Shuttle mission STS-67 was launched on Mar 2 at 0638:14 UT. On Mar 11 it was in a 91.6 min, 341 x 360 km x 28.5 deg orbit. Astro 2 is the fifth EDO (Extended Duration Orbiter) flight and the eighteenth Spacelab mission. Crew of STS-67 are Commander Steve Oswald, Pilot William Gregory, Payload Commander Tamara Jernigan, Mission Specialists Wendy Lawrence and John Grunsfeld, and Payload Specialists Ron Parise (Computer Sciences Corp) and Sam Durrance (Johns Hopkins University). Endeavour landed on the concrete Edwards runway 22 at 2147:00 on 1995 Mar 18, ending the longest Shuttle mission yet. Duration was 16 days 15 hr 8 min 47 sec. Processing of Discovery for STS-70 and Atlantis for STS-71 continues; it seems likely that STS-70 will fly first because of the delays in the Mir program.
Progress M-26 docked with the Kvant port on Mir at 1821 UT on Feb 17. Soyuz TM-21 (spacecraft 11F732 no. 70) was launched at 0611:34 on 1995 Mar 14. Soyuz TM-21 carries the EO-18 crew. The commander is the Russian Air Force cosmonaut Vladmir Dezhurov. Flight engineer is experienced RKK Energiya cosmonaut Gennadiy Strekalov. The third member of the EO-18 crew is Dr. Norman Thagard, a NASA astronaut. Soyuz docked with Mir at 0745:26 UTC on Mar 16. The Progress M-26 cargo craft undocked on Mar 15 at 0226:38 and deorbited itself over the Pacific at 0528 UT.
The Soyuz TM-20 spaceship landed 22 km northeast of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan at 0404 UT on 1995 Mar 22. It carried cosmonauts Viktorenko, Kondakova and Polyakov home from the Mir complex. Soyuz TM-20 was launched on 1994 Oct 3 with Viktorenko, Kondakova and Merbold, and its flight duration was 169 days 5 hr 22 min. Launch of Progress M-27 was carried out on Apr 9 at 1934 UTC, and the Progress docked with the Mir complex on Apr 11 at 2300 UTC.
Three Uragan class navigation satellites built by AKO Polyot were launched on Mar 7 to become part of the Glonass system. According to the Russian Space Forces, the satellites are Glonass numbers 765, 766 and 777. The satellites are in 12-hour, 19000 km high orbits.
Kosmos-2306 was launched on Mar 2 into a 94.5 min, 469 x 516 km x 65.8 deg orbit. It appears to be a calibration satellite of the Kosmos-816 type, which releases a series of small objects at intervals, to act as calibration targets for the radars of the Space Forces or the Air Defense. Four such objects were released on Mar 6.
Japan's NASDA space agency launched the third H-II launch vehicle from Tanegashima on Mar 17. Launch was at 0801 UTC, deploying the SFU (Space Flyer Unit) satellite at 2014 and at 2028 the second payload, Geostationary Meteorological Satellite 5, separated into a 329 x 36669 x 28.5 deg orbit. The SFU will carry out materials processing, technology and astronomy experiments, and will be retrieved by the STS-72 mission in December. GMS-5 (renamed Himawari or "Sunflower") carries a Star 27 solid motor which was used to place it in geostationary orbit.
Foton 10 landed on Mar 3, 135 km SE of Orenburg in Russia. The descent cabin was later severely damaged when it was dropped from the helicopter carrying it back for deintegration; many of the experiments were destroyed.
Kosmos-2310, launched Mar 22 into a 105.02 min, 980 x 1010 km x 82.9 deg orbit from Plesetsk, is a Parus type navigation satellite for the Russian Navy. Kosmos-2311, launched Mar 22 from Plesetsk into a 89.54 min, 169 x 334 km x 67.1 deg orbit, is a Yantar' class reconnaissance satellite. It is expected to remain in service for a little over two months.
The last Atlas E was launched on Mar 24 from Space Launch Complex 3-West at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Atlas E launch vehicles were refurbished intercontinental ballistic missiles which had been built in the early 1960s. Atlas 45E carried an Air Force DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) satellite into space.
