[JSR] Jonathan's Space Report, No. 673

Jonathan McDowell jcm at planet4589.org
Tue Jan 29 10:02:50 EST 2013

Jonathan's Space Report
No. 673                                            2013 Jan 29     Somerville, MA USA

International Space Station

Expedition 34 is underway with commander Kevin Ford and flight engineers
FE-1 Oleg Novitskiy, FE-2 Yevgeniy Tarelkin, FE-4 Roman Romanenko, FE-5
Chris Hadfield, and FE-6 Tom Marshburn. Ferry ship Soyuz TMA-06M is
docked at the Poisk module; Soyuz TMA-07M is at Rassvet; cargo ship
Progress M-16M is at the Pirs module and Progress M-17M is at the Zvezda
aft port.

On Jan 16-24, the Dextre SPDM robot `hand' was used with the Robotic Refuelling
Mission hardware on the ELC-4 platform to demonstrate remotely controlled
refuelling of a simulated satellite.


The Pleiades launch was on Dec 2, not Dec 1.

Rokot launch

The first orbital launch on 2013, on Jan 15, was a Rokot from Plesetsk
carrying three Rodnik-S (Strela-3M) communications satellites for the
Russian Ministry of Defense into a 1480 x 1500 km x 82.5 deg orbit. They
were given the cover names Kosmos-2482 to 2484. In this type of mission
the Briz-KM upper stage usually makes a depletion burn to lower perigee
to around 1200 km, but the extra burn failed to take place this time.

Japanese IGS launch

H-2A rocket F22 was launched from Tanegashima on Jan 27 carrying two
intelligence payloads in the 'Joho Shushu Eisei' (Information Gathering
Satellite) series. The top payload is 'JSE Reda 4-goki' (IGS Radar No.
4) carrying a synthetic aperture radar payload. The lower payload is
'Jissho eisei' (Demo Satellite), believed to be an optical imaging
payload. The satellites are in 508 x 513 km x 97.5 deg and 512 x 522 km
x 97.5 deg orbits.

Resurs-OE reentry

Resurs-OE No. 3-2, a Soviet remote sensing satellite codenamed
Kosmos-1484, reentered on Jan 28 sometime around 0230 UTC over the
eastern United States. The satellite was launched in 1983 and ended
operations in 1984; in 1993 it partially disintegrated (probably a
battery explosion?) generating 48 pieces of cataloged  space debris. 

Historical Essay: GAMBIT 4352

The NRO has declassified details of  NRO's GAMBIT-3 mission 4352,
launched on 1982 Jan 21 and deorbited 1982 May 23. The analysis
in this essay is based on comparison of the newly declassified documents
with existing information on the mission and on the GAMBIT program.

This 52nd GAMBIT-3 flight was the only 'Dual Mode' GAMBIT mission, with
both high and low orbit (search and surveillance) mission phases.
Previous GAMBIT flights used only low orbits. The mission observed
Soviet and Chinese military targets as well as assessing their agricultural
output; I will leave others to discuss details of the intelligence mission
and broader programmatic issues (for example, see Dwayne Day's article
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2218/1 )
and here focus on the orbital history of the vehicle.

British Interplanetary Society analyst Tony Kenden spotted the mission
as unusual and wrote an article about it later that year (JBIS 35, 441),
basing his analysis on two-line element (TLE) data which at that point
were publicly available even for NRO satellites. (That changed a few
months after Anthony's article came out, possibly not coincidentally).
However it now turns out that the TLE data for the later part of the
mission is bogus, which prevented analysts from understanding the full
story until now.

The 4500 kg Mission 4352 spacecraft was launched by Titan 34B Agena D
from Space Launch Complex 4-West at Vandenberg AFB at 1930 UTC on 1982
Jan 21 and reached a 147 x 543 km x 97.3 deg sun-synchronous orbit ten
minutes later. It was cataloged as object 1982-06A. Another object,
1982-06B, reentered quickly - it was probably a camera aperture cover.
At around 0500 UTC on Jan 22, the Gambit orbit was boosted slightly to
189 x 563 km; a series of three burns the next day boosted it to a 571 x
659 km orbit - unprecedented for the normally atmosphere-surfing Gambit
series - and it began its high orbit mission. Orbit maintenance burns
were performed once a week, slowly raising the orbit to 636 x 672 km by
Mar 9 and then lowering it to 616 x 630 km by Apr 22.

