Jonathan's Space Report, No. 714

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

International Space Station

Expedition 44 began at 1020 UTC Jun 11 with Commander Gennadiy Padalka and flight engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly. Progress M-28M was launched successfully on Jul 3, carrying critical supplies for the ISS. It docked with the Pirs module at 0711 UTC Jul 5. Soyuz TMA-17M was launched on Jul 22 and docked with the Rassvet module 6h 32min after launch carrying Oleg Kononeko, Kimiya Yui and Kjell Lindgren. The ISS is currently in a 400 x 402 km orbit.

New Horizons at Pluto

33 AU from the Sun, the NASA/APL New Horizons spacecraft flew through the Pluto/Charon system at a relative velocity of 13.7 km/s on Jul 14, revealing a binary iceworld with young (lightly cratered) surfaces indicating recent and complex geology. Discoveries so far include an atmospheric haze and nitrogen-ice glaciers. NH will continue to return data from the encounter for the rest of this year.

The Hill sphere of the Pluto/Charon system, where (loosely speaking) the gravity of the system significantly affects the probe's trajectory, has a radius of 8 million km. Within the sphere we can consider NH as being on a hyperbolic orbit around the Pluto/Charon barycenter rather than being in a solar hyperbolic orbit.

The system consists of two worlds (gravitationally dominated spherical objects), Pluto and Charon, separated by 19570 km. Pluto has a radius of 1186 km and a mass of 13 million teratonnes; its full designation is (134340) Pluto, marking it formally as a numbered minor planet (asteroid). Charon has a radius of 604 km radius and a mass of 1.5 million teratonnes. (I like the teratonne, or 1 million million metric tons, as a convenient mass unit for small solar system objects. The Earth has a mass of 6 billion teratonnes). The Pluto/Charon center of gravity is in open space between the two. In addition, several small worldlets orbit the Pluto/Charon binary:

Pluto/Charon moon system

Name Size (approx radius) Orbit radius Mass (teratonne)

Styx (Pluto V) 10 km? 42656 km 30?
Nix (Pluto II) 19 km 48694 km 200?
Kerberos (Pluto IV) 15 km 57783 km 150?
Hydra (Pluto III) 25 km 64738 km 420

The timeline of the encounter, subject to revision, was as follows: (all times UTC)
Jul 7 1840 Enter Pluto/Charon Hill Sphere
Jul 14 0405 Within 1 Earth-Moon distance of Pluto inbound
Jul 14 1036 Within orbit of outermost moon (65000 km from barycenter)
Jul 14 1115 Passed 22209 km from Nix
Jul 14 1151 Pluto closest approach at about 12800 km above surface
Approach hyperbola inclination 57 deg to Pluto equator
Jul 14 1153 Closest approach to Pluto/Charon barycenter at 15423 km
Jul 14 1202 Passed 77680 km from Hydra
Jul 14 1205 Charon closest approach at 28873 km above surface
Jul 14 1215 Passed 69006 km from Kerberos
Jul 14 1230 Passed 39139 km from Styx
Jul 14 1309 Outside orbit of outermost moon (65000 km from barycenter)
Jul 14 1935 More than 1 Earth-Moon distance from Pluto, outbound
Jul 21 0600 Leave Pluto/Charon Hill Sphere outbound to Kuiper Belt and solar escape
Solar hyperbola perihelion 2.25 AU, ecliptic inclination 2.4 deg, e = 1.40

New Horizons is now heading further out in the Kuiper Belt. The probe will be sent on (barring any really crazy funding decision) to make a course correction late in 2015 to enable an encounter with another Kuiper Belt object in 2019; two targets are under consideration, 2014 MU69 (`PT1') at 43 AU from the Sun, and 2014 PN70 (`PT3') at 44 AU from the Sun. Both are probably small objects in the 25-50 km size range, so more like the Plutonian small moons than Pluto or Charon.

Meanwhile the inert Star 48B third stage motor from the New Horizons launch is following a little way behind, and should (silently) pass around 200 million km from the Pluto/Charon system on Oct 9.


The third generation Disaster Monitoring Constellation was deployed on an Indian PSLV-XL rocket on Jul 10. DMC Imaging International is a Surrey Satellite spinoff company which operates the DMC imaging satellites in collaboration with several developing countries; the satellites have the capability to return prompt imaging of areas in those countries affected by natural disasters. DMC3 consists of three 450 kg satellites. Also on the launch was a 91 kg Surrey Satellite Technology (Astrium SSTL) experimental imaging satellite, CBNT-1 (CBNT is an internal abbreviation whose meaning SSTL has declined to disclose) and a 7 kg cubesat from the Surrey Space Centre.

Surrey Space Center remains affiliated with the University of Surrey in Guildford while SSTL is its industrial spinoff generated after the commercialization of the UoSat platform in the mid-1980s.


Between Jul 13 and Jul 16 the NanoRacks team supported the Kibo RMS based deployment of the cubesats delivered on CRS-6: 14 3U cubsats for PlanetLabs, the 3U Arkyd-3R from Planetary Resources, and the 1U Centennial-1 from Booz Allen. Arkyd-3R tests software and systems for future Arkyd satellites. Centennial-1 will be used as a space surveillance target by the USAF.


The GPS SVN 72 satellite was successfully launched to replenish the GPS constellation. This was the 10th satellite in the GPS IIR series.


Arianespace launched two satellites into geotransfer on Jul 15. Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) 4 will become Meteosat 11 once in operation with EUMETSAT, the European Meteorological Satellite Organization. Star One C4 is a television satellite for the Brazilian operator Embratel Star One.


