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“A Russian rocket carrying a trio of astronauts is on its way to the International Space Station.”NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin successfully launched aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-09M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan toward the orbiting outpost today (May 28) at 4:31 p.m. EDT (2031 GMT). The local time was early Wednesday.”The three newest space station crewmembers are expected to arrive just six hours after launch, in the second ever one-day manned trip to the International Space Station.”
“It usually takes about two days for a manned Soyuz spacecraft to reach the International Space Station, but this time, the astronauts will make only four orbits of the Earth before docking.
“Although many unmanned cargo ships do these kinds of expedited docking procedures regularly, only one other Soyuz crew has flown to the space station using this method.
“NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin—the three astronauts currently living and working on the space station—were the first crew to do the one-day launch and docking when they blasted off to the station in March.
“These express trips to the space laboratory give the astronauts more time to adjust to life in orbit on the space station instead of inside a cramped capsule. Mission managers have said that it saves money as well: Personnel needed in Mission Control when the Soyuz is flying can go home earlier when the trips are shorter.”
“The astronauts have a busy mission ahead of them once they join Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin to complete the Expedition 36 crew. During the six months that Nyberg, Parmitano and Yurchikhin live onboard the station, the crew will perform five spacewalks as well as receive a handful of unmanned cargo ships at the station.
“Yurchikhin and Misurkin will conduct three Russian spacewalks focused on maintenance, while Cassidy and Parmitano will venture outside of the space station twice in July.”
“With one more satellite needed in its new military communications system to extend blanket coverage over virtually the entire planet, the spacecraft to make the network’s reach global was sent thundering into orbit Friday to join the Air Force’s broadening constellation serving troops, ships, drones and civilian leaders.”Loaded atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket, the [US]$342 million Wideband Global SATCOM 5 satellite headed skyward from Cape Canaveral at 8:27 p.m. EDT en route to a supersynchronous transfer orbit.”Forty-one minutes later, the powerful booster successfully released the 13,200-pound [5,987-kg] payload into an orbit looping as high as 36,125 nautical miles [66,904 km], as low as 237 miles [439 km] and tilted 24 degrees to the equator.
“Controllers at Boeing’s facilities in El Segundo, Calif., will maneuver the satellite into a circular geosynchronous orbit by early summer, allowing the craft to match Earth’s rotation and appear fixed above the globe.
“An extensive checkout and commission process that will stretch into next year to ready the satellite for operations from 52.5 degrees West longitude for its mission to provide communications support to the Americas.”
“Known as WGS 5, this satellite is the fifth in a major program to upgrade to the military’s main communications infrastructure, replacing the aging Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) spacecraft. Each WGS has 10 times the capacity of a DSCS satellite, allowing users to process and receive data quicker than ever before.”
“The craft’s communications package provides shaped, steerable spotbeams of bandwidth wherever requested across its field-of-view for X- and Ka-band frequencies, plus the onboard capability to switch signals from one band to the other.”
With Spaceship’s Rocket Test-flight, Branson Says, “The Hard Part is Over”
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — On June 21, 2004, Scaled Composites pilot Mike Melville strapped himself inside an experimental spaceship, hitched an airplane ride into the sky, fired up his rocket engine and catapulted himself beyond the atmosphere, becoming the first privately funded astronaut to reach space.
Two more suborbital hops followed in September and October, earning SpaceShipOne the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private human spaceflight and a place in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The endeavor captivated Richard Branson, the billionaire adventurer who founded and oversees London-based Virgin Group, and he hired Scaled to produce a commercial version of the spaceship so that anyone with the money to spare could experience for themselves a few minutes of microgravity and a fleeting view of Earth set against the blackness of space.
Nine years and a half-billion dollars later, Branson marked the biggest milestone yet validating that his dream was more than a flight of fancy. On April 29, Virgin Galactic’s six-passenger, dual-pilot SpaceShipTwo successfully completed the first in-flight test-firing of its rocket motor over California’s Mojave Desert. The burn lasted just 16 seconds, but to Branson it was the long-awaited giant leap.
“The rocket technology took longer (to develop) than the spaceship or the mother ship or the spaceport, but they finally got there. The big, difficult milestones are now all behind us,” Branson told SpaceNews.