The Gambit-3 consists of an Agena stage connected via a rotating joint
to the PPS (Photographic Payload Section), which in turn is connected
to a fairing containing two SRVs (Satellite Recovery Vehicles). Each SRV consists of a capsule
with a film container, a heat shield, a thermal cover, and a `thrust cone'
with a solid rocket to deorbit the system for mid-air recovery over the Pacific.

On Mar 20 SRV-1, now full of film,  was commanded to eject from the nose
of Gambit 4352 in its 633 x 666 km orbit. But the pyro failed to fire
and a backup timer separated the capsule from the thrust cone. The
capsule, heat shield and thermal cover were stranded circling the Earth
in high orbit, while the thrust cone remained attached to the spacecraft
fairing. The objects were cataloged as 1982-06C (possibly the heat shield; reentered
1999 Feb), 1982-06D (possibly the thermal cover; reentered 1998 Sep per estimate
by Ted Molczan in http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Jan-2013/0059.html) 
and 1982-06E (the SRV-1 film capsule, reentered 2002 Sep 28). All the film from
the first part of the mission was lost, and it was decided to continue high
orbit operations a little longer than had originally been planned.

On around Apr 27 the spacecraft fairing, with SRV-1's thrust cone
attached, was ejected from the spacecraft. It was cataloged as 1982-06F
and per Ted Molczan's estimate may have reentered in about 1995 Apr.
Then, on 1982 Apr 28-29, Gambit 4352 made a series of five burns to
lower its orbital perigee to only 155 km. Two more burns on Apr 29-30
lowered apogee to 343 km and low orbit operations began; a final burn on
May 3 set the orbit at 152 x 308 km. These orbit changes are NOT
reflected in the published NORAD tracking data, which shows the
satellite remaining in a 633 x 645 km orbit until the end of the flight.
My first assumption was that this discrepancy was an inadvertent error,
with NORAD tracking the wrong object and not communicating with NRO,
rather than deliberate disinformation (which would be out of character
for that era). However, it is a bit mysterious - did NORAD really fail to
spot a 5 ton satellite in very low polar orbit for almost a whole month?
Isn't that the sort of thing they were set up to spot in the first

Daily reboosts from May 3 to May 20 maintained the low orbit, and at
around 1700 UTC on May 20 the photographic mission was concluded and
attempts to recover SRV-2 began. Since it was thought to have the same
pyro problem, the only way to get it down was to deorbit the entire
spacecraft and then separate the capsule during descent. The Agena main
engine was to be used for the deboost, but when the propellant valves
were opened the spacecraft oscillated out of control. That plan was
abandoned in favor of using the Agena's integrated secondary propulsion
system (ISPS) for the deboost. On May 22, with control recovered, the
orbit was only about 140 x 250 km, and four more reboosts put the
perigee back up to 160 km to keep the spacecraft in orbit for another
day. Finally at around 2225 UTC on May 23 the ISPS fired to send the
spacecraft into the atmosphere, and the SRV-2 capsule was successfully
recovered in mid-air over the Pacific at 2246 UTC on 1982 May 23, completing the
unusual mission.

Deep Space Missions

Here is a list of current deep space missions that I believe to be still operating,
with barycentric locations as of 2013 Jan 27 - let me know what I have missed. 
I've also included a few defunct probes of interest.
I don't have accurate current orbital data for Pioneer 6 and 8. Note that Voyager 1 is
the most distant probe from the Sun (and Earth), but Pioneer 10 is the one that
is farthest out in the ecliptic plane.