The WGS 7 Wideband Global Satcom military communications satellite was launched Jul 24 from Cape Canaveral into supersynchronous geotransfer orbit. WGS satellites are managed by the USAF Space and Missile Center and replace the older DSCS system with X-band and Ka-band communications systems. This was the second Delta 4 launch to use the uprated RS-68A main engine.


The Kosmos-2504 satellite, launched in March as the third of a series of somewhat-mysterious '14F153' Russian technology-development payloads, made a major orbit change on Jul 3 around 0710 UTC from its initial 1172 x 1506 km orbit to a lower 1119 x 1451 km orbit. This is likely to be the first move in a new rendezvous experiment of some kind. The satellite previously completed a rendezvous with its Briz-KM rocket stage around Apr 14 and appears to have deliberately or accidentally hit the stage, according to reports by Anatoliy Zak at


Cassini made a 10953 km distant flyby of Titan (encounter T112) at 0811 UTC Jul 7.

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches

Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL. Catalog Perigee Apogee Incl Notes
km km deg
Jun 5 1523 Kosmos-2505 Soyuz-2-1A Plesetsk LC43/4 Imaging 27A S40667 177 x 285 x 81.4
Jun 23 0151 Sentinel 2A Vega Kourou ZLV Imaging 28A S40697 787 x 788 x 98.7 1030LT SSO
Jun 23 1644 Kosmos-2506 Soyuz-2-1B Plesetsk LC43/4 Imaging 29A S40699 706 x 725 x 98.3 0840LT SSO
Jun 26 0622 Gaofen 8 Chang Zheng 4B Taiyuan Imaging 30A S40701 471 x 481 x 97.3 1330LT SSO
Jun 28 1421 Dragon CRS-7 Falcon 9 v1.1 Canaveral SLC40 Cargo F02 F01448 -6250?x 45?x 51.6
Jul 3 0455 Progress M-28M Soyuz-U Baykonur LC1 Cargo 31A S40713 398 x 402 x 51.6 Docked ISS
Jul 10 1628 DMC3-1 ) Imaging 32A S40715 637 x 662 x 98.3 2210LT SSO
DMC3-2 ) Imaging 32B S40716 637 x 662 x 98.3 2210LT SSO
DMC3-3 ) PSLV-XL Sriharikota FLP Imaging 32C S40717 637 x 661 x 98.3 2210LT SSO
CBNT-1 ) Imaging 32D S40718 636 x 658 x 98.3 2210LT SSO
DeOrbitSail) Tech 32E S40719 635 x 657 x 98.0 2210LT SSO
Jul 13 1640 Flock 1e-1 ) ISS, LEO Imaging 98-67GF S40722 395 x 401 x 51.6
Flock 1e-2 ) Imaging 98-67GE S40723 394 x 401 x 51.6
Jul 14 0431 Flock 1e-3 ) ISS, LEO Imaging 98-67GH S40725 395 x 400 x 51.6
Flock 1e-4 ) Imaging 98-67GG S40724 396 x 401 x 51.6
Jul 14 1545 Flock 1e-5 ) ISS, LEO Imaging 98-67GL S40728 395 x 402 x 51.6
Flock 1e-6 ) Imaging 98-67GM S40729 395 x 402 x 51.6
Jul 14 2340 Flock 1e-7 ) ISS, LEO Imaging 98-67GJ S40726 395 x 402 x 51.6
Flock 1e-8 ) Imaging 98-67GK S40727 396 x 401 x 51.6
Jul 15 0601 Flock 1e-9 ) ISS, LEO Imaging 98-67GN S40736 396 x 401 x 51.6
Flock 1e-10 ) Imaging 98-67GP S40737 397 x 401 x 51.6
Jul 15 1315 Flock 1e-11 ) ISS, LEO Imaging 98-67GQ S40738 395 x 402 x 51.6
Flock 1e-12 ) Imaging 98-67GR S40739 396 x 402 x 51.6
Jul 15 1536 GPS SVN 72 Atlas V 401 Canaveral SLC41 Navigation 33A S40730 20446 x 20459 x 55.0
Jul 15 2142 Star One C4 ) Ariane 5ECA Kourou ELA3 Comms 34B S40733 35727 x 35791 x 0.1 GEO drift
Meteosat 11 ) Weather 34A S40732 35376 x 35636 x 3.2 GEO drift
Jul 15 2249 Flock 1e-13 ) ISS, LEO Imaging 98-67GS S40740 396 x 401 x 51.6
Flock 1e-14 ) Imaging 98-67GT S40741 396 x 400 x 51.6
Jul 16 0641 Centennial-1) ISS, LEO Calib 98-67GU S40742? 395 x 401 x 51.6
Arkyd-3R ) Tech 98-67GV S40743? 395 x 401 x 51.6
Jul 22 2012 Soyuz TMA-17M Soyuz-FG Baykonur LC1 Spaceship 35A S40744 400 x 402 x 51.7 at ISS
Jul 24 0007 WGS 7 Delta 4M+(5,2) Canaveral SLC37B Comms 36A S40746? 437 x 66870 x 24.2

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

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

Jun 3 RV Hyunmoo 2 Anhueng, S Korea Test 150
Jun 6 Warhead Hwasong 6? Sa'dah, Yemen Weapon 80?
Jun 6 CTV-01 SM-3-IIA San Nicolas I.,Calif. Test 150?
Jun 25 1000 NASA 41.113UO Terrier Imp.Orion Wallops, Virginia Education 118?
Jun 30 0455 MAPHEUS 5 VSB-30 Kiruna, Sweden Micrograv 256
Jun 30 Warhead Hwasong 6? Sa'dah, Yemen Weapon 80?
Jul 7 1015 NASA 36.313NP Black Brant 9 Wallops, Virginia Tech 350?

| Jonathan McDowell | |
| Somerville MA 02143 | inter : planet4589 at gmail |
| USA | twitter: @planet4589 |
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