Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #61

Frontier Status Report #61

September 6, 1997

Dale M. Gray

The frontier pot continues to boil--for the third week in a row there were three successful launches. The highlight of this week's activity was the joint Russian/American spacewalk. Major events include:

  • Spacewalkers on Mir inspect exterior for damage and realign two solar panels.
  • Ariane 4 delivers Hot Bird-3 and Meteosat-7 to orbit.
  • Atlas 2S launches GE-3 into orbit.
  • China launches a Chan Zheng 2C to qualify as an Iridium launcher.
  • Boeing unveils the prototype for the Space Maneuver Vehicle.
  • Pratt & Whitney has been licensed to produce the Russian RD-180 rocket engine.
  • The week marks the completion of eight years of continuous human presence in orbit.


Atlantis is on Pad 39A awaiting a September 25 launch for the seventh Shuttle mission to Mir. On Thursday the Rotating Service Structure was extended around the Shuttle. On Friday, the payload bay doors were opened for the installation of the SpaceHab payload. Terminal Countdown Test is scheduled for Sept. 9-10 and the STS-86 Flight Readiness review is scheduled for September 12 (NASA).


After weeks of training, Mike Foale was finally given the go-ahead Thursday, Sept. 4 for the external space walk scheduled for Sept. 5-6. Cosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev and Foale left the Kvant-2 airlock around 9:00 pm EDT while the space station orbited out of communication range. This was Solovyev's tenth EVA, while it is Foale's second. The pair moved to the damaged Spektr module and began installing handrails and inspecting for damage. At one point, Solovyev cut away insulation around the damaged radiator, but was frustrated by the fraying insulation obscuring the view of the module below. Inspection of the radiator revealed one bent and one broken connector bracket. The damaged solar panel base was also inspected for additional damage. No leak sources were identified during the walk. However, in addition to the inspection, the pair manually oriented two of the three operational solar panels for a better orientation to the sun. On the way back to the Kvant airlock Foale retrieved a NASA radiation meter placed outside the station by Jerry Linenger on a spacewalk April 29. The capping of a vent, to set up a back-up CO2 removal system, was not completed. Total time for the spacewalk was 6 hours (Flatoday).


After a seven-minute delay due to a problem with ground support equipment, the Ariane 4 carrying Hot Bird-3 and Meteosat-7 launched from Kourou, French Guiana at 6:21 pm EDT on Sept. 2. Hot Bird was released into a transfer orbit 20 minutes after the launch. Meteosat-7 was released 24 minutes into the flight. This is the 70th Ariane 4 launch. The next launch slated for Sept. 23, the 100th Arianespace launch, will place Intelsat 803 into orbit (ESA; Flatoday).


A Lockheed Martin Atlas 2S (AC-146) launched Wednesday Sept. 3 at 8:03 am EDT from Complex 36, Pad A, at Cape Canaveral Air Station. The launch had been delayed one day due to low pressure readings in a liquid-oxygen tank. The next day's successful launch came after a slight adjustment to pressure-sensor settings. The most powerful configuration of the Atlas rocket, with four strap-on boosters, delivered the GE Americom GE-3 communications satellite into a transfer orbit. The $100M satellite has 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders. Four more Atlas launches are scheduled for 1997 (Flatoday).


Cold air blasting from an air conditioner damaged insulation on the Cassini probe to Saturn--postponing the launch from the original October 6th date. An expected air flow of 10 pounds per minute at 120 mph over the probe turned out to be over 30 pounds per minute at 400 miles per hour. Insulating foil and foam were torn nearly 2 inches. A week is expected to be lost in removing the spacecraft and repairing the damage. The high-profile launch is now expected to be in mid-October. If the launch occurs after November 4, the mission would be seriously delayed (NASA; Flatoday).


The prototype for the ISS crew-return vehicle, the X-38 has temporarily suspended captive-carry tests at the Dryden Flight Research Center. The vehicle was carried aloft two times in late July and early August, but has since been grounded by electrical problems. The first free-flight drop test could occur in October after the captive-carry tests are complete (AW&ST).