I'm playing with the science-fiction trope of `sectors' as a way of
describing solar system geography - so I include a sector made up of
zones in ecliptic plane radius (where the boundaries are determined by
which of the two closest major planets has the dominant gravitational
perturbation, with a few exceptions) and directions labelled by  the "barycentric
constellation" - the constellation the spacecraft would appear to be in
if you were sitting at the solar system barycenter. Don't take these too seriously,
but I find having a coarse binning like this helps give a better sense of where the
different probes than the raw numbers. The more conventional 
'Geo Con' column gives the constellation the probe is in when seen from Earth's center, 

Spacecraft    Radial      Status               Radial Dist  Dist above  ----- Sector ----
              Dist                             in Ecliptic  Ecliptic    Zone     BaryCon  GeoCon

       ============  Outer System ==========================

Voyager 1      123.1 AU Exploring heliopause   100.9 AU    35.0 AU   Transneptunian Oph   Oph
Pioneer 10     107.6    Defunct                107.5        5.6      Transneptunian Tau   Tau 
Voyager 2      100.7    Exploring heliopause    83.1      -34.4      Transneptunian Tel   Tel 
Pioneer 11      85.8    Defunct                 83.2       21.1      Transneptunian Sct   Sct
New Horizons    25.3    En route Pluto          25.3        0.0      Cisneptunian   Sgr   Sgr
Cassini          9.8    In Saturn orbit          9.8        0.0      Saturn         Vir   Lib
Rosetta          5.2    En route Comet C-G       5.2       -0.3      Parajovian     Sco   Oph
Dawn             2.54   En route (1) Ceres       2.5       -0.1      Main Belt      Ori   Tau

       ============  Mid System ==========================

Juno             2.00   En route Earth flyby     2.0        0.0      Transmartian   Vir   Vir
Stardust         1.71   Defunct                  1.7        0.1      Transmartian   Cap   Aqr
Mars Odyssey     1.38   In Mars orbit                                Mars           Aqr   Cap
Mars Express     1.38   In Mars orbit                                Mars           Aqr   Cap
Mars Recon Orb   1.38   In Mars orbit                                Mars           Aqr   Cap
Opportunity      1.38   Mars surface                                 Mars           Aqr   Cap
Curiosity        1.38   Mars surface                                 Mars           Aqr   Cap
Pioneer 8        1.08?  Dormant                   1.1        0.0     Trans-Earth    Vir?  Oph?
Stereo B         1.07   Observatory               1.1        0.0     Trans-Earth    Aqr   Aqr
Chang'e-2        1.03   Dormant?                  1.0        0.0     Near-Earth     Cnc   Ari
Deep Impact      1.02   En route (163249)         1.0       -0.1     Near-Earth     Psc   Aqr
Spitzer          1.01   Observatory               1.0        0.0     Near-Earth     Tau   Psc
ICE              0.98   Dormant                   1.0        0.0     Near-Earth     ?     ?
Kepler           0.97   Observatory               1.0        0.0     Near-Earth     Gem   Psc
Stereo A         0.96   Observatory               1.0        0.0     Near-Earth     Oph   Sgr
Pioneer 6        0.94?  Dormant                   0.9        0.0     Sub-Earth      Cnc?  Oph?

       ============  Earth-Moon System ==========================

ARTEMIS P1       0.98   Lunar orbit
ARTEMIS P2       0.98   Lunar orbit
LRO              0.98   Lunar orbit
Wind             0.98   At Earth-Sun L1
SOHO             0.98   At Earth-Sun L1
ACE              0.98   At Earth-Sun L1
Herschel         0.98   At Earth-Sun L2
Planck           0.98   At Earth-Sun L2

       ============  Inner System ==========================

Venus Express    0.73   In Venus orbit            0.7        0.0     Venus         Sgr   Sgr
Akatsuki         0.65   En route Venus            0.7        0.0     Transvenusian Psc   Aqr
Ikaros           0.65?  Dormant                   0.7        0.0     Transvenusian Psc   Aqr
Messenger        0.40   In Mercury orbit          0.4        0.0     Mercury       Aqr   Cap

In Deep Earth orbit:
  Geotail, Chandra, XMM, Cluster FM5/FM6/FM7/FM8, Integral, IBEX, Spektr-R

