Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #50

Frontier Status Report #50

June 13, 1997

Dale M. Gray

A relatively quiet week on the frontier, but big news concerning Mars is on the horizon. Two Russian military launches have been reported. Columbia is on the pad having some last-minute tile replacement. Mir continues to be repaired. The list of spacewalkers for the International Space Station has been announced. A report has confirmed that technical problems have put Boeing over budget and behind schedule on the station. LockMart is forging a new partnership with Intersputnik, the Russian version of Intelsat. Plans for the Galileo Extended Mission have been announced. The recently launched GOES-10 is experiencing sun-tracking problems. Several other items have further enhanced the economic and political climate of the frontier.


Columbia left the Vehicle Assembly Building and arrived at Pad 39A on June 11. The Rotating Structure was extended the following day. The Flight Readiness Review is slated for July 19. The Shuttle is currently being retrofitted with 36 new tiles after inspection revealed flaws on tiles near steering thrusters. While the tile work is slated to be completed in time for the July 1 launch, the timing will be close. Columbia's fifteen-day mission, the reflight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory, sets a post-Challenger record of only 84 days since its last mission (NASA).


The leaking cooling loop in the Kvant-1 module has finally been plugged. Cosmonauts Vasily Tsibliyev and Alexander Lazutkin completed repairs on the coolant loop over the weekend. The leak has been putting antifreeze into the station's atmosphere since April. The system is now being tested for further leaks (Flatoday).


NASA has released the names of the first fourteen spacewalkers to be assigned tasks in constructing the International Space Station. The group has already begun training for their assigned EVA tasks. Jerry Ross (Col., USAF) and James Newman, Ph.D., who were previously named have been joined by Leroy Chiao, Ph.D.; Robert Curbeam, Jr., (Lt. Cmdr., USN); Michael Gernhardt, Ph.D.; Astronaut Chris Hadfield (Lt. Col., CanadianAF); Thomas Jones, Ph.D; Mark Lee (Col., USAF); Michael Lopez-Alegria (Cmdr., USN); Bill McArthur, Jr., (Col., USAF); Carlos Noriega (Major, USMC); James Reilly, Ph.D.; Joseph Tanner; and Jeff Wisoff, Ph.D. (NASA).

To no one's surprise, a recent General Accounting Office report found that Boeing was $291 million over budget and as much as five weeks behind the construction schedule on the ISS. As a result, Boeing was not given a performance bonus. Boeing's problems stem, in part, from technical difficulties in creating an air-tight hatch for Node 1. The GAO report will probably not affect the congressional support for the station in light of the many advances in recent months (NASA; Flatoday; Rich Kolker).


NASA is gearing up to go to Mars. First cargo could be sent in 2007 with humans following in 2009. Crews will visit the Mars base every 26 months with a permanent base by 2016. The plan pivots on a new 200-ton-to-orbit heavy lift vehicle. The recent announcement concerning the new flyback booster and heavy-lift configuration for the Shuttle system is part of the larger plan. With Mars Pathfinder landing on Mars on July 4, the expected passage of the Space Commercialization Act and the Shuttle Columbia in orbit, expect a Presidential announcement during the holiday weekend (SN; M. Whittington; J. Study)


After a string of failed efforts, on June 6 Russia's beleaguered space forces successfully launched a military Kosmos satellite on a Proton-K booster from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstan. Prior to launch there was serious doubt that the rocket was fit for duty. On May 22, as the rocket and satellite were moved from their hangar to the launch pad, they were accidentally damaged when they were rammed into a gate. Russian sources noted that the damage was fixed prior to launch (Flatoday).

On June 10, Russia's military also successfully launched a RS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (SS-19 in Western nomenclature) from Baikonur. The missile landed in Russia's far-East. This is their second missile test launch this year (Flatoday).


Budget constraints have pushed the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) to consider a simplified design for their proposed lunar lander. The 410-kilogram Selenological & Engineering Explorer (Selene) is to be launched in 2003 (SN).


