Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #30

Frontier Status Report #30

January 16, 1997

Dale M. Gray

There has been activity on all levels of the frontier this week. A new telecommunication system went on line, the shuttle was launched, a component of the ISS was moved for testing, the Iridium launch was delayed for the fourth time, the military prepared for a sophisticated launch test and amateur rocket makers reached new heights in a launch from Wallops Island. Breaking late - Raytheon appears to have acquired Hughes Electronics.


The fifth flight of Atlantis to MIR launched on schedule at the opening of its January 12 launch window. The shuttle linked up with Mir on Tuesday January 15. The Atlantis flight will transfer Jerry Linenger to MIR and will pick up John Blaha. The shuttle and Mir will be linked for five days as crew and supplies are exchanged. John Blaha, a 54-year-old grandfather, has been in orbit since September 15. Blaha will transfer at least fifteen bags of gear to the space spation. He will be replaced by Jerry Linenger who is a father of a one-year-old son, with a new child due in June, about the time he is scheduled to return to earth. Although some biological experiments continue to run on MIR, both crews are concentrating on transferring 6000 pounds of critical materials from the shuttle to the station (Flatoday; NASA).


The structural test article (STA) which will be converted into Node 2 for the space station has completed proof pressure testing. The STA has been returned to Boeing and outfitted with 11,000 pounds of mass simulators to mimic flight hardware in coming structural testing. During this "modal survey" the STA will be subjected to the same load conditions expected of Node 1 during its coming launch in December. Scheduled to run through the end of January, this testing will be used to validate engineering models (NASA).


Previously trained Leopold Eyharts and his backup Jean-Pierre Haignere are slated to begin seven months of training this week at the Russian Star City cosmonaut center. In August, Eyharts is scheduled for a three-week flight to Mir (SN).


The launch of the Delta II rocket scheduled to loft the first three components of the Iridium system from Vandenberg has been delayed until January 19, due to a problem with insulation debonding on the first stage. The launch had been previously delayed by weather, a ground-based software problem and then failure of a range link to the sound-suppression system. The last delay occurred at T-13 on Saturday, January 11. The launch had to be pushed back due to a range conflict with a Minuteman missile launch and because the launch crew was needed for a Florida Launch of a Delta II carrying a NavStar Global Positioning Satellite. The Florida launch was delayed by winds on Thursday January 16 and was rescheduled for Friday (AW&ST; Flatoday).


On Saturday January 11, Telstar 401 suddenly lost both communication and telemetry links with controllers on the ground. The failure occurred during a routine station-keeping maneuver. The satellite owned by AT&T Skynet is part of a distribution system that transmits television signals for ABC, Fox, UPN, and PBS. Customers using the satellite were quickly rerouted to Telstar 402R. The satellite was manufactured by Lockheed Martin and launched in December 15, 1993 on the first Atlas 2AS. The cause of the failure is not currently known (Flatoday).


On January 9, flight controllers completed the first and largest of a series of four course-correction burns that will place the Mars Pathfinder on the surface of Mars on July 4, 1997. The burn was delayed to allow engineers update control software to accommodate a solar sensor that was performing below expected power levels (NASA; SN).


Following the failure and reentry of the Russian Mars 96 spacecraft, Bolivia and Chile are continuing the search for the ampules of plutonium that are likely to have survived the reentry to land somewhere along their border. Unfortunately, searchers in the area have been hampered by lack of information on how to find the nearly indestructible ampules. This plutonium was to have been the power source for the craft and various probes and landers. The U. S. Energy Department has given officials in Bolivia and Chile information on the types of heat-seeking and radiation detection equipment and techniques needed for the search (SN).


A Minuteman Satellite Launch System (MSLS) vehicle is scheduled for launch from a northern Vandenberg AFB silo on January 16. The three-stage MSLS booster is a former Minuteman II ICBM purchased from Lockheed Martin. The launch will place a Ballistic Missile Defense Organization payload in polar orbit. This is part of a project that will simultaneously launch vehicles from Vandenberg and the Marshall Islands. The MSLS will provide simulated threat objects that will be tracked simultaneously by the payload on the Marshall Islands rocket (NASA; VAFB Hotline).


Inmarsat: Comsat's Planet 1 communication service has begun operation of its worldwide mobile telephone service. Customers in Africa, the Middle East, Russia, Europe, South America and Asia now have access to the Inmarsat 3 satellites for $3.00 per minute. The notebook-computer-sized phones are priced at around $3,000. Comsat currently has an application pending to extend the service to the United States (SN).

Intelsat: As part of its plan to provide direct-to-home television to the Asian market, Intelsat is considering forming a partnership between some of the Intelsat members and companies outside Intelsat for its Asian direct-to-home satellite television project. Since Intelsat has evolved out of government programs, competitors and the U.S. government have been critical of the plan stating that it would provide unfair competition to the private sector (SN).


EAC (Hypertek), a team of amateur sport rocket enthusiasts, culminated a two-year effort when they launched a single-stage, nitrous oxide/HTPB hybrid sounding rocket from Wallops Island on Wednesday, January 8. The rocket was tracked by NASA Goddard Wallops Flight Facility Radar to a height of 119,799 feet (22.68 miles). The vehicle was six inches in diameter, 222 inches long and weighed 205 pounds at launch. The extensively tested rocket motor provided impulse of 20,000 pounds-sec and burned for 20 seconds. Maximum velocity was 1671mph. Because of the failure of the recovery device (a supersonic drogue chute followed by a main) the vehicle impacted the Atlantic and was lost (CIS Rocketry forum).


The space population has recently increased to nine: two Russians and one American on Mir; and six Americans on board shuttle Atlantis which is docked with Mir.

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