NROL-52 postponed for the third time

This time not weather conditions, but technical issues with Atlas V launch vehicle caused another delay in NROL-52 space mission.

Rocket spent last days at SLC-41 with payload encapsulated under the fairing, as Atlas V was rolled out on Tuesday, October 3. After two not successful launch attempts on Thursday and Friday , ULA decided to launch Atlas V with NROL-52 as soon as weather will be better – already on Friday next launch date was scheduled for today.

Today’s weather forecasts from 02:00 UTC were giving 70% of launch possibility. Unfortunately at around 04:57 UTC launch was scrubbed due the technical problems spotted by ground service teams. An S Band telemetry data transmitter necessary for collecting flight data failed and needs to be replaced. Rocket will be rolled into assembly facility for following few days to perform additional service actions, replace transmitter and perform additional tests before another rollout.

It was not announced when fourth attempt of launch will be conducted; it is worth o remind that in the history of 74 flights of Atlas every rocket reached space with less than three launch attempts.

NROL-52 delayed again due the weather conditions

Top secret flight of Atlas 5 with classified payload for National Reconnaissance Office was again postponed for 24 hours.

This time launch attempt was in fact even not started. After yesterday’s hold, countdown was not resumed due the same reason. Extremely strong winds at SLC-41 made launch impossible and ULA decided to postpone launch of Atlas 5 (421) with NROL-52 classified payload for another 24 hours.

Launch was set for tomorrow, October 7, 2017 to 07:59 UTC.

NROL-52 delayed !

Launch of the ULA atlas 5 rocket with classified payload for National Reconnaissance Office was delayed for 24 hours.

Launch was scheduled for today from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral at 07:30 UTC. Rocket in 421 configuration (2 boosters, 4 m fairing and single RL-10 engine installed at Centaur upper stage)  was rolled out on October 3, 2017. First tests of guidance system were performed already on October 5. Unfortunately on 05:30 UTC meteorologists observed heavy rains upcoming to Cape Canaveral, but prelaunch preparations were continued. Countdown took place at T+2h. After prolonged hold, countdown was resumed with new launch time: 08:22 UTC. Additional time was added due the strong winds at SLC-41. Fueling was started at 06:36 UTC and upcoming launch was processed along with time table.

Unfortunately around 09:10 UTC launch was scrubbed due the strong winds around SLC-41 and weather forecasts predicting heavy rainfall. Launch was rescheduled for tomorrow to 08:03 UTC.

International Space Station after course correction

International Space Station passed through orbit correction maneuver on September 28, 2017 to prepare for docking of Progress MS-07 planned for October.

Course correction was performed on September 28, 2017. Mission Control Center in Korolev sent commands to Progress MS-06 docked to Zvezda module since June 16, 2017. Spacecraft was remotely ordered to initialize its propulsion on 16:50 UTC for 212 seconds. Impulse gave ISS additional speed of 0.45 m/s. – ISS has raised its orbit successfully. This maneuver was necessary to prepare Station for docking another Progress cargo spacecraft. MS-07 vehicle will dock to Pirs ISS module on October 12, 2017 few hours after launch.

International Space Station is at the moment placed on 403.3 km x 420.7 km orbit inclined at 51,66°.

Intelsat-37e and BSAT-4a delivered to orbit during fifth flight of Ariane 5 in 2017

On 29 September Ariane 5 delivered to orbit double payload – two communications satellites: Intelsat-37e and BSAT-4a.

Launch was performed yesterday from Guiana Space Center, from launch site ELA-3. September 29 was not original planned launch date – Ariane 5 mission was scrubbed on September 5, 2017 in last seconds before lift off. Problem which appeared during first launch attempt was connected with electric circuits and electric power system of the Ariane 5.

This time everything went flawlessly. Rocket was rolled out from hangar on Thursday last week (September 28, 2017) with both satellites encapsulated on Sylda adapter – Intelsat was placed on the top when BSAT occupied bottom position. It was planned to reach orbit with upper stage with 10838 kg of payload (satellites with adapter) to 250 km x 35706 km with 6 degrees inclination orbit. Rocket was fueled with ultra chilled propellant and this process finished at T-20′.

Punctually at 21:56 UTC rocket lifted off and after setting course to east and passing through sound barrier rocket jettisoned its two EAP boosters at T+2’22”. next rocket reached space and deployed payload fairing at T+3’23”. At T+9’15” core stage was cut off and upper stage was deployed on 150 km orbit. Upper stage started to close to western coast of Africa with end of first burn planned for T+25 – upper stage before end of burn reached speed of 32000 km/h. At 22:28 UTC first satellite, Intelsat-37E was deployed. One minute later Sylda-5 adapter was released and BSAT-4a was fully exposed and became ready to be deployed on orbit. At 22:44 UTC BSAT-4a was released from Sylda. Arianespace announced about correct deployment at T+53′, at 22:50 UTC.

