Saturday, March 09, 2019

Jonathan's Space Report No. 762

Jonathan's Space Report
No. 762                                                       2019 Mar  9  Somerville, MA

Spaceship Two

Thanks to additional data from Mike Moses, here is a more detailed
description of the recent flight.

Virgin Galactic's Spaceship Two VSS Unity made its second spaceflight on
Feb 22. Takeoff of the White Knight Two carrier plane, VMS Eve, on
flight WK2-265/N202VG-016 was at 1607:02 UTC from Mojave Air and Space Port.
The mission ID for the flight was VF-01 (F is for full flight profile).
VSS Unity carried three crew memors:
 David Mackay, VG Chief Pilot, who becomes the first Scottish-born astronaut
 Michael Massuci, VG pilot;
 Beth Moses, the first woman on a commercial human spaceflight launch.

Beth is the Chief Trainer for VG (her full birth name, for the
historical record,  was Natalie Beth Stubbings). She also became, as far
as I know, the first person to unstrap and float around the cabin on a
suborbital spaceflight. The crew became the 569th, 570th, and 571st humans
to fly in space (using my 80 km definition).

WK2 flew north to Owens Lake, west to Overlook Mountain in the Sierra
Nevada and then south to the drop point near Kelso Valley Airport at
118.22W 35.38N. At 1653:40, at an altitude of 13.4 km, WK2 dropped VSS
Unity. Unity's hybrid RM2 rocket motor fired for 59 seconds starting at
1653:43 and boosted it to an apogee of 89.92 km; Unity then glided to
touchdown on the Mojave runway RW12/30, with wheels stop at 1708:49 UTC,
for a flight duration of 15 min 9s.

Powered flights of VSS Unity to date:
 Date (Drop)              Flight              Mission   Drop point      Apogee Duration
                                                                               (Wheels stop)
 2018 Apr  5              WK2-246/N202VG-012  VP-01     Unknown         26 km
 2018 May 29              WK2-249/N202VG-013  VP-01-2   Unknown         35 km
 2018 Jul 26 1644         WK2-252/N202VG-014  VP-02     Unknown         52 km     14:12?
 2018 Dec 13 1559:39      WK2-261/N202VG-015  VP-03     118.22W 35.39N  82.72 km  14:06
 2019 Feb 22 1653:40      WK2-264/N202VG-016  VF-01     118.22W 35.38N  89.92 km  15:09

International Space Station

Expedition 58 remains underway.

At 0221 UTC Feb 26, the Progress MS-10 cargo ship docked to the Zvezda
module fired its engines to boost the ISS orbit slightly and set up for
the Soyuz MS-12 launch. The 0.9m/s burn lasted  451s. and used 139 kg of
prop. This was the 3rd reboost by Progress MS-10.

The Cygnus NG-10 freighter, the S.S. John Young, was deorbited over the
Pacific Ocean and reentered  at around 145W 40S over the
"spacecraft graveyard" east of New Zealand at 0905 UTC Feb 25 after
100.0 days in space.

On Mar 2 the first Crew Dragon, DM-1, was launched on a Falcon 9 from
Kennedy Space Center. Falcon 9 stage 1 flew to a downrange landing on
the OCISLY droneship. Stage 2 placed the Crew Dragon in a 194 x 358 km x
51.6 deg orbit. The Stage 2 is believed to have deorbited itself west of
Australia at about 0839 UTC. Dragon made its first orbit adjust burns to
224 x 369 km and 235 x 351 km later in the morning.

DM-1 docked at IDA-2/PMA-2 at 1051 UTC on Mar 3. The cabin carries
the anthropomorphic test dummy `Ripley' and 180 kg of cargo.
Stephen Clark of SpaceflightNow reports that NASA tell him the
docking mass of DM-1 was 12055 kg. My guess is that the launch mass is
roughly 1000 kg more than that, but as usual SpaceX are being coy
about that for incomprehensible reasons.

DM-1 undocked at 0732 UTC Mar 8 and manuevered to a 395 x 401 km orbit. At
1248 UTC the trunk was jettisoned into orbit. At 1253 Dragon began
its deorbit burn; after a successful reentry, it splashed down
at 1345 UTC in the Atlantic off Florida, at about 76.7W 30.5N.


The Israeli lunar probe Beresheet made a perigee raising burn at 1129
UTC Feb 24, to 668 x 69021 km x 27.0 deg. A second burn at 1930 UTC on
Feb 28 raised apogee to 127572 km, and a third one at 1311 UTC Mar 7
boosted  the orbit to 470 x 271500 km x 27.8 deg.


