Top-Secret Unmanned X-37B Space Plane Launches Again

The U.S Air Force’s highly secret unmanned X-37B space plane was launched into space for the third time in 2 years today.  It's prior missions, the latest of which returned to Earth prematurely in June 2012 following a one year deployment, has been unequivocally explained by the Zetas.

ZetaTalk Chat Q&A for June 9, 2012

"More evidence that the establishment has been struggling with satellite failure emerges!

Large arrays of land based telescopes are being placed in S Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, all to peer at Planet X because the establishment has seen the damage that the debris in the tail of Planet X can do to satellites. How else to establish when it is time to duck into their bunkers? When satellites are blinded by debris, and man is left to peer through a dust clogged sky, how will they know when the hour of the Pole Shift has arrived? How are they to know when the largest moons of Planet X are slinging in their direction?

Why reveal now, at this time, that this X-37B plane has already been in the skies, above the atmosphere?  The time is rapidly approaching when the public will be aware of the presence of Planet X in the inner solar system, aware of the threat, and putting this all together with prophecy and legend. They will be demanding to know what their governments will do for them. At what point should they leave their jobs and head for the hills? The X-37B, and similar means of peering at the Planet X complex, will be trotted forth for reassurance. “We will tell you when it is time to panic” will be the reassurance. This will hardly reassure a public that now realizes they had been lied to for decades, but this is the establishment’s plan."


Secret Space Plane Blasts Off For Another Mystery Mission

The military's small, top-secret version of the space shuttle rocketed into orbit Tuesday for a repeat mystery mission, two years after making the first flight of its kind.

The Air Force launched the unmanned spacecraft Tuesday hidden on top of an Atlas V rocket. As if on cue, clouds quickly swallowed up the rocket as it disappeared out over the ocean.

It is the second flight for this original X-37B space plane. The craft circled the planet for seven months in 2010. A second X-37B spacecraft spent more than a year in orbit.

These high-tech mystery machines -- 29 feet long -- are about one-quarter the size of NASA's old space shuttles and can land automatically on a runway. The two previous touchdowns occurred in Southern California; this one might end on NASA's three-mile-long runway once reserved for the space agency's shuttles.

The military isn't saying much if anything about this new secret mission known as OTV-3, or Orbital Test Vehicle, flight No. 3. In fact, launch commentary ended 17 minutes into the flight and a news blackout followed.

But one scientific observer, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, speculates the spaceplane is carrying sensors designed for spying and likely is serving as a testbed for future satellites. He dismisses rumors of "exotic ideas" for the X-37B as weaponry or shadowing a Chinese satellite.

While acknowledging he does not know what the spaceplane is carrying, McDowell said on-board sensors could be capable of imaging or intercepting transmissions of electronic emissions from terrorist training sites in Afghanistan or other hot spots. "All the sorts of things that spy satellites generally do," he said.

The beauty of a reusable spaceplane is that it can be launched on short notice based on need, McDowell said.

What's important about this flight is that it is the first reflight.

"That is pretty cool," McDowell said, "reusing your spacecraft after a runway landing. That's something that has only really been done with the shuttle."

Now retired museum pieces, NASA's space shuttles stretch 122 feet long, and have 78-foot wingspans and weights of more than 170,000 pounds. They were launched, from 1981 to 2011, with two strap-on booster rockets and an external fuel tank feeding three main engines. The X-37B wingspan is 15 feet, and the 11,000-pound, Boeing-built vessel requires the United Launch Alliance's hefty Atlas V for hoisting. It is solar powered.

The two previous secret X-37B flights were in 200-plus-mile-high orbits, circling at roughly 40-degree angles to the equator, as calculated by amateur satellite trackers. That means the craft flew over the swatch between 40 degrees or so north latitude and 40 degrees or so south latitude.

That puts Russia's far north out of the space plane's observing realm, McDowell noted.

"It might be studying Middle Eastern latitudes or it might just be being used for sensor tests over the United States," he said.

McDowell speculates that this newest flight will follow suit.

