Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #70

Frontier Status Report #70

November 7, 1997

Dale M. Gray

Three launches this week lead the news. Mir is returning to normal and is restarting its science experiments. Highlights reported for the week include:

  • Delta 2 launch on November 3
  • Brazil launches its first orbital rocket
  • Titan 4A launch on November 7.
  • Mars Pathfinder team ends mission
  • Two spacewalks on Mir restore more power for science


Columbia is on Pad 39B awaiting its Nov 19 launch for the US Microgravity Payload-4. On Thursday, during loading of hypergolic propellant, 100 pounds of oxidizer leaked and had to be cleaned up by environmental crews. In the coming week the aft engine compartment closeouts will begin and ordinance will be installed (NASA).


The Mir space station has been brought up to nearly full power as a result of two spacewalks by cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov.

Originally slated to begin in the late hours of Sunday, Nov 2, the first two-man spacewalk was delayed due to problems with the radio monitoring system of one of the spacesuits. Leaving Mir in the early hours of Nov 3, the pair of cosmonauts successfully removed and stowed a decayed solar panel on the Kvant module and made adjustments to prepare for a new CO2 removal system. A 1/3 scale model of Sputnik was hand-launched in honor of the 40th anniversary of the original Sputnik launch. Upon reentering the craft at the end of the six-hour walk, an emergency was declared when the external door failed to form a hermetic seal. The pair of cosmonauts entered the station and sealed the interior door (Flatoday; LS; JSP).

The second walk of the week occurred on Nov 6. A stowed solar panel was mounted on the Kvant module solar panel base made available on the first space walk. When the panel did not properly unfold on command, the space walkers helped the panel unfurl. The spacewalk was completed near the limit set by the spacesuits. While the space walkers cleared some white powder from the external airlock, it is not known whether the external door properly sealed at the end of the walk (Flatoday).


Despite repeated promises, Russia has fallen 600 billion rubles ($102.1 million US) behind in payments to contractors working on the space station. Despite 1.5 trillion rubles not being released in mid-October, Russian work on the station is reported to be within the revised schedule (SN).

Work on the European assured return capsule may be endangered by France's recent reprioritizing its space budget. The 3000 Kg Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator has been completed for several months and is slated for a test flight on an Ariane 5 next spring. The launch may be postponed due to budget concerns (SN).


A Boeing Delta 2 rocket carrying the last of the NAVSTAR Block IIA GPS satellites was launched from Cape Canaveral on Wed, Nov 5. The lift-off came at 7:30 PM after a hold for a problem with a downrange tracking station. Delta 249 is the first "all Boeing" launch--comprising the Delta booster, formerly built by McDonnell Douglas, and the Block IIa satellite, formerly built by Rockwell. Both companies have become part of the Boeing conglomerate in the past year (Flatoday).

A change in flight path due to a shift in upper-level winds brought a November 4 launch attempt to an end at T-57 when the range safety officer could not verify a clear downrange. The next Delta launch is scheduled for Vandenberg AFB on Nov 8 when a Delta 2 will boost four Iridium satellites into orbit (Flatoday)


On Fri, Nov 8, a Titan 4A equipped with a Centaur cryogenic upper stage was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Station. The lift-off was delayed almost an hour due to a technical problem with the Flight Termination System on the rocket. The rocket placed a nearly six-ton classified payload into orbit. Originally slated to launch on Sun, Nov 2, the launch was delayed six days to replace a faulty electronic unit that controls the flow control valve for the right hand solid rocket booster's thrust vector control system. The classified mission was delayed from a Sunday launch from Launch Complex 41 of Cape Canaveral (Flatoday; LS).


The second Ariane 5 rocket launch on Thursday Oct 30 was deemed a success despite an early shut-down of the core stage and a slight roll problem. As a result the payloads were placed in a significantly lower unplanned orbit. The solid boosters operated correctly and the satellites also operated as planned. The problems in the flight are not expected to affect future flights (JSP).


Minor damage to the Sirius 2 direct-broadcast satellite at the Guiana Space Center has postponed its launch on an Ariane 4 rocket until Nov 10. The satellite was built by Aerospatial for the Nordic Satellite Company. The rocket will also carry the Cakrawarta spacecraft for PT Datakom of Indonesia. The launch was previously scheduled for Nov 7 (SN).


On Nov 2, shortly after launch, Brazil's Satellite Launch Vehicle (VLS) rocket was destroyed by a command from the Alcantara, Maranhao launch facility. One of four first-stage engines failed to ignite and as a result the rocket was destroyed 65 seconds into the flight at an altitude of 3230 m. Debris from the 20-meter-high rocket and its 114 Kg SCD-2A environmental satellite payload fell into the sea in a radius of 1600 m from the base. This was the first launch from Alcantara (Flatoday; LS).


