Miscellaneous Launches and Payloads (updates)

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Last minute change for LISA Pathfinder launch.....she will launch tonight at 11:04 pm EST


Live coverage: Vega rocket cleared for liftoff with LISA Pathfinder




A Vega rocket has been cleared for launch overnight with Europe's LISA Pathfinder technology demo mission, a probe heading to a station a million miles from Earth to test systems for a future gravitational wave observatory.

Liftoff from French Guiana is set for 0404 GMT Thursday (11:04 p.m. EST Wednesday), or 1:04 a.m. local time in French Guiana.

The launch was supposed to go up early Wednesday, but managers delayed the flight to verify the Vega rocket's liquid-fueled fourth stage could handle the thermal extremes involved in the long coast on LISA Pathfinder's launch.

Two burns of the upper stage are needed to deploy LISA Pathfinder in a low-altitude elliptical orbit, and engineers wanted to make sure the long coast -- more than one hour -- was not a problem for the rocket.

Officials said today they are satisfied with the analysis, clearing the way for the Vega countdown to begin this evening.


This link will also carry the launch, live.....



Vega/LISA Pathfinder launch timeline




Follow the major events during the launch of Europe’s LISA Pathfinder gravitational probe testbed, from liftoff of its Vega rocket booster from French Guiana through deployment into its initial orbit.

Lots of images to explain the timeline from launch to insertion.....


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The Vega (Italian unit) ESA launch went well...liftoff at 11:04 pm EST with the LISA Pathfinder payload.


The second burn of the orbital kicker will be in 1 hour, after that, 2 months, assisted by it's own engine assembly, to get to the L1 Lagrange point (sun side). Still waiting for a launch video and will be awhile for launch health reports.


Live update on progress...



Arianespace TV coverage....




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LISA Pathfinder launch

video is 1:23 min...







The second ignition of the AVUM engine is set for 0545 GMT (12:45 a.m. EDT; 2:45 a.m. French Guiana time). All systems still normal on-board the launcher.

Deployment of the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft is set for 0549 GMT (12:49 a.m. EDT) at the T+plus 1-hour, 45-minute, 33-second mark.


The Vega's fourth stage and LISA Pathfinder are now in a ballistic coast phase after a smooth first burn.




LISA Pathfinder launch animation

video is 1:38 min





Launch Campaign for LISA Pathfinder on Vega Rocket

video is 4:28 min





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Cygnus launch scrubbed till tomorrow, same time....weather.


2315 GMT (6:15 p.m. EST)
ULA launch director Bill Cullen to launch conductor Scott Barney in calling the scrub: "We'll have to scrub for today. Your performace has been top notch, very professional, great discipline, good teamwork across the board. Please set up for a 24-hour recycle."
2311 GMT (6:11 p.m. EST)
SCRUB. Foul weather at Cape Canaveral courtesy of a passing cool front bringing disturbed conditions and thick clouds across Central Florida has forced managers to call off today's launch attempt for the Atlas 5 rocket with the commercial Cygnus cargo freighter bound for the International Space Station.

It is the first time since 2012 that an Atlas 5 launch has been postponed after fueling had occurred. The vehicle was on a run of 26 consecutive missions to fuel-and-launch on the first attempt.

The weather deteriorated throughout the countdown today, falling from a 60 percent chance of good weather to just 30 percent and then 10 percent. The front draped over the Cape violated the launch rules throughout the final phases of the count and 30-minute launch window.

Liftoff is reset for Friday during a 30-minute launch window opening at 5:33:11 p.m. EST (2233:11 GMT). However, similar weather is forecast, with a 70 percent chance of conditions violating the launch rules.

If the launch does go tomorrow, rendezvous and berthing of the Cygnus cargo freighter at the International Space Station would happen on Monday morning.

There are three suitable days remaining to launch this week that would lead to favorable rendezvous opportunities before the International Space Station's traffic pattern gets complicated:



Live stream tomorrow, at 5:30 pm, EST at....







Eutelsat Does the Math on Reducing Future Satellite Costs



All-electric propulsion systems like the one on Eutelsat 115 West B, reduces a satellite’s launch weight by 40 percent or more but delays its arrival in geostationary orbit by months (Eutelsat graphic).



PARIS — Eutelsat plans to reduce the cost of its future satellites by some 20 percent initially, with more savings to come, as it seeks to adapt to a changing competitive environment, company officials said Dec. 1.

The immediate reductions are being made possible by a combination of all-electric satellite propulsion and a more-competitive launch-service environment.

Here is how the math works, according to Eutelsat Chief Technical Officer Yohann Leroy, addressing Eutelsat investors:

All-electric propulsion reduces a satellite’s launch weight by 40 percent or more. As long as Eutelsat’s business plan for the satellite can sustain a months-long wait to arrive in geostationary orbit, rather than a few weeks with conventional chemical propellant, the trade is positive.

A smaller satellite allows Eutelsat to place Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, in competition to launch the satellite. Arianespace reserves the upper berth of its Ariane 5 rocket for heavier satellites, with the lower berth for lighter spacecraft.



Eutelsat’s goal is to bring down the cost of a high-throughput satellite from 4 million euros per gigabit per second — the cost of its Ka-Sat satellite — to 1 million euros per Gbps of throughput. The figure would include the cost of the satellite, its launch, its gateway Earth stations and insurance. Electric propulsion and launcher competition are a start, but Eutelsat is also counting on coming technologies to get costs to the desired level. At 1 million euros per Gbps, satellite broadband would compete with terrestrial transmissions with mass-market appeal.



The total capital cost of placing a telecommunications satellite into geostationary orbit is made up of the satellite’s construction, accounting for 50 percent of the total; 30 percent for the launch vehicle; and the rest reserved for insurance charges and diverse expenses.

more at the link...





Virgin Galactic Unveils 747 for LauncherOne Flights



LauncherOne ignites after being released from Galactic Girl. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)



SAN ANTONIO, Texas, December 3, 2015 (Virgin Galactic PR) – Virgin Galactic introduced the newest addition to its fleet of vehicles today as part of a technical update on its LauncherOne small satellite launch service. The 747-400 commercial jet aircraft, previously operated by Virgin Atlantic under the nickname ‘Cosmic Girl,’ will provide a dedicated launch platform for the LauncherOne orbital vehicle. Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic engineers announced the acquisition of the aircraft while providing an update on LauncherOne development progress.

“Air launch enables us to provide rapid, responsive service to our satellite customers on a schedule set by their business and operational needs, rather than the constraints of national launch ranges,” said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO. “Selecting the 747 airframe provides a dedicated platform that gives us the capacity to substantially increase our payload to orbit without increasing our prices.”

In September, Virgin Galactic announced that in response to customer demand, it had doubled LauncherOne’s performance to 200kg into the standard Sun-Synchronous Orbit for a price below US$10 million, with the option to purchase further increases in performance to the same orbit and for launches that reach other altitudes or inclinations. The launch system is capable of launching over 400kg of payload to other orbits.



Galactic Girl 747 with LauncherOne (Credit: Virgin Galactic)



Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft will remain the mothership for SpaceShipTwo, enabling spaceship customers to enjoy a dedicated platform for suborbital spaceflight services out of Spaceport America in New Mexico.

The 747 is one of the most accomplished and reliable aircraft ever built. It has an established track record of supporting a variety of special missions, including the Space Shuttle Enterprise test flight program, NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft program, the Pratt and Whitney flying testbed, and flight test of the X-45 ‘Phantom Ray.’ The LauncherOne team described additional qualities that make the 747 ideal for the orbital launch platform mission: the aircraft’s large and robust rocket carrying capacity, operational flexibility, long range, ability to operate in many kinds of weather, as well as years of existing 747-400 experience, maintenance, and spare parts supply chains. The carrier aircraft can also be deployed from any runway capable of 747 operations.

Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson: “The Boeing 747 has a very special place in my heart: we began service on my first airline, Virgin Atlantic, with just one leased 747. I never imagined that today one of our 747s would get a second chance and help open access to space. I’m absolutely thrilled that Cosmic Girl can stay in the Virgin family — and truly live up to her name!”

The LauncherOne rocket will be mounted to the carrier aircraft under the left wing, adjacent to the position that has been used by other 747s to ferry a fifth engine. Initial inspections and tests of Cosmic Girl have already been completed and, prior to the start of the wing modification, a regularly scheduled maintenance check will be conducted by VT San Antonio Aerospace. A maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) organization, VT San Antonio Aerospace has over the years re-delivered more than 3,000 aircraft.

Virgin Galactic President Steve isakowitz said, “2015 has been a year of incredible progress. Our LauncherOne team moved into a 150,000 square foot facility for design and manufacturing, grew to more than 150 dedicated staff, completed multiple long-duration hot fires of our liquid rocket engines, doubled the L1 payload capacity, and welcomed two game-changing customers from both new space and government, OneWeb and NASA. And now we have one of the world’s most trusted airplanes to serve as our fully reusable launch platform. With a dedicated air launch vehicle for LauncherOne, and WhiteKnightTwo dedicated specifically to SpaceShipTwo,we look forward to another year of hard work and achievements ahead.”




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DXL-2: Studying X-ray emissions in space



The DXL-2 payload is prepared for launch in the NASA payload assembly building at the White Sand Missile Range in New Mexico. Image courtesy NASA/Ted Gacek.




The blackness of space. There isn't much visible light in space - but there are numerous other wavelengths of light and scientists want to know what's out there and where it comes from.


Diffuse x-ray emissions have long been believed to be from remnants of a supernovae which formed the local hot bubble. However, the Diffuse X-rays from the Local Galaxy, or DXL, experiment in 2012 found that around 40 percent of this radiation is a result of the solar wind charge exchange, solar wind taking away electrons from neutral gas in space emitting x-rays.


On Dec. 4, 2015, NASA will launch the DXL-2 payload at 11:45 p.m. EST, from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to continue the study of these x-rays. The launch window runs until 2:45 a.m. EST Dec. 5.


"The purpose of the flight is to better understand the nature and characteristics of the local hot bubble and solar wind charge exchange, with the double goal of understanding their fundamental physics and improving our modeling capability to use in the interpretation of past, present and future X-ray missions," said Massimiliano Galeazzi, the DXL-2 principal investigator from the University of Miami.


The payload incorporates an upgraded University of Wisconsin Aerobee IV instrument flown on several rockets from 1973 through 1980.

The 1,497 pound DXL-2 payload will fly on a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket to an altitude 139 miles. The payload will be recovered and would be available for future flights.


DXL-2 is supported through NASA's Sounding Rocket Program at the Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. NASA's Heliophysics Division manages the sounding rocket program.





ESA station tracks Earth flyby mission



ESA's DSA-3 Malargue station in Argentina, one the world's most sophisticated tracking stations used for deep-space communications.




An ESA deep-space ground station will lend a helping ear as Japan's Hayabusa-2 asteroid mission visits Earth on Thursday. Hayabusa is on an audacious six-year journey to rendezvous with the 900 m-diameter asteroid Ryugu, deliver several landers, snatch a sample of material and then return to Earth in 2020.


The high-tech craft will make an Earth flyby today, a year to the day after launch, gaining gravitational energy to enable it to reach Ryugu's orbit in 2018. The closest approach will occur at about 10:08 GMT (11:08 CET), some 3000 km above the Pacific Ocean.

As it departs Earth, the only radio visibility for communicating with the craft will be from the Southern Hemisphere, and that's when ESA's 35 m-diameter deep-space tracking dish in Malargue, Argentina, will go into action.


"Our first communication slot occurs on 5 December, just two days after closest approach, and lasts four hours," says ESA's Maite Arza.

"We'll provide four more tracking passes in December. All of the passes will include sending commands and receiving telemetry on its health and status."


Like all antennas in the Agency's Estrack ground station network, the Malargue antenna will be remotely operated by engineers at ESA' ESOC operations centre, Darmstadt, Germany.


On competition of each pass, all data received from Hayabusa will be transmitted to the mission control team of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The flyby is also being covered from by NASA's deep-space station in Canberra, Australia.


First-ever tracking for Japanese deep-space mission
This month's helping ear is part of an overall effort that will see the Malargue dish providing hundreds of tracking hours during the Hayabusa-2 mission.


The sophisticated technology and location of ESA's station will enable Hayabusa-2, normally tracked from Japan, to deliver significantly more science data and provide coverage when Japanese stations are out of visibility.


In the past, ESA has helped with Japan's Earth and astronomy missions, including Oicets and Astro-F, but this is the first tracking provided for a deep-space mission.


Hayabusa-2 was launched on 3 December 2014, and has significant European participation.

In addition to carrying three 1 kg 'hopper' landers, it carries the larger Mascot landing package from the DLR German Aerospace Center and France's CNES space agency.




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Atlas 5 with Cygnus 4 was scrubbed again today after 4 attempts. Wind trip and clouds...will be rescheduled shortly, no word yet, was talk of an attempt this weekend, weather permitting.....


