Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #8-9

Frontier Status Report #8-9

July 30, 1996

Dale M. Gray

(Note: Last week I was working in the backwoods of Montana and was unable to post FS 8. The news of two weeks have therefore been combined.)

The last two weeks have contained news of several technical developments vital to frontier growth, announcements of contracts for launches on new and enhanced systems, problems with the International Space Station, and the possible revitalization of the Delta Graham test vehicle. The frontier economic growth continues to accelerate as major players form alliances to control various commercial activities. While government continues to play the lead role, it is increasingly apparent that private investment will soon outpace government spending.

Heading the news is the recent completion of tests on the new Aluminum Lithium external tanks (ET) for the shuttle. The test tank is 27 feet in diameter, the same as for the shuttle, but only 40 feet long. The shuttle's external tank is 154 feet long. The new tank also features the new orthogrid barrel pattern. The tank has completed certification testing and will now be tested to the point of failure. Ultimately the new material and design will be used to build an ET the same size as the previous tank, but will be 7,500 pounds lighter. This weight savings is a critical enhancement for the shuttle, enabling it to lift key components of the space station (FLATODAY).

The International Space Station is also in the news with the recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report that the station was behind schedule and over budget. Boeing, the prime contractor, was estimated at $87 million over budget. Other concerns with the station hardware 45 percent complete include: "Unrealistic cost estimates that could mask overruns. Continued concern over Russian Space Agency participation. An incomplete NASA measurement system to monitor cost and schedule." The GAO hearing on Wednesday with the Senate subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space precedes the Senates upcoming vote on NASA's 1997 budget (FLATODAY).

One of the ESA contributions to the space station has reached a milestone. The unmanned Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator (ARD) recently completed its first recovery qualification test over the Mediterranean. The full-size mock-up was lifted by a balloon to 75,440 ft and allowed to free fall until it reached a speed of 0.8 mach. Three American made parachutes were deployed around 40,000 feet leading to a splashdown and recovery. The system's next phase of development was to be placed on the second Ariane 5 launch, but the failure of the first Ariane 5 has placed the ARD launch test in limbo. An investigation team has determined that a common flaw simultaneously halted both Inertial Reference Systems on the Ariane 5--a failure caused by a "numerical overflow" in an unused and unneeded diagnostic software routine. The next scheduled flight for the Ariane 5 is next March - April of 1997 (SPACEF;AW&ST).

The refitting of Atlantis with boosters has until recently progressed ahead of schedule. However, on Thursday July 25, workers discovered that the top two segments of the boosters were not sealed tightly. A brush bristle was apparently at fault. This will require the segments to be taken apart, cleaned, reglued and restacked. Because the task was ahead of schedule, no further delays are anticipated, however, there may be a scheduling conflict with a September 12 GPS satellite launch on a Delta rocket. Atlantis is now scheduled to launch in mid-September for a MIR supply and crew exchange mission. The shuttle will be flying with two connected Spacehab modules for the first time (FLATODAY).

The launch of the Progress M-32 cargo spaceship to MIR has been delayed, the resupply vessel was to have been launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstan. The cancellation occurred during a preflight computer check of systems when a drain-valve malfunction on the first stage was discovered. This delay comes in the wake of two in-flight failures of similar Soyuz boosters carrying reconnaissance satellites - one a commercial venture. These failures have been traced to a change in glueing technique on the payload shrouds. This echos problems with glue experienced by NASA on the shuttle's SRBS. The flight has been tentatively rescheduled for August 1 (FLATODAY).

On Thursday, July 25, a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2 successfully launched the Navy's 6,655-pound UHF F-7 satellite built by Hughes Space and Communications Co. This is the seventh of a series of Navy UHF satellites to be launched since 1993 and the fourth successful Altas launch this year (24 successful in a row). The satellite was placed in a transfer orbit 3,000 miles higher than planned, this bonus performance may extend the life of the satellite. The spacecraft carries 20 extremely high frequency (EHF) channels. This configuration nearly doubles the EHF antijam/multiparty capability compared with three earlier EHF-equipped satellites in the series. The next Atlas 2A launch will be on August 30 and will carry a GE-1 Americom satellite (FLATODAY).