The International Space Station, by comparison, orbits about 250 miles (400 kilometers)high but at a much steeper 51.6-degree inclination, or angle to the equator, that covers more territory.

The X-37B program, which dates back to 1999, is operated by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and geared toward space experimentation.

Some scientists - like Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists - argue the Air Force could accomplish the same objectives by using cheaper, more efficient spacecraft that either burn up on entry or parachute down.

"The ability to return to Earth carries a high price," Grego said in a statement.


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Comment by M. Difato on May 11, 2020 at 9:17pm
The Air Force’s Secret Space Plane Is Part of A Plan to One Day Shoot Microwaves to Earth

The experiment would be part of a long history of testing microwaves for power transmission.

(May 7, 2020) Little is known about the X-37B space plane and what, exactly, it’s been doing during missions that now total nearly eight years in orbit. On Wednesday, the U.S. Air Force revealed some of the satellite payloads and experiments it will carry aloft this month, including one that will try converting the sun’s energy into a form that can be sent to Earth.

“The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, will transform solar power into radio frequency

microwave energy which could then be transmitted to the ground,” Air Force officials told reporters during a telephone briefing.

A 1-square-foot solar panel will try to convert solar radiation to regular DC current and then into microwaves and sent via cable to a box to measure, a first in space, said Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab. The experiment could pave the way for much larger solar arrays that might someday generate enough power to send useful amounts to the ground (if funding continues.)

Efforts to beam energy to and from altitude go back to 1959, when Raytheon’s William Brown sold the Defense Department on a concept for a helicopter that would hover at 50,000 feet, well above atmospheric winds, powered by a microwave ray from below. The concept didn’t make it to reality, though in 1964, they were able to lift a very small microwave-powered helicopter a few feet off the ground.

In the 1960s, Brown went on to work with NASA’s Wernher von Braun on converting microwave beams into electrical current. The concept had particular relevance for powering future spacecraft — but also promised a way to harness the power of sunlight, up to 10 times more potent above the atmosphere and its dust, for use on earth.

Sending direct electric current to earth via an antenna would require a device too large to be practical. But it is possible to send microwaves to earth from space with an antenna that could actually make it to space. 

In 1975, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory staged a breakthrough demonstration. In the Goldstone Experiment, researchers sent a 2.388-Ghz beam more than a mile over the Mojave desert to a rectenna that converted it to 30 kilowatts of power. 

Later, Japan and Canada overtook the United States in space-solar power research. NASA took a fresh look in the 2000s but “In the last ten years, numerous articles have been written about SSP, but supportive research has been sporadic at best,” researchers Bernd Strassner and Kai Chang wrote for IEEE in 2013.

The launch of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, OTV-6, is scheduled for May 16 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch vehicle will also carry five more experimental payloads in the FalconSat-8 educational satellite.

Two NASA experiments will “study the results of radiation and other space effects on a materials sample plate and seeds used to grow food,” the Air Force said in a statement. 

While the X-37 belongs to the Air Force, the new Space Force is “responsible for the launch, on-orbit operations, and landing,” the statement said.

Of course, microwaves from space could also, potentially, be a weapon. The Defense Department has floated the idea of space-based microwaves to fry the electronics of missiles taking off from launch pads. But Brian Weeden, technical advisor for the Secure World Foundation, said that limited power levels suggest the current experiments aren’t about that. 

Jaffee said that a “solar power satellite would be very difficult to weaponize,” in part because microwaves have a long wavelength, which makes it dangerous to get to an appropriate level of power density to be useful as a ray gun.

“We've seen nothing so far to indicate that the X-37B is an offensive platform as many had speculated. All the evidence points to it being used as a platform to test out new technologies and potentially new [concepts of operation] for missions like remote sensing and surveillance,” Weeden said.

Weeden’s main concerns about the X-37B are that it puts stuff in space and doesn’t tell anyone. 

“On the previous mission they deployed three small satellites from the X-37B and didn't even catalog them until after it had landed and those satellites had decayed from orbit,” he said. “That's the sort of non-transparent and potentially irresponsible behavior the U.S. has criticized the Russians and Chinese for in the past.”

