Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #15

Frontier Status Report #15

September 19, 1996

Dale M. Gray

Another week of frantic activity on the frontier. Three confirmed rocket launches and the third roll-out of the Atlantis are moving the frontier forward. Components have been delivered for the Cassini mission and final assembly of the Mars Pathfinder is underway. But the forces of politics, economics and nature are arrayed against progress. The International Space Station survived its fifth annual vote in Congress. Russia falls back on a less capable, but cheaper launcher. The International Ultraviolet Explorer program is brought to an end by budgets. Japan's launch center survived an 5.7 earthquake. Atlantis weathers hurricane Fran, but is now watching hurricane Hortense. But despite the set backs, the frontier continues to be profitable from awarded contracts such as the X-34 program and from ownership of companies already active on the frontier.


Atlantis has completed its trip to the launch pad following last week's trip to the barn to weather hurricane Fran. As a result the scheduled launch has been knocked back two days to September 18. However, now hurricane Hortense a concern to mission planners. In addition to delivering John Blaha to Mir and providing transport home for Shannon Lucid, the mission will be the first to carry the dual spacehab module for experiments and for cargo space. About 3,340 lb. of supplies and science equipment which will be left on board the Mir. An additional 1,400 lb. of water will be generated by the orbiter's fuel cells and also carried to Mir. Experimental materials and failed Russian equipment will be carried back to earth on the shuttle for on the ground study. This flight of Atlantis will also test new control software developed by LockMart. If successful this software will allow greater control of the robot arm and savings in propellant weight necessary for reentry. The software will also add safety, automating many of the procedures in the unlikely case that all three main engines shut-down prematurely (FLATODAY).


American Shannon Lucid who is the current record holder for space endurance for Americans, now hold a new title. Saturday September 7, she entered the record books once again for 169 days of space flight making her the all-time record holder for women. By mission end, she will have 188 days to her credit - - the record for men is held by Valery Polyakov who has spent 438 days in space. Lucid continues to bag and tag equipment and experiments while inventorying U.S. equipment. When the shuttle arrives at Mir later this month, a new laser bar code system will be used to keep a running inventory as items are exchanged between the station and shuttle. Lucid is completing studies on the Anticipatory Postural Activity (POSA) investigation, a medical study that examines how an astronauts' posture changes in weightlessness. Upon her return to earth, she will remain horizontal as part of a study of the body's adaptation back to gravity (FLATODAY).


Wednesday, September 4, Dale Bumpers (D, Ark) tried once again to end the International Space Station program. This is his fifth attempt to kill the station. Bumpers believes the money spent on the station would be better spent on social programs. The Bumpers amendment was defeated when a motion to table - or kill - it passed by a vote of 60-37 (FLATODAY).


An Atlas A2 rocket built by LockMart successfully launched the GE-1 television satellite on Sunday, September 8 (FLATODAY).


Budget constrains have brought to an end operations of the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) which was launched in 1978 as a joint effort of NASA, ESA and the U.K. Designed to last only three years, the craft has already exceeded expectations by 15 years. The 45-cm. ultraviolet telescope is used for spectroscopic observations in the 115-320 nanometer waveband. These observations have resulted in more than 3,500 scientific papers. After NASA removed its funding last year, ESA was the sole source of operating funds (AW&ST).


On September 10, the European Space Agency launched Flight 91, the 62 Ariane 4 to be launched. The Ariane 42P booster with two strap on solid rockets lifted the American-made EchoStar satellite to orbit. Constructed by LockMart's satellite division, the 2,885 satellite weighed kg (6,360 lb.) at liftoff. Once in Geosynchronous orbit EchoStar will broadcast on sixteen 130 watt Ku-band transponders, providing direct TV broadcast services to North America. In conjunction with ECHOSTAR I, it will distribute some 200 TV channels. The next Ariane launch will be Flight 92 scheduled to launch ARABSAT 2B and MEASAT II in November. Arianespace has a backlog of 41 satellites awaiting launch (FLATODAY).


The successful launch of the Inmarsat-3 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan - Russia on Friday September 6 has been confirmed. The American built satellite was launched on a four stage Proton rocket. This is the second of 20 scheduled commercial flights in an agreement between the Khrunichev Space Center and the U.S.-backed joint venture International Launch Services (ILS).

Because of budget constraints Russia has stopped using the Soyuz-U2 booster rocket to ferry crews to Mir. Since September of 1995 the smaller Soyuz-U boosters, an older kerosene-propelled version has been used. This older rocket has had to be modified, essentially stripped down, to allow it to carry three people. The Soyuz-U2, introduced in 1982, used synthin, a synthetic hydrocarbon fuel that has increased the rocket's thrust, allowing it to move in orbit a seven-odd ton manned spacecraft. Until recently Soyuz Us were used in only on two-man missions (FLATODAY).


A earthquake registering at 5.7 hit Japan's Tanegashima launching site. Although roads in the area were cracked, the National Space Development Agency is inspecting the launch facilities for damage. A rocket was scheduled for assembly next week (FLATODAY).


A Delta rocket built by McDonnell Douglas carrying Navstar Global Positioning System satellite GPS-27 is scheduled to launch from Florida on September 12. This launch had earlier bumped the scheduled flight of Atlantis to September 14 prior to its Hurricane Fran roll-back.


NASA has awarded the X-34 contract to Orbital Sciences, makers of the Pegasus rocket. The $50 million contract will be to build and test fly a single-engine, 58-ft.-long rocket with a 28-ft. wing span. The 30 month project also comes with an additional $10 million for support activities (AW&ST)


On September 8 the proto-flight high-gain antenna for the Cassini spacecraft was delivered by Italian Space Agency to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The 4-meter-dia., fixed-shape antenna is a complex, composite structure made of graphite epoxy face sheets and aluminum honeycomb that can handle the transmission and reception of four different frequencies. The proto-flight antenna could be used on the mission to Saturn, if necessary, but a flight model of the antenna is scheduled to be delivered to NASA in February." Launch is set for Oct. 6, 1997 (AW&ST).


Final assembly of the Mars Pathfinder lander is being completed at the Kennedy Space Center in preparation for its launch. "The scheduled 24-day launch period begins Dec. 2. The unfolding side panels of the lander, with the micro-rover attached to one of them, are scheduled to be closed Sept. 30 at the KSC Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility-2 (Saef-2). The Pathfinder is scheduled to bounce onto the surface of the planet in a unique landing technique on July 4,1997." (AW&ST).


"Lehman Bros. have sold their 18% share of Space Systems/Loral to Loral Space and Communications, giving the latter a 51% ownership of the satellite manufacturer. European companies own the remaining 49% (AW&ST Aug. 5, p. 58). The Lehman partnerships received stock in Loral, stock in the Globalstar venture and $4 million in cash in return for their shares." (AW&ST)

The population of the space frontier stands at three: two Russian sojourners and an American sojourner.

As always, your comments, additions and corrections are actively sought.


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