Minotaur assembled at Cape Canaveral

Minotaur-4, converted ICBM missile, was successfully assembled at Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral last Friday, August 19, 2017.

Orbital ATK, operator of Minotaur-4, passed through assembly process at Launch Pad 46 last Friday. Rocket was delivered in parts and thanks to the fact, that rocket is solid fueled, assembling process was done safely directly at the launch pad. Minotaur-4 will deliver on August 25, 2017,  SensorSat satellite to 700 km orbit . It is operated by United States Air Force’s Operationally Responsive Space division experimental satellite designed by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Lincoln Laboratory. Satellite will continuously scan belts placed at GEO orbit at altitude of 35800 km. SensorSat will search for space debris and track satellites remaining at Low Earth Orbit. Experiment also will test method of monitoring GEOP orbit using satellites placed on LEO what is more cost efficient comparing to using for same purpose satellites positioned at geostationary orbit.

Minotaur-4 derives from LGM-118 Peacekeeper ICBM and is operated by Orbital ATK. First flight of rocket took place in 2010, when vehicle successfully delivered to orbit HTV-2A Hypersonic Test Vehicle. Rocket is based on four stages and is long for 23.88 m with diameter of 2.34 m and mass at 86.3 t. Rocket is fully operating with solid propellant. First stage is providing 2200 kN of thrust, second stage is able to provide 1365 kN; third stage is providing thrust at 329 kN. Upper stage, Orion-38, is able to deliver to orbit 1735 kg of payload with its 32.2 kN engine to 135 km orbit. Until now rocket has success ratio at 100% with 5 successful flights.

Falcon-9 with Formosat-5 after test fire

SpaceX successfully performed test fire before their next launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

SpaceX finished most important test before planned for August 24 2017 launch of the Taiwan’s National Space Organization observation satellite Formosat-5  – preflight test fire of the first stage of Falcon-9.

Falcon-9 was rolled out to the  Space Launch Complex 4-East launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Saturday, August 19. Rocket fired all of its nine Merlin-1DS engines for few seconds; rocket confirmed its readiness and passed test fire without any problems.

Launch is scheduled for Thursday, August  24, at 18:50 UTC. Rocket will deliver weighing only 475 kg  satellite to 720 km orbit. This means that most of the payload space will not be used – SpaceX failed to find any customer to share space under the payload fairing with Taiwan’s National Space Organization. It is worth to remind that launch cost Taiwanese government in 2011 only $23 million what is around 35% of present cost of the single launch of Falcon-9. This mission surely will not be most profitable launch in 2017 for SpaceX, still with small payload rocket will be able to perform landing. It is not possible when rocket delivers large payload to orbit and burns all the fuel to reach orbit.

H-IIA deliveres Michibiki-3 to orbit

JAXA decided finally to launch Michibiki-3 navigational satellite after one week of delay caused by problems with H-IIA rocket.

It was 35th mission of H-IIA rocket. Primary objective was to deliver third from fourth JAXA navigational satellites. Michibiki-3 will support GPS system which is used in Japan, but suffers for some problems due the mountains and skyscrapers. These are preventing receivers on the ground from finding signal which is send from satellites flying low over horizon. That is why JAXA decided to create The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). Constellation of Michibiki satellites supports GPS only over Japan; in future JAXA considers extending number of satellites from four to seven.

Fifth mission of H-IIA was delayed for a week. Originally scheduled for August 11th, due the poor weather conditions was moved to August 12th. Unfortunately, in the last phase of countdown, technicians spotted leaking helium valve installed in pressurizing system and rocket returned to hangar for repair and inspection.

Third attempt was planned to be performed again from first launch pad at Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center. Rocket was launched punctually at 05:29 UTC. All four boosters fueled with HTPB started to provide 2260 kN of thrust supporting first stage powered by 1 LE-7A engine (with 1098 kN of thrust). Rocket performed course correction to south-east and released boosters at T+2′. At T+3’45” wide for 5.1 m payload fairing was jettisoned. First stage was continuing flight until T+6’30” when it was cut off and jettisoned. Second stage started its LE-5B engine providing 137 kN of thrust for following 4 minutes 31 seconds. After reaching parking orbit, second stage was cut off. Second burn was performed to raise orbit after another 12 minutes 16 seconds and lasted for 250 seconds. After second burn Michibiki-3 was deployed at T+28’40”.

Rocket manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. is 53 m long with total mass of  445 t. In heaviest configuration (204) configuration rocket can be equipped with various payload fairings from 3.7 m payload fairing to even exceeding 5 m (with payload to GTO at 6 t)  and four Solid Rocket Boosters in A variant. Boosters are fueled with HTPB and are providing 2260 kN of thrust each. Rocket has two stages, first is powered by LE-7A engine burning LOX/LH-2 and providing 1098 kN of thrust. Second stage is powered by single LE-5B engine also fueled with LOX/LH2 with thrust of 137 kN.

Get ready for Atlas V/TDRS-M!

United Launch Alliance Atlas V with TDRS-M satellite under payload fairing was rolled out today at Cape Canaveral.

