Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #13

Frontier Status Report #13

August 27, 1996

Dale M. Gray

A slow week on the frontier. The Pegasus XL launch of the FAST satellite was the only direct activity. The MIR crew rotation continues. The International Space Station crew training has begun despite setbacks in construction. The Japanese H-2 launch system has been declared operational and testing has completed on the landing system of their Hope unmanned shuttle. Both an Atlas and a Delta launch are scheduled for the next few weeks along with the launch of STS-79. Boosting public interest in the frontier is a new TV series entitled "The Cape" which will launch September 2.


With MIR-22 crew delivered and learning the ropes, the MIR-21 crew is now getting ready for their September 2 departure from the station. Their descent will be in the company of the French astronaut Claudie Andre-Deshays who arrived with the MIR-22 crew. Following the departure of the MIR 21 crew in the Soyuz capsule, the Progress supply vehicle which was undocked and is now station keeping, will redock on September 3 and boost the station to a slightly higher orbit.

Meanwhile, American Shannon Lucid is also wrapping up her stay on the station. She has begun bagging samples for return on the shuttle while continuing experiments on dwarf wheat in a Russian and Slovokian developed growth chamber. Lucid now holds both the American endurance record in space and the woman endurance record.


The crew of STS-79 the 4th mission to MIR, arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on August 25 in time for the scheduled Terminal Countdown Demonstration test. The shuttle is tentatively scheduled to lift off on September 12. Meanwhile Hurricane Edwardo is keeping officials on edge. The Atlantis may set an unwanted record by being the first shuttle to be rolled back twice for hurricanes. There is also a scheduling problem on the range. A Global Positioning System spacecraft is set to launch on a Delta booster on September 12. This may push the shuttle launch back to September 14.


NASA has begun training a new class of 35 astronauts to work and live on the International Space Station. This is the largest group to be trained since the original shuttle class in 1978. In addition to American trainees, the group includes two members from the ESA, Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency. The French, German and Italian space agencies are represented by one trainee each. The group also includes twin brothers who were previously Navy fighter pilots.

In addition to problems with Node 1 and the delayed progress on the Russian Functional Energy Block (FGB), the station now is facing cost overruns. "Boeing has submitted a cost proposal to NASA that could raise the amount of money it needs for station work in Fiscal 1997 and 1998 by as much as $450 million...a good portion of the unforeseen cost increases are also due to technical problems encountered by Boeing and its subcontractors. Paramount among them is the failure of two Boeing-built nodes to meet pressure test goals" (AW&ST).


On Wednesday August 21, the Fast Auroral Snapshot (FAST) satellite was finally launched aboard a Pegasus XL launcher. The launch was previously aborted when a communication problem was detected between the ground and the satellite. The problem later proved to have been ground based. The August 21st flight and subsequent deployment of the satellite went smoothly, enabling the system to regain some of the 3 days lost from the aborted launch. FAST will study Earth's auroras at high altitudes. This is the fourth successful launch of the Pegasus XL launch system (AW&ST; FLATODAY).


"Japan has completed 13 automated landing tests for its Hope experimental unmanned shuttle program at Australia's Woomera airfield. The Japanese space agency NASDA and the National Aerospace Laboratory used a 1,672-lb. (758-kg.), 20-ft. (6-m.) lifting body called the Automatic Landing Flight Experiment (Alflex) to test the Hope-X's computer-controlled guidance system. NASDA reported only minor problems and concluded that all 13 flights were successes. The flight path involved releases from a helicopter at about 4,900 ft. (1,500 m.) and a shuttle-like descent of about 1 min. covering 2 mi. Hope-X is to be launched by the H-2 booster in 2000." (AW&ST).

Last week's successful launch of the Adeos-1 satellite on Japan's H-2 booster, was the fourth successful launch in a row. The system has now been declared operational. While the system is too expensive for commercial use, it gives Japan a measure of autonomy and gives the country a spring board for future commercial development. The Adeos-1 satellite was deployed successfully, but later one of the four thrusters malfunctioned. The craft will be controlled with the remaining systems. Adeos-2 is slated to be launched in 1999 (AW&ST).

Last week's launch of the Adeos-1 satellite on an H-2 booster had a small hitchhiker on board. A basketball-sized repeater satellite constructed by Nippon Electric Co was also placed in orbit for ham radio operators by the Japan Amateur Radio League. The 110-lb. solar powered Japan Amateur Satellite-2 replaces the JAS-1, which is near the end of its 5-year life span (AW&ST).


"The launch of the GE American Communications GE-1 advanced communications spacecraft on an Atlas Centaur from Cape Canaveral will be delayed from late August to at least Sept. 8 for replacement of the satellite's on-board computer. A similar computer is being tested at its supplier for a different flight malfunctioned, prompting a decision to replace GE-1's flight unit to guard against any generic problem from affecting the mission. GE-1 is the first of Astro Space's next-generation A2100 satellites." (AW&ST)


The Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) is undergoing final integration at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory. Equipped with sensors that can measure accelerated particles with a collecting power far greater than past experiments. The satellite will be launched on a Delta 2 rocket next August to the L1 Lagrange point where the earth and sun's gravity balance. "The octagonal-shaped spacecraft, built for $50 million (excluding instruments), weighs 1,730 lb. (785 kg.), including 417 lb. (189 kg.) of hydrazine fuel." (AW&ST).


The upcoming TV series entitled "THE CAPE" will premier on September 2, but will air on most stations on Friday or Saturday evening. Filmed at Cape Canaveral and Coco Beach, the series will feature Corbin Bernsen ("L.A. Law") as Air Force Col. Henry "Bull" Eckert. In the first episode, Eckert will rescue a stranded Russian Satellite. With the blessings of such space greats as Buzz Aldrin and Bruce Manlike who are technical consultants, the series will present fictional situations with more than a little realism (FLATODAY).


The population of the space frontier remains at six. This includes 4 Russian men sojourners, 1 American woman sojourner and 1 French woman visitor.

Your comments, additions or corrections are welcome.


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