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The Space Report ("JSR") is issued about twice a month. It describes all space launches, including both piloted missions and automated satellites. Back issues are available online. To receive the JSR each week by direct email, subscribe at Feel free to reproduce the JSR as long as you're not doing it for profit. If you are doing so regularly, please inform Jonathan by email. Comments, suggestions, and corrections are encouraged. See here for translations to other languages.

You can mail Jonathan McDowell at planet4589 at gmail dot com.

See also:

JSR STOP PRESS - the draft of NEXT week's JSR, updated throughout the week.

GEOSTATIONARY SATELLITE LOG with a catalog of all known satellites ever in the geosynchronous ring and their reasonably current positions.

LAUNCH LOG - My best attempt at a complete listing of all satellite launch attempts.

Jonathan's Space Home Page - with links to lots of other space data not available elsewhere.

SATELLITE CATALOG - My version of the Space Command satellite catalog, providing a cross reference between catalog number and international designation. Corrections are welcome.

Jonathan's Space Report 
No. 744                                                    2018 Jan 17  Somerville, MA

The 2017 annual summary report at has been
updated to Rev 2, correcting mistakes in the payload mass figures in table 5.

International Space Station

Expedition 54 continues with ISS Commander Aleskandr Misurkin and flight
engineers Mark Vande Hei, Joe Acaba, Anton Shkaplerov, Scott Tingle and
Norishige Kanai.

On Dec 29 the Dextre and Canadarm-2 robot arms were used to move the TSIS
solar instrument from the Dragon trunk to Express Logistics Carrier 3.
On Jan 1-2 they moved the Space Debris Sensor to the Columbus External
Payload Facility. On Jan 3 and 4 the Rapidscat instrument and the Rapidscat
Nadir Adapter were moved from the Columbus EPF to the Dragon trunk for

On Jan 10 the Dextre robot moved the spare Yaw Joint unit from the ESP-2 storage
platform to the EOTP temporary stowage unit as part of preps for more work on
the robot arm manipulators.

Dragon CRS-13 was recovered safely on Jan 13. The Canadarm-2 unberthed
Dragon at 2249 UTC Jan 12 and released it at 0958 UTC Jan 13. Release
was performed remotely by ground control for the first time. Dragon's
undocking mass was around 9500 kg and it was carrying about 1850 kg of
return cargo. It made three small separation burns between 1002 and 1012
UTC and then a 10 minute deorbit burn starting at 1443 UTC. The trunk
was jettisoned at about 1501 UTC and reentry interface was reached at
about 1514 UTC (I'd welcome a more accurate entry timeline if anyone has
one). Capsule C108 splashed down at 1537 UTC near 30.1N 123.0W
completing its second trip to space. The CRS-13 trunk, with Rapidscat,
burned up at around 1514 UTC over the Pacific.

What's Up With Zuma?

The first orbital launch of the year was carried out by SpaceX on Jan 8
with a secret payload called ZUMA, to be sent to low Earth orbit
inclined at 50 degrees.  SpaceX's contract was with the Northrop Grumman
company, which was probably also the spacecraft prime contractor, and
fronted for the ultimate user which is an unknown US government agency
(probably the NRO, but it's always possible a new secret
three-letter-agency has arrived on the scene). According to
industry sources prior to launch, Northrop Grumman is known to have
provided its own payload adapter instead of using the standard Falcon 9
one. A payload adapter connects the spacecraft to the final stage of the
rocket and performs the actual separation of spacecraft from rocket once
orbit is achieved. (Don't confuse this with the payload fairing or nosecone, which
protects the spacecraft from the atmosphere). This function is normally the responsibility of the
launch provider, but it is reasonable to infer that in this case payload
separation was the responsibility of Northrop Grumman or of the US
government customer, rather than of SpaceX.

Falcon 9 mission 48 was launched from Cape Canaveral's Pad 40
and used first stage B1043, which returned to the Cape to
land at landing zone LZ1. Mission events after payload fairing separation
are secret, but SpaceX later reported that the Falcon 9 did its job correctly.
The second stage was expected to separate from the payload and perform a deorbit
burn after about 1.5 orbits, destroying itself over the Indian Ocean.
Consistent with this, a rocket burn was seen at the appropriate time by observers
in Sudan. It appared the vehicle tumbled during the burn, which should have
reduced the effective velocity change, but perhaps (if rumours described below
are correct) not enough to prevent reentry.