It took SpaceShipOne just three powered test flights over six months before Melville crossed the Karman Line, the official 100-kilometer doorway to space. Branson expects SpaceShipTwo will follow a similar path and test its wings — and feathered re-entry system — beyond the atmosphere before year’s end.
On what may be the last test flight or the first commercial one, Branson himself plans to be aboard, accompanied by his two grown children and up to three, as-yet-unnamed, guests, possibly including Scaled founder and lead spaceship designer Burt Rutan, who has since retired.
“Within 12 months, I’ll be going up with my adult kids and it will be the start of a whole new era of space travel. We’re really not long away now,” Branson said.
Virgin Galactic plans to fly SpaceShipTwo — and a fleet of sisterships — from a newly built spaceport in New Mexico. About 580 people already have paid or put down deposits for rides, which currently sell for $200,000 apiece.
“As of this year, we will be the only company actually taking people into space. At an affordable rate, I think, Virgin will be the only company over the next few years to do so,” Branson said. “There have been quite a few other companies who have invested hundreds of millions trying to achieve this. It’s a challenge.”
Among those planning to give Virgin a run for customers’ money is XCOR Aerospace, which expects to begin test flights of its two-seater suborbital Lynx spaceplane this year. Other firms, such as Space Exploration Technologies, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp. — — which supplied SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid motor — are working to parlay investment funds from NASA into commercially owned and operated orbital spaceships for flying people to the international space station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit.
Virgin too has its eye on orbital space transportation, but plans to build up to it from suborbital flight services — including point-to-point travel — and from a fledging satellite-launching business that uses the spaceship’s carrier WhiteKnightTwo aircraft.
“All of these things are now possible,” Branson said. “We will be ramping up our spaceship-building program over the next three years. We believe the demand will exceed supply and now that we’ve gotten through this milestone, we’ll certainly be expanding the program.”
Branson said he expects to add another $100 million or so to the $500 million already spent on the SpaceShipTwo project, but ticket sales won’t be Virgin’s only return on investment.
With two WhiteKnight carrier aircraft, Virgin Galactic can put 3,500 small satellites into orbit per month.
“That can do radical things for telecommunications, internet access, wi-fi and so on. It’s many, many more than anyone else has the capability of doing,” Branson said.
“Because we’re not land-based, it’s much easier for us to do it without having to wait in a long queue to do so. We can replace satellites in 24 hours, and we can put an array in very quickly,” he said.
“The three-stage Soyuz finished its job in less than 9 minutes, leaving a Fregat upper stage to place the satellites in a 572-mile[921-km]-high orbit with an inclination of 52 degrees.
“Two satellites attached to the upper section of a dispenser specially designed for Globalstar launches separated first, followed less than 2 minutes later by the release of the other four 1,433-pound [650-kg] spacecraft at 1744 GMT (12:44 p.m. EST).
“Starsem, which sells commercial Soyuz launches from Baikonur, declared the mission a success. Starsem is owned by aerospace firms in Russia and France, including Arianespace.
“The Globalstar satellites will use on-board propulsion to raise their orbits to an altitude of 878 miles [1,413 km] and enter the Globalstar constellation. Two of the satellites will be operational by the end of February, according to Globalstar, while the other four craft will drift to other locations within the company’s constellation, which is divided into eight orbital planes to provide global coverage.”
[Note: Designations will be updated online, once they become available from USSTRATCOM.]
Source: Spaceflight Now, “Six new Globalstar satellites ride Soyuz rocket to orbit”
“Today’s launch was known in the station’s assembly matrix as Progress mission 50P. The spacecraft’s formal Russian designation is Progress M-18M.
“The craft ferried nearly three tons of supplies to the station. The ‘dry’ cargo tucked aboard the Progress amounts to 3,000 pounds [1,361 kg] in the form of food, spare parts, life support gear and experiment hardware.
“The refueling module carries 1,764 pounds [800 kg] of propellant for transfer into the Russian segment of the complex to feed the station’s maneuvering thrusters. The vessel also has 926 pounds [420 kg] of water and 110 pounds [50 kg] of oxygen and air.
“It’ll remain attached to the station through April 23.”
Source:Spaceflight Now, “Russians successfully launch space station resupply ship”
Intelsat 19 was launched at 0523 UTC—using a 20-story-tall Zenit 3SL booster—from a floating platform stationed in the Pacific Ocean about 1,400 miles [2,250 km] southeast of Hawaii.