Jaffee says space-based power would make it possible to send clean, consistent electricity to virtually any place on earth. He likened it to GPS in its conceptual phase. 

“We’re not surprised when people are incredulous about space solar,” he said, “But GPS was once inconceivable and it’s everywhere today”

Comment by Juan F Martinez on October 28, 2019 at 4:51am

US Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Lands After Record 780-Day Mystery Mission 10-27-2019

A U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane, an unpiloted miniature space shuttle, is seen after landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Oct. 27, 2019 to end its record 780-day OTV-5 mission.
(Image: © U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force's unpiloted X-37B space plane landed back on Earth Sunday (Oct. 27) after a record 780 days in orbit , racking up the fifth ultra-long mission for the military's mini-shuttle fleet.

The X-37B's Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5) mission ended with a smooth autonomous touchdown at the Shuttle Landing Facility of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:51 a.m. EDT (0751 GMT), Air Force officials said. The mission originally launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sept. 7, 2017.

With the successful landing, OTV-5 broke the previous X-37B mission record of 718 days set by the OTV-4 mission in May 2017. OTV-5 is the second X-37B mission to land at NASA's Shuttle Landing Facility (OTV-4 was the first), with previous missions landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Comment by M. Difato on May 18, 2019 at 6:25pm

X-37B Military Space Plane's Latest Mystery Mission Passes 600 Days

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B space plane has now been circling Earth for more than 600 days on its latest mystery mission.

The reusable robotic vehicle, which looks like a miniature version of NASA's space shuttle orbiters, launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 7, 2017.

As of today (April 30), the space plane has been aloft for 601 days, on a mission known as Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5) because it's the fifth flight of the X-37B program.

It's unclear what exactly the spacecraft is doing up there. X-37B missions are classified, and Air Force officials tend to speak of project goals in general terms, as this excerpt from the X-37B fact sheet shows: "The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth."

Still, the Air Force does divulge some payloads flying on X-37B missions. For example, we know that OTV-5 includes the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader experiment (ASETS-II), which is measuring the performance of electronics and oscillating heat pipes in the space environment.

The Air Force has at least two X-37B vehicles, both of which were built by Boeing. Each space plane is 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 9.6 feet (2.9 m) tall, with a wingspan of almost 15 feet (4.6 m). The solar-powered spacecraft have payload bays about the size of a pickup-truck bed.

The X-37B launches vertically and lands horizontally on a runway, like the space shuttle orbiters did.

OTV-5 is not, so far, the longest-duration X-37B mission, though the outing will earn that distinction if the established pattern holds: Each OTV flight has lasted longer than its predecessors:

  • OTV-1 launched on April 22, 2010, and ended on Dec. 3, 2010 (224 days in space).
  • OTV-2 began March 5, 2011, and landed on June 16, 2012 (468 days).
  • OTV-3 launched on Dec. 11, 2012, and came down on Oct. 17, 2014 (675 days).
  • OTV-4 lifted off on May 20, 2015, and landed May 7, 2017 (718 days).



Mike Wall Senior Writer•  May 1, 2019
Comment by M. Difato on August 23, 2018 at 2:37pm

U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane nears one year on orbit

 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The fifth, and latest, mission for the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) X-37B uncrewed space plane nears a milestone that all but one of its predecessors met (and exceeded): one year on orbit.

The secretive spacecraft — also called the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), which looks like a miniature Space Shuttle — launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Sept. 7, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center, and marked the first time the USAF launched the OTV with a provider other than United Launch Alliance (ULA).

This fifth mission, officially designated OTV-5, had to compete with the weather for its launch window. Hurricane Irma, which would later graze the Florida coast and cause some damage to the launch complex, was targeted to hit the Cape Canaveral area and threatened to scrub the launch as conditions deteriorated ahead of the approaching storm.

