Jonathan's Space Report #686 2013 Sep 23

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013

Jonathan's Space Report
No. 686 2013 Sep 23, Somerville, MA

International Space Station

Expedition 37 is underway with commander Fyodor Yurchikin, FE-5 Luca Parmitano and
FE-6 Karen Nyberg.

Ferry ship Soyuz TMA-09M is at Rassvet. Cargo ship ATV-4 is at the Zvezda module and
Progress M-20M is at the Pirs module.

On Sep 18 the second Antares 110 rocket took off from the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island and placed the first Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo ship in orbit. Cygnus #1 is named SS G. David Low after the late astronaut and Orbital employee (1956-2008); Low was also the son of a former NASA administrator.

The 4127 kg Cygnus spacecraft consists of a pressurized cargo module (PCM), serial PCM-0, built by Thales Alenia in Torino, and a service module (SM) built by Orbital/Dulles. The craft carries 700 kg of cargo on this mission. It is scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS. Intiial orbit was 261 x 277 km x 51.6 deg; at 2007 UTC orbit was raised to 274 x
384 km. On Sep 22 the first attempt at rendezvous was cancelled due to a software problem in the GPS navigation system, and Cygnus passed ISS at a distance of
4 km at 0845 UTC.

Voyager 1

JPL and NASA have reported that Voyager 1 appears to have left the heliosphere and entered a transitional part of the interstellar medium. Plasma wave measurements show that the ambient plasma density increased after 2012 Aug to a value consistent with being the ISM, consistent with the change in energetic particle density on 2012 Aug 25.

Voyager is outside the solar atmosphere with escape velocity, but it has NOT yet 'left the Solar System' and won't do for many centuries yet. JPL were VERY careful not to use the words 'left the Solar System' but the media quite understandably elided the technical distinction; we're all pedants here, though, so let's be careful.

Gravitationally, the System stretches out to 1000 times Voyager's current distance until the galactic tidal potential dominates. For a smaller scale analogy, think of space probe launched from Earth on an escape trajectory. Leaving parking orbit, it passes through the
geostationary belt and then out to the magnetopause at a few tens of thousands of km, where it it emerges into the interplanetary medium. But its orbit is still influenced by the Earth rather than the Sun until it leaves the sphere of influence at around 1 million km ( 1.5 million if you use the equipotential surface marked by the L1 point).

Nevertheless, VGR-1 is the first human artifact to directly taste the interstellar air, a milestone worth celebrating.


Following the first perigee burn on Sep 13 at 1641 UTC, LADEE's orbit changed from 2059 x 289461 km x 33.9deg to 2063 x 325450 km x 35.4 deg. LADEE's second perigee burn was on Sep 21 at 1153 UTC. It was expected to raise the orbit to 1352 x 373000 km x 38.2 deg, reaching apogee around Sep 26, and perigee on Oct 1. On the following apogee on Oct 6 LADEE will enter lunar orbit.


Cassini flew past Titan on the T-94 flyby at a height of 1400 km at 0745 UTC Sep 12. The spacecraft is now in a 1.14 x 2.65 Mkm x 52.0 deg orbit around Saturn; this is the highest its periapsis has been during the mission. Listed here are the targeted flybys so far this year.

Date UTC Rev Target Flyby height

2013 Feb 17 0156 181 Titan T-89 1978 km
2013 Mar 9 1819 183 Rhea R-4 997 km
2013 Apr 5 2143 185 Titan T-90 1400 km
2013 May 23 1733 190 Titan T-91 970 km
2013 Jul 10 1323 194 Titan T-92 964 km
2013 Jul 26 1158 195 Titan T-93 1400 km
2013 Sep 12 0745 197 Titan T-94 1400 km


Three Gonets-M low orbit communications satellites were launched on Sep 11 by a Rokot vehicle with a Briz-KM upper stage. They reached a 1494 x 1510 km x 82.5 deg orbit.


Japan's new solid fuel launch vehicle, Epsilon, made a successful first flight from Uchinoura on Sep 14. It placed the 340 kg SPRINT-A satellite in orbit. SPRINT-A is the Spectroscopic Planet Observatory for Recognition of Interaction of Atmosphere, carrying a 0.20-meter silicon carbide mirror with an extreme ultraviolet spectrometer observing in the 550 to 1450 Angstrom range, which will be used to study the exospheres of planets in our solar system. After the launch, SPRINT-A was renamed "Hisaki" after Cape Hisaki (which I believe is at 31.28N 131.13E, but welcome corrections).

The Epsilon rocket uses the H2A's solid rocket booster SRB-A3 as its first stage. Second stage uses the M-34c solid motor, which is an improved version of the third stage of the old ISAS M-V rocket. Third stage is the KM-V2b, derived from the KM-V2 kick motor used as the insertion stage for the Hayabusa probe in 2003. Final stage is a new liquid propulsion Post-Boost System (PBS; in Japanese, Kogata ekitai suishin-kei, small liquid propulsion system) with 8 50N thrusters. 

Hisaki is in a 952 x 1155 km x 29.7 deg orbit; the PBS fourth stage is in an 847 x 1115 km x 29.7 deg orbit; and the third stage is in an 808 x 973 km x 29.8 deg orbit.


The third Advanced EHF communications satellite for the US Air Force was launched on Atlas AV-041 on Sep 18. AV-041 reached a 178 x 1041 km x 27.5 deg parking orbit followed by a 225 x 50057 km x 20.52 deg supersynchronous deployment orbit. The satellite has a Japanese IHI BT-4 bipropellant thruster and an Aerojet electric propulsion system.

