Early this morning at 12:15 am EDT United Launch Alliance successfully delivered the AEHF-4 satellite for the United States Air Force.
Using the most powerful version of their Atlas V rocket with a single RD-180 engine and five strap-on solid boosters the rocket soared into the air for an on-time launch.
The Advanced Extremely High Frequency 4 (AEHF-4) satellite was deployed to a geostationary transfer orbit, the satellite is designed to withstand an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and provides jam-resistant, encrypted communications to air force terminals around the world.
This was the 8th launch for 2018 and 131st consecutive successful launch for ULA
What had become almost a routine process for Russia’s space program ran into an issue today when the launch of two crew members cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and astronaut Nick Hague aborted shortly after the first stage booster separation.
The two crew members were on their way to the International Space Station (ISS) and the flight was proceeding nominally until the four strap-on boosters separated. Around the same time, a large plume of fuel could be seen escaping from the area of the vehicle. This was followed shortly afterward by an alarm sounding, at which time the Russian Translator on the live feed started talking about booster failure and preparations for ballistic abort.
The crew landed safely around 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan and have been picked up by the search and rescue crews that were station about 90 minutes away from the landing site. They are now on their way to Moscow and will then return to the launch site to meet with their families.
At present the impact on the ISS is unknown, Russia has announced they have set up a state commission to investigate the anomaly. However, unless they can find an immediate cause of the issue and it can be resolved quickly it seems likely that there will be a stand-down of crewed launches using Soyuz. This will mean that with no other vehicles available to launch crew to the ISS at present due to the delays in the US commercial crew program, and with the limited lifespan the Soyuz vehicle has on orbit that we may have to face the possibility of decrewing the ISS until such time that crewed launches can resume.
However, at present, the current crew of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst who is currently the commander, Sergey Prokopyev and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor have plenty of supplies available and are not scheduled to leave the station until December having arrived in June. Unfortunately, this is close to the lifespan of the Soyuz vehicle so there may not be a lot of room to extend the mission.
10/13/2018 – Update
While the telemetry is still be analysed the leading theory at this point is that one of the first stage strap-on boosters failed to separate correctly and impacted the second stage causing the launch abort. The sequence of events meant that the main launch abort tower had already jettisoned however the Soyuz has a second abort system built into it (which apparent very few people knew about) which kicked in to take the crew away from the failing booster.
Russia has reported that they will provide an update on the investigation by October 20th at which time we should have a better idea of what impact this will have on future launches of Soyuz.
We will update this article as further information is made available.
Early this morning United Launch Alliance successfully launched NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satelite 2 (ICESat2).
The launch was slightly delayed due to an issue with the bottle temperatures during the countdown. This issue was quickly resolved and the mission completed successfully.
This was the final launch of the venerable Delta II which has been launching since 1989 and completed 154 missions, 1 failure, and 1 partial failure. With this launch, Delta II also achieved an important milestone of 100 consecutive launch successes.
Following several delays to ensure the booster was ready for launch SpaceX successfully completed their 16th launch of 2018 with the deployment of the Telstar 18V satellite to its Geostationary Transfer Order.
This was the 2nd launch for Telstar in two months following the successful launch of the Telstar 19V satellite in July.
The first stage successfully landed on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)
This was the 61st launch of Falcon 9 and 29th landing.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched NASA’s Solar Parker Probe on their Delta IV Heavy rocket. Today was the second attempt to liftoff proceeded smoothly for an on-time lifted off at 3:31 am EDT.
The first attempt yesterday was delayed twice before a scrub was called when a new issue occurred at T-1:55m and counting with no time left in the window to try again.
Due to the extremely high energy required for this mission, the Delta IV Heavy’s capability was augmented by a powerful third stage provided by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. This allowed the vehicle to get up to 45,000 mph by the time the Solar Parker Probe separated.
Confirmation of the 3rd stage events was delayed due to a signal dropout issue, however, the information was received at one of the ground stations and was relayed manually.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to “touch” the Sun. The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere about 4 million miles from our star’s surface.
SpaceX continued their 2018 launch campaign with the successful deployment of the Merah Putih communications satellite for Telkom Indonesia this morning.
The 5000 kg satellite was successfully deployed to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit and is now making its way to its operating orbit.
This was the first reflight for a Block 5 Falcon 9 booster which was previously used in May to launch Bangladesh’s Bangabandhu-1 satellite. Following successful stage separation the booster landed on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, Of Course I Still Love You.
This was the 60th flight of Falcon 9, 13th with flight proven booster and the 28th landing.
In the first of two launches today Arianespace successfully delivered four Galileo satellites to add to the constellation already orbiting the Earth.
There were a lot of lasts for this mission as shown below
Many Lasts for this launch #VA244:
1. Last Ariane 5 ES model
2. Last Medium fairing
3. Last EPS upper stage
4. Last launch without the use of the cryo arms from #ELA3#ZL3
5. Last Ariane 5 launch with #Galileo
6. Last time we will launch 4x Galileo S/C in one launch #ESApic.twitter.com/k0vZ5inMhH
This morning SpaceX completed their 14th launch of the year and second of the week with the successful deployment of another 10 Iridium Next satellites. This was the second launch of the morning coming just 14 minutes after the Arianespace launch, however, the mission completed first due to the shorter coast phase before deployment.
Launching from their Vandenberg launch site the Falcon 9 lifted off at 07:39 am EDT. This was the third launch of the upgraded Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9, despite some heavy wind sheer in the Pacific ocean the booster successfully landed on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship Just Read The Instructions.
During this launch, SpaceX also attempted to recover one half of the payload fairing on their ship Mr. Stevens. Unfortunately, due to the wind sheer in the Pacific, they were not able to recover the fairing this time.
This was the 59th Falcon 9 launch and 27th landing.