Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #10

Frontier Status Report #10

August 6, 1996

Dale M. Gray

The past week has been a busy one with several important developments that will impact the developing frontier. Foremost news of note is the Boeing / Rockwell merger and the loss of the Delta Graham experimental rocket. Other news of note includes the launch and successful docking of the Progress supply vehicle with the Mir space station, rocket engine development work, and an upcoming Pegasus XL launch. The satellite business continues to expand as the major players increasingly focus on moving on from LEO to Geosynchronous Orbit.

Boeing has recently announced that it will acquire Rockwell (actually only key aerospace portions of the company) for a reported $3 billion. This includes assumption of $2.165-billion of Rockwell's debt and an additional $860 million in cash. Boeing specifically will obtain the Space Systems Div., Rocketdyne Div., Autonetics and Missile System Div., North American Aircraft Div., North American Aircraft Modification Div., Collins International Service Co., System Development Center, and Rockwell's 50% of United Space Alliance. The divested Rockwell properties will become Boeing North American Inc., a division of Boeing. This will put Boeing in the position of building both the Shuttle main engines and developing the new Aerospike Rocket engines for the coming X-33. Earlier, Boeing had opted out of the X-33 proposal contest in order that they might offer their services to the winner. In addition to being prime contractor on the International Space Station, one of the new Boeing subsidiaries will also provide wiring for the station. Rockwell will be left relatively debt free to continue its other products such as its line of modems and factory robots (FLATODAY; AW&ST).

On August 1, at the conclusion of what had been a successful flight, one of the four Clipper Graham landing gear failed to deploy. By the time the failure was noted, an emergency re-boost option was too late to prevent touchdown. When three of the four landing gear touched ground, the rocket engines cut off automatically. It was hoped that the three other gear would keep the craft upright, but after a short time the vehicle toppled, resulting in an explosion and ensuing fire that destroyed the upper segment.

The destruction at first seemed to eliminate hopes that the program would be extended to act as a back-up test bed for the X-33 program. Four additional flights had been scheduled toward this end. Because the explosion was on the upper portion of the vehicle there is some hope that the expensive rocket engines might be salvaged, re outfitted with the original tanks that had been replaced by NASA's experimental Al-Li and graphite tanks, and the rocket then covered by a new aeroshell that had already been proposed. Money allotted for the four additional flights might be used for the restoration of the Delta "Phoenix" (AW&ST,FLATODAY; SPACEF).

The Delta Graham's flight had flown to 4,000 feet, moved 2,000 feet horizontally and successfully demonstrated the ability to tip 60 degrees in either direction. The telemetry from this mission was not effected by the loss of the craft.

On August 1st, the same day as the last flight of the Delta Graham, Russia was finally able to launch the M-32 cargo ship to MIR on a Soyuz-U booster. This system had in previous failed launches of military payloads been plagued, like the shuttle, by a problem with glue. The cargo ship successfully mated with MIR on August 3rd. The supplies included 880 pounds of fuel, 660 pounds of food, scientific equipments and water for American Shannon Lucid and Russians Yuri Onufriyenko and Yuri Usachev. The resupply clears the way for the August 19 launch of two Russians and French astronaut. The Russians will remain aboard MIR with American Shannon Lucid while Lucid's former roommates will return to earth with the French astronaut on August 30. Lucid has completed 19 weeks in orbit. She has recently concluded work on the Candle Flame in Microgravity and Forced Flow Flamespread Test (FFFT) experiments. Lucid will return to earth with the next Shuttle mission (FLATODAY).

Work continues on identifying the problems with the new environmentally friendly glue used in the recent shuttle mission. The compound was found to allow hot gases through the "J" joint in the solid rocket booster segments. The investigation has tentatively shown a link between the glue and a new environmentally friendly cleaning solution used in conjunction. The glue had previously been tested only in conjunction with an older cleaner and no problems had been encountered. Until the glue problem is resolved, shuttle missions will continue with the older glue. The next flight of Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for September 12. It will fly to MIR and provide both supplies and a change of American personnel (Halvorson FLATODAY).

NASA's Fast Auroral Snapshot (FAST) Explorer satellite is scheduled for launch on August 16. The satellite will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA, using a three stage winged Pegasus-XL launch vehicle. The FAST spacecraft will investigate aspects of how accelerated particles in space create the northern and southern lights. The Pegasus system will boost the craft to a orbit of 1,250 - 6,250 miles above the Earth at high latitudes (FLATODAY).

"USAF Phillips Laboratory is funding an Integrated Powerhead Demonstration (IPD) program to develop technologies for inexpensive, lightweight and reliable rocket engines. Many IPD elements involve trying to duplicate Russian success in using hot oxygen, something the U.S. has avoided since early research failures. Technologies include an oxygen-cooled nozzle, an oxygen-rich preburner, a hot oxygen turbopump and hydrostatic bearings. Industry participants are Aerojet, Pratt & Whitney and Rocketdyne. Early program goals include 30% higher thrust-to-weight (T/W) ratio, 25% lower failure rate, 15% lower hardware cost and 1% better specific impulse (Isp). A reusable engine would have a 100-mission lifetime, 444-sec. vacuum Isp, 72 T/W ratio, with a 3,040-psia. chamber pressure and a 6.7:1 LOX/hydrogen mixture ratio."(AW&ST)

The action on the frontier continues to increase in pace as companies compete for the highly lucrative satellite manufacturing Market. Presently Hughes Satellite and Communications commands a market share of 62 percent. However, at least three American companies and several foreign companies are moving to take a bite out of Hughes' market share. This may not be easy since Hughes has recently completed a large plant in El Segundo, California which consolidates 22 previously separate operations. The company also has aggressively formed partnerships with launch firms while incorporating customers in the construction of their satellites. Hughes' chief competition appears to be from LockMart which is now completing a huge $1 billion plant in Sunnyvale, California. Space Systems, another competitor, completed their own satellite manufacturing plant Palo Alto in 1992. A third American company, CTA Space and Telecommunications Co., so far seems appears to be aiming at specialty applications such as the Indosat which was specifically designed to meet the needs of the 1700 islands of Indonesia. As competition accelerates, these companies are gearing up for greater production (Hughes 11-12 satellites per year at present, LockMart 16 satellites per year when plant completed, Space Systems / Loral 8-12 satellites per year potential). To meet customer needs, they are also expanding the power of the satellites (Hughes 7-8 Kw present to 15 Kw future, Space Systems / Loral (8-9 Kw present to 20 Kw future). To increase efficiency and speed of production, modern assembly lines are being utilized: satellites are being built on speculation and various strategies of out-sourcing, partnerships, vertical integration and turn-key ground support are being utilized to capture and maintain market shares. With a large backlog of satellites, investment capital is available for rapid increases in production, technology and capability. This market driven development of larger, higher and more powerful satellites is also driving the launch industry to provide the means to lift the new generation of satellites to their proper orbits (AW&ST).

While America appears to be dominating the satellite industry for the present, the European community has not been idle, at present they account for 12.5% of the U.S.' space sales. Matra Marconi Space has introduced a satellite based on the new 1-10 Kkw Eurostar 3000 platform that is expandable to 16 Kw. Japan continues to strongly fund its own space efforts and India and Brazil also are working to enter the market. Instabilities in the once strong Russian industry and the lack of information on the Chinese industry also add uncertainty to the picture.

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

Your comments, corrections and additions to space frontier developments are welcome.



Nice job as usual.

One minor correction -- the Rockwell acquisition will involve, in addition to the assumption of over $2 billion of Rockwell debt, $860 million of Boeing stock rather than cash.


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