[JSR] Jonathan's Space Report, No. 778

Jonathan McDowell jcm at planet4589.com
Tue May 26 00:19:55 EDT 2020

Jonathan's Space Report
No. 778                                                           2020 May 26  Somerville, MA

International Space Station

Expedition 63 continues.

The Progress MS-14 cargo ship, vehicle 448 and mission 75P, was launched on Apr 25
carrying 2500 kg of cargo. It docked with the ISS Zvezda module at 0511:56 UTC after
a 3h 20 min flight.

On May 7 the Dextre arm removed the HDEV Earth viewing experiment from its attachment
point on the Columbus module and installed it on the exterior of the Cygnus NG-13 cargo
ship for disposal.

The S.S. Robert E. Lawrence, the Cygnus NG-13 cargo ship, was unberthed
from the Unity module at about 1300 UTC May 11 by the Canadarm-2, which
released it into orbit at 1609 UTC. It then raised its orbit to 475 x 483 km,
where it remains as of May 24. It is expected to be deorbited on May 29.

A cubesat payload for the comms provider Lynk was ejected from the
Slingshot deployer on Cygnus on May 13. Another payload  (another Lynk,
or perhaps WIDAR) remained attached to Cygnus and deployed a
communications antenna. The payloads were launched aboard Dragon CRS-20
and installed on the Cygnus hatch by the ISS crew. 

The final H-II Transfer Vehicle, HTV-9 (Kounotori 9) was launched by the
also-final H-IIB rocket from Tanegashima on May 20. It carries new
batteries for the S6 truss. HTV 9 was captured by the Canadarm-2 at 1213
UTC May 25 and berthed at the Harmony nadir port at 1446 UTC.
The HTV pressurized module carries six HTV Resupply Racks and two racks
for the ISS: NASA's Express Rack 11B and ESA's European Drawer Rack EDR2.
Also aboard is the iSIM Earth observation camera to be installed on the Kibo
Exposed Facility.

Iranian launch

On Apr 22 Iran opened its military space program with the launch of a Qased rocket from Shahroud by the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Eslami). Previous Iranian civilian launches
were carried out by the Iranian Space Agency from Semnan using Safir and Simorgh rockets. The Qased
uses a 1.25m dia Shahab-3-derived first stage (like the Safir) and appears to use a Salman solid motor
as the second stage and an unknown small solid motor as a third, orbital insertion, stage.
The Qased placed the Noor-1 satellite in a 426 x 444 km x 59.8 deg orbit. An illustration on the
rocket fairing suggests that Noor-1 is a 6U cubesat, probably therefore in the 10 to 15 kg mass range.


The seventh group of 60 Starlink satellites was launched on Apr 22 from Kennedy Space Center.
The Falcon 9 first stage landed on the OCISLY droneship and the second stage was deorbited in the Eastern
Pacific at the end of the first orbit.

CZ-5B launch

On May 5 China's CALT carried out the first test launch of the Chang Zheng 5B. This rocket is largely the
same as the Chang Zheng 5, with small modifications to the 4 strapon boosters and core stage, but
with the upper stage omitted. The CZ-5B can deliver 22 tonnes to low Earth orbit.

Primary payload of CZ-5B Y1 was a 21.6 tonne spacehip, with a 3.3m dia
3.0m long conical crew module and a 3.3m dia 5.8m long service module.
The ship, developed by CAST/Beijing, is referred to in Chinese
announcements as Xinyidai Zairen Feichuan - Shiyan Chuan  (New
Generation Crewed Spaceship - Test Ship). I will abbreviate it as XZF-SC
or just XZF.  XZF raised its orbit to 299 x 719 km x 41 deg on the first
day in space and by May 7 had reached 523 x 6278 km x 42.9 deg. On May
7, possibly about 1130 UTC, a final orbit raising burn put the apogee at
around 8000 km, but no TLEs are available for this phase. At about 0415
UTC the ship began a deorbit burn of about 120 m/s which was concluded
at 0421 UTC. This lowered perigee into the atmosphere. The return cabin
(fanhui cang) separated from the  service module (fuwu cang) at 0533
UTC. Entry interface was at 0538 UTC with a 9.0 km/s entry speed,
followed by parachute descent and an airbag-assisted landing near
Jiuquan Space Centre at 0549 UTC. Total delta-V of the XZF mission was
around 2.0 km/s, implying a propellant load of over 10.3 tonnes and a
dry mass of at most 11.3 tonnes. (Most likely there was a propellant
reserve and the spacecraft dry mass is around 10 tonnes, divided in an
unknown ratio between the cabin and the service module).

A second payload was referred to as Rouxing Chongqi Shihuowu Fanhui Cang
- Shiyan Cang,  (Flexible Inflatable Cargo Return Module - Test Module).
It is a recovery test of a capsule with an inflatable heat shield, and
was developed by the CASIC organization. The 1.0 x 1.5m experiment was
ejected from the rear of the XZF service module and inflated a 3-metre
conical heat shield. The vehicle was deorbited on May 6 for a landing
east of Jiquan at around 0515 UTC. However the recovery was reported to
be unsuccessful.

