Jonathan's Space Report
No. 797 2021 Sep 18 Somerville, MA
International Space Station
Expedition 65 continues.
Cargo Dragon capsule C208, with (as usual) a new trunk, was launched on mission SpX CRS-23
on Aug 29. The trunk is empty on this mission. The cabin carries 2207 kg of pressurized
cargo including 45 kg of satellite deployment hardware.
For Nanoracks, four cubesats are carried (the first three as part of NASA's Elana program)
for deployment from the NRCSD deployer (probably NRCSD-21?):
- PR-CuNaR2, a 3U physics experiment from the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico - Bayamon
- CAPSat, a 3U technology satellite from the University of Illinois
- SPACE HAUC, a 3U satellite testing a software defined radio from U. Massachusetts, Lowell
- IOD-3 Amber, a 6U shipping electronic intelligence satellite from Horizon Technologies (Reading) and the
Satellite Applications Catapult (Harwell) which will provide data to the Portsmouth-based
National Maritime Information Centre.
For Japan's SpaceBD, another four payloads are known to be aboard and will use the JAXA J-SSOD deployer:
- Binar-1, a 1U test satellite for Curtin University
- CUAVA-1, a 3U test satellite for the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales,
which have a joint new CUAVA space technology lab on the U Sydney campus;
- Maya-3 and Maya-4, two 1U test satellites from the Phillipines DOST and the U. Phillipines Diliman.
CRS-23 arrived at the ISS and docked at IDA-2/PMA-2 at 1430 UTC on Aug 30.
On Sep 3 astronauts Novitskiy (suit Orlan MKS-5) and Dubrov (MKS-4)
carried out spacewalk VKD-49 to install exterior power and ethernet
cables connecting the Nauka module to the rest of the Station. The
Poisk airlock was depressurized from about 1410 UTC to 2239 UTC; the
hatch was opened from 1441 to 2235 UTC.
On Sep 9 Novitskiy and Dubrov continued the Nauka cabling work on
spacewalk VKD-50. The airlock was depressurized from 1430 to 2219 UTC,
with the hatch open from 1451 to 2216 UTC. Novitskiy hand-jettisoned a
bundle containing an ethernet cable reel cover and several insulation
covers at 2151 UTC; it was cataloged as object 49129.
On Sep 12 astronauts Hoshide (JAXA) and Pesquet (ESA), in spacesuits EMU
3015 and 3009, made US spacewalk EVA-77 from the Quest airlock. (It's
considered a US spacewalk because it was made in US spacesuits from the
US airlock with supervision by US mission control, even though neither
spacewalker is actually American.) They installed an IROSA solar array
'mod kit', a set of mounting brackets, on the base of the 4A solar array
wing on the P4 truss. This mod kit will serve as the mounting point for
a new IROSA solar array to be launched on a future Dragon cargo mission.
A new Quest airlock depressurization protocol was used, resulting in a
very slow depressurization. The airlock reached the 50 mbar pressure I
use to mark the start of depressurized activities at 1149 UTC, but it
took until 1212 UTC to reach the 34 mbar point that NASA requires for
hatch opening. The hatch was indeed opened at 1213 UTC and the
astronauts went on to battery power at 1215 UTC.
After the mod kit install, the spacewalkers replaced the FPMU unit on
P1. The original FPP (Floating Potential Probe) was launched on STS-97
in Dec 2000 and attached to the P6 truss during STS-97 EVA-3, but never
worked. It was jettisoned on 2005 Nov 7 during ISS US EVA-4 and
reentered on 2006 Feb 25. The replacement FPMU (Floating Potential
Measurement Unit) was launched aboard STS-121 in Jul 2006 and attached
to the S1 truss on 2006 Aug 3 during ISS US EVA-5. During STS-129 EVA-2
on 2009 Nov 21 the FPMU was relocated from S1 to P1. The third device
was launched on 2021 Aug 10 aboard NG-16 - at least that's my guess,
NASA have not said so explicitly. It was attached to P1 at about 1800 UTC.
Hoshide and Pesquet closed the airlock hatch at 1904 UTC and began
repressurization at 1909 UTC.