“Intelsat will operate the commercial satellite in geostationary orbit at its 166-degree East longitude location to provide video broadcasting and telecommunications services across Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Alaska and Hawaii.
“It replaces Intelsat 8, which was launched in 1998 aboard a Russian Proton rocket under the name PAS 8 for PanAmSat and later joined Intelsat through a fleet merger.
“Intelsat 19 was built by Space System/Loral using the 1300E high-powered satellite platform. The 12,300-pound [5,579-kg] craft is equipped with a communications payload consisting of 34 Ku-Band and 24 C-band transponders, a pair of power-generating solar wings spanning 85 feet [25.9 m] and a life expectancy exceeding 15 years.
“The destined orbit slot currently reaches more than 37 million television subscribers around the Pacific Rim that Intelsat 19 can serve through its video distribution capabilities.
“The C-band transponders will relay 100 channels including networks like the Discovery Channel, Disney and NHK. The Ku-band capacity goes to direct-to-home TV broadcasting for Australia and New Zealand, plus blanketing the vast Pacific for maritime, aeronautical and government broadband mobility connections.”
“A Russian Soyuz booster successfully launched Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and propelled a resupply freighter on its two-day pursuit to rendezvous with the International Space Station.
“Liftoff of the unmanned Soyuz booster carrying the automated Progress vessel from the launch base in Kazakhstan occurred at at 6:06 p.m. EST (2306 GMT), beginning Russia’s first of five cargo delivery missions in 2012 to the space station.
“The preliminary orbit was achieved after a nine-minute ascent provided by the three-stage rocket, and onboard commands were issued to unfurl the craft’s communications and navigation antennas and extend two power-generating solar arrays that span 35 feet.
“A series of precise engine firings over the next two days will guide the Progress toward an automated rendezvous with the station for docking Friday at 7:08 p.m. EST (0008 GMT).
“The 24-foot [7.3-m] long ship will attach itself to the open port on the Pirs compartment on the underside of the station, which became available Monday when the previous Progress flew away to enter a higher orbit where it ejected a plasma science satellite Tuesday evening shortly before deorbiting into the South Pacific.
“Today’s launch was known in the station’s assembly matrix as Progress mission 46P. The spacecraft’s formal Russian designation is Progress M-14M.
“The craft will bring nearly three tons of supplies to the station. The “dry” cargo tucked aboard the Progress amounts to 2,778 pounds [1,260 kg] in the form of food, spare parts, life support gear and experiment hardware.
“The refueling module carries 2,050 pounds [930 kg] of propellant for transfer into the Russian segment of the complex to feed the station’s maneuvering thrusters. The vessel also has 926 pounds [420 kg] of water and 110 pounds [50 kg] of oxygen and air.
“It’ll remain attached to the station through the end of April.”
“A new Air Force satellite headed for service over the Middle East to route essential communications to U.S. military forces and improve data links to unmanned aerial drones was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral last night.
“The Wideband Global SATCOM 4 spacecraft, better known as WGS 4, rode a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket away from the Florida spaceport’s pad 37B at 7:38 p.m. EST (0038 GMT) on a 40-minute ascent to supersynchronous orbit.
“Liftoff occurred at the opening minute of a launch window set months in advance.
“Valued at US$464 million, the 6.5-ton satellite will enhance military communications over a turbulent portion of the globe when it commences broadcasting duties in a few months.
“Dropped off into a highly-elliptical, preliminary orbit by the Delta 4 rocket, the satellite’s conventional bi-propellant chemical main engine will execute four apogee and four perigee firings through early February before beginning 40 days of final orbit circularization maneuvers with its xenon-ion propulsion thrusters to reach geosynchronous perch 22,300 miles [35,888 km] above Earth in March.
“Once its appendages are fully unfurled in space, the craft’s solar-power wings will span 134 feet [40.8 m].
“In-orbit testing with the military’s Camp Roberts facility in California will occur from mid-March through mid-April. Boeing will control the craft’s initial flying until handover to the Air Force at the end of April.
“From there, the spacecraft will drift to the operational location over the Indian Ocean to receive final acceptance into the WGS constellation and enter service this summer.
“The Air Force says it plans to put this WGS 4 spacecraft’s coverage footprint over the Middle East and Southeast Asia for use by U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command.”