Though much of the mission is shrouded in secrecy, some information has been made public. One of the payloads carried aloft is the second version of the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader (ASETS-II). The hardware, designed to test a thermal management system optimized for the space environment, was developed under a program managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Archive Photo Credit: Boeing

Additionally, the vehicle carried with it several small satellites as part of a ride share in order to demonstrate the opportunities that result from quick access to space.

Other information discovered about the mission has come from ground-based observations. As much as the USAF tries to hide the mission of its assets, both amateur and professional skywatchers are quick to figure out where the spaceplane is, even if not knowing what it is doing.

Initially, the spacecraft was deposited in an orbit with an altitude of 220 miles (354 kilometers), and inclined 54.5 degrees to the equator. The highest inclination for any previous mission had been 43.5 degrees, and shows that the USAF is making good on its statement that they will continue to push the boundaries of what the spacecraft can do. The craft has since lowered its orbital altitude to 201 miles (324 kilometers).

“The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the program,” stated Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, in a release issued by the USAF. “It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community.”

Though its landing date has not been stated, it will likely follow the lead of OTV-4 and land at the Shuttle Landing Facility at KSC.

Comment by M. Difato on September 4, 2017 at 8:11am



PLAYALINDA BEACH/KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Following a successful engine test firing of the Falcon 9 first stage late Thursday afternoon (Aug. 30), SpaceX is targeting a post Labor Day launch of the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned X-37B reusable mini-shuttle.."

Comment by M. Difato on May 7, 2017 at 8:17pm

A sonic boom shocked Central Floridians early Sunday morning (May 7) after the Air Force landed a secret

military aircraft at Kennedy Space Center.

The U.S. Air Force tweeted Sunday “The Air Force #X37B #OTV4 has returned from obit and landed safely

at @NASAKennedy.”

The X37B is an unmanned secret military shuttle, which has been orbiting the Earth for more than 700 days,

the Air Force reported.

The landing marks the first time the X-37B has landed at KSC using the same Shuttle Landing Facility runway

as NASA’s manned orbiters.

The U.S. Air Force said, "X-37B program is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft that performs

risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle


Comment by Howard on September 1, 2013 at 7:50pm

Several conspicuous satellite launches over the past few days, most notably the NROL-65.

Top Secret Spy Satellite Costing $1Billion Launches from California (Aug 28)
A massive rocket carrying a spy satellite for the U.S. government launched from the central California coast Wednesday.

The Delta IV Heavy rocket soared off the launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and sped toward low-Earth orbit, officials at United Launch Alliance said.

The highly secretive payload, known as NROL-65, is believed to be the most advanced spy satellite ever launched.

It is not known what intelligence will be gathered by the latest addition to the US spy network. NROL-65 is believed to be a $1billion ‘high-powered spy satellite capable of snapping pictures detailed enough to distinguish the make and model of an automobile hundreds of miles below,’ reported the Los Angeles Times.

At 23 stories, the Delta IV Heavy is the largest rocket in the country. The last time it launched from Vandenberg — in 2011 — the roar of the engines shook the nearby city of Lompoc. Some people reported hearing the engine roar from 50 miles away.

Air Force security and police closed a nearby beach and evacuated campers as a precaution. About 200 cars lined the access road to the base and spectators gathered at other viewing spots for a glimpse of the rocket cruising through the cloudless sky.



Israel Launches Country's Largest Satellite (Aug 31)
Israel's main aerospace and defense company says it has launched into space the country's "largest and most sophisticated" communications satellite.

State-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. said Sunday that it launched the Amos-4 satellite from a Russian-operated space launch base in Kazakhstan the previous night.

Space Communication Ltd., the Israeli company operating the satellite, said the Amos-4 will be operational within two months and will provide video distribution and broadband services to Russian and Asian internet and communications companies.

Israeli Science and Technology Minister Yaacov Peri said space-related matters are "critical to Israel's security."

The Sea Launch version of the rocket failed with its last launch, resul....

The Israeli military and Defense Ministry had no comment on the launch.



Qatar and India Launch Satellites Aboard Ariane 5 (Aug 30)

Qatar has launched into space the Sohail 1, its first television and communications satellite, carried into orbit by the European rocket Ariane 5 from a base in French Guiana, the companies promoting the project said.