Hughes Satellite has announced a contract with McDonnald Douglas to place the Galaxy 10 satellite on the first scheduled flight of the Delta 3 booster. The Delta 3's flight will take place in 1998. This next generation Delta features a single engine cryogenic upper stage, a larger payload faring and will be able to lift 8,400 pounds to geosynchronous transfer orbit. The satellite, a HS 601HP, will provide both C-band and Ku-band capacity for cable TV. This is a market driven development. The combination of satellite to booster is an important one with McDonald Douglas's biggest booster capable of lifting Hughes Satellite's heaviest satellite.(FLATODAY)

Hughes Space and Communication along with Space Systems / Loral have contracted for 15 flights from the Sea Launch platform floating in the Pacific, based out of Long Beach. Sea Launch is multi-partner venture involving Boeing, Kvaerner of Norway, Russia's RSC-Energia and Ukraine's KB Yuzhnoye and PO Yuzhmash. Boeing will provide integration, adaptors and management. Kvaerner will provide the Assembly and Command Ship (ACS) and reconditioned oil platform/launch platform. Energia will provide the Block DM upper stage while Ukraine will provide the Zenit first and second stages. The Long Beach base of operations was chosen because of access to the former Long Beach Naval Station and its proximity to the Hughes factory. The system is designed to deliver satellites to orbit for less than the cost of the Ariane 4 launch system (AW&ST).

"Japan's Science & Technology Agency, National Space Development Agency (NASDA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have agreed that NASDA's H-2A launcher will carry ESA's Artemis communications satellite as a payload on its first launch in early 2000" (AW&ST).

The spacebased telecommunication continues to show similarities to early mining frontiers with band-widths acting much like mining claims. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission much like a miner's court has "denied applications by cable television giant TeleCommunications Inc. (TCI) and TelQuest Ventures to use Canadian direct broadcast satellite (DBS) slots to beam TV programming to the American market. Hughes, AT&T and MCI-the latter of which paid $682 million in January for a U.S. DBS slot-opposed the applications, which essentially would have let TCI and TelQuest enter the lucrative U.S. market through the back door (AW&ST May 13, p. 26). The FCC said its denial was based on the procedural ground that the ventures hadn't secured Canadian government licensing" (AW&ST).

Delta Graham: There is a rumor that the Delta Graham will not be retired, but may continue to function as a test bed to supplement the X-33 program. The craft may be used to test longer tanks, a fifth engine and a variety of subsystems. The vehicle is next slated to fly on July 31, 1996. This will be the fourth flight of the reconfigured craft. It will rise to 4,100 feet and move laterally 2,800 feet. It will do two maneuvers to pitch its nose 60 degrees toward the horizon (FLATODAY,AW&ST).

NASA has selected 15 finalist companies in its Low Cost Boost Technology Project. This program seeks to use off-the-shelf technology to launch small packages - under 500 pounds - to orbit for under $1 million. Ground test demonstrations should occur in 1998 with a demonstration flight in mid- 1999 (FLATODAY).

From the wilderness:

Galileo has returned new images of Io showing the geologically active moon has changed significantly since last visited by Voyager 1 and 2. The photographs were taken while the craft was approaching Ganymede and are comparable in resolution to the earlier Voyager photos taken 17 years ago (FLATODAY). The photos were retrieved using the new "ICT" image-compression software. The new program also allowed the recovery of Europa images that would have otherwise have been lost (AW&ST).

The space population continues to stand at 3. Two Russian and one American sojourners.

Your comments and additions to space frontier developments are welcome.


<<The shuttle will be flying with two connected Spacehab modules for the first time>>

Just to clarify, the Spacehab Double Module is the size of two modules, but is one unit in the bay. Basically you can look at it as if the back of one and the front of another module was removed and the two were attached together.

Justin (Ray)


Thanks for the clarification on the SpaceHab. I read the report in AW&ST several times and had trouble (obviously) understanding the mechanics of the connection. They are contemplating building a 4th module, do you know if it will be used in a similar manner?

By the way, thanks for all the great postings, you are an important source for my "unofficial" status reports.

Just saw a tape of the destruction of the Delta Graham on TV (NBC I think). I will address it next posting, but it has severely depressed me. I know such failures are a part of expanding technology and frontiers, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.


I do not know exactly what the plan would be with the new Spacehab module. I will check around and see what I can find out.

The double module has great potential for the Mir missions because the storage size is so much greater--obviously that is why the developed the DM concept. <G> Also, they want to be involved with the ISS missions as well, so we will see what role they can get to play.

<<By the way, thanks for all the great postings, you are an important source for my "unofficial" status reports.>>


When I watched the Clipper Graham video last night, I was saddened by the entire thing. I was really happy about the news of extending the program. It was a truly sour note to end the project with.


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