Jonathan's Space Report No. 648 - 2011 Oct 10

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Monday, October 10, 2011

UARS and Rosat

A new report on Space-Track gives the UARS satellite reentry at 0400 UTC +/- 1 min over 14.1S 170.2W - in the SW Pacific near American Samoa. NASA's UARS site has also been updated to reflect this information. This is about 10-15 min earlier than previously estimated. This represents the beginning of reentry, with a debris footprint extending up to 1000 km NE, making it almost certain that no debris reached the US coast.

A 5 tonne rocket stage from the Tiangong-1 launch was expected to have reentered on Oct 10.

The 2.5 tonne ROSAT astronomy satellite will reenter later in October. As much of 1 tonne of the dense X-ray Telescope mirror assembly may survive reentry. On Oct 10, ROSAT was in a 244 x 250 km x 53.0 deg orbit.

Tiangong 1

China launched the Tiangong-1 spacelab on Sep 29 into a 198 x 332 km x 42.8 deg orbit. The CZ-2FT1, an uprated version of the CZ-2F used to launch the Shenzhou spaceships, placed the 8500 kg module in orbit. A forthcoming Shenzhou crew will dock with the module.

At 1758 UTC on Sep 29 TG-1 raised its orbit to 197 x 345 km; at 0809 UTC on Sep 30 the orbit was further raised to 336 x 353 km.


The Naval Research Lab's Tacsat-4 UHF communications satellite was launched into elliptical orbit by a Minotaur IV rocket from Kodiak Island. This was the first use of a souped-up Minotaur IV where an ATK Star 48V motor replaces the usual Orion 38 motor. The Star 48 family of motors first flew in the 1980s as part of the PAM-D upper stage for Delta and Shuttle; the 48V variant was the upper stage for the Conestoga 1620 vehicle used in one failed 1995 launch; the Tacsat-4 launch was the Star 48V's first chance to actually fire in space.

The Minotaur IV was launched at 1549 UTC and inserted Tacsat-4/Star 48V on a ballistic trajectory at 1552 UTC, still attached to the SR-120 third stage. At 1612 UTC the SR-120 separated, and the Star 48V burned to insert the satellite into a 189 x 11833 km x 63.4 deg orbit. After stage 4 separation, Tacsat-4 coasted to apogee and fired its own orbit control motor at 1837 UTC to change the orbit to 340 x 11843 km. The satellite has a 3.7-meter-diameter UHF communications antenna to support military handheld satphones; the vehicle was built by NRL and APL. On Sep 28 the orbit was further raised to 646 x 11836 km and the inclination adjusted to 63.6 deg. On Oct 5 another orbit raise put Tacsat-4 in a 748 x 12001 km x 63.6 deg orbit.

The Minotaur IV stage 4 is built around the GCA (Guidance Control Assembly) package, containing the Star 48 solid motor. I estimate the post-burnout mass of stage 4 must be in the 500 to 1000 kg range, of which only 139 kg is the empty Star 48V motor. (If anyone has a better number, please let me know).


QuetzSat SRL de CV is a Mexican joint venure of SES Satellite Leasing (UK) and Grupo Medcom/Mexico. Their first satellite, QuetzSat-1, is a 5514 kg Ku-band Loral 1300 vehicle whose capacity will be leased to Echostar. The satellite was launched from Baykonur on Sep 29 by a Proton-M on its first commercial flight since the Ekspress AM-4 failure, and deployed into a 5909 x 35791 km x 18.6 deg orbit. The Briz-M DTB drop tank was left in a 328 x 17710 km x 49.5 deg orbit. By Oct 8 QuetzSat-1 was in a 35722 x 35796 km x 0.1 deg orbit drifting past 68 deg W.


A Glonass-M navigation satellite was launched from Plesetsk on Oct 2. Glonass-M No. 42 (Uragan-M No. 742) separated from the Fregat stage at 2347 UTC. The Soyuz-2-1B rocket put the Fregat in an approximately 60 x 220 km orbit from which it maneuvered to 220 x 220 km, 250 x 19100 km and then to the deployment orbit of 19235 x 19667 km x 64.8 deg.

Intelsat IS-18

A Sea Launch Zenit-3SLB (the land-launched version of the rocket) was launched from Baykonur on Oct 5 into a 5269 x 35769 km x 19.5 deg geostationary transfer orbit. The payload was Intelsat IS-18, a 3200 kg Orbital Star-2.4E satellite with a Ku and C band communications payload for Pacific Ocean communications including a special beam for French Polynesia.

The new Sea Launch AG has its formal headquarters in Bern, although launch operations remain based in Long Beach. Sea Launch AG seems to be basically the sales company, with the actual launch service carried out in international waters by Energia Logistics Ltd. (ELUS) of Long Beach. using rocket stages provided by Yuzhmash in the Ukraine and RKK Energiya of Moscow. So for those who like to track which country launched a satellite, is this a Swiss, US, Ukrainian or Russian launch? In my opinion, categorizing space activities by country is becoming less useful.

Here are this year's statistics so far - note that even without SeaLaunch (which if anything might be considered Russian now that Energia is running it) Russia is in the lead, but China has not managed yet to reach last year's record of matching the US.