The blastoff from a base in the coastal city of Koro put Sohail 1 into orbit close to the Arab satellite Arab Sat, according to the Qatari satellite company Es'hailSat.

Sohail 1, which will broadcast more than 30 high-definition and 70 standard channels, will go into service next December, after a three-month experimental phase.

Es'hailSat has carried out this project in collaboration with its European partner Eutelstat.

In a communique released Friday, Eutelstat CEO Michel de Rosen said the launch was a success and that the company will offer clients a quality service and strengthen its commitment to markets of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

For his part, the CEO of the Es'hailSat company, Ali bin Ahmed al Kauari, said that this satellite "will reinforce the services of communications, Internet and television transmission, since it will reach very remote areas."

The satellite, which weighs over 6 tons, will remain in service for 15 years. Within three years, Qatar plans to launch Sohail 2.

The project comes as part of a series of Qatari investments in the field of satellites and technology that will help this country have the extensive network it needs to broadcast the soccer World Cup it will host in 2020.

India's First Defense Satellite GSAT-7 Launched Successfully (Aug 30)

India's maiden dedicated defence satellite was launched by an European rocket early today, giving a boost to Navy's modernisation push to improve space-based communications and intelligence gathering over a wide oceanic region including the country's landmass.

Custom-made for the Navy by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the advanced multi-band, state-of-the-art GSAT-7 was successfully lofted into space by European space consortium Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket at 2 AM from Kourou spaceport, French Guiana, in South America.



Japan Suspends Satellite Rocket Launch at Last Minute (Aug 27)
Japan suspended the launch of its next-generation solid-fuel rocket on Tuesday just seconds before lift-off after engineers discovered a technical glitch.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had planned to launch the Epsilon rocket from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Kagoshima, southwestern Japan, using just two laptop computers in a pared-down command centre.

But the countdown was automatically halted just 19 seconds before blast-off "as an emergency measure due to some abnormal positioning" of the rocket, a JAXA spokeswoman said.

It was not clear if this was a physical problem or a data error, she added.

"We cancelled today's launch and can't say anything about the timing of our next launch, as the cause of the trouble is still unknown," the spokeswoman said.

Ichita Yamamoto, cabinet minister in charge of space technology, urged the agency swiftly to relaunch the rocket, which Japan hopes will become competitive in the global space business.

"The cancellation was very regrettable," Yamamoto told a joint news conference with JAXA executives near the launch pad.

"But this rocket must be launched successfully," he said. "As the minister of space policies, I strongly hope JAXA will pursue the cause and realise the launch."

Parents and children had gathered in public spaces throughout Japan to watch the launch live.

Television news footage showed audiences in theatres emitting sounds of puzzlement in unison when the appointed launch time passed without any lift-off.

The three-stage Epsilon -- 24 metres (79-feet) long and weighing 91 tonnes -- was scheduled to release the telescope "SPRINT-A" at an altitude of 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).

SPRINT-A is the world's first space telescope for remote observation of planets including Venus, Mars and Jupiter from its orbit around Earth, the agency said.

The Epsilon is about half the size of the nation's liquid-fuelled H2-A rocket, and a successor to the solid fuel M-5 rocket that was retired in 2006 due to its high cost.

The small-sized rocket is equipped with artificial intelligence "for the first time in the world" that allows autonomous checks by the rocket itself, JAXA said.

"It also allows us to carry out launching procedures, including ignition, through only two laptop computers," another JAXA spokeswoman said.

At the control centre only eight workers were engaged in the launch operation, compared with some 150 people usually needed when JAXA launches its mainstream H2-A rocket.

The agency has halved the production and launching cost to 3.8 billion yen ($37 million) from that of the previous M-5.

"Catching troubles before the launch means the entire system is still under control," said Tetsuya Hanyu, a researcher at Mitsubishi Research Institute's science and technology group.

"But it may take some time to relaunch it if the trouble is found to be serious enough to require the replacement of major parts, for instance," Hanyu said.



