TS News - Recent Launch Update

TELE-satellit News, 8 September 1997

Recent Launch Update
  HARVARD, USA, 970908 (JSR) -- This is an update of recent launches,
extracted from Jonathan's Space Report, available online at

  A Chang Zheng 2C rocket built by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle
Technology was orbited from the Taiyuan polar orbit launch site at 37.8N
111.5E on Sep 1 at 1400:15.7 UTC. It carries two dummy Iridium satellites
(Iridium Mass Frequency Simulators), in preparation for the start of
regular Iridium launches from Taiyuan. This is the first CZ-2C from
Taiyuan, earlier CZ-2C missions were from Jiuquan and previously Taiyuan
was used for the CZ-4. This version of the CZ-2C is believed to have a
somewhat lengthened second stage compared to the usual version. As far I
can tell, the Iridium MFS satellites were probably built by
Motorola/Chandler but are owned by China Aerospace Corp. Mass is about 650
kg per satellite. The satellites are inert, but are built to reproduce the
mass distribution and oscillation frequencies of a true Iridium satellite
during launch, to provide a realistic test of the CZ-2C launch vehicle.

  The second stage of the CZ-2C entered a 215 x 638 km x 86.2 deg orbit 5
min after launch. The new Smart Dispenser (SD) stage with the two
satellites attached  separated 5 min later, and its solid motor ignited at
apogee 48 min after launch, to enter a 623 x 633 km x 86.3 deg orbit from
which the two mass simulators were dispensed at around 1450 UTC. Another
motor on the SD ignited four minutes later to deorbit the stage, avoiding
cluttering up Earth orbit with debris. The solid motor is probably a
Chinese motor built by CALT/Shaanxi.

  Space Command has redesignated the objects in the launch since they were
first cataloged (actually, the designations seem to still be somewhat in
 Originally       Now     Object
   48A           48C     CZ-2C stage 2 in transfer orbit
   48B,48F       48B,48A Dummy Iridium satellites in circular orbit
   48C           48F     Debris in transfer orbit
   48D,E         48D,E   Debris (launch adapter?) in transfer orbit,
decaying fast.
  The SD stage was deorbited before being cataloged, in keeping with
Iridium's policy of having as few objects adding to the orbital debris
population as possible. Twelve more Iridium satellites are due to be
launched this month, seven on a Proton and five on a Delta.

  Meanwhile, sources report that the successful launch of a CZ-3B rocket
last month, which orbited the Agila 2 satellite, may have been marred by a
downrange accident. The first stage of the CZ-3B impacted in Hunan province
 1000 km downrange from Xichang, and allegedly caused property damage in a
village, although I understand that this has not been acknowledged by China
Great Wall Industry Corp or China Aerospace Corp. There have also been
rumours of casualties but those are denied by the Chinese authorities.

  Ariane flight V99, on Sep 2, launched two satellites into geostationary
transfer orbit. Hot Bird 3 is a high power television broadcasting
satellite for EUTELSAT, the European Telecommunications Satellite
Organization, and Meteosat 7 is a weather satellite for EUMETSAT (European
Meteorological Satellite Organization) built by Aerospatiale. Hot Bird 3 is
built by Matra Marconi Space (Toulouse) and is a Eurostar 2000+ satellite
with a Marquardt R-4D apogee engine. Meteosat 7 is the first Meteosat
Transition Programme satellite (MTP-1), using the same design as the
Meteosat Operational Programme (MOP) satellites Meteosat 4 to 6.  It
carries a three channel radiometer with 2.5km resolution. Launch mass was
750 kg; it has a solid Mage 1 apogee motor. The first
Meteosat weather satellite was launched in 1977.

  GE Americom's GE 3 communications satellite was launched on Sep 4 by a
Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS, flight AC-146. The satellite has C and Ku band
transponders for domestic communications relay and broadcasting. It was
built by Lockheed Martin Telecommunications and is an A2100 series
satellite like its two precursors. The satellite was placed in a mildly
supersynchronous transfer orbit of 309 x 43913 km x 19.1 deg; its Royal
Ordnance Leros apogee engine will circularize the orbit.

  The Cassini launch to Saturn, originally scheduled for Oct 6, will be
delayed because overpressurized air hoses at the launch pad blew away some
insulation on the Huygens Titan entry probe. They are still expecting to
launch within the window, which extends to Nov 4.

(c)TELE-satellit 1997. All rights reserved.

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