Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #47

Frontier Status Report #47

May 23, 1997

Dale M. Gray

This was a wild week on the Frontier. The Shuttle Atlantis docked with Mir and transferred crew, equipment and supplies before departing five days later. A Delta 2 launched a satellite for Norway. Russia's military attempted to launch a satellite, but the rocket blew up shortly after lift off. The first International Space Station Crew has been named and held its first press conference. Australia is preparing to develop their own space port. France and China have made an agreement over satellite construction and space research. Israel is working toward an agreement to launch rockets from the US. Mars Global Surveyor is recovering from a software glitch that put it into safe mode. The Rupert Murdock/Echostar partnership has dissolved while the Iridium system has completed its investment goals.


The Shuttle Atlantis successfully docked with Mir on Friday, May 16 at 9:33 p.m. Central daylight time. The approach was made using the new ESA sensor system. During the next five days, astronauts and cosmonauts worked together to transfer equipment such as the new Elektron oxygen generating system. Mike Foale officially replaced Jerry Linenger when he placed his custom-fit seat liner in the adjoining Soyuz spacecraft which also serves as an emergency return capsule. Water, the by-product of Shuttle power generation, was transferred to the station for drinking and other purposes. The Station's own water recovery system has been fouled by antifreeze leaking from the cooling loops. At one point the Russians asked permission to vent the contaminated water from the Shuttle's water dumping system. After reviewing the request NASA declined since the situation had not been adequately studied. Atlantis and Mir parted ways after a gentle spring push on Wednesday. During the mission Linenger and Foale conducted a tour of the station for NASA Direct TV. Instead of the usual fly around of the station, the Shuttle backed off 3300 feet and again tested the ESA system. The Shuttle is due to land in Florida on Saturday (NASA).

NASA - Help Wanted

NASA's Johnson Space Center has began its biennial search for 25-30 astronaut candidates. The selection process began on May 14. Pilots must have extensive experience with high-performance jet aircraft. Mission specialists must have extensive backgrounds in material science; Earth studies, medical or space sciences; or engineering. Those selected in early 1998 will begin one year of training (SN).


The first crew of the International Space Station was formally announced at a press conference Wednesday, May 21 at the Johnson Space Center. Present were Commander Bill Shepherd, Soyuz Commander Yuri Gidzenko and Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev. The trio are slated to launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft in January 1999.

Boeing's team at Huntsville recently joined the airlock module to the crewlock and equipment lock, the two parts comprising the airlock. When the mechanical installation is complete the module will be pressure tested. The crewlock, which was built by Boeing North American, will provide egress from the station while the equipment lock will contain two racks and two equipment platforms for storage (NASA).

NASA recently announced that the on-orbit construction of the ISS will be documented by the Imax Corporation in 3-D large format (70 mm). A large format 2-D version will also be shown by Imax. The 2-D films previously shot in space are said by astronauts to be the closest thing to being in space. The feature film will be made under the Space Act Agreement between NASA and Imax with NASA retaining copyright on all the film footage shot in space. Previously under similar agreements, Imax has produced three documentaries about the space program that have been viewed by 60 million people (NASA).


After several delays, the McDonnell Douglas Delta 2 rocket launched from Complex 17A on the Florida coast at 6:39 pm May 20. The three-stage rocket successfully boosted the Thor II satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit. The Thor II satellite was built for Telnor by Hughes Space and Communication. This is the second consecutive successful launch of the Delta system (Flatoday).


Russia's military space program took another turn for the worse. On Tuesday, May 20, a Kosmos series satellite was being launched on a two-stage 460-ton Zenit-2 booster from the Baikonur cosmodrome. After the first stage engine failed, the rocket and payload fell back 8 miles from the launch pad on the steppes of Kazakstan. Since nearby villages are routinely evacuated, there were no casualties. The loss is estimated at $172 million (Flatoday).


Two large Australian consortia are working out deals with the Russians to help design and build a spaceport in northern Australia. The proposed facility would be built along the lines of the Baikonur cosmodrome. The position near the equator would make launching efficient. One group of investors proposes to use the Russian Proton rocket while the other group plans to use a smaller rocket. Launch sites under consideration include Cape York or sites out of Melville Island. The International Resource Corporation out of Sydney plans to build at Weipa in Cape York. Space Transport Systems out of Brisbane plan to build their spaceport either at Gunn Point, 40 kilometers from Darwin, or at Melville Island about 70 kilometers from Darwin. The winning consortium will have the spaceport fully constructed by the end of 2000 and the first launch planned for the following year (HCF).


The White House has given Israel Aircraft Industries permission to inspect NASA's Wallops Flight Facility as a possible launch site. Israel has proposed a joint program with a US firm as prime contractor. Arrangements preclude manufacture of rockets in Israel (SN).


France's space minister has signed an accord with China Aerospace Corp. As a result of a meeting May 16 in Beijing, France and China have agreed to cooperate in areas of space research and satellite construction. Launch vehicle cooperation discussed win earlier talks was not included in the accord (SN).


On May 8 Mars Global Surveyor unexpectedly entered safe mode when flight software detected an unexpected event. Analysis of the Audit Queue revealed that a flight software task timed out and failed to report back to Surveyor's central processor because of an infinite loop in the Active Script Table--an entry linked back to itself on the Table. The spacecraft is being returned to operational mode and software is being prepared to correct the problem (NASA).


A Minuteman III was slated for launch at Vandenberg AFB on Wednesday, May 21. In cooperation with the US Air Force and Sandia National Laboratories, NASA engineers will test a Mk 12A reentry vehicle equipped with a new ultra-high temperature ceramic-material nose tip believed to provide better thermal protection than current methods (NASA).


Inmarsat: Disagreements over whether Inmarsat should be a publicly-traded company could not be resolved during a May 16 meeting of the Inmarsat members. The 79-nation organization had been meeting in London to work out an accord on the company's future. The issue has been shelved and will be reexamined at the next meeting in July (SN).

Iridium: Iridium's worldwide consortium is now complete with the $100 million investment of P.T. Bakrie Communications Corp. of Indonesia. In exchange for the investment, Bakrie received rights to Iridium's South Pacific gateway which serves New Zealand and Australia. The consortium contains 18 investors, 16 of which have territorial distribution rights (SN).

Telenor: In the wake of the recent successful launch of the Thor II satellite on a Delta 2 rocket, Telenor has contracted with Hughes Communications for the manufacture of a third Thor satellite. While financial details have not been released, Hughes will provide a high-power HS 376 model satellite, arrange launch services and insurance, upgrade the satellite control center and train Telenor's controllers. The 1400 watt satellite will have 14 active 47-watt Ku-band transponders and have a minimum service life of 11.5 years (Flatoday).

Echostar: Rupert Murdock's bid to become a major player in the telecommunications frontier appears to be in trouble. Echostar and Murdock's News Corp ASkyB had agreed to form a partnership in which Echostar would be able to offer 500 channels of direct broadcast TV. The partnership has unraveled over of issues of control between Murdock and Echostar founder Charles Ergin. Echostar has filed a $5 billion suit in US District courts for breach of the agreement. Without Murdock, Echostar does not have enough cash to complete its business plan (AW&ST).


With the landing of the Shuttle Atlantis on Friday, the space population drops from ten to the current baseline of three: two Russians and one American orbiting in Mir. This is the 2,714 day of continuous human presence in orbit beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1997

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