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Launches and Orbital Operations


Tyneside, UK
2020 Apr 2
Thursday, Day 93

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Cleared The Tower!

This page looks back one month at launches, plus on-orbit and re-entry or landing events of satellites and spacecraft.

Dates and times are in UTC and are derived from a mix of open sources and private contacts within the industry. Notes are prepared through a combination of research and information released by satellite owners, operators and manufacturers, space agencies and launch service providers.

Nothing from this web page may be reproduced without express permission from the site owner who can be contacted via the mail icon on this page - see Copyright Notice at the foot of the page.

DARPA Challenge Launch #1
Rocket 3.0, Kodiak Island Spaceport, Alaska
2020 Mar 2, 20:30 UTC
Launch aimed at 450 km sun-synchronous orbit with LTDN 10:00, and undertaken by Astra inc in response to the DARPA Launch Challenge. Postponed from Feb 25 as a result of adverse weather in the launch area. Further delay from Feb 28 because of technical issue during countdown test. On the day, a technical issue forced launch postponement 52s before attempted launch at 20:55 UTC. It was not fixed by the end of a three hour window that closed at 23:30 UTC meaning that Astra had failed the Challenge. Was to carry three payloads in a single 3U P-POD dispenser. Prometheus 1.5U Cubesat carrying a Department of Defense tactical communications system. ARCE-1 (Articulated Reconnaissance and Communications Expedition 1) Two 0.5U Cubesats from the University of South Florida equipped to test autonomous inter-satellite communications for use in future large constellations. A further payload would have remained attached to the outside of the P-POD cubesat dispenser: SOARS (Space Object Automated Reporting System) Carries a radio beacon and transmitter to test passing of information to automated ground-based receivers.


SpaceX Dragon CRS-20 Launch
Falcon 9, Kennedy SC
2020 Mar 7, 04:49 UTC
Supplies to ISS, plus cargo return. Orbit notes: https://www.zarya.info/2020#016


SpaceX Dragon CRS-20 Arrival
ISS, on orbit
2020 Mar 9, 10:25 UTC
Capture using RMS under control of ISS crew, 35 min ahead of schedule. Docked under ground control with downward facing port of Unity module at 12:18 UTC. Orbit notes: https://www.zarya.info/2020#016


Beidou-3 G-3 Launch
CZ 3B, Xichang SC, China
2020 Mar 9, 11:55 UTC
Successful launch to GEO transfer orbit of Phase 2 operational satellite in China's navigation satellite system. Orbit notes: https://www.zarya.info/2020#017


TJS 6 Launch
2020 Mar 16, 12:42 UTC
Government/military satellite - probably either a SIGINT (signals intelligence) or a missile early warning mission. Aimed at geosynchronous transfer orbit. First use of 7A version of the launch vehicle that uses. the same re-startable cryogenic second stage as the CZ 3B. Failed to reach orbit.


Cosmos 2545 (GLONASS-M) Launch
Soyuz-2 1B + Fregat-M, Plesetsk SC
2020 Mar 16, 18:28 UTC
Navigation satellite fill a gap in the constellation as a replacement for a failed satellite in Plane 3. Third stage of the Soyuz launch vehicle re-entered naturally above the southern Pacific Ocean, in an area south of Australasia, about 55 min after lift-off. The Fregat-M took the satellite to initially to LEO and then via a transfer orbit, to MEO. Orbit details: https://www.zarya.info/2020#018


SS Alan Bean (Cygnus NG-12) Re-entry
Southern part of Pacific Ocean
2020 Mar 17, 23:30 UTC
(Approximate time)
Follows retro-fire 30-40 mins earlier. Opportunities for re-entry exist one orbit before and after this time, at around 21:55 UTC and Mar 18 around 01:05 UTC. Originally planned for Mar 2 but, at the last moment, Northrop-Grumman opted to extend the mission by up to one month.


