Frontier Status Report #42
Frontier Status Report #42
April 18, 1997
Dale M. Gray
Another quiet week on the frontier with only one launch from French Guiana. A minor problem has been found on the Shuttle and the Columbia is now slated to return to orbit as soon as July 1 to complete its aborted mission. Repairs are the orders of the day for the crew of Mir as they utilize the equipment and tools on the recent Progress supply ship. The last of the Atlas 1 rockets is slated to be launched in the coming week. Advances in the legislative climate are also in the news, as are several business items.
Examination of the engine compartments of Columbia and Discovery has revealed elongated bolt holes on canisters that cover explosive bolts used to separate the external tank from the orbiter. As a result NASA is double checking similar bolt holes inside Atlantis. While the inspection is not expected to delay the May 15 flight to Mir, it is not know what effect the replacement of bolts would have on the Shuttle schedule. Technicians hope to have a clearer picture of the situation by Friday. It is theorized that the stretching of the bolt holes is caused by the vibration of separating fuel tanks. Atlantis will not only serve to bring Mike Foale to the Mir station to replace Jerry Linenger, but will also bring a replacement oxygen-generation system to replace the one that failed. Technicians are now working to fit the recently-delivered 253-pound device into the Shuttle (Flatoday; NASA).
Meanwhile, NASA has confirmed that they will re-launch Columbia and its science mission as early as July to complete the mission recently aborted due to a faulty fuel cell. This will be one of the fastest turnarounds in Shuttle history. The launch will also bump several other Shuttle missions into the gap created by the space station construction delay (NASA).
Although science has taken the back seat to repair work on the Russian space station, several experiments were recently completed. The Tuesday docking of the Progress capsule to the Russian station was measured by the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS). The Mir Structural Dynamics Experiment (MiSDE) was also completed that same day. The capsule contained repair equipment for the leaking thermal loops in the Kvant-1 and Kvant-2 modules and for the "Elektron" oxygen-generating system in the Kvant-2. Additional oxygen candles were also included in the shipment to replace those used maintaining the station's oxygen. By the end of the week, the "Vozdokh" system was back on line lowering CO2 levels in the station's air. The leaking heat exchanger of the Kvant-1 was cut out of the system when it was determined that the system could function on the remaining three heat exchangers. When the system was reactivated, it was determined there was still a leak in the system. The "Vozdukh" CO2 scrubber system activated without the cooling loop. However, as a result, water vapor will be lost to vacuum. The system should be able to operate for 30 days before dropping humidity levels make the system inoperable. There are currently plans to add a "Vozdukh" to an existing cooling loop in place in the station core module, but transportation of the equipment to Mir has yet to be determined (NASA).
Repair of the cooling loop in the Kvant-2 module has been accomplished and the crew has redirected air flow from the module to cool the core of the station. The "Electron" oxygen generating system has also been undergoing repairs in Kvant-2. While the unit has been activated several times, it is believed a faulty sensor is causing it to shut down. A sensor from the inoperative "Elektron" system in Kvant-1 will be substituted. The Kvant-1 system is due to be replaced during the coming Atlantis mission in mid-May (NASA).
Leaks in the hydraulic loops of the Core Module have been repaired and the loops should be operational by April 16. This will restore temperature and humidity control to the Core. Repairs to the Condensate Recovery System will occur over the weekend. This system gathers residual condensation for use as drinking water (NASA).
Meanwhile, cosmonauts have been told that they will have to stay an additional 35 days in orbit. This due to funding problems slowing the production the Soyuz-U carrier rocket set to carry their replacements to orbit (SN).
The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) recently made an unexpected contribution to science. When a solar flare erupted on April 7, the magnetometer of the craft was commanded to record the event. The craft was then able to record data from charged particles that sped past the craft on late Wednesday/ early Thursday. While such flares are potentially damaging to satellites and space craft, the MGS was not affected (NASA).
On Wednesday April 16, Arianespace launched an Ariane 44LP equipped with two liquid fuel and two solid fuel strap-on boosters from French Guiana. The rocket carried the THAICOM 3 and BSAT-1 aloft. THAICOM 3 separated from the rocket about 20 minutes into flight. BSAT-1 deployed 24 minutes after launch. This was the 10th Japanese satellite to be launched from Kaurou and the 95th Ariane launch overall. The next Ariane flight slated for May 13 will launch the PanAmSat-6 communications satellite (Flatoday).
The last of the Atlas 1 rockets is due to be launched from Pad B at Complex 36 of Cape Canaveral Air Station on April 24. The Lockheed Martin Atlas 1 rocket (AC-79) rocket will carry a GOES-K weather satellite for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . The Atlas 1 is a derivative of the original Atlas Centaur developed and launched by NASA in 1963. The rocket will be replaced by the new Atlas II vehicles (KSC).
THAICOM 3: The THAICOM satellite is the third in a series to be launched by Ariane for Thailand. The satellite is owned by Shinawatra Satellite and was built in France by Aerospatiale Cannes. The satellite is the largest built by Aerospatiale and is expected to have a lifetime of 14 years. The craft has 25 C-band transponders, 14 Ku-band transponders and a steerable beam. From its orbital position of 78.5 degrees East longitude, the satellite will further upgrade the national communication and direct-to-home television programming system begun by previous launches in 1993 and 1994 (Flatoday).
BSAT-1: BSAT-1 is owned by the Broadcasting Satellite System Corp. of Tokyo. It was built by Hughes Space and Communications. The craft has four active and four spare Ku-band transponders and has a designed life of about twelve years. From its orbital slot at 110 degrees East longitude it will be used to beam TV, pay entertainment and movies to 10 million service subscribers in Japan. The craft along with the follow-on BSAT-1a will replace an aging satellite that are currently in use (Flatoday).
Under legislation introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Science space and aeronautics subcommittee, NASA would receive an extra $300 million for development of an X-vehicle to compete with the X-33 reusable launch vehicle currently under development by LockMart and NASA. The legislation also includes $36 million for an asteroid-detection system and participation in the Clementine 2 asteroid mission. The bill seeks to establish an Office of Space Commerce and asks for increased commercialization of the international space station (SN).
Earthwatch: Morgan Stanley has financed $50 million of EarthWatch Inc.'s planned QuickBird 1-meter Earth imaging satellite. The project now has $120 million with a final round of financing scheduled for later this year. EarthWatch's first satellite which is capable of three-meter resolution is to be launched from Russia on June 28 (SN).
CD Radio Inc.: After an April 2 government auction CD Radio has agreed to pay $83 million for its license and broadcast spectrum. The company plans to provide satellite-to-car radio services. The company has been financed to the tune of $200 million (SN).
European Satellite Multimedia Services: Hughes Network Systems; Deutsche Telekom AG; Astra satellites and Intel have joined forces to provide multimedia services via satellite to personal computers. The new service will be tested beginning in late May (SN).