Current Issue

[For STOP PRESS edition click HERE]

Jonathan's Space Report
No. 833                                                        2024 May 21   Somerville, MA

International Space Station

Expedition 71 continues.

Spacewalk ISS VKD-62 (Expedition 71) was carried out on 2024 Apr 25
by  Kononenko and Chub in suits MKS-5 and MKS-4. The crew
removed an experiment platform from the airlock and stowed it
outside, then translated to the nadir of the Nauka
module to adjust the Napor-miniRSA antenna panel and get some 'Test' swab samples.
Next at Poisk, the Biorisk-MSN1 container 2 was retrieved.
An RK-21-8 adapter was removed from the URM-D workstation on
Zvezda plane 2 and transferred to Poisk; the experiment
platform and the adapter were installed on the side of Poisk
opposite from the EVA hatch.  The astronauts adjusted
the orientation of the BKDO device.

Next, the crew took the Kvartz-M and TKK-KM (Perspektiva) units
from the airlock and installed them on the just-installed adapter.
After connecting cabling to the new units, they returned
to the airlock.

Hatch open time was 4h36 m (1457 UTC to 1933 UTC); depressurized time
was 4h 55m.

On Apr 26 at 0235 UTC Progress MS-26, which is docked at the Zvezda aft
port, fired its engines for a 0.6 m/s, 403s burn to reboost the
station's orbit by 1 km.

Dragon CRS-30 undocked from IDA-3 at 0043 UTC on Apr 30 and landed in the Tampa recovery zone
in the Gulf of Mexico at 0538 UTC Apr 30. The trunk was jettisoned prior
to deorbit, probably in a 196 x 379 km orbit.

Dragon Endeavour, with Crew-8 aboard, undocked from IDA-2 at 1257 UTC
May 2 and redocked with IDA-3 at 1346 UTC.

Chinese Space Station

Shenzhou 18 was launched on Apr 25 at 1259 UTC  with a crew of three: Ye Guangfu, Li Guangsu
and Li Cong. The ship docked with the nadir port on Tianhe at 1932 UTC.

The previous crew of Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin boarded Shenzhou 17
for the trip home on Apr 29. Shenzhou 17 undocked from the Tianhe forward port
at 0043 UTC Apr 30. The orbital module was jettisoned at 0856 UTC prior to the
deorbit burn at 0857 UTC. The propulsion module was jettisoned at 0920 UTC, with reentry
at 0928 UTC. Shenzhou 17 landed at the Dongfeng landing site at 0946:08 UTC Apr 30.


Two EU Galileo navigation satellites FOC FM 25 and FM 27 (GSAT0225 and
GSAT0227), were launched on a Falcon 9 on Apr 28 from Kennedy Space
Center. The first stage, on its 20th flight, was expended in the
Atlantic Ocean. The first burn of the second stage reached a 168 x 23176
km x 54.7 deg transfer orbit, and its second burn circularized the orbit
at 22928 x 22985 km x 54.7 deg.

The launch was rather secretive with no information available about the
launch profile (number and timing of burns), rather pointlessly as one
can reconstruct that info fairly well from the Space Force orbital data.
As far as I can tell, the EU also did not release any photos of the
satellites during launch prep. The secrecy seems likely to be associated
with political embarrassment that Europe had to turn to SpaceX for a
launch opportunity following the delays to Ariane 6, and therefore deserves
to be ridiculed.


Starlink Group 6-54 (23 sats) was launched from Canaveral on Apr 28.
Starlink Group 6-55 (23 sats) was launched from Canaveral on May 3.
Starlink Group 6-57 (23 sats) was launched from Canaveral on May 6.
Starlink Group 6-56 (23 sats) was launched from Kennedy on May 8.
Starlink Group 8-2 (20 sats) was launched from Vandenberg on May 10.
Starlink Group 6-58 (23 sats) was launched from Canaveral on May 13.
Starlink Group 8-7 (20 sats) was launched from Vandenberg on May 14.
Starlink Group 6-59 (23 sats) was launched from Canaveral on May 18.

SAST launches

SAST launched the first Chang Zheng 6C from Taiyuan on May 7,
putting two radar satellites and two small optical imaging satellites in orbit.
The venting upper stage left a long trail in the sky seen from the US Midwest.

Haiwangxing-01 is an X-band radar satellite operated by Zhihui Kongjian Jishu YG (Ningbo) .
Zhixing-1C is another X-band radar satellite operated by Zhixing Kongjian Keji YG (Beijing).
The optical satellites, a wide field of view sat and a high res video sat, are operated
by the Harbin Inst. of Technology.