2310 GMT (6:10 p.m. EST)
To recap, gusty ground winds that could pose a safety risk as the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket climbs away from the pad caused three last-minute holds in the countdown tonight. In the end, available time in the launch window ran out and liftoff had to be delayed until Saturday.

"We just did not feel comfortable launching tonight," said Vern Thorpe, ULA's program manager for NASA missions.

2303 GMT (6:03 p.m. EST)
"It was a gallant effort," launch director Bill Cullen says. "Try again tomorrow."

Launch will be possible beginning at the opening of a 30-minute window at 5:10:38 p.m. EST.

Weather is 30 percent favorable, with ground winds and clouds the issues.

2300 GMT (6:00 p.m. EST)
The launch team is going through safing procedures.
2259 GMT (5:59 p.m. EST)
HOLD and SCRUB. Ground winds went out of limits and the launch window now closed.
2259:12 GMT (5:59:12 p.m. EST)
T-minus 4 minutes and counting. Clocks have resumed for the final minutes of today's countdown to launch the Atlas 5 rocket carrying Cygnus resupply ship for the space station.
2258:12 GMT (5:58:12 p.m. EST)
Countdown clocks will resume in one minute.
2257 GMT (5:57 p.m. EST)
Team readiness poll re-conducted and all console operators are set to proceed. This will be the final attempt of the night.
2246 GMT (5:46 p.m. EST)
DELAY. Liftoff has been targeted for the end of today's launch window at 6:03:12 p.m. EST.





Images Taken by Hayabusa2 During Earth Flyby



Hayabusa2 Images of Earth Flyby      JAXA



JAXA performed an Earth flyby with its asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 on 3 December.

Hayabusa2 flew closest to the Earth at 7:08 p.m. (JST) and passed over the Pacific Ocean around the Hawaii islands at an altitude of about 3,090 km. These images were sent back by the spacecraft

few more images at the link....




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Just in........


Cygnus Set for Third Launch Attempt on Saturday



The Cygnus spacecraft rests at the launch pad in Florida after wind gusts exceeded permissible levels for today’s scheduled liftoff. Credit: NASA TV



Launch managers have set Saturday, Dec. 5 at 5:10 p.m. EST for the next launch attempt of the fourth Orbital ATK commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. NASA Television coverage will begin at 4 p.m. Earlier this evening, the 30-minute launch window tomorrow had a 30 percent chance of acceptable conditions.

The Cygnus is loaded with more than 7,000 pounds of supplies and science and research investigations that are important to advancing NASA’s exploration goals on the journey to Mars, demonstrating technologies that drive innovation, and providing benefits to Earth.

A launch on Saturday would result in Cygnus arriving at the station on Wednesday, Dec. 9, for a grapple at 6:10 a.m.

For NASA’s launch blog with ongoing updates, a mission overview, press kit, launch countdown coverage, and more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk

To join the online conversation about the Orbital ATK CRS-4 launch and the International Space Station on Twitter, follow @Space_Station and #Cygnus.




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Atlas 5 / Cygnus delay till Sunday, technical and weather issues....


1851 GMT (1:51 p.m. EST)
SCRUB. Blustery winds buffeting Cape Canaveral, and little-to-no hope for improvement by launch time, will postpone liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket with Orbital ATK's commercial Cygnus cargo ship for the International Space Station until Sunday.

The decision was just announced that today's countdown will be suspended. This is a continuation of uncooperative weather that had delayed the launch Thursday and Friday, too.

Liftoff is re-scheduled for Sunday at the opening of a 30-minute launch window at 4:44:56 p.m. EST (2144:56 GMT). That would propel Cygnus on a path to rendezvous with the International Space Station on Wednesday.

The weather for Sunday's launch opportunity calls for a 40 percent chance of allowable conditions, with broken decks of low- and high-level clouds, coastal showers and northeasterly winds of 18 gusting to 22 knots. Winds and cumulus clouds will be the concerns.

If the launch does not go on Sunday, a liftoff on Monday or later in the week would likely require the Cygnus freighter to loiter in orbit for some unspecified number of days before it could approach the station.

That is because the crew will be busy with the comings and goings of Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Part of the crew lands next Friday and another three-man team launches and docks on Dec. 15.

The weather outlook for a Monday's launch opportunity at 4:22 p.m. EST (2122 GMT) calls for a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions.

1827 GMT (1:27 p.m. EST)
To recap what has transpired today, there was a technical problem that delayed powerup of the first stage. That issue has now been resolved and the vehicle is powered and proceeding through standard countdown activities, but the time used to troubleshoot the problem has pushed the liftoff time to 5:33:09 p.m. EST (2233:09 GMT).

There will be just one opportunity to launch the Atlas 5 rocket today because a COLA, or collision avoidance period, has eliminated the other opportunity that had been available at the end of the launch window.

Meanwhile, the winds remain strong and the forecast calls for just a 20 percent chance of acceptable conditions for liftoff.





NASA announced that the launch will be rescheduled for Dec. 6 at 4:44 p.m. Eastern time at the beginning of another 30-minute launch window. Forecasts call for a 40 percent chance of acceptable weather at launch time.





Soyuz 2-1v delivers Kanopus Satellite to target Orbit



Photo: Zvezda TV



Saturday’s successful launch of Russia’s Soyuz 2-1v rocket carrying the Kanopus ST satellite reached the correct orbit, according to data published by the Joint Space Operations Center.

Embarking on its second flight, Soyuz 2-1v blasted off from Site 43/4 at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 14:09 UTC under the loud thunder of its NK-33 and RD-0110R engines that lifted the rocket with a total thrust of 188 metric ton-force. The 157,000-Kilogram vehicle swung to the north in order to head to a high-inclination orbit, firing the first stage for a little over two minutes before completing the typical hot-staging sequence. The second stage burned its RD-0124 engine for a little under four and a half minutes to boost the stack into a sub-orbital trajectory.

The Volga upper stage was separated around seven minutes into the mission to assume control of the flight for two main engine burns. The first of the burns boosted the stack into an elliptical orbit and was followed by a coast phase to carry the stack to the apogee of the orbit for the circularization maneuver. A successful spacecraft separation was confirmed a little under two hours after launch.

Later on Saturday, orbital data was published for the objects delivered to orbit on this launch, the 350-Kilogram Kanopus ST satellite, the 16-Kilogram КЮА 1 radar calibration sphere and the 890-Kilogram Volga upper stage:

2015-071A - 685.0 x 694.8 km - 98.18°
2015-072B - 684.5 x 693.7 km - 98.18°
2015-072C - 208.4 x 681.4 km - 98.19°

Before launch, it was noted the Kanopus ST satellite was targeting a Sun Synchronous Orbit 702 Kilometers in altitude inclined 98 degrees, marking an on-target insertion for the satellite.

The Kanopus-ST satellite is a small remote sensing spacecraft. It enters a program that is operated in a dual-use fashion, delivering data for civilian and military applications.

According to official documentation, Kanopus ST hosts a Microwave radiometer with a conical scanning geometry achieving a swath width of 2,200 Kilometers and a resolution of 12 to 160 Kilometers, and a multi-spectral imaging system covering the visible wavelengths across a 1,000-Kilometer swath, reaching a spatial resolution of 30 to 50 meters.

Comments made by Russian Military Officials in 2010 indicated that the Kanopus ST satellite would be capable of scanning the underwater areas for submarines, however, the published specifications would not permit such a detection. The relative lack of information on the satellite’s payloads and the secrecy surrounding its launch may suggest a more military-oriented role of the mission.



Indepth Satellite Info....



The successful launch of a new carrier rocket "Soyuz-2.1V" from Plesetsk, video is 0:46 min




Russian news coverage, shows rocket staging, video is 1:20 min








RKK Energia. COMPLETE FILLING Baikonur "Soyuz TMA-19M"



03/12/2015 17:05

December 3, 2015 at Baikonur cosmodrome specialists RSC "Energia" and Roscosmos enterprises successfully completed the refueling operation of manned spacecraft (TPC) "Soyuz TMA-19M" propellant components and compressed gases.


After refueling, the ship delivered to the assembly and test complex spacecraft and installed on the slipway for further prelaunch operations.

Start TPK "Soyuz TMA-19M" with the crew of another long expedition to the International Space Station is scheduled for December 15, 2015 with platform №1 («Gagarin start"), the Baikonur cosmodrome.


As part of the ground crew - Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, NASA astronaut Timothy piling ESA astronaut Timothy PIC. The backup crew entered Anatoly Ivanishin (Roscosmos), Takuya Onishi (JAXA) and Kathleen Rubins (NASA).




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Assuming Atlas 5 launches tomorrow, here is the short launch schedule coming up...




ROKOT Dec 10

Location:Plesetsk Cosmodrome Site 133


ESA's Sentinel-3A satellite will launch in early November from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on a Russian Rokot rocket. Sentinel-3, a dedicated Copernicus satellite will deliver high-quality ocean measurements.


PROTON-M  Dec 10

Location:Baikonur Cosmodrome LC-81


On December 10th the Garpun 12L satellite will be launched with a Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage from Baikonur, site 81/24.


ZENIT-3SL  Dec 11



Elektro-L No.2 is a Russian geostationary weather satellite It is the second Elektro-L spacecraft to fly, after Elektro-L No.1 launched in 2011. The satellite is scheduled to launch with a Zenit-3SLBF/Fregat-SB rocket from Baikonur site 45/1



Location:Baikonur Cosmodrome LC-1


Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, ESA Astronaut Timothy Peake and NASA astronaut Tim Kopra will begin the 46th Expedition to ISS when they launch in their Soyuz capsule on the 15th of December.


PSLV-XL  Dec 16

Location:Satish Dhawan Space Centre FLP


TeLEOS-1, a near equatorial orbit earth observation satellite from Singapore. Also getting a lift uphill are these small satellites also from Singapore: TeLEOS-1, Velox C1, Kent Ridge 1, Velox II and Galassia.





Just came across a video for Virgin Galactic, shows a simulated Boeing 747 launcher drop.....


Virgin Galactic - LauncherOne's New Mothership, video is 1:58 min...

article at....






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Atlas 5 launched, Cygnus on it's way to ISS....


2304 GMT (6:04 p.m. EST)
Solar array deployment confirmed aboard the Cygnus vessel. The arrays are new for this mission and circular in shape to replace the previous retangular ones.

"This is a little bit lighter, same power generation. They don't articulate. They'll be the Mickey Mouse ears. That's probably the big moment in this mission for everybody is watching those things come out," Dan Tani, former astronaut and senior director of mission and cargo operations, Orbital ATK, said before launch.

"The power is the same. The motivation was mass."

2300 GMT (6:00 p.m. EST)
Wing No. 1 is fully unfurled.
2252 GMT (5:52 p.m. EST)
Both power-generating solar wings are in the deployment process.
2246 GMT (5:46 p.m. EST)
Commanding for solar array deploy has occurred.



Launch of Cygnus OA-4 Return to Flight on Atlas V Rocket

video is 22:55 min, launch at the start of video....





Soyuz 2.1V payload problem....



A Russian satellite reportedly designed to demonstrate sensors to track enemy submarines and a passive secondary spacecraft to help calibrate ground-based military radars lifted off Saturday aboard a modified Soyuz rocket, but one of the payloads apparently failed to deploy from the launcher’s upper stage, according to Russian media.

The Soyuz 2-1v rocket launched at 1409 GMT (9:09 a.m. EST) Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, heading north from the snow-covered space base for an orbit circling over Earth’s poles.

The mission hauled the Kanopus ST Earth observing satellite reportedly on a mission to bolster the Russian military’s anti-submarine capabilities and the KYuA 1 payload, a reflective, spherical satellite built as a target for tests of defense radar systems.

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Saturday the launch went normally, with a smooth separation of both payloads into their targeted orbits. Military authorities announced the satellites would be named Kosmos 2511 and Kosmos 2512, keeping with Russia’s nomenclature for defense-related spacecraft.

But Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported Sunday that telemetry data indicated one of the two spacecraft did not deploy from the Soyuz rocket’s upper stage, citing a source in the space industry. The other satellite is not having any problems, the source told RIA Novosti.



another article with same data...



I imagine we will find out later which one made it and if the other can be salvaged....




Proton Rocket rolls to Launch Pad to lift Military Communications Satellite



Photo: Roscosmos



A Russian Proton-M rocket has been rolled to the launch pad on Sunday in preparation for the launch of the second Garpun military communications satellite. Liftoff from Site 81/24 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome is planned for 0:17 UTC on December 10 to mark the start of a standard ascent mission of the three-stage Proton-M rocket followed by a nine-hour flight of the Briz-M upper stage for a direct insertion into Geostationary Orbit.

Garpun (Harpoon) is a military satellite program operated by the Russian Ministry of Defence. Comprised of two or three satellites in Geostationary Orbit, Garpun is tasked with the relay of data to and from satellites in lower orbits, not dissimilar to the American Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. Under military operation, the Garpun satellites are in charge of relaying data from a variety of spacecraft including optical and reconnaissance satellites in Low Earth Orbit, creating near real-time data availability for military and government users.