Intelsat-37e is fifth EpicNG class satellite launched for Intelsat. It was built by Boeing on 702MP satellite bus. It is powered by two deployable solar arrays and onboard batteries. Its communications equipment C, Ku, and Ka band transponders. Satellite will operate for 15 years from 342° East slot and offer communications services like enterprise networking, wireless and mobility services. Satellite weight is 6438 kg.

BSAT-4a was built by SSL for Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (B-SAT). Satellite is equipped with 24 Ku band transponders and will provide next generation television services in 4K/8K ultra-high definition. Satellite was built on SSL-1300 bus with two deployable solar arrays as power source. it weighs 3.5 t and offer 15 years of operational life. It will be placed on 110° East orbital slot.

Proton-M with Asiasat-9 communications satellite still on orbit

International Launch Services Proton-M rocket begun its mission to deliver to orbit communications satellite for Asia based operator.

Proton-M almost performed perfect delivery of weighing 6141 kg communications satellite belonging to Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company. Manufactured by  Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) spacecraft bases on SSL-1300 satellite bus will cover with range of its 28 C band transponders, 32 Ku band transponders and additional Ka band payload  regions previously covered by Asiasat-4 ( Persian Gulf, China,  Siberia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand). Also services will reach new customers in Mongolia and Indonesia. It will be deployed on orbit within following hours and will reach its designated orbital slot before end of 2017.

Today’s mission objective was to deliver Asiasat-9 to GTO orbit with Breeze-M upper stage in five burns within lasting 9h13″ flight. It is planned to deploy satellite on elliptical orbit inclined at 23.4 Deg with apogee at 35786 km and perigee at 4045 km. After deployment of solar arrays and first self tests satellite should begun its journey to 122°E GEO orbital slot and replace Asiasat-4. Mission of the satellite is planned for 15 years.


Launch preparations begun with delivering payload from SS/L facility at Palo Alto, California to Baikonur Cosmodrome on August 29, 2017. After tests and integration with Breeze-M, satellite with upper stage, they were covered with fairing on the top of the Proton-M. Rocket was rolled out to Launch Pad 39 on September 25.

Today at 17:24 UTC after receiving final approval from launch director ILS ground service teams begun refueling of the rocket. Twenty minutes launch pad gantry was moved away. Rocket was ready to launch and after finishing fueling process at T-15′ last personell was evacuated from the pad. Rocket ignited its six RD-276 engines at T-2.5″ and lifted off at 18:53 UTC. After 70 seconds rocket already passed 1 Ma speed and moment of highest dynamic pressure. At T+2’45” rocket cut off first six engine stage and fired second stage equipped with RD-0210 and RD-0211 main engines. After another three minutes at T+6’30” second stage was jettisoned and third stage fired its RD-0213 engine. After 4’30” it put rocket in a circular parking orbit (167 km – 178 km). At T+11′ Breeze-M upper stage was released. First burn from five was finished at 19:06 UTC and Breeze-M managed to report telemetry data. According ILS upper stage behaves nominally and should deploy satellite at T+9h13″ after another four burns planned for: T+1h07″ (actually this one was already finished with success), T+3h27′ (planned to last for  11’33”), T+3h41″ (planned for 06’03”) and T+08h52″ (06’14”). Satellite will confirm its good condition after deployment few minutes after releasing and then ILS will officially confirm that mission finished with success.

NROL-42 delivered to orbit !

United Launch Alliance Atlas V (541) delivered today to orbit classified payload for National Reconnaissance Office after launch from Vandenberg Air Force base SLC-3 launch site.

Finally Atlas V proved to be ready during final inspection before launch – this time booster caused no issues like on original launch date when ground service team found and reported problems with faulty battery. It caused decision to postpone mission for 48 hours.

Seven minutes before launch planned for 05:30 UTC Sunday morning, rocket was ready and ground service teams were waiting for final decision. At 05:25 UTC countdown was resume after The ULA launch director and NRO mission director ggave final acceptation. Unfortunately unspecified issue appeared after securing tanks before pressurization and countdown was halted and recycled to T-4′ with new launch hour: 05:49 UTC.