SAST launched a CZ-4C from Jiuquan on May 11, placing the experimental satellite Shiyan 23 in a
600 km, 06:00 LTDN sun-synch orbit. The CZ-4C upper stage made a small perigee lowering burn
at 0013 UTC May 12, changing the rocket stage's orbit from 592 x 601 km to 449 x 596 km.

SAST launched a CZ-2D from Taiyuan on May 20, placing four Beijing-3C imaging satellites in
orbit for 21AT Co. Ltd to 1015 LTDN SSO.

CAST launches

CAST launched a CZ-3B from Xichang on May 9 with two Zhihui Tianwang 1-01 
internet satellites reportedly to be placed in a 20000 km orbit. The high altitude
venting of the third stage was visible as a comet like object over much of the Americas.
The satellites are operated by Qingshen Keji Fazhan YG of Shanghai.

The third stage is in a 210 x 20771 km x 53.0 deg orbit; as of May 17 no orbit data have been released
for the payloads.


Maxar's WorldView Legion 1 and 2 commercial imaging satellites were launched on a Falcon 9 on May 2.


China launched the Chang'e-6 lunar probe on May 3 on a translunar trajectory. Chang'e-6 is planned
to be the first mission to return rock samples from the lunar farside to the Earth.

Chang'e-6 entered a 200 x 8600 km lunar orbit at 0212 UTC May 8.
The Pakistani ICUBE-Q cubesat was ejected from Chang'e-6 at 0814 UTC May 8.

Axiom-3 Trunk

The Dragon Axiom Ax-3 flight visited the ISS and was launched on 2024
Jan 18 and landed on Feb 9. It jettisoned its trunk section into a 233 x
393 km orbit on Feb 9 just before it deorbited itself. That trunk
section, catalog 58953, reentered at 1117 UTC on Feb 26 over
Saskatchewan. In late April a large (about 50 kg) piece of the trunk
was discovered in a field near Ituna, Saskatchewan. This event is
reminiscent of the impact on 2022 Jul 8 of another large trunk piece
from the Crew-1 Dragon mission on a farm in Dalgety, New South Wales,
and confirms that the trunks do not fully `demise' (burn up) on reentry.

Kosmos launch

On May 16 Russia launched a Soyuz-2-1B/Fregat from Plesetsk to a 1300
LTDN sun-sync orbit carrying a Minisrty of Defense satellite and a set of commercial
rideshare payloads. The Soyuz-2-1B Blok-I stage was suborbital
and impacted the Pacific near  128W 27N at about 2150 UTC. 

The Fregat stage circularized the orbit at 440 km, and deployed a
satellite with the cover name Kosmos-2576. It is suspected to be
Nivelir-L No. 4, an inspector satellite, and its mission may be to
shadow a US NRO satellite, USA 314, which is in the same orbital plane.

Next, possibly at 0320 UTC May 17, the Fregat made two burns to move to
a higher 780 km orbit to deploy three Byuro 1440 'Rassvet-2' internet
satellites with 5G comm relay and intersatellite links, 

Following that, possibly at 0502 UTC May 17, Fregat made two more burns
to lower orbit to 550 km and deployed  two 12U Zorkiy-2M  imaging
cubesats and four 3U SITRO-AIS cubesats for the Sputnix company,

Bob Christy ( forwarded me a NOTAM which indicates that
the Fregat was then deorbited over the Indian Ocean at about 0730 UTC May 17.

Kosmos-2553 and the Russian Space Nuclear Weapon program

In February US officials began talking about an alleged weapons
development program by Russia involving detonating a nuclear weapon in
space (something that was last done in 1962 by both the US and USSR, and
is now generally considered to be a Bad Idea.) There were hints that a
test satellite related to  this program, although not actually carrying
nukes, had been launched.

On May 4 the State Dept.'s Mallory Stewart gave a speech with a handful
of additional details of the test satellite that the US is worried
about: `orbit not used by any other spacecraft', `region of higher
radiation but not high enough to allow accelerated [radiation exposure
testing] as Russia has claimed'. As first pointed out on social media by
Pavel Podvig of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project (,
this makes it clear that the satellite in question is Kosmos-2553.