For a successful mission I would have expected two entries in the US
satellite catalog: the payload, given the bland cover name USA 280 and
the international designation 2018-001A, and the rocket, which would get
2018-001B despite its short stay in orbit (the normal rule is that you
get cataloged if you stay up more than one complete orbit). In the
event, only one catalog entry appeared, that for USA 280. The Wall
Street Journal reported, citing sources on Capitol Hill, that the
mission was a failure - the spacecraft failed to separate from the upper
stage and was destroyed on reentry.

This scenario, if true, is consistent with the available data, including
the claim that SpaceX does not think it is at fault (although a full
failure investigation could always find something subtle that could
change that). It would imply that the combined Zuma/Falcon Stage 2
completed its 1.5 orbits - consistent with it getting a single catalog
entry - and that the second stage then was deorbited with the expensive
payload still attached. Industry insiders have suggested that multiple
attempts would have been made to separate the payload. It is possible
that the deorbit burn was not aborted because if the payload remained in
orbit attached to the stage, it would present a significant debris risk
(similar to the risk used to justify the antisatellite intercept of USA
193 in 2008). If it's clear the mission is a failure, it's more prudent
to carry out safe disposal of the vehicle. The `decay date' (i.e. reentry
date) column in the satellite catalog has been left blank, but
that is standard for secret missions which have often reentered without
any acknowledgement.

Others have suggested a scenario in which the mission was a success and
the failure rumours are a deliberate cover story as part of an attempt
to conceal the spacecraft. I find this unlikely for two reasons.
Firstly, the source of the rumours seem to be Congressional staffers who
can influence the spy agencies' budgets, will be displeased with them at
the hundreds of megabucks apparently lost, but will be even less pleased
about being made patsies for a cover story - and they will find out.
Secondly, my impression is these rumours have made amateur observers
even more determined than usual to search for the satellite in order to
clarify the situation, so it's highly unclear what such a cover story
would actually achieve.

Satellite observer Marco Langbroek has calculated that the Sudan
observation implies an orbital altitude around 1000 km;  such an orbit
makes some kind of radar satellite seem the most likely mission. The
Falcon 9 has about a 9000 kg capacity to this orbit, which sets an upper
limit to the payload mass. A successful deorbit with unexpected extra
mass attached would suggest the payload was well below that limit.


The first Chinese launch of the year used the SAST/Shanghai CZ-2D rocket from
Taiyuan space center. The third and fourth satellites in Beijing Space View's Gaojing-1
(Superview-1) high resolution imaging constellation were launched on Jan
9 into 1030 local time sun-synchronous orbit, joining the first pair launched a
year earlier. On Jan 12 the satellites began adjusting their orbit slightly.

 Orbits as of Jan 13: (03 and 04 might be the wrong way round)
  Gaojing-1 01 xing    513 x 536 km x 97.6 deg
  Gaojing-1 02 xing    514 x 535 km x 97.6 deg
  Gaojing-1 03 xing    523 x 536 km x 97.6 deg
  Gaojing-1 04 xing    510 x 529 km x 97.6 deg


The CALT/Beijing CZ-3B was used for China's second launch, from Xichang.
Flight Y45's third stage reached a 210 x 18546 km x 55.0 deg transfer
orbit and deplyed the Yuanzheng-1 (YZ-1) Y5 upper stage, which
immediately raised apogee to 22000 km. A second burn of the YZ-1
circularized the orbit to 21543 x 22194 km, after which two Beidou-3
navigation satellites were deployed. Beidou Daohang Weixing (Polaris
Navigation Satellite) 26 and 27 are also designated MEO-7 and MEO-8.
These two satellites were built by the Shanghai CAS Institute for
Microsatellite Innovation (Zhongguo kexueyuan weixiao weixing chuangxin
yanjiuyuan), unlike the MEO-1 and 2 satellites launched in November
which were built by Beijing's CAST.


India launched the PSLV-C40 mission on Jan 12, returing the PSLV successfully to flight after
a fairing separation failure last August. The primary payload was the Cartosat-2ER
imaging satellite; a cluster of 30 smaller satellites was also deployed.

Most of the payloads were deployed in the same orbit as Cartosat, around 495 x 520 km.
However,  the final satellite to be deployed, Microsat-TD, went to a lower
orbit of 328 x 368 km, taking advantange of the PSLV PS4 stage's recently added
multi-burn capability. It is a 100-kg-class ISRO technology development
satellite using a bus based on IMS-1 (launched in 2008). According to Gunter Krebs
( it has a 0.8m resolution imager and has a mass around 120 kg.

