Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #68

Frontier Status Report #68

October 24, 1997

Dale M. Gray

Another interesting week on the frontier. Three launches including the second Titan launch in as many weeks. Both Mars missions are having major problems. Highlights reported for the week include:

  • Titan 4A launch
  • Atlas 2A launch
  • Pegasus launch
  • Cosmonauts on Mir conduct internal space walk
  • Pathfinder slips closer to oblivion
  • Mars Global Surveyor may have broken a solar panel


The shuttle Columbia, which is slated for a Nov 19 launch of the US Microgravity Payload 4, has been transferred to the Vehicle Assembly Building where its mass and center of gravity were determined. The USMP payload will be transferred to Pad 39B on Oct 27--followed the next day by Columbia being rolled to the pad. The payload will be loaded into Columbia on Nov 1 (NASA).


With equipment delivered from the Shuttle and the Progress supply ship, the cosmonauts and astronaut onboard Mir took great strides in repairing the orbiting facility. A new control module was installed on the Elektron oxygen supply system. In preparation for Monday's internal space walk, both Elektron systems were operated to raise the oxygen partial pressure. A new drive unit was also installed on one of the Kvant-2 gyrodynes--giving the station eleven gyrodynes for attitude control (Flatoday).

On Monday, Oct 22, Solovyev and Vinogradov spent 6 hours and 38 minutes on an internal spacewalk. Inside the depressurized module they found seven floating bags and a refrigerator door. The bags, containing personal belongings and scientific equipment, were taped out of the way on a wall. The pair of cosmonauts managed to reconnect five of six attitude-control cables for the remaining three functional solar panels on the Spektr module. The last control cable was left unconnected as oxygen supplies ran out and the spacewalk was brought to an end. On Thursday, the cables were connected to a control computer in the Kristall module to orient the panels to the sun--bringing two of the panels up to full power. The station now has eight of ten solar panels fully functional with an additional panel partially functional. This restored power level will allow additional scientific and habitation activity (Flatoday).


First NASA had to admit to Congress that the International Space Station is $430 million over budget; now it has had to admit that the station will not be fully assembled until 2003--a full year and a half beyond the promised deadline. Previously, NASA held that the US habitation module would be in place and outfitted by Dec of 2002, but a recent reshuffling of the launch schedule now places the US habitation module last in the assembly sequence (AW&ST).


A LockMart Titan 4A launched a National Reconnaissance Office satellite into a 425-mile orbit from Vandenberg AFB on Oct 23. The rocket, with no upper stage, is thought to be carrying the third and final LACROSSE radar imaging satellite. It replaces the first LACROSSE satellite launched in 1988 which is thought to have been sent into reentry earlier this year. The $1 billion satellite is 4.4 meters in diameter and masses 1455 Kg. The next Titan launch is slated for a Halloween launch from Cape Canaveral (Flatoday).


An Atlas 2A launched on Fri, Oct 24 from the Cape Canaveral Air Station carried a $160 million DSCS-3 military telecommunications satellite into a transfer orbit. The launch was delayed for an hour due to weather concerns and when an liquid-oxygen topping valve was found to be improperly open. After launch at 8:46 pm EDT, the satellite separated from the Centaur upper stage around 26 minutes into the flight. The satellite will become operational in about 60 days. The flight also contained a small satellite built by cadets called Falcon Gold (Flatoday; LS).


On Wed, Oct 23, Orbital Sciences successfully launched the 403-kg USAF Space Test Experiment Platform (STEP) Mission-4 off the coast from the Wallops Island facility in Virginia. After the satellite separated from the third stage of the rocket, contact was established. Controllers are trying to establish communications before the on-board batteries drain. When contact is made, the satellite will be raised to a circular 324-mile orbit where it will study the Earth's atmosphere and ionosphere with three instruments. The $52 million satellite was built by TRW, which also built the Lewis spacecraft (Flatoday).


An anomaly detected in the mountings of the Vulcain engine supply lines of the Ariane 5 launchers for flights 503 and 504 have delayed the launch of flight 502 until early November. The additional time is necessary to so that the supply lines could be checked on the 502 launcher now being prepared for launch in French Guiana. The flight is now in the final phase of launch preparation with qualification of a new electronics filter for the cryogenic main stage (Flatoday).


The Spaceport Florida Authority (SFA) has asked the Air Force for permission to spend $2.5 million to convert Launch Complex 20 from a deactivated Titan 2 military pad into a small commercial launch facility. Most recently the pad was used for rail- launched vehicle experiments, but was abandoned in 1994. The SFA recently completed $8 million in renovations to Launch Complex 46 a few miles to the north of Launch Complex 20. The January launch of Lunar Prospector will be the first flight from LC 46. The LC-20 pad will be available to a variety of small rockets for a charge of around $300,000 per launch (Flatoday).


NASA is planning to launch eleven sounding rockets from an Atlantic coast facility 30 miles west of San Juan. The Coqui II project will measure upper atmosphere winds and turbulence in the series of launches from Jan 14 to Mar 1998. The last time the facility was used for NASA launches was in 1992 (Flatoday).


