Frontier Status Report #60
Frontier Status Report #60
August 29, 1997
Dale M. Gray
Another busy week on the frontier--three successful launches for the second week in a row. Highlights include:
Atlantis is on the launch pad being prepared for mating with the SpaceHab payload next Saturday (NASA).
NASA is investigating an incident that occurred during a test firing of a Space Shuttle test engine at Stennis Space Center. Nine minutes into a twelve-minute test fire, the engine shut itself off and began to burn. No injuries or damage to the test stand occurred. The engine was testing safer and more efficient engine parts to be used on future Shuttles. Engineers are now studying the engine to see if the fire was caused by parts are currently in use in Shuttles, specifically on the upcoming mission to Mir (Flatoday).
NASA has announced that the two ships that have been recovering spent SRBs since 1981 will begin double duty as External Tank barge transports. The first towing operation from Michoud, LA, to Kennedy Space Center will occur in the spring of 1998. Structural changes to the ships have already been made with some equipment yet to be installed. The change in operations should pay for themselves in fourteen to fifteen deliveries (NASA).
After making repairs to two different oxygen-generating systems, the crew of the station got down to the business of restoring power to the battered station. Cables were strung from the modified Spektr hatch to the Kristall and Kvant 2 labs. The power levels in the research modules are rising and systems are being reactivated. Two of the three remaining Spektr solar panels had been connected to the main power system, initially provided 50 amps of power, but by Wednesday the power levels had risen to 100 amps and had risen to 150 amps by Friday. Full power is expected to be achieved by the end of the week. The crew continues to have problems controlling the orientation of the solar panels on the Spektr module. The panels must be aligned with the sun to provide maximum power (NBC; Flatoday).
Mir Commander Anatoly Solovyov and astronaut Michael Foale are preparing for an external spacewalk to install handrails and to inspect the exterior of the Spektr module. On the basis of their inspection, repair materials will be selected and transported on the Shuttle Atlantis in late September. The pair have also embarked on a rigorous exercise campaign to develop the upper body strength needed for the tasks. They are also inspecting and preparing equipment for the space walk. In order to give Foale additional training time, the walk has been delayed from Wednesday to Friday or Saturday. NASA has not given final approval for Foale's participation in the upcoming walk (Flatoday).
Attempting to launch the second Delta 2 rocket in as many weeks, Boeing was forced to delay the August 24 Cape Canaveral launch when one of two shrimp boats refused to leave the eight-mile-wide launch-danger zone. The following morning, the Boeing Delta II 7920 was launched from Launch Complex 17a at 10:39 EDT, August 25. The payload, the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), separated from the second stage of the rocket on schedule 68 minutes later. The ACE is now on a 900,000 journey to the libration point, where the sun and earth's gravity balance. There it will study solar flares, solar wind, and the sun's effects on earth's environment. It is hoped that ACE will allows scientists to give advanced warning for geomagnetic storms. The storms can expose astronauts to dangerous radiation levels, damage satellites, or overload power grids on earth. The satellite was completed months ahead of schedule and $30 million under budget (Flatoday; NASA; Boeing).
An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket carrying PanAmSat-5 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan at 8:33 p.m. EDT (0033 GMT) August 27 (Aug. 28 in Kazakstan). The satellite, built by Hughes, separated from the Block DM upper stage 6 hours and 41 minutes into the flight. The rocket successfully placed the satellite in a transfer orbit that will eventually be rounded to 22,300 miles (Geosynchronous). ILS, composed of Lockheed Martin Corp., Khrunichev and RSC Energia, was organized to market Proton and Atlas rockets internationally (Flatoday).
A Pegasus XL carrying the Fast On-orbit Recording of Transient Events (FORTE) satellite was launched from a L-1011 jet out of Vandenberg AFB a little after 11:00 am EDT on August 29. The 468-pound satellite was developed and built by the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy. The craft will use new technologies to test the Earth's ionosphere for nuclear monitoring. TV and radio transmissions will be studied in coordination with natural electromagnetic pulses provided by lightning. The Pegasus rocket, built by Orbital Sciences, was launched in record time, just four weeks after the last Pegasus launch. The next launch in October from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia will carry the USAF STEP-5 satellite (NASA; Flatoday).
