2008 in spaceflight
|Space traveller||South Korea|
|Maiden flights||Ariane 5ES
Long March 3C
The year 2008 contained several significant events in spaceflight, including the first flyby of Mercury by a spacecraft since 1975, the discovery of water ice on Mars by the Phoenix spacecraft, which landed in May, the first Chinese spacewalk in September, and the launch of the first Indian Lunar probe in October.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Space exploration
- 3 Manned spaceflight
- 4 Launch failures
- 5 Summary of launches
- 6 Deep Space Rendezvous
- 7 EVAs
- 8 Orbital launch summary
- 9 See also
- 10 References
The internationally accepted definition of a spaceflight is any flight which crosses the Kármán line, 100 kilometres above sea level. The first recorded spaceflight launch of the year occurred on 11 January, when a Black Brant was launched on a suborbital trajectory from White Sands, with the LIDOS ultraviolet astronomy payload. This was followed by the first orbital launch of the year on 15 January, by a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL, with the Thuraya 3 communications satellite. The launch marked the return to flight for Sea Launch following the explosion of a Zenit-3SL on the launch pad the previous January during an attempt to launch the NSS-8 satellite.
Five carrier rockets made their maiden flights in 2008; the Ariane 5ES, Long March 3C, Zenit-3SLB, PSLV-XL, and the operational version of the Falcon 1, with an uprated Merlin-1C engine. These were all derived from existing systems. The Blue Sparrow and Sejjil missiles also conducted their maiden flights, and the ATK Launch Vehicle made its only flight, but was destroyed by range safety after it went off course. In November, the baseline Proton-M was retired in favour of the Enhanced variant, first launched in 2007.
The first Vietnamese and Venezuelan satellites, Vinasat-1 and Venesat-1 respectively, were launched in 2008, while a failed Iranian launch was reported to have been that country's first indigenous orbital launch attempt. In September, SpaceX conducted the first successful orbital launch of a privately developed and funded liquid-fuelled carrier rocket, when the fourth Falcon 1 launched RatSat, following previous failures in 2006, 2007, and August.
India launched its first Lunar probe, Chandraayan-1, on 22 October, with the spacecraft entering selenocentric orbit on 8 November. On 16 November, the Moon Impact Probe was released, and crashed into the Lunar surface. Although no other spacecraft were launched beyond geocentric orbit in 2008, several significant events occurred in interplanetary flights which had been launched in previous years. MESSENGER conducted flybys of Mercury in January and October, the first spacecraft to do so since Mariner 10 in 1975. Cassini continued to make flybys of the moons of Saturn, including several close passes of Enceladus, one at a distance of 25 kilometres. In September Rosetta flew past the asteroid 2867 Šteins. On 25 May, the Phoenix spacecraft landed in the Green Valley on Mars, where it discovered water ice. Phoenix exceeded its design life of 90 days, finally failing on 10 November. The Ulysses spacecraft, launched in 1990, was also retired in 2008.
Seven manned flights were launched in 2008, one by China, two by Russia and four by the United States. In April, Yi So-yeon became the first South Korean to fly in space, aboard Soyuz TMA-12. On the same flight, Sergey Volkov became the first second-generation cosmonaut. Yi returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-11, which nearly ended in disaster following a separation failure between the descent and service modules, resulting in a ballistic reentry. In September, China conducted its third manned mission, Shenzhou 7, from which Zhai Zhigang and Liu Boming conducted the first Chinese spacewalk. Soyuz TMA-13, launched in October, was the hundredth flight of the Soyuz programme to carry a crew at some point in its mission.
Assembly of the International Space Station continued, with the delivery of the Columbus module by Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-122 in February. March saw the launch of the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle, an unmanned European spacecraft which was used to resupply the space station. Also in March, Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on STS-123 with the first component of the Japanese Experiment Module, the Experiment Logistics Module. STS-123 marked the final flight of the Spacelab programme, with a SpaceLab pallet used to carry the Canadian-built Dextre RMS extension. The second JEM component, the main pressurised module, was launched by STS-124, flown by Discovery in May. In November, Endeavour launched on the STS-126 logistics flight, with the Leonardo MPLM.
