Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #55

Frontier Status Report #55

July 25, 1997

Dale M. Gray

This week was a wild ride for the frontier, lots of good news and humorous Yemenites mixed with bad news and the sad loss of one of the frontier's brightest lights. Items include:

  • Launch of a Delta 2 rocket.
  • Delay of a Titan 4A launch due to a leak.
  • Preparation of the Shuttle fleet for launch
  • Postponement of repair of Mir until a fresh and trained crew arrives.
  • Recovery of a earth-based communication problem with Pathfinder.
  • Litigation - as Mars is claimed by three men from Yemen (seriously).
  • Problems with GOES-10.
  • No response from one of the recently launched Iridium satellites.
  • The Boeing/McD/D merger has cleared a final hurdle.
  • Japan drops its plans for a shuttle while ordering a new satellite from Hughes.
  • The US Senate has once again approved funding for the space station.
  • Space scientist Dr. Eugene Shoemaker died in a car wreck in Australia.


The Shuttle Discovery is on Pad 39A awaiting launch on Aug. 7. The Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) was conducted on July 23. The crew has inspected the CRISTA-SPAS in the payload bay. Storable propellant was loaded and the Flight Readiness review was conducted on July 24. Aft engine close-out will begin July 28 (NASA).

The Shuttle Atlantis is in the Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3 being prepared for its Sept. 18 launch to Mir. This will be the seventh Mir docking. Decision on whether to transfer Wendy Lawrence to the space station will be deferred until a few days before the mission so that safety concerns may be reviewed after the Russian space walks to repair the Spektr module. A payload bay door hinge was recently replaced on the Orbiter along with routine work to prepare the Shuttle for launch (NASA; IDS).


After last week's power outage on Mir, the space station is returning to normal. Power levels and battery reserves are nearly nominal for the damaged station with on-board life support and attitude systems functioning. The crew was given a day off so that they too could recharge their batteries.

Russian space officials in conjunction with NASA have waved off the repair space walk of the damaged Spektr module until a new crew arrives in a few weeks. American Mike Foale, who was to stand in for commander Vasily Tsibliyev to do the repairs, expressed disappointment in the decision. The new crew has been practicing the repairs in a simulator in Star City.

A French cosmonaut, Leopold Eyharts, scheduled to fly with the replacement crew, will be bumped to a later mission. The postponement occurred because there is not enough electricity available to support six crewmen and the additional equipment for the French experiments. This will also allow the Russians to send additional repair equipment with the crew (Flatoday).


Mars rover Sojourner Truth spent several days parked up against a flat white rock named Scooby Doo while communications were cut off by a misconfigured antennas in the Deep Space Network used to communicate with Pathfinder. Ground controllers received their last transmission from Pathfinder at 4 AM Sunday, but the signal was weaker than expected and no science was transferred. No signal was detected during the next scheduled transmission three hours later. To solve the problem the Network stations were told how to make equipment changes to receive the Pathfinder signal. Late Sunday night a low-gain transmission was successfully completed with two more low-gain sessions the following day. High-gain transmissions resumed July 21 and science data from Scooby Doo was transferred. A software fix for last week's lander computer reset problem was postponed by the loss of contact, but has subsequently been transmitted and installed. The rover has completed analysis of Scooby Doo and is moving on to other rocks named Lamb, Souffle, Cradle and Rock Garden (NASA; Flatoday; NBC).


Claiming to have inherited the planet Mars from their ancestors 3000 years ago, three Yemen men have filed suit in Yemen court against NASA and have asked NASA to cease and desist from collecting data from the red planet until the court delivers a verdict. NASA has responded that Mars is for the whole world to explore (IDS; Flatoday).


The Vandenberg AFB launch of a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office payload on a Titan 4A was scrubbed when 230 gallons of nitrogen tetroxide leaked from the rocket. The remaining fuel oxidizer was drained from the rocket. Once the area was determined to be safe, inspection began to determine the cause of the leak. A new launch date has not been set for the launch (Flatoday; SN).


A Delta 2 rocket successfully launched a U.S. Air Force Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite from Launch Complex 17A at Cape Canaveral on July 21 at 11:43 PM. The satellite separated from the rocket at 25 minutes, 19 seconds into the flight. The $43 million GPS 2R-2 satellite, built by LockMart, is the same as the one destroyed when a Delta rocket exploded shortly after launch in January. The new generation of GPS is more autonomous and is accurate to within 1 meter. There is currently a constellation of 25 GPS satellites in orbit (Flatoday).


Space Communications Corporation (SCC) of Tokyo is set to launch Superbird-C on Friday night. This is the third of a series of communications satellites that serve Japan and the Asian Pacific. The satellite, built by Hughes Space and Communications will be launched on an Atlas IIAS from Cape Canaveral Air Station. The satellite is a HS601 with 24 Ku-band transponders powered by four solar arrays rated at 4,500 watts. The craft has two 85-inch diameter antennas utilizing shaped-beam technology and a Mitsubishi steerable spot beam. The space craft has a service life in excess of 10 years (Flatoday).

