Jonathan's Space Report No. 592   2008 Mar 9

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Monday, March 10, 2008

Shuttle and Station

The Expedition 16 crew of Whitson, Eyharts and Malenchenko remain aboard ISS. Space Shuttle Atlantis undocked on Feb 18 at 0924 UTC and fired its OMS engines to deorbit at 1259 UTC on Feb 20. Atlantis landed on runway 15 at Kennedy Space Center at 1407 UTC.

The Soyuz TMA-11 ferry ship is docked to the Zarya nadir port. The Progress M-63 cargo ship is docked to the Pirs nadir port.

The PMA-2 port on Harmony is empty awaiting docking of STS-123/Endeavour on March 12.

The Zvezda aft port is empty awaiting arrival of the European ATV Jules Verne cargo ship.

USA 193

On Feb 21 the National Reconnaissance Office's crippled USA 193 satellite was in a 242 x 257 km x 58.5 deg orbit. At 0326 UTC a three stage SM-3 missile was fired from the USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean west of Hawai'i to intercept the satellite. The US Dept. of Defense reports that the missile successfully hit USA 193; visual reports from British Columbia of high altitude debris trails at 0343 UTC, and lack of later observations of the satellite in orbit, suggest that the satellite has indeed been destroyed. On Feb 26-Mar 8 the DoD cataloged 153 debris objects in orbits with perigees in the 170-250 km range and apogees of up to 2700 km; 36 of these debris pieces had already reentered by Mar 9, and the apogee of the highest-apogee piece was decreasing by 35 km per day, supporting assertions that the debris will not remain in orbit for long.

Jules Verne ATV

The European Space Agency's first Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV Jules Verne, was launched from Kourou on Mar 9 at 0403:11 UTC.  The Ariane model 5ES launch vehicle, vehicle L528, has the enhanced EAP solid boosters and EPC core stage of the heavy-lift Ariane 5ECA variant, combined with the lower-capacity EPS upper stage which has been modified to include a restart capability (sometimes called EPS-V for Versatile); the VEB (vehicle equipment bay) instrument unit above the EPS is structurally enhanced to carry the heavy ATV.

There are a lot of slightly different estimates of the mass of the ATV; here's my current understanding based mostly on the EADS launch press kit. The ATV carries 1300 kg of dry cargo, 302 kg of water and oxygen, and 860 kg of propellant cargo for the ISS, for a total cargo mass of 2462 kg. The dry ATV has a mass of 10075 kg and it carries 6475 kg of its own propellant, so that after separation from the EPS the wet ATV with cargo totals 19012 kg. This doesn't count the 345 kg Separation and Distancing Module (SDM) which stays attached to the EPS stage. The total ATV launch mass (including the SDM) is quoted as 19407 kg, which includes another 50 kg that I can't account for - it may be an adapter connecting SDM to the EPS/VEB.

The EPS upper stage has a mass of 1300 kg dry and carries a partial propellant load of only 5200 kg for this mission instead of the usual 10000 kg. In addition, a Vehicle Equipment Bay of about 1400 kg and the SDM make the total wet mass of the EPS-VEB-SDM-ATV composite  about 28300 kg at separation from the EPC. I estimate that  the dry EPS-VEB-SDM after ATV separation and the EPS depletion/deorbit burn is around 3050 kg.

After launch from the ELA3 pad at Kourou, vehicle L528's EPC core stage reached a -1304 x 139 km x 51.2 deg trajectory at 0412 UTC flying north-east from Kourou, separated a few seconds later, and fell in the Atlantic at around 0420 UTC. The EPS stage made its first burn and reached a 137 x 260 km orbit at 0420:17 UTC. After a coast period, EPS reignited at apogee at 0505:14 UTC for a 30-second second burn to enter a safer 254 x 272 km x 51.6 deg orbit. At 0509:43 UTC the EPS separated from the ATV; at 0627 UTC it was due to make a third burn to lower perigee and reenter over the South Pacific at around 0651 UTC, although I don't  yet have confirmation of this burn. The ATV deployed its solar panels and prepared for the rendezvous sequence with the Space Station. However, the rendezvous burns are being delayed while engineers investigate a propulsion electronics problem.