On 14 March, a Proton-M with a Briz-M upper stage launched AMC-14. Several hours later, on 15 March, the Briz-M engine cut off prematurely during a burn, leaving the satellite in a medium Earth orbit. Following a small legal dispute, the satellite was sold, and raised to a geosynchronous orbit by its manoeuvring thrusters, at the expense of a large amount of its fuel and hence operational life.
On 3 August, SpaceX launched the third Falcon 1. Due to residual thrust caused by the upgraded Merlin-1C engine which was being flown for the first time, the first stage recontacted the second during staging, resulting in the rocket failing to reach orbit. The Trailblazer, PreSat and NanoSail-D satellites were lost in the failure, as was a space burial capsule, containing the remains of several hundred people, including astronaut Gordon Cooper, actor James Doohan, writer and director John Meredyth Lucas and Apollo mission planner Mareta West.
On 16 August, Iran launched a Safir, which though officially successful, was reported to have failed due to a second stage malfunction. The purpose of this launch is in doubt, as before the launch it was claimed that it would place the Omid into orbit, whilst following the launch, it was reported that a boilerplate payload had been launched. Other reports indicated that the launch was only a suborbital test of the rocket. If this was an orbital launch attempt, it was the first Iranian attempt to launch a satellite.
On 22 August, the inaugural launch of the Alliant Techsystems ALV X-1 was terminated 27 seconds after launch from Wallops Flight Facility when it veered off course. Both hypersonic physics experiments on board were destroyed.
Summary of launches
In total, sixty nine orbital launches were made in 2008, with sixty seven reaching orbit, and two outright failures if the Iranian launch in August is counted. This is an increase of one orbital launch attempt on 2007, with two more launches reaching orbit, which continues a trend of increasing launch rates seen since 2006. The final launch of the year was conducted on 25 December, by a Proton-M with three GLONASS navigation satellites for the Russian government.
Suborbital spaceflight in 2008 saw a number of sounding rocket and missile launches. On 21 February, a RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 was used as an anti-satellite weapon to destroy the USA-193 satellite. USA-193 was a US spy satellite which had failed immediately after launch in 2006.
China conducted twelve orbital launches of a planned fifteen. Europe had intended to conduct seven launches of Ariane 5 rockets, and the maiden flight of the Vega rocket, however payload delays pushed one of the Arianes into 2009, and the Vega was delayed due to development issues. India had originally scheduled five to seven launches, however only three of these were conducted, mostly due to delays with the launch of Chandraayan-1. Japan scheduled three launches for 2008, of which one was launched; an H-IIA with WINDS in February. Russia and the former Soviet Union conducted twenty six launches, not including the international Sea and Land launch programmes, which conducted six. Fourteen launches were conducted by the United States, which had originally announced plans to launch many more, however technical issues with several rockets, particularly the Atlas V, Delta II and Falcon 1, caused a number of delays. The Atlas problems, combined with a series of delays to the launch of NRO L-26 on a Delta IV, resulted in just two of ten planned EELV launches being conducted. Two of six planned Space Shuttle launches were also delayed to 2009, one due to problems with External Tank delivery, and another due to a major systems failure on the Hubble Space Telescope, which it was to have serviced. Israel was not reported to have scheduled, or conducted an orbital launch attempt.
