Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #65

Frontier Status Report #65

October 3, 1997

Dale M. Gray

Another full week on the frontier. This week there were two unusual launches, one from India and a laser-powered launch at White Sands. Highlights for the week include:

  • Atlantis rendezvous with Mir on Sept 25
  • Joint American/Russian spacewalk Oct 1
  • Mir installation of a recycled computer.
  • Shuttle departs Mir Oct 3 and finds Spektr leak.
  • Laser launch test
  • Mars Global Surveyor continues aerobraking
  • India launches rocket - loses previously launched satellite
  • Lewis spacecraft burns up on reentry.


The Shuttle Atlantis docked with Mir at 3:58 pm EDT on Sept 27. Dr. Dave Wolf, who arrived with the Shuttle, placed his custom-built seat-liner in the Soyuz return vehicle, thereby officially replacing Mike Foale as crew on the Mir.

The Shuttle carried 5,400 pounds of supplies and equipment to the station. Included is a motion-control computer to replace the faulty units that previously pointed the station's solar arrays at the sun. The "new" computer is a test spare previously used in the on-ground mock-up of the Saluyt 6 station. Other supplies include new batteries, plugs for the holes in the Spektr module, pressurized air tanks, food, fresh water and other supplies (NASA; Robert Oler; Flatoday).

A joint American/Russian space walk occurred on October 1 beginning at 1:29 pm EDT and ending 6:31 EDT. Astronauts Scott Parazynski, M.D. (U.S.), and Vladimir Titov (Russian). Titov spent a year on Mir in 1987-88, during which time he conducted three spacewalks. This is Parazynki's second space flight and first spacewalk. The pair retrieved the four boxes of the Mir Environmental Effects Payload (MEEP) experiment, tested the jet- powered backpack, and anchored a cone-shaped repair cap to the docking tunnel's exterior. The cap may be placed around the damaged solar panel base during a future spacewalk when it is jettisoned. The eight-foot long, three-foot diameter cap, too large to be brought to the station on a Progress cargo vessel, was carried in the Shuttle cargo bay. The new backpack will enable future astronauts who find themselves separated from their tethers to return to safety. The new feature is a necessary development considering the 75 spacewalks scheduled during the construction of the International Space Station (NASA; LS; Flatoday).

After the Shuttle departed from the station on Oct 3 at 1:28 pm EDT, it conducted a fly-around to inspect the Mir complex. During the fly-around, the Mir crew pumped air into the Spektr module and the Shuttle crew watched for leaks. Particles were seen and recorded venting from the base of the damaged solar panel. This confirms suspicions of ground controllers and sets up future spacewalks to repair the damage with the cap delivered by Atlantis. On the return home, Michael Foale replaced David Wolf, who remained on the Mir station. The shuttle is due to land at the Kennedy Space Station on Sunday, October 5. The landing will come 10 minutes before a scheduled Atlas launch from the Cape (Flatoday; LS)


Russia is set to launch the Progress M-36 cargo ship to Mir on Sunday, October 5, from Baikonur. The ship will carry a two-ton cargo that includes a back-up central computer, spare parts, research equipment, 1,320 pounds of fuel and 78 gallons of drinking water.


NASA recently reported that the first elements of the International Space Station are on schedule. The Functional Cargo Block and the US Node 1 are on track for launches next June and July and great progress has been made on the Russian Service Module, which is slated to be launched in December of 1998. The problematic Service Module passed the general designer's review September 12. Construction on the module will be completed in Khrunichev in November, after which it will be transported to Rocket Space Corporation-Energia for final testing. It will be shipped to Baikonur in late May 1998 to begin launch preparations. The Functional Cargo Block, the first element to be launched, has been modified to be refueled and for Soyuz docking. It completed its manufacturing Sept 15 and has been moved to RSC-Energia ahead of the revised schedule for final testing. It will be shipped to Baikonur in January to prepare for launch. The US Node 1 has been shipped from Alabama, where it was constructed, to Kennedy Space Center, where it is being tested and prepared for launch. One of two pressurized mating adapters has been attached while the other is being shipped from California to Kennedy (NASA).


Three weeks after arrival in Mars orbit, the Mars Global Surveyor has completed over twelve orbits of the planet, including nine aerobraking passes. Currently, each pass through the atmosphere has slowed the craft by less than 1.5 meters per second. It will require four months for the craft to slowly lower itself into the proper 350 x 410 km orbit. A slight wobbling of the craft on the seventh orbit appears to be from the star tracker locking onto the wrong star. As a result, the high-gain antenna was pointed two degrees away from Earth. This was corrected on the eighth orbit and the recorded seventh orbit data relayed. Controllers are also using air resistance to take accumulated spin out of the reaction wheels during each pass. Photography is taking place during the low point (periares) of the orbits, but thus far the excessive range and poor illumination conditions has limited the usefulness of the photographs. However, they have proved helpful in preparing the camera for its mission (Flatoday; NASA; AW&ST).


While Pathfinder is still functional, communication is becoming increasingly difficult to establish and maintain. The battery of the lander appears to be dead, so new strategies are being developed to contact and control Pathfinder during daylight hours when Earth communication is possible. At 89 days the lander has far out paced its thirty-day minimum design life. The rover, designed to operate only seven days, is also still functional (Flatoday).


NASA has released the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the X-33 program. The EIS studied the impact to the preferred launch site near Haystack Butte on the eastern side of Edwards AFB and at three of seven proposed landing sites. These include Silurian Lake near Baker, California; Michael Army Air Field, Dugway Proving Ground, Utah; and Malmstrom Air Force Base at Great Falls, Montana. The environmental impact to the four sites was found to be minimal. The 273,000 pound X-33 is a sub- scale model for the Reusable Launch Vehicle named "Venture Star." The $1.15 billion program is a joint effort of NASA and Lockheed Martin (NASA).


