Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #48

Frontier Status Report #48

May 30, 1997

Dale M. Gray

This was a positive week on the frontier filled with progress on many fronts. The Shuttle has returned safely with Mir crewmember Jerry Linenger. A Proton rocket has delivered Telestar 5 to orbit. NASA has begun studies on a radical redesign of the Shuttle's boosters. Spaceport Florida was licensed and opened. LockMart opened a new satellite facility. Space-related legislation was introduced in Washington and in Hong Kong. The design for the X-34 research vehicle has been frozen so that construction may begin. Space business merger mania continues in Europe.


Atlantis completed the sixth Shuttle mission to Mir with a smooth landing on Saturday May 24, after a one-orbit delay due to weather. On board was returning Mir crew member Jerry Linenger, who recorded 132 days in space. This was the eighth consecutive Florida landing. The next Shuttle flight will be the July 1 launch of Columbia to complete its aborted mission from earlier this year.

In what came as a surprise to many observers, NASA recently announced that it is conducting feasibility studies to replace the SRBs on the Shuttle with "Flyback Boosters." These liquid-fueled rockets will be designed to return to the launch site utilizing jet engines. The boosters would also be used for a new Extreme Heavy Lift system (170,000 pounds to LEO), configured like the shuttle with a core stage flanked by two boosters. The new Extreme Heavy Lift system and the new Shuttle booster system would use existing pad and ground support systems. The first flight is projected for 2000-2001 and could fully replace the SRBs by 2002 (Rich Kolker; NASA).


Mike Foale has begun his four-month stay on Mir following the five-day connection of Shuttle Atlantis with the orbiting station. British-born Foale will conduct research experiments, housekeeping and repair work. One experiment involves circadian rhythms of 64 beetles in microgravity. The station was supplied with almost two tons of supplies and water by the Shuttle. During connection with the Shuttle, ample supplies of oxygen were pumped into the station from Atlantis. This will allow controllers to shut down the station's Elektron oxygen generator in the Kvant-2 module for the next three weeks. Repairs to the KOB-2 cooling loop were completed during the shuttle visit and the leak in the VGK cooling loop is expected to be completed in the coming weeks. This will enable the installation of the new Elektron unit in Kvant-2 . The station is now considered to be nearly recovered from the problems it experienced the past few months (Flatoday; NASA).


The American-made Node 1 is being fitted with thermal blankets. The two parts of the airlock have been joined and work progressing on internal fittings and features. As the node approaches close-out for shipping, several flight hatches have been installed. Node 1 is set to be transported to Florida on June 22 (Rich Kolker).


International Launch Services (ILS) composed of the Russian aerospace companies Khrunichev and RSC Energia, along with its American partner Lockheed Martin, successfully launched a Proton rocket on Saturday, May 24 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. This is the first Proton launch since the failed Mars96 mission in November. The Proton was topped with a Block DM upper stage which placed an American Telestar satellite into transfer orbit. The next Proton launch is slated for June 18 and will carry seven Iridium satellites. Proton has eight commercial launches of twenty satellites booked for 1997--six of the launches are reserved for ILS (Flatoday).


NASDA recently announced an agreement with the powerful Japanese fishing Unions to allow a November flight of the H-2 rocket from the Tanegashima launch center. NASDA has been limited to two H2 launches per year, in August and February. However, delays to an H2 payload have bumped the August launch of the U.S.-Japanese Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite from August to November (SN).


Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space dedicated a new 5,000 square-foot clean-room spacecraft facility in Sunnyvale. Designated the TIROS/DMSP High Bay, the building will contain both NASA's Television Infrared Observation System (TIROS) and the US Air Force Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). The building also has a number of innovative "people friendly" features such as windows. The plant is currently slated to build two TIROs satellites and seven DMSP satellites (Flatoday; SN).