On Sep 16 at 0002:56 UTC Dragon capsule C207 'Resilience' was launched
on a Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Center carrying the first all-private crew
to orbit. The crew of the Inspiration4 mission were:
Commander Jared Isaacman
Medical Officer Hayley Arceneaux
Mission Specialist Chris Sembroski
Pilot Dr. Sian Proctor
The first stage, S/N 1062, landed on the droneship Just Read The
Instructions in the Atlantic. The second stage put the Dragon in an
approximately 190 x 570 km x 51.6 deg orbit, in approximately the same
orbital plane as the ISS. A pair of Dragon engine burns then raised the
orbit to 570 x 579 km x 51.6 deg. Unfortunately SpaceX have not given
any details of the times and delta-Vs for those burns. Two further
burns around 2230 and 2320 UTC Sep 17 lowered the orbit back down to 365
km. The trunk was jettisoned at 2211 UTC Sep 18 and Dragon fired its
Draco thrusters for the 15 min deorbit burn at 2216 UTC. Entry was at
around 2253 UTC, and Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic off the coast
of Cape Canaveral at about 80.3W 28.8N at (to within a few seconds)
High Altitude Human Spaceflights
The Earth is not a sphere - it is roughly an oblate spheroid flattened at the poles.
A decent approximation to this spheroid is the WGS-84 ellipsoid. In addition,
local gravity variations mean that the `geoid' - the surface of constant gravity
- is not quite the same as the ellipsoid; and on top of that local land topography
(mountains, valleys etc) mean that the physical surface is different again.
We can measure heights of space objects in three ways:
1) radial distance from the centre of the Earth (conventionally with the 6378.1 km equatorial radius
of the Earth subtracted); I will call this the geocentric or GC height;
2) distance from the surface of the WGS-84 ellipsoid, measured vertically (i.e. perpendicular to the
local ellipsoid surface tangent plane). I will call this the geodetic or GD height.
3) distance from the physical surface, measured vertically (i.e. parallel to the local gravity vector).
I will call this the true height, and ignore it because I don't have the data to calculate it.
Normally when we cite orbital parameters for satellites we use the GC height by convention,
even though it can be 20 km different from the GD height. The GD height is closer to what
a non-specialist might expect; well within 1km of the true height and of the mean sea level height.
I4 flew to a 580 km apogee, well above ISS. That makes it timely to
review other high apogee flights. Other than the 9 lunar missions (Apollo 8 and 10 to 17),
the highest apogee flights are listed below, giving both their GC and GD heights:
GC height GD height (km)
Gemini 11 1374 1379
Gemini 10 762 766
STS-31 621 633
STS-82 620 624
STS-103 611 616
STS-61 601 608
STS-109 584 597
Inspiration4 580 598
STS-48 576 586
STS-125 567 598
I have added lists of space travellers and human spaceflight missions to
The Chinese space station made its first orbit reboost on Sep 1, raising orbit from 374 x 383 km
to 383 x 384 km.
Shenzhou 12, with Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Honbo aboard, undocked from
the Tianhe module forward docking port at 0056 UTC Sep 16. They backed off to 2 km
and then performed a re-rendezvous test, stationkeeping 20 metres from Tianhe's
nadir docking port. At 0538 UTC they again departed the vicinity of Tianhe.
The orbital module was jettisoned at about 0445 UTC Sep 17, followed by a
deorbit burn at 0448 UTC, and landing at 100 04 28E 41 37 43N near the Jiuquan
space centre at about 0534:10 UTC.
Two Ronghe Shiyan Weixing (Integrated test
satellites) were launched from Jiuquan on Aug 24 into an 1100 km, 86.4 deg
orbit. The CZ-2C reached a suborbital trajectory and the second stage
splashed down in the southern Indian Ocean. The YZ-1S upper stage
entered an elliptical (perhaps 150 x 1100 km) orbit after its first burn
at 1125 UTC and an 1100 km circular orbit after its second burn at
around 1212 UTC. The satellites were deployed shortly after this. At
about 1230 UTC the YZ-1S made a deorbit burn targeting entry over the
central Indian Ocean. However, it appears that the resulting perigee was
not low enough for immediate reentry and the YZ-1S remained up for four
hours, reentered at third perigee over southern Africa at around
1620-1625 UTC where it was widely observed.
The CZ-2C used a new larger-diameter 4.2-meter fairing and tested a satellite
dispenser that can carry up to 20 satellites.
A third test satellite was also deployed and lowered its orbit significantly soon after launch.
No detailed information on this third satellite has been revealed. As of Sep 15 it stopped its
orbit lowering and was in a 852 x 877 km orbit.
The SAST/Shanghai-built Tongxin Jishu Shiyan Weixing 7 (Communications
Experiment Test Satellite 7) was launched to geotransfer orbit from
Xichang on Aug 24. Previous SAST TJS missions have reportedly been
Huoyan infrared missile warning satellites. However, it has been
announced that TJS-7 will carry out a docking experiment with TJS-6,
suggesting that it is primarily a technology mission. The satellite
is currently on station at 146.5E.