Orbital launch attempts so far in 2011, by country of launch vehicle

2011 2011 2010 2010
Family Per Fam Total Per Fam Total
Russia Zenit* 2 0
Rokot 1 2
Proton 5 12
Dnepr* 1 3
Kosmos 0 1
Soyuz 11 20 13 31

USA Shuttle 3 3
Atlas5 4 4
Delta 2 2 1
Delta 4 3 3
Minotaur1 2 0
Falcon 9 0 2
Taurus/M4 2 16 2 15
China CZ 12 12 15 15
France* Ariane5 5 5 6 6
SeaLaunch Zenit 2 2 0 0
Japan H2 2 2 2 2
India PSLV 2 2 3 3
Iran Safir 1 1 0 0
Israel Shaviyt 0 0 1 1
S Korea Naro 0 0 1 1
--- ---
60 74
*Arianespace headquartered in France; Dnepr and Zenit
first stages designed and manufactured in the Ukraine

Eutelsat W3C

The W3C satellite was launched by a Chinese CZ-3BE on Oct 7 into a 193 x 35806 km x 26.1 deg transfer orbit; on Oct 8 this was raised to 4596 x 35800 km x 14.6 deg. Eutelsat W3C is a Thales Spacebus 4000C3 with a launch mass of 5400 kg.


Thanks to Jon Giorgini for including trajectory data for GRAIL on JPL's Horizons site. The two GRAIL spacecraft are on their way to Sun-Earth L1; the Delta second stage is in a 0.88 x 1.05 AU x 0.01 deg heliocentric orbit with a period of around 347 days.

Satellite catalog

For some reason, catalog numbers 37786 and 37787 have not been assigned. Two pieces of minor debris from the NOAA 12 weather satellite have been cataloged as 37831 and 37832.

Suborbital launches

According to and Pavel Podvig's, the Russian Navy carried out the second test flight of the R-29MU2.1 Layner missile from submarine K-114 Tula on Sep 29. The R-29MU2.1 is a version of the R-29MU2 Sineva missile but carrying up to 10 reentry vehicles. Meanwhile, India carried out launches of the Prithvi and Agni rockets over the Bay of Bengal.

The THAAD antimissile system was tested on Oct 5 against two target missiles. One target was probably the SR-19 based Coleman Aerospace SRALT dropped out of a C-17 airplane, and the other was likely a Scud surrogate of some kind launched from the Mobile Launch Platform ship (former USS Tripoli) off Kauai. The THAAD missiles were launched from a truck on the Barking Sands missile base on the Kauai shore.

The first of a new type of Russian ICBM was launched at Plesetsk on Sep 27 at 0708 UTC, according to Pavel Podvig at The missile failed at a few km altitude, so is not included in my table of suborbital space launches below.

Erratum: launch of the SRALT rocket in July was Jul 9 0204, not Jul 8 1404 (thanks to Carl Rigg for the correction). Launch of China's SJ-11-03 was recorded by Xinhua English edition as 0028 Beijing time but daylight launch imagery confirms 1228 Beijing time (0428 UTC) is correct.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL.
Sep 10 1308 GRAIL-A ) Delta 7920H Canaveral SLC17B Lunar 46A
GRAIL-B ) Lunar 46B
Sep 18 1633 Zhongxing 1A Chang Zheng 3B(E?) Xichang Comms 47A
Sep 20 2247 Kosmos-2473 Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur Comms 48A
Sep 21 2138 Arabsat 5C ) Ariane 5ECA Kourou ELA3 Comms 49A
SES 2 ) Comms 49B
Sep 23 0436 IGS O-4 H-2A 202 Tanegashima Imaging 50A
Sep 24 2018 Atlantic Bird 7 Zenit-3SL SL Odyssey, Pacific Comms 51A?
Sep 27 1549 Tacsat-4 Minotaur 4+ Kodiak Comms 52A
Sep 29 1316 Tiangong-1 Chang Zheng 2FT1 Jiuquan Module 53A
Sep 29 1832 Quetzsat-1 Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms 54A
Oct 2 2015 Glonass-M No. 42 Soyuz-2-1B Plesetsk Navsat 55A
Oct 5 2100 Intelsat IS-18 Zenit-3SLB Baykonur LC45 Comms 56A
Oct 7 0821 Eutelsat W3C Chang Zheng 3B(E) Xichang Comms 57A

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

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

Sep 1 1343 ARAV? Terrier Oriole? Kauai Target 150?
Sep 1 1344 Aegis KV SM-3 Block 1B CG-70, Kauai Interceptor 150?
Sep 3 0946 RV Topol' Plesetsk Test 1000?
Sep 26 0320 Prithvi RV Prithvi-2 Chandipur IC3 Test 100?
Sep 29 10 RVs? Layner K-114, Barents Sea R&D 1000?
Sep 30 0400? Agni RV Agni 2 Chandipur IC4 Test 220
Oct 5 0556? FTT-12 Target SRALT? C-17, Kauai Target 100?
Oct 5 0556? FTT-12 Target ? Target SRBM MLP, Kauai Target 100?
Oct 5 0600? THAAD KV THAAD Kauai Intercept 100?
Oct 5 0600? THAAD KV THAAD Kauai Intercept 100?

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