The Bantam System Technology Project is part of the $8 million Advanced Space Transportation Program at Marshall Space Flight Center. The program recently selected four proposals for decreasing the price of placing 400 pounds in orbit from $8 million to $1.5 million. Finalists include Universal Space Lines; Summa Technology; Aerojet-General Corp; and Pioneer Rocketplane. The finalists will spend the next six months analyzing the small payload market and developing both technological systems and business plans (NASA).


Goals for the 1998-1999 Galileo Extended Mission (GEM) have been announced. The extension has three goals: an extensive one year, eight-encounter study of Europa, four encounters with Callisto to lower Galileo's orbit and a close flyby of Io in October of 1999. A second flyby of Io may occur six weeks later if the craft is still functioning (NASA).


US House: Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) recently introduced an amendment to legislation directing the FCC to auction 120 Megahertz of spectrum below 3 gigaHertz. The amendment withdrew 2025 to 2100 megahertz which is used to communicate with the Shuttle and other scientific missions. The legislation is part of a budget reconciliation bill being considered by a House subcommittee (SN).

On June 4, the FCC announced new rules that will ease the entry of foreign companies into the US telecommunication market. The rules are a result of a Feb. 15 World Trade Organization agreement signed by 68 nations that is designed to increase competition in communications (SN).


GOES-10: The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-10 (GOES-10) satellite launched April 25 is experiencing sun-orientation problems. Controllers have halted testing of the $200M craft while the problem is studied. After the third loss of sun lock on May 27, the satellite was placed in safe-mode. The satellite is to be placed in "on-orbit" storage as a back-up for GEOS-8 and GEOS-9 after testing. Once the problem is solved, controllers expect no diminishing of the satellite's five-year design life (SN).

FAA: The Federal Aviation Administration is studying the purchase of four to six small GEO satellites to relay enhanced-accuracy signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS). Original plans to use the Inmarsat system as part of the Wide Area Augmentation System have proven to be too expensive. Concerns were also raised about how the transmission priority of the GPS signals would affect Inmarsat satellites (SN).


ILS: Lockheed Martin's International Launch Services (ILS) plans to team with Intersputnik, the former Soviet Union's counterpart to Intelsat. Lockheed Martin Intersputnik (LMI) will give ILS access to a number of orbital slots while providing Intersputnik with satellites 5-8 times more powerful than Russian satellites. LMI plans to orbit four GEO satellites on Proton rockets between late 1998 and 2000 to provide C- and Ku-band telecommunications to southern Asia, northern Africa and eastern Europe - generating from $300 to $500 million per year. Intersputnik has sought a Western partner for several years. This is LockMart's third partnership with former Soviet enterprises (AW&ST).

Sea Launch: Pricing plans announced by Boeing's Sea Launch venture are currently under scrutiny by US Trade Representatives. Sea Launch is a multi-national corporation that plans to utilize Ukrainian-built Zenit rockets from a converted North Sea Oil Platform. The pricing plan of Sea Launch must meet with the provisions of the bilateral space launch trade accord signed by the US and Ukraine (SN).


(Courtesy J. Ray, L. Cochrane, R. Baalke and T. Martin)

  • Jun 18 - Iridium mission (7 comsats) Proton, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
  • Jun 21 - Progress M-35 Launch, Baikonur, Kazakstan, Resupply of Mir
  • Jun 25 - Galileo, 2nd Callisto Flyby (Orbit 9)
  • Jun 25 - Intelsat 802 Ariane 44P Launch, Kourou, French Guiana
  • Jun 27 - NEAR flyby asteroid Mathilde
  • Jun 28 - Early Bird Cosmos Launch (USA/Russia)
  • Jun ?? - NASA's Lewis spacecraft, Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle-1, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jul 01 - Microgravity Science Laboratory-1 module reflight, Columbia, KSC
  • Jul 04 - Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars.
  • Jul 05 - Iridium -2 (five comsats), Delta 2, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jul 09 - SeaStar, Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL, Vandenberg AFB


The space population is at the baseline of three: two Russians and one American on Mir. This is the 2735 day of continuous space occupation beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1997

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