India's commercial launch venture, Antrix Corp., has signed its first contract for a satellite delivery to orbit. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will carry a Korean satellite as a secondary payload on its next launch in 1998. The 100 Kg satellite, built by students, will carry an Earth observation camera (SN).


On Tuesday, flight operators announced that they will be terminating attempts to reestablish contact with the Sagan Memorial Lander on Mars. The Lander last communicated on October 6. The mission has exceeded its designed life by three times. The rover, which may still be functional, but without a communication link, exceeded its design life by twelve times. The mission far exceeded the amount of scientific and technological knowledge expected and added significantly to our knowledge of the red planet (JPL).


On a Sept 19 fly-by of Io, Galileo took pictures of new volcanic deposits on the edge of the volcanic crater Pillan Patera. Within the deposits are what appear to be lava flows about 15 miles long. The deposits have occurred since an April fly-by which showed developing volcanic activity. Since then the Hubble Space Telescope observed volcanic plumes 75 miles high. The dark, possibly silicate, deposits are in contrast to the lighter yellow and red deposits observed on other Io volcanoes (NASA; Flatoday).


NASA has completed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Environmental Impact Statement for the X-33 program. The study evaluated public safety, noise, impacts on general aviation, and effects on biological, natural and other resources at two launch sites and five landing sites. The next activity for the program will be the ground-breaking for the launch facility at Edwards AFB (NASA).


In the climate of increasing commercial demand for heavier lift boosters, the USAF has decided to award the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle contract to both Boeing and LockMart. As a result, Boeing will construct a quarter-billion-dollar facility at Cape Canaveral Air Station while building the new Delta 4 in Decatur, AL. LockMart will build their new Atlas rocket utilizing Russian upper stage engines near Denver, CO. By utilizing two providers shared by the commercial market, the Air Force expects to save billions of dollars in the next two decades. The original EELV contract was to be for $1.6 billion, but it is unclear whether the amount will be increased with two providers (Flatoday; LS).


On Nov 4, the House passed the Commercial Space Act of 1997. Provisions require NASA to pursue commercial providers for the International Space Station. The Department of Transportation will be allowed to issue "re-entry" licenses to commercial operators using reusable launch vehicles. Since the Senate is unlikely to enact a similar Act, the passage is largely symbolic (Flatoday).


NAVSTAR: The last of the Block IIA NAVSTAR Global Positioning Satellites was launched Nov 5, bringing the network up to twenty-four satellites in orbit with spares. The $55 million NAVSTAR II-28 is expected to be operational about 20 days after launch. The next launch for the system will be one of 33 new Block IIF satellites in 2001. Under a 1983 contract worth $1.35 billion, Boeing built 40 Block I, II and IIA GPS satellites including 28 Block IIA satellites (Flatoday).

Sinosat: Sinosat 1, built by Aerospatiale has been delivered to European agents of Chinese SINOSATCOM. The satellite is based on the Spacebus 300 platform with a 5 kW, 26-meter solar array. The three-axis stabilized communication satellite contains 24 C-band and 14 Ku-band transponders, a fixed-shape one-meter antenna, and two deployable antennas (1.6 and 1.8 meter diameter). The 2820 Kg satellite will be boosted to orbit by a Long March 3B launched from Xichang, China (Flatoday).


Russia: In yet another strange turn of events in the continuing search for cash for the impoverished Russian space program, the Russian Space Agency is supporting the filming of the first movie in orbit. Shot on location in Mir, the movie will feature a reluctant cosmonaut and an alluring woman sent to fetch him back to Earth. "Space Flight Has a Price", the movie title, would cost around $20 to send two actors to Mir. The director, Yuri Kara hopes to film in English to attract a wider audience. One role was offered to Emma Thompson, who declined. Kara hopes to interest either Tom Hanks or John Travola for the other role. Cosmonauts on board would serve as cameramen and crew during the two weeks of space production. Mir has previously served as a set for Pepsi, Omega watches and milk commercials (Flatoday).


(Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke)>

  • Nov 8 - Delta 2, Iridium Mission 5 (five comsats), SLC-2, Vandenberg AFB
  • Nov 10 - Ariane 44L, Mission 102, Sirus-2 and Cakrawarta-1 (Indostar-1), ELA-2 at Kourou, French Guiana
  • 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
  • Nov 24 - ILS Proton, ASTRA-1G, Baikonur, Kazakstan
  • Late Nov - Start-1, Svobodny, Russia.
  • Dec 18 - Orbital Sciences Taurus, 2 ORBCOMM comsats, Celestis-2, SLC-576, Vandenberg AFB
  • 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 2982 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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