Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #54

Frontier Status Report #54

July 18, 1997

Dale M. Gray

The heat is on in the Frontier. It seems that every time I turn on the news, space developments are being covered. Despite the coverage, it has not been an especially active week. No launches occurred, but the Shuttle Columbia did successfully land after a productive sixteen-day space science mission. Mir continues to be a productive research vessel on the dynamics of a weakened and failing ship. Pathfinder has overcome a software glitch and continues to produce images and data from the red planet. Clementine 2 has been funded. An ESA cosmonaut has been certified to pilot a Soyuz on its return from space. Quiet, but not unproductive.


The Space Shuttle Columbia landed June 17 at KSC Runway 33 at 6:47 a.m. EDT completing a nearly sixteen-day mission. The Shuttle was transported to Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 2 later in the day. The landing capped a near- perfect launch and a successful reflight of the mission (NASA).

The work accomplished included thirty-three lab experiments on fire, plants and protein crystals. The crew set 206 fires, ignited the weakest flame on record, and produced 700 crystals (Flatoday).

Discovery (STS-85) is on Pad 39A being prepared for an August 7 launch of the CRISTA-SPAS-2 mission. The main engine Flight Readiness Test and the Interface Verification Test are complete. Hypergolic propellants will be loaded July 24. A leaky disconnect on the reaction control system oxidizer tank vent is now being changed out (NASA).


Early in the morning of July 17, the Mir lost power when the wrong electrical connection was disconnected during a training session for the upcoming internal spacewalk. Although the wires were quickly reconnected, a controlling computer had powered down and the station lost orientation with the sun. The crew retreated to the Soyuz return vessel where contact with the ground was reestablished. The Soyuz was used to establish attitude control over the station. With the solar panels back on line, the crew expects the batteries to be recharged within a couple days (NBC, ABC, Flatoday).

Prior to the power failure the internal spacewalk had been delayed from eight to ten days. Complaining of an irregular heartbeat, cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliyev has bowed out of the upcoming interior space walk. Tsibliyev was in control of the Progress when it crashed into the space station. The medical problem may stem from overwork from the months of nearly constant repairs or stress over his part in the accident. The Russian Space Agency has asked NASA if Michael Foale would be able to take Tsibliyev's place. Foale, who had previously trained in Russian space suits, is now preparing for the walk while awaiting an okay from NASA. Alternately, the internal spacewalk could wait until the next crew rotation on August 5. The new crew, Anatoly Solovyev and Pavel Vinogradov, have been practicing the procedure in the water tank simulator in Star City (Flatoday).


Having tried to run over Yogi, the Mars Sojourner has moved on to analyze a rock named Scooby Doo. Analysis of Yogi has found less quartz than Barnacle Bill. However, problems continue to crop up. During the downloading of a full-color panorama, a computer on Pathfinder reset. This is the third time the computer has reset while handling multiple tasks. As a result, managers restricted future computer activities to one task at a time. The interrupted panorama data was later successfully downloaded. The reset problem was found in one line of code on Wednesday. The corrected software will be transmitted Sunday (Flatoday).


The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee has allocated $50 million for the U.S. Air Force's Clementine 2 small satellite mission as part of the 1998 defense bill (SB).


Thomas Reiter of the European Space Agency has recently been awarded the Russian Soyuz Return Commander' certificate at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, in Star City. He is now qualified to serve as the pilot of Russian Soyuz-TM spacecraft returning from Mir. Reiter previously spent 179 days on Mir in 1995/96 and performed two space walks. To obtain certification he completed a 600-hour course on Soyuz spacecraft systems. He is the first non-Russian to earn the certification (Flatoday).


Cracks in fuel tubes have been discovered in the LE-7A engine prototype for the core stage of Japan's H-2A rocket. The design flaw was discovered in the main injector units during testing in May. National Space Development Agency (NASDA) has announced that tests on redesigned versions will be required this summer. The H2A is slated for first flight in 1999 (SN).