The 21.6 tonne CZ-5B core stage was left in a 157 x 372 km orbit, which
decayed by May 11 to 124 x 153 km. During its last orbit it flew
directly over Los Angeles and New York City. The core stage began an
uncontrolled reentry at 1534 UTC May 11 over 20W 20N, as it flew over
the Atlantic heading towards Nouakchott, Mauritania. Some of the denser
debris impacted the ground 2200 km further downtrack, in the Bocanda
region of Cote d'Ivoire. 10-metre-long metal rods fell from the sky in
several villages, causing minor damage to houses and equipment but no
reported casualties. Infrasound measurements confirm the identification
of the event as related to the reeentry. CZ-5B-Y1 was the 5th most
massive object ever to make an uncontrolled reentry, after OV-102
Columbia (2003), Skylab (1979), Skylab S-II rocket (1975), and Salyut-7


EXPACE carried out a Kuaizhou-1A launch from Jiuquan on May 12. KZ-1A S/N Y6
placed two Xingyun-2 satellites in 560 km sun-synch orbit after two burns of the fourth
stage. A further fourth stage burn left the stage in a low-perigee 162 x 958 km orbit.

The Xingyun-2 satellites are 93 kg L-band IoT data relay satellites for
Sanjiang Hangtian Xingyun Keji YG, a subsidiary of CASIC. The earlier Xingyun-1 satellite
was a small cubesat precursor mission.


United Launch Alliance launched Atlas AV-081 on US Space Force mission
USSF-7 on May 17. The Atlas placed an X-37B spaceplane in orbit, OTV
flight 6.  The Centaur AV-081 upper stage reached orbit around 1330 UTC.
OTV-6 separated a few minutes later. It was assigned catalog 45606, code
name USA 299. The Centaur AV-081 stage made a deorbit burn at about 1340
UTC and reentered over the Indian Ocean about 1410 UTC. OTV-6 was
quickly located by observers in a 380 x 399 km x 45.0 deg orbit.

The OTV missions are run by the US Air Force's Rapid Capabilities
Office, located in Washington DC (and I think also at Wright Patterson
AFB,at least at one point?), and not by the usual USAF space
organizations in the Los Angeles area.

This mission carries an additional service module for the first time,
attached to the aft end of the X-37B. No pictures or drawings of the
service module have been released. It is unclear whether the service
module will be left in orbit as debris at the end of the mission, or
whether it has its own propulsion. A small satellite, the USAF Academy's FalconSat-8,
will be deployed from the SM. FalconSat-8 is an ESPASat-class satellite with
a mass of about 140 kg and is 0.61 x 0.71 x 0.97 m in size.


Virgin Orbit made its first orbital launch attempt on May 25. The Boeing
747 tail number N744VG,  'Cosmic Girl', took off from Mojave Air and
Space Port at 1856 UTC and flew out over the Pacific southwest of San
Nicolas Island. At 1950 UTC, near 119.83W 33.14N on a heading 155 deg E
of N, the aircraft dropped LauncherOne and the rocket's first stage
ignited - but a few seconds later the engine shut down and the mission
was lost. It's unclear yet whether the vehicle underwent any kind of
range safety destruct before crashing into the sea.

This was the first orbital launch attempt by an air-launched liquid-fuelled rocket.
The mission carried a small inert test payload, possibly the Starshine 4 satellite.


The CZ-3B/Nusantara Dua launch was at 1146 UTC Apr 9, not 1115 UTC as I wrote in last issue's launch table.

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

Apr  9 0805   Soyuz MS-16                  Soyuz-2-1a         Baykonur LC31  Spaceship 23A  S45476   217 x   389 x 51.8
Apr  9 1146   Nusantara Dua                Chang Zheng 3B     Xichang          Comms   F03  F01522 -1070?x   200?x 27.5?
Apr 22 0359   Noor 1                       Qased              Shahroud LC1    Imaging  24A  S45529   426 x   444 x 59.8
Apr 22 1930   Starlink 1261     )          Falcon 9           Kennedy LC39A   Internet 25A-BK         212 x  364 x 53.0
              Starlink 1294     )
              Starlink 1320-1350)
              Starlink 1352-1358)
              Starlink 1360-1369)
              Starlink 1371-1379)
              Starlink 1390     )
Apr 25 0151   Progress MS-14               Soyuz-2-1a         Baykonur LC31   Cargo        26A S45595  189 x  227 x 51.7  
May  5 1000   XZF-SC      )                Chang Zheng 5B     Wenchang LC101  Spaceship    27A S45599  162 x  377 x 41.1
              RCS-FC-SC   )                                                   Reentry Test 27B S45600  163 x  372 x 41.1
May 12 0116   Xingyun-2 01 )               Kuaizhou-1A        Jiuquan         Comms        28A S45602  557 x  573 x 97.6
              Xingyun-2 02 )                                                  Comms        28B S45603  557 x  573 x 97.6
May 13 2325   Lynk                                       NG-13, LEO           Comms        11D S45604  476 x  486 x 51.6
May 17 1314   OTV 6                        Atlas V 501        Canaveral SLC41 Spaceplane   29A S45606  389 x  390 x 45.0
May 20 1731   Kounotori 9                  H-IIB              Tanegashima     Cargo        30A S45607  187 x  301 x 51.7
May 25 1950   Starshine 4?                 Launcher One       Mojave          Test         F04 F01554 -6362x    9 x 67.0?

Table of Recent Suborbital Launches
Date UT       Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle      Site                  Mission    Apogee/km    Target

Mar 20 0830   C-HGB             STARS                Kauai LC42          Test          500?      Pacific
Mar 28 2020?  HE RV             Zulfiqar (YE)        Sadah?              Weapon        150?      Riyadh
Apr   ?       Hyunmoo RV        Hyunmoo 4            Anhueng             Test          150?      East China Sea
Apr 15 1500?  Nudol' dummy KV?  Nudol'               Plesetsk            Test          500?      Laptev Sea

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