A Titan 4 rocket, serial number K-22, was launched from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base on May 12, and placed a classified payload in orbit. Observers speculate that it is the fourth advanced ocean surveillance triplet, replacing a payload that was lost in an Aug 1993 launch failure. It may be in an orbit with an inclination of 63 degrees.
A Kometa mapping and reconnaissance payload, which would have become Kosmos-2333 if successful, was lost during the burn of the first stage of its Soyuz-U launch vehicle two minutes after launch from Baykonur. Initial reports suggest a payload fairing failure. The spacecraft was to have spent 45 days in orbit, and would have carried out the SPIN-2 mapping project for US firms as well as imaging for the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Soyuz-U vehicle is built by the TsSKB's Progress factory in Samara and has an excellent reliability record by Western standards.
Ariane flight V86, a 44L model, was successfully launched on May 16. It placed in orbit the first Israeli communications satellite, AMOS, as well as a Hughes-built Palapa C comsat for Indonesia. AMOS was built by IAI (Israel Aircraft Industries). Two Ku-band beams serve the Middle East and Eastern Europe. A second AMOS will be built for the Hungarian Broadcasting Co. There are 9 transponders, and the mass of the satellite was 996 kg at launch. It will be stationed at 4 deg W. PT Satelindo's Palapa C-2 is a 2989 kg HS-601 C/Ku band hybrid comsat which will be positioned at 108 deg E over Jakarta.
Orbital Sciences Corp. has had another launch success, placing the DoD's MSTI-3 satellite in orbit aboard a Pegasus. The Lockheed L-1011 carrier aircraft took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base's runway 30/12 and proceeded to the drop point at 36 deg 0 min N, 123 deg 0 min W over the Pacific. The Pegasus rocket was released and a few seconds later ignited the first of its three stages. It is the 'Pegasus Hybrid' version, a standard Pegasus with modified fins to accommodate the L-1011 carrier plane instead of the original B-52.
MSTI 3 will test out new sensor technology for ballistic missile defense. The satellite is built by Spectrum Astro Inc, and carries three sensors: a mid wave IR camera, a short wave IR camera, and a visible imaging spectrometer. Its goal is to study the IR emission from the Earth to determine if tactical ballistic missiles can be spotted during their coast phase against the bright Earth background.
The orbit of the putative USA 119 payload, as derived from amateur observations by Rainer Kracht, is 312 x 622 km x 63.4 deg. Two objects have been cataloged by Space Command, 1996-29A and 29B, but no orbital data have been released.
The Italian Satellite per Astronomia a raggi X has been renamed BeppoSAX in honor of Guiseppe 'Beppo' Occhialini, a pioneer in Italian gamma ray and cosmic ray astronomy.
The DC-XA made its first flight on May 18, reaching an apogee of 240 m.