previously, China's new radar satellite Yaogan 3 was launched at 2248 UTC on Nov 11. The Yaogan 3 satellite originally reached a 456 x 612 km x 97.9 deg orbit and separated from the third stage at 2309 UTC on Nov 11. Although China announced that the rocket had a new restart capability on the third stage, I can't tell if this was used. At first apogee about 2315 UTC on Nov 11, Yaogan used its own onboard engine to raise orbit to 613 x 623 km; on Nov 20 and 21 small adjustment burns trimmed the orbit to 627 x 629 km.


The EPOXI (formerly Deep Impact) probe made a course correction on Nov 1 to set up for a Dec 31 Earth flyby, and an encounter with comet 103P/Hartley 2 on 2010 Oct 11, just before the comet reaches perihelion at 1.06AU on 2010 Oct 28.

EPOXI will pass 15566 km over Australia at 1930 UTC on Dec 31. The flyby will change its solar orbit from 0.98 x 1.64 AU x 0.7 deg to 0.91 x 1.09 AU x 4.2 deg.


Atlas V mission AV-015 launched a classified satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The payload for launch NROL-24 has been given the cover name USA-198 and is thought to be an SDS (Satellite Data System) data relay satellite used to relay surveillance imagery and data from low altitude polar orbiting NRO spacecraft.

The Centaur entered a low parking orbit and then a deployment orbit of 261 x 16776 km x 60.0 deg (according to visual observations reported by independent sources). This compares with the 267 x 15379 km x 58.0 deg deployment orbit of the previous mission in the series, USA 179. The payload will use its own on-board propulsion to raise the orbit to around 1000 x 39400 km x 63 deg.

Some observers speculated that the SBIRS HEO-2 infrared missile warning package and the TWINS-B magnetospheric research package might also be aboard, although I believe that next year's NROL-28 mission is a more likely fit for these and for the third Interim Polar Adjunct communications package.

The first generation SDS satellites were launched by Titan 34B/Agena D rockets and deployed directly into 12-hour orbits. Here is a list of more recent SDS HEO (highly elliptical orbit) satellites:

SDS HEO Launches

                  Parking orbit      Deployment orbit

1989-61B  USA 40                     401 x 502 x 57.0   532 x  8135 x 57.0
1992-86B  USA 89                     364 x 380 x 57.0   372 x  7300?x 56.9
1996-38A  USA 125                    292 x 300 x 54.9   383 x 14072 x 55.4
1998-05A  USA 137 (CAPRICORN)        191 x 795 x 62.5   Unknown
2004-34A  USA 179 (NROL-1/NEMESIS)   191 x 400 x 58.4   267 x 15379 x 58.0
2007-60A  USA 198 (NROL-24/SCORPIUS) 209 x 262 x 60.0   261 x 16776 x 60.0

Another constellation of NRO spacecraft uses a similar final orbit and are thought to be primarily signals intelligence payloads associated with the code-name TRUMPET. There were three such launches in 1994-1997. A more recent launch may be related; USA 184 also carries the TWINS-A and SBIRS HEO-1 payloads. NROL-28 is likely to be similar to USA-184. Unlike the SDS launches, these flights deploy their payloads directly into the 12-hour orbit.

1994-26A  USA 103                    200 x 200?x 57    1323 x 39035 x 64.4
1995-34A  USA 112                    245 x 255 x 56.1  Unknown
1997-68A  USA 136 (+IPA-1?)          185 x 185 x 55.0  1098 x 39012 x 63.6

2006-27A  USA 184 (NROL-22)          193 x 2215 x 62.5 1111 x 37594 x 62.4
2008?     USA ? (NROL-28 + TWINS-B/SBIRS-HEO-2/IPA-3?)

GPS 57

The Navstar Global Positioning System GPS space vehicle 57, the 18th GPS IIR and 5th upgraded IIR-M, was launched from Cape Canaveral at 2004 UTC on Dec 20. It reached a preliminary 174 x 203 km x 37.5 deg parking orbit at 2014 UTC and was delivered to elliptical transfer orbit at 2114 UTC.

Ariane L530

Arianespace launched Ariane 5GS vehicle L530 (flight V180) on Dec 21. The EPC core stage reached a 30 x 1730 km x 7.3 deg orbit, reentering on the first perigee. The EPS upper stage reached geostationary transfer orbit and deployed two telecommunications satellites, RASCOM-QAF-1 and Horizons 2.

RASCOM-QAF-1 is a Thales (Cannes) Spacebus 4000B3 with a hybrid Ku/C-band payload for RascomStarQAF of Port Louis, Mauritius, a subsidiary of the Regional African Satellite Communications Organization (RASCOM) based in Cote d'Ivoire. The mission and satellite control centers are in Cameroun and Libay; the satellite will provide voice, data and internet in Africa.

Horizons 2 is an Orbital Star 2 Ku-band satellite for Horizons Satellite Holdings LLC, a joint venture of Intelsat and the Japanese JSAT company.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Nov  1 0051   SAR-Lupe 3 )      Kosmos-3M        Plesetsk LC132/1 Radar      53A
              AIS        )                                                   53B
Nov 11 0150   DSP 23            Delta 4H         Canaveral SLC37B Early Warn 54A
Nov 11 2248   Yaogan 3          Chang Zheng 4C   Taiyuan          Radar      55A
Nov 14 2206   Skynet 5B   )     Ariane 5ECA      Kourou ELA3      Comms      56B
              Star One C1 )                                                  56A
Nov 17 2239   Sirius 4          Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur LC200/39 Comms     57A
Dec  9 0015   Kosmos-2434       Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur LC81/24  Comms     58A
Dec  9 0231   Cosmo 2           Delta 7420-10    Vandenberg SLC2W  Radar     59A
Dec 10 2205   USA 198 (NROL-24) Atlas V 401      Canaveral SLC41   Comms?    60A
Dec 14 1317   Radarsat-2        Soyuz-FG/Fregat  Baykonur LC31     Radar     61A
Dec 20 2004   GPS 57            Delta 7925       Canaveral SLC17A  Nav       62A?
Dec 21 2141   Rascom-QAF-1 )    Ariane 5GS       Kourou ELA3       Comms     63A?
              Horizons 2   )                                       Comms     63B?
|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
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