Dnepr Rocket Launches S. Korean Radar Satellite (Aug 22)
South Korea on Aug. 22 added radar to its existing optical Earth observation satellite capacity when its Kompsat-5/Arirang-5 X-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) spacecraft was placed into low Earth orbit.

The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) said Aug. 23 that the satellite was healthy in orbit and communicating with ground stations, and that its solar arrays had deployed.

Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, which built the SAR instrument, said the X-band transmission antennas had deployed and that the payload would be activated Sept. 3, with commissioning and calibration to occur in September and October.

The launch was aboard a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr silo-launched vehicle operated from Russia’s Yasny spaceport. The launch, which was Dnepr’s first since 2011, had been delayed for months as Russian and Ukrainian authorities, including Russia’s Ministry of Defense, disputed Dnepr’s financing and operations.

The rocket, a converted SS-18 ballistic missile, launched 17 times between 1999 and 2011 before being grounded until the Kompsat-5 launch. Its future availability for commercial space launches remains unclear. Dnepr launches are managed by ISC Kosmotras of Moscow and carried out by the Russian Defense Ministry’s Strategic Rocket Forces.

Weighing 1,400 kilograms at launch, Kompsat-5/Arirang-5’s satellite structure, or bus, was built in Korea for KARI, the national space agency.The satellite is expected to operate for at least five years in a 550-kilometer polar low Earth orbit. Its radar instrument is able to collect data with a ground-sampling distance of 1, 3 and 20 meters, meaning it can detect objects of those diameter and larger.

Massimo Di Lazzaro, Thales Alenia Space’s executive vice president for observation, exploration and navigation, said in an Aug. 22 statement that the radar instrument borrows from the company’s previous work on Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed radar constellation.

Kompsat-5 is the latest in a series of Korea Multipurpose Satellite models that have been in orbit since 1999 and are operated by KARI. Kompsat-2/Arirang-2 was launched in 2006 and Kompsat-3/Arirang-3 was launched in 2012. KARI’s Kompsat-3A infrared and optical imaging satellite is scheduled for launch in 2014.


Comment by Howard on February 13, 2013 at 3:37am

NASA Launches New Landsat Earth Monitoring Satellite (Feb 12)
A new satellite to keep tabs on Earth's changing landscape rocketed into orbit on Monday, ensuring continuation of a 40-year-old photo archive documenting glacial melting, natural disasters and other environmental shifts.

The satellite circles the planet every 99 minutes, relaying pictures showing details down to about the size of a baseball diamond.

The images are used by federal, state and local governments worldwide to monitor crops, assess damage from floods and other natural disasters as well as to track coastlines.

Landsat's commercial customers include Google, which uses the images in its popular virtual Google Earth program, and the insurance industry which, for example, taps Landsat data to assess risk exposure to wildfires in the western United States and gauge crop production.

Once operational, the satellite, which cost NASA $855 million, is expected to relay 400 images per day to ground stations in South Dakota, Alaska and Norway.


Comment by Howard on February 8, 2013 at 5:20am

Russia Launches 6 Telecom Satellites Following Failed Attempt  (Feb 6)
A Russian rocket carrying 6 Globalstar telecom satellites launched today within days of a failed launch that plunged into the Pacific Ocean less than a minute after taking off from a Russian-Ukrainian sea platform.

The cause of that accident is still under investigation.

Russia's launches are watched especially closely because they provide the world's only manned link to the International Space Station (ISS).

Moscow's space programme has been hit by a string of embarrassing failures in the past two years that resulted in several leadership shakeups.

Another Russian 'Communications' Satellite Fails to Reach Orbit (Feb 1)

Sea Launch AG says a U.S. communications satellite was lost after a booster rocket carrying it into space failed shortly after its launch from a floating platform in the Pacific.

The company said in a statement Friday the Intelsat 27 satellite was lost 40 seconds after the launch due to the failure of the Zenit-3SL rocket. The Boeing. Co-built spacecraft was launched Thursday from the Odyssey ocean platform.