Deep Space Rendezvous
|5 January||Cassini||40th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,010 kilometres (630 mi)|
|14 January||MESSENGER||1st flyby of Mercury||Closest approach: 200 kilometres (120 mi) at 19:04 GMT|
|22 February||Cassini||41st flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,000 kilometres (620 mi)|
|12 March||Cassini||3rd flyby of Enceladus||Closest approach: 52 kilometres (32 mi)|
|25 March||Cassini||42nd flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,000 kilometres (620 mi)|
|12 May||Cassini||43rd flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,000 kilometres (620 mi)|
|25 May||Phoenix||Landing on Mars||Region D, Arctic area - Green Valley, near the Heimdal crater: 68°N, 236°E. Touchdown at 23:38 GMT. Successful|
|28 May||Cassini||44th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,400 kilometres (870 mi)|
|31 July||Cassini||45th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,613 kilometres (1,002 mi)|
|11 August||Cassini||4th flyby of Enceladus||Closest approach: 54 kilometres (34 mi)|
|5 September||Rosetta||Flyby of 2867 Šteins||
Closest approach: 800 kilometres (500 mi)
|6 October||MESSENGER||2nd flyby of Mercury|
|9 October||Cassini||5th flyby of Enceladus||Closest approach: 25 kilometres (16 mi)|
|31 October||Cassini||6th flyby of Enceladus||Closest approach: 200 kilometres (120 mi)|
|3 November||Cassini||46th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,100 kilometres (680 mi)|
|8 November||Chandrayaan-1||Injection into Selenocentric orbit||Periselene: 504 kilometres (313 mi), Aposelene: 7,502 kilometres (4,662 mi)|
|14 November||MIP||Landing on the Moon||Lunar Impactor|
|19 November||Cassini||47th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 1,023 kilometres (636 mi)|
|5 December||Cassini||48th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 960 kilometres (600 mi)|
|21 December||Cassini||49th flyby of Titan||Closest approach: 970 kilometres (600 mi)|
- Distant, non-targeted flybys of Dione, Enceladus, Mimas, Tethys and Titan by Cassini occurred throughout the year.
|Start Date/Time||Duration||End Time||Spacecraft||Crew||Function||Remarks|
Daniel M. Tani
|Replace motor and bearing in solar array joint|
|Rex J. Walheim
Stanley G. Love
|Install Power Data Grapple Fixture on Columbus||Originally to have been conducted by Walheim and Hans Schlegel, Love replaced Schlegel on medical grounds.|
|Rex J. Walheim
|Replace depleted nitrogen tank|
|Rex J. Walheim
Stanley G. Love
|Install experiments on Columbus, load failed gyroscope onto Shuttle for return to Earth|
|Richard M. Linnehan
|Install Kibo ELM-PS and start Dextre assembly|
|Richard M. Linnehan
|Richard M. Linnehan
Robert L. Behnken
|Dextre assembly, install MISSE-6 experiment, and store spare parts outside the ISS||MISSE installation failed|
|Robert L. Behnken
|Test heat shield repair techniques|
|Robert L. Behnken
|Store OBSS on ISS, retry MISSE-6 installation|
|Install JEM Pressurised Module, Inspect SARJ, retrieve OBSS.|
|Adjust covers on JEM, Inspect SARJ.|
|Replace nitrogen tank, inspect SARJ.|
|Remove pyrotechnic bolt from Soyuz TMA-12 for inspection.|
|Install docking targeting equipment, rotate exposed experiments|
|22 minutes||09:00||Shenzhou 7||Zhai Zhigang (full)
Liu Boming (stand-up)
|Test spacesuit, collect experiment||First Chinese EVA|
Stephen G. Bowen
|Transferred an empty nitrogen tank assembly from ESP3 to the shuttle's cargo bay, transferred a new flex hose rotary coupler to ESP3 for future use, removed an insulation cover on the Kibo Exposed Facility berthing mechanism, began cleaning and lubrication of the starboard SARJ, and replacement of its 11 trundle bearing assemblies.|
Robert S. Kimbrough