After a three-day review at Orbital Sciences, the systems design of the $60 million research craft X-34 has been finalized. The design freeze allows the program to proceed to fabrication and manufacturing of the systems. The first flight of the X-34 is slated for late 1998 at White Sands. Up to 25 flights may occur, including inclement weather flights from Florida to test thermal protection and subsonic landing performance. The X-34 is a necessary step between the subsonic Clipper Graham and the Mach 15 X-33. The technology demonstrator is a reusable, suborbital, air-launched vehicle. The winged X-34 with its kerosene/liquid oxygen engine is designed to fly close to Mach 8 at altitudes up to 50 miles. It will test the use of composite frame and structural components; computer navigation, avionics and internal system monitoring; and advanced thermal protection. Orbital Sciences is the prime contractor of the program managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center (NASA).


Commercial Space Act of 1997: Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., chairman of the House Science Committee, has introduced the Commercial Space Act of 1997 in an effort to help private development of the space frontier. The Act would require NASA to seek private tenants for the International Space Station; establish licensing responsibility for private aerospace firms for reusable rockets; streamline license procedures for commercial remote sensing satellite systems, and; require the government to buy future space transportation from private vendors. A similar bill introduced last year was passed by the House, but was not taken up by the Senate. A vote by the House on the bill will occur by July 4 (Flatoday).

Hong Kong: In an effort to smoothly transfer regulation of Hong Kong based satellite systems from British to Chinese control, Hong Kong localized its outer space legislation ahead of the June 30 resumption of Chinese sovereignty. Both AsiaSat and APT Satellite Co. had been concerned about the transfer of power, but the new legislation appears to have resolved many of their concerns (SN).

Spaceport Florida: The Office of Commercial Space Transportation of the FAA has granted a commercial launch operator's license to the Spaceport Florida Authority on May 22. An $8-million program has converted Launch Complex 46 to accommodate four to six solid-propellant rocket launches per year. The first launch, scheduled for Sept. 24 is a Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle 2 (LMLV2) carrying NASA's Lunar Prospector. Complex 46 was formerly a dormant Navy test site for Trident 2 missiles. The remodeled Complex officially opened Thursday (SN; Flatoday).


Telestar 5: Launched on a Proton rocket, the Telestar 5 is reported to be one of the most powerful commercial satellites in orbit. Built by Space Systems/Loral, the satellite features 24 C-band and 28 Ku-band transponders and will have a twelve-year lifespan. The craft will be placed in a the 97-degree West longitude orbital slot. Loral Skynet, who will assume ownership of Telestar 5 when it becomes operational, reported in April that the satellite's capability has been sold to ABC, FOX, PBS, local cable affiliates, and various distribution companies. Direct-to-home-service AlphaStar plans to switch to Telestar 5 on July 1. The company currently leases 17 transponders aboard Telstar 402R. Telestar 5's signal will reach all of the United States, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and parts of Latin America and Canada.(Flatoday; SN).


Austrian Aerospace GmbH: Merger mania continues in Europe as Austria's two main space companies, Schrack Aerospace and ORS, have announced plans to merge to form Austrian Aerospace GmbH. The company is owned by Saab Ericsson Space of Sweden, Dornier Satellitensysteme of Germany and Ericsson Austria of Austria (SN). COMING EVENTS

(Courtesy Justin Ray, Lawrence Cochrane, Ron Baalke)

  • Jun 02 - Galileo, Orbital Trim Maneuver #28 (OTM-28)
  • Jun 03 - Inmarsat-3 F-4/ Insat-2D Ariane 4 Launch
  • Jun 06 - Navy's Geosat Follow-On, Orbital Sciences Taurus, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jun 18 - Iridium mission (7 comsats) Proton, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
  • Jun 22 - Progress M-35 Launch (Russia)
  • Jun 25 - Galileo, 2nd Callisto Flyby (Orbit 9)
  • Jun 25 - Intelsat 802 Ariane 4 Launch
  • Jun 28 - Early Bird Cosmos Launch (USA/Russia)
  • Jul 01 - Microgravity Science Laboratory-1 module re-flight, Columbia, KSC
  • Jul 02 - SeaStar, Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jul 03 - Iridium -2 (5 comsats), Delta 2, Vandenberg AFB
  • To be determined June launches: V96/INTELSAT 802 comsat, Arianespace Ariane 4. Kourou, French Guiana, NASA's Lewis spacecraft, Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle-1, Vandenberg AFB


With the landing of Atlantis, the space population remains at baseline with three onboard Mir: two Russians and one American. This is the 2721 day of continuous human presence in space beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1997

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