The Progress M-10M cargo ship undocked from the Pirs module at 0904 UTC on Oct 29; the craft fired its deorbit engines at 1210 UTC and reentered over the Pacific at 1248 UTC.
Progress M-13M was launched on Oct 30, reaching orbit at 1019 UTC to sighs of relief from the ISS project. It successfully docked with the Pirs module on Nov 2, with the result that the crew will have enough supplies to avoid evacuating the Station. This is the first flight of the old 11S510 model of the Soyuz upper stage and RD-0110 engine since the Aug 24 failure of Progress M-12M. Two Soyuz 2-1B launches used the 14S54 third stage with an improved engine. The Progress M-13M flight is ISS mission 45P and spacecraft production serial No. 413. It carries the Chibis-M microsatellite which will be ejected after undocking.
Soyuz TMA-22 was launched on Nov 14 with commander Anton Shkaplerov and flight engineers Anatoliy Ivanishin and Dan Burbank. It docked with the Poisk module at 0524 UTC on Nov 16, and the astronauts joined the Soyuz TMA-02M crew of Volkov, Fossum and Furukawa on board ISS.
The NPP weather satellite was launched from Vandenberg on Oct 28. NPP is a nested acronym standing for NPOESS Preparatory Project, where NPOESS was the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System, a now-cancelled project that has been replaced by the Joint Polar Satellite System. NPP will provide interim capability between the last of the old NOAA Advanced TIROS-N polar weather satellites and the first JPSS satellite to be launched in a few years.
The Delta 7920 launch vehicle carried six Cubesats in deployers attached to its final stage. The first P-POD deployer carried three 1U Cubesats, each 1 kg, 0.1m in size: AubieSat-1 from Auburn University, Alabama; M-Cubed (the Michigan Multipurpose Mission) from the University of Michigan; and E1PU2 (Explorer-1 Prime, Unit 2) from Montana State University, which carries one of Van Allen's Geiger tubes. The second deployer carred a 3U Cubesat, 0.1 x 0.3m, the RAX-2 Radio Aurora Explorer, an NSF-funded mission also from the University of Michigan. The final deployer carried two 1.5U cubesats, DICE-1 and DICE-2 from Utah State University, which will study the magnetosphere and will each deploy electric field antennas measuring 10 meters tip-to-tip.
Launch from Space Launch Complex 2-West at Vandenberg was at 0948 UTC; Stage 2 reached a 195 x 853 km x 98.7 deg orbit at 0958 UTC. At 1040 UTC a second burn circulazed the orbit at 816 x 819 km and the NPP satellite separated at 1046 UTC. Stage 2's third burn at 1120 UTC lowered the orbit and increased inclination, to 458 x 816 km x 101.7 deg (a higher perigee than originally planned). At 1126 UTC the three 1U Cubesats were ejected, followed at 1128 UTC by RAX-2 and at 1129 UTC by the pair of DICE. A final burn at 1143 UTC lowered the Delta stage's orbit to 179 x 706 km x 107.3 deg to speed its eventual reentry. By Nov 8 NPP had adjusted its orbit to 822 x 824 km x 98.7 deg.
The Shenzhou 8 spaceship was launched on Oct 31 on a mission to rendezvous and dock with the Tiangong-1 spacelab. Shenzhou 8, like Shenzhou 1 to 4, does not carry a crew. The first automated robotic rendezvous and docking was carried out by the Soyuz No. 5 and No. 6 spaceships (Kosmos-186 and Kosmos-188) in 1967.
Shenzhou 8 was inserted into a 261 x 314 km x 42.8 deg orbit and completed a rendezvous with Tiangong 1 on Nov 2, in a 328 x 338 km orbit. Docking was carried out successfully on Nov 2 at 1728 UTC. On Nov 14 at 1127 UTC it undocked, retreated to 140m and redocked at 1153 UTC. On Nov 16 at 1030 UTC Shenzhou 8 undocked from Tiangong 1 and prepared to return to Earth.
