2009 in spaceflight
Delta IV-M+ (5,4)|
Several significant events in spaceflight occurred in 2009, including Iran conducting its first indigenous orbital launch, the first Swiss satellite being launched and New Zealand launching its first sounding rocket. The H-IIB and Naro-1 rockets conducted maiden flights, whilst the Tsyklon-3, Falcon 1 and Ariane 5GS were retired from service. The permanent crew of the International Space Station increased from three to six in May, and in the last few months of the year, Japan's first resupply mission to the outpost, HTV-1, was conducted successfully.
The internationally accepted definition of a spaceflight is any flight which crosses the Kármán line, 100 kilometres above sea level. The first spaceflight launch of the year was that of a Delta IV Heavy, carrying the USA-202 ELINT satellite, which launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 02:47 GMT on 18 January. This was also the first orbital launch of the year.
At 16:56 GMT on 10 February, the first major collision between two satellites in orbit occurred, resulting in the destruction of Kosmos 2251 and Iridium 33, launched in 1993 and 1997 respectively. Up until the collision, Iridium 33 was operational, and an active part of the Iridium network of satellites, whilst Kosmos 2251 was an inactive piece of space junk.
On 25 August, the Russo- South Korean Naro-1 rocket made its maiden flight on 25 August, marking South Korea's first involvement in conducting a satellite launch attempt, however the rocket failed to reach orbit after its payload fairing malfunctioned.
The first flight of the SpaceX Falcon 9 carrier rocket was scheduled to occur in November, but was delayed to February 2010 to allow more time for preparations. The SpaceX Dragon, a commercial unmanned logistics spacecraft which was developed as part of NASA's COTS programme, was also scheduled to make its first flight in 2009, however its launch has also slipped to 2010 as a result of knock-on delays. The first H-II Transfer Vehicle, HTV-1, was successfully launched on the maiden flight of the H-IIB carrier rocket on 10 September. The first Swiss satellite, SwissCube-1, was launched on 23 September aboard a PSLV.
On 18 December, the Ariane 5GS made its final flight, delivering the Helios-IIB satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit. The last orbital launch of the year was conducted eleven days later, on 29 December, when a Proton-M with a Briz-M upper stage launched the DirecTV-12 satellite.
Although no planetary probes were launched in 2009, four astronomical observatories were placed into orbit. The Kepler spacecraft, which was launched by a Delta II on 7 March, entered an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit from where it will search for exoplanets. On 14 May, and Ariane 5ECA launched the Herschel and Planck spacecraft. Both were placed at the L2 Lagrangian point between the Earth and Sun, from where they will be used for astronomy. Herschel carries an infrared telescope whilst Planck carries an optical one. The fourth observatory to be launched was the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, which is a replacement for the Wide Field Infrared Explorer which failed shortly after launch. WISE was launched into a sun-synchronous orbit by a Delta II on 14 December, and will be used for infrared astronomy. Repairs made to the Hubble Space Telescope during STS-125 restored it to full operations after a series of malfunctions in 2008.
Two lunar probes were launched in 2009; the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite were launched on a single Atlas V rocket on 18 June. LRO entered selenocentric orbit and began a series of experiments, whilst LCROSS remained attached to the Centaur upper stage of the carrier rocket, and flew past the Moon. After orbiting the Earth twice, LCROSS separated from the upper stage and both it and the Centaur impacted the Cabeus crater at the South Pole of the Moon, on 9 October. By observing the Centaur's impact, LCROSS was able to confirm the presence of water on the Moon. Several other Lunar probes ceased operations in 2009; Okina impacted the far side of the Moon on 12 February, Chang'e 1 was deorbited on 1 March, having completed its operations. Kaguya was also deorbited following a successful mission, impacting near Gill crater on 12 June. The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft failed on 29 August, having operated for less than half of its design life.
The Mars Science Laboratory and Fobos-Grunt missions to Mars had been scheduled for launch at the end of 2009, however both were delayed to 2011 to allow more time for the spacecraft to be developed. Fobos-Grunt, a sample return mission to Mars' natural satellite Phobos, would have carried the first Chinese planetary probe, Yinghuo-1.
Several flybys occurred in 2009, with Cassini continuing to orbit Saturn, passing close to a number of its natural satellites. In February, Dawn passed within 549 kilometres (341 mi) of Mars, during a gravity assist manoeuvre for its journey to the asteroid belt. In September, MESSENGER made its third and final flyby of Mercury before entering orbit in 2011. Whilst the primary objective of the flyby, achieving a gravitational assist, was successful, the spacecraft entered safe mode shortly before its closest approach, which prevented it recording data as it flew away from the planet. In November, the Rosetta spacecraft performed its third and final gravity assist flyby of Earth.