The other payloads are:

- INS-1C, the third Indian Nanosatellite mission. With a mass of 11 kg, it carries
  an experimental multispectral imager.

- Telesat's LEO Vantage 1 satellite for test and validation of technology for
  a Ka-band LEO constellation; built by Surrey Satellite, mass around 100 kg.

- VividX2, a 100 kg class HD video satellite for the UK imaging company Earth-i.
  The satellite was built by Surrey Satellite Technologies - somewhat
  unsurprisingly as Earth-i headquarters is literally across the street from them (and a few miles
  from where I used to live as a teenager, so I know the area!). SSTL calls the satellite Carbonite-2.

- ICEYE-X1, a proof of concept mission for radar imaging company ICEYE of Helsinki, using a 70 kg
  satellite built by York Space Systems of Denver, Colorado, with launcher integration by Spaceflight

- The ISILaunch-21 cubesat mission from ISIS-BV (Netherlands), with 5 QuadPack deployers each
  with 12U cubesat capacity; Spaceflight Industries was responsible for two 6U satellites and
  8 smaller cubesats. A total of 25 cubesats correpsonding to 69U capacity were deployed:

  - Arkyd-6A is a 6U cubesat for Planetary Resources, with a mid-infrared imager.

  - Landmapper BC3 (Corvus BC3), a 6U Earth imaging cubesat for AstroDigital's BC (Broad Coverage)
    system. The original BC3 (and BC4) failed to orbit in November; this satellite appears to have 
    the internal name Landmapper BC-3-v2. 

  - CICERO 7, for GeoOptics, a Tyvak-built 6U cubesat for GNSS-RO meteorology.

  - Picsat, a 3U cubesat from the Observatoire de Paris-Meudon, to perform transit photometry 
    of the exoplanet Beta Pic b.

  - Tyvak-61C, a 3U satellite from Tyvak Corp of California, reportedly to measure variability of luminous (but
    I think they probably mean bright, i.e. apparent rather than absolute magnitude) stars. I haven't heard anything
    about this astronomy mission and am curious to know more.

  - CANYVAL-X, a 3U technology experiment from Yonsei University (Seoul): 
   Cubesat Astronomy by NASA and Yonsei using Virtual Telescope Alignment.
   The payload consists of 2U and 1U cubesats which will later separate and perform a formation flying test.

  - CNUSAIL-1 (Papillon), a 3U cubesat test of a drag sail from Chungnam National Univ., Seoul.

  - KAUSAT-5, a 3U cubesat with an Earth imager, from Korea Aerospace University (formerly Hankuk
  Aviation University, whose earlier HAUSAT-1 was lost in a 2006 launch failure).

  - SIGMA (KHUSAT-3), a space science 3U cubesat from Kyung Hee University, Seoul.

  - Micromas-2A, for microwave radiometry of tropical weather, a 3U cubesat from MIT Lincoln Lab.

  - 4 SpireGlobal Lemur-2 satellites with ship tracking and GNSS-RO meteorology payloads.

  - 4 Planet Dove imaging satellites, Dove 1100, 1102, 1105, and 1107, forming the Flock 3P-prime group and serving
    as testbeds for improving the Planet constellation.

  - DemoSat-2, a 3U satellite to test a UHF radio payload, from an unknown US commercial operator.

  - StepCubeLab, a 1U test satellite from Choson U., Gwangju.

  - Fox-1D, or AMSAT-OSCAR-92, is a 1U amateur radio satellite from AMSAT-NA.

  - SpaceBEE-1 to SpaceBEE-4, tiny satellites 0.10 x 0.10 x 0.025m in size (0.25U cubesat form factor).
    These are reportedly NOT the satellites from the TUBSAT team known as Beesat-5 to Beesat-8, although
    they appear very similar.  They have communications payloads. It is not known who owns SpaceBEE.

 ISIS-BV reported 23 of the cubesats used the QuadPack deployers. These included Picsat, StepCubeLab,
  KAUSAT, CNUSAIL, CANYVAL, Dove, Lemur; it's not clear which 2 cubesats used a different deployer.

 As of Jan 14, objects T and U in Space-Track appear to be the PS4 stage and Microsat-TD (since they are in the
 lower orbit). However, it is not unlikely the catalog numbers will be shuffled.

 If anyone wants to own up to being the owner of SpaceBEE or DemoSat-2, please contact me!

USA 281

ULA launched a Delta 4 from Vandenberg on Jan 12 on behalf of the US National Reconnaissance Office.
Launch NROL-47 placed the secret USA 281 satellite in a 1050 km retrograde orbit; the satellite
is believed to be a TOPAZ radar imaging vehicle. The Delta 4 second stage was deorbited after
payload separation and did not get a US catalog number.