Potok Satellite – Image: ISS Reshetnev



The Garpun satellites are the replacement for the Potok/Geizer satellites that were inaugurated in 1982 to relay data from optical reconnaissance satellites. The final Potok satellite was launched in 2000 and stopped operating in 2009, creating a gap in relay capability as the Garpun follow-on program was not ready for its originally intended launch target of 2009.

Garpun #1 was launched in September 2011, shaded by much secrecy – no information on the identity of the satellite was officially released and no details on the spacecraft were revealed at any point before and after the launch. The first Garpun satellite operates under the Kosmos-2473 designation.

The Garpun satellites are likely manufactured by ISS Reshetnev, based on the Ekspress-1000 or 2000 satellite platform – topping out at just over three metric tons. The Ekspress platform can be outfitted with various types of satellite payloads including several antenna reflectors capable of tracking low-orbiting satellites and relaying their signals to ground stations. Whether the satellites continue operating in C-Band or whether S-/Ku-Band capabilities have been added is unknown.



Photo: Roscosmos


more at the link...





Arianespace: Launcher Integration is Underway for First Ariane 5 Mission of 2016



The Ariane 5 for January 27’s mission with Intelsat 29e takes shape, beginning with the positioning of its cryogenic core stage over the launch table in the Spaceport’s Launcher Integration Building (photo at left). One of the two solid propellant boosters is transferred to the Launcher Integration Building (center photo), and Ariane 5 is initially “topped off” with its upper stage and vehicle equipment bay (photo at right). Credit: Arianespace.



Build-up of the initial Ariane 5 to be launched in 2016 has begun at the Spaceport in French Guiana, continuing Arianespace's sustained mission pace and readying an unusual single-payload flight for the heavy-lift workhorse.

With liftoff scheduled on January 27, the Ariane 5 is to loft Intelsat 29e - the first of the Intelsat EpicNG high throughput satellites. This relay platform will have one of the most advanced digital payloads commercially available, delivering enterprise-grade, broadband services to fixed and mobile network operators, aero and maritime mobility service providers, and government customers operating throughout the Americas.

As the 56th Intelsat spacecraft to be orbited by Arianespace, Intelsat 29e has the distinction of being a solo telecommunications satellite on a dedicated Ariane 5 flight - instead of the typical two-passenger configuration for the launcher on missions to geostationary transfer orbit.

Intelsat 33e also to be launched by Arianespace in 2016

Intelsat expects to launch its second Intelsat EpicNG satellite, Intelsat 33e, in the third quarter of 2016, also using Arianespace launch services. Intelsat 33e will serve Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The January 27 mission with Ariane 5 and Intelsat 29e is designated Flight VA228 in Arianespace's numbering system, notating the 228th launch of an Ariane since this series of European vehicles entered service in 1979.

Flight VA228's Ariane 5 is taking shape inside the Spaceport's Launcher Integration Building where the activity began with the cryogenic core stage's positioning over one of two launch tables for the heavy-lift vehicle. The side-mounted solid propellant boosters were then integrated, followed by installation of the combined upper stage and vehicle equipment bay atop the core stage.

Once the basic build-up is complete, Ariane 5 will be ready for transfer to the Spaceport's Final Assembly Building - where launcher prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space hands over responsibility to Arianespace for Intelsat 29e's integration, final checkout and rollout to the launch pad for liftoff.





JPL CubeSat Clean Room: A Factory For Small Spacecraft



CubeSat Clean Room      NASA



There was a time when you could find spacecraft clean rooms in two sizes - - big and bigger.

After all, these harsh-white, sterile environments have to handle very large spacecraft, support equipment, and a small legion of highly trained technicians and engineers.

Here at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, we have two monster clean rooms of our own -- called High Bays 1 and 2. In these hallowed, dustless halls, the likes of the Voyager, Galileo and Cassini spacecraft and the Curiosity Mars rover were assembled, disassembled, re-assembled, tested and packed for shipment to NASA launch pads and finally, for launch into space.

But today, more than ever, spacecraft come in all shapes and sizes. The bigger ones already have their clean room needs covered, but what about the little guys? Well, JPL has them covered too, with the new Integrated CubeSat Development Laboratory.

CubeSats are small, modular spacecraft, anywhere from the size of an overgrown Rubik's Cube to that of your purse or attach case. So small are they in stature, the CubeSats almost always hitch a ride into orbit aboard a rocket that is launching another, much larger payload, and has some extra room. The team of scientists and engineers working on them also is small. The small size helps make the spacecraft relatively inexpensive, and tiny CubeSats are becoming the next big thing in space exploration.

Since the earliest days of space exploration, NASA has known that dirty environments do not mix with wiring, exposed circuit boards and sensitive instruments destined for space. But traditionally, CubeSats have been assembled and tested in either your garden-variety workshop environment that, on a good day, gets dusted and swept, or on a "clean bench," where a metal hood overhanging a workbench circulates air through a HEPA filter, then directs the now-scrubbed air over the bench's work surface. Until this summer, JPL CubeSats were being assembled wherever an empty clean bench at the lab could be found.

"CubeSat projects ended up being scattered around the lab," said Charles Norton, Engineering and Science Directorate Lead for SmallSats at JPL. "It was difficult to get the teams together to collaborate on planning, technical issues, and institutional processes and procedures. On top of that, we were being chosen for more CubeSat projects, so in the summer of 2013 we formed a team to establish a suitable permanent location for a CubeSat clean room."

What Norton and company found was the E-Nose Lab. Consisting of 1,250 square feet of prime JPL lab space, it was formerly dedicated to the design and perfection of a hyper-sensitive smell sensor for the International Space Station. The E-Nose flew aboard the space station, and after that, the lab awaited a new task. So out went the vestiges of the E-Nose, in came the isolated electrical circuits, electrostatic discharge (ESD) flooring, cryogen ventilation systems and other tools of the trade for people who need to keep their rooms hyper-clean.

JPL's Integrated CubeSat Development Laboratory (the cleanroom's official name) was dedicated in June 2014, and CubeSat teams began tasting the freshly scrubbed air soon after.

There are currently three projects in various stages of development in JPL's CubeSat cleanroom. MarCO (Mars Cube One) is headed to the Red Planet. ASTERIA (Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics) and TEMPEST-D (Temporal Experiment for Storms and Tropical Systems Demonstrator), are two separate missions, each slated to go into Earth orbit. When MarCO leaves the lab, it is slated to launch in March. The RainCube CubeSat will take its place.

By the spring of 2016, the CubeSat clean room will be home to four separate CubeSat missions which happens to be the facility's maximum occupancy.

"Never before has there been such mission diversity in one location," said John Baker, program manager for planetary SmallSats at JPL. "We have CubeSats in development that will not only travel to Earth orbit, but to the moon and asteroids, comets and Mars. Having a cleanroom dedicated to just CubeSats is great because it not only centralizes their development and allows them to share resources, but we're finding that it fosters cooperation and support between the individual mission teams.

The MarCO mission, the first progeny of JPL's CubeSat cleanroom to fly, will do so next March when it hitches a ride on NASA's InSight mission to provide a live data relay as Insight lands on Mars.

For more information about JPL's CubeSats, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/cubesat/

The California Institute of Technology manages JPL for NASA.




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New Russian military satellite declared lost



Russia’s Soyuz 2-1v rocket blasted off at 1409 GMT (9:09 a.m. EST) Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. Credit: Russian Ministry of Defense



A Russian defense payload built to monitor maritime activity, and possibly track the movements of submarines, is stuck to the upper stage of its rocket after launching Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, multiple Russian news agencies reported.


The Kanopus ST spacecraft is still attached to the Volga upper stage of a modified Soyuz rocket that was supposed to deploy the satellite into a circular sun-synchronous orbit nearly 700 kilometers (435 miles) above Earth, and experts said Monday the craft is heading for a destructive re-entry within a few days.


Russia’s Tass news agency and the Kommersant newspaper reported the satellite could not be separated from the Volga upper stage, which made its second flight Saturday after a successful debut in 2013.


One of four locks holding the Kanopus ST satellite failed during the separation sequence, and ground controllers have been unable to contact the craft and re-issue the separation command, the state-owned Tass news agency said Monday.

Tracking data published by the U.S. military showed an object believed to be the Volga upper stage — with the attached Kanopus ST satellite — in an elliptical orbit with a low point 104 kilometers (64 miles) above Earth. At such a low altitude, atmospheric drag will hasten the craft’s re-entry, which is expected some time this week, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and respected space analyst.


The Volga upper stage maneuvered from Kanopus ST’s intended orbit into the lower orbit some time after Saturday’s launch. The rocket burn may have intended to send the rocket body toward a guided re-entry over the ocean, but the extra mass of the still-attached Kanopus ST satellite could have prevented the stage from reaching its targeted trajectory.

A small passive secondary payload designed to help calibrate ground-based military radars apparently deployed as planned from the Volga upper stage in the correct orbit.


A re-entry prediction released Monday from the U.S. military’s Joint Space Operations Center indicated the Volga/Kanopus ST spacecraft could plunge back into Earth’s atmosphere as soon as Tuesday.


The Kanopus ST satellite carries a camera and a microwave radiometer to monitor the world’s oceans, including submarine movements, according to RussianSpaceWeb.com.


The mission launched Saturday on a Soyuz 2-1v rocket, a derivative of Russia’s Soyuz rocket family without the launcher’s four liquid-fueled strap-on boosters. The Soyuz 2-1v’s core stage has a single NK-33 engine taken from stockpiles of kerosene-fed powerplants originally built for the Soviet Union’s N1 moon rocket more than 40 years ago.


Saturday’s launch was the first time a version of the NK-33 engine flew since the crash of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket in October 2014. Investigators blamed that accident on an explosion inside the turbopump of one of its AJ26 engines, an “Americanized” variant of the NK-33.


The NK-33 engine on Saturday’s flight apparently functioned as designed.


Have to hate it when the main payload is lost due to a "latch".......:(


Hera Systems Reveals Satellite Constellation Launch Plans for 2016

file image


San Jose-based Hera Systems is revealing its plans to launch the first of the company's satellites that will capture high-resolution Earth images and video in near-real time. Hera Systems has secured its initial round of investment funding and is set to begin initial launches in October 2016.


It will be the only company to collect fresh, intelligent, one-meter and higher resolution imagery and video of any location on the globe, and make these products, along with analytics and derived information, easily accessible on-demand via mobile applications. Hera Systems sets itself apart from other providers by offering the combination of all of these features and capabilities in one affordable package.


"What we've learned from talking with customers and watching this industry closely for the past 16 years is that people don't want to go to multiple providers for their imagery and analytics needs," said Bobby Machinski, CEO of Hera Systems.


"Today's customers want and expect a variety of features and intelligent analytics capabilities from a single source - and they expect a very high value for every dollar spent."


Hera Systems recently completed its Series A round of investment funding, with Firsthand Technology Value Fund (Nasdaq: SVVC) as the lead investor. The funding has allowed Hera Systems to complete the development of a mockup satellite that demonstrates its technology, purchase components for the construction of the initial satellites, and make commitments to launch opportunities.


Hera Systems successfully completed the preliminary design review for the spacecraft - a key engineering and business milestone - late last month.


The company's initial constellation will comprise nine satellites. Featuring "sun-synchronous" and "inclined orbit" capabilities, these satellites will enable coverage of the entire globe and at varying times during the day. As market demand grows, Hera Systems will expand its constellation to include 48 satellites in order to provide near-hourly updates.

More at the link...




PlanetiQ signs weather satellite launch contract



Each of PlanetiQ's 10-kilogram microsatellites will fly PlanetiQ's Pyxis-RO sensor, the most advanced satellite weather sensor in such a small package that can penetrate through clouds and storms down to the Earth's surface.



PlanetiQ has signed a contract with Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), for the launch of PlanetiQ's first two weather satellites on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) during the fourth quarter of 2016.


Ten more satellites are planned for launch in 2017 to complete an initial set of 12 satellites that will dramatically improve global weather forecasting, climate monitoring and space weather prediction, and enable advanced analytics for numerous industries worldwide.


The ISRO's PSLV is among the world's most reliable launch vehicles with 30 consecutive successful flights. The PSLV has launched 51 satellites for international customers from 20 countries, in addition to 33 Indian national satellites.


"The stellar track record of the PSLV combined with our seven-year satellite design life provides the reliability and data continuity not just desired, but required by the operational weather forecast community," said Chris McCormick, Chairman and CEO of PlanetiQ. "Within days after launch, we will validate and start delivering high-quality data and services to our customers."


Each of PlanetiQ's 10-kilogram microsatellites will fly PlanetiQ's Pyxis-RO sensor, the most advanced satellite weather sensor in such a small package that can penetrate through clouds and storms down to the Earth's surface.


Pyxis-RO uses a technique called radio occultation to track the bending of GPS and other signals as they travel through Earth's atmosphere, and then converts the bending angle into high-precision measurements of global temperature, pressure and water vapor in the atmosphere, and electron density in the ionosphere.


