Frontier Status Report #12
Frontier Status Report #12
August 20, 1996
Dale M. Gray
News continues to pour out of the frontier. Two successful launches by Russia and Japan, a botched satellite launch by China, and an aborted Pegasus launch lead the news. Analysis continues on the Delta Graham's last flight and the in-orbit satellite collision. While MIR is resupplied by the current Russian missions and the upcoming Atlantis flight, the International Space Station is progressing while experiencing significant problems.
Following a successful launch of a Soyuz-U rocket carrying the MIR 22 crew from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday, August 17, the capsule docked with MIR on Monday. The Russian crew of Valery Korzun and Alexander Kalery was accompanied by Claudie Andre-Deshays the first French woman in space. The Russian crew had recently been reshuffled due to anomaly on the EKG of the original commander. Because the Soyuz was not designed for a 3 person crew, several systems had to be removed, no personal possessions were allowed and the crew had to slim down to make weight. Despite the removal of an automatic docking system, the connection with MIR was uneventful. While the Russians will remain on MIR for a scheduled 225 days, Claudie Andre-Deshays will return to earth after 16 days with the departing MIR-21 crew of Yuriy Usachyov and Yuriy Onufriyenko. France paid the equivalent of $13.7 million for the flight and the opportunity to conduct experiments on the station (FLATODAY; SPACEF)
The orbiter Atlantis has been rolled out to Pad 39-A in preparation for the September 12 launch of STS-79. The nine day mission to MIR will transfer both supplies and personnel. The dual spacehab model will be used both for experiments and for support equipment storage. While the flight will have six crew up and six crew down, John Blaha will remain on MIR while space-duration record holder Shannon Lucid will replace him on the flight down. The flight has been delayed 6 weeks due to problems with the Solid Rocket Boosters (FLATODAY).
The International Space Station (ISS) continues to struggle onward. Testing of the E-wing solar panel array has begun at the Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space plant in Sunnyvale. For the next month tests include inspections, solar cell flash tests and 84 deployments and retractions. The 108 x 19 ft assembly is half of the planned 108 x 38-ft E-wing. Eight of the solar arrays will be used; each with over 262,000 silicon cells. The $450-million power generating system will be capable of producing 246 kw when installed. The arrays will be delivered to the station in a series of four shuttle flights beginning in 1998 (AW&ST).
NASA has revealed the names of the crew for the first Station assembly mission in late 1997. Veteran astronaut Robert D. Cabana (Col., USMC) will command the mission with pilot Frederick "Rick" Sturckow (Major, USMC), on his first space flight. Other crew include veteran mission specialists Nancy Currie (Major, USA), Jerry Ross (Col., USAF), and Jim Newman, Ph.D. The seven-day mission will mate Boeing's Node 1 to the orbiting Russian/Boeing Functional Energy Block (FGB). The FGB is slated for launch in November of 1997 on a Proton Rocket. Two spacewalks will connect power and data transmission cables between the Node and the FGB.
Meanwhile, the problem plagued Node #1 constructed by Boeing has been fitted with braces to compensate for stresses revealed during an earlier failed pressure test. It has been rumored that the node has recently failed a second test with the braces in place. The FGB is also behind schedule (Oler, FLATODAY).
Investigations continue to determine the cause of the July 31 destruction of the Delta Graham test vehicle. Subsequent investigations revealed a hose had not been connected to one of the landing gear resulting in the vehicle tipping over and burning after a successful flight and landing. Because of burned graphite fibers at the site, investigations have been hampered, but the four "Pratt & Whitney RL10A-5 rocket engines appeared relatively undamaged, with some of the plastic wrap on wiring still intact". While rumors are rampant, there is still considerable interest in continuing the Delta Phoenix program (AW&ST).
The Pegasus XL launch of the FAST satellite was aborted Sunday August 18, only minutes before its release from its L-1011 carrier jet. Pre-launch tests found the Fast Auroral Snaphot explorer satellite was not receiving commands from the ground. The jet returned to Vandenberg AFB where tests are ongoing to determine if the problem is with the satellite, the Pegasus or the jet. The next launch attempt is now scheduled for no earlier than Wednesday, Aug. 21 (FLATODAY).
After a successful launch from the Xichang Satellite Launching Center on Sunday, August 18, the CHINASAT-7 did not achieve its proper orbit. The first and second stages of the Long March 3 operated normally, but the third stage stopped 48 seconds early and released the satellite. CHINASAT-7 is a commercial telecommunications satellite purchased from Hughes Satellite by the China Telecommunication and Broadcasting Satellite Corp. The next launch of a Long March 3 will be in autumn and will carry a Chinese built Red No. 3 satellite.
In addition to the first French woman to fly in orbit, France continues to be in the news with additional information on the July 24 collision of the CERISE microsatellite with an Ariane booster fragment. The 31,000 mph collision was detected by controllers at Guildford, Surrey when there was a sudden decrease in altitude from the 700 km polar orbit. Subsequent investigations revealed that the debris impacted and vaporized the 20 stabilization boom and set the satellite tumbling. Surprisingly, the satellite continued to function. Controllers are now working to program the satellite to utilize electromagnet systems for attitude control and will subsequently continue the satellite's mission of broadband radiometric measurements (FLATODAY).
A Japanese H-2 rocket successfully launched the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (ADEOS) into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center on Thursday August 15. The ADEOS mission is an international endeavor between the space agencies of Japan, France, and the United States. When the satellite goes on line in November it will be in a 497-mile circular polar orbit where it will gather information on distribution of land vegetation, ocean temperature, the growth of ocean chlorophyll, the planetary reflection of solar energy, and profile the gases in the atmosphere. Radar pulses to measure the surface winds on the world's oceans will result in data used by both scientists and commercial vessels. The onboard TOMS ozone mapper is the second to be launched in as many months - - following the TOMS Earth Probe spacecraft launched into orbit last month by a Pegasus XL rocket. The different orbiting altitudes of the TOMS/ADEOS and TOMS-EP satellites will enhance data collection by allowing a more reliable separation of stratospheric ozone from tropospheric ozone (FLATODAY).
The recent launch of the Russian MIR 22 crew has increased the population of the frontier from 3 to 6. This includes 4 Russian men sojourners, 1 American woman sojourner and 1 French woman visitor.
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