Table of Recent (orbital) Launches 
Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  
Dec  2 0202   Pleiades 1B        Soyuz ST-A/Fregat Kourou ELS        Imaging   68A
Dec  3 2044   Eutelsat 70B       Zenit-3SL         SL Odyssey        Comms     69A
Dec  8 1313   Yamal 402          Proton-M/Briz-M   Baykonur LC39/200 Comms     70A
Dec 11 1803   X-37B OTV-3        Atlas V 501       Canaveral SLC41   Spaceplane 71A
Dec 12 0049   Kwangmyongsong-3 F2 Unha-3            Sohae             Test      72A
Dec 18 1612   Gokturk 2          Chang Zheng 2D    Jiuquan           Imaging    73A
Dec 19 1212   Soyuz TMA-07M      Soyuz-FG          Baykonur LC1      Spaceship  74A
Dec 19 2149   Skynet 5D          ) Ariane 5ECA     Kourou ELA3       Comms      75A
              Mexsat-Bicentenario)                                   Comms      75B
Jan 15 1625   Kosmos-2482  )     Rokot             Plesetsk LC133/3  Comms      01A
              Kosmos-2483  )                                         Comms      01B
              Kosmos-2484  )                                         Comms      01C
Jan 27 0440   JSE Reda-4   )     H-2A 202          Tanegashima       Radar      02A
              Jissho eisei )                                         Imaging    02B

Suborbital flights

Iran reports that it launched a suborbital mission carrying a monkey in
late January, in preparation for future human spaceflights. The Pishgam
(`Pioneer') rocket seems to be basically the same as the Kavoshgar
sounding rocket launched previously. The launch was announced Jan 28,
but it is not 100 percent clear whether the flight was that morning or
at an earlier date, with the original Farsi news stories saying only
that it was done at the time of Prophet's birthday (actually Jan 29 in
Iran, definitely after the flight) - previous rocket launches have
sometimes been announced weeks after the fact.  The rocketing rhesus
(macaca mulatta) was recovered in good condition.

The US, India and China carried out missile tests on Jan 26-27. The US
Missile Defense Agency's GM CTV-01 carried the CE-II EKV interceptor
kill vehicle on a flight to test fixes to the problems which caused
previous failures; no target was launched. The BO-5 missile was launched
by India from under the sea - probably from a container on a submerged
pontoon at the Visakhapatnam test site, although some news reports
claimed it was launched from the INS Arihant submarine. The BO-5 is
thought to be the same missile as the K-15 launched since 2008, but there's
also reportedly a K-5 missile whose status is unclear. The Chinese test
involved interception of a target missile, apparently repeating a Jan
2010 exercise.

Table of Recent (suborbital) Launches

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

Dec  8 2100   AEB VS30/O V10   VS-30/Orion      Alcantara             Ionosphere   428
Dec 13 0520   NASA 36.283UH    Black Brant IX   White Sands           XR Astron    257?
Dec 17 0700   S-520-28         S-520            Uchinoura             Micrograv    312
Dec 20 0351   Prithvi RV       Prithvi II       Chandipur IC3         Op Test      100?
Jan 26 2200   EKV CTV-01       GBI              Vandenberg LF23       Test flight 1000?
Jan 27 0810   RV               BO-5             Visakhapatnam?        Test flight  300?
Jan 27 1210?  Target RV        DF-21?           Jiuquan?              Target       200?
Jan 27 1210?  Interceptor      DF-21?           Urumqi?               ABM Test     100?
Jan 28?       Pishgam          Pishgam?         Semnan?               Life Sci     120

|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
|  Somerville MA 02143               |  inter : planet4589 at gmail       |
|  USA                               |          jcm at cfa.harvard.edu       |
|                                                                         |
| JSR: http://www.planet4589.org/jsr.html                                 |
| Back issues:  http://www.planet4589.org/space/jsr/back                  |
| Subscribe/unsub: http://www.planet4589.org/mailman/listinfo/jsr         |

More information about the JSR mailing list