Sea Launch AG President Kjell Karlsen said the cause of the failure is unknown and the company is working to evaluate it.

An affiliate of Russia's RKK Energia state-controlled rocket manufacturer owns 95 per cent of stock in Sea Launch, with the remainder being held indirectly by Boeing Co. and Norwegian Aker ASA. The Zenit booster is manufactured by Ukraine's Yuzhmash rocket plant.



A Russian rocket carrying a US telecommunications satellite plunged into the Pacific Ocean on Friday only moments after being launched from a mobile sea platform in Moscow's latest space failure.

The rocket may have veered off course from the moment of take-off because of heavy waves battering the former northern seas oil platform, initial reports said.

The Intelsat-27's loss means the giant Boeing aerospace corporation would for now be unable to fit the final piece of a constellation mean to provide TV feeds across Europe and the United States.

"There was an accident during the Zenit rocket launch," a source at the Energia corporation that makes the Zenit-3SL rocket used to lift up Intelsat satellites told AFP.

"The rocket fell into the Pacific Ocean."

Officials said no one was hurt on the huge Odyssey platform that was once stationed off the oil-rich coast of Norway before being tugged to the Pacific by an international consortium called Sea Launch.

Energia chief Vitaly Lopota said the Russian rocket's engine appeared to fail less than a minute after the evening take-off but the reason was still unknown reason.

"We had an abnormal situation -- the emergency shutdown of the first stage engine," Lopota told the state RIA Novosti news agency.

"It happened 50 seconds into the flight. We are now looking into what happened."

Sources said the Zenit had purposefully steered itself as far away from the Odyssey as possible -- instead of going straight up -- because the engines detected a problem and were programmed to save the ground crew.

"The rockets detected an abnormal situation linked to platform instability from the very start, and then switched the engines over (to operations) aimed at steering the rocket away from the platform," a space industry source told the Interfax news agency.

Sea Launch has been using the deep-sea platform to perform commercial operations since 1999. There had been only two complete failures out of the 34 missions conducted prior to Friday's launch.

But analysts said Sea Launch -- having emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2010 after years of financial difficulties -- will be keen to prove that the accident was an anomaly that should not affect future launches.

"This accident is very unpleasant for Sea Launch, which only recently started to repair its reputation on the commercial space services market," said Moscow's Space News magazine editor Igor Marinin.

Russia's space programme is now especially closely watched because it provides the world's only manned link to the International Space Station (ISS).

The country's space programme also leads the world in the number of commercial launches and is used by other nations to put up both private and military satellites.

The Roscosmos space agency -- a direct descendent of Moscow's once-proud Soviet programme that competed against NASA at the height of the Cold War -- has been beset by a string of accidents in the past two years that prompted sackings at the top of command.

Russia's most recent setback came in November when it temporarily lost contact with all its non-military satellites as well as the space station because of a vital cable cut.

Other high-profile accidents included the loss of a highly-publicised Mars probe in the Earth's orbit and the loss of a cargo vessel taking up supplies to the ISS.

That August 2011 incident caused delays to a string of manned missions and renewed Moscow's attention on finding an eventual replacement to the workhorse Soyuz rocket.

A rocket carrying a communications satellite suffered engine trouble and plunged into the Pacific Ocean shortly after launch on Friday, Russian news agencies reported.

The unsuccessful launch of the Intelsat-27 satellite was one of several setbacks for Russia's space program in recent years, including failed satellite launches and an unsuccessful mission to study the Mars moon Phobos.

The Zenit-3SL rocket carrying the satellite suffered engine failure shortly after liftoff, state-run Itar-Tass reported, citing a Russian space industry source. The rocket is a joint production of Ukrainian and Russian companies, it said.

Intelsat-27 was to provide services for media, government and other customers in the Americas and Europe, according to the website of Luxembourg-based Intelsat.

Russia is increasing space spending and plans to send a probe to the moon in 2015, but its celebrations in 2011 of the 50th anniversary of the Soviet achievement of putting the first man in space were marred by several botched satellite launches.

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