Japan's H-IIA rocket flight F14 was launched from Tanegashima on Feb 23. F14 was an H-IIA model 2024 with 2 large SRB-A strapons and 4 small SSB strapons. The second stage first cutoff was at 0907 UTC at an altitude of 313 km. According to Mitsubishi's Japanese-language press kit (and with many thanks to a Japanese correspondent for this information) the parking orbit was 115 x 314 km x 30.1 deg.

At 0918 UTC the second stage made a second burn to a 272 x 35806 km x 28.5 deg geostationary transfer orbit, separating from the Kizuna payload at 0923 UTC. The launch was carried out by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Kizuna is the Wide-band Internetworking Engineering Test and Demonstration Satellite or WINDS, and will provide high bandwidth Ka-band data relay in the Asia-Pacific region. WINDS was built by JAXA at its Tsukuba space center, with prime contractor support from NEC Toshiba Space, possibly with some construction at Keihin. Kizuna carried out its first apogee engine firing at 0029 UTC on Feb 24; on Mar 1 it reached a geostationary drift orbit of 35188 x 35824 km x 0.1 deg and began drifting east towards its final station.

The Mystery of 1971-00E

In 1971, five orbiting objects were cataloged by Space Command without being identified with any known launch, and given the international designations 1971-00A to 1971-00E. Catalog numbers 4924, 4925 and 4926   (1971-00A to C) were assigned in Feb 1971 to objects found in elliptical orbit; they were later identified with Explorer 15's Altair rocket (1962 Beta Lambda 2), Explorer 26 (1964-86B) as an accidental duplicate of   catalog 963, and Explorer 26's Altair rocket (1964-86C), itself later   lost again and, rediscovered, duplicated as catalog 5820. In June 1971, two more objects were found: 5309 was later reassigned as 1969-64X, a putative piece of debris from the Star 37D third stage of the Intelsat 3 F-5 launch, although there remains doubt about the true identity of the debris objects assigned to this launch. 5310 remains to this day the   only entry in the satellite catalog not officially identified with a specific launch, and retains the 1971-00E label.

The only data I have on the satellite comes from the Satellite Situation Report, which lists orbital heights for 5309/1971-00E from 1971 Jun 30 to around 1977, after which no new orbital data were released. The     initial orbit in June 1971 was 35785 x 35811 km x 1.2 deg; by Feb 1974 inclination was 3.6 deg and by no later than 1977 this had increased in inclination at 35763 x 35795 km x 4.8 deg. Unfortunately, with no full Two-Line-Elements it's not possible to find out what longitudes the     satellite was passing through, which makes identification difficult. By   June 1971, there are 37 objects known to have been in geostationary orbit. Most can be eliminated on the grounds of period or inclination. The best possiblity is the aperture cover (telescope lens cap) from the DSP F2 early warning satellite, launched in May 1971 just before the object was discovered, and never cataloged. However, since other DSP aperture covers from the early 1970s were not cataloged, they may have been too small to be detected by the relevant sensors.

Other possibilities include debris associated with the LES 6 satellite, launched in 1968 or the TACSAT satellite from 1969 (their orbits in 1971 were classified) or with Intelsat 3F2 or Intelsat 3F4 (orbits similar to the debris, but not identical).

Much of the TLE data from the early 1970s is missing from the on-line Space-Track archive. If anyone has old TLE printouts from the early 1970s with element sets for 5310, or indeed TLEs for any satellites in the 1972-1976 era, I would be interested in getting copies.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.   
Jan 15 1149   Thuraya 3         Zenit-3SL        Odyssey, Pacific  Comms     01A 
Jan 21 0345   Polaris (TecSAR)  PSLV             Sriharikota FLP   Radar     02A 
Jan 28 0018   Ekspress AM-33    Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur LC200/39 Comms     03A 
Feb  5 1303   Progress M-63     Soyuz-U          Baykonur LC1      Cargo     04A 
Feb  7 1945   Atlantis (STS-122) Space Shuttle   Kennedy LC39A     Spaceship 05A 
              Columbus         )                                   Module    - 
Feb 11 1134   Thor 5            Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur          Comms     06A 
Feb 23 0855   Kizuna            H-IIA 2024       Tanegashima       Comms     07A 
Mar  9 0403   Jules Verne ATV   Ariane 5ES       Kourou ELA3       Cargo     08A 
|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            | 
|  Somerville MA 02143               |  inter :   | 
|  USA                               |       | 

// end //

More status reports and news releases or top stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.