[JSR] Jonathan's Space Report, No. 777

Jonathan McDowell jcm at planet4589.com
Fri Apr 17 18:07:25 EDT 2020

Jonathan's Space Report
No. 777                                                         2020 Apr 17  Somerville, MA

I am the one entity you get emails from who is *not* sending you a special email about
what I'm doing about the pandemic. But: I hope you are all safe and well.

International Space Station

The Cygnus NG-12 cargo ship S.S. Alan Bean was deorbited over the Pacific on Mar 17;
the last telemetry signal was at 2316:56 UTC.

The Dextre robot arm removed the Bartolomeo experiment platform Dragon CRS-20's trunk on Mar 25.
Bartolomeo was attached to the Columbus module on Apr 2.

Dragon CRS-20 was unberthed from the Harmony module at about 1030 UTC
Apr 7 and released into orbit at 1306 UTC. After a deorbit burn the
cabin splashed down at about 117.5W 26.5N in the Pacific at 1850 UTC.

Soyuz MS-16 was launched on Apr 9 at 0805 UTC and docked with the Poisk module after 6hr 8min at 1413 UTC.
Crew of Soyuz MS-16 are Anatoliy Ivanishin, Ivan Vagner and Chris Cassidy. This was the
first launch of a Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle carrying a crew.

After a one-week handover to the new crew, Chris Cassidy took command of ISS.
Soyuz MS-15 undocked from the Zvezda module at 0153 UTC Apr 17 with Oleg
Skripochka, Jessica Meir and Drew Morgan aboard, bringing Expedition 62
to a close and marking the start of Expedition 63. The deorbit burn was
at 0422 UTC for 4m 41s, lowering the orbit to about -18 x 423 km. Soyuz
MS-15 landed in Kazakhstan at 0516 UTC.


Last issue I inadvertently omitted discussion of the Ariane launch on Feb 18.
On Feb 18 at 2218 UTC Ariane vehicle L5111, flight VA252, took off from Kourou and headed
to a 6 degree inclination geotransfer orbit. This was the third launch of the new Ariane 5ECA+
variant with an ESC-D upper stage, stretched by 4 cm relative to the older ESC-A allowing it
to carry 360 kg of additional propellant. The earlier 5ECA+ flights were VA249 and VA251.

The upper payload was JCSAT-17 for Sky Perfect JSAT. with a launch mass
of 5857 kg. Unlike previous JCSAT satellites, this one carries a large
18-metre-dia Harris S-band antenna on a long boom. The S-band system
supports communications for disasters and other high traffic events. The
satellite, using a Lockheed Martin A2100 buss, also carries the usual
Ku-band and C-band communications payloads.

The lower payload is GEO-Kompsat 2B, for South Korea's aerospace
institute KARI. In the launch table I had accidentally labelled
GEO-Kompsat 2B as "Comms" but it is a weather/remote sensing satellite,
not a communications satellite. GEO-Kompsat 2B, with a launch mass of
3379 kg, carries the GOCI-II ocean color imager and the GEMS
spectrometer. GEMS, built by Ball Aerospace, is a visible/UV spectrometer
which gives hourly time resolution measurements of ozone and pollutants in the
Asia-Pacific region.


The OSIRIS-REX space program remains in orbit around Bennu. It began the
Recon B mission phase in January, with 620m altitude flybys of sites
Nightingale and Osprey on Jan 22 and Feb 13 respectively. The Recon C
phase is now underway. On Mar 3 at 1900 UTC the probe departed from its
1.4 km altitude orbit to perform a `swoop' over the Nightingale
candidate landing site. It passed only 251.6 metres above Bennu's
surface at 2129:48 UTC Mar 3 and reentered the 1.4 km orbit with a burn
at 0005 UTC Mar 4. A 250m pass of site Osprey is expected in May.
(Thanks to Erin Morton for the Mar 3-4 details).