Orbital Sciences Corp: Orbital Sciences has announced that it will acquire space assets of CTA Inc. In exchange for $25 million and refinancing $25 million in CTA debt, Orbital Sciences will obtain 300 employees and $150 million in backlogged orders. The deal will close in 30-45 days if federal antitrust regulators approve (SN).


USA: Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif) and Dan Roemer (D-Ind.) hope to amend NASA's 1998 funding--diverting $100 million from Russian participation in the international space station to the development of a second reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator. Another amendment would transfer $150 million from science and mission support to space station development. A $50 million amendment would move funds from Mission to Planet Earth to the purchase of Earth science data from the private remote-sensing industry (SN).

Germany: Germany has approved its 1998 space budget of 1.25 billion Deutche marks: 1 billion Deutsche marks ($588 million) for the European Space Agency and 260 million marks for national space programs (SN).


With the continued media occupation with space, it has become apparent that the nation has begun to look upward for their own future. The Charisma of space has rarely been higher. At the same time, Technology is rapidly advancing to fill the demand of commerce. For example, Boeing's Rocketdyne division is both on time and on budget for producing the linear aerospike engines that will power the X-33 prototype. Of the three components of frontier, Technology, Legislation and Charisma (TLC), only Legislative (which covers all aspects of government involvement) has fallen behind.

Several weeks ago I projected that Clinton would be making an announcement concerning the first manned space flight to Mars over the Fourth of July. The signs were there. An impending Mars Pathfinder was on final approach, the Commercial Space Bill had passed several hurdles, Columbia was to be launched July 1, and Mir was in orbit with an American astronaut on board. The stars were in alignment for an historic announcement of manifest destiny--if not a trip to Mars, at least a reoccupation of the Moon. So it came as a surprise that the White House chose to remain silent in the wake of the successful Mars landing. No announcement, no star-gazing speech, and if there was a congratulatory telephone call from the President to the Pathfinder team, I missed its coverage.

Many have told me that it is not yet time to think of sending man to Mars -- this is not the Cold War. There is little to gain from such a grand announcement and much to lose. Clinton has no reason to risk such a necessary partnership with Russia--especially in the shadow of the technical problems of the aging Mir and in the wake of Russian's fiscally-induced delay of the International Space Station.

Still, I can't help think that Mr. Clinton should have ignored his advisors and the voice of caution. We are finally moving upward and onward. Plans to land on Mars are receiving serious consideration and a permanent return Moon seems just beyond our grasp. A National Research Council report urges NASA to start preparing now for the technological and human problems that will be encountered during a mission to Mars. Our society is once again on the move to the new frontier, but we appear to have no leader.

The space frontier first ignited during Clinton's watch. Too bad he won't get credit for it.


(Courtesy J. Ray, L. Cochrane, and R. Baalke)
  • Jul 19 - Classified mission K-18, Titan 4A/ no upper stage, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jul 22 - GPS 2R-2 Navstar, Delta 2, Cape Canaveral.
  • Jul 25 - AC-133/Superbird-C comsat, Atlas 2AS, Cape Canaveral.
  • Jul 24-28 - Internal space walk, Mir space station (date tentative)
  • Jul 30 - Start-1, EarlyBird commercial remote sensing craft, Svobodny, Russia.
  • Jul TBA - SeaStar, Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL, Vandenberg AFB
  • Aug TBA - PanAmSat-5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan
  • Aug 5 - Classified mission K-17, Titan 4A/ Centaur, Cape Canaveral
  • Aug 5 - Soyuz TM-26, Mir crew rotation, Baikonur Cosmodrome
  • Aug 6 - Lewis, Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle-1, Vandenberg AFB
  • Aug 7 - Shuttle Discovery Launch, CRISTA-SPAS 2, Kennedy Space Center
  • Aug 7 - Arianespace Ariane 44P, PanAmSat-6, Kourou, French Guiana.


The landing of Columbia has lowered the space population to a shaky baseline of three: two Russians and one American on Mir. This is the 2770 day of continuous space occupation beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on Sept. 8, 1989.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1997

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