Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #49

Frontier Status Report #49

June 6, 1997

Dale M. Gray

Material science tops the frontier news. Earlier this month Minuteman III flight successfully tested a new high-temperature ceramic to be used on sharp leading edges. The new generation of material may change the shape and greatly improve the efficiency of launch systems. Rupert Murdock continues to try to consolidate his role as a captain of the telecommunications industry. The most notable activity of the week was the launch of an Ariane 4 carrying two communications satellites. The first prototype of the X-38 crew return vehicle has been delivered to Edwards for testing. Work is progressing on the Shuttle, Mir and the ISS, but no banner headlines this week.


Shuttle Columbia is on track for one of the fastest turnarounds to launch in NASA history. Because STS-83 was shortened by a faulty fuel cell, it was determined to repair, refuel and restack the Orbiter for a rapid return to space. The gap in the Shuttle launch manifest was made possible by delays to the ISS construction schedule. Wednesday the Orbiter was transferred to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be joined with its external tank and SRBs. Columbia with its Microgravity Science Laboratory is set to be launched on July 1 (Flatoday).


Mike Foale has swung into work on the Russian space station spending 30% of his time devoted to systems repair work and 70% on science. Repair work included work to finally repair and pressurize the last leaking coolant loop. The VKG cooling loop in Kvant-1 will be used by both the carbon-dioxide scrubber and the new oxygen system. The carbon dioxide removal system has been operating without cooling since mid-April. In the coming week, Foale will assist with the installation of the new Elektron oxygen-generation system in the Kvant-1 module. The unit will serve as a back-up to the recently repaired unit in the Kvant-2 module. Foale has also reassembled a greenhouse that uses special water, air and light systems. Three crops of wheat will be raised in the greenhouse during Foale's tour of duty. (NASA; AW&ST).


Close-out work on Node 1 should be completed around June 15. The next week the Node will be prepared for its flight to Kennedy Space Center where it will be completed. Work on software for the Airlock began last week. Lab Tier III should be done by the end of June. Photovoltaic arrays and batteries are on schedule (Rich Kolker, HCSF).


The X-38, the future "lifeboat" for the ISS, is set to begin testing at Edwards AFB in July. The first of three subscale vehicles was recently shipped from Johnson Space Center to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards. Captive flights on board a modified B-52 will take place in July and August with the first drop test from 25,000 feet in late August. The X-38 is a lifting body that utilizes several advances such as a deployed parafoil and an all-electric control system. Dryden tests will continue until 1999 with an unpiloted test on a Space Shuttle in the spring of 1999. The final design will provide assured return for up to six crew members. After jettisoning the deorbit engine, the craft glides to earth as a lifting body and lands using a steerable parafoil on final descent. Until the system is operational, the station will depend on Russian Soyuz capsules (Flatoday).


On June 3, the European Space Agency successfully launched an Ariane 4 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana. Flight 97 is the 25th successive successful launch of the Ariane 4. Twenty-one minutes after launch the rocket released the Inmarsat 3-F4. Five minutes later Insat-2D was released. The next Ariane 4 launch of Flight 96 carrying Intelsat 802 will be June 25. This flight had to be rolled back when problems were discovered on a similar satellite.

A critical review has been completed on the Ariane 5 rocket systems, clearing the way for assembly of the second launch of the new booster. The first Ariane 5 was lost shortly after launch because of software problems. The rocket has been shipped from its European assembly plant and is on its way to the South American launch complex. The slated launch date is September 16 (Flatoday).


Citing high production and launch costs, Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA) has decided to redesign and upgrade its J-1 rocket. The J-1 debuted only last year with the launch of the Hyflex mini-shuttle test vehicle. The three-stage configuration of the vehicle is capable of launching one-ton payloads and replaced the solid-propellant M-3S-2 vehicle. The J-1's only remaining mission is to launch the Oicets optical technology satellite in 1998. Studies for the new J-1A are considering a two-stage rocket with a LockMart liquid-fuel Atlas derivative or a solid-fuel Nissan rocket as the first stage. NASDA is also currently redesigning the H-2 rocket to make it more commercially viable (AW&ST).

NASA has announced at Japanese Astronaut Koichi Wakata will fly on the third Space Station assembly flight of the Shuttle. He will operate the Shuttle's robot arm to assist four station assembly spacewalks. STS-92 is slated for a January 1999. Wakata became an astronaut in 1992. He was a Mission Specialist on the January 1996 Endeavor flight that retrieved the orbiting Space Flyer Unit satellite which was launched from Japan in early 1995 (NASA; Flatoday).


NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Va., and Spaceport Florida were toured on June 2 and 3 by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Ltd. and its as-yet unidentified U.S. partner. Israel is hoping to launch rockets from one of the American facilities on what amount to mobile launchers. To gain approval for the commercial launch venture, Israel agreed to have an American prime contractor and produce at least 51% of the rocket in America (SN; AW&ST).