Three Glonass-M (Uragan-M) navigation satellites were launched on Nov 4 from Baykonur aboard a Proton-M. The launch used a Briz-M upper stage. This is the Block 44 Glonass launch, with satellites Uragan-M No. 743, 744 and 745, also known as Glonass-M No. 43, 44 and 45. The satellites will probably also get the cover names Kosmos-2475 to Kosmos-2477. On Nov 12 the satellites were in orbits of 18907 x 19172 km x 64.8 deg, 19160 x 19319 km x 64.8 deg, and 19018 x 19178 km x 64.8 deg.
The Fobos-Grunt probe took off at 2016 UTC on Nov 8 and reached a 206 x 341 km x 51.4 deg Earth parking orbit, but the solar orbit insertion burns did not take place. The probe separated from the Zenit-2SB41.1 rocket's second stage and remains in low earth orbit attached to its MDU propulsion unit (similar to the Fregat stage). Attempts by ground control to contact the vehicle have been unsuccessful, and the probe, with an approximate mass of 13500 kg, is expected to reenter towards the end of the year.
The Fobos-Grunt mission was intended to return a sample of the Martian moon Phobos to Earth. The main spacecraft is attached to a Fregat-related propulsion system consisting of the MDU main propulsion system (around 735 kg dry with 7015 kg of propellant) and the SBB drop tank (with a further 3000 kg of propellant). The MDU was meant to make a first burn to raise apogee to 4250 kg, release the drop tank, then make a second burn to 17500 km and, some days later, a third to solar orbit insertion. In August 2012 it would have also performed the Mars orbit insertion burn. At this stage the MDU would have separated from the main spacecraft, together with a truss structure and the 115 kg Chinese Yinghuo-1 subsatellite; these three objects would have been left in a 900 x 77000 km equatorial Mars orbit. The Fobos-Grunt PM (Pereletniy Modul', or cruise module) would have made two major burns to enter a 9900 km circular Mars orbit, completed a rendezvous with Phobos, and after some months of close observation would have landed on its surface. A surface sample would then have been transferred to the 7 kg SA (descent capsule) which would have been launched to Mars orbit by the VA (vosvrashchaemiy apparat, return module). The VA would have made the trans-Earth insertion burn and controlled approach to Earth, separating shortly before the SA performed entry and landing, which would have occurred in August 2014.
This was an extremely ambitious mission given the limited resources (and underpaid scientists and engineers) of the IKI space science center and the Lavochkin company which built the vehicle and managed the mission. The last fully successful Russian interplanetary mission was Vega-2 in 1985-86, followed by a partial success by Fobos-2 in 1988-89. The Fobos-1 and Mars-96 missions were failures. With this record, the IKI/Lavochkin team, which have had a monopoly on Russian/Soviet interplanetary exploration since IKI's formation in 1965, would have been better advised to attempt a much more modest probe - in my opinion. I hope the failure reviews lead to a robust and successful Russian deep space program in the years to come. It's really good news that the Spektr-R orbiting radiotelescope, developed by the same team, is now making successful single-dish astronomical observations and preparing for its initial interferometric experiments.
The Yaogan Weixing 12 satellite was launched on Nov 9. The YW satellites are Earth observing satellites, at least some of which probably have a military role. The YW-12 launch also carried the small Tianxun-1 technology satellite. Tianxun-1 was built by the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (Nanjing Hangkong Hangtian Daxue), carries a small Earth observing CCD camera and has a mass of 58 kg. The satellites are in a 480 x 490 km x 97.4 deg orbit.
The Kosmos-2472 imaging satellite landed on Oct 24. The Kobal't-M class satellite fired its Ikar-class propulsion system to deorbit around 2020-2030 UTC; the Yantar'-type descent module then separated, reentered around 2037 UTC and landed at about 2048 UTC after a 119.2-day flight.
The spacecraft was launched into a 195 x 337 km x 81.5 deg orbit on Jun 27, moving to a 217 x 338 km x 81.4 deg orbit on Jun 29. From Jun 29 to Aug 14 the spacecraft was kept between roughly 215-223 x 315-340 km with orbit reboost burns on Jul 17 and Aug 1. Then the orbit was lowered to 210 x 245 km, and for the remainder of the mission was reboosted to 210 x 250 km each time apogee decayed to around 220 km. Boosts occurrent on Aug 31, Sep 2, 13 and 23, Oct 1 and 12. The final orbit on Oct 24 was 200 x 242 km. The 81-degree orbit was previously used from the 1960s to the 1990s for monitoring the breakup of Arctic ice, in particular by the Fram satellites (1975-1985). The satellite probably carried two SpK small film recovery capsules which were jettisoned and deorbited to a parachute landing sometime during the mission - unfortunately the dates of these ejections can't be determined from the orbital data.
