Thursday, September 23, 2010

Launch Notification: YAOGAN 11, ZHEDA PIXING 1B, ZHEDA PIXING 1C

Courtesy of AGI's Launch Notification e-mails. AGI's E-mails are sent after every launch and include key spacecraft information such as: the date, time, launch site, launcher, international number, name, and owner. Get more information on thousands of satellites and other vehicles by viewing STK models, animations, and our encyclopedic "Spacecraft Digest" database at

New Launch: 2010 September 22, 0242 UTC
Site: Jiuquan Space Center, PRC
Launcher: Long March 2D (Chang Zheng 2D)
International Designator(s): 2010-047A, 2010-047B, 2010-047C

SSC Name Owner
37165 YAOGAN 11 PRC

"A secret military payload successfully launched aboard a Long March rocket early Wednesday, continuing a feverish pace of Chinese space activity that includes a mysterious orbital rendezvous, an upcoming lunar probe and preps for continued human missions.

"It was the fifth launch in barely 50 days for China, and the second mission in that period lofting a clandestine Yaogan reconnaissance satellite.

"Wednesday's launch began with the blastoff of a Long March 2D rocket at 0242 GMT (10:42 p.m. EDT Tuesday) from the Jiuquan space center in the desert of northwestern China, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

"It was 10:42 a.m. Beijing time.

"The 135-foot-tall [41-m-tall] launch vehicle placed Yaogan 11 and two smaller satellites on a path nearly 400 miles [644 km] above Earth.

"The Yaogan 11 payload orbited Wednesday will conduct scientific experiments, survey land resources, estimate crop yields and contribute to natural disaster response efforts, Xinhua reported.

"But the Yaogan satellite series are believed to provide the Chinese military with high-resolution reconnaissance imagery through electro-optical cameras and night-vision radar systems."

Source: Spaceflight Now, "China orbits spy satellite amid uptick in space activity"

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nine years later: Towers of Babble

From the The Virginian-Pilot, September 11, 2010

A network that allows public safety agencies to communicate with each other remains one of the most elusive and pressing recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. Nine years after America was attacked, there's no guarantee that such a system will ever come into existence.

As The New York Times reported this week, squabbling over who will control a prime slice of broadband spectrum has left plans for a nationwide system literally up in the air.

The Federal Communications Commission has been pushing an approach that would have commercial companies buy and control the airwaves and build fourth-generation wireless networks on it. During emergencies, police and fire and emergency personnel would get control of the network, effectively taking over the airwaves to coordinate interagency communication.

Those public safety groups, however, insist such a network is unlikely to have the capacity needed during an emergency, meaning it could fail under heavy use and put lives at risk. They want exclusive control of the entire section of the spectrum, and they're lobbying Congress for it.
It has been six years since the 9/11 Commission issued its massive report, which included recommendations to improve the response to catastrophes on the scale of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

That makes the prolonged delay over divvying up broadband spectrum and developing a nationwide interoperable communication system all the more frustrating, particularly for commission members. Two years ago, after an FCC auction failed to draw sufficient commercial bids, the commission's vice chairman told The Washington Post: "I've lost patience... The slowness of this just indicates a lack of urgency and a lack of concern about human survival and human life if a disaster strikes."

The unhurried pace is indeed disappointing, especially given the urgency of the problem. During the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York nine years ago, first responders found themselves - for a variety of reasons - unable to communicate with each other. People died as a result.

There has been some progress that will help in future emergencies.

Today, many police and fire departments, including those in South Hampton Roads, use plain English on their radios instead of arbitrary, agency-specific codes.

They have developed interoperable regional systems and standard operating procedures to communicate during emergencies, and they've held joint training to prepare for hurricanes, plane crashes and other disasters.

Such changes have helped communities become better prepared, but each would be more valuable if they were part of a system that permits local, state and federal agencies from Virginia to Oregon to communicate and coordinate in a large-scale emergency.

Officials have said construction of the network could take as much as a decade. That means if Congress has any intention of seeing the system in place before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it must act now to settle the debate over access to the broadband spectrum.


Courtesy of AGI's Launch Notification e-mails. AGI's E-mails are sent after every launch and include key spacecraft information such as: the date, time, launch site, launcher, international number, name, and owner. Get more information on thousands of satellites and other vehicles by viewing STK models, animations, and our encyclopedic "Spacecraft Digest" database at

New Launch: 2010 September 11, 1117 UTC
Site: Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
Launcher: H-2A
International Designator(s): 2010-045A

SSC Name Owner

"An H-2A rocket flew to space Saturday with a Japanese satellite to meet a pressing need for improved navigation services amid the country's numerous mountains and high-rise buildings.