The Russian Defense Ministry satellite codenamed Kosmos-2553 was
launched on 2022 Feb 5 by Soyuz-2-1a from Plesetsk and placed in an
unusual 1996 km high orbit at the top edge of LEO. The orbit has an
inclination of 67.1 degrees, a frequently used slot for Plesetsk-based
military launches to lower orbits. The satellite made some small ( less
than 1 km ) orbit adjustments until 2022 Jun 3, and none thereafter.

Kosmos-2553 is generally suspected to be the NPOMash 14A01 Neitron radar
satellite, the successor to the Kondor program whose satellites flew in
much lower 500 km orbits. It is not clear what (classified) evidence the
US has that would make them think this satellite is related to a nuclear
weapons program.

Table of Recent Orbital Launches

Date UT       Name			     Launch Vehicle	 Site		 Mission  INTL.  Catalog  Perigee Apogee  Incl	 Notes
Apr 10 0540   Starlink Group 6-48               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    68    284 x 292 x 43.0
Apr 11 0900   GMM KA                            Angara A5/Orion         Vostochniy 1A      Tech     69A 36051 x 36470 x 0.1
              Gagarinets                                                                   Tech     69B  196 x 450 x 51.7
              Dummy cubesat                                                                Tech     69C  196 x 450 x 51.7
Apr 11 0905   CURTIS                                                   ISS, LEO            Tech  98067WF 413 x 420 x 51.6
Apr 11 1035   Kashiwa                                                  ISS, LEO            Tech  98067WG 413 x 420 x 51.6
              MicroOrbiter-1                                                               Tech  98067WH 413 x 420 x 51.6
Apr 11 1425   WSF-M SV1                         Falcon 9                Vandenberg SLC4E   Weather  70A  819 x 828 x 98.7
Apr 13 0140   Starlink Group 6-49               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    71   283 x 291 x 43.0
Apr 15 0412   Siwei Gaojing 3-01                Chang Zheng 2D          Jiuquan            Imaging  72A  489 x 503 x 97.5
Apr 17 2126   Starlink Group 6-51               Falcon 9                Kennedy LC39A      Comms    73   284 x 292 x 43.0
Apr 18 1126   Snoopi                                                   ISS, LEO          Science 98067WJ   407  x 413 x 51.6
              BurstCube                                                                   Astron 98067WK
Apr 18 1136   HyTI                                                                       Imaging 98067WL
Apr 18 1755   Killick-1                                                                  Science 98067WM
              QMSAT                                                                      Tech    98067WN
              Violet                                                                     Science 98067WP
Apr 18 1805   BigRedSat                                                                  Tech    98067WQ
Apr 18 2240   Starlink Group 6-52               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    74   284 x 292 x 43.0
Apr 20 2345   Yaogan 42-02                      Chang Zheng 2D          Xichang         Imaging?    75A  491 x 502 x 35.0
Apr 23 2217   Starlink Group 6-53               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    76   284 x 292 x 43.0
Apr 23 2232   NeonSat-1                         Electron                Mahia 1B         Imaging    77A  517 x 541 x 97.4
              ACS3                                                                        Tech      77B  998 x 1028 x 97.4
Apr 25 1259   Shenzhou 18                       Chang Zheng 2F          Jiuquan         Spaceship   78A  196 x 336 x 41.5 
Apr 28 0034   Galileo FOC FM25                  Falcon 9                Kennedy LC39A     Nav       79A 22928 x 22985 x 54.7
              Galileo FOC FM27                                                            Nav       79B
Apr 28 2208   Starlink Group 6-54               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    80   284 x 292 x 43.0
May  2 1836   WorldView Legion 1                Falcon 9                Vandenberg SLC4E   Imaging  81A  515 x 521 x 97.6
              WorldView Legion 2                                                           Imaging  81B  514 x 518 x 97.6
May  3 0237   Starlink Group 6-55               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    82A  284 x 292 x 43.0
May  3 0927   Chang'e-6                         Chang Zheng 5           Wenchang LC101  Lunar probe 83A  267 x 386843 x 24.5
May  6 1636   Starlink Group 6-57               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    84A  284 x 292 x 43.0
May  7 0321   Haiwangxing-01                    Chang Zheng 6C          Taiyuan            Radar    85A  491 x 510 x 97.4
              Zhixing-1C                                                                   Radar    85B  491 x 510 x 97.4
              Kuanfu Guangxue                                                              Imaging  85C
              Gaofen Shipin                                                                Imaging  85D
May  8 1842   Starlink Group 6-56               Falcon 9                Kennedy LC39A      Comms    86   312 x 320 x 43.0
May  9 0143   Zhihui Tianwang 1-01A             Chang Zheng 3B          Xichang            Comms    87A  210 x 20773 x 53.2
              Zhihui Tianwang 1-01B                                                        Comms    87B
May 10 0430   Starlink Group 8-2                Falcon 9                Vandenberg SLC4E   Comms    88   285 x 295 x 53.2
May 11 2343   Shiyan 23                         Chang Zheng 4C          Jiuquan            Tech     89A  591 x 601 x 97.8
May 13 0053   Starlink Group 6-58               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    90   284 x 292 x 43.0
May 14 1839   Starlink Group 8-7                Falcon 9                Vandenberg SLC4E   Comms    91   284 x 296 x 53.2
May 16 2121   Kosmos-2576                       Soyuz-2-1B/Fregat       Plesetsk LC43/4    Imaging  92A  435 x 451 x 97.3
              SITRO-AIS-53                                                                 Comms    92   535 x 552 x 97.6
              SITRO-AIS-54                                                                 Comms    92   535 x 552 x 97.6
              SITRO-AIS-55                                                                 Comms    92   535 x 552 x 97.6
              SITRO-AIS-56                                                                 Comms    92   535 x 552 x 97.6
              Zorkiy-2M No. 4                                                              Imaging  92   535 x 552 x 97.6
              Zorkiy-2M No. 6                                                              Imaging  92   535 x 552 x 97.6
              Rassvet-2 No. 1                                                              Comms    92   793 x 797 x 98.6
              Rassvet-2 No. 2                                                              Comms    92   793 x 797 x 98.6
              Rassvet-2 No. 3                                                              Comms    92   793 x 797 x 98.6
May 18 0032   Starlink Group 6-59               Falcon 9                Canaveral LC40     Comms    93   284 x 292 x 43.0
May 20 0306   Beijing-3C 01                     Chang Zheng 2D          Taiyuan            Imaging  94   489 x 503 x 97.5
              Beijing-3C 02                                                                Imaging  94
              Beijing-3C 03                                                                Imaging  94
              Beijing-3C 04                                                                Imaging  94

