Jonathan's Space Report No. 602 2008 Oct 26

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Monday, October 27, 2008

Shuttle and Station

Soyuz TMA-13 was launched at 0701 UTC on Oct 12 and reached orbit at 0710 UTC. Commander is Yuriy Lonchakov, flight engineer is Michael Fincke, and in the third seat is spaceflight participant (tourist) Richard Garriott. Garriott is the son of of Skylab astronaut Owen Garriott. Once on board the Station, Garriott consituted ISS visiting crew EP-15; Fincke is commander of Expedition 18, with Lonchakov as flight engineer. The TMA-13 callsign is 'Titan'.

Soyuz TMA-13 is spacecraft production number 11F732 No. 223, and is flying ISS mission 17S. TMA-13 docked at the Zarya nadir port at 0826 UTC on Oct 14.

Soyuz TMA-12 undocked from Pirs at 0016 UTC on Oct 24, with Volkov, Kononenko and Garriott aboard. The spacecraft landed safely in the target zone at 0337 UTC.


India's first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, was launched by PSLV flight C11 from Sriharikota on Oct 22. Launch was at 0052 UTC into a 225 x 22817 km x 17.9 deg initial orbit; the craft will use its own engines to inject itself on a translunar trajectory. An initial burn has raised the orbit to 301 x 37830 km.

The probe has instruments from India, the US and Europe and will enter lunar orbit. A small Moon Impact Probe will be ejected toward the lunar surface.


NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer, IBEX, was launched on Oct 19 by an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL.

IBEX carries two ENA (Energetic Neutral Atom) cameras, to map out the boundary of the heliosphere (the edge of the solar system where the solar wind meets the interstellar medium). Shocks at the heliospheric boundary accelerate neutral atoms to high speeds; those atoms travel in straight lines, so the IBEX detectors in high Earth orbit can tell which direction they came from, and make an all-sky map of the less and more energetic parts of the heliosphere.

The L-1011 aircraft took off from RW06/24 at Kwajalein, 1651 UTC Oct 19. The mission events were as follows, based on the prelaunch info from Justin Ray on and my own timings from the webcast:

- Pegasus Drop at 1747:22.64 UTC over 167.6E 10.5N, azimuth 81.5 deg
- Stage 1 ignition 1747:28
- Stage 1 burnout Drop + 1:21
- Stage 1 sep Drop + 1:30
- Stage 2 burn Drop + 1:33
- Fairing sep Drop + 2:18
- Stage 2 burnout Drop + 2:47
- Stage 2 sep Drop + 4:57 ?
- Stage 3 burn Drop + 5:05
- Stage 3 burnout Drop + 6:22
Orbit insertion at 200 x 200 km x 11 deg
- Stage 3 spinup Drop + 7:47
- Stage 3 sep Drop + 8:22
- Adapter cone sep - Unknown, guessing Drop + 8:25?
- Star 27H motor burn - Unknown, guessing Drop + 8:30?
- Star 27H motor burnout - Unknown, guessing Drop + 9:16?
- Star 27H sep from IBEX - Unknown, guessing Drop + 12:38?

This leaves four objects in orbit:

(1) Stage 3 Orion 38 motor, in 210 x 413 km x 11 deg orbit Mass probably 202 kg, cylinder + nozzle size 1.4m long 1.0m dia

(2) Adapter cone, in 210 x 413 km x 11 deg orbit Mass unknown, maybe around 10 kg, cone frustrum size 0.6m long 0.7 to 1.0m dia

(3) Star 27H (TE-M-1157) motor, in 219 x 250281 km x 11.0 deg orbit. Mass 27 kg size 1.2m long 0.7m dia. Initial mass was 368 kg prior to ignition of solid propellant The motor may reenter around Oct 25 after its first orbit.

(4) IBEX spacecraft, in 219 x 250281 km x 11.0 deg orbit Mass 107 kg full 80 kg dry, octagonal cyl. size 0.6m high 1.0m dia based on Orbital Microstar bus. Reached first apogee around 0100 UTC on Oct 22. Will use hydrazine thruster to raise perigee to 7000 km.

My mass estimates total 485 kg for items 2,3,4 prior to SRM ignition, which is a little larger than the 462 kg reported by NASA.

COSMO-Skymed 3

A Boeing Delta 2 launched Italy's third COSMO civil/military radar satellite on Oct 25. The 1900 kg COSMO 3 carries an X-band synthetic aperture radar. Planned orbit was 620 x 637 km x 97.8 deg; initial orbit appears to be 621 x 624 km, with the Delta stage orbit lowered to 189 x 621 km after propellant depletion.


Xinhua reports that the third pair of Shi Jian 6 satellites were launched on Oct 25 at 0115 UTC. It has been reported that the satellites are built by the SAST group in Shanghai and the DFH Co. in Beijing, suggesting that in each pair the two satellites are of different design. The DFH Co. satellite is probably a CAST-968 300 kg-class minisatellite, and the SAST satellite might be based on the larger FY-1 weather satellite bus.

The SJ6 satellites are described as performing environmental research,, but the lack of detailed description raises the suspicion that they are actually military surveillance satellites of some kind. Orbit of SJ6A-3 and SJ6B-3 is 580 x 604 x 97.7.

Russian suborbital launches

On Oct 12-13 as part of the Stabil'nost'-2008 military exercise, Russia launched four long range ballistic missiles.