The Italian Space Agency (ASI) recently revealed a plan to increase their budget for space activities and on a number of small programs--increasing spending by 1.2 trillion lire over the course of five years. Under the proposed plan Science, the ISS, space services, new technologies and the development of a small launch capability would receive increased funding. The new launcher would be based either in French Guiana, Brazil or at the existing Italian launch/tracking facility in Kenya (AW&ST).


It now appears that the last aerobraking maneuver may have broken the previously unlocked solar array. The remaining aerobraking options are now being considered. Since the mission would be significantly compromised if one of the two arrays was lost, controllers are now looking into the best possible orbit using the remaining fuel (Kolker, HCI; AW&ST).


No communications have been received from Pathfinder since Oct 7. Controllers believe the internal temperature of the Pathfinder lander has fallen to 58 degrees C--keeping the lander's transmitter from operating properly. When the transmitter is on, the internal temperature rises to about 20 below by late afternoon. The changing of temperature changes the frequency of tuning crystals in the lander. As a result, controllers have been sending commands at a variety of frequencies for the lander to begin broadcasting, but with no success. The rover may still be active, but without communications with the lander, it cannot phone home (Flatoday).


Cassini appears to be healthy, on-course and operating within normal parameters. Earlier this week JPL uploaded an initial set of commands for the first week of operations. Radio plasma antennas will be deployed next week. With the spacecraft on its way, the 300-member scientist team will now begin to develop an operational plan for the use of Cassini when it reaches Saturn. This task was deferred until after the launch to save costs (JPL; AW&ST).


The Lunar Prospector mission has been delayed until Jan 5 1998. The rescheduling has been to allow time to complete testing, review and preparation of the Athena II rocket. The Athena II was previously known as the Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle - 2 (Flatoday).


The US Army conducted a controversial laser-to-satellite experiment from White Sands on Friday, Oct 17. Two pulses, one second and ten seconds long, from the MIRACL (Mid-Infrared Advance Chemical Laser) hit the infrared camera on board the USAF MSTI-3 satellite orbiting 260 miles above. Controllers were not able to monitor the experiment from the satellite because it was receiving instructions at the time. It was not equipped to receive instructions and monitor at the same time. Neither the laser nor the satellite were damaged by the experiment (Flatoday; LS).


DSCS-3: Friday's Atlas launch carried the tenth DSCS-3 satellite to orbit. The constellation provides secure data and voice communications for military forces around the world. The network carried 80% of military communications during the Gulf War (Flatoday).

Iridium: A second satellite has been lost from the thirty-four Iridium satellites already launched for the sixty-six satellite Iridium constellation. The satellite was one of five launched Sept 14 on a Russian Proton rocket. Motorola is examining the problem, but believes the satellite cannot be salvaged or used in the initial constellation activation (LS).


Hughes: Hughes Space and Communications has won a contract with BONUM-1, a subsidiary of the Russian company Media Most. Under the contract Hughes will provide a HS-376 satellite for digital direct-to-home service in western Russia. The satellite will be delivered in-orbit by a Delta II launched in November of 1998. The satellite will contain 8 Ku transponders providing 50 channels. Financial terms of the contract were not revealed (Flatoday).

Space "seal": The space community's Mission HOME (Harvesting Opportunity for Mother Earth) has launched a campaign to put a distinctive "Applying American Space Technology" emblem on products directly tied to space. Products already certified include American Outdoor Products' Astronaut Foods, BSR thermal blankets, Fischer Space pens, GM OnStar system on Cadillacs, Magellan GPS locators, Penguin Water Corp water processing systems, and Welch Allyn infrared ear thermometers (Flatoday).

LockMart: Lockheed Martin has awarded a $10 million contract to PRIMEX Aerospace of Redmond, WA to produce the Atlas Roll Control Modules (ARCM) and Centaur Rocket Engine Modules (REM). The contract is for 12 ARCM and 30 REM to be delivered between 3rd quarter 1998 through 1999 (Flatoday).


(Courtesy J. Ray, B. Hartenstein and R. Baalke)

  • Oct 31 - Titan 4A (Centaur upper stage), Mission A-17, Classified NRO mission, Complex 41, Cape Canaveral
  • Early Nov - Ariane 5, Mission 502, second qualifying flight, TEAMSAT, MaqSat-H & MaqSat-B, Kourou, French Guiana
  • Nov 6 - Delta 2 Launch, NAVSTAR -GPS 2-28, Cape Canaveral Air Station
  • Nov 7 - Ariane 44L, Mission 102, Sirus-2 and Cakrawarta-1 (Indostar-1), ELA-2 at Kourou, French Guiana
  • Nov 8 - Delta 2, Iridium Mission 5 (five comsats), SLC-2, Vandenberg AFB
  • Nov 13 - Orbital Sciences Taurus, 2 ORBCOMM comsats , Celestis- 2, SLC-576, Vandenberg AFB
  • Nov 18 - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM comsats and Celestis-2, Wallops Flight Facility, VA
  • Nov 18 - H-2, ETS-7 rendezvous-docking system & Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.
  • Nov 19 - Columbia, STS-87, USMP-4 & Spartan 201-4, pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center
  • Jan 5 - Athena-2, Lunar Prospector, Cape Canaveral Air Station.


The space population remains at the baseline of three. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. This marks the completion of the 2968th day 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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