The Dawn probe continues to operate in polar circumVestal orbit. According to data on the Dawn web site and in Marc Rayman's journal, orbit capture was at 0348 UTC on Jul 16 at about 16000 km from Vesta's surface; ion engine thrusting was suspended from Jul 23 to Jul 29 in a 5200 km orbit, followed by descent to the survey orbit of 2700 km altitude which was reached on Aug 2. From Aug 31 to Sep 18 the orbit was lowered again to 680 km for the high altitude mapping orbit (HAMO) phase. On Nov 2 thrusting resumed to leave HAMO for the low altitude mapping orbit which will be at 180 km; by Nov 16 altitude was 339 km. Of course Vesta is far from spherical; altitudes are expressed relative to a mean Vesta radius of 265 km.
The Israeli Defense Force launched a ballistic missile on Nov 2 westward over the Mediterranean. This is probably the second test flight of an improved missile which some western analysts dub the "Jericho III". (Note that we don't know the true Israeli names of their ballistic missiles). Russia launched a Bulava missile from a submarine in the White Sea to the Kura range on Oct 28, and a Topol' missile from Plesetsk to Kura on Nov 3.
The fifth flight of the Wisconsin/GSFC X-ray Quantum Calorimeter (XQC) payload was launched on Nov 6, to observe the X-ray background and demonstrate the detector technology.
India launched the long range Agni IV missile (previously known as Agni II Prime) from Wheeler's Island near Balasore on Nov 15.
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
Oct 12 0531 Megha-Tropiques ) PSLV-CA Sriharikota EarthObs 58A
SRMSat ) Tech 58D
VesselSat-1 ) Comms/AIS 58C
Jugnu ) Tech 58B
Oct 19 1848 ViaSat-1 Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur Comms 59C
Oct 21 1030 Galileo IOV PFM ) Soyuz-2-1B Kourou ELS Navsat 60A
Galileo IOV FM2 ) Navsat 60B
Oct 28 0948 NPP ) Delta 7920 Vandenberg SLC2W Weather 61A
M-Cubed ) Imaging
AubieSat-1 ) Sci/Edu
E1PU2 ) Sci/Edu
RAX-2 ) Science
DICE-1 ) Science
DICE-2 ) Science
Oct 30 1011 Progress M-13M Soyuz-U Baykonur LC1 Cargo 62A
Oct 31 2158 Shenzhou 8 Chang Zheng 2F Jiuquan Spaceship 63A
Nov 4 1251 Glonass-M No. 43) Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC81 Navsat 64A
Glonass-M No. 44) Navsat 64B
Glonass-M No. 45) Navsat 64C
Nov 8 2016 Fobos-Grunt Zenit-2SB Baykonur LC45 Mars probe 65A
Nov 9 0321 Yaogan Weixing 12) Chang Zheng 4B Taiyuan Imaging? 66B
Tianxun 1 ) Imaging 66A
Nov 14 0414 Soyuz TMA-22 Soyuz-FG Baykonur LC1 Spaceship 67A
Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches
Date UT Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission Apogee/km
Sep 1 1353 ARAV? Terrier Oriole? Kauai Target 150?
Sep 1 1354 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?
Oct 8 1025 NASA 36.225UG Black Brant 9 White Sands Astronomy 200?
Oct 11 2115 NASA 41.094UE Terrier Orion Andoya Atm. Sci 130?
Oct 13 1350 NASA 41.093UE Terrier Orion Andoya Atm. Sci 130?
Oct 28 0340 RV x 6? Bulava K-535, White Sea Test 1000?
Nov 2 0750 RV Jericho III Palmachim Test 300?
Nov 3 0645 RV Topol' Plesetsk Test 1000?
Nov 6 NASA 36.264UH Black Brant 9 White Sands Astronomy 250?
Nov 15 0330 Agni RV Agni IV Chandipur Test 900
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