On Oct 11 (prior to 0905 UTC when the Russian media announced it) the submarine K-114 Tula launched a Sineva missile from the Barents Sea to an impact area in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean, with a range of 11500 km. The Sineva usually carries four reentry vehicles, although for this maximum range test there may only have been one. The Sineva is an improved version of the R-29RM Shtil' missile and its designation may be R-29RGU or R-29RMU.

On Oct 12 at 0724 UTC an RT-2PM Topol' missile was launched from the GIK-1 Plesetsk spaceport (or, probably, the GNIIP military test range at Plesetsk, if that is still a distinct entity - if my Russian friends can clarify, please let me know). It probably had a single reentry vehicle, and reached the standard Kura impact zone in Kamchatka.

On Oct 12 prior to 0846 UTC, the submarine K-84 Ekaterinburg launched a missile from the Barents Sea to the Kura range. Pavel Podvig suggests that this is a regular R-29RM Shtil' missile, not the improved Sineva version.

On Oct 12 prior to 0846 UTC, the submarine K-506 Zelenograd launched a missile, probably an R-29R Volna with 4 reentry vehicles, from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Chizha range in the Kanin peninsula.

Orbital Debris

The last cataloged piece of orbital debris from USA 193, the NRO satellite destroyed by an Aegis missile, reentered on Oct 9.

Currently cataloged in low orbit are 174 pieces of debris from the Russian US-PU satellite Kosmos-2421, which disintegrated on Mar 14; 235 pieces from the Chinese ZY-1 satellite, which exploded on 2007 Feb 18; and 2339 pieces from the Jan 2007 Chinese antisatellite test.

34 pieces of debris from the Briz-M stage which exploded on 2007 Feb 19 are now cataloged in orbit, but there are probably many more.

The picture changes when we focus on the lowest part of Low Earth Orbit, the region below the International Space Station. Although many spacecraft are launched to Low Earth Orbit, they don't usually stay there long and the actual population at any one time is surprisingly sparse and (except for debris) dominated by human-spaceflight-related activities.

As of Oct 12, these were the spacecraft with an average altitude of 355 km or less:

Shenzhou 7 related objects:
178 x 246 km Shenzhou 7 second stage rocket
326 x 336 km Shenzhou 7 subsatellite
328 x 334 km Shenzhou 7 GC (orbital module)

ISS related objects:
235 x 238 km Early Ammonia Servicer
248 x 266 km Soyuz TMA-13
325 x 331 km Unidentified debris piece from Jul 11 EVA (1998-67BG)
350 x 355 km International Space Station

Active payloads:
321 x 325 km CHAMP gravity research satellite

Other large objects:
166 x 412 km Delta 335 (GeoEye 1 rocket)
253 x 374 km S5M stage (Sich 1M rocket)
310 x 321 km Blok E stage (Kosmos-1093 rocket)
321 x 340 km Strela stage

53 pieces of debris from Kosmos-2421
4 other debris objects

So, clearly, the Kosmos-2421 debris is the biggest hazard to astronaut-carrying spacecraft at the height of ISS and below. Between 355 and 450 km, the picture changes slightly: there are a further 108 pieces of Kosmos-2421 debris and 25 other pieces of debris, 8 rocket stages, 6 probably active satellites (Genesat 1, NFIRE, TRMM, Quickbird 2, Orbview 3, Mimosa) and 10 probably dead ones (Tselina-D, ROSAT, WIRE, Tacsat 2, Meteor No. 12, Shtil'-1, Kosmos-1484, Gruzomaket, and DAPP 12). Above 450 km, LEO quickly gets considerably more crowded.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Sep  6 0325   Huan Jing-1A )    Chang Zheng 2C   Taiyuan           Imaging   41A
              Huan Jing-1B )                                       Imaging   41B
Sep  6 1851   GeoEye-1          Delta 7420       Vandenberg SLC2W  Imaging   42A
Sep 10 1950   Progress M-65     Soyuz-U          Baykonur LC1/5    Cargo     43A
Sep 19 2148   Nimiq 4           Proton-M/Briz-M  Baykonur LC200/39 Comms     44A
Sep 24 0928   Galaxy 19         Zenit-3SL        SL Odyssey        Comms     45A
Sep 25 0849   Kosmos-2442)      Proton-M/DM-2    Baykonur LC81/24  Nav       46A
              Kosmos-2443)                                         Nav       46B 
              Kosmos-2444)                                         Nav       46C 
Sep 25 1310   Shenzhou 7        Chang Zheng 2F   Jiquan            Spaceship 47A
Sep 27 1127   Subsatellite                       SZ7, LEO          Tech      47G
Sep 28 2315   Ratsat            Falcon 1         Omelek            Test      48A
Oct  1 0637   THEOS             Dnepr            Yasniy            Imaging   49A
Oct 12 0701   Soyuz TMA-13      Soyuz-FG         Baykonur          Spaceship 50A
Oct 19 1747   IBEX              Pegasus XL       Kwajalein         Astronomy 51A
Oct 22 0052   Chandraayan-1     PSLV             Sriharikota     Lunar probe 52A
Oct 25 0115   SJ-6A-3 )         Chang Zheng 4B   Taiyuan           Unknown   53A  
              SJ-6B-3 )                                            Unknown   53A
Oct 25 0228   COSMO 3           Delta 7420-10    Vandenberg SLC2W  Radar     54A

|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
|  Somerville MA 02143               |  inter :   |
|  USA                               |       |
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