The first six OneWeb satellites were launched on Feb 27. A Soyuz
ST-B/Fregat took off from the Centre Spatial Guyanais at 2137 UTC Feb
27. The Blok I rocket delivered the upper composite to a marginally
orbital trajectory at 2147 UTC; the stage probably reentered over the
Arctic. Fregat burns at 2147 UTC and 2233 UTC placed the stack in a
roughly 1000 km circular orbit. First, OneWeb satellites 6 and 11
were deployed; then, after a small orbit adjust, 7, 8, 10, and
12 were dispensed. Each satellite has a mass of 148 kg. Four satellite mass
simulators were also carried; they remained attached to the 468 kg RUAG
dispenser cylinder on the Fregat. Fregat made a series of small
manuevers to simulate dispensing a full 32-satellite OneWeb stack and
then made a deorbit burn at 0113 UTC Feb 28 and reentered over the
Indian Ocean east of Madagascar at 0200 UTC. Fregat made two complete
orbits, but did not get a catalog number.

OneWeb arranged for schoolchildren in six schools around the world to
give names to the satellites:

  OneWeb-0006 SherpaSat  - named by students from Khairkola, Nepal after
            Pasang Lhamu Sherpa (1961-1993), the first woman to climb Everest.
  OneWeb-0007 ChinghizSat - named by students from Kotur-Suu, Kyrgyzstan after
            Chinghiz Aitmatov (1928-2008), Kyrgyz novelist and diplomat.
  OneWeb-0008 IcyerekezoSat - named by students from Nkombo Island, Rwanda
    aftger the Kinyarwanda word for 'vision'.

  OneWeb-0010 ChusigSat - named by students from Santa Cruz, Ecuador,
    after Eugenio Espejo (1747-1795), journalist, lawyer and activist;
    Espejo is thought to have had the Kichwa name Chusig,

  OneWeb-0011 LempiraSat - named by students from Siguatepeque, Honduras
    after Lempira (1499?-1537), leader of the Lenca people.

  OneWeb-0012 NanuqSat - named by students from Anchorage, Alaska after
    a divine polar bear from Inupiaq legend.


There have been some media stories about the idea that the failed 1972 Soviet Venus
probe Kosmos-482 might reenter this year. Not exactly. Let's unpack this.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the newly-formed IKI (Space Research
Institute) and the Lavochkin company developed a series of  Venus probes
based on an evolution of Korolev's early Mars/Venera probe design.
In the 1972 Venus window, the last two such probes were launched: V-71
No. 670 and V-71 No. 671, both on Molniya-M (8K78M) four-stage launch
vehicles (basically Soyuz rockets with a fourth stage, in this case the

Probe No. 670 was boosted to solar orbit and named Venera-8 ("Venus-8").
It was launched on 1972 Mar 27 and successfully landed on Venus on 1972
Jul 22, surviving for 50 minutes on the surface.

Probe No. 671 didn't go so well.  The lower 3 stages of the Molniya-M
rocket put the stack in a 196 x 215 km Earth partking orbit. Then the
Blok-NVL's BOZ ullage motor unit fired to give the upper stage a little
kick and itself separated.
The Blok-NVL main engine now ignited but shut down prematurely, 2 min
into a 4 min burn. The Venera probe/Blok-NVL stack was now  stranded in
a 206 x 9800 km Earth orbit.

US tracking found THREE objects in this orbit. One was labelled as
Kosmos-482, one as the rocket stage, and one as debris.
"Kosmos-482" and the "rocket stage" (1972-023A and B) had relatively 
rapid orbital decay and reentered in 1981 and 1983 respectively. The
debris object, 1972-023E, came down more slowly.

In Sep 2000 I noted this and discussed with a few experts the possiblity
that, with its 1 sq m radar cross section, 23E (object 6073)  might be
the separated Venera descent sphere; I started labelling it as such in
my online satellite catalog. Funnily enough, in June 2002 the NORAD
satellite catalog starting labelling 6073 as the Venera descent sphere
too. Probably just a coincidence.

Recent optical observations by  Ralf Vandebergh have cast some doubt on
these identifications - he concludes it's more long&irregular than
small&round. So it's possible I was wrong - I think the jury is open.
The current fuss - e.g.
… - is about this third object, 1972-023E, SSN 06073. m.

The suggestion that 23E will reenter soon seems to be based on the fact
that it has a 200 km perigee.  But it's had a 200 km perigee since 1972.