Japan has decided to drop plans for its own unmanned space shuttle. Instead, plans have shifted to the development of a space plane that can access space at tenth of the cost associated with a shuttle launch. In addition, the plane could be constructed for about $862 million, about 1/5 the cost of the $4.31 billion shuttle project (Flatoday).


Boeing: The European Union's Economic Commission has withdrawn objections to the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas merger after Boeing agreed to drop exclusive terms on three contracts with major airlines. The Commission had previously opposed the merger indicating that it would create unfair marketplace conditions. The tentative EC approval clears the last hurdle to the merger of the aerospace giants. The joint company will have more than 200,000 employees and annual earnings of $48 billion (Flatoday).

Globalstar: The launch of the first four satellites for the Globalstar satellite phone network has been pushed back from October to December 4. The delay is related to scheduling slips caused by the Jan.17 Delta 2 explosion. The 48-satellite constellation is still slated to become operational by Christmas 1998 (SN).

SPACEHAB: SPACEHAB, Inc. announced that it has secured $25 million in credit agreements to develop and construct assets for use in new Shuttle missions and on the International Space Station. $10 million in a revolving line of credit obtained from Signet Bank will be used as working capital. A five-year loan of up to $15 million was obtained from CIT Group/Equipment Financing, Inc. to build "critical-path assets" such as the Science Double Module already in development, which will provide higher-capacity science missions aboard the Space Shuttles and new unpressurized logistics carriers for future use with the ISS (Flatoday).

CD Radio: CD Radio Inc. has signed a contract with Arianespace to launch two CD Radio satellites in 1999. The satellites, built by Space Systems/Loral, will broadcast 50 channels of satellite-to-car CD-quality radio programming across America (Flatoday).


Iridium: Contact has been lost with one of the five Iridium satellites recently launched July 9 from Vandenberg AFB on a Delta 2. The other four satellites launched are nominal, raising the total number of orbiting Iridium satellites to sixteen. Motorola has assumed financial liability for the loss should communications not be restored. The incident is not expected to affect the September 1998 start of commercial services. Iridium recently announced that they have completed raising the $4.715 billion necessary to fund their constellation of 66 satellites to commercial operation (Flatoday; AW&ST).

GOES-10: An obstruction is keeping the solar panel on the recently launched Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite-10 from properly tracking the sun. Engineers tried to rotate the array in reverse during a July 15 test, but the array snapped forward like a spring. Further attempts were halted when telemetry indicated the array was about to snap forward again. Engineers expect to try again as early as July 26. GOES-10 is an on-orbit backup for GOES-8 and 9 which are currently in use (SN).


USA: Sen. Dale Bumpers' (D Ark) annual effort to scuttle the space station has met with its annual defeat. Bumpers attempted to cut the space station's 1998 budget of $2.1 billion while adding $600 million for NASA to end the program. Tuesday's vote on the amendment to the joint appropriations bill lost by a vote of 69-31. The appropriations bill later passed by a margin of 99-1 (Flatoday).


Rather than express an opinion on frontier developments, I would rather note the passing of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, who died in a automobile accident near Alice Springs, Australia on July 19. While his accomplishments and contributions to space science are many and varied, he is perhaps best known for his association (along with his wife, Carolyn) with the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that was broken up by Jupiter's tidal forces. Astronomers, and indeed the world, watched as its pieces rained down upon Jupiter. Shoemaker and his wife were the leading discoverers of comets this century. As a planetary scientist, he played a key role in the recognition of comet impact as an important factor in evolution. He was also instrumental in establishing a lunar chronology, was involved in the Rover and Surveyor lunar missions, led the geological field investigations for Apollo and was active on the recent Clementine mission. His contributions to our knowledge of space and sheer joy of discovery he imparted as he shared that knowledge will be sorely missed.


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

  • Jul 25 - AC-133/Superbird-C comsat, Atlas 2AS, Cape Canaveral.
  • Jul 30 - Start-1, EarlyBird commercial remote sensing craft, Svobodny, Russia.
  • Aug 1 - SeaStar, Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL, Vandenberg AFB
  • Aug 5 - Classified mission K-17, Titan 4A/ Centaur, Cape Canaveral
  • Aug 5 - Soyuz TM-26, launch, 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 - Soyuz TM-26, docking, Mir crew rotation, Mir space station
  • Aug 8 - Arianespace Ariane 44P, PanAmSat-6, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Aug 14 - Return of Soyuz TM-26 with Vasily Tsibliev and Alexander Lazutkin
  • Aug 17 - Japanese H-2, COMETS, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan
  • delayed - Classified mission K-18, Titan 4A/ no upper stage, Vandenberg AFB
  • Aug 20 - Internal space walk, Mir space station.
  • Aug 21 - PanAmSat-5, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan


The space population has dropped back down to the baseline of three. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. This is the 2777 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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