At 2.3 deg. N. Lat., the launch facility is even closer to the Equator than Europe's facility at Kourou, French Guiana. From Alcantara, the joint venture's Cyclone 4—with a new upper stage engine—should be able to put 5,685 kg. (12,500 lb.) into a circular low Earth orbit at 200 km (124 mi.), and 1,600 kg into geostationary transfer orbit. By launching over the open Atlantic to the north, the rocket is designed to deliver a 3,910-kg spacecraft to a 400-km sun-synchronous orbit.
However, launches with U.S.-built satellites will not be able to start until the Brazilian senate ratifies a technical-services agreement with the U.S. State Department.
While Brazil moves ahead in partnership with Ukraine, Russia's space industry is going through some hard times. A series of well-publicized launch failures with the Proton and Rokot launchers has brought down the Kremlin's wrath on Russian space executives over quality-control practices, and the Russian-owned Sea Launch venture—which uses Ukrainian Zenit rockets—has also had its troubles returning from U.S. bankruptcy protection (AW&ST March 18, p. 54).
Despite the trouble with its Soviet-heritage launchers, Russia is moving ahead with a new domestic cosmodrome at Vostochny in the far-eastern Amur region. Meanwhile, the Khrunichev Space Center shipped the first flight model of the lightweight Angara 1.2 rocket to the northern Plesetsk Cosmodrome in May in preparation for its inaugural launch next year.
The Angara family is a new generation of modular rockets that has been in development at Moscow-based Khrunichev since the mid-1990s. Based on the liquid oxygen/kerosene-powered URM-1 Common Core Booster (CCB), the Angara product line is designed to carry payloads weighing 3,800-35,000 kg to low Earth orbit. A single CCB will power the Angara 1.2, while the heavy-lift Angara A7 will require up to seven boosters. Khrunichev says it is also continuing work on the heavy-lift Angara A5 launch vehicle, which it expects to ship to Plesetsk in November.
Political isolation has long forced India to go it alone on satellites and launch vehicles. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has two medium-lift launch vehicles in operation and a fleet of relatively sophisticated indigenous communications satellites built with some foreign help but as much Indian content as possible.
The saga of its latest launch attempt is emblematic of the approach. Launch of the GSAT-14 communications bird on a Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was scrubbed Aug. 19 when the second stage started leaking its hypergolic propellant. The third stage, carrying the cryogenic engine India is developing to end its reliance on Russia for critical space hardware, was undamaged, but the rocket had to be destacked, and the second stage will be rebuilt.
The satellite is one of the largest India has tried to launch itself rather than with what ISRO calls a “procured launcher” like the Ariane 5. Built by ISRO's Satellite Center on the agency's 2-ton I-2K bus, GSAT-14 carries six extended C-band transponders, 6 Ku-band transponders and two experimental Ka-band “beacons” to test propagation of signals in that frequency band.
The leaky hypergolic stage is powered by the Vikas engine, which also powers the four strap-on boosters of the GSLV Mk. II. The first stage is solid-fueled, while the upper-stage engine is a domestic replacement for the Russian power plant used in the past.