Finally after problems with broken antenna, which appeared in the half of July TDRS-M was successfully encapsulated under the payload fairing of the Atlas V rocket (401 configuration); rocket was rolled out to the launch site. With almost three weeks of delay (originally TDRS-M should be delivered to orbit on August 3, 2017), specialists and engineers from ULA and Boeing finished all necessary actions and placed Atlas V with satellite on special platform to perform roll out from assembly facility.

Today at 13:08 UTC rocket standing on special platform passed first meters of its way to SLC-41 launch pad at Cape Canaveral. During its last journey on Earth rocket reached launch pad after passing 5.5 km in one hour. It was secured at the launch pad and after connecting all control cables and lines, fueling of the first stage begun. This marked beginning phase of last pre launch preparations, which will finish on Friday, August 18th when rocket will ignite its engines and start at 12:03 UTC.

ULA decided to use their proven Atlas V rocket and launch weighing over 3450 kg Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M satellite from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral. Company planned to use Atlas V in 401 configuration with no boosters, 4 m wide payload fairing and single RL-10 engine installed at Centaur upper stage.

TDRS-M is third generation data relay satellites, which have been launched by NASA since 1983. It is thirteenth TDRS satellite launched by NASA and third designed and manufactured only by Boeing (previous were result of cooperation between Hughes and Boeing and first seven were designed and manufactured by TRW).



Dragon CRS-12 launched!

SpaceX managed to deliver to orbit twelfth Dragon spacecraft with supplies for International Space Station.

Falcon-9 1.2v rocket delivered to LEO robotic cargo spacecraft Dragon during twelfth mission under CRS contract. Vehicle was launched as it was previously planned, from Kennedy Space Center LC-39A launch site with 1652 kg of pressurized and 1258 kg or unpressurized cargo for International Space Station.

Roll out of the rocket from assembly facility was performed on 10th August. At 13:11 UTC rocket was performed static test fire. After test fire until today, rocket remained at hangar closed and secured; final journey on Earth begun today at 03:46 UTC – rocket was delivered to launch pad on special railed platform and later moved to vertical position. One hour before launch, at 15:30 UTC fueling process was started.

Punctually at 16:31 UTC long for 65 m rocket was launched from LC-39A launch site at Kennedy Space Center. At T+60″,  after performing pitch maneuver, rocket reached speed of sound and passed through this phase of flight when dynamic pressure reaches peak value. At T+3′ rocket cut off its first stage and separated it from second stage. This was beginning of return of the booster to Earth. First stage performed its flip maneuver and begun series of burns one minute later to reduce speed and perform reentry. At the same time second stage powered by single vacuum version of Merlin-1D engine jettisoned nose cone and exposed Dragon spacecraft. At T+6′ first stage performed entry burn and stabilized its flight before reaching Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1. Finally at 16:39 UTC first stage landed at Landing Zone 1 pad. At the same time second stage was continuing its flight to LEO orbit and prepared to deploy Dragon spacecraft. Two minutes later at 18:41 UTC second stage was cut off and at 18:43 UTC Dragon was deployed at LEO orbit with following parameters: 200 km x  360 km, inclined 51.6 degrees. Two minutes later Dragon deployed solar arrays and confirmed its good condition  and orbital parameters.

It was sixth landing of the first stage of the Falcon-9 at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. Booster will be moved to horizontal position and transported to not yet specified SpaceX facility for further inspection. Dragon will reach ISS after 48 hours of flight and will dock to Harmony of Unity modules docking port.

H-IIA with Michibiki-3 scrubbed

Today JAXA rocket H-IIA with Michibiki-3 navigation satellite was not launched from Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center as it was planned. Official reason declared by MELCO was the technical problems with propulsion of the launch vehicle.

It is second time when Michibiki-3 launch is delayed. First time mission was postponed for 24 hours from Friday 11th August to Saturday 12th August, due the poor weather conditions at Tanegashima Space Center. Today launch was planned again for 05:00 UTC and it seemed quite sure that we will finally see launch of 204 version of H-IIA rocket. Rolled out was performed on Friday at 23:58 UTC and rocket remained at Launch Pad 1 at Yoshinobu Launch Complex. Liftoff was planned for 04:40 UTC and ordinary pre launch procedure was initiated.

Two hours after roll out tanks of the rocket were already fueled with propellant. After engine check which according to reports was passed without any problems, surprisingly at 03:10 UTC countdown was set to hold. Without giving any more details JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries announced that launch was moved to 07:00 UTC. Thanks to long launch window planned to end at 13:14 UTC it was still possible to launch rocket today. Unfortunately at 07:24 UTC launch was officially scrubbed. MELCO, operator of the rocket announced only that reason for flight cancellation was problem with propulsion of the rocket detected before launch.

Jaxa has not announced about new launch date yet, rocket remains secured with encapsulated satellite at Launch Pad 1.

ISS after another reboost!

International Space Station performed scheduled reboost on Wednesday, 9 August, 2017 to correct its course before planned for September 2nd return of Soyuz MS-04.

Reboost and course change was possible thanks to engines of progress MS-06 cargo spacecraft docked to Zvezda docking port. Progress arrived to ISS on 16 June 2017 after lasting 48 hours space journey.

