Falcon 9 Flight to Kick Off Busy Launch Period

Falcon 9 on the launch pad with Intelsat 35e satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

UPDATE: SpaceX has scrubbed for the day due to the need to replace a sensor on the second stage. The next launch window is Wednesday, Jan. 31.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for late this afternoon will kick off a busy period of international launches that will see the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy and China’s sixth orbital mission of 2018. SpaceX has four flights scheduled by the middle of February. (Thanks to Spaceflight Now for the schedule.)

Jan. 30

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: GovSat 1
Launch Window: 4:25-6:46 p.m. EST (2125-2346 GMT)
Launch Site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

The Orbital ATK-built satellite will provide secure communications as part of the nation’s contribution to NATO. There will be no attempt to recover the Falcon 9’s first stage.

Jan. 31/Feb. 1

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz 2-1a with Fregat upper stage
Payload: Kanopus-V 3 & V4
Launch Time: 9:07:18 p.m. EST Jan. 31 (0207:18 GMT on Feb. 1)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

The twin satellites will assist Russia in mapping, forest fire detection and disaster response.

Feb. 1

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2D
Payload: CSES
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China

The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite will study how electromagnetic signals in Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere to determine if they can help predict earthquakes. This joint mission with Italy will be China’s sixth launch of 2018.

Feb. 3

Launch Vehicle: SS-520-5
Payload: TRICOM 1R CubeSat
Launch Window: 12:00-12:20 a.m. EST (0500-0520 GMT)
Launch Site: Uchinoura Space Center, Japan

The second launch of Japan’s upgraded sounding rocket will carry the 3U TRICOM 1R CubeSat, which has an imaging camera and store and forward communications system.

Feb. 6

Launch Vehicle: Falcon Heavy
Payload: Tesla Roadster
Launch Window: 1:30-4:30 p.m. EST (1830-2130 GMT)
Launch Site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy will send a red Tesla Roadster into deep space.

Feb. 10

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Paz
Launch Time: 9:22 a.m. EST; 6:22 a.m. PST (1422 GMT)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Built by Airbus Defense and Space, Hisdesat’s Paz satellite will provide radar imaging as well ship tracking and weather data. The flight will use a previously-flown first stage.

Feb. 11

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz
Payload: Progress 69P
Launch Time: 3:58 a.m. EST (0858 GMT)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Feb. 14

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: Hispasat 30W-6
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will provide communications services over Europe, North Africa and the Americas.

Russia Launches Soyuz Booster from Plesetsk

Russia successfully launched a Lotos electronic intelligence spy satellite aboard a Soyuz-2.1b booster on Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

The flight came four days after the failure of a similar Soyuz-2.1b launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The launch from Plesetsk did not use the Fregat upper stage blamed for the failure on Tuesday.

Officials believe the Fregat upper stage was not properly programmed for a launch from Vostochny. The programming error caused the Fregat to send a Russian weather satellite and 18 secondary payloads into the Atlantic Ocean.

Rogozin Bemoans Uncompetitive Russian Space Industry Amid Continued Anomalies

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. (Credit: A. Savin)

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has bluntly declared that the Russian space industry is uncompetitive with its American counterparts except in the crucial area of rocket engine development.

The harsh comments by Rogozin, who oversees the space and defense sectors, come amid continued quality control problems that affected two recent launches and a review of Roscosmos ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

Rogozin was unusually candid in his negative assessment of his nation’s space program.

“Our space industry has fallen behind the Americans ninefold. All of our ambitious projects require us to up productivity 150 percent – and even if we manage that, we will still never catch up with them,” Rogozin originally said to Interfax Friday.

Report: Another Launch Anomaly for Russia’s Space Program

UPDATE: TASS is reporting the primary payload, Kanopus ST,  failed to separate from the upper stage. Efforts to correct the problem have reportedly failed.

Russian media are reporting that one of two military satellites placed into orbit by a Soyuz 2-1v rocket  has failed to separate from its Volga upper stage after launch on Saturday from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

The Kanopus ST satellite includes sensors designed to track submarines, and the KYuA 1 secondary payload is a passive spacecraft that would be used to calibrate ground-based military radars. It’s unclear which spacecraft might still be attached to the upper stage.