“Once slid into its orbital home high above the Indian Ocean, the satellite will join the expanding fleet of Wideband Global SATCOM communications satellites that form the Pentagon’s worldwide communications backbone across all branches of the military.”
“The craft’s communications package provides shaped, steerable spotbeams of bandwidth wherever requested across its field-of-view for Ka- and X-band frequencies, plus the onboard capability to switch signals from one band to the other.”
“A new Chinese weather satellite streaked into space Friday on top of a Long March 3A rocket, China’s second flawless space launch this week.
“The Fengyun 2F spacecraft lifted off at 0056 GMT Friday (7:56 p.m. EST Thursday) from the Xichang space base in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, according to the Chinese defense ministry. Liftoff occurred at 8:56 a.m. Beijing time.
“The 172-foot[52.4-m]-tall rocket released the 3,000-pound [1,361-kg] satellite in an oval-shaped [sic] transfer orbit about 24 minutes after launch. State media reported the launch was successful.
“It was the second Chinese space launch this week, coming four days after a Long March 4B rocket hauled a high-resolution mapping satellite into orbit from another space center.
“Fengyun 2F will enter service for the China Meteorological Administration. The spacecraft will collect real-time weather imagery every 15 minutes for forecasters in China and neighboring countries.
“In the next few weeks, the satellite will raise its orbit to an altitude of 22,300 miles [35,888 km] over the equator and position itself over the equator at 112 degrees east longitude. Fengyun 2F will begin its operational life as a backup satellite, serving with other weather satellites launched in 2006 and 2008.
“Fengyun 2F features improvements over earlier Fengyun 2-series satellites, including an extension of its design life to four years. The craft carries instruments for visible and infrared high-resolution cloud imagery and for monitoring space weather.”
[Note: This launch notification was delayed pending identification by USSTRATCOM.]
“With a rumble and bright orange glow, a Soyuz rocket blasted off and disappeared into frigid clouds over Kazakhstan on Wednesday to deliver six second-generation Globalstar communications satellites to orbit.
“The kerosene-fueled Soyuz launcher lifted off at 1709 GMT (12:09 p.m. EST) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. A blanket of low clouds swallowed the Soyuz 2-1a rocket a few seconds later, but the venerable booster continued downrange, emptying its three core stages in less than nine minutes.
“The launch was managed by Starsem, an affiliate of Arianespace responsible for commercial Soyuz missions from Kazakhstan.
“A Fregat upper stage next fired two times to expertly propel the mission’s six payloads into a 572-mile[921-km]-high orbit with an inclination of 52 degrees.
“Mounted on a special dispenser, the six Globalstar communications satellites separated in a two-step process, completing the deployment sequence at 1849 GMT (1:49 p.m. EST).
“The Fregat was supposed to ignite again to de-orbit itself into the Pacific Ocean.
“Globalstar’s subscribers use the satellites to place telephone calls and send data messages around the world. Built by Thales Alenia Space, the second-generation satellites feature longer design lives.
“Officials confirmed a ground station communicated with the satellites and verified their health following launch.”
“Ground controllers will place each of the 1,543-pound [700-kg] satellites on different trajectories to enter the Globalstar constellation. The process will include raising their orbits to an altitude of 878 miles [1,413 km] and carefully piloting the craft into precise positions in the fleet.
“Globalstar satellites are divided among eight orbital planes to evenly spread the spacecraft across the globe.
“The Louisiana-based company’s subscribers use the satellite network to make mobile phone calls and data transmissions, especially in rural zones where terrestrial coverage is spotty or non-existent.
“Wednesday’s launch was the third of four missions to bolster Globalstar’s satellite network. Six more satellites are due for liftoff on another Soyuz booster next year , following up on successful flights in October 2010 and July 2011.”
[Note: This launch notification was delayed pending identification by USSTRATCOM.]
“China launched a Long March rocket Monday with a high-resolution civil mapping satellite to survey natural resources and a craft to relay marine tracking data for U.S.-based Orbcomm Inc.
“The Long March 4B launcher lifted off at 0317 GMT Monday (10:17 p.m. EST Sunday) from the Taiyuan space center in Shanxi province, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
“It was 11:17 a.m. Beijing time.
“The 15-story rocket and the Ziyuan 3 satellite achieved orbit about 12 minutes later. The rocket’s upper stage injected the craft into an orbit more than 300 miles [483 km] high with an inclination of 97.5 degrees.