The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from Sriharikota Island, 35 miles north of Madras, on September 29. The rocket carried the 1,250 kg Indian Remote Sensing-1D satellite into a 822 x 306 km orbit. Due to a performance problem in the fourth stage, the satellite did not achieve the 817 km circular orbit that was planned. Thruster firing will be able to correct the problem. The craft will be maneuvered into a 507-mile sun- synchronous polar orbit where it will join three other IRS satellites launched on Russian rockets. This is the first operational satellite to be launched on a PSLV. The ISRO is hoping that the system will be used by Iridium to launch some of its satellites. This was India's largest satellite launch to date. ISRO is working to construct a second launch pad at Sriharikota to support their current launch vehicle and a future Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) (Flatoday; LS).


A test at White Sands Missile Range has successfully launched a 50-gram/5.5-inch launch vehicle utilizing only a pulsed laser. The ground-based laser is directed to an annulus at the rear of the vehicle which is ionized--flashing into plasma which provides the thrust. The demonstration of the advanced technology resulted in a not-so-dramatic flight altitude of seven feet. However, the technology has the potential to dramatically lower the weight and cost of future space flight (AW&ST).


An unrelated test at White Sands Missile Range is slated in early October to test the US Army's Mid-Infra- Red Advanced-Chemical Laser (Miracl). The six-foot-wide beam using millions of watts of power from burning reactants will be directed at the MSTI-3 satellite in orbit during two brief tests. The 211-kg satellite, built by Spectrum Astro for the USAF, was launched May 17, 1996 into a 425 km sun-synchronous orbit. The tests are occurring despite protests from Spectrum that the satellite had been underutilized (AW&ST; LS).


The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has begun final assembly of the Deep Space 1 demonstrator probe. The probe is scheduled to be launched July 1, 1998 to visit asteroid 3352 McAuliffe, Mars, and comet P/West-Kohoutek-Ikemura. It is the first flight of the new Millennium program. It will feature advanced xenon/ion propulsion, Ka-band communications, high-power solar concentrator arrays, lightweight instruments and other technologies (AW&ST).


Lewis: The mute Lewis satellite reentered Earth's atmosphere on September 28 around 7:58 am EST over the South Atlantic. This is the first on-orbit loss of a TRW spacecraft in more than 20 years (LS; SN).

Faisat: Communication problems with the recently-launched Faisat have been traced to a loose connection in a ground-station tower in Norway. Because the satellite did not receive any commands from the ground to deploy its main antenna, it switched to a 48-hour quiet mode. Once the time period elapsed, communications with the craft were restored. The satellite was a secondary payload of a Russian booster launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome (SN).

GE-3: Launched Sept 4 on an Atlas 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral, the GE-3 satellite is in position at 87 degrees West longitude. On September 30, the satellite took over the services of the Spacenet 3 satellite which provides a number of television feeds (LS).

INSAT-2D: India's most advanced satellite Insat-2D experienced a major power failure Oct 1 when the satellite lost earth lock. The 2000-kg satellite was launched June 3 on an Ariane 44L rocket. The satellite was built by the ISRO and controlled by the Hassan master control facility 150 km from Bangalore, India. The satellite has been shut down indefinitely (LS).


PanAmSat: The PanAmSat Corp. has requested permission to launch a twelve-satellite system from the FCC. The proposed V-Stream network will provide digital transmission services in the V-band frequencies. The system will use three gigahertz of spectrum between 50/40 Ghz bandwidth. The system is expected to begin providing services after 2000 (Flatoday).

Boeing: Boeing has chosen Decatur, Alabama for the location of its new Delta 4 manufacturing plant. The 2 million square foot facility will produce the common booster core for the Delta 4 family of rockets used in the proposed USAF Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program (EELV). Should Boeing not win the $1.4 billion EELV contract, the plant would be used to produce commercial boosters. Construction will begin in November with completion in 1999. The selection of Alabama over other contenders for the site is in part due to tax incentives recently pushed through the Alabama Legislature that could amount to $49 million in tax savings for Boeing over the next 20 years (Flatoday).


(Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke)

  • Oct 04 - 40th Anniversary (1957), Sputnik 1 Launch, 1st Man- Made Object Launched Into Earth Orbit
  • Oct 5 - Landing Shuttle Atlantis, STS-86, Mir mission 7, Kennedy Space Center.
  • Oct 5 - Atlas IIAS, Flight AC-135 Echostar F-3, Cape Canaveral Air Station
  • Oct 5 - Soyuz-U, Progress M-36 Mir resupply, Baikonur, Kazakstan
  • Oct 7 - Long March 3B, Apstar 2R, Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China
  • Oct 9 - Titan 4A, K-18, (no upper stage), Vandenberg AFB
  • Oct 11 - Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Service, Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Oct 13 - Titan 4B, Cassini Mission to Saturn, Cape Canaveral Air Station
  • Oct 18 - Pegasus XL, USAF STEP-4, Wallops Flight Facility, VA
  • Oct 22 - Start-1, EarlyBird remote sensing, Svobodny, Russia
  • Oct 24 - Atlas IIA, Flight AC-131, DSCS-3, Cape Canaveral Air Station
  • Oct 28 - Ariane 5, Mission 502, 2nd qualifying flight, Kourou, French Guiana
  • Nov 5 - GPS Navstar Delta 2 Launch, Cape Canaveral Air Station
  • Nov 23, LMLV-2, Lunar Prospector, Cape Canaveral Air Station


The space population remains at ten. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. The seven-person international crew of Atlantis is composed of five American astronauts, Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Titov and French astronaut Jean-Loup Chretien. This marks the completion of 2947 day of continuous human presence in space beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989.

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