On Apr 14 O-REX carreid out a Checkpoint Rehearsal; at 1852 UTC it
maneuvered from a 1.0 x 1.0 km orbit to a 0.13 x 1.0 km one. At 2251 UTC
at 0.13 km altitude it made the `checkpoint burn' to begin descent to
the asteroid. Then at 2300 UTC, as it reached a  record close distance
of 75m to the asteroid surface, it made a preplanned abort of the
approach in a `backaway burn' and began its return to the 1 km orbit.
The TAGSAM sampler was deployed and retracted during the operation.


Starlink-1220, one of the satellites on the 5th Starlink launch, was
deorbited on Mar 9 from a 324 x 361 km orbit. 

As of Mar 10 there were 20 sats from launch 3 and 39 sats from launch 4
undergoing orbital plane drift at the 350 km `pause' altitude, with 40
of the launch 5 satellites reaching or paused at that altitude.
On Mar 11 to 13 all 99 of these sats abruptly began raising their orbits
again, without waiting for their target orbital planes to be reached.
I speculate that the plane-relocation process requires extra personnel
and the abrupt orbit raising towards the operational 550 km orbit is
a contingency activity in response to COVID19.

On Mar 18 SpaceX launched the sixth batch of satellites, A single
burn of the upper stage placed the satellites in a 209 x 366 km orbit.
The Falcon 9 first stage, on its fifth flight, suffered one engine
shutdown during ascent, and failed to land on the droneship on descent.
This did not affect the successful orbit insertion of the second
stage. The second stage was deorbited over the eastern Pacific.

Recent observations by Richard Cole (Res.Notes.AAS, in press) and
Tregloan-Reed et al (arxiv2003.07251) show that in the days after
reaching its operational orbit at the beginning of March, Starlink-1130
(Darksat) was indeed about a magnitude fainter than other Starlink
satellites, indicating that the special coating has been reasonably
successful. My own analysis of the astronomical impact of Starlink has
been published as
(Astrophysical Journal Letters, v. 892) and


34 more OneWeb satellites were launched from Baykonur on Mar 21 into a 440 x 475 km parking
orbit. The satellites will later raise their orbits to over 1000 km altitude.
Meanwhile, the OneWeb operating company has gone bankrupt (although the associated
manufacturing company OneWeb Satellites emphasizes that it, in contrast, is not bankrupt.)


The first Chang Zheng 7A failed to reach orbit on Mar 16, sometime after
second stage ignition. It's unclear whether the failure was in the third
stage's first burn, or possibly due to a second stage explosion. 

Planned parking orbit was 195 x 195 km x 20 deg; a second burn of the third stage would
have delivered CAST/Beijing's XJS-6 (Xinjishu Yanzheng 6, New Technology
Validation Satellite) to geotransfer orbit. My guess is XJS-6 was
something similar to a DFH-5 communications satellite, of order 5 tonnes
mass. The CZ-7A combines the earlier CZ-7 vehicle with a hydrogen/oxygen
upper stage from the CZ-3 series.

Nusantara Dua

China suffered another launch failure on Apr 7, when a Chang Zheng 3B
failed late in the first burn of the third stage and reentered over the
Pacific near Guam and Saipan. The payload was Nusantara Dua (also called
Palapa N1), a Chinese DFH-4E communications satellite for the Indonesian
company PSNS (a consortium of Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and Indosat).
The 5550 kg satellite was destroyed as a result of the failure.


Russia launched a Soyuz-2-1B from Plesetsk on Mar 16. The Fregat No. 112-11 upper stage put the Uragan-M No. 760
(codename Kosmos-2545) navigation satellite in orbit. The satellite will form part of the GLONASS system,
probably replacing satellite no. 735.


The sixth group of three Yaogan-30 satellites were launched on Mar 24. The YG-30 satellites
are thought to be for signals intelligence.


A United Launch Alliance Atlas V, flight AV-086, flew from Cape Canaveral on Mar 26,
After the second Centaur burn, to geotransfer orbit, the TDO 2 tracking calibration satellite was
ejected from the Centaur aft bulkhead. A further burn will raise perigee, putting the AEHF 6
communications satellite in transfer orbit for the US Space Force.