“Developed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology, the 5,842-pound [2,650-kg] satellite carries an electro-optical imaging payload comprising three pointing forward, down and aft. The ground-facing camera has a resolution of 2.5 meters, or 8.2 feet.
“Ziyuan 3 also features an infrared spectrometer.
“The satellite is devoted to civil applications, according to Xinhua.
“The news agency said Ziyuan 3 will aid in land resource surveys, natural disaster prevention, agriculture development, water management, and urban planning.
“The rocket also orbited VesselSat 2, a 63-pound [29-kg] satellite designed to relay positions of ships around the world. Constructed by LuxSpace of Luxembourg, the spacecraft’s services will supplement Orbcomm’s next-generation communications satellites due to begin launching this year.”
“A Russian Soyuz rocket fired six satellites into space Friday, launching missions to serve defense agencies in Europe and Chile with high-resolution imagery and electronic intelligence.
“The passengers included France’s Pleiades 1 imaging platform, four French ELISA electronic intelligence satellites and the SSOT Earth observation satellite for Chile.
“Liftoff of the 151-foot[46.0-m]-tall Soyuz launcher was at 0203:48 GMT (9:03:48 p.m. EST) from the Guiana Space Center on the northeast coast of South America. Lighting up the night sky with brilliant orange flame, the kerosene-fueled rocket dodged scattered clouds and flew north away from the French Guiana spaceport.
“The rocket’s core stages finished their job in less than 9 minutes, then a Fregat space tug guided the Pleiades and ELISA payloads to an orbit nearly 435 miles [700 km] above Earth.
‘The 2,138-pound [970-kg] Pleiades 1 satellite and four 265-pound [120-kg] ELISA spacecraft were deployed from the Fregat upper stage about one hour after launch.
“Two more brief firings of the Fregat main engine adjusted its altitude to 379 miles [610 km] for the release of SSOT, a French-built imaging satellite for Chile’s government.
“Separation of SSOT was confirmed at about 0530 GMT (12:30 a.m. EST), and officials heralded the mission as a success.
“It was the second launch of a Soyuz booster from French Guiana using a new US$800 million facility situated eight miles northwest of the spaceport’s existing Ariane rocket launch zone.”
“Led by CNES, the French space agency, Pleiades 1 will collect high-resolution optical imagery for military and civilian users. CNES reported the Pleiades 1 satellite was acquired by ground stations and was operating normally soon after launch.”
“The Pleiades system is also partially funded by Belgium, Sweden, Spain and Austria. It will complement France’s Helios government spy satellites and the Spot series of commercial imaging craft.
“Spain and Italy will receive priority data for military needs under separate agreements with the French defense ministry. Civil users will receive about 95 percent of the capacity from the Pleiades system through Astrium Services, the company responsible for commercial imagery dissemination, but time-sensitive military requests will be expedited.”
“Italy and France share data from radar and optical observation satellites for defense purposes. The ORFEO agreement calls for imagery from Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed radar satellite system and France’s Pleiades optical program to be distributed to both nations.
“Designed for a five-year mission, the agile Pleiades satellites each carry a Korsch telescope built by Thales Alenia Space with a primary mirror 2.1 feet [0.6 m] in diameter. Its CCD detectors are 40 times more sensitive to light than those in standard consumer digital cameras, according to CNES.
“Officials say Pleiades 1 will be in its final orbit about 10 days after launch. When operational, it will collect up to 450 images each day, including tri-stereo imagery and mosaics.”
“The ELISA satellite quartet will map radar emissions worldwide, characterizing and cataloging their sources for use in electronic warfare.”
“The satellites will drift to their correct position in orbit over the next three months before testing begins.
“The ELISA program is a partnership between CNES, DGA, the French Joint Space Command and the military’s intelligence directorate.
“French Gen. Laurent Collet-Billon, director of DGA, said engineers will evaluate the technical performance of the ELISA satellites and incorporate the experience into the design of an operational signals intelligence satellite system to be launched by 2020.”
“Chile’s SSOT satellite, based on the French Myriade platform, will collect 4.8-foot resolution imagery for security, mapping, urban planning, and agriculture applications.”
[Note: This launch notification was delayed pending identification by USSTRATCOM.]