China's third LKW imaging satellite was launched into a 1330 LTDN sun-synchronous orbit
on Jan 13, 45 degrees from the orbital plane of LKW-1 and 2.


NOAA's GOES 13 weather satellite was launched in 2006 and has served
at 75 deg W as the GOES East operational satellite since Apr 2010,
returning images of Atlantic area weather. GOES 16, launched in 2016,
took up GOES East duties in December; GOES 13 was moved off station
on Jan 11 and is drifting east, probably to a reserve location.


The Swift satellite, launched in 2004 to study gamma ray bursts,
was renamed the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory on Jan 10 to honor
the late Neil Gehrels (1952-2017), who was the mission's originator
and principal investigator.


The Tsubame low orbit satellite launched on Dec 23 has begun testing
its propulsion system. Its apogee was lowered by 20 km in 2 burns
on Jan 13 and 15, leaving it in a 456 x 608 km orbit. Initial low operational
orbit is expected to be 268 x 268 km.


On Jan 6 the Afristar satellite's orbit was raised to the GEO graveyard,
at 36114 x 36176 km x 3.7 deg. The satellite was retired after 20 years
service at the 21.0E location. Originally used by Noah Samara's
Worldspace for digital pan-African distribution  of local African radio
content, it was repurposed in 2010  for Samara's Yazmi online education
company and then sold on in 2017 to CMMB/Hong Kong's Silkwave
broadcasting operator, now part of CMMB Vision.