Starlink v1.0 Launch 5
Falcon 9 Block 5, Kennedy SC, USA
2020 Mar 18, 12:16 UTC
Cluster of 60 broadband communications satellites for SpaceX. Aimed at 450 km orbit, 53° inclination. https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/s/starlink Reserve date & time Mar 19, ~11:56 UTC. Launch delayed 24 hr from Mar 14 then lauch attempt Mar 15 called off at engine ignition due to an erroneous sensor reading. The upper stage of the Falcon 9 was caused to enter the Earth's atmosphere after less than one circuit of the Earth and about 80 minutes after lift-off. Any surviving fragments from its destructive re-entry impacted the mid-western part of the Pacific Ocean. Orbit notes: https://www.zarya.info/2020#019


ISS - Orbit Adjustment
ISS, on orbit
2020 Mar 19, 15:44 UTC
Thrusters of Progress MS-13 fired for 534 seconds to provide Δv 0.58 m/s and raise the ISS orbit height by 1.09 km. First of a two-part manoeuvre to set up the ISS ground track to allow the most efficient trajectories to be used for the upcoming Soyuz MS-15 return to Earth and Soyuz MS-16 launch.


OneWeb Launch 3
Soyuz-2 1B + Fregat, Baikonur SC, Russia
2020 Mar 21, 17:06 UTC
Precise launch time - 17:06:58 UTC. Cluster of 34 satellites for the OneWeb constellation of broadband distribution satellites. https://oneweb.world/technology Aimed at 1200km orbit, 88° inclination. Reserve dates Mar 22 - Mar 24. Orbit notes: https://www.zarya.info/2020#020 Roscosmos TV coverage from 16:40 UTC: https://www.roscosmos.ru/28213/


Yaogan-30 06 Launch
CZ 2C, Xichang SC, China
2020 Mar 24, 03:43 UTC
Three satellites - numbers 16, 17 & 18 in the constellation. Described as being for "electromagnetic environment detection and related technological tests”. That may indicate they are electronic intelligence gathering satellites. The three satellites will be manoeuvred to positions at 120º intervals around the orbit. Orbit notes: https://www.zarya.info/2020#021


POSTPONED - Astra rocket launch
Rocket 3.0, Kodiak Island Spaceport, Alaska
2020 Mar 24, 20:00 UTC
(Approximate time)
Launch of Astra's Rocket 3.0 with a dummy satellite. Using launch vehicle for the cancelled DARPA Challenge mission of Mar 2. Launch postponed from Mar 24 due to launch vehicle technical problem, rumoured to be due to an explosion one day before planned lift off.


AEHF 6 Launch
Atlas V 551, CCAFS, USA
2020 Mar 26, 20:18 UTC
Advanced Extremely High Frequency military communications satellite to delivered to GEO transfer orbit. Launch vehicle also carried TDO-2, a 12U Cubesat (4x3), possibly equipped with laser retro-reflectors for visual tracking. Purpose - calibration of laser-based tracking equipment on the ground. Time was within a two hour launch window that opened at 18:57 UTC. Dela from window opening was caused by a problem in an item of ground equipment. Mar 10 - date pushed back from Mar 19 because of an "off nominal valve reading" somewhere within the launch vehicle. Launch and orbit notes: https://www.zarya.info/2020#022 AEHF notes: https://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/advanced-extremely-high-frequency-aehf/ Launch profile from ULA: https://www.ulalaunch.com/docs/default-source/launch-booklets/aehf6_mob_social.pdf Satellites in geosynchronous orbit: https://www.zarya.info/Diaries/Launches/GeoSS/geo-age.php


ISS - Orbit Adjustment
ISS, on orbit
2020 Apr 2, 12:41 UTC
Thrusters of Progress MS-13 will fire for 427.5 seconds to provide Δv 0.46 m/s and raise the orbit height by about 0.9 km. Second leg of a two-part manoeuvre to set up the ISS ground track to allow the most efficient trajectories to be used for the upcoming Soyuz MS-15 return to Earth and the Progress MS-14 and Soyuz MS-16 launches.



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