Pyxis-RO quadruples the data collection capability of radio occultation sensors on orbit today by tracking signals from all four major satellite navigation systems-GPS, Galileo, Beidou and GLONASS. With 12 satellites on orbit, PlanetiQ will collect approximately 34,000 "occultations" per day, evenly distributed around the globe with high-density sampling over both land and water.


Each occultation is a vertical profile of atmospheric data with very high vertical resolution, comprised of measurements less than every 200 meters from the Earth's surface up into the ionosphere. The data is similar to that collected by weather balloons, but more accurate, more frequent and on a global scale.


"The world today lacks sufficient data to feed into weather models, especially the detailed vertical data that is critical to storm prediction. That's why we see inaccurate or ambiguous forecasts for storms like Hurricane Joaquin, which can put numerous lives at risk and cost businesses millions of dollars due to inadequate preparation or risk management measures," McCormick said.

"Capturing the detailed vertical structure of the atmosphere from pole to pole, especially over the currently under-sampled oceans, is 
to improving forecasts of high-impact weather."




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Kanopus-ST falls back to Earth



According to McDowell, the new object could be the satellite itself or its fragment, which got split from the rest of the vehicle under aerodynamic loads in the lower part of its 90 by 326-kilometer orbit. A commentator for the Novosti Kosmonavtiki Igor Lisov reported on the magazin's web forum that the stricken spacecraft made up to 15 passes through the atmosphere at an altitude of less than 105 kilometers, during which it likely encounted enough loads to tear the satellite apart from its upper stage.

According to USSTRATCOM, Kosmos-2511 reentered atmosphere on December 8, 2015, at 05:43 GMT (12:43 a.m. EST, 08:43 Moscow Time) at 35 degrees South latitude, 1 degree West longitude. The reentry point was located over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South Africa. The reentry time for the splinter object (071D) was not immediately known, but it likely fell to Earth even earlier than the primary object.




Image: Orbitron/Spaceflight101





US Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Wings Past 200 Days in Orbit



Still circling Earth after 200 days in orbit.
Credit: USAF



Mum's the word: The U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane has winged its way past the 200 day mark, carrying out a classified agenda for the American military.

The unmanned X-37B space plane rocketed into orbit on May 20 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launching from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station back. The reusable robotic space plane mission, also dubbed OTV-4 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-4), is the fourth spacecraft of its kind for the U.S. Air Force. 

OTV-4 also marks the second flight of the second X-37B vehicle built for the Air Force by Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems. Only two reusable X-37B vehicles have been confirmed as constituting the fleet.

more at...



I think it is up there painting happy faces on Russian and Chinese payloads......:woot:




Aerojet in talks with Air Force about engine funds: sources



Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc (AJRD.N) is in talks with the U.S. Air Force about government funding for the AR-1 rocket engine that it is developing as an alternative to a banned Russian engine, said two sources familiar with the issue.


The discussions began two weeks ago and could stretch for several months before the Air Force awards Aerojet a contract, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly.


Aerojet Rocketdyne spokesman Glenn Mahone said the company never discussed contract negotiations before they were finalized.

The Air Force had no immediate comment on the issue. It launched a competition earlier this year for initial work on a new U.S. rocket engine to replace the Russian RD-180 engine.


Aerojet told reporters in September that its plan to complete the AR-1 rocket engine by 2019 could be delayed if it did not receive enough U.S. government funding.


Aerojet earlier this year offered $2 billion to acquire United Launch Alliance (ULA), a 50-50 rocket launch venture of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N) in what analysts called a strategic move to try to shut out rival Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, that is developing a new engine favored by ULA.


ULA has said Blue Origin's engine is about two years ahead of Aerojet's work on the AR-1 engine, a claim Aerojet disputes.


Work on the new engines gained urgency after U.S. lawmakers passed a ban on use of Russian RD-180 engines for launches of U.S. military or spy satellites following Russia's annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine last year.


The Air Force had been expected to award initial contracts for work on the new engines in the fourth quarter of 2015, but that date has now slipped by several months. The Air Force plans to split a total of about $160 million among rival bidders.


The Air Force competition is a public-private partnership, with each of the bidders asked to provide one-third of the funding, with the Air Force to provide a two-thirds share.


Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, and Blue Origin, both of which are privately held, have self-funded their engine work, and say they are not necessarily looking for government funding.


The Air Force did not initiate contract discussions with another industry team that included Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), which had proposed building a domestic version of the RD-180 engine, according to one of the sources.



Finding another way to ram their nose into the feed trough.......:(




Moon Express contract ensures 'race' for lunar XPRIZE



Moon Express, a private company testing a small lunar lander at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, hopes to launch a 2017 bid to win the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE from the Space Coast.

The XPRIZE competition on Tuesday said it had verified Moon Express’ previously announced contract to launch an MX-1E "micro-lander" on Rocket Lab USA's Electron rocket by Dec. 31, 2017.

The verification confirmed that at least two teams will compete for the private space prize, with Moon Express joining SpaceIL, an Israeli company whose contract to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from California was verified in October.

“The race is on,” said Moon Express CEO and co-founder Bob Richards in an interview.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE’s $20 million grand prize will go to the first team to launch a privately developed rover that can land on the moon, travel about a third of a mile and transmit high-definition images back to Earth.




Earlier this year two other teams, Astrobotic from the U.S. and Hakuto from Japan, announced that they each had signed with SpaceX for a late 2016 launch themselves. However:

“While what they announced is very exciting indeed, they have not yet initiated the verification process with XPRIZE,” said XPRIZE Senior Director Chanda Gonzales in response to a recent AmericaSpace inquiry.



Lunar RC derby.......:D

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Source says Russia lost military satellite over design faults



MOSCOW, December 9. /TASS/. The Russian military satellite Kanopus-ST that burnt in the atmosphere several days after its launch into orbit had no back-up system of unlocking from the Volga upper stage, a source in the Russian rocket and space industry told TASS on Wednesday.

"The developers of the technical documentation didn’t envisage an emergency algorithm in the event that the charge-driven piston mechanism would not unlock. Naturally, the developers should have introduced the satellite’s forced mechanical separation from the acceleration unit, despite the presence of the back-up channels of transmitting commands to pyro cartridges," the source said.

The Soyuz-2.1v carrier rocket with two military satellites was launched from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia on December 5.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s press service reported that the spacecraft were successfully placed on the target orbits. However, on December 6, a number of media reports suggested that the launch failed - one of the satellites did not separate from the Volga upper stage. A source in the Russian Aerospace Force headquarters told TASS that the preliminary cause of the contingency had been established - one of the four locks holding the Kanopus ST satellite failed during the separation sequence and ground controllers were unable to contact the craft and re-issue the separation command.


The satellite burnt in the dense layers of the Earth’s atmosphere on December 8.

The launch of the Kanopus-ST satellite was the second for the Soyuz-2.1v carrier rocket whose design tests are ongoing in Plesetsk.

The Soyuz-2.1v carrier rocket was for the first time launched in December 2013.

Russia spent 15 years on developing the Kanopus-ST satellite, of which 10 years were spent on preparing the satellite’s onboard equipment.





Launch of Russian military satellite postponed following loss of Kanopus-ST



© Sergei Savostianov/TASS



MOSCOW, December 9. /TASS/. The launch of a Proton-M space rocket carrying a military satellite from the Baikonur space site in Kazakhstan, originally scheduled for December 10, has been postponed till December 13 for extra checks of the system that separates the satellite from the delivery vehicle, a source in the space rocket industry told TASS.


"The decision in favour of a postponement was made in Moscow. There were no technical problems. The rocket had been brought to the launch pad already. The delay was ordered for more checks of the separation system following an incident with another military satellite," the source said.

A Soyuz-2.1V rocket carrying two military satellites blasted off from the Plesetsk space site, in northern Russia on Saturday, December 5. At first, the Defense Ministry said both satellites reached the designated orbits. The next day, however, some mass media said the launch ended unsuccessfully. One of the satellites had failed to separate from the booster block Volga. A source in the Air and Space Defense Staff confirmed to TASS that the satellite had been lost. The satellite burned down in the atmosphere on Tuesday.

According to a source in the space rocket industry one of the four locks that kept the satellite attached to the booster block failed to work properly.





France, Germany Pressing Ahead with Greenhouse Gas Monitoring Satellite



France will be contributing 100 million euros to the Merlin program, including a new-generation Myriade satellite platform. Germany’s 150 million euros in Merlin investment is directed mainly at the lidar instrument. Credit: CNES artist's concept



LE BOURGET, France — The French and German space ministers on Dec. 8 reaffirmed their commitment to launch a methane-measuring satellite to debut what they said should be a globally recognized system to verify government commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Appearing at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, here, Germany’s federal coordinator for German aerospace policy, Brigitte Zypries, and French Research Minister Thierry Mandon put their governments solidly behind a project that is six years behind schedule.

The Merlin satellite originally was the beneficiary of a rare endorsement by the German and French heads of state in 2010. Despite the high-level backing, the project was submerged by financial issues in both nations and the technology challenge of building the principal lidar instrument.

Lidars have been a headache at the European Space Agency as well, leading to a Future Laser Technology, or Fulas, research project at the 22-nation agency to clear hurdles in its own satellite missions.

But with the funding now cleared in Paris and Berlin, and the lidar technology seen as feasible if still challenging, Merlin earlier this year was given a fresh go-ahead.

The mission is now expected to cost some 250 million euros ($266 million), including the construction and launch of the satellite, three years of operations in low Earth orbit and the associated ground infrastructure.

A 2020 launch on a Europeanized Russian Soyuz rocket or Europe’s Vega small-satellite launcher is scheduled, with the final launcher choice to be made based on what co-passengers can be found to share the costs. Merlin managers have already secured a firm, fixed-price option with launch service provider Arianespace of Evry, France, that will not change whichever of the two vehicles is selected.

Merlin program officials said they had been approached by Spaceflight Industries of Tukwila, Washington, with a proposal to launch Merlin as part of a mission carrying multiple satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

While conceding their interest in the Spaceflight offer, these officials said Merlin, as a European government mission, should launch on a European rocket unless one is not available. To that end, they are making Merlin compatible with India’s PSLV rocket in case there is a problem with Soyuz or Vega.





Galileo satellites 11 and 12 integrated for Arianespace’s year-end mission



The two spacecraft for Arianespace’s latest Soyuz launch at the service of Europe’s Galileo satellite-based navigation system — and the company’s record 12th mission overall in 2015 — have been integrated at the French Guiana Spaceport in preparation for their Dec. 17 liftoff.

The launch of Galileo satellites 11 and 12 — dubbed Adriana and Liene — will conlude a year when the number of Galileo satellites in orbit will have doubled.

With this launch, ten years after the launch of GIOVE A, on Dec. 28, 2005, the Galileo constellation will become a reality.

During activity in the Spaceport’s S3B clean-room facility, the spacecraft pair was mated with their dispenser, which will deploy the satellites by firing a pyrotechnic system for separation in opposite directions at the orbital insertion point.

The satellite/dispenser combination is ready for integration on Soyuz launcher’s Fregat upper stage, followed by the payload fairing encapsulation. This will create the “upper composite,” which is to be installed atop Soyuz once the vehicle has been moved to its Spaceport launch site.

Arianespace’s Dec. 17 mission, designated Flight VS13 in the company’s launcher family numbering system, will orbit two Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites, further augmenting the European constellation of navigation spacecraft.  The satellites are built by prime contractor OHB System in Bremen, Germany, with their onboard payloads supplied by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), which is 99 percent owned by Airbus Defence & Space.

The Galileo system is designed to provide high-quality positioning, navigation and timing services under civilian control. Its Full Operational Capability phase is managed and funded by the European Commission, with the European Space Agency (ESA) delegated as the design and procurement agent on the Commission’s behalf.

Flight VS13 will close out a busy year — complementing the 11 previous missions in 2015, which were composed of two other launches with the medium-lift Soyuz, three using the light-lift Vega and six with the heavy-lift Ariane 5.



Flight Data And Launch Kit




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Chinese Military Communications Satellite blasts off atop Long March 3B Rocket



A Chinese Long March 3B rocket blasted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 16:46 UTC on Wednesday, carrying a military communications satellite to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. Keeping up the pace in orbital launches towards the end of the year, this marks the sixth flight of the heavy-lift Long March 3B and the 13th mission of the Long March fleet in the last three months.

Chinese officials confirmed the success of the launch about two hours after the post-midnight liftoff.

The payload of Wednesday’s launch has been identified as Zhongxing-1C (ChinaSat-1C) and belongs to China’s military communications satellite fleet operated from Geostationary Orbit, 36,000 Kilometers above the equator to deliver secure communications around the globe. Operated by the Chinese armed forces, the architecture of the secure satellite communications system calls for a division of tactical and strategic communications.

more at the link...