At 05:41 UTC tanks were already filled with fuel and oxidizer and three minutes later final approval was given. Two minutes before launch tanks were pressurized and one minute before launch emergency system was armed. Engines started at 05:49 UTC and rocket performed lift off at 05:49 UTC and started to raise over SLC-3. Fifteen seconds after launch rocket performed pitch and yaw maneuver and reached 1 Ma speed at T+35″. At T+47″ rocket reached maximal dynamic pressure point. At T+1’33” four SRB- solid boosters were cut off and released few seconds later. At T+3’35” payload fairing was jettisoned.Few seconds later small problem with receiving telemetry data from launch vehicle appeared, but according to ULA rocket was continuing flight without any problems. At this moment live broadcast was halted due the classified character of the mission.

At 07:40 UTC ULA confirmed that mission was success and payload was deployed on designated orbit. First signals from classified satellite gathering intelligence data using intercepted radio transmissions while remaining at Molniya orbit. This 3rd Gen Trumpet class spacecraft will replace previously launched older satellites.  it is worth to remind that first Trumpet was deployed in 1994 and half of constellation dates back to nineties with latest satellite launched in 2014. Until now NRO place on orbit seven Trumpet satellites ( first three from first, two from second and three from third generation). Spacecrafts are using external folding mesh antennas for electronic reconnaissance; estimated weight of the Trumpet 1st Gen satellite is 6 t; no information regarding last two generations were unveiled.



NROL-42 and Atlas V delayed

Launch of the classified payload for National Reconnaissance Office was delayed due the technical reasons connected with launch vehicle.

Launch of the NROL-42 was planned for today at 05:38 UTC from LC-3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Rocket was ready at the launch site with payload encapsulated and attached with fairing on September 16, 2017. Weather forecast were describing launch chance as 60% for Friday’s night, launch preparations planned for Thursday were already started. Unfortunately at around 23:00 UTC on Thursday, launch preparations were stopped – launch was officially halted by United Launch Alliance and announcement about delay was given to public. Ground service teams were tasked with battery swap operation on the Atlas V booster, what also was unveiled as main reason for delay of the NROL-42 mission.

Rocket and satellite remain safe surrounded by service tower. United Launch Alliance claims that launch is possible even on Saturday or Sunday, but no specific date and time were given.

NROL-42 already on Friday

United Launch Alliance will deliver to orbit NROL-42 to orbit on Friday, September 22, 2017. Classified payload will be operated and controlled by National Reconnaissance Office intelligence satellite.

Launch is planned for 05:38 UTC from SLC-3E launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force base in California. Payload will be satellite collecting radio signals from Molniya orbit for American intelligence. It will be delivered to orbit by Atlas V 541. It is most refined version of the rocket, long for 62 m with mass of 522 t. It is supported by four SRB boosters joined with Common Booster Core with single RD-180 engine. Payload will be covered by 5 m wide, short fairing delivered by Centaur upper stage with single RL10C-1 engine.

Classified payload will be probably satellite equipped with SBIRS-HEO-3 sensor. Spacecraft will be probably next generation Trumpet class satellite and will replace on Molniya orbit one of older satellites which are reaching end of operational life.

Finish after 20 years – Cassini crashes into Saturn

Yesterday first artificial satellite of Saturn finished its lasting 20 years mission with destructive landing on Saturn.

Joint mission of NASA, ESA and Italian ASI space agency finally reached its end on Friday September 15, 2017. Cassini space probe launched on 15 October 1997 on the top of the Titan 401B/Centaur rocket crashed into Saturn after 162 targeted flybys of Saturn’s moons at 10:32 UTC. Finish was spectacular – Cassini entered upper atmosphere of Saturn 1900 km over the planet’s surface with speed of 113 000 km/h. Last time before crash Cassini sent telemetry data to 70 m dish of Deep Space Network antenna near Canberra, Australia shortly before its own end.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory which was responsible for controlling Cassini during mission decided to avoid unintentional crash of Cassini with one of ice covered moons of Saturn. Last fuel reserve was used to put space probe on correct orbit between 5 and 12 of September and all the effort was made to precisely hit with probe into Saturn. Scientists are considering as possible that on  few moons under ice there is a ocean with possible life forms which could be contaminated with microbes from earth which could remain inside Cassini.

Total cost of main mission (until 2008), first extended mission (2008-2010) and second extended mission (2010-2017) was $40,500,00000. Space probe sent to Earth 635 Gbits of data and discovered Methone, Pallene, Polydeuces, Daphnis, Anthe and Aegaeon moons around Saturn. Scientists also recognize, basing on data gathered by Cassini, that on Enceladus, Titan and Dione it is possible that under ice cover could be not frozen oceans.