ESA’s Sentinel 5P environmental monitoring satellite has been successfully launched by a Russian Rockot booster out of Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The subarctic launch site is ideal for polar orbiting spacecraft, and Sentinel 5P will require a polar orbit in order to carry out its mission of monitoring pollutants over every major city on Earth. Built in Great Britain with Dutch contributions (primarily instrumentation), it’s part of the Copernicus Program, an ambitious international project to provide real-time data on the status of the Earth’s atmosphere, waterways, ice sheets, and landmasses to all, free of charge. The booster, meanwhile, is a decommissioned Soviet ICBM; arms limitation treaties mean Russia cannot keep the entire inventory, so they have been putting them to work as commercial launch vehicles. The Rockot inventory is largely a set of ICBMs purchased as a block from the Russian government in the 1990s by a consortium of Khrunichev (which made the rockets originally) and DaimlerBenz; Daimler’s portion has since been bought out by Astrium (part owner of Arianespace).
Arianespace launched the lightest of their three vehicles on Tuesday (sorry for my late post; it’s been busy) placing two Earth observation spacecraft into orbit: VENµS and OPTSAT-3000. Yes, you read that right — there’s a lower-case mu in the name of the first one. I think you’re meant to pronounce it “Venus”, but I’m not 100% sure.
VENµS is the Vegetation and Environment monitoring on a New Micro-Satellite (VENµS), which is where the mu comes from — one of the more creative acronyms I’ve seen. 😉 It was built by the Israeli Space Agency and will be operated by France’s CNES, which also supplied one of the instruments, as a cooperative venture between the two nations. This is Israel’s first major scientific spacecraft, following on from a nanosatellite they flew earlier in the year. The spacecraft will also test a Hall effect thruster supplied by ISA.
OPTSAT-3000, meanwhile, is Italy’s first optical surveillance spacecraft. It, too, was built in Israel, but this one is for military purposes. It joins Italy’s existing fleet of radar surveillance satellites. OPTSAT-3000 is part of a qui-pro-quo arrangement between the Italian and Israeli governments; in exchange for buying the satellite from Israel, Israel bought a set of Italian fighter jet trainers. The exact capabilities of OPTSAT-3000 are of course undisclosed, although Italy did indicate it would be comparable to Digital Globe’s best WorldView images.
The latest crew has arrived at the ISS! The international crew (Russian, American, and Italian) launched from Baikonur into a rapid ascent profile that allowed them to dock just a few orbits later.
Ariane V has added to an already busy launch week with a successful liftoff, placing two geosynchronous commsats onto the geosynchronous transfer orbit. HellasSat 3/Inmarsat -S-EAN, a spacecraft jointly owned by Hellas Sat and Inmarsat, will provide S-band and Ku-band services to customers in Europe, the Mideast, and Africa. GSAT 17, a civilian commsat operated by the Indian Space Research Organization, will provide C-band services to customers in India, mainly television services. This was the 80th successful consecutive Ariane V launch.
Today, Shane Kimbrough (USA) and Thomas Pesquet (France) ventured outside the ISS to complete the 40th spacewalk from the US segment of the International Space Station, and the 198th overall. (Note: most of the ISS spacewalks were conducted not from Station at all but from Shuttle, which is why the total spacewalk number appears so inflated by comparison.) Today’s activities revolved mostly around prepping PMA-3 for its upcoming move to the Harmony node, where it will become available for future commercial crew operations. This mostly consisted of unplugging things. They also installed a new multiplexer/demultiplexer (MDM), did some work on the external cameras, lubricated the SSRMS, and completed some inspection work. This video covers the entire spacewalk, not just the highlights, so maybe flip around through it to find interesting bits. 😉 This includes egress; you have to go up to about 45 minutes before they’re even emerging from the airlock. (Spacewalks are complex; it’s not like going for a casual stroll.)
It’s been busy, so I missed posting this yesterday. 😉 This launch used Arianespace’s lightweight launcher, the all-solid-propellant Vega:
Meanwhile, India is presently in the final stages of PSLV launch preparations; I hope to post a successful launch video for them as well sometime tomorrow. (If all goes well, that rocket will fly in just over an hour from now.)
Today, two rockets lifted off. First, from Kourou in French Guiana, an Ariane V launched the next five elements of the Galileo satellite navigation constellation:
Then, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Soyuz MS-03 blasted off. The crew are Russian Soyuz commander Oleg Novitskiy, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (who, with this launch, has broken the record for oldest female astronaut previously held by Barbara Morgan), and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of ESA.