Zenit Rocket rolls to Baikonur Launch Pad for one Final Liftoff on Friday



Photo: Roscosmos



A Zenit rocket has been rolled to the launch pad at Site 45/1 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome for the launch of the Elektro-L No. 2 weather satellite on Friday. Liftoff of the Zenit 3SLBF rocket is planned at 13:45 UTC and the two-stage launcher is expected to operate for eight and a half minutes before handing off to the Fregat SB upper stage that will be in operation for nearly nine hours, conducting a three-burn mission to deliver the 1,855-Kilogram satellite to Geostationary Drift Orbit.

Elektro-L No. 2 is the second satellite in Russia’s second generation of Meteorological Satellites operating from Geostationary Orbit. The project finds its origin in the 1980s when plans were outlined to launch a pair of satellites to Geostationary Orbit for operational meteorology and Earth observation. The project was downsized to only one satellite that launched in 1994 and stopped operating in 1998. As a follow-on, the Elektro-L program was initiated in 2001 when NPO Lavochkin was awarded the contract for the construction of the two satellites, the first of which launched in early 2011.




Photo: Tsenki



The satellite hosts four instruments to conduct visible, infrared and microwave imaging, ocean monitoring and space weather measurements.

The primary instrument of the satellite is a Multispectral Scanner that covers the visible, near infrared, thermal infrared and the microwave band for imaging at a resolution of 1 Kilometer for infrared and 4 Kilometers for microwave and thermal infrared wavelengths. Data from the instrument is used for cloud cover assessments, water vapor measurements, and sea surface temperature measurements. The GGAK-E Heliophysical Instrument complex hosts seven sensors capable of measuring the influx of charged particles and X-rays. Also, Elektro-L is outfitted with a Search and Rescue payload dedicated to relaying distress messages received from ground-based terminals.

This is the first Zenit launch in over a year and the first from Baikonur in over two years, but it may very well be the last flight of the powerful Zenit booster.

The Zenit 2 has been flying since 1985 and Zenit 3 has been around since 1999, being used for missions to a variety of orbits, though the vehicle’s reliability has been sub-par with 69 successful flights out of 82 launches.

The first and second stage of the Zenit launcher were designed by Yuzhnoye and are manufactured by Yuzhmash, both based in the Ukraine. Due to the conflicts arising between Russia and the Ukraine in recent years, the future of the Zenit had been up in the air for some time as Ukrainian engineers were not allowed to complete processing of Zenit rockets at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Eventually, agreements were reached for the processing of Elektro-L’s booster that had been stored in Baikonur since mid 2013.

more at the link.....




And for fun launch coverage .....


Long March 3B, Zenit and Proton Launch | KNews #25

video is 3:41min...fun to watch....




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Zenit rocket raised on launch pad for possible final flight



In the run up to what may be the final flight of a Zenit launcher, a Russian-Ukrainian creation that represented a new age of Soviet-era rocketry, ground crews transferred the powerful booster to a launch pad Wednesday at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.


The Zenit rocket reached its launch pad, part of Baikonur’s Complex 45 site, Wednesday after rolling on rails from a nearby assembly building. A hydraulic lift hoisted the rocket upright, where it stands nearly 20 stories tall awaiting liftoff Friday with a Russian weather satellite.


The launch is set for 1345:33 GMT (8:45 a.m. EST) Friday with the Elektro-L 2 meteorological observatory heading for a perch in geostationary orbit nearly 36,000 kilometers (nearly 22,300 miles) above the equator.


Designed by Yuzhnoye and manufactured by Yuzhmash in Ukraine, the Zenit rocket has flown 82 times since its debut mission in 1985, including 36 flights from Sea Launch’s ocean-based platform in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.


Russian officials have assigned future satellites for launch on Zenit rockets, but the conflict in Ukraine has soured relations between the two nations. Beleaguered by reliability woes and a bankruptcy in recent years, Sea Launch is selling off assets and has no commercial flights on the books.


The situation means Friday’s Zenit rocket launch may be the last flight of the vehicle, which began development in the 1970s as the Soviet Union eyed modernized rockets to replace aging designs rooted in the 1950s and 1960s.

But the older rockets will outlive the Zenit.


A flight-ready Zenit rocket is in storage at the Baikonur Cosmodrome and was assigned to launch Russia’s Spektr RG astronomical observatory in 2017, but the Tass news agency reported in November its warranty expired earlier this year. Russian officials reportedly may switch the observatory’s launch to a Proton rocket.


The Zenit rocket’s first stage is powered by a kerosene-fueled RD-171 rocket engine manufactured by NPO Energomash, a propulsion contractor based in Moscow. Producing 1.6 million pounds of thrust at sea level, the four-nozzle engine is the world’s most powerful operational liquid-fueled rocket engine, derived from the RD-170 powerplant built for the strap-on boosters for Russia’s Buran space shuttle.


NPO Energomash later developed smaller version of the engine, exporting the dual-nozzle RD-180 engine for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket and the single-nozzle RD-181 for Orbital ATK’s Antares booster. Another derivative is used on Russia’s next-generation Angara rocket.


Friday’s launch will use the Zenit 3SLBF, or Zenit 3F, configuration of the rocket, with Ukrainian first and second stages propelled by Russian-made engines, topped by a Fregat SB upper stage built by Russia’s NPO Lavochkin aerospace contractor.


After blasting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the rocket will veer northeast and drop its first stage at T+plus 2 minutes, 25 seconds. The payload shroud shielding the Elektro-L 2 weather satellite will jettison at T+plus 5 minutes, 17 seconds, during the second stage burn.


The two-stage Zenit vehicle will reach a parking orbit and deploy the Fregat stage with Elektro-L 2 at T+plus 8 minutes, 35 seconds, according to a timeline released by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.


Three firings by the Fregat upper stage’s main engine — beginning at 1500 GMT (10 a.m. EST), 1711 GMT (12:11 p.m. EST) and 2232 GMT (5:32 p.m. EST) — will guide the weather payload directly into a nearly circular geostationary orbit.

Separation of the Elektro-L 2 weather satellite is scheduled for 2243 GMT (5:43 p.m. EST) Friday.


The mission’s target orbit has an apogee, or high point, of 35,793 kilometers (22,240 miles) and a perigee, or low point, of 35,425 kilometers (22,012 miles), and an inclination of 0.5 degrees, according to Roscosmos.


Built by NPO Lavochkin with a 10-year design life, the Elektro-L 2 satellite follows the launch of Elektro-L 1 in January 2011. The Elektro-L program gives Russia its first operational geostationary weather satellite fleet, giving forecasters uninterrupted views of storm systems over Russia and neighboring territories.


The satellite weighs more than 1.8 metric tons (more than 4,000 pounds) at liftoff, according to Roscosmos.

Ground teams will guide the spacecraft to its final operating post over the equator at 77.8 degrees east longitude, where its velocity will match the rate of Earth’s rotation, so it will hover over a fixed spot on the planet.


The Elektro-L 2 satellite will supply weather data to civilian and military forecasters in Russia, taking observations of storms in visible and infrared imaging channels every half-hour, with more rapid observations on special occasions. The satellite hosts a suite of sensors to monitor space weather, and it carries a search-and-rescue communications payload.



Removal of ILV Zenit-2SB with SC Electro-L

video is 6:53 min...shows transport and setup at erector....pretty neat




Points of interest.....


"Producing 1.6 million pounds of thrust at sea level, the four-nozzle engine is the world’s most powerful operational liquid-fueled rocket engine, derived from the RD-170 powerplant built for the strap-on boosters for Russia’s Buran space shuttle."


"NPO Energomash later developed smaller version of the engine, exporting the dual-nozzle RD-180 engine for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket and the single-nozzle RD-181 for Orbital ATK’s Antares booster. Another derivative is used on Russia’s next-generation Angara rocket."



SeaLaunch Platform




Eutelsat 3B pre-launch operations at Sea Launch home port facility. Photo: Sea Launch/Eutelsat



This link has quite a few photo's of the Zenit going through the transport and setup process...great spread....:)


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Component Snafus Forced GOES-R Launch Slip



A NOAA official said a wonky solar array controller and a bad transistor forced the agency to delay the launch of GOES-R — shown here under construction at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver — by six months. Credit: Lockheed Martin



WASHINGTON — A day before NOAA was due on Capitol Hill for a progress report about its two main weather satellite programs, an agency official on Dec. 9 shed new light on component snafus that prompted a six-month launch delay for its next coastal-watchdog satellite.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back” and prompted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to slip the launch of the Geostationary Operational Environmental  Satellite-R spacecraft was the failure of a transistor during a two-month environmental test at prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems in July and August, Greg Mandt,  NOAA’s GOES-R system program director, said in a Dec. 9 phone interview.

Mandt spoke with SpaceNews a day before his boss, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Satellite and Information Services Steve Volz, was scheduled to testify at a joint hearing of the House Science Committee’s environment and oversight subcommittees alongside David Powner, director of Information Technology Management Issues for the Government Accountability Office.

Mandt said GOES-R’s transistor failure during a stint in Lockheed’s thermal vacuum chamber exacerbated schedule pressure NOAA and its contractor started to feel in earnest earlier this year, when another test in Lockheed’s Denver factory revealed problems with the mechanism that controls GOES-R’s solar arrays.

While Lockheed is fixing the solar array control mechanism and plans to replace the transistor — part of a bad batch manufactured in 2009 by a Lockheed supplier whose name Mandt said he could not recall —  rushing that work in time to launch next spring was deemed too risky by NOAA.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Gary Napier could not immediately be reached for comment.

GOES-R will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the Denver-based company’s most heavily booked launcher, so NOAA had to find another Atlas customer to swap with to get its desired launch slot.

Orbital ATK, which had booked an Atlas 5 launch for a fall cargo delivery to the International Space Station for NASA, eventually obliged, Mandt said. The Dulles, Virginia-based company agreed to move its mission up to March 2016 so GOES-R could take the October 2016 slot in ULA’s manifest.

more at the link...



point of interest....

"Orbital ATK, which had booked an Atlas 5 launch for a fall cargo delivery to the International Space Station for NASA, eventually obliged, Mandt said. The Dulles, Virginia-based company agreed to move its mission up to March 2016 so GOES-R could take the October 2016 slot in ULA’s manifest."


I assume the booking change was through NASA, but it will cause a short span between cargo deliveries as SpaceX CRS-8 due mid January 2016.




Airbus signs contract to develop and build JUICE spacecraft



JUICE is the first European mission to Jupiter; its overarching theme is the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants.



The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defence and Space have signed a 350M euro contract to develop and build ESA's JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft.


The contract was signed in Toulouse in the presence of Alvaro Gimenez, Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at ESA, and Eric Beranger, Head of Space Systems Programmes at Airbus Defence and Space. JUICE is the first large mission of the ESA Cosmic Vision programme, with a launch date in 2022.


"Building-on the expertise we developed on our sites in Toulouse (France), Friedrichshafen (Germany), Stevenage (UK) and Madrid (Spain), the Airbus Defence and Space project team is now running at full speed and the first equipment is expected for delivery in summer 2016," stated Francois Auque, Head of Space Systems.


"The selection of subcontractors has started and will be completed by 2017, and we will be prime contractor for an industrial consortium of more than 60 European companies. When the project reaches its peak activity around 2017-2018, up to 150 people will be working in the prime project team," Auque added.


JUICE is the first European mission to Jupiter; its overarching theme is the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants. JUICE will investigate the Jovian system, with a focus on its icy moons and the possibly ocean-bearing worlds of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The mission will study the Jovian system addressing two key themes: exploration of the habitable zone within the Galilean satellites, and exploration of the Jupiter system as the archetype of gas giants.


Following a launch on Ariane 5, JUICE will cruise for 7.5 years making extensive use of gravity assist manoeuvres (in order to save fuel and energy) around the Earth, Venus and Mars before reaching the Jovian system.


After insertion into Jupiter's orbit, JUICE will use multiple fly-bys to complete a comprehensive orbital tour over 3.5 years. At the end of the tour, JUICE will be set in orbit around Ganymede, becoming the first spacecraft ever to enter orbit around an icy moon in the outer Solar System. The complex mission profile will be supported by dedicated navigation cameras on-board the spacecraft.


To fulfil its scientific mission, the spacecraft will carry 10 instruments covering a wide range of measurement techniques (optical, sub-millimetre, radar, laser altimeter, magnetic, electric, plasma and particle sensors, and radio-science). To avoid any perturbation of the scientific instruments, the spacecraft will have an unprecedented level of magnetic cleanliness.


Weighing five and a half tonnes, JUICE will be powered by a large 97 m solar generator, the largest ever built for an interplanetary mission. This will ensure the spacecraft produces enough energy even in the low solar environment at Jupiter.


Airbus Defence and Space has unparalleled experience in designing and building scientific exploration spacecraft, having been involved in every European interplanetary mission. Its heritage includes missions to Venus (Venus Express), Mars (Mars Express),Titan (Huygens), and comet 67P / Chuyrumov-Gerasimenko (Rosetta). The company is currently building missions to the Sun (Solar Orbiter), Mercury (BepiColombo) and Mars (ExoMars), as well as all the satellites built and under construction for Earth research (Swarm, Cryosat, the Sentinel satellites and many more...).