Deep Impact

The Deep Impact/EPOXI mission has come to an end. Last contact with the Deep Impact Flyby spacecraft was on Aug 11, and attempts to revive it have been abandoned.

In Oct 2012 the probe was targeted towards minor planet (163249) 2002 GT, which it might have reached in 2020. DIF is in a 0.97 x 1.21 AU x 3.2 deg heliocentric orbit.

Erratum - Amos

Mass of Amos 4 at launch was 4260 kg. It turns out that the object initially tracked as Amos 4 was actually the DM-SLB, and the orbit quoted in JSR 685 was the post depletion
burn orbit of that stage. Amos 4's initial perigee was around 3090 km. Thanks to Andrey Krasil'nikov for these corrections.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches
Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL.

Aug 3 1948 Konoutori 4 H-IIB Tanegashima LP2 Cargo 40A
Aug 8 0029 WGS 6 Delta 4M+(5,4) Canaveral SLC37 Comms 41A
Aug 22 1439 Arirang-5 Dnepr Yasniy Sh370/13 Imaging 42A
Aug 28 1803 USA 245 Delta 4H Vandenberg SLC6 Imaging 43A
Aug 29 2030 Es'hail 1 ) Ariane 5ECA Kourou ELA3 Comms 44A
GSAT-7 ) Comms 44B
Aug 31 2005 AMOS 4 Zenit-3M Baykonur LC45 Comms 45A
Sep 1 1916 Yaogan 17 ) Chang Zheng 4C Jiuquan LC603 SIGINT 46A
YW-17 subsat 1) SIGINT 46B
YW-17 subsat 2) SIGINT 46C
Sep 7 0327 LADEE Minotaur V Wallops I. LA0B Lunar probe 47A
Sep 11 2323 Gonets-M No. 14 ) Rokot Plesetsk LC133/3 Comms 48A
Gonets-M No. 16 ) Comms 48B
Gonets-M No. 17 ) Comms 48C
Sep 14 0500 Hisaki Epsilon Uchinoura Astronomy 49A
Sep 18 0810 AEHF 3 Atlas V 531 Canaveral SLC41 Comms 50A
Sep 18 1458 Cygnus Demo Antares 110 Wallops I. LA0A Cargo 51A

Suborbital launches

The Missile Defense Agency's FTO-01 exercise on Sep 10 involved the launch of the first eMRBM extended-medium range ballistic missile target from a C-17 aircraft over the Pacific, intercepted by a THAAD missile launched from Meck Island on Kwajalein Atoll. The eMRBM uses two SR-19 solid motors (retired Minuteman second stages) and is integrated at Lockheed Martin's Courtland, Alabama factory.

Another target was launched at the same time from Wake Island; the type of rocket is not known but is probably another variant using SR-19 motors. It was intercepted by an Aegis/Standard Missile-3 launched from the USS Decatur; a second THAAD launch from Meck was also sent to intercept it in case the Aegis missed. Two more Aegis launches, of SM-3 Block IB missiles, took place on Sep 19, against an ARAV-C++ separating target (probably a Talos-Castor rocket) launched from Kauai.

I've removed the Aug 15 PAC-3 target launch as it seems likely it involved a lower altitude, smaller endo-atmospheric rocket.

A Bulava missile launch from the submarine K-550 Aleksandr Nevskiy on Sep 6 was meant to fly from the White Sea to the Kura range in Kamchatka, but the second stage failed ( It's not clear whether the flight made it out of the atmosphere.

Apparent high altitude rocket burns were observed from the Canary Islands on Sep 10. In the 1970s Poseidon MIRV reentries were observed in this area, and I speculate that the event may represent a classified Trident missile launch.

The University of Queensland's Scramspace 1 hypersonic research payload was launched 1115 UTC Sep 18 from Andoya by the German space agency DLR, but the first stage of the VS30/Orion rocket failed and it did not reach space. In a new winning entry for 'most ridiculous PR euphemism', trying to avoid using the word 'crashed', the statement from the University said that the experiment "has been discontinued".

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

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

Aug 8 1810 NASA 36.239DS Black Brant IX White Sands Solar UV 280
Aug 12 0345 Prithvi RV Prithvi II Chandipur Training 100?
Aug 13 1000 Rocksat-X Terrier Imp. Mal. Wallops I Education 151
Sep 3 0616 Radar target Silver Sparrow F-15, Med. Sea Target 150?
Sep 6 0520 Bulava RV Bulava K-550, White Sea Test 100?
Sep 10 MBRV? Unknown Wake Island Target 300?
Sep 10 MBRV? eMRBM C-17, Pacific Target 300?
Sep 10 Aegis KV SM-3 USS Decatur,Pacific Interceptor 150?
Sep 10 THAAD KV THAAD Meck Island Interceptor 100?
Sep 10 THAAD KV THAAD Meck Island Interceptor 100?
Sep 10 2110? RV? Trident D-5?? Atlantic Ocean Test?
Sep 15 0920 Agni RV Agni V Wheeler I. IC4 Test 800?
Sep 19 0030 Target ARAV-C++ Kauai Target 150?
Sep 19 0032? Aegis KV SM-3-1B USS Lake Erie Interceptor 150?
Sep 19 0032? Aegis KV SM-3-1B USS Lake Erie Interceptor 150?
Sep 22 1001 Mk 21 RV? Minuteman 3 Vandenberg LF10 Op. test 1300?

// end //

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