“A French communications satellite destined to serve markets in a swath from Europe to the Indian Ocean launched on top of a Chinese Long March rocket Friday.
“The spacecraft will be operated by Eutelsat, a leading international communications satellite owner based in Paris. Named W3C, the platform carries Ku-band and Ka-band transponders for television broadcasting and data services, according to Eutelsat.
“The satellite lifted off at approximately 0820 GMT (4:20 a.m. EDT) Friday from the Xichang space base in southwest China’s Sichuan province. It was Friday afternoon at the launch site.
“The almost 12,000-pound [5,443-kg] spacecraft was deployed by the Long March 3B rocket’s third stage about 25 minutes later.
“The launch was arranged by China Great Wall Industry Corp., a state-owned firm authorized to sell Long March rockets on the commercial market. Friday’s launch was the first time a Chinese rocket launched a Western-owned satellite since 1999.
“European-built spacecraft were launched by China in the last decade, but they were for operators in Asia.
“Most Western communications satellites are restricted from launching on Chinese rockets because the U.S. government classifies space hardware as weapons systems under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR.
“The ITAR standards were expanded by the U.S. government to include satellites due to concerns that China could apply space launch experience toward missile development.
“ITAR rules prohibit U.S.-built space hardware from launching on Chinese rockets, but Thales Alenia Space offers an “ITAR-free” version of its satellites without U.S. components to permit flights from China, which are often less expensive than other launch providers.
“Eutelsat reported the W3C satellite was in good shape following launch. Its solar arrays were partially deployed within three hours of separation, the company said in a statement.
“In the next 10 days, the W3C spacecraft will raise its orbit to an altitude of 22,300 miles [35,888 km] over the equator and unfurl its communications antennas, according to Eutelsat.”
“W3C is based on the Spacebus 4000 C3 platform built by Thales Alenia Space. Its 56 transponders, divided among Ku-band and Ka-band, will beam programming and services to Earth via four footprints tailored for specific regions.
“One focus of the satellite will be direct-to-home television broadcasting in Central Europe and digital video services in the Indian Ocean islands, including Mauritius and Reunion Island.
“Another mission for W3C is connecting Europe and Africa through Ka-band, enabling Internet access and providing Ku-band coverage from Senegal to Madagascar, according to Eutelsat.
“Data networks and news organizations in Europe,North Africa and the Middle East will also benefit from the new satellite, Eutelsat said.
“W3C will be positioned at 16 degrees east longitude, replacing three Eutelsat satellites currently at that location.”
[Note: This launch notification was delayed pending identification by USSTRATCOM.]
“Chinese media reported the Tiangong module deployed from the Long March rocket’s second stage approximately 10 minutes after liftoff. Tiangong 1 unfurled its solar panels a few minutes later.”
“The module will soon raise its orbit to an average altitude of approximately 220 miles [354 km], then it will be readied to receive an unmanned Shenzhou spaceship at its forward docking port some time in November.
“Tiangong 1 measures 34.1 feet [10.4 m] long and has a maximum diameter of 11 feet [3.4 m], according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office. That’s almost the size of a school bus.
“The spacecraft features two modules: a resource module with fuel tanks and solar panels for power; and an experiment module with an effective volume of 530 cubic feet [15 cubic meters]. China says that’s enough volume for three astronauts to live and work.
“According to Chinese media, the experimentation and living section includes sleeping and exercise facilities.
“Tiangong means heavenly palace in English.”
“The Long March 2F booster and Shenzhou capsule for the Chinese program’s next launch are already at the Jiuquan base for liftoff in November, possibly as early as Nov. 1.”
“The Shenzhou 8 capsule would rendezvous and dock with the Tiangong module two days after launch, forming a mini-space station stretching approximately 60 feet long. After an initial stay of 12 days, Shenzhou 8 will back away and re-dock to the Tiangong module before returning to Earth.”
“The Shenzhou 9 and 10 missions will visit Tiangong 1 next year, and both could carry Chinese astronauts if the first docking test goes well, according to the country’s space leadership. Tiangong 1 is designed to operate for two years in space.”
“The docking demo will be a crucial accomplishment for China’s future space aspirations. The construction and servicing of space stations will require modules to autonomously meet and link up in orbit.”
