Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #33

Frontier Status Report #33

February 7, 1997

Dale M. Gray

Another week of quiet gains on the frontier as preparations are being made for a variety of launches. The shuttle Discovery is on the pad with count down to begin Saturday for its mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Russia is preparing to send three cosmonauts to Mir. Japan is preparing for its first M-1 launch. The USAF is making final inspections prior to the launch of the new Titan 4B later this month. Both Mars Pathfinder and Galileo have made minor course adjustments. Businesses continue to vie for position on the frontier and big money continues to be made in both the creation and the utilization of the infrastructure.


With the replacement of the nozzle plugs on both of the shuttle's boosters, Discovery is back on track for its February 11 launch to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope. The plugs were changed when it was discovered that a particular batch of polysulfide adhesive used on the nozzle plugs might be connected to unusual erosion on the motors on two previous missions. The plugs are used to protect the solid rocket motors from contamination while standing on the launch pad and protect the SRBs for the 6.6 seconds of main engine fire prior to SRB ignition. Payload bay doors are scheduled to be closed Friday and Countdown to begin on Saturday (NASA; Flatoday).

The 10 day mission of Discovery STS-82 is to upgrade and maintain the Hubble Space Telescope. At least four space walks will be necessary to accomplish the goals of the ambitious mission. Two older instruments, the Goddard High Resolution Spectrometer and the Faint Object Spectrograph will be replaced by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Hubble will also get upgrades to its own hardware. The Fine Guidance Sensor will be replaced with a refurbished unit. The reel-to-reel tape data recorded will be replaced with a Solid State Recorder (SSR); the new unit will provide ten times the storage while permitting greater flexibility. One of the four Reaction Wheel Assemblies will also be replaced. Other maintenance will also be performed to keep the telescope operational until the 3rd servicing mission in 1999 (Flatoday).


If all goes as scheduled, a Soyuz TM will lift off just after 5:00 pm Moscow time on Feb. 10 carrying a replacement crew for Mir. The three men include: Commander Vassily Tsibliyev, 42, a Russian Air Force colonel; flight engineer Alexander Lazutkin, 39; and German cosmonaut Reinhold Ewald, 40. After twenty days on the station, Ewald will return with the present Mir crew, Valery Korzun and Alexander Kaleri, who are leaving after nearly six months in orbit. After their departure Tsibliyev and Lazutkin will work with American astronaut Jerry Linenger who transferred to the station during the recent Shuttle Atlantis visit. While Linenger will rotate down to earth in May, the Russian's tour of duty will extend until the summer (Itar-Tass; Flatoday).

Work on Mir has progressed in several areas. The Standard Interface Glovebox (SUGBx) was installed in the Priroda module on January 23. The unit will be used during the SEEDS experiment to provide an air-tight, contamination-free work area for plant fixation. The radiation dosimetry investigation was initiated on January 29. This experiment uses thermoluminescent dosimeters to evaluate radiation exposure on the station. The Microgravity Liquid Metal Diffusion (LMD) experiment evaluates material dynamics in space. The experiment uses the Microgravity Isolation Mount (MIM) to isolate the experiment from vibrations produced by other activities on Mir. The Biotechnology System (BTS) hardware has been activated and a functional evaluation was performed January 24 which revealed hardware problems, resulting in another unsuccessful session four days later. Sampling of Mir air with the Solid SorbentAir Sampler (SSAS) occurred on January 22. The Biological Research in a Canister (BRIC) experiment continues to evaluate the growth of plant cells in space. Linenger has completed his daily Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) back-pain questionnaire (NASA; Flatoday).


Brazil may become the newest partner in the International Space Station by contributing an unpressurized payload carrier. The carrier, mounted on the outside of the station, is one of several options being discussed by NASA and the Brazilian officials. The carrier had previously been dropped from the program (SN).


Japan's new rocket, the M-5, is scheduled to launch from the Uchinoura Space Center near Kagashima on February 7. The three-stage rocket is the result of a $53 million development program. Motor casing failures on the all solid-fuel rocket have placed the program two years behind schedule. The rocket was developed for the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) by Nissan Motors and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The rocket, which stands 100 feet high and is 8.2 feet in diameter, will be able to launch 5,500-lb. payloads into 150-mile orbits. The first launch will be place the 1,826-lb. advanced radio telescope Muses-B into a 620 X 12,400 mile orbit. The M-5 is already scheduled to carry the Lunar A Moon surveyor, Planet-B Mars surveyor, Astro-E X-ray observation satellite, Muses-C asteroid sample return mission and IRIS infrared astronomical satellite (AW&ST).


The Inmarsat launched December 18 became operational on January 25. Inmarsat-3 joins a system with nearly global coverage with high-power spot-beams and features aircraft-ground service with less expensive airborne avionics and personal telephone service that utilizes ground terminals weighing less than 5 pounds (AW&ST).


USAF has delayed the launch of the first LockMart Titan 4B. Unexpected processing delays were cited as the cause of the postponement. The launch originally slated for February 8 will now occur some time after the February 11 launch of the Shuttle--most likely by the end of February. The Titan 4B boasts of a 25% increase in payload capability over the Titan 4S. The first launch will lift a satellite for the Defense Support Program.


On February 3, the Mars Pathfinder completed a second Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM). The spacecraft on February 4 was 19 million kilometers out traveling at 30 km/second. TCM-3 scheduled for May 5 will place the craft into a Mars atmospheric entry trajectory (NASA).


Orbital trim maneuver #19 is scheduled for February 6. The craft continues its playback of information from its last encounter with Europa. Galileo's next event is another pass by Europa on February 20 (NASA).


Satellite Phone Japan (SPJ): SPJ has recently contracted to become Japan's exclusive service partner for ICO Global Communications of London. SPJ is one of ICO's largest investors holding 7.2 percent of ICO's stock (SN).

Space Systems/Loral: Space Systems/Loral appears to be reducing the number of its European partners. Dalmer-Benz Aerospace and Alenia Aerospazio have agreed to sell their holdings of Space Systems/Loral to Loral Space and Communications. However, French companies, Aerospatiale and Alcatel Espace, did not agreed to share purchase terms and will remain shareholders in the company (SN).

Space Systems/Loral has signed up for 10 launches beginning in 1999 on a Kistler Aerospace reusable rocket currently under development. The contract is said to be in excess of $100 million, but depends on Kistler's ability to finance and build the K-1 launch vehicle. To date, Kistler has raised only $50 million of the $500 million needed for development. The two-stage K-1 rocket is hoped to be able to place 8,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.

Globalstar: In an effort to raise part of the money necessary for its $2.5 billiondollar wireless telephone system, Globalstar L.P. of San Jose is selling $250 million worth of senior notes and warrants. In addition to the moneys raised by the sale, Globalstar still needs an additional $850 million for the system (SN).

GE: GE American Communications Inc. (GE Americom) has bought an additional 10% in Nahuelsat S.A. of Buenos Aires, bringing their total share to 27.25 percent. GE is now the largest shareholder in the Argentinean satellite system. On January 30, an American GE-2 and the Argentinean Nahuel-1A were launched from a launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 44L rocket.


After five delays of the Delta 2 rocket scheduled to launch their first three satellites, Iridium LLC has turned to a Russian company to launch their first satellites aboard a Proton rocket. An agreement between Iridium and Khrunichev Enterprises would put Iridium's first satellites in orbit before spring. The original Iridium launch has been delayed indefinitely pending the results of investigations centering on the Delta 2 rocket explosion in Florida on January 17.


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

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