Jonathan's Space Report No. 640 2011 Apr 27

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Note: Thanks to Luigi Morielli and Bohdan Zograf for the Italian and Belorussian translations of JSR, see

Shuttle and Station

Kounotori-2 was unberthed from Harmony at 1343 UTC on Mar 28 and released at 1546 UTC. It was deorbited at 0244 UTC on Mar 30 and reentered the atmosphere over the South Pacific at 0309 UTC.

Soyuz TMA-21 (spacecraft No. 231) was launched on Apr 4, carrying astronauts Aleksandr Samokutyaev (Roskosmos, commander), Andrey Borisenko (Roskosmos, flight engineer 1), and Ron Garan (NASA, flight engineer 2). Samokutyaev is a Russian air force pilot, and Borisenko is a former RKK Energiya engineer; both are making their first flight. Garan previously flew on STS-124. Borisenko will become the Expedition 28 commander later in the mission. Soyuz TMA-21 docked at the Poisk module at 2309 UTC on Apr 6.

The Progress M-09M cargo ship undocked from the Pirs module on Apr 22 at 1141 UTC and was deorbited over the Pacific on Apr 26. The Johannes Kepler ATV is docked at the Zvezda module, and Soyuz TMA-20 at Rassvet.

Progress M-10 (spacecraft No. 410) was launched on Apr 27 to deliver cargo to the Station.


The Messenger probe is now in orbit around the planet Mercury. The orbit insertion burn began at 0045 UTC Mar 18 and was completed at 0100 UTC. The planned orbit is 200 x 15193 km with perigee over 60 deg N. According to SpaceflightNow, actual orbit is 207 x 15261 km, inclined 82.5 deg to Mercury's equator (I note that the data in JPL's Horizons database appears to need an update).


The Stardust probe, launched in 1999, was switched off on Mar 24, following its recent flyby of comet 9P/Tempel 1.


The FASTRAC 1 and 2 satellites ("Sara Lily" and "Emma") were separated on Mar 22. The second satellite has been cataloged as 2010-62M, USA 228/FAST 2.


A Beidou navigation satellite was launched on Apr 9. The Chinese defense ministry referred to it as 'di ba ke beidou daohang weixing' (Beidou Navigation Satellite 8) while the CALT launch organization called it 'beidou er hai weixing' (Beidou 2 satellite). I will refer to it as BDW 8 (Beidou Daohang Weixing 8), a satellite in the Beidou-2 series (i.e. 2nd generation). The satellite was injected into a 192 x 34892 km x 55.1 deg transfer orbit and then entered an inclined geosynchronous orbit of 35694 x 35870 km x 55.3 deg at 2048 UTC on Apr 13.


United Launch Alliance's Atlas V flight AV-027, an Atlas V 411 model, was launched from Vandenberg on Apr 15 with the NRO Launch 34 payload. Analyst Ted Molczan suggested that the payload is likely to be a naval ocean surveillance satellite cluster; these clusters operate in 1100 km circular orbits with 63 deg inclination and carry equipment to track ships and aircraft via their radio transmissions. Two payloads of similar size are placed in orbit and both maneuver to stationkeep relative to one another; however one of the two is cataloged by the US as `debris', apparently in a feeble attempt at misdirection. Both payloads from the Apr 15 launch were observed by hobbyists on Apr 18 in a 1015 x 1207 km x 63.4 deg orbit.

The Centaur AV-027 second stage was deorbited during the first Earth revolution after deploying the USA 229 main payload and its companion.


India's PSLV-C16 placed the 1200 kg Resourcesat-2 imaging satellite in polar orbit on Apr 20. Two small satellites were also deployed: ISRO's IMS-1A Youthsat with experiments to study solar-terrestrial relationships, and the X-Sat from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, carrying a 10-meter-resolution multispectral imager.

The satellites are in 800 x 820 km x 98.8 deg orbits. Resourcesat-2 carries the LISS-4 camera, a 6-meter-resolution imager, which will be used for both military reconnaissance and civilian remote sensing. It also carries the lower resolution LISS-3 (23m resolution) and AWIFS (56m resolution), and an AIS payload for Comdev of Canada. (AIS is the Automatic Identification System for tracking ships at sea).


