Zenit Return to Flight Via Land Launch Launch Kicks Off a September to Remember

Zenit Returns to Flight Credit : RIA Novosti

Zenit Returns to Flight
Credit : RIA Novosti

A busy, and unusually significant September launch schedule got underway Saturday at 4:05 p.m. EDT  with the liftoff of a Land Launch Zenit-3SLB booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.    Carrying the 9,500 lb. AMOS-4 communications satellite, Israel’s largest Comsat so far, to a GTO, the successful launch marked a return to flight for the Zenit-3 booster,  following the February 1st failure of a Zenit 3-SLB by sister company Sea Launch.  While the Land Launch manifest has been pretty thin since its debut in 2008,  the trouble free flight could  mark the beginning of a new era for both companies. Of particular note,  all versions of the Zenit booster employ the four chambered RD-171 main engine, which is built by Russia’s NPO Energomash, and any uptick in orders for either booster stand to provide Russia with more work for the company should the Vladimir Putin’s government choose to follow through on reports that it was considering terminating the export of two chambered RD-180 engine to the United States.

Looking ahead, September is scheduled to include the launch of no less than four separate American boosters, including the maiden flight for the Falcon 9 v1.1, as well as the return to flight for the Russian Proton following its spectacular failure on July 1st, as well as the re-scheduled first flight for Japan’s Epsilon launch vehicle.

As of now the schedule is as follows:

September 6th :  LADEE aboard a Minotaur V at 11:27 PM out of NASA Wallops

September 10th:  CASSIOPE aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 V1.1 out of Vandenberg AFB, CA. during a window 9-11 a.m. PDT

September 15th: International Launch Services Astra 2E Comsat aboard a Proton out of Baikonur, TBD

September 17th : Orbital Sciences Antares/Cygnus 1 launch to ISS out of MARS/Wallops at 11:23 a.m. EDT

September 18th : AEHF satellite aboard a  ULA Atlas V in the 531 configuration out of Cape Canaveral at 3:04 a.m. EDT

And just maybe, if everything goes as planned and on schedule with the CASSIOPE flight, the first Falcon 9 v1.1 out of Cape Canaveral, carrying the SES-8 Comsat

Finally, just about no month would be complete without some version of the Soyuz blasting into orbit, and even if some of the other scheduled missions don’t make it off on time, it’s a pretty good bet that the two Soyuz launches scheduled for this month,  a crewed mission to ISS on September 25th, and a commercial launch out of French Guiana on the 30th , will continue extending that vehicle’s remarkable record.

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