At is a plot showing the
average height of the various objects from the launch versus time;
and at
is a plot showing the perigee (red), apogee (blue) and average
height (green) of the 23E object (presumed descent capsule, only bit of
Kosmos-482 still up there). Doesn't look like imminent reentry to me.
(You'll notice an oscillation in the decay rate, which correlates
nicely with the solar cycle.)

One possibility to explain the optical observations is that we had 23A
and 23E the wrong way round. But it's odd that 23E has the lower A/m.
Another (slim) possibility is that the capsule deployed a bit of the
Venus entry parachute, but not enough to affect the A/m.

So to recap: Soviet Venus probe stuck in elliptical orbit. Payload
separated from rocket stage after failure. Third object - still in orbit
- speculated to be the 500 kg, 1.0m diam. entry sphere. But might not
be. Reentry probably early-mid 2020s?

If it *is* the entry sphere, it might well survive Earth atmosphere
entry and hit the ground.  In which case I expect it'll have the usual
one-in-about-10000 chance of hitting someone. The vehicle is dense but
inert and has no nuclear materials.  No need for major concern. 


MySat-1 is not from Malaysia, I don't know where my brain was when I typed that.
It's from Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Abu Dhabi. Apologies
for the error.


I don't normally run ads, but: The late and great Jacques Tiziou was a
space journalist from the 1960s onwards, and is one of the few people
who had a personal space archive that rivals mine. His son has a
kickstarter to preserve the materials, which you may wish to take a look at:

Table of Recent Orbital Launches
Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle        Site            Mission       INTL.   Catalog  Perigee Apogee  Incl   Notes

Feb  1?       SeeMe?                                     EXCITE, LEO     Imaging     99BS   S43822   571 x   594 x 97.8 1017LT SSO
Feb  5        Dousti                 Safir               Semnan          Imaging      F02   F01533 -6000?x    10?x 55.0
Feb  5 2101   Saudi Geosat 1 )       Ariane 5ECA         Kourou ELA3       Comms      07A   S44034   242 x 35770 x  3.0
              GSAT-31        )                                             Comms      07B   S44035   245 x 35841 x  3.0
Feb  9 0000   Quantum Radar 1 )                        Cygnus NG10,LEO     Tech     18092C  S44041   455 x   459 x 51.6
              Quantum Radar 2 )                                            Tech     18092D  S44042   457 x   457 x 51.6
Feb 13 1200   MySat-1  )                               Cygnus NG10,LEO     Tech     18092E  S44044?  455 x   471 x 51.6 
              CHEFSAT-2 )                                            Tech     18092F  S44045?  455 x   471 x 51.6 
Feb 13 2245   Kicksat-2                                Cygnus NG10,LEO     Tech     18092G  S44046   297 x   306 x 51.6
Feb 21 1647   EgyptSat-A             Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat   Baykonur LC31     Imaging    08A   S44047   652 x   656 x 98.0 0950LT SSO
Feb 22 0145   Nusantara Satu  )      Falcon 9            Canaveral SLC40   Comms      09A   S44048   226 x 69068 x 27.6
              S5              )                                            Imaging    09D?  Attached to Nusantara Satu
              Beresheet       )                                           Lunar probe 09B   S44049   242 x 68845 x 27.6
Feb 27 2137   OneWeb-0006 )          Soyuz ST-B/Fregat   CSG ELS           Comms      10E   S44061   984 x  1007 x 87.8
              OneWeb-0007 )                                                Comms      10D   S44060   984 x  1007 x 87.8
              OneWeb-0008 )                                                Comms      10C   S44059   985 x  1009 x 87.8
              OneWeb-0010 )                                                Comms      10B   S44058   986 x  1010 x 87.8
              OneWeb-0011 )                                                Comms      10F   S44062   987 x  1005 x 87.8
              OneWeb-0012 )                                                Comms      10A   S44057   985 x  1010 x 87.8
Mar  2 0749   Crew Dragon DM-1       Falcon 9            Kennedy LC39A    Spaceship   11A   S44063   235 x   351 x 51.6

Table of Recent Suborbital Launches

Date UT       Payload/Flt Name Launch Vehicle      Site                  Mission    Apogee/km    Target

Feb  6 0701   Mk 21 RV/FTU-1    Minuteman 3        Vandenberg            Test         1300?      Pacific Ocean
Feb  6 0831   Yars RV           Yars               Plesetsk              Test         1300?      Kura
Feb 22 1654   VSS Unity VF-01   Spaceship Two      Kelso Valley          Test           89.9     Mojave

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