Nine manned launches occurred in 2009, the most since 1997. STS-119, using Space Shuttle Discovery, was launched on 15 March. It installed the last set of solar arrays on the International Space Station. Soyuz TMA-14, the 100th manned Soyuz launch, delivered the Expedition 19 crew in March. In May, Space Shuttle Atlantis conducted the final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, STS-125. Several days later, Soyuz TMA-15 launched with the ISS Expedition 20 crew, brought the total ISS crew size up to six for the first time. This was also the 100th manned spaceflight of the Soyuz programme, excluding the original Soyuz T-10 mission which failed to reach space. In July, Space Shuttle Endeavour delivered the final component of the Japanese Experiment Module on mission STS-127. STS-128, using Discovery in August, delivered supplies using the Leonardo MPLM. September saw the launch of Soyuz TMA-16, with the ISS Expedition 21 crew. This was the 100th manned Soyuz mission reach orbit. In November, Space Shuttle Atlantis flew mission STS-129, delivering two EXPRESS Logistics Carriers to the ISS. The final manned flight of the year, Soyuz TMA-17, was launched on 20 December with the ISS Expedition 22 crew.
Although not a spaceflight in its own right, the Ares I-X test flight was conducted on 28 October, with the rocket lifting off from Launch Complex 39B of the Kennedy Space Center at 15:30 GMT. The flight was successful and reached an altitude of around 46 kilometres (29 mi), within the upper atmosphere. A parachute failure during descent resulted in some damage to the first stage, which was recovered.
Four orbital launch failures occurred in 2009. On 24 February, a Taurus-XL launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, United States, with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory. The payload fairing did not separate from the rocket, leaving the upper stage with too much mass to reach orbit. The stage, with spacecraft and fairing still attached, reentered the atmosphere, coming down off the coast of Antarctica. The second failure was a controversial North Korean launch attempt using an Unha rocket to launch the Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 communications satellite. The launch was conducted on 5 April, and North Korea maintains that it successfully reached orbit, however no objects from the launch were tracked as having orbital velocity, and US radar systems tracking the rocket detected that it failed at around the time of third stage ignition, with debris falling in the Pacific Ocean.
A Soyuz-2.1a suffered a failure during the launch of Meridian 2 on 21 May, due to the premature cutoff of the second core stage of the carrier rocket. The satellite was placed in a lower than planned orbit, which it was initially expected to be able to correct by means of its onboard propulsion system, and the launch was reported to be a partial failure. By the time of the next Meridian launch in 2010 it had been confirmed that the satellite could not correct its own orbit, and that the mission was a failure. On 25 August, the Naro-1 rocket was launched on its maiden flight, however one half of the payload fairing failed to separate, and it did not reach orbit.
On 31 August a Long March 3B placed the Palapa-D satellite into a lower than expected orbit after its third stage gas generator burned through, resulting in an engine failure at the start of the second burn. The satellite was able to raise itself to its correct orbit at the expense of fuel which would have been used for five or six years of operations.
Summary of launches
In total, seventy eight orbital launches were attempted in 2009, with seventy five catalogued as having reached orbit, and the three outright launch failures, including the North Korean launch, not being catalogued. This is an increase of nine attempts compared to 2008, and eight more launches reached orbit. This continues a four-year trend of increasing annual launch rates. The United States National Space Science Data Center catalogued 123 spacecraft placed into orbit by launches which occurred in 2009.
Suborbital spaceflight in 2009 saw a number of sounding rocket and missile launches. New Zealand's Ātea-1 sounding rocket was launched on 30 November, marking that country's first suborbital flight. Russia twice attempted launches of its Bulava missile, however both launches failed. The second failure, which occurred on 9 December, resulted in a spiral pattern which was observed in the sky over Norway. The SpaceLoft-XL rocket experienced another launch failure during its third flight, on 2 May. The payload section separated from the rocket whilst it was still burning, and as a result the vehicle did not reach space. It had been carrying samples of cremated human remains for Celestis, and student experiments.
China conducted six launches in 2009; satellite problems early in the year followed by the fallout of the August partial launch failure resulted in many planned launches slipping into 2010. Europe launched seven Ariane 5 rockets, six in the ECA configuration and one in the GS configuration. It had also intended to launch the first Vega rocket, however this was delayed due to ongoing development issues, which had already left the project several years behind schedule. India conducted two launches of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles, however the first flight of a new variant of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle with an Indian-built upper stage slipped into 2010. Japan conducted three launches; two using the H-IIA, plus the first H-IIB. Russia and the former Soviet Union conducted twenty nine launches, not including the international Sea and Land launch programmes, which conducted four, and the single Naro-1 launch conducted in cooperation with South Korea.