Astra's LV0006 rocket was launched on Aug 28. Each Astra flight has been
a significantly different variant of its rocket - this one, a model
called Rocket 3.3, had a stretched first stage and improved second stage
systems. One of the 5 Delphin engines failed just after ignition and the
rocket tipped over, then recovered attitude and - remarkably - flew
sideways while vertical for about 18 seconds before beginning ascent and
almost completing first stage burn. At around maximum dynamic pressure,
2.5 min after launch and at an altitude of some 33 km, some hardware
appeared to fall off the vehicle and a flight termination command was
sent. The vehicle presumably fell in the ocean south of Kodiak. Astra
report the hardware reached an apogee of around 50 km; my estimate
based on available data is 47 km.
The rocket carried the Space Force's Space Test Program STP-27AD1, an
instrumented test payload designed to remain attached to the second
stage and measure the launch environment.
Firefly Aerospace carried out its first Alpha launch on Sep 3 from Space Launch Complex
2-West at Vandenberg Space Force Base. A cloud of gas was seen escaping from the rocket
about 2min after launch; the rocket then cartwheeled and was destroyed by the US Space Force range
safety team. Altitude achieved was probably around 15 km.
3U deployer (possibly ISILAUNCH QuadPack?) BSS-1 (Benchmark Space Systems, Vermont) - 3U, propulsion test
8P deployer (Libre Space PICOBUS):
Qubik-1 and 2, 1P (0.025m cube, 0.25 kg) test satellites from Libre Space
Fossa-1b and 2, 1P and 2P test satellites from Fossa Systems, Madrid
GENESIS L and N, 1.5P amateur radio satellites from AMSAT-EA, Madrid
Unknown deployer: Serenity, 3U cubesat for Teachers In Space with student experiments
Hiapo, 1U educational cubesat for Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, Hilo
Mass simulator for Orbital-1, 3U? for Naval Postgrad School, Monterey, Calif.
Attached to second stage:
Spinnaker-3, dragsail device from Purdue/Cal Poly, to reduce Stage 2 orbit life.
Gao Fen 5-02
The Gao Fen 5-02 high resolution imaging satellite was launched at 0301 UTC Sep 7 from Taiyuan.
The Zhongxing-9B (Chinasat-9B) communications satellite was launched to GTO on Sep 9.
Only one object has been cataloged, in a 206 x 35792 km orbit, and there have been no TLEs
since Sep 10. Its seems likely that ZX-9B raised its orbit on around Sep 10 to geosynchronous,
but has not yet been tracked by the US in the new orbit. The expected third stage rocket
may have reentered on its first few orbits since it has not been cataloged.
Kosmos-2551 was launched to low polar orbit on Sep 9 by a Soyuz-2-1V,
the light version of the Soyuz. It is thought to be the second in a new
series of small EMKA imaging spy satellites.
On Sep 14 SpaceX launched 51 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base to a 70 degree orbit.
The satellites are the new V1.5 design with laser intersatellite links. SpaceX has not revealed
the mass of the new satellites. The launch was designated Group 2-1, and marks the
start of a new orbital shell for the system.
The Falcon 9 first stage landed on the OCISLY droneship and the second stage deployed
the satellites after a single burn to orbit. A second burn of the second stage was expected
to deorbit the stage over the western Indian Ocean near 2N 61E.
OneWeb launch 10
Also on Sep 10, 34 more OneWeb satelites were launched on a Starsem Soyuz/Fregat from Baykonur.
Astroscale's ELSA-d target was released from the main Chaser craft for
the first time at 1501 UTC Aug 25. It was allowed to drift a short
distance (of order metres) away and was then recaptured with the
Chaser's magnetic grapple. Astroscale reported that the experiment was
repeated multiple times.
Faraday Phoenix is now identified, leaving only PACE-1 and PAINANI-2 which
are 48909 and 48928 in some order.
The Royal Australian Air Force/UNSW M2A and M2B satellites launched on
Electron 19 on Mar 22 separated from each other on Sep 10 after several months
of checkout operations.
Table of Recent Orbital Launches
Date UT Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission INTL. Catalog Perigee Apogee Incl Notes
Aug 3 0739 Jilin-1 Mofang-01A? Shuang Quxian 1 Jiuquan Tech F05 F01589 -250?x500? x 97?