"The rocket's payload is the first of three planned satellites to fill coverage gaps from U.S. Global Positioning System satellites caused by signal blockage from mountains and skyscrapers.

"Developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and four government ministries, the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System is aimed at overcoming ground interference by launching more navigation satellites strategically positioned high in the sky above Asia.

"The line-of-sight navigation signals from GPS satellites can be interrupted in rural hamlets and skyscraper-filled cities like Tokyo, where users occasionally lack sufficient data to determine their position, elevation and time.

"JAXA says a constellation of three QZSS spacecraft would make three-dimensional navigation coverage available 99.8 percent of the time, an improvement over the estimated 90 percent availability with GPS satellites today.

"Four GPS satellites must appear in the sky at one time to triangulate a user's 3D position and time, but buildings and mountains can block signals from spacecraft close to the horizon.

"The first QZSS navigation craft launched Saturday on an H-2A rocket. Its nickname is Michibiki, which means "guiding" or "showing the way" in Japanese.

"Michibiki is demonstrating the system's navigation instruments and proving the satellite works before Japan commits to launching the other two spacecraft.

"The 17-story launcher lifted off at 1117 GMT (7:17 a.m. EDT) from Launch Pad No. 1 at the Yoshinobu launch complex, a shoreline facility at the Tanegashima Space Center off the coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's main islands."

"JAXA says Michibiki will reach its final orbit in about two weeks. It will be three months before the satellite finishes commissioning tests and can begin its navigation demos.

"Michibiki will circle the Earth at a 45-degree angle to the equator. Its orbital high point will be more than 24,000 miles [38,600 km] over the northern hemisphere and its lowest altitude will be 20,500 miles [33,000 km], according to JAXA.

"Projected against Earth's surface, Michibiki's ground track will chart an asymmetric figure-eight pattern stretching from Japan to Australia as it alternates north and south of the equator.

"Michibiki will be near-zenith, or almost straight up, in the Japanese sky for about eight hours each day. If launched, the two follow-on satellites would permit continuous coverage of Japan."

Source: Spaceflight Now, "Navigation satellite launched to show the way in Japan"

Friday, September 03, 2010

Launch Notification: Cosmos 2464/2465/2466

Courtesy of AGI's Launch Notification e-mails. AGI's E-mails are sent after every launch and include key spacecraft information such as: the date, time, launch site, launcher, international number, name, and owner. Get more information on thousands of satellites and other vehicles by viewing STK models, animations, and our encyclopedic "Spacecraft Digest" database at

New Launch: 2010 September 2, 0053 UTC
Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Launcher: Proton-M
International Designator(s): 2010-041A, 2010-041B, 2010-041C

SSC Name Owner
37137 COSMOS 2464 CIS
37138 COSMOS 2465 CIS
37139 COSMOS 2466 CIS

"A Proton rocket blasted off overnight Wednesday with three spacecraft to help expand Russia's satellite navigation system to provide positioning services around the world.

"The Proton rocket launched at 0053 GMT Thursday (8:53 p.m. EDT Wednesday) from [P]ad 81 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where the first pink hues of sunrise splashed the dawn sky.

"With six main engines burning, the Proton soared into mostly clear skies and jettisoned its first stage two minutes after liftoff. The three-stage rocket deployed a Block DM upper stage and the three Glonass payloads in space less than 10 minutes into the mission.

"The Block DM was expected to fire twice to place the Glonass satellites in a circular orbit 12,000 miles [19,000 km] above Earth with an inclination of 64.8 degrees.

"Spacecraft separation occurred at 0426 GMT (12:26 a.m. EDT) in the targeted orbit, according to the Russian Space Agency.

"The satellites are the second group of Glonass platforms launched this year. Three other spacecraft were orbited by a Proton rocket March 1.

"Each satellite weighs about 3,000 pounds [1,360 kg] at launch, including maneuvering fuel to maintan the craft's orientation in space. The modernized Glonass M spacecraft are designed to operate for seven years in orbit, according to their manufacturer, Information Satellite Systems Reshetnev Co.

"Glonass satellites broadcast navigation signals to military and civilian users from their orbital perch, reaching ground receivers across a swath of Earth nearly stretching from pole to pole.

"According to a Russian Space Agency website, 21 Glonass satellites are currently operational. Two more spacecraft are considered spares.

"Glonass satellites are scattered in three orbital groups, each designed for eight spacecraft to achieve global navigation coverage with a total of 24 operating satellites.

"Three more Glonass M satellites are scheduled for launch in November."

[Note: Identifications were made using current orbital motion toward designated orbital slots reported by the Russian Space Agency.]

Source: Spaceflight Now, "Group of navigation satellites launched by Proton rocket"

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

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