The United States made twenty four launch attempts, with the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles accounting for eight; the most EELV launches in a single year to date. Eight Delta II launches were also made, including its last mission with a GPS satellite, and its last flight with a payload for the United States armed forces. As the Delta II programme wound down, Space Launch Complex 17A at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, one of the oldest operational launch pads in the world, was deactivated. SpaceX launched a single Falcon 1, which successfully placed an operational satellite into orbit for the first time. This was the final flight of the Falcon 1, which was subsequently retired from service in favour of the Falcon 1e. At the start of the year, a mockup Falcon 9 was erected on its launch pad at Canaveral, however the type's maiden flight slipped into 2010.
Sea Launch only conducted a single launch in 2009; a Zenit-3SL launched Sicral 1B in April. In June, the company was declared bankrupt, and subsequently it lost a number of launch contracts. By the end of the year it was expecting to resume launches in 2010. Its subsidiary, Land Launch, conducted three launches. Iran made its first successful indigenous orbital launch, however planned follow-up launches had not been conducted by the end of the year. North Korea made one launch which it claimed had successfully placed a satellite into orbit, however no such satellite was detected by any country capable of doing so. Israel was not reported to have scheduled or conducted an orbital launch attempt.
Deep space rendezvous
|7 February||Cassini||50th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 960 kilometres (600 mi)|
|12 February||Okina||Lunar impact||Farside of the Moon|
|17 February||Dawn||Flyby of Mars||Gravity assist, closest approach 549 kilometres (341 mi) at 00:28 GMT|
|1 March||Chang'e 1||Lunar impact||Deorbited at 07:36 and impacted at 08:13|
|27 March||Cassini||51st flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 960 kilometres (600 mi)|
|4 April||Cassini||52nd flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 4,150 kilometres (2,580 mi)|
|20 April||Cassini||53rd flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi)|
|5 May||Cassini||54th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 3,244 kilometres (2,016 mi)|
|21 May||Cassini||55th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 965 kilometres (600 mi)|
|6 June||Cassini||56th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 965 kilometres (600 mi)|
|10 June||Kaguya||Lunar Impact||at 18:25 UTC, around Gill crater.|
|22 June||Cassini||57th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 955 kilometres (593 mi)|
|23 June||LRO||Selenocentric orbit insertion||Orbital insersion burn lasted from 09:47 to 10:26 UTC|
|23 June||LCROSS/Centaur||Lunar flyby||Gravity assist to align for impact in October, closest approach: 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) at 10:30:33 UTC|
|8 July||Cassini||58th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 965 kilometres (600 mi)|
|24 July||Cassini||59th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 955 kilometres (593 mi)|
|9 August||Cassini||60th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 970 kilometres (600 mi)|
|25 August||Cassini||61st flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 970 kilometres (600 mi)|
|17 September||Artemis P1||Lunar flyby||Closest approach: 43,875 kilometres (27,263 mi) at 00:49 UTC|
|30 September||MESSENGER||3rd flyby of Mercury||Gravity assist, closest approach: 229 kilometres (142 mi)|
|9 October||AV-020 Centaur||Lunar impact||2,000-kilogram (4,400 lb) upper stage of the Atlas V rocket used to launch LRO and LCROSS. Impacted Cabeus crater at Lunar South Pole. Impact occurred at 11:31 UTC, and was observed by LCROSS.|
|LCROSS (S-S/C)||Lunar impact||700-kilogram (1,500 lb) shepherding spacecraft. Detached from Centaur at 01:50 UTC, and impacted same crater at 11:37.|
|12 October||Cassini||62nd flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,300 kilometres (810 mi)|
|2 November||Cassini||7th flyby of Enceladus||Closest approach: 103 kilometres (64 mi)|
|13 November||Rosetta||3rd flyby of Earth||Gravity assist|
|21 November||Cassini||8th flyby of Enceladus||Closest approach: 1,607 kilometres (999 mi)|
|8 December||Artemis P1||Lunar flyby||Closest approach: 16,101 kilometres (10,005 mi) at 01:25 UTC|
|12 December||Cassini||63rd flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 4,850 kilometres (3,010 mi)|
|28 December||Cassini||64th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 955 kilometres (593 mi)|
- Distant, non-targeted flybys of Dione, Mimas, Rhea, Tethys and Titan by Cassini occurred throughout the year.
