Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #51

Frontier Status Report #51

June 20, 1997

Dale M. Gray

Only one unclassified launch to report this week with the Proton launch of seven more Iridium satellites. Other news includes the Shuttle's new Aluminum Lithium tank. Trouble with cooling loops this time on the new ISS. The world is gearing up for two extraterrestrial encounters: one with Mars and one with an asteroid. Several items of note in legislative arena. And several space-related business news.

NOTE: Frontier Status will not be available for the week of June 27. The author will be away from the office presenting a paper on Historic Frontier Models.


Work on Columbia, the Shuttle fleet's oldest Orbiter, is on schedule for July 1. The main engine flight-readiness test was successfully completed along with the replacement of thirty six tiles near the forward reaction control system. The Orbiter mid-body umbilical has been connected. This umbilical is used to load cryogenic reactants to the Orbiter. Storable hypergolics will be added on Thursday (NASA).

NASA hopes to correct problems with cracks forming on the new Aluminum Lithium Superlightweight External Tank (SLWT) which is designed to save more than 6,000 pounds in launch weight for the Shuttle. During proof-pressure testing cracks formed in the SLWT. NASA hopes to use a new technique called Stir-Friction welding which is already used on other components of the Shuttle engines to correct the problem. The first test of the new tank has been delayed six months to allow thorough testing (Rich Kolker HCSF).


Having completed repairs to the cooling loops and daubed up the last of the antifreeze, the crew of Mir is now hooking up the carbon-dioxide scrubber to the loops and is making the last connections to the back-up Elektron oxygen generator in the Kvant-1 module. In the coming weeks, Michael Foale will continue experiments with mustard plants in the Greenhouse facility and conduct the Colloidal Gelation experiment in Mir's Glovebox facility. The crew is also beginning a two-week sleep pattern experiment. Russia's Independence day was celebrated on board on June 12 (NASA).


The Thermal Control System (TCS) on the Integrated Equipment Assembly (IEA) is now being tested by LockMart. The TCS will cool electrical hardware on the IEA which in turn is part of the P6 truss segment, the first of four U.S. solar arrays (Flatoday).

The Russians on Mir are not the only ones to be having trouble with cooling loops. It has been reported that some of the cooling loops on U.S. segments have been installed in reverse - requiring modifications to their connectors to make them functional (Rich Kolker HCSF).

This year's Paris Airshow will feature a full-size mock-up of the Russian-built Functional Energy Block - the first element of the ISS to be launched in June of 1998.


On June 18, Russia launched seven Iridium satellites on a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. About ninety minutes after the launch the 1,445 pound satellites were released. They will spend the next few weeks being put through their paces and will be boosted to their 420-mile orbits. Twelve of the 66-satellite fleet are now in orbit. Iridium recently had a successful stock offering to help pay for the $1.3 billion system. The next launch will be the July 7 Delta 2 launch of five more satellites (Flatoday).


When Mars Pathfinder lands on the Red Planet on July 4, the whole world will be watching. Images from the lander will be fed pixel by pixel to NASA Select TV and will be made available immediately on the Internet. NASA is gearing up for an onslaught of 25 million "hits" to their Mars web pages. Members of the National Space Society will host numerous informal "Mars Parties" to watch scenes from Mars unveiled on TV (Flatoday)


Traveling at nearly six miles per second, the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft will pass by the asteroid Mathilde on June 27. While 534 pictures will be taken of the object, only 50 to 100 are expected to actually show the asteroid. Mathilde, a "C-type" asteroid, was discovered in 1885 by Austrian astronomer Johann Palisa and found to have an unusual 17.4-day period of rotation. Scientist expect the photos to show hills, craters, ridges and perhaps help solve the riddle of its lack of spin. The Mathilde encounter is a bonus for the $122M craft that is slated to reach the asteroid 433 Eros in January 1999 (NASA; Flatoday).


Space Commercialization Act: The Commercial Space Act was approved by the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on June 12. The Act is expected to reach the House Science Committee July 18 (SN).

Intelsat: On June 12, a bill to privatize both Intelsat and Inmarsat was introduced to the U.S. House Commerce Committee by Chairman Tom Bliley (R-Va.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). Under provisions of the bill Inmarsat would be privatized by 2001 followed by Intelsat the next year (SN).


Hughes: Hughes Space and Communications was recently awarded the contract to build the Sirius 3 satellite Nordiska Satellitaktiebolaget (NSAB) to transmit signals for Scandinavian TV. The satellite will replace Sirius 1, which was purchased in orbit in 1993 from British Satellite Broadcasting. Sirius 2 is currently being built by another manufacturer and will be launched later this year. Sirius 3, a high power HS 376 satellite, is a joint project between Swedish Space Corp., Tele Danmark A/S and Teracom AB. The satellite will have fifteen Ku-band transponders and be powered by 1400 watts of gallium arsenide solar cells. The satellite will be delivered to NSAB in July 1998 and is expected to be launched on an Ariane rocket. The 52nd of the HS-376 satellites produced by Hughes, Sirius 3 has a 12-year expected service life. Hughes will also upgrade NSAB's satellite control center and will train controllers (SB; Flatoday).

Hughes also recently agreed to build three HS-601 replacement satellites for the Russian Gorizont constellation. The satellites will be used for voice, fax, data and television broadcast services in Russia, the Pacific Rim, India, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe and the Middle East (SN).

Eurockot: Echostar and DBS Industries have selected the German-Russian Eurockot Launch Services to launch a six-satellite E-Sat data-messaging constellation. The satellites are the first contract for the Russian-designed Rockot. The 210-kg satellites will be launched in pairs from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome beginning in late 1998. Eurockot is a joint venture between Russia's Khrunichev and Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG (SN).

USA: The United Space Alliance (USA) and SPACEHAB have recently signed a joint venture to further the commercialization of space. USA is a joint venture of Boeing and LockMart while SPACEHAB is a Virginia-based firm that provides habitable modules with experiment racks for flights on the Shuttle. The move toward commercialization of space was one of the conditions of USA's initial contract with NASA to launch and operate the Shuttle fleet (Flatoday; Spacehab).


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

  • Jun 22 - Node 1 leaves Marshall Spaceflight Center, Alabama, on a C-5A
  • Jun 23 - Node 1 is unloaded at Shuttle Landing Facility, Florida.
  • Jun 25 - Galileo, second Callisto Flyby (Orbit 9)
  • Jun 25 - Intelsat 802 Ariane 44P Launch, Kourou, French Guiana
  • Jun 27 - Progress M-35 Launch, Baikonur, Kazakstan, Resupply of Mir
  • Jun 27 - NEAR flyby asteroid Mathilde
  • Jun 28 - Early Bird Cosmos Launch (USA/Russia)
  • Jul 01 - Microgravity Science Laboratory-1 module reflight, Columbia, KSC
  • Jul 03 - NEAR, Deep Space Maneuver (DSM)
  • Jul 04 - Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars.
  • Jul 07 - Iridium -2 (5 comsats), Delta 2, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jul 15 - GPS 2R-2, Delta 2, Cape Canaveral.
  • Jul 16 - Classified mission, Titan 4A, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jul 18 - 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 2742 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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