These previous missions have allowed Airbus Defence and Space to develop unique expertise in autonomy, allowing spacecraft to be self-sufficient during long-duration cruise phases as seen on Rosetta, as well as careful electromagnetic cleanliness plans, which are essential in missions like Swarm - the magnetic field measurement mission.



Excellent, lots more to see out there.....:)

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Russian weather satellite lifts off aboard Zenit rocket



A weather satellite to help civilian and military forecasters track storm systems over Russia’s vast territory launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Friday aboard a Ukrainian-built Zenit rocket, perhaps on its final flight as Russian-Ukrainian relations sour and demand wanes for the 1980s-era launcher.


The Elektro-L 2 weather satellite, enclosed inside the Zenit rocket’s nose shroud, is beginning a 10-year mission to collect near-realtime images of weather systems from Europe to the Asia-Pacific, joining an international fleet of geostationary weather satellites owned by the United States, Europe, India, China and Japan.


The nearly 20-story rocket, running on an automatic countdown sequencer, was fueled with kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants and readied for liftoff from Site 45 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


In the final seconds of the countdown, the Zenit’s first stage RD-171 engine fired up with a flash of green-orange flame, powering up to full thrust and powering the rocket off the launch pad at 1345:33 GMT (8:45:33 a.m. EST), or 7:45 p.m. local time in Kazakhstan.


Status reports broadcast on an Internet video stream of the launch indicated the early phases of the launch went according to plan, with separation of the Zenit rocket’s first stage and payload fairing before arriving in a preliminary parking orbit about eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.


The Elektro-L 2 weather observatory flew atop a the Zenit 3SLBF, or Zenit 3F, version of the rocket with a Russian-made Fregat SB upper stage designed for multiple engine firings to put payloads into orbit thousands of miles above Earth.

The flight plan Friday called for three burns of the Fregat main engine to boost the weather satellite to progressively higher orbits, eventually reaching a circular geostationary orbit nearly 36,000 kilometers (22,300 miles) over the equator.

Separation of the Elektro-L 2 weather satellite is scheduled for 2243 GMT (5:43 p.m. EST) Friday, according to a timeline released by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency.


The satellite, with a launch mass of more than 1.8 metric tons (about 4,000 pounds), will then unfurl its power-generating solar panels.


Elektro-L 2 is heading for an operating post at 77.8 degrees east longitude, where its weather sensors will track storms with an image refresh rate of about 30 minutes. More frequent images could come down from the satellite during certain times, Roscosmos said.



Artist’s concept of the Elektro-L 2 satellite. Credit: NPO Lavochkin



Its launch comes nearly five years after a Zenit rocket shot the Elektro-L 1 satellite into orbit, and the seance member of the series incorporates upgrades to avoid problems that plagued the first craft.


The satellite also carries instruments to monitor space weather and a search-and-rescue communications payload, according to information published by Roscosmos.


One more flight-ready Zenit rocket is built and in storage, assigned to launch Russia’s Spektr RG space telescope in 2017, but the official Tass news agency reported in November the warranty on the rocket has expired. Some components for other Zenit boosters have been fabricated at Yuzhmash, the rocket’s builder in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine.


Friday’s launch was the 83rd flight of a Zenit rocket since 1985, and its first mission since May 2014.


The primary user of Zenit rockets since 2000 has been Sea Launch, a commercial launch firm with an operations base in Southern California and corporate headquarters in Switzerland.


Sea Launch flew Zenit rockets from a converted North Sea oil drilling platform from a point along the equator in the Pacific Ocean, a good location for launching heavy commercial satellites that could use a velocity boost from the faster speed of Earth’s rotation at low latitudes.


But the company suffered an explosive launch failure in 2007 that destroyed a communications spacecraft and damaged its ocean-based launch platform, then Sea Launch filed for bankruptcy and reorganized under majority Russian ownership.

Boeing owned the biggest slice of Sea Launch before the reorganization, but Russia’s Energia aerospace contractor took control of 95 percent of the company after the bankruptcy.


Another Zenit rocket crashed moments after liftoff in 2013 with an Intelsat communications satellite.

Sea Launch’s last mission in 2014 successfully sent up a Eutelsat telecom spacecraft.


Without any firm commercial orders in its backlog, Sea Launch suspended flight operations at its home port in Long Beach, California, after the Eutelsat mission and began selling off non-essential assets this year.


The situation means Friday’s Zenit rocket launch may be the last flight of the vehicle, which began development in the 1970s as the Soviet Union eyed modernized rockets to replace aging Soyuz and Proton designs rooted in the 1950s and 1960s.


But the older rockets will outlive the Zenit.


The RD-171 main engine on the Zenit booster produces 1.6 million pounds of thrust at sea level, and its builder — NPO Energomash 0f Moscow — bills it as the world’s most powerful operational liquid-fueled rocket engine. Derived from the RD-170 powerplant built for the strap-on boosters for Russia’s Buran space shuttle, the four-nozzle engine has smaller dual-nozzle and single-nozzle cousins that have found success in the export market.


The RD-180 engine is currently flying on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket, and Russia’s new-generation Angara launcher family uses RD-191 engines. Another member of the RD-171 family tree, the RD-193, flew on South Korea’s Naro-1 rocket three times from 2009 through 2013.


Two RD-181 engines, another variant of the Zenit main engine, will power Orbital ATK’s Antares space station cargo rocket when it returns to flight in 2016.



Start of ILV Zenit-2SB with SC Electro-L number 2, video is 2:26 min





Reviving STEREO-B



STEREO image.....NASA



On Oct. 1, 2014, NASA mission operations lost communication with one of the two spacecraft of the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, mission, just as the spacecraft was about to orbit around the other side of the sun.

Though they haven't heard from the Behind spacecraft, also known as STEREO-B, in over a year, the spacecraft has finally emerged into a region where it can once again receive radio signals. Scientists have a plan to get it backand their chances only get better with time.

The two STEREO spacecraft, launched in October 2006, were originally designed to complete a two-year mission, ending in 2008. Butlike many NASA spacecraftthey lasted much longer. The long lives of the two STEREO spacecraft, now nine years old, have been a boon for scientists studying the sun and its influence throughout the solar system. The two STEREOs slowly drifted away from Earth as they orbited the sun, one ahead and one behind our home planet, giving scientists constantly-improving views of the sun's far side, allowing us for the first time to see the whole sun at once.

However, there are always challenges associated with operating a spacecraft for more than four times its original lifespan. In STEREO's case, its orbit was the biggest hurdle. The same slow drift that lets the two STEREO spacecraft give us widely varying views of the sun means that each spacecraft eventually lay on the other side of the sun from Earth, leading to a three-month period where communication was impossible due to the sun's interference.

"The sun emits strongly in nearly every wavelength, making it the biggest source of noise in the sky," said Dan Ossing, mission operations manager for the STEREO mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. "Most deep space missions only have to deal with sun interference for a day or so, but for each of the STEREO spacecraft, this period lasted nearly four months."

When the team realized that the STEREO spacecraft would operate long enough to enter this interference zone, they began planning.

"We had to take a spacecraft that was meant to talk to Earth every day and get it ready for over three months of radio silence," said Ossing.

The STEREO spacecraft were designed with a command loss timer, an automatic reset button that restarts the spacecraft after 72 hours without contact. This reset is intended to correct any issues that could be preventing communication. The command loss timer can't be changedmeaning that during its phase on the other side of the sun the two STEREO spacecraft would be rebooting every three days for over three months straight.

Regardless, mission operators planned to make it work. They were in the middle of testing the reset by intentionally withholding communications from STEREO-B for three daysa test that had already been completed with great success on STEREO-Awhen communications were lost.

The hard reset happened as expected, 72 hours and 20 minutes after operators stopped communications with the spacecraft. After the reset, STEREO-B was supposed to power itself back on, identify certain stars so it could point its antenna at Earth, and send down a status report.

At first, everything went well. Seconds after the reset, the STEREO team received a signal from STEREO-Bbut it was much weaker than they expected, and it quickly faded away. That was the last time we heard from STEREO-B.

The signal received was so weak and so brief that the team was able to extract only a few packets of data to form a partial status report. From that small amount of information, the STEREO team was able to extrapolate the most likely case for where the Behind spacecraft is and what it's doing.

"The telemetry showed that the Inertial Measurement Unit, or IMUwhich tells the spacecraft if and how fast it's rotatingfailed in a way we didn't expect," said Ossing. "Rather than cutting out altogether, it was feeding incorrect information into the guidance and control computer."

The STEREO team thinks this bad information led the guidance and control computer down a path that eventually sent the spacecraft spinning, leaving its solar panels dark most of the time and its battery only intermittently charged.

If STEREO-B had stayed in contact, this is the kind of problem the STEREO team could fix. Though not easy, it's a matter of instructing STEREO-B's computer to ignore the information from that particular IMU. However, contact with STEREO-B cut out before the team could correct the error, meaning that the spacecraft is drifting in space with incorrect information about how it's movinga big problem for a spacecraft that needs to keep itself pointed at the sun to stay powered on.

"The bad IMU told STEREO-B that it was spinning, even though it was stationary," said Ossing. "The spacecraft would have automatically taken steps to correct the supposed spin."

The problem? STEREO-B's methods for stopping a spinincluding spinning internal reaction wheels and firing its thrusterswould cause a stationary spacecraft to start spinning. And based on the STEREO team's simulation of what the spacecraft would have done, it's likely now spinning in a way that means its solar panels are getting sunlight only part of the time, leaving it without power for long periods.

"When STEREO-B's gets enough power to start booting up, there are several systems that come on automatically," said Bill Thompson, chief observer for the STEREO mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "But those systems are probably draining all the power and preventing the battery from charging up. We need the battery to have a decent charge before the transmitter can be turned on and send us a signal."





The lines of communication to both STEREO spacecraftAhead in red and Behind in blueare now far enough from the sun that mission operators can send signals to both spacecraft. STEREO-A is in communication and operating normally, and mission operators have resumed attempts to contact STEREO-B following an October 2014 loss of communications. Credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

As of Nov. 30, 2015, spacecraft operators have had three three-hour blocks of time on the Deep Space Network each week to try and contact STEREO-B. The first two blocks are dedicated to building up the charge in the spacecraft's battery by telling it turn off the flight systems that boot up automatically. If STEREO-B can reduce the amount of power it consumes during those brief periods when its battery is charging, the spacecraft could remain on long enough to talk toand receive commands fromEarth. The third block in each sequence is spent sending commands to turn on the spacecraft's transmitter.

"If it's not transmitting, we have no way of knowing if our efforts are working," said Ossing.

The transmitter requires a command to turn on after a charge-up because of its enormous power. If the transmitter were automatic, it could have turned on while the spacecraft was still being built and tested here on Earth or during launch, posing a danger to people on the ground.

Though spacecraft operators have an initial plan to make contact with STEREO-B, the path to recovery isn't clear or easy. Part of the problem is how little information we have about what caused the loss of communications with STEREO-B.

"The only concrete information we have is that the IMU was feeding bad information to the guidance and control system," said Ossing. "From there, we made educated guesses about what the spacecraft would do."

Part of the problem is uncertainty about STEREO-B's positionsince it has been drifting out of contact for over a year, mission operators don't know exactly where it is. Further complicating this is the likelihood that STEREO-B would have used its thrusters as part of its effort to correct the nonexistent spin, possibly pushing it even further off course. This means that the STEREO team will have to sweep their signal over a significant portion of sky to make sure they reach STEREO-B.

NASA has recovered spacecraft from similar situations beforenotably, ESA/NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, was out of contact for six weeks in 1998 before it was recovered. But the distance to SOHO was much smaller, only about a million miles, compared to the 189-million-mile gap between Earth and STEREO-B.

As with all spacecraft, we don't know exactly what frequency STEREO-B will be listening for. Typically, operators will sweep through the range of frequencies that the spacecraft's receiver can pick up until the spacecraft locks on to one, a process that usually takes a minute or two. But this is impractical for STEREO-B, given the huge distance, which yields a round-trip communications delay of over half an hour.

"The Deep Space Network was able to create an acquisition technique that can sweep through a frequency segment in about ten seconds," said Ossing. "We've tested it on the Ahead spacecraft, and it worked even better than expected."

Furthermore, the distance means that any signal that has a hope of reaching STEREO-B must be much, much stronger than the signals we send to near-Earth missions. Engineers have a plan to increase the power of the signal we send to STEREO-B through something called constructive interference. By combining the signals from multiple stations in the Deep Space Network with specific timing and configurations, the waves that form the radio signals collide perfectly to create an even stronger signal.

"Constructive interference creates a new signal that's more powerful than the sum of its parts," said Thompson. "We're combining signals from three 34-meter antennas, which will give us a signal more than twice as powerful as a 70-meter antenna."

Because STEREO-B is so far from Earth, any signal it sends back to us will likely be too weak for the Deep Space Network to interpret. So, several of the largest radio telescopes in the worldincluding the Green Bank Radio Telescope, Arecibo Observatory, and the Allen Telescope Arraywill be listening for STEREO-B's transmission.