Table of Recent Orbital Launches 
Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle        Site            Mission       INTL.   Catalog  Perigee Apogee  Incl   Notes
Dec  2 1043   Kosmos-2524             Soyuz-2-1B        Plesetsk LC43/4  Sigint       76A   S43032   245 x   900 x 67.1
Dec  3 0411   LKW-1                   Chang Zheng 2D    Jiuquan LC603    Imaging      77A   S43034   478 x   592 x 97.5 1030LT SSO
Dec  6 1924   Lemur-2-YongLin                         SS Cernan, LEO     AIS/Weather  71E?  S43041?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Lemur-2-Kevin                                              AIS/Weather  71F?  S43042?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              CHEFSat                                                    Tech         71G?  S43043?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Aerocube 7B                                                Tech         71H?  S43044?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Aerocube 7C                                                Tech         71J?  S43045?  449 x   454 x 51.6
Dec  6 2240   Lemur-2-BrianDavie                      SS Cernan, LEO     AIS/Weather  71K?  S43046?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Lemur-2-RomaCoste                                          AIS/Weather  71L?  S43047?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              PropCube Fauna                                             Tech         71M?  S43048?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Asgardia 1                                                 Tech         71N?  S43049?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              ISARA                                                      Tech         71P?  S43050?  449 x   454 x 51.6
Dec  7 0200   Lemur-2-RocketJonah                     SS Cernan, LEO     AIS/Weather  71Q?  S43051?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Lemur-2-Liu-Poh-Chun                                       AIS/Weather  71R?  S43052?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Lemur-2-McCullagh                                          AIS/Weather  71S?  S43053?  449 x   454 x 51.6
              Lemur-2-Dunlop                                             AIS/Weather  71T?  S43054?  449 x   454 x 51.6
Dec 10 1640   Alcomsat 1              Chang Zheng 3B    Xichang LC2      Comms        78A   S43039   180 x 41795 x 26.4
Dec 12 1836   GalileoSat 19 )         Ariane 5ES        Kourou ELA3      Navigation   79A   S43055 22818 x 22922 x 57.0
              GalileoSat 20 )                                            Navigation   79B   S43056 22906 x 23046 x 57.0
              GalileoSat 21 )                                            Navigation   79C   S43057 22905 x 23172 x 57.2
              GalileoSat 22 )                                            Navigation   79D   S43058 22903 x 22911 x 56.9
Dec 15 1536   Dragon CRS-13           Falcon 9          Canaveral LC40   Cargo        80A   S43060   204 x   356 x 51.6
Dec 17 0721   Soyuz MS-07             Soyuz-FG          Baykonur LC1     Spaceship    81A   S43063   185 x   238 x 51.6
Dec 23 0126   Shikisai )              H2A 202           Tanegashima      Imaging      82A   S43065   790 x   793 x 98.7 1015LT SSO
              Tsubame  )                                                 Tech         82B   S43066   470 x   655 x 98.7 
Dec 23 0127   Iridium SV116           Falcon 9          Vandenberg SLC4E Comms        83C   S43072   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV130                                              Comms        83D   S43073   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV131                                              Comms        83K   S43079   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV134                                              Comms        83F   S43075   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV135                                              Comms        83A   S43070   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV137                                              Comms        83G   S43076   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV138                                              Comms        83B   S43071   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV141                                              Comms        83H   S43077   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV151                                              Comms        83E   S43074   609 x   626 x  86.7
              Iridium SV153                                              Comms        83J   S43078   609 x   626 x  86.7
Dec 23 0414   LKW-2                   Chang Zheng 2D    Jiuquan          Imaging      84A   S43080   492 x   511 x  97.5 1033 LT SSO
Dec 25 1944   Yaogan-30 03 zu 01 xing) Chang Zheng 2C   Xichang          Sigint       85A   S43081   589 x   604 x  35.0
              Yaogan-30 03 zu 02 xing)                                   Sigint       85B   S43082   589 x   604 x  35.0
              Yaogan-30 03 zu 03 xing)                                   Sigint       85C   S43083   589 x   604 x  35.0
Dec 26 1900   Angosat                 Zenit-3F          Baykonur LC45    Comms        86A   S43087 35962 x 36118 x   0.1
Jan  8 0100   Zuma (USA 280)          Falcon 9          Canaveral LC40   Radar?       01A   S43098  1000?x  1000?x  50.0
Jan  9 0324   Gaojing-1 03 )          Chang Zheng 2D    Taiyuan          Imaging      02A   S43099   523 x   536 x  97.6
              Gaojing-1 04 )                                             Imaging      02B   S43100   510 x   529 x  97.6
Jan 11 2318   Beidou DW 26  )         Chang Zheng 3B    Xichang          Navigation   03A   S43107 21538 x 22194 x  55.0 
              Beidou DW 27  )                                            Navigation   03B   S43108 21543 x 22194 x  55.0
Jan 12 0359   Cartosat 2ER    )       PSLV-XL          Satish Dhawan FLP Imaging      04A?  S43111   495 x   510 x  97.6
              INS-1C          )                                          Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              LEO Vantage 1   )                                          Comms        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              ICEYE-X1        )                                          Radar        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              VividX2         )                                          Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Arkyd-6A        )                                          Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              CICERO 7        )                                          Weather      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Landmapper-BC3  )                                          Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              PICSAT          )                                          Astronomy    04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Tyvak-61C       )                                          Astronomy    04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              CANYVAL-X1/X2   )                                          Tech         04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              CNUSail-1       )                                          Tech         04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              STEP Cube Lab   )                                          Tech         04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              KAUSAT-5        )                                          Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              KHUSAT-3        )                                          Tech         04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Fox-1D          )                                          Comms        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Micromas-2A     )                                          Science      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              DemoSat-2       )                                          Comms        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              SpaceBEE-1      )                                          Comms        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              SpaceBEE-2      )                                          Comms        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              SpaceBEE-3      )                                          Comms        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              SpaceBEE-4      )                                          Comms        04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Lemur-2-PW        )                                        AIS/Weather  04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Lemur-2-DaveWilson)                                        AIS/Weather  04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Lemur-2-McCafferty)                                        AIS/Weather  04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Lemur-2-BrownCow  )                                        AIS/Weather  04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Flock 3p'-1       )                                        Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Flock 3p'-2       )                                        Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Flock 3p'-3       )                                        Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Flock 3p'-4       )                                        Imaging      04             495 x   508 x  97.6
              Microsat-TD     )                                          Imaging      04T?  S43128   346 x   371 x  96.9
Jan 12 2211   USA 281                 Delta 4M+(5,2)    Vandenberg SLC6  Radar        05A   S43145  1052 x  1053 x 106.0
Jan 13 0710   Ludi Kancha Weixing 3   Chang Zheng 2D    Jiuquan          Imaging      06A   S43146   496 x   506 x  97.3

Table of Recent Suborbital Launches

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

Dec 12 1659   New Shepard CC2   New Shepard        West Texas            Test           99       West Texas
Dec 19        RV/Warhead        Burkan 2H          Sa'dah                Weapon        150?      Riyadh
Dec 26 0330?  RV                Topol'-E?          Kapustin Yar          Test         1000?      Balkhash?

|  Jonathan McDowell                 |                                    |
|  Somerville MA 02143               |  inter : planet4589 at gmail       |
|  USA                               |  twitter: @planet4589              |
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