|Start Date/Time||Duration||End Time||Spacecraft||Crew||Remarks|
|Installed the EXPOSE-R experiment, removed tape straps from a docking target on the Pirs docking compartment, inspected and photographed the exterior of the Russian portion of the station.|
Richard R. Arnold
|Installed the S6 truss to the S5 truss, connected S5/S6 umbilicals, released launch restraints, removed keel pins, stored and removed thermal covers, and deployed the S6 photovoltaic radiator.|
Joseph M. Acaba
|Advanced preparation of worksite for STS-127, installation of an unpressurised cargo carrier attachment system on the P3 truss, installation of a Global Positioning System antenna to the Kibo laboratory, and infrared imagery of panels of the radiators on the P1 and S1 trusses. Cargo carrier installation unsuccessful|
|Joseph M. Acaba
Richard R. Arnold
|Relocation of a crew equipment cart, complete the deployment of a cargo carrier, lubricated the station robotic arm's latching end effector B snare bearings, and finish swapping electrical relays to the station's gyroscopes. Cargo carrier deployment unsuccessful|
|John M. Grunsfeld
Andrew J. Feustel
|HST servicing: Replaced the WFPC-2 with WFC-3, replaced the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit, lubricated three shroud doors, installed SCM.|
|Michael J. Massimino
Michael T. Good
|HST servicing: Replaced rate sensing gyroscopes, removed one of two batteries.|
|John M. Grunsfeld
Andrew J. Feustel
|HST servicing: Replaced COSTAR with COS. Repaired ACS, performed get-ahead tasks from EVA-5.|
|Michael J. Massimino
Michael T. Good
|HST servicing: Repaired Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.|
|John M. Grunsfeld
Andrew J. Feustel
|HST servicing: Final HST servicing EVA, final EVA from Space Shuttle. Replaced second battery, installed FGS-3, replaced some insulation and a low-gain antenna cover.|
Michael R. Barratt
|Prepared the Zvezda service module transfer compartment for the arrival of the Poisk module, installed docking antenna for the module, photographed antenna for evaluation on the ground, and photographed the Strela-2 crane. First use of the Orlan-MK spacesuit.|
|12 minutes||07:07||Expedition 20
Michael R. Barratt
|Internal spacewalk in the depressurised Zvezda transfer compartment, replaced one of the Zvezda hatches with a docking cone, in preparation for the docking of Poisk, later this year.|
Timothy L. Kopra
|JEF installed and P3 nadir UCCAS deployed. S3 zenith outboard PAS deploy postponed due to time constraints.|
|Transferred Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs) from the Shuttle Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) to the External Stowage Platform-3 (ESP-3). Transferred materials included a spare high-gain antenna, cooling-system pump module and spare parts for the Mobile Servicing System. JEF Visual Equipment (JEF-VE) installation on the forward section was postponed due to time constraints.|
|JPM preparation work, ICS-EF MLI, and P6 battery replacement (2 of 6 units). EVA was cut short due to high levels of CO2 in Cassidy's suit.|
|P6 battery replacement (final 4 of 6).|
|SPDM thermal cover adjustment, Z1 patch panel reconfiguration, JEM visual equipment (JEM-VE) installation (forward and aft), and JEM-LTA reconfigurations. S3 Nadir PAS (outboard) deployment postponed to later mission.|
|John D. Olivas
Nicole P. Stott
|Prepared for the replacement of an empty ammonia tank on the station's port truss by releasing its bolts. Retrieved the MISSE-6 and EuTEF experiments mounted outside Columbus, and stowed them in the Shuttle's payload bay for their return to Earth. Nicole Stott becomes the tenth woman to conduct a spacewalk.|
|John D. Olivas
|Removed the new ammonia tank from the shuttle's payload bay and replaced it with the used tank from the station. The new tank, weighing about 1,800 pounds (820 kg), was the most mass ever moved by spacewalking astronauts. With this spacewalk, Christer Fuglesang became the first person, who is not from either an American or Russian space program, to have participated in four or more spacewalks.|
|John D. Olivas