Aug 4 1101 KL-Beta A ) Chang Zheng 6 Taiyuan Comms 70A S49059 899 x 908 x 89.0
KL-Beta B ) Comms 70A S49060 899 x 908 x 89.0
Aug 5 1630 Zhongxing-2E Chang Zheng 3B Xichang Comms 71A S49062 423 x 35138 x 23.6
Aug 10 2201 S.S. Ellison Onizuka Antares 230+ MARS LA0A Cargo 72A S49064 178 x 375 x 51.6
Aug 12 0013 EOS-03 GSLV Mk II Satish Dhawan Comms F06 F01593 -4500 x 140 x 17.9
Aug 17 0147 Pleiades Neo 4 ) Vega Kourou ELV Imaging 73E S49070 615 x 617 x 97.9
LEDSAT ) Tech 73 522 x 562 x 97.6
Sunstorm ) Solar 73 522 x 562 x 97.6
BRO-4 ) Sigint 73 522 x 562 x 97.6
RADCUBE ) Sci 73 522 x 562 x 97.6
Aug 18 2232 Tianhui 2-02-01) Chang Zheng 4B Taiyuan LC9 Radar 74A S49071 501 x 520 x 97.5
Tianhui 2-02-02) Radar 74B S49072 501 x 520 x 97.5
Aug 21 2213 OneWeb SL0285-0291) Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat Baykonur LC31 Comms 75A
OneWeb SL0293-0302) -75AK 445 x 473 x 87.4
OneWeb SL0323 )
Aug 24 1115 Ronghe Shiyan Weixing 1) Chang Zheng 2C/YZ-1S Jiuquan LC94 Comms 76A S49112 1085 x 1107 x 86.4
Ronghe Shiyan Weixing 2) Comms 76C S49114 1085 x 1111 x 86.4
Test satellite ) Comms 76B S49113 1035 x 1061 x 86.4
Aug 24 1541 TJS 7 Chang Zheng 3B Xichang Tech? 77A S49115 191 x 35817 x 28.5
Aug 28 2235 STP-27AD1 Astra Rocket 3.3 Kodiak LP3B Test F07 F01596 -6350?x 47 x 64
Aug 29 0714 Dragon CRS-23 Falcon 9 Kennedy LC39A Cargo 78A S49117 203 x 319 x 51.6
Sep 3 0159 BSS-1 ) Firefly Alpha Vandenberg SLC2W Tech F08 F01599 -6370? x 15?x 137
Serenity ) Edu F08 F01607 -6370? x 15?x 137
Hiapo ) Edu F08 F01608 -6370? x 15?x 137
Qubik 1 ) Tech F08 F01600 -6370? x 15?x 137
Qubik 2 ) Tech F08 F01601 -6370? x 15?x 137
GENESIS L ) Com F08 F01605 -6370? x 15?x 137
GENESIS N ) Com F08 F01604 -6370? x 15?x 137
Spinnaker 3 ) Tech F08 F01609 -6370? x 15?x 137
Sep 7 0301 Gao Fen 5-02 Chang Zheng 4C Taiyuan Imaging 79A S49122 680 x 691 x 98.3
Sep 9 1150 Zhongxing 9B Chang Zheng 3B Xichang Comms 80A S49125 206 x 35792 x 24.6
Sep 9 1959 Kosmos-2551 Soyuz-2-1V Plesetsk LC43/4 Imaging 81A S49127 295 x 307 x 96.4
Sep 10 0455 RAAF M2 B RAAF M2 A, LEO Tech 23J S47973 545 x 558 x 45.0
Sep 14 0355 Starlink 3042-3043 Falcon 9 Vandenberg SLC4E Comms 82 212 x 339 x 70.0
Sep 14 1807 OneWeb SL0292 Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat Baykonur LC31 Comms 83A-AK 445 x 472 x 87.4
Sep 16 0002 Inspiration4 Falcon 9 Kennedy LC39A Spaceship 84A S49220 570 x 579 x 51.6
Table of Recent Suborbital Launches
Date UT Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle Site Mission Apogee/km Target
Aug 11 0753 GT239GM Minuteman III Vandenberg LF09 Op. Test 1300? Kwajalein
Aug 11 1444? ReDX-1/SL-16 SpaceLoftXL Spaceport America Tech 100? White Sands
Aug 12 RV Ghaznavi Somniani? Test 100? Pakistan?
Aug 12 ET-2 Imp. Malemute White Sands Test 100? White Sands
Aug 19 2100 RockSat-X Terrier Imp.Mal. Wallops I Education 158 Atlantic
Aug 26 1431 NS17 New Shepard West Texas Science 106 West Texas
Sep 5 HE warhead Zulfiqar Sanaa? Weapon 150? Ras Al-Tanura
Sep 9 1725 EVE 8 Black Brant IX White Sands Solar EUV 293 White Sands
Sep 11 2207 HOT SHOT 4? Terrier Imp.Mal. Wallops I Tech 200? Atlantic
Sep 12 1730 BVT-03 GBI Vandenberg Test 300? Pacific
Sep 17 USN RVs Trident D-5 SSBN 742, ETR Test 1800? Atlantic
Sep 17 USN RVs Trident D-5 SSBN 742, ETR Test 1800? Atlantic
| Jonathan McDowell | |
| Somerville MA 02143 | inter : planet4589 at gmail |
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