|Relocated the two CETA carts from the starboard side of the Mobile Transporter to the port side, lubricated the station robotic arm's latching end effector A snare bearings, continued cleaning and lubrication of the starboard SARJ||Conducted on tenth anniversary of the launch of the ISS|
Stephen G. Bowen
|Completed cleaning and lubrication of all but one of the trundle bearing assemblies (TBA) on the starboard SARJ.|
|Stephen G. Bowen
Robert S. Kimbrough
|Completed replacement of trundle bearing assemblies on starboard SARJ, lubricated the port SARJ, installed a video camera, re‐installed insulation covers on the Kibo External Facility berthing mechanism, performed Kibo robotic arm grounding tab maintenance, installed spacewalk handrails on Kibo, installed Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) antennae on Kibo, photographed radiators, and photographed trailing umbilical system cables.|
|Install Langmuir probe, EXPOSE-R and IPI-SM experiments.||EXPOSE-R installation failed|
Orbital launch summary
|International||6||6||0||0||Sea Launch / Land Launch|
|Iran||1||0||1||0||First orbital launch attempt|
| Russia /
|Long March||People's Republic of China||11||11||0||0|
|Space Shuttle||United States||4||4||0||0|
|Zenit||Ukraine / Russia||6||6||0||0|
|Atlas V||United States||Atlas||2||2||0||0|
|Delta II||United States||Delta||5||5||0||0|
|Falcon 1||United States||Falcon||2||1||1||0|
|Long March 2||People's Republic of China||Long March||4||4||0||0|
|Long March 3||People's Republic of China||Long March||4||4||0||0|
|Long March 4||People's Republic of China||Long March||3||3||0||0|
|Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle||India||PSLV||3||3||0||0|
|Space Shuttle||United States||Space Shuttle||4||4||0||0|
|Zenit||Ukraine / Russia||Zenit||6||6||0||0|
|Ariane 5 ES||Europe||Ariane 5||1||1||0||0||Maiden flight|
|Ariane 5 ECA||Europe||Ariane 5||5||5||0||0|
|Atlas V 411||United States||Atlas V||1||1||0||0|
|Atlas V 421||United States||Atlas V||1||1||0||0|
|Delta II 7320||United States||Delta II||1||1||0||0|
|Delta II 7420||United States||Delta II||2||2||0||0|
|Delta II 7920H||United States||Delta II||1||1||0||0|
|Delta II 7925||United States||Delta II||1||1||0||0|
|Falcon 1||United States||Falcon 1||2||1||1||0||First successful launch|
|Long March 2C||People's Republic of China||Long March 2||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 2D||People's Republic of China||Long March 2||2||2||0||0|
|Long March 2F||People's Republic of China||Long March 2||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 3A||People's Republic of China||Long March 3||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 3B||People's Republic of China||Long March 3||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 3B/E||People's Republic of China||Long March 3||1||1||0||0|
|Long March 3C||People's Republic of China||Long March 3||1||1||0||0||Maiden flight|
|Long March 4B||People's Republic of China||Long March 4||2||2||0||0|
|Long March 4C||People's Republic of China||Long March 4||1||1||0||0|
|Space Shuttle||United States||Space Shuttle||4||4||0||0|
|Zenit-3SL||Ukraine / Russia||Zenit||5||5||0||0|
|Zenit-3SLB||Ukraine / Russia||Zenit||1||1||0||0||Maiden flight|
By launch site
|Cape Canaveral||United States||3||3||0||0|
|Jiuquan||People's Republic of China||3||3||0||0|
|Kwajalein Atoll||Marshall Islands||4||3||1||0||Two launches used Stargazer aircraft|
|Semnan||Iran||1||0||1||0||First orbital launch attempt|
|Taiyuan||People's Republic of China||4||4||0||0|
|Xichang||People's Republic of China||4||4||0||0|
|Low Earth orbit||36||34||2||0||11 to ISS|
|Medium Earth orbit||4||4||0||1|
|High Earth orbit||4||4||0||0||Including lunar transfer and Molniya orbits|
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|Timeline of spaceflight|