MARS GLOBAL SURVEYOR
The MGS spacecraft tuned its trajectory Monday, August 25 by firing its thrusters for eleven seconds. The position of the craft was adjusted to protect a damaged solar panel that could not be fully extended. The engines of the MGS will be fired September 11 to slow it enough to achieve orbit around Mars. For the next four months the orbit will be adjusted by a series of aerobraking maneuvers. Beginning September 15, the craft will begin its two-year mission mapping the surface of Mars (NASA; Flatoday).
The Cassini spacecraft, slated to be launched to Saturn on October 6, has been attached to the top of a USAF Titan IV/Centaur rocket at the Cape Canaveral Space Station. Close-out activities will begin on September 8 (NASA).
The beleagured Russian military space program has finally launched a military payload into orbit. The Kosmos-2345 early warning satellite was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan on August 14. The launch was preceded by several failures that left the military with few in-orbit assets (Jonathan's Space Report).
PanAmSat: The recently-launched PanAmSat-5 is the first of the new HS 601 HP produced by Hughes. It contains 24 active 50-watt C-band transponders and 24 Ku-band transponders (6 at 60 watts and 18 at 110 watts). It is also the first commercial usage of Xenon ion propulsion and dual-junction gallium arsenide solar cells on 2 four-panel solar wings. The ten-kilowatt craft has a 29-cell, 350 Amp-hr nickel-hydrogen battery and an advanced thermal control system to radiate the heat generated by the satellite operating at full capacity. With the Proton delivery and the use of the ion thruster, the satellite could last as long as 30 years. The satellite will provide Direct TV to Latin America and other telecommunication services to the Americas and parts of Europe (Hughes; Flatoday).
Lewis: While the earth observation satellite was successfully placed into orbit last Saturday (Aug 23) by the first successful launch of the Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle, problems developed Tuesday when the craft began to spin at 2 revolutions per minute. Contact was lost soon thereafter when the craft shut itself down after sun orientation was lost and the batteries began to drain. At the time the craft was in a 186 mile orbit that was to be raised over the course of days to 321 miles. If control cannot be reestablished and the craft raised to a higher orbit, its present orbit will decay and the craft will reenter the atmosphere in about 3 weeks. The unexpected spin appears to be the result of a stray firing of a thruster. During the weekend the craft is expected to be in a more favorable alignment with the sun and attempts will be made to reestablish contact and control (Flatoday).
Ariane Space: Korea Telecom has chosen Ariane to launch Koreasat 3 into orbit in mid-1999. The 6,138 pound satellite will be built by LockMart and will feature 46 Ka- and Ku-band transponders. Korea previously launched two microsatellite demonstrators , Kitsat-A in 1992 and Kitsat-B in 1993, as auxiliary payloads on Ariane rockets (Flatoday).
Orbital Sciences Corporation: Orbital recently shipped INDOSTAR-1 to Kourou, French Guiana for launch on an Ariane 4 in October. The 1.5 kilowatt satellite was built for PT MediaCitra Indostar of Jakarta, Indonesia to provide direct-to-home TV to the 14,000 Indonesian islands. The satellite is the Orbital's first geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) satellite and is the first to use high-powered S-band transponders. The craft is equipped with five 70-watt transponders that will provide forty channels of digital television. The high-power S-band was necessary to provide high-quality signal in an area of heavy rainfall. The satellite has a design life of twelve years. The satellite is the result of a $175 million contract between PT MediaCitra Indostar and CTA, Inc. which was recently acquired by Orbital. The acquisition has allowed Orbital to enter the GEO market with an advanced product (Flatoday).
On Monday, a miscommunication between Russian space officials and NASA very nearly lead to an international incident. The problem occurred when both the Elektron oxygen generating system and the lithium percholate canister back-up system were simultaneously off line. The Elektron system overheated and had to be shut off when the ignitor of the canisters malfunctioned. Ironically, the systems were repaired before the Americans even heard that they were broken. Due to the ending of the day in Russia, the information on the repairs was not sent on to NASA. When Russian controllers returned to work the next morning, they were startled to hear the Americans talking about abandoning the station.
After months of high drama in space, American officials and news media had been conditioned to fear the worst. As the realities of the situation filtered into western awareness, officials quickly pointed out the true problem was one of communication between two very different systems.
While false drama is not really news, it does have a place in the history of the development of the high frontier. When Ron Howard and Tom Hanks get around to making a movie about Mir, this week will add a nice touch of comedy before the final act.
Remember, in the vacuum of space no one can hear you laugh.
(Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke)
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORT
The space population remains at the baseline of three. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. This is the 2812 day of continuous space occupation beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.
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