Progress MS-06 fired its DPO thrusters at 12:25 UTC for 2 minutes 5.1 seconds and accelerated ISS for 0.25 m/s.

Course change is part of preparing before undocking and return to Earth Soyuz MS-04. Fyodor Yurchikhin, Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson will leave International Space Station around 22:00 UTC on September 2nd and land in Kazakhstan on September 3rd at around 01:25 UTC. MS-04 remains docked to Poisk zenith docking port since April 20, 2017.

It is worth to remind that shortly after undocking another spacecraft will dock to ISS in following days. On September 12 at 21:17 UTC Aleksandr Misurkin, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba will reach Station inside Soyuz MS-06 after extremely short space journey planned only for six hours.


H-IIA with Michibiki-3 satellite delayed for 24 hours

JAXA, Japan’s Space Agency, announced that upcoming launch of H-IIA rocket with navigation satellite Michibiki-3 under the payload fairing is delayed due the poor weather conditions at Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center.

Launch of the H-IIA rocket with Michibiki-3 was planned originally for Friday, August 11th, to 05:00 UTC. Unfortunately poor weather conditions. Rocket is still inside vertical assembly building with roll out planned for late Friday.

Rocket manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. is 53 m long with total mass of  445 t. In 204 configuration rocket is equipped with 3.7 m payload fairing (with payload to GTO at 6 t)  and four Solid Rocket Boosters in A variant. Boosters are fueled with HTPB and are providing 2260 kN of thrust each. Rocket has two stages, first is powered by LE-7A engine burning LOX/LH-2 and providing 1098 kN of thrust. Second stage is powered by single LE-5B engine also fueled with LOX/LH2 with thrust of 137 kN.

Michibiki-3 is third from constellation of four satellites operating under  Quasi-Zenith Satellite System. System will support navigation services over Asia and Pacific region where high mountains and sky crappers can jam standard signal provided by GPS satellites remaining low on the horizon. First Michibiki was launched in September 2010, second was delivered also on the top of the H-IIA in June this year. Last spacecraft will be launched before end of the 2017.

Electron disaster explained

Rocket Labs announced last Monday (August 7, 2017) about reasons for disaster of their Electron rocket “It’s a Test” during its maiden flight  performed on May 25, 2017 at New Zealand’s Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula.

First flight of 17 m long rocket (1.2 m of diameter) powered with nine Rutherford engines fueled RP-1/LOX propellant  was performed on May 25, 2017 from first in New Zealand launch pad at Mahia Peninsula. Unfortunately for Rocket Labs, manufacturer and designer of the rocket, vehicle reached 224 km and communication with ground control station was lost. Rocket failed to reach LEO orbit and was completely destroyed.

Engineers from Rocket Labs managed to finally finish analysis of data from 25000 channels recorder during short flight of Electron and presented results of their research. It was announced that flight was terminated due the data time loss out, which was result of  wrong configuration of telemetry equipment provided by one of subcontractors.

Until rocket reached 224 km everything seemed to be perfectly fine. Rocket was on correct trajectory what was confirmed after analysis of data recorded by secondary telemetry payload installed and manufactured by Rocket Labs.  Unfortunately main telemetry instrument failed and rocket terminated flight due the loss of telemetry data. Direct source of the problem was device translating radio signals into data, which was not configured properly. Subcontractor which installed that device omitted switching on forward error correction, what led to data misinterpretation and made evaluating position of the rocket impossible. Engineers from Rocket Labs confirmed that data from their own equipment were correct and even device provided by subcontractor after setting forward error correction to on performed just as it should. Analysis of the recorded data showed no other errors during last flight.

Another launch of the Electron “Still Testing” is passing last tests before delivering to Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula. Date of the launch was not unveiled but it is possible that another Electron will be launched to reach Low Earth Orbit already in 2017.

Next satellite arrives to Kourou

Another payload arrived to French Guiana to pass process of integration with Ariane 5 before mission planned for September 1st 2017.


Both satellites are already at Kourou. BSAT-4 joined Intelsat-37A today inside special cargo plane landed at Kourou airfield. BSAT-4 was designed and manufactured for Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (B-SAT) by Space Systems Loral (SSL) to provide Direct-to-Home (DTH) television service in Japan. Weighing 3.5 t and based on SSL-1300 bus and equipped with 24 Ku band transponders will operate for at least 15 years from GEO 110° East  orbital slot.

Satellite will be paired with Intelsat-37E using SYLDA adapter installed under the payload fairing. Satellites will be attached to SYLDA one over another and will be deployed in precisely planned intervals.

Intelsat-37E was designed and manufactured by Boeing for Intelsat S.A. It was based on BSS-702MP satellite bus with conventional apogee kick motor based on IHI BT-4 bi fuel thruster. Satellite weighing 6761 kg and powered by two deployable solar arrays was equipped with C and Ku band transponders. It will operate for at least 15 years.

Satellites will reach space on September 1st, 2017 on the top of the Ariane 5 ECA rocket which will be launched from ELA-3 launch site.