Frontier Status Report #62
Frontier Status Report #62
September 12, 1997
Dale M. Gray
After three weeks of frantic launch activity, the past week has been relatively quite -- but not without events of importance.
Atlantis with the SpaceHab double module is on Pad 39A awaiting launch on Sept 25 for the seventh Mir docking. Closeouts of the aft compartments is in progress with the aft doors installed next Thursday. Payload closeouts are also in progress along with interface tests. Flight readiness review was conducted on Friday Sept. 12. Friday, suspect data cards were changed out of the two solid boosters. Payload bay doors will be closed for flight on Sept 18 (NASA).
On Sept 8, two days after the completion of the joint Russian/US spacewalk, the eleven-year-old motion-control computer for the space station failed, causing the crew to shut down all but the most essential systems. However, unlike previous blackouts, the station maintained its attitude. After the faulty computer was replaced, the crew began the familiar power-up sequences. This is the fourth such event for Foale and the second for the Russian crew. With the additional power now available from the Spektr solar panels and the new batteries that arrived with the Mir 24 crew, the recovery was relatively rapid (Flatoday; SN).
The Mir 23 crew is facing fines for the June collision of the Progress and the Spektr module. Ground controllers are also getting their own share of the blame. The search for a scapegoat has reached as high as Boris Yeltsin. However, since aging parts and lack of simulators that the country can't afford are primarily to blame, it is likely that the blame will fall unequally.
MARS GLOBAL SURVEYOR
Launched last Nov, the Mars Global Surveyor successfully fired its engines for 22 minutes on Thursday to put craft in elliptical orbit of Mars. Over the next four months the craft will be aerobraked to circularize its orbit at 234 miles above the red planet. The $148 million craft built with many of the spare parts of the ill-fated Mars Observer, but with an upgraded rocket engine, will map 99% of the surface of the planet, create a topographic map of the surface and conduct a mineral survey. The telephoto lens of the camera, one of six scientific instruments, will be capable of recording objects as small as a kitchen table and may be able to photograph the Viking Lander (Flatoday).
Because additional time is needed to complete testing and preparation of the Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle -2 (LMLV-2), the launch of NASA's Lunar Prospector has been delayed. Originally scheduled for Sept 24, the launch is now slated for Nov 23, 1997. The $62.8 million mission will place a 660-lb spacecraft in a 63-mile lunar orbit with five scientific instruments. It will study the composition and gravity field of the entire lunar surface and more specifically examine the polar regions for evidence of ice. The LMLV-2 is a more powerful version of the LMLV-1 which recently launched the Lewis spacecraft. The LMLV-2 has an extra Castor 120 solid rocket booster motor (NASA).
The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing for the second launch of the Ariane 5 rocket which will give the Arianespace program a heavier boost capability. A full dress rehearsal on the pad occurred September 4 after which the rocket was moved to the final assembly building to be mated with the payload. The launch of Flight 502 is slated for Sept 30 with only the flight control software acceptance test remaining to be cleared. The rocket will carry two dummy payloads, MaqSat-H / MaqSat-B, and the TEAMSat (AW&ST; Flatoday).
SpaceDev announced on Sept 10 that they plan on launching the world's "first private spacecraft" that will be designed to land on a near-earth asteroid by the middle of 2000. The Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) will be the first of five spacecraft/prospectors. The purpose of the mission is two fold; to collect scientific information and to actually stake a claim on what is viewed as a valuable mineral resource (SpaceDev).
Agila - 2: The recently launched Agila 2 satellite built by Space Systems/Loral for the Mabuhay Philippines Satellite Corp. did not reache its correct orbit. The satellite was launched on a Chinese Long March 3B rocket into an orbit 3,000 kilometers out of its correct orbit. As a result, the satellite expended its own fuel to reach its proper orbital slot. The satellite is still expected to reach its twelve-year design life (SN).
Lewis: The spin rate of the Lewis spacecraft launched Aug by the LMLV-1 has slowed. While the initial spin rate of two rpm has slowed to half an rpm, controllers have not been able to reestablish contact. If control is not reestablished, the spacecraft will reenter the earth's atmosphere around September 28 - 30 (LS; NASA).
ACE: Testing of thrusters aboard the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), which was launched on a Delta 2 on Aug 25, have revealed that two thrusters are impinging on the solar arrays more than planned. Another thruster appears to be slightly misaligned. An orbit-shaping maneuver has been delayed so that the thrusters can be studied. The nine scientific instruments have been activated and are in good working order (LN).
TRW: A nineteen-satellite system is being planned by TRW with a reported price tag of $3.4 billion. The Global EHF Satellite Network (GESN) will include four geostationary and fifteen satellites at 10,355 km in three orbital planes to provide high-speed Internet access and private communications networks (SN; LS).
Cyberstar: Loral's communications business, Cyberstar, hopes to provide high-speed Internet and other broad-band communications services by the second quarter of 1998. Cyberstar hopes to bring their service on line more than a year ahead of its competitors by using its Telstar 5 satellite. The company hopes to expand their service to the Middle East and Asia by the end of 1998 (SB).
Orbital Sciences: The USAF has chosen Orbital Sciences Corporation for a $206 million launch-vehicle contract, to develop and launch derivatives of the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) vehicles for suborbital and orbital applications. Under the contract Minuteman hardware will be combined with Pegasus and Taurus launch vehicle technology. The contract covers up to six launches per year beginning in 1999 with options extending through 2004 (Orbital Sciences).
While the Russians continue to try give entropy a human name so that they may levy fines, something truly interesting is happening in the private sector.
SpaceDev has announced plans to send a spacecraft called NEAP to a near-earth asteroid. By doing so, they will set a precedent that will go a long way toward opening up space to business and as a materials-based frontier. By landing NEAP on an asteroid, they hope to establish a method by which extra-terrestrial resources may be claimed and therefore opened to exploitation. Sensibly, they are hedging their bets by planning to sell the data collected by the craft.
Frankly, no one wants to invest in a frontier if there is any doubt about who owns what. In the old west, miner's courts were set up rapidly after a strike so that rules of property acquisition might be ironed out. In an earlier age, it took the Pope to carve up the Western Hemisphere between the Spanish and the Portuguese. Title to the New World had to be established, or wars and litigation would eat any and all profits. A more recent example of this occurred when the FCC stepped in to organize the ownership of geosynchronous orbit slots. The various resources may or may not have been fairly divided and the authority of the regulating body may be in doubt, but ownership was established. More importantly, with secure titles to resources bankers were able to give loans for development.
Eventually, space will be an integral part of our civilization and the global economy. But first, we must sort out how we are going to establish ownership. While SpaceDev is proceeding on the assumption that they will make a profit, it is no small service that they are doing for the human race. If they successfully claim an asteroid, it will likely be the precedent upon which all extraterrestrial resources may be owned.
Frankly, the sooner we can establish private ownership of natural property off the face of the earth, the sooner we will be able to develop it. If you and your children hope to someday live and work in space, it will be in part because SpaceDev or someone much like them helped establish extra-terrestrial property rights.
COMING EVENTS(Courtesy J. Ray, R. Baalke, and T. Duerbusch)
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORT
The space population remains at the baseline of three. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. This marks the completion of 2926 days of continuous human presence in space beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.
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