Table of Recent Orbital Launches
Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle        Site            Mission       INTL.   Catalog  Perigee Apogee  Incl   Notes

Mar  7 0450   Dragon CRS-20                Falcon 9           Canaveral SLC40 Cargo     16A  S45341  204 x   384 x 51.6
Mar  9 1155   Beidou DW 54                 Chang Zheng 3B     Xichang         Nav       17A  S45344  231 x 35775 x 28.4
Mar 16 1334   XJS 6                        Chang Zheng 7A     Wenchang LC201  Tech      F02  F01450 -2000?x  200?x 20.0
Mar 16 1828   Kosmos-2545                  Soyuz-2-1B/Fregat  Plesetsk LC43/4 Nav       18A  S45358 19131x 19155 x 64.8
Mar 18 1216   Starlink 1207      )         Falcon 9           Kennedy SLC39A  Comms     19A           209 x  366 x 53.0
              Starlink 1213      )
              Starlink 1255-1260 )
              Starlink 1262-1268 )
              Starlink 1272-1293 )
              Starlink 1295-1313 )
              Starlink 1316-1319 )
Mar 21 1707   OneWeb 0018     )            Soyuz-2-1B/Fregat  Baykonur         Comms    20A  S45424   433 x  463 x 87.4
              OneWeb 0019     )
              OneWeb 0027     )
              OneWeb 0029     )
              OneWeb 0031     )
              OneWeb 0034     )
              OneWeb 0037     )
              OneWeb 0042     )
              OneWeb 0046     )
              OneWeb 0050     )
              OneWeb 0055     )
              OneWeb 0060     )
              OneWeb 0061     )
              OneWeb 0063     )
              OneWeb 0064     )
              OneWeb 0066-0069)
              OneWeb 0080-0082)
              OneWeb 0085-0088)
              OneWeb 0090     )
              OneWeb 0092-0096)
              OneWeb 0098     )
Mar 24 0343   Yaogan-30 06 zu 01 xing )    Chang Zheng 2C     Xichang          Sigint  21A  S45460   591 x 602 x 35.0
              Yaogan-30 06 zu 02 xing )                                        Sigint  21B  S45461   591 x 602 x 35.0
              Yaogan-30 06 zu 03 xing )                                        Sigint  21C  S45462   591 x 602 x 35.0
Mar 26 2018   AEHF 6 )                     Atlas V 551        Canaveral SLC41  Comms   22B  S4546  11366 x 35311 x 13.7
              TDO 2  )                                                         Calib   22A  S45464   201 x 35459 x 26.5
Apr  9 0805   Soyuz MS-16                  Soyuz-2-1a         Baykonur LC31  Spaceship 23A  S45476   217 x   389 x 51.8
Apr  9 1115   Nusantara Dua                Chang Zheng 3B     Xichang          Comms   F03  F01522 -1070?x   200?x 27.5?

Table of Recent Suborbital Launches

The Zulfiqar missile launched on Mar 28 by the Houthis in Yemen is a
liquid propellant  Scud-type vehicle similar to the Burkan, and is not
related to Iran's solid fuel rocket of the same name. I am denoting it
as Zulfiqar (YE) to maintain the distinction.

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

Feb 12        USN RVs           Trident D5LE         USS Maine, Pacific  Test         1000?      Wake Island
Feb 16        USN RVs           Trident D5LE         USS Maine, Pacific  Test         1000?      Wake Island
Mar 20 0830   C-HGB             STARS                Kauai LC42          Test          500?      Pacific
Mar 28 2020?  HE RV             Zulfiqar (YE)        Sadah?              Weapon        150?      Riyadh
Apr 15 1500?  Nudol' dummy KV?  Nudol'               Plesetsk            Test          500?      Laptev Sea

|  Jonathan McDowell                 |                                    |
|  Somerville MA 02143               |  inter : planet4589 at gmail       |
|  USA                               |  twitter: @planet4589              |
|                                                                         |
| JSR: https://www.planet4589.org/jsr.html                                 |
| Back issues:  https://www.planet4589.org/space/jsr/back                  |
| Subscribe/unsub: https://www.planet4589.org/mailman/listinfo/jsr         |

More information about the JSR mailing list