Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #32

Frontier Status Report #32

January 30, 1997

Dale M. Gray

It has been a week of business deals, preparations and one ESA launch on the frontier. The Shuttle Discovery is being prepared for the second Hubble Telescope servicing mission. The International Space Station planners continue to scramble to find a temporary substitute for the Russian Service Module. The European Space Agency successfully launched an Ariane 4 topped with two satellites. The USAF and McDonnell Douglas continue their investigation into the cause of last week's explosion of a Delta rocket. Galileo has emerged from behind the sun and has resumed sending information on Jupiter's moons. Mars Pathfinder is well on its way to its July 4th landing on Mars. Finally, as usual, new business deals continue to make space one of the hottest business climates available for investment dollars. The new DirecPC will radically increase the rate at which you can access the internet.


The shuttle Discovery is on Pad 39A awaiting its early morning launch on February 11 for the second Hubble Telescope servicing mission. The Rotating Service Structure was moved back on the 28th to allow the payload bay doors to be opened for payload installation on the 29th. Flight Readiness Review will occur on the 30th with the Payload interface test February 1. Crew for the mission include Bowersox, Horowitz, Lee, Hawley, Harbaugh, Smith, and Tanner.

The Columbia is in Orbiter Processing Facility bay 1 being prepared for its April 3 launch. The Atlantis is in OPF bay 3 and is currently undergoing removal of the dual spacehab module. The main engines of Atlantis will be removed starting February 3 (NASA).


The Service Module for the International Space Station is now eight months behind in its schedule. While the Russians apparently are still committed to building the SM, it will not be ready for launch until December of 1998 instead of April of 1998, when it was originally slated to be the third component to be launched. In its place will be a modified Navy platform with a year's worth of fuel that will provide station keeping services until the SM can be launched. The previously classified Navy spacecraft will be modified for the mission using the $100 million in contingency funds available. The Russian SM now exists only as a shell that is undergoing pressure tests (Flatoday).


Thursday, January 30, the European Space Agency successfully launched an Ariane 4 rocket carrying two satellites from their Kourou, French Guinea launch facility. The rocket contained both the American GE 2 and the first Argentinean telecommunication satellite, Naheul 1A. The American satellite will provide TV and other services from the Caribbean to Hawaii and for most of North America. The Nahuel satellite will provide Ku-band communications to Argentina, Brazil and Latin America. Flight 93 was the first of 1997. The next launch on February 25 of an Ariane 4 will be carrying the Intelsat 801 (Flatoday).


The investigation continues into last week's explosion of a USAF Delta 2 rocket carrying the first of a new generation of NavStar GPS satellites. While a variety of causes are being examined, several photos taken from two different cameras show a puff of smoke from one of the nine solid rocket boosters that ring the base of the rocket. The rocket exploded at an altitude of only 1589 feet, showering the Florida launch pad with debris, but causing only minimal damage to the infrastructure (Flatoday).


Earth's Deep Space Network is once again picking up signals from Galileo as it emerges from behind the Sun. Information scheduled for playback includes data from the spacecraft's first encounter with Europa and information on Jupiter's hot spots (in layers in the cloud layers). This information will be followed by observations on Io, and on the lesser moons Amalthea and of Thebe (NASA).


The Mars Pathfinder spacecraft is now 16 million kilometers from Earth. Causes of several minor communications problems with the Command Detector Unit have been isolated and solutions strategies have been implemented. A January 27 Operational Readiness Test (ORT) revealed other minor problems which are also being resolved. The Rover Operations Readiness Test revealed no problems. The spacecraft is operating normally and is scheduled to land on Mars on July 4th of this year (NASA).


AsiaSat: The Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. (AsiaSat) is planning to acquire a fourth satellite. AsiaSat 4 will be similar to AsiaSat 2 and 3, carrying a combination of C and Ku-band transponders. AsiaSat, which is out of Hong Kong is currently meeting with manufacturers and will seek bids in the next few months (SN).

DirecPC: Following the commercial success of DirecTV, Hughes Network Systems will begin selling DirecPC services to consumers in March. Hughes' Galaxy 4 satellite will give computer users a new high-speed access to the Internet. With their system, information will be able to be downloaded at a much higher rates than traditional telephone connections. The DirecPC satellite dish, computer interface card and software sell for about $399 with an additional $39.95 monthly fee to their Internet server. Hughes will also sell an elliptical-shaped dish that receives both DirecPC and DirecTV; the dish will sell for around $800 (SN).

Satellite Imagery: The new satellite imagery industry is working to establish standards. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) is inviting commercial and academic participation in the development of a standard framework for producing, collecting and disseminating satellite-based imagery and mapping. Two solicitations will be issued by April seeking industry proposals for technologies and procedures (SN).


The space population remains at three: Two Russians and one American on board Mir.

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