China has successfully qualified to begin launching Iridium satellites. On September 1, a Chan Zheng 2C rocket was launched from Taiyuan carrying two dummy Iridium satellites. The satellites were not functional, but were built to simulate the mass and oscillation frequencies of Iridium satellites during launch and ascent to provide a realistic test. The Chan Zheng 2C rocket was built by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (Jonathan's Space Report).


Boeing and the USAF have rolled out the prototype of the Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV) on September 3. The 22-foot-long vehicle has a 12-foot wingspan and is a 90% scale version of later models. The Phase- One vehicle will be used to test automatic approach and landing systems. The system is ultimately designed as an unmanned vehicle that can be used as a reusable satellite for a variety of space missions. The prototype will be shipped to Holloman AFB later this month. In a series of flight tests it will be released from a helicopter at 10,000 ft to test the high-speed landing systems (Boeing).


Lewis: Contact with the spinning Lewis spacecraft has not been reestablished. The craft, launched Aug. 22 on the first successful Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle, began spinning from excessive thruster fire once in orbit. As a result, the solar panels have since been unable to collect enough power to recharge the batteries. Controllers continue to hope the craft's solar position will improve enough so that contact might be reestablished. Because the satellite was placed in a relatively stable 187-mile parking orbit, controllers have about three weeks to recharge the batteries and stop the two rpm spin. Should control be regained, eight hydrazine thrusters will place the craft into a 321-mile sun-synchronous orbit. However, the lack of battery power for heaters may have damaged some of the craft's sensors (Flatoday; AW&ST).

Adeos: The loss of Japan's Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (Adeos) on June 30 has, according to a NASDA study, been traced to greater than expected expansion of the 26-meter solar array paddle. Direct exposures to the sun during planned maneuvers to reach its proper orbit weakened the array's physical integrity. The arrays expanded more than planned during exposures and contracted less than expected between the exposures. Subsequent vibrations led to the complete loss of the structure. NASDA is now considering whether to develop a replacement satellite for the Advanced Visible and Near-Infrared Radiometer sensor lost on Adeos. Such a move would cost at most $150 million (SN).

Hot Bird - 3: Launched on Ariane 44LP on September 2, Hot Bird-3 was built by Matra Marconi Space. The craft has twenty transponders to provide direct-to-home television in Europe and Africa for the next twelve years (Flatoday).

Meteosat-7: Also deployed by the September 2 Ariane rocket, the Aerospatiale-built Meteosat-7 is designed to provide a variety of meteorological readings for the seventeen European-nation EUMETSAT organization. Its expected lifetime is five years (Flatoday).

Pratt & Whitney: In a deal potentially worth $1B, Russia's NPO Energomash and Pratt & Whitney have agreed to co-produce the RD-180 rocket engine. The American-produced components will be manufactured in a West Palm Beach facility under an exclusive contract with Lockheed Martin. The engines will be used in the new Atlas IIAR which is LockMart's entry in the USAF Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle competition (Flatoday).


GE Capital: The growing satellite-based tracking industry just got a little more competitive with the entry of GE Capital Services into the mix. Operating under the name of LogistiCom, the new venture will compete with Qualcomm Inc. and Orbcomm Global LP (SN).

Orbital Sciences: Orbimage, a subsidiary of Orbital Sciences, is contemplating providing weather satellite services from a new satellite similar to the OrbView-3 now in production. The new satellite would provide information such as wind speed and wind direction to customers such as weather forecasters. Orbimage currently is in the business of providing high-resolution Earth imaging (SN).


(Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke)

  • Sept 12 - Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Orbit Insertion
  • Sept 14 - Proton, Iridium (seven comsats), Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
  • Sept 17 - Galileo, third Callisto Flyby (Orbit 10)
  • Sept 21 - Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Aerobraking Begins
  • Sept 23 - Ariane 44P, Flight 100, Intelsat 803, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Sept 25 - Shuttle Atlantis, STS-86, Mir mission 7, Kennedy Space Center.
  • Sept 25 - Delta II, Flight 248 Iridium mission (five comsats), Vandenberg AFB.
  • Sept 29 - Atlas IIAS, Flight AC-135 Echostar F-3, Cape Canaveral Air Station
  • Sept 30 - Titan 4A, K-18, (no upper stage), Vandenberg AFB


The space population remains at the baseline of three. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. This coming week marks the completion of eight years of continuous human presence in space beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1997

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