A Minuteman III rocket launched from Vandenberg AFB on May 21 carried a new ultra-high temperature ceramic material designed to protect reentering spacecraft. The 30-minute, 4200-mile flight impacted in the Kwajalein missile range in the Pacific. The reentry vehicle was tipped with a sharp 0.121 inch radius nose tip of the test material. The material and design performed extremely well during the flight and 5 heat sensors in the tip returned data until it entered the water. Sharper edges will decrease the cost and power requirements to place objects in orbit while adding cross-range capability for landing. Sharp edge surfaces have been used in airplanes, but previously available materials tended to melt and deform beyond Mach 5. Blunt edges have been used in very high speed applications since the 1950s to create a protective shock wave ahead of surfaces. The new ceramic materials are very stable at temperatures in the range of 1,700 - 2,800 degrees Celsius. The program was able to launch in less than 6 months at a cost of $1.1 million. As a direct result of this program and follow-on programs, rockets and other hypersonic craft will become more efficient and cheaper to operate (Flatoday; NASA).


News Corp.: Having spurned EchoStar over issues of control, Rupert Murdock's News Corp. is now negotiating with Primestar, but no agreement has been reached. Primestar is currently working to change its structure from a six-way partnership to a public company (SN).

AMSC: The American Mobile Satellite Corp (AMSC) hopes to reduce its continuing debt by either selling its satellite in GEO or leasing some of its capacity. The satellite provides tracking, messaging and voice services to customers in the US. Should the satellite be sold, the company would transfer its operations to the MSat-1 owned by Canadian TMI Communications (SN).

Astrolink: The FCC has licensed Lockheed Martin Telecommunications to operate their Astrolink system. The GEO satellite system will offer high-speed communications to customers anywhere on the globe utilizing nine satellites in five geosynchronous orbits (SW&ST).

CCI: Constellation Communications Inc.(CCI) based in Reston, Va, plans to orbit twelve satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The satellites will provide telephone service to rural and remote areas. Matra Marconi Space has been awarded a three-year $600 million to design, build and launch the satellites. Raytheon E-Systems has a $300 million contract to design and develop the ground portions of the system (AW&ST).


Milstar: The follow-on satellites for the USAF Milstar are expected to be contracted in 2000 with launch around 2006. Hughes and a Lockheed Martin /TRW team are expected to bid on the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) Milsatcom system. Hughes and TRW recently won USAF contracts totaling $124 million to build engineering models of the digital processor to be used in the EHF satellite. LockMart and TRW teamed to build the present system (SN).

Helios-2: Span has recently announced that it will join in the French Helios 2 spy satellite program. The program has had funding problems recently with the withdrawal of Germany from the program in April. Spain will fund 3% of the two-satellite system that is projected to cost $2 billion. Spain currently holds a 7% share of the Helios 1 program which activated in 1995 (SN).

HALCA: Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) is planning a successor for the their first radio astronomy satellite, the Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy (HALCA). The new satellite, dubbed VLBI-2 will be 50% larger and will be launched by an improved M-5 rocket in 2004 or 2005 (SN).

Inmarsat 3-F4: The fourth of five satellites was launched on an Ariane 4 on June 3. The satellite will provide a variety of telecommunication and navigation services. The satellite was built by LockMart with the communications payload by Matra Marconi Space. The craft with a thirteen-year life expectancy will be placed in the 54 degrees West longitude slot. The final spacecraft in the system will be launched in December and will serve as a dedicated spare (Flatoday).

Insat-2D: Also launched on the Ariane 4, the Insat-2D is a versatile telecommunications platform with 18 C-band, 3 Ku-band, and 1 S-band transponders. It is the fourth of five satellites in the IRSO system and has a designed life of about ten years (Flatoday).


(Courtesy Justin Ray, Lawrence Cochrane, Ron Baalke)

  • Jun 06 - Navy's Geosat Follow-On, Orbital Sciences Taurus, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jun 18 - Iridium mission (seven comsats) Proton, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
  • Jun 22 - Progress M-35 Launch (Russia)
  • Jun 25 - Galileo, second 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 (five comsats), Delta 2, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jul 04 - Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars.


The space population is at baseline with three aboard Mir--two Russians and one American. This marks the 2728 day of continuous occupation of space beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1997

Home Tour Join! Contents Team News Catalog Search Comm
Sources of information. ASI W9900198r1.0
Frontier Status Report is written by Dale M. Gray. Maintained by by Jim Sealy Jr.
Additional web formatting by Simone Cortesi. FSR is also archived on the web at
Copyright © 2001 Artemis Society International, for the contributors. Updated Sat, Oct 20, 2001
Maintained with WebSite Director. Internet services provided courtesy of CyberTeams.