Table of Recent Suborbital Launches 

New Shepard NS-25 flew on May 19 with space travellers  688 Ken Hess,
689 Carol Schaller, 690 Sylvain Chiron, 691 Ed Dwight, 692 Gopi
Thotakura, and 693 Mason Angel. Liftoff was at 1435:18 UTC and flight
time was 9m 44s. On descent, only two of three parachutes fully inflated
but touchdown was safely achieved.

Date UT       Payload           Rocket              Site                 Mission       Apogee    Target

Apr 12 1600?  Yars-E RV         Topol'-ME           Kapustin Yar         Test         1000?      Sary Shagan
Apr 13 2300?  Warheads          Emad? (many)        Iran                 Weapon        300?      Israel
Apr 13 2300?  Warheads          Kheibar Shekan?     Iran                 Weapon        300?      Israel
Apr 13 2300?  Warheads          Dezful?             Yemen?               Weapon        300?      Israel
Apr 13 2300?  Warheads          Ghadr-110?          Iran                 Weapon        300?      Israel
                                (total 110 Iran ballistic missile launches on Apr 14?)
Apr 13 2330?  Aegis KV          SM-3                DDG-51, E. Med.      Interceptor   100?      Intercept Iranian missiles
Apr 13 2330?  Aegis KV          SM-3                DDG-51, E. Med.      Interceptor   100?      Intercept Iranian missiles
Apr 13 2330?  Aegis KV          SM-3                DDG-64, E. Med.      Interceptor   100?      Intercept Iranian missiles
Apr 13 2330?  Aegis KV          SM-3                DDG-64, E. Med.      Interceptor   100?      Intercept Iranian missiles
Apr 17 2213   FOXSI-4           Black Brant 9       Poker Flat           Solar X-ray   300?      PFRR Alaska
Apr 17 2214   Hi-C FLARE        Black Brant 9       Poker Flat           Solar X-ray   300?      PFRR Alaska
May  5 0332   CIBER-2 F3        Black Brant 9       White Sands          IR Astron     300?      White Sands
May 19 1435   NS-25             New Shepard         West Texas           Tourist flight 107      West Texas

|  Jonathan McDowell                 |                                    |
|  Somerville MA 02143               |  inter : planet4589 at gmail       |
|  USA                               |  twitter: @planet4589              |
|                                                                         |
| JSR:                                 |
| Back issues:                  |
| Subscribe/unsub:         |