“Japan established the space-based reconnaissance program after North Korea fired a test missile over Japanese territory in 1998. The country’s spy satellites have become increasingly more advanced since then, but officials have provided no official specifications on the satellite launched Friday.
“The most advanced Japanese reconnaissance satellites likely provide imagery with a resolution less than a meter.”
“If all goes well, science operations will begin around March 8. Flying in formation at distances ranging from about 46  to 140 miles [225 km], the two spacecraft will send radio pulses and timing signals back and forth to precisely measure the distance between them.
“Sailing over buried mass concentrations, craters, mountain ranges, basins and other geologic features, the satellites will ever so slightly speed up and slow down, one after the other. The ranging system is accurate enough to detect differences of as little as one micron, or the width of a red blood cell.
“By carefully analyzing those changes, scientists can determine the distribution of mass within the moon to gain insights into its hidden interior structure and the nature of its core.”
“The three-month science mission is sandwiched between eclipses in December and June. The solar-powered satellites are not expected to survive the latter and flight controllers expect the spacecraft will lose power and eventually crash.
But by that point, GRAIL’s mission will be complete, and the “results are expected to be a giant leap for lunar research. A major objective is to confirm or rule out theories about the moon’s formation and evolution and, by extension, improve understanding of the early histories of other terrestrial planets.”
[Note: This notification was delayed due to delays by USSTRATCOM in identifying these objects.]
“Seven small satellites to serve organizations on four continents rocketed out of a missile silo in Russia and roared into orbit Wednesday on top of a Dnepr rocket.
“The international payloads blasted off at 0712 GMT (3:12 a.m. EDT) from a space base near Yasny, Russia, a small community in the Orenburg region in the southern part of the country. The 111-foot [33.8-m]-tall Dnepr rocket shot out of an underground silo, ignited its first stage and soared into a sun-synchronous orbit more than 400 miles [644 km] high.
“Powered by surplus Soviet-era military ballistic missile stages, the Dnepr rocket reached orbit a few minutes later and deployed seven small satellites for Nigeria, Ukraine, Turkey, Italy and the United States.
“Two spacecraft manufactured by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. for Nigeria were aboard the Dnepr rocket. Both satellites were successfully contacted after the launch via ground stations in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, according to SSTL.
“Based in Guildford in the United Kingdom and owned by EADS Astrium, SSTL built NigeriaSat 2 and NigeriaSat X for the National Space Research and Development Agency, the Nigerian space agency.”
“The satellites will join the Disaster Monitoring Constellation, a network of lightweight orbiting spacecraft built by SSTL designed to assist with disaster relief and track environmental changes around the world.”
NigeriaSat 2, which weighed approximately 600 pounds [272 kg] at launch, will provide high resoultion maps of Nigerian territory, monitor Nigerian crops to ensure the security of the nation’s food supply. The craft’s imager will snap photos with a resolution of 8.2 feet [2.5 m], sharp enough to spot roads, homes, fields and keep track of floods, droughts, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Imagery from NigeriaSat 2 will also contribute to urban planning in Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country.
The spacecraft is designed to operate for seven years in orbit.
NigeriaSat X was built under a three-year training program between SSTL and Nigeria. More than two dozen Nigerian engineers helped construct and test the 220-pound [100-kg] Earth observation spacecraft at SSTL headquarters.”
“Ukraine’s Sich 2 remote sensing satellite was also launched on the Dnepr rocket. Built by Yuzhnoye, a leading Ukrainian aerospace contractor, Sich 2 will obtain medium-resolution images of Earth during its mission of at least five years.
“Such imaging products will be useful in monitoring the environment and land use planning.
‘The Dnepr rocket also hauled into orbit RASAT, the first Earth observation satellite designed and built in Turkey. The 205-pound [93-kg] RASAT payload features a camera capable of a peak resolution of about 25 feet [7.6 m] from the craft’s 430-mile [692-km]-high orbit.
“Owned by the publicly-funded Space Technologies Research Institute, RASAT is designed for a three-year life in space. Its primary objectives are to advance Turkish space technology and know-how and observe natural and manmade disasters, monitor coastline changes and pollution, detect illegal settlements and urban land changes, and update existing maps.
“The University of Rome’s EduSat microsatellite and two U.S.-built AprizeSat asset tracking satellites, each weighing about 25 pounds [11 kg], also rode the Dnepr launcher into space Wednesday.”