Three satellites were lost when a Russian launch vehicle fell in the Sea of Okhotsk on Mar 28. The five-stage Start launch vehicle, which took off from Plesetsk, is based on the Nadiradze bureau's three stage Topol' ballistic missile. A four stage Start-1 variant successfully placed a test satellite in orbit in Mar 1993. According to Maxim Tarasenko, apparently there are actually six stages including a small kick motor to circularize the orbit. The failure was in the fourth stage, and the fifth stage never got a chance to fire. The debris impacted eastern Russia.
The two commercial payloads on the Start were Gurwin-1 and UNAMSAT. The Start also carried a prototype satellite, the EKA (Eksperimental'niy Kosmicheskiy Apparat). Gurwin-1, also known as Techsat, was built by the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel. UNAMSAT was an AMSAT Microsat class amateur radio satellite built by UNAM, the Autonomous University of Mexico.
The Ariane launch vehicle returned to flight on Mar 28, following a failure last December. It successfully placed in geostationary transfer orbit two communications satellites, Eutelsat Hot Bird 1 and Brasilsat B2. Hot Bird 1, an Aerospatiale-built Spacebus 2000 satellite, is also known as Eutelsat II F-6. Brasilsat B2 is the second HS-376W, a wide diameter variant of the classic Hughes HS-376 comsat.
On March 22, Lockheed Martin's Atlas IIAS launch vehicle flight AC-115 took off from LC36B at Cape Canaveral and placed a Space Systems/Loral FS-1300 class communications satellite in orbit for INTELSAT, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization. Intelsat 705 will be placed over the Atlantic Ocean.
The AC-115 launch was swiftly followed by the final Atlas E launch from Vandenberg on Mar 24, and a further Atlas Centaur launch, this time a IIA model, from pad 36A at Canaveral on Apr 7. AC-114 placed American Mobile Satellite Corp.'s AMSC-1 into orbit. AMSC-1 (also known as M-SAT) is a Hughes HS-601 class comsat with 16 L-band and one Ku-band transponders.
Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Pegasus launch vehicle returned to flight on Apr 3. This was the first successful launch using the Lockheed L-1011 carrier airplane, which took off from Vandenberg AFB and dropped the Pegasus over the Point Arguello Warning Area in the Pacific. The 3-stage standard Pegasus placed three small satellites in a 730 x 750 km x 70.0 deg orbit. Two of the satellites, Orbcomm FM1 and FM2, are the first satellites in OSC's Orbital Communications Corp. (Orbcomm) subsidiary's low Earth orbit (LEO) communications network. They are 1.0m in diameter and 0.16m high, with a mass of 40 kg; once on orbit they deploy a 3.3m long VHF/UHF communications antenna and a pair of solar panels spanning 2.2m. Orbcomm FM2's uplink antenna was malfunctioning last week, but FM1 was operating well.
The third satellite is Microlab 1, a 68 kg scientific satellite 1.0m in diameter and 0.3m high. It carries NASA-MSFC's Optical Transient Detector experiment to study the global distribution of lightning, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research's GPS-MET experiment which will study the occultation of GPS navigation satellite signals by the atmosphere to derive meteorological information.
On Apr 5 Israel launched its most sophisticated satellite to date, the 'Ofeq-3 ("Horizon-3") 3-axis stabilized technology satellite. The Shaviyt launch vehicle took off on a westward trajectory from Palamchim Air Force Base in Israel and placed the satellite and the AUS-51 solid motor third stage in a retrograde orbit. 'Ofeq-3 carries an electro-optical scanner and has a mass of 225 kg. It has been reported in the media as Israel's first spy satellite, but that is probably an overstatement, since the resolution is only as good as a few metres. 'Ofeq-3's westward orbit is rare, but not a record; some US Air Force satellites in the 1960s went to an inclination of 144 degrees to the eastward equator (i.e. 36 degrees to the westbound equator).
Mar 2 ODERACS II D Reentered Mar 3 ODERACS E Reentered Mar 3 Foton 10 Landed in Russia Mar 10 Kosmos-2280 Deorbited Mar 15 Progress M-26 Deorbited over Pacific Mar 18 Endeavour Landed at Edwards AFB Mar 18 Kosmos-2244 Deorbited Mar 22 Soyuz TM-20 Landed in Kazakhstan Apr 3 Kosmos-2137 Reentered Apr 4 Kosmos-2290 Reentered
Jonathan McDowell (© Jonathan McDowell 1994)