|Prepared for the arrival of Tranquility by attaching cables between the starboard truss and Unity, the area where Tranquility will be installed. The spacewalkers also replaced a communications sensor device, installed two new GPS antennas, deployed the PAS on the S3 truss, and replaced a circuit breaker.|
|Installed a spare antenna on the station's truss and a bracket for ammonia lines on Unity. Lubricated the grapple mechanism on the Payload Orbital Replacement Unit Attachment Device on the Mobile Base System and lubricated the snares of the hand of the station's Japanese robotic arm. Deployed the S3 outboard Payload Attach System.|
|Installed the GATOR (Grappling Adaptor to On-Orbit Railing) bracket to Columbus and an additional ham radio antenna. Installed on the truss an antenna for wireless helmet camera video. Relocated the Floating Potential Measurement Unit that records electrical potential around the station as it orbits the Earth. Deployed two brackets to attach cargo on the truss.|
|Installed a new High Pressure Gas Tank (HPGT) on the Quest airlock. Installed MISSE-7A and 7B on ELC-2. Strapped two micrometeoroid and orbital debris (MMOD) shields to External Stowage Platform #2. Relocated foot restraint, released a bolt on Ammonia Tank Assembly, installed insulated covers on cameras on mobile servicing system and Canadarm 2's end effector. Worked heater cables on docking adapter.|
Orbital launch summary
|International||4||4||0||0||Sea Launch / Land Launch|
|Iran||1||1||0||0||First successful orbital launch|
|South Korea||1||0||1||0||With Russian assistance|
| Russia / |
|Long March||People's Republic of China||6||5||0||1|
|Safir||Iran||1||1||0||0||First successful launch|
|Space Shuttle||United States||5||5||0||0|
|Zenit||Ukraine / Russia||4||4||0||0|
|Atlas V||United States||Atlas||5||5||0||0|
|Delta II||United States||Delta||8||8||0||0|
|Delta IV||United States||Delta||3||3||0||0|
|Falcon 1||United States||Falcon||1||1||0||0||Retired|
|Long March 2||People's Republic of China||Long March||3||3||0||0|
|Long March 3||People's Republic of China||Long March||2||1||0||1|
|Long March 4||People's Republic of China||Long March||1||1||0||0|
|Minotaur I||United States||Minotaur||1||1||0||0|
|Space Shuttle||United States||Space Shuttle||5||5||0||0|
|Zenit||Ukraine / Russia||Zenit||4||4||0||0|
|Ariane 5 ECA||Europe||Ariane 5||6||6||0||0|
|Ariane 5 GS||Europe||Ariane 5||1||1||0||0||Retired|
|Atlas V 401||United States||Atlas V||3||3||0||0|
|Atlas V 421||United States||Atlas V||1||1||0||0|
|Atlas V 431||United States||Atlas V||1||1||0||0|
|Delta II 7320||United States||Delta II||2||2||0||0|
|Delta II 7920||United States||Delta II||3||3||0||0|
|Delta II 7925||United States||Delta II||3||3||0||0||Retired|
|Delta IV-H||United States||Delta IV||1||1||0||0|
|Delta IV-M+(4,2)||United States||Delta IV||1||1||0||0|
|Delta IV-M+(5,4)||United States||Delta IV||1||1||0||0||Maiden flight|
|Falcon 1||United States||Falcon||1||1||0||0|
|H-IIB 304||Japan||H-IIB||1||1||0||0||Maiden flight|
|Long March 2C||People's Republic of China||Long March 2||2||2||0||0|
|Long March 2D||People's Republic of China||Long March 2||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 3B||People's Republic of China||Long March 3||1||0||0||1|
|Long March 3C||People's Republic of China||Long March 3||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 4C||People's Republic of China||Long March 3||1||1||0||0|
|Minotaur I||United States||Minotaur I||1||1||0||0|
|Space Shuttle||United States||Space Shuttle||5||5||0||0|
|Taurus-XL 3110||United States||Taurus||1||0||1||0|
|Zenit-3SL||Ukraine / Russia||Zenit||1||1||0||0|
|Zenit-3SLB||Ukraine / Russia||Zenit||3||3||0||0|
By launch site
|Cape Canaveral||United States||11||11||0||0|
|Jiuquan||People's Republic of China||2||2||0||0|
|Kwajalein Atoll||Marshall Islands||1||1||0||0|
|Naro||South Korea||1||0||1||0||First launch|
|Taiyuan||People's Republic of China||2||2||0||0|
|Xichang||People's Republic of China||2||1||0||1|
|Orbital regime||Launches||Achieved||Not Achieved|| Accidentally
|Failed to orbit||N/A||N/A||N/A||3|
|Low Earth||43||40||3||0||14 to ISS, 1 to HST|
|High Earth||3||2||1||0||Including highly elliptical and Molniya orbits and trans-lunar trajectories.|
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|Timeline of spaceflight|