An Ariane 5ECA placed two communications satellites in geostationary transfer orbit on Apr 22. Yahsat 1A is an Astrium Eurostar 3000 with a C- and Ku-band payload for Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It will be stationed at 52.5E over the Indian Ocean. Intelsat New Dawn is an Orbital Star 2, also with a C/Ku hybrid payload, and will be stationed at 32.8E for coverage of Africa. It is owned by New Dawn Satellite Co. Ltd., a joint venture of Intelsat S.A. (UK) and Convergence Partners (Johannesburg, South Africa); New Dawn Satellite Co. Ltd. is registered in Port Louis, Mauritius (as is RASCOMStar QAF, another regional African satellite operator).

Suborbital launches

Iran launched a Kavoshgar sounding rocket on Mar 15, and a TEXUS microgravity payload was flown from the ESRANGE in Kiruna, Sweden on Mar 29. The University of Colorado's second calibration flight for SDO's EVE instrument was flown on Mar 23; this was the 14th flight of the LASP/CU solar EUV payload. The Russian Navy flew reentry vehicles (probably four of them) aboard a Sineva missile from the Ekaterinburg submarine in the Barents Sea to the Kura target area in Kamchatka on Apr 27. On Apr 15 an LV-2 rocket, based on the Trident I missile, was flown from Kwajalein atoll towards Hawaii carrying a target for the Aegis SM-3 interceptor system.

(1) Thanks to Markus Dolensky for pointing out the correct URL for the UN registry site,

(2) Thanks to Phillip Clark for pointing out that in JSR 539 in Nov 2004, I suggested a clearly bogus orbital inclination of 51.8 deg for the suborbital Soyuz-2-1a test flight. I suspect the true orbit was was probably (-200 to -100) x (150 to 250) km x 82.5 deg, but (40 to 60) x (150 to 250) km x 62.8 deg is also plausible. (Actual data from my Russian friends would be welcome.)

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL.
Feb 1 1400 Geo-IK-2 No. 11 Rokot Plesetsk LC133/3 Geodetic 05A
Feb 6 1226 USA 225 (RPP 1) Minotaur I Vandenberg SLC8 Tech 06A
Feb 16 2151 Johannes Kepler Ariane 5ES Kourou ELA3 Cargo 07A
Feb 24 2153 Discovery STS-133 Space Shuttle Kennedy LC39A Spaceship 08A
Feb 26 0307 Glonass-K No. 11 Soyuz-2-1B Plesetsk LC43/4 Navigation 09A
Mar 4 1009 Glory ) Taurus XL 3110 Vandenberg 576E Climate F01
E1P ) Sci F01
Hermes ) Tech F01
KySat-1) Tech F01
Mar 5 2246 OTV-2 F1 Atlas V 501 Canaveral SLC41 Spaceplane 10A
Mar 11 2338 USA 227 Delta 4M+(4,2) Canaveral SLC37 Comms? 11A
Mar 22 1135 Fastrac 2 Fastrac 1, LEO Tech 62M
Apr 4 2218 Soyuz TMA-21 Soyuz-FG Baykonur LC1 Spaceship 12A
Apr 9 2047 Beidou DW8 Chang Zheng 3A Xichang Nav 13A
Apr 15 0424 USA 229 P/L 1 ) Atlas V 411 Vandenberg SLC3E Sigint 14A
USA 229 P/L 2 ) Sigint 14B
Apr 20 0442 Resourcesat 2 ) PSLV Sriharikota FLP Imaging 15A
Youthsat ) Science 15B
X-Sat ) Imaging 15C
Apr 22 2137 Yahsat 1 ) Ariane 5 ECA Kourou ELA3 Comms 16A
Intelsat New Dawn) Comms 16B
Apr 27 1305 Progress M-10M Soyuz-U Baykonur LC1 Cargo 17A

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches


Date UT Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission Apogee/km

Mar 1 2100 8 x Mk 5 RV Trident D-5 USS Nevada, Pacific Test 1000?
Mar 2 1340 Patriot Target Juno Fort Wingate Target 100?
Mar 15 Kavoshgar-4 Kavoshgar Iran R&D 120
Mar 16 ARAV-B Target Terrier Oriole Kauai Target 150?
Mar 23 1750 NASA 36.275UE Black Brant IX White Sands Solar EUV 250?
Mar 29 0501 TEXUS 49 VSB-30 Kiruna Micrograv 268
Apr 15 0652 FTM-15 Target LV-2 Meck Island Target 1000?
Apr 15 0703 FTM-15 KV SM-3 USS O'Kane, Kauai? Interceptor 150?
Apr 27 4 x RV Sineva K-84, Barents Sea Op. Test 1000?

| Jonathan McDowell | phone : (617) 495-7176 |
| Somerville MA 02143 | inter : planet4589 at gmail |
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