The STEREO-B recovery will be fraught with challengesbut it will only get easier over time. Because the spacecraft is on an orbit similar to Earth's, but lagging behind, Earth will lap STEREO-B in 2023, meaning that the spacecraft gets closer to us every day that passes until then.

"In 2019, the spacecraft will be far enough from the sun that we could image it directly with Hubble and figure out the rate of spin," said Ossing. "We're very hopeful that we'll recover STEREO-B, but it's just going to take time."

STEREO is the third mission in NASA's Solar Terrestrial Probes program, which is managed by NASA Goddard for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in Washington, D.C.



This is one payload that they really need to save....very important....:)


NASA needs to make plans for an all encompassing system to replace SOHO, STEREO and SDO. Instead of limited sight project launches.

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Launch Schedule for the next few days....


Dec. 13Proton • Garpun
Launch time: Approx. 0017 GMT on 13th (7:17 p.m. EST on 12th)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
A Russian government Proton rocket with a Breeze M upper stage will deploy the Garpun communications satellite into orbit for the Russian military. Delayed from May 19, Dec. 2 and Dec. 10. [Dec. 6]
DecemberLong March 3B • Gaofen 4
Launch window: TBD
Launch site: Xichang, China
A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch the Gaofen 4 Earth observation satellite. Gaofen 4 will be positioned in geostationary orbit with optical and infrared staring imagers for continuous observations of China and surrounding regions. [Nov. 16]
Dec. 15Soyuz • ISS 45S
Launch time: 1103 GMT (6:03 a.m. EST)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the manned Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station with members of the next Expedition crew. The capsule will remain at the station for about six months, providing an escape pod for the crew. Delayed from Nov. 20. [Nov. 29]





India to launch 6 Singaporean satellites



The December 16 mission will be the last rocket launch mission for ISRO in 2015.



India will be launching six Singaporean satellites weighing a total of around 625 kg on December 16 evening through its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, a senior official said.


"It is a commercial launch. The rocket is expected to blast off from the Sriharikota rocket port at 6pm on December 16. The Indian rocket will be carrying six satellites all from Singapore," a senior official of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), preferring anonymity, told IANS on Thursday.


According to him, the major luggage for the PSLV rocket will be the earth observation satellite called TeLEOS, weighing around 400 kg.

ISRO will be flying the 'core alone' variant of the PSLV rocket. The rocket will not have the strap on boosters, its standard feature.

The December 16 mission will be the last rocket launch mission for ISRO in 2015.


Till date in 2015 calendar year, ISRO has launched 14 satellites (3 Indian and 11 foreign) from its rocket port in Sriharikota. Thirteen satellites were launched with PSLV rocket and one communication satellite - GSAT-6-with geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV).


When the December 16 launch turns successful, then the total number satellite launches from India will be 20.


Last month India also launched its communication satellite GSAT-15 using the Ariane rocket of the European space agency which takes the total number of satellite launches in 2015 to 21 (17 foreign, 4 Indian).




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Proton launch with the military Garpun satellite took place (Anatoly Zak twitter). Photo's and write ups should be out shortly. Launch was a 7:17 pm EST, word got out around 45 minutes later. If lucky, a video will eventually show up. Other than that, lots of data has been supplied all week long. Here is some of it...


Proton to launch second Garpun





The appearance of the Garpun satellite had not been disclosed but it could resemble one of the Luch satellites.


Flight profile





According to original plans, the second Garpun satellite was expected to follow its predecessor within a year, however the spacecraft did not reach the launch pad until 2015.


First indications about the upcoming launch of the second Garpun satellite came in March 2015, when the Russian government posted a request for bids to deliver the 14F136 No. 12 article onboard Ilyushin-76 aircraft to Baikonur Cosmodrome and the subsequent return of a transport container back to the manufacturer, ISS Reshetnev, in Zheleznogorsk.


As of October 2015, the Proton mission with the Garpun satellite was planned for the night from December 1 to December 2, 2015. The rollout of the vehicle was scheduled for November 28. However by November 25, a technical problem required, pushing the launch to December 10. According to some unconfirmed reports, the delay was required to ensure that the classified payload launched during this mission would not be affected by a fault that led to the premature demise of the Israeli Amos-5 satellite around November 21, 2015. Both, Amos-5 and the second Garpun satellite, were built at ISS Reshetnev.


The delay further compressed overloaded launch manifest in Baikonur in December 2015, which also included preparations for the launch of the Ekspress-AMU1 satellite, scheduled to fly between December 23 and December 25, 2015. Elsewhere at the space center, a Zenit and a Soyuz were also being prepared for liftoff.

The new launch attempt for Proton was set for December 10, 2015, at 03:17 Moscow Time from Pad 24 at Site 81 on the Proton-M rocket with a Briz-M upper stage. The launch vehicle was rolled out to the snow-covered launch pad in Baikonur in the early hours of December 6, 2015. The rocket left the fueling site on its way to the pad at 03:30 Moscow Time.


However just few hours earlier, on December 5, a Soyuz-2-1v rocket lifted off on the ill-fated mission to deliver the Kanopus-STsatellite, which failed to separate from its Volga upper stage. The following probe quickly focused on the separation mechanism, prompting officials overseeing the launch of the Garpun satellite to add a day to Proton's timeline on the pad to ensure that the rocket had not been affected with a similar problem.


Because December 11 was reserved in Baikonur for the launch of the Elektro-L No. 2satellite on a Zenit rocket, while December 12 was kept as a backup launch date for the same mission, the Proton's liftoff was re-scheduled for December 13, 2015, at 03:19 Moscow Time. Other sources disputed that claim, saying that the delay was unrelated to the Kanopus-ST accident. On December 9, the official RIA Novosti new agency quoted a statement from an unnamed "industry source" denying that the postponement was related to the Kanopus. Instead, unidentified technical problems were cited as an explanation.



Based on the available information, it is possible to conclude that the delivery of the Garpun satellite involves three firings of the Briz-M upper stage and a direct insertion of the payload into geostationary orbit. The Proton rocket lifts off from Site 81 in Baikonur under power of six engines and heads east and slightly north to align its flight path with an orbit inclined around 51 degrees toward the Equator. The first stage separates around two minutes into the flight and falls in the Karaganda Region in Kazakhstan at drop zonesNo. 25 or 15.


Moments before separation, four engines of the second stage ignite and fire through a lattice structure connecting the two boosters, until separation.


The second stage propels the vehicle until around 5.5 minutes into the flight and following its separation crashes at drop zone No. 310 in the Altai Mountains on the border of Russia and Kazakhstan. The same drop zone also receives fragments of the payload fairing, which is discarded seconds after the separation of the second stage.

The powered flight then taken over by four vernier thrusters and one main engine of the third stage, which fires until 9.5 minutes into the flight. Upon separation over Siberia, the third stage reenters the atmosphere and fall into the Pacific Ocean east of Japan.


After the separation from the third stage, Briz-M fires its engine for the first time to enter an initial parking orbit around 19 minutes into the flight.


The Briz-M re-ignites its engine nearly one hour into the flight. The half-an-hour maneuver exhausts propellant in the external tank of the stage and the space tug sheds its nearly empty thorus-shaped vessel less than a minute and a half after the engine cutoff.


The maneuver stretches the apogee (highest point) of the parking orbit to a target altitude of 36,000 kilometers above the Earth's surface. For the next five hours the stage and its cargo climb passively. Upon approaching the apogee over the Indian Ocean, the Briz-M initiates its third and final engine firing to deliver Garpun into its target orbit. The maneuver lasts around six minutes and few minutes later, the satellite should separate from the stage, more than nine hours after leaving Baikonur. The stage will then likely conduct a separation maneuver to enter a safe burial orbit.



Removal of a Proton-M space rocket with the spacecraft in the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry

video is 7:41 min...nice video




JUST IN.......


Proton M launches Garpun satellite



Russia’s Proton-M has launched on its seventh flight of the year Sunday morning, beginning a lengthy mission to deploy a Garpun military communications satellite. The rocket departed Baikonur at 06:19 local time (00:19 UTC) to begin what is likely to be a nine-hour journey to geostationary orbit.

Proton M launch:

Garpun, meaning Harpoon, is a series of new-generation space-to-ground communications satellites dedicated to support Russia’s military space assets.

Sunday’s launch carries Garpun No.12L, the second such spacecraft to be launched. Garpun replaces an earlier series of satellites, known as Potok or Geizer; ten of which were launched between 1982 and 2000.

Indepth article.....



Will report back much later on launch and payload health.......:)

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Proton launch with the Garpun payload, is a success....



Quiet launch of No. 12L

The liftoff of the Proton rocket with the Garpun satellite was witnessed by many outsiders, including dignitaries who had arrived for the launch of the Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft scheduled two days later. Thanks to a perfectly clear night sky, observers in Baikonur could see the liftoff, the separation of the first and second stage and even the ignition of the third stage before the rocket was finally out of sight.


However the official Russian media, the Ministry of Defense and GKNPTs Khrunichev, which developed the rocket, had remained quiet about the mission hours after the launch. Even upon seemingly successful separation of the satellite, there was no press-release or the official statement from any organization involved in the launch. The unusual quiet even for a classified mission was probably a reaction to the premature reports about the successful launch of the Kanopus-ST satellite, which had actually failed.


In the meantime, the US Strategic Command, USSTRATCOM, cataloged the latest Proton launch under number 41121. The mission also received international designation 2015-075A. The object associated with the launch was first tracked in a 401 by 35,657-kilometer orbit, which was a likely reached after the third firing of the Briz-M upper stage.


By 17:00 Moscow Time on December 13, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that the spacecraft launched on the Proton rocket at 03:19 Moscow Time had been taken under control of the Titov Chief Test Center of the Russian Air and Space Forces, which would be responsible for the mission. The satellite received an official designation Kosmos-2513, the Ministry of Defense said.



Overview article....





ESA Laser Communications Payload Ready to Fly



EDRS-A ready for shipping. (Credit: Airbus Defence and Space)



TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — After a year-long wait in storage for a Proton rocket to become available, the EDRS-A laser communications payload and its Eutelsat host satellite are finally at the Baikonur cosmodrome and being prepared for launch in late January.

EDRS-A is the first element of the European Data Relay System, which will collect information from low-orbiting satellites via laser and send it down to Earth in near-real time. It was packed into an Antonov plane by Airbus Toulouse, France and flown to Kazakhstan in November.


The Eutelsat-9B/EDRS-A satellite has undergone a plethora of tests to make sure it is space-ready after its journey.EDRS-A’s laser terminal is essentially an autonomous state-of-the-art telescope, with mirrors to help the laser lock on to its mark in lower orbits from its own position in geostationary orbit.The moving target can be up to 45 000 km away and requires an astonishing level of precision to hit.


Extreme precision requires absolute cleanliness before EDRS-A reaches orbit – any grime or speck of dust can affect the terminal’s mirrors and ability to pinpoint its target.

ESA’s Martin Born performed a last inspection: “The terminal is in excellent shape and all the tests we have performed so far have demonstrated its readiness for the mission.

“It has been purged with dry nitrogen gas to prevent any contamination from getting into the aperture. The multilayer insulation has been sealed for flight, and the terminal will now remain closed and locked until EDRS-A reaches orbit.”



Relaying data via laser (Credit: ESA)



Laser beams are capable of higher accuracy and capacity than radio – up to a record-breaking 1.8 Gbit/s of user data. The terminal is also fitted with a Ka-band radio transmitter to deliver the data to a ground station.

The radio downlink is an important part of EDRS’s services. Like the laser element, it is a two-way link that helps EDRS customers to send commands to their satellites.

Nicolas Le Gallou, EDRS-A payload engineer, said: “Checks on the payload here in Baikonur include verification of the good health of all the radio-frequency equipment.

“The digital processor, modulators and receivers have all been checked to make sure they were not harmed during transit. All the results were in line with the tests done in Toulouse prior to shipment.”

With the majority of checks now made and the payload found to be doing well and in lockdown before launch, attention turns to its host, Eutelsat-9B, a commercial telecom satellite by Eutelsat, one of the world’s leading satellite operators.

ESA’s Khalil Kably notes, ”So far, so good. We have passed the flight readiness review with no issues. The satellite is now at maximum helium gas pressure. The next step is to push the satellite to the fuelling stand, where a few hundred kilograms of propellant will be loaded.

“Meanwhile, the Russian teams are proceeding with the Proton launcher’s mechanical assembly and electrical tests.”

The EDRS-SpaceDataHighway is a public–private partnership between ESA and Airbus Defence and Space. The laser terminal was built by TESAT-Spacecom and funded by the DLR German Aerospace Center.




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Starting tomorrow, the next two weeks are very busy with launches, here are a few...