This was the second launch for the Soyuz 2-1v, which successfully flew its maiden flight in December 2013. The rocket is a slimmed down version of the Soyuz 2 launcher, with the four booster rockets removed from the first stage and he NK-33 engine replacing the RD-117 motor. The launcher is capable of playing up to 2,850 kg into low Earth orbit.

TsSKB Progress, which manufactures the Soyuz 2-1v, began developing the Volga stage in 2008 as a cheaper alternative to the Fregat upper stage. The Volga is based upon a propulsion module that has been used on previous spacecraft. It successfully flew on Soyuz 2-1v first flight in 2013.

Investigation Begins into Launch Anomaly; Prognosis for Galileo Satellites Grim

Europe's Galileo constellation. Credits: ESA-J. Huart
Europe’s Galileo constellation. Credits: ESA-J. Huart

Arianespace and ESA have issued an update on the launch anomaly that stranded two Galileo navigation satellites in the wrong orbits. The statement confirms that investigators are focused on an apparent problem with the Fregat upper stage of the Russian Soyuz ST launch vehicle.

The update provides no information about the fate of the satellites other than to say they are healthy and communicating with the ground. The European Commission has not issued an update since Friday, when it celebrated what it thought was a fully successful launch.


Oops! Soyuz Places 2 Galileo Satellites in Wrong Orbits

Soyuz launches two Galileo satellites (Credit: ESA)
Soyuz launches two Galileo satellites (Credit: ESA)

After much celebratory rhetoric on Friday over the launch of two Galileo navigation satellites from Kourou, European officials realized the spacecraft were placed in the wrong orbits.

Arianespace, which managed the launch of the Russian Soyuz booster, made a terse announcement:

Complementary observations gathered after separation of the Galileo FOC M1 satellites on Soyuz Flight VS09 have highlighted a discrepancy between targeted and reached orbit.

Investigations are underway. More information will be provided after a first flight data analysis to be completed on August 23, 2014.


Russian, Ukrainian Rockets Prone to Failure in Recent Years

Another fine day for Russia's space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.
Another fine day for Russia’s space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.

The spectacular crash of Russia’s Proton rocket on Tuesday — with the loss of three navigation satellites — was simply the latest in a series of launch failures that have bedeviled the Russian and Ukrainian space industries over the last 30 months.

The table below shows a tale of woe that began in December 2010 and has resulted in the loss of 15 spacecraft and cost the heads of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and launch vehicle builder Khrunichev their jobs.




Upper Stage




Dec. 5, 2010ProtonBlock-DM3 GLONASS satellitesCrashed in Pacific OceanBlock-DM overfilled with fuel making it too heavy to send satellites into orbit
Feb. 1, 2011RockotBreeze-KMGEO-IK 2Stranded in useless orbitFailed restart of Breeze-KM
Aug. 18, 2011ProtonBreeze-MExpress-AM4Stranded in useless orbitBreeze-M under performance
Aug. 24, 2011Soyuz-UBlock-I (3rd stage)Progress M-12M freighterBurned up over SiberiaBlocked fuel line in third stage
Sept. 27, 2011ICBM
(Possibly Avangard)
Missile failed during initial test, crashed 5 miles from launch siteFailure of first stage
Nov. 9, 2011Zenit-2SB
Fregat (Russia)Phobos-Grunt (Russia)Stranded in Earth orbit, re-entered atmosphereFregat upper stage failure
Dec. 23, 2011Soyuz-2.1bFregatMeridian-5Re-entered over SiberiaFailure of Block-1 third stage engine
Aug. 23, 2012ProtonBreeze-MTelkom 3 (Indonesia), Express MD2Satellites stranded in useless orbits;  Breeze-M later exploded, creating large debris fieldBreeze-M failure
Dec. 8, 2012ProtonBreeze-MYamal-402Placed satellite in wrong orbit; satellite reached planned orbit using on-board propellantEarly shutdown of Breeze-M
Jan. 15, 2013RockotBreeze-KM3 Strela 3M Rodnik satellitesOne satellite reportedly lost, two others placed in orbit; controllers unable to maneuver upper stage to lower orbit for rapid re-entry into Earth’s atmosphereErratic behavior of Breeze-KM
Feb. 1, 2013Zenit-3SL
Block DM-SL (Russia)Intelsat 27Rocket and satellite fell into the seaFirst stage failure
July 2, 2013ProtonBreeze-M3 GLONASS SatellitesCrashed at launch siteFirst stage failure