Dec. 15Soyuz • ISS 45S
Launch time: 1103 GMT (6:03 a.m. EST)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the manned Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station with members of the next Expedition crew. The capsule will remain at the station for about six months, providing an escape pod for the crew. Delayed from Nov. 20. [Nov. 29]
Dec. 16PSLV • TeLEOS 1
Launch time: 1230 GMT (7:30 a.m. EST)
Launch site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India
India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), flying on the PSLV-C29 mission in the PSLV-CA configuration, will launch five satellites for Singapore. The largest of the satellites, TeLEOS 1, is an Earth observation satellite designed to operate in an equatorial orbit for AgilSpace. Four other satellites aboard the launch were developed by university students in Singapore will test new technologies, observe Earth and study the climate. [Dec. 12]
Dec. 16Long March 2D • DAMPE
Launch time: TBD
Launch site: Jiuquan, China
A Chinese Long March 2D rocket will launch the Dark Matter Particle Explorer, a satellite designed to measure high-energy particles in space in search of dark matter. [Dec. 6]
Dec. 17Soyuz • Galileo 11 & 12
Launch window: 1151:56 GMT (6:51:56 a.m. EST)
Launch site: ELS, Sinnamary, French Guiana
An Arianespace Soyuz rocket, designated VS13, will launch on a mission from the Guiana Space Center in South America. The Soyuz will carry two Galileo full operational capability satellites for Europe’s Galileo navigation constellation. The Soyuz 2-1b (Soyuz ST-B) rocket will use a Fregat-MT upper stage. [Oct. 11]
Dec. 19/20Falcon 9 • Orbcomm OG2
Launch window: 0125-0425 GMT on 20th (8:25-11:25 p.m. EST on 19th)
Launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch 11 second-generation Orbcomm communications satellites. The satellites will operate for Orbcomm Inc., providing two-way data messaging services for global customers. The rocket will fly on a full-thrust version of the Falcon 9 rocket with upgraded Merlin 1D engines, stretched fuel tanks, and a payload fairing. Delayed from December 2014 and 1st Quarter 2015 and August. [Dec. 12]





Next 2 Galileo satellites get their "boost" for upcoming Soyuz launch



file image



Europe's latest two Galileo navigation satellites have been mated with the Soyuz launcher's Fregat upper stage, marking another milestone in preparations for Arianespace's December 17 liftoff from French Guiana.


Installation of the two satellites and their dispenser system atop Fregat occurred in the Spaceport's S3B clean room facility, clearing the way for the integrated unit to be encapsulated in Soyuz' ST payload fairing.


This will create the "upper composite," which is to be placed atop Soyuz once the vehicle has been rolled out to its ELS launch complex in the commune of Sinnamary.


Fregat operates as Soyuz' fourth stage, providing an autonomous and flexible propulsion system. Built by Russia's NPO Lavochkin, it will perform two propulsion burns during the Galileo mission - with the upper stage designed to be restarted up to 20 times in flight.


Arianespace's upcoming Soyuz mission, designated Flight VS13 in the company's launcher family numbering system, will orbit the 11th and 12th Galileo satellites, augmenting Europe's constellation of navigation spacecraft that operate in circular Medium Earth Orbit.

Prime contractor OHB System in Bremen, Germany produced the satellites, and their onboard payloads are supplied by UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL).


Europe's Galileo system was conceived to provide high-quality positioning, navigation and timing services under civilian control.

Its Full Operational Capability phase is managed and funded by the European Commission, with the European Space Agency (ESA) delegated as the design and procurement agent on the Commission's behalf.


Flight VS13 will be Soyuz' 13th liftoff from the Spaceport since its introduction in 2011, and is to close out a busy year for Arianespace - during which the launch services company already has conducted 11 missions with its Soyuz, Vega and Ariane 5 vehicles from French Guiana.




Installed side-by-side on their specially-designed dispenser system, the Galileo FOC satellites are moved into position, then integrated atop Soyuz’ Fregat upper stage in this photo sequence.



launch kit...



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PSLV-C29 on the First Launch Pad with Vehicle Assembly Building in the background. Photo Credit: ISRO



India’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is ready to launch six satellites under the TeLEOS-1 mission for Singapore on its 32nd flight. The mission, designated PSLV-C29, will see the rocket blasting off at 7:30 a.m. EST (12:30 GMT) on Wednesday, Dec. 16, from the First Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.


The flight will be conducted by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The Mission Readiness Review (MRR) committee and Launch Authorisation Board (LAB) have already given the green light for the launch and the 59-hour countdown started as planned on Monday. Propellant filling operations began just a few hours after the countdown had commenced.


The rocket will use a “typical” PSLV flight profile to fulfill its mission of deploying six satellites. The vehicle will fly in its ‘core-alone’ configuration – without the use of solid strap-on motors (this marks the 11th time this version of the PSLV has been used).


The rocket’s first stage will separate about one minute and 53 seconds after liftoff. One minute later, the heat shield will be detached from the launch vehicle and the second stage will continue its flight until separation at four minutes and 20 seconds after the rocket has left the pad.


The third stage should fly for five minutes and 23 seconds, separating at T+9 minutes and 44 seconds. The fleet of satellites are expected to be deployed 18-21 minutes into the flight. The mission will end in a restart and cutoff of the fourth stage, at approximately 67 and a half minutes after launch.


The satellites should then be injected into a circular low-Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 341 miles (550 km), inclined some 15 degrees to the equator.


The main passenger of the PSLV-C29 mission is the TeLEOS-1 satellite. Other payloads include smaller spacecraft – two micro-satellites (VELOX-CI, Kent Ridge-1) and three nanosatellites (VELOX-II, Athenoxat-1, Galassia).




TeLEOS-1 and nanosats on the payload adapter. Photo Credit: ISRO




Soyuz in the zone Dec 17 Galileo GPS launch



file image



Arianespace's medium-lift Soyuz has moved to the launch pad in French Guiana - and is now ready for integration of its two Galileo satellite passengers at the workhorse vehicle's dedicated Spaceport complex.


With the rollout and vertical positioning of the basic three-stage vehicle, Arianespace's Soyuz marked a key step toward its December 17 mission that will deploy the latest two FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites for Europe's Galileo space-based navigation system.


Soyuz was moved via a transport/erector rail car in a horizontal-transfer process from the MIK launcher assembly facility to the Soyuz ELS launch complex - located at the Spaceport's northwestern sector within the commune of Sinnamary.


Once on the launch pad, Soyuz was erected to the vertical orientation, where it was suspended in place by four large support arms, followed by the transport/erector rail car's withdrawal.


With this step complete, the mobile gantry was moved into position around the launcher, providing protection for the subsequent installation of Soyuz' "upper composite" - composed of the two Galileo spacecraft and their dispenser system, the Fregat upper stage and payload fairing.


The December 17 launch - designed VS13 in Arianespace's numbering system - is scheduled to lift off at precisely 8:51:56 a.m. local time in French Guiana, with its Galileo satellite passengers to be deployed during a flight lasting approximately 3 hrs., 47 min. Total payload lift performance is estimated at 1,603 kg.


Flight VS13's passengers were built by OHB System, and their navigation payloads were supplied by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.


The European Commission is managing and funding Galileo's FOC phase - during which the network's complete operational and ground infrastructure is being deployed. The European Space Agency has been delegated as the design and procurement agent on the Commission's behalf.



Good images at the link below...




Photo credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace – Photo Optique Video du CSG – JM Guillon


Transfer to the launch zone Soyuz VS13 #

video is 1:11 min...




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PSLV completes commercial launch with six Singaporean satellites





Six spacecraft for Singapore lifted off Wednesday aboard an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.


Clustered atop the the PSLV on a launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India’s east coast, the satellites were manufactured in Singapore, with launch services arranged with Antrix Corp., the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organization.


Liftoff occurred at for 1230 GMT (7:30 a.m. EST) Wednesday the Indian spaceport, where the PSLV blasted off at 6 p.m. local time, just after sunset.


Standing more than 44 meters, or 145 feet, tall, the launcher fired its solid-fueled first stage motor, quickly ramp up to full power and race east from the launch pad on Sriharikota Island.


Wednesday’s launch used the “core alone” version of the PSLV without six strap-on boosters needed to help send heavier satellites into orbit. The flight marked the 32nd flight of a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, and its 11th mission in the core alone configuration.


Generating more than a million pounds of thrust a maximum power, the first stage burned for a minute and 53 seconds, then fell away as the PSLV’s second stage liquid-fueled Vikas engine ignited for a nearly two-and-a-half minute firing, during which the rocket’s nose cone jettisoned to fall into the Bay of Bengal offshore the launch base.


A third stage motor ignited at about T+plus 4 minutes, 21 seconds and fired for nearly two minutes, followed by a coast phase before the third and fourth stages separated at T+plus 9 minutes, 44 seconds.


The fourth stage took over and burned its engines starting at T+plus 15 minutes, 7 seconds for more than two minutes.

Cutoff of the fourth stage engines came at T+plus 17 minutes, 25 seconds, then the rocket prepared for deployment of its six satellite payloads.






will have to wait for better video's, the ones out now are terrible....



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Scientists Launch NASA Rocket into "Speed Bumps" Above Norway



The Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling Aurora launched from Norway's Andoya Space Center on December 13, 2015. Image courtesy NASA.



A team of scientists led by Marc Lessard of the University of New Hampshire Space Science Center launched an instrument-laden, four-stage sounding rocket from Norway's Andoya Space Center about 280 miles above Earth to study how particles move in a region near the North Pole where Earth's magnetic field is directly connected to the solar wind. The launch occurred Sunday, Dec. 13, at 2:34 a.m. EST.


Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the second iteration of the Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling, or RENU 2, was designed to measure the complex, underlying physics behind the northern lights and heating of the very high altitude thermosphere - a process known as "upwelling" that contributes to the phenomenon of "satellite drag."


The thermosphere begins some 56 miles above Earth and the process of upwelling, which involves neutral atoms that carry no electrical charge and are denser than charged particles, has been known to exist since the earliest days of the space program when observers noted increased drag on Earth-orbiting satellites during periods of increased solar activity. The drag intensifies when the dense neutral atoms create "speed bumps" that slow satellites down and can eventually make them fall back into Earth's atmosphere.


At the time, the effect was largely attributed to large-scale motion in the ionosphere, which begins at 37 miles above Earth, heating the thermosphere from below. However, more recent observations have shown that neutral thermospheric upwelling can also occur on much smaller scales and can be more localized in what's known as the cusp region - two "funnels" of magnetic field lines that allow a small amount of solar wind to reach the top of the atmosphere and produce the auroral glow.


Lessard and colleagues launched the first RENU rocket in 2010 from the Norwegian launch site. The RENU 2 instrument payload was designed to take an array of additional measurements. The mission is attempting to test, measure, and quantify "electron precipitation" that brings energetic particles down from high above the Earth and delivers energy into the upper atmosphere via Earth's magnetic field lines.


The new data acquired during the flight will provide information essential for the advancement of understanding the process. The launch location in the far northern polar region was chosen so that the experiment could take place in total darkness at noontime.


Although the effect of satellite drag can negatively impact a spacecraft's orbit over time, which is a concern for certain low-orbit, strategic satellites, Lessard stresses this was not the primary motivation for the experiment.


"From NASA's point of view this is a mission of pure science, we're trying to understand the processes behind neutral upwelling and how it is associated with visible aurora phenomena," says Lessard, associate professor at the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS) and department of physics.


"This is the first time anyone has tried to measure these neutral particle enhancements at these altitudes and with this combination of instruments," Lessard says. He adds that it appears the team was successful in getting the rocket to transit a region of neutral density enhancement but because so much data is gathered during rocket launches (unlike satellites, vast amounts of data can be transmitted quickly back to Earth) it could take months to analyze the results.


The team of investigators also includes colleagues from the Aerospace Corporation, Dartmouth College, Cornell University, and other collaborators, including those at the University of Oslo, the Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO, operated by the University Center of Svalbard), the EISCAT Svalbard Radar, and SuperDARN radar


An array of ground-based instrumentation located at KHO in the northernmost part of Norway complemented the rocket measurements. The data will be used to quantify neutral density enhancement, or regions of higher neutral atom density, and will also be used by theorists on the team to run mathematical models to gain insight into the heating and precipitation processes. Notes Lessard, "the instrumentation and science support provided from our colleagues at KHO has been invaluable."




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Chinese Long March 2D lofts DAMPE – A Dark Matter Investigator





A new satellite – that will help humanity to unravel the mysteries of the ‘Dark Matter’ – was launched on Thursday by China. The launch of the DAMPE satellite took place at 00:12 UTC using a Long March-2D launch vehicle from the 603 Launch Pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center’s LC43.


Chinese Launch:

DAMPE (DArk Matter Particle Explore) is one of the five satellite missions in the framework of the Strategic Pioneer Research Program in Space Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Other missions include: Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, Shijian-10, Intensive Study of Future Space Science Missions and Advanced Research of Space Science Missions and Payloads.

The new satellite will be operational at a sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 500 kilometers and an inclination of 97.4° with 3-year lifetime.

DAMPE is a powerful space telescope for high energy gamma-ray, electron and cosmic rays detection.




more at the link....



will post video if/when available .....



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