Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #71

Frontier Status Report #71

November 14, 1997

Dale M. Gray

Three launches from three continents 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 8
  • Ariane 4 launch on November 8
  • Proton launch on November 12
  • Mars Global Surveyor resumes aerobraking November 7


Shuttle Columbia is on Pad 39B awaiting its Nov 19 launch with the US Microgravity Payload 4. The waterspray boiler testing has been completed while closeout of the aft engine compartment is expected to be completed on Saturday. Space suits for the mission were installed this past week. The Orbiter/payload interface test and ordinance installation are complete. A problematic mass memory unit has been replaced. The crew of Kregel, Lindsey, Chawla, Doi and Kadenyuk are expected to arrive at KSC on Nov 16 about the same time the count down to launch begins (NASA).

The Shuttle Atlantis left KSC on Nov 11 on a somewhat lower flight than normal. Its transported by 747 to Palmdale, CA was delayed by weather. Atlantis is scheduled for extensive inspections and about 120 modifications as part of the nine-month Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP). One of the key changes will be the reconfiguration of the Orbiter's docking system from the Mir system to that which will be used on the ISS, and upgrading the Orbiter's GPS navigation system. The Orbiter's next launch is slated for the third ISS assembly flight in Jan, 1999 (KSC).


Although the leaking hatch in Mir's docking chamber was thought to have been sealed after last Thursday's EVA, recent monitoring has shown it is again leaking. The chamber was pumped up with oxygen on Sunday with no discernible loss of pressure for two days. Cosmonauts had cleared a white powder from the hatch both before and after their walk and had then secured the hatch with additional clamps. On last Tuesday the pressure in the chamber once again began to drop. Since the outwardly-opening hatch is sealed off from the rest of the station, it does not pose a serious problem. The cause of the leak is not known, but it is thought that it may be a worn-out seal. The next spacewalk is set for Dec 5 when Solovyov and Wolf work of externally-mounted experiments. They will check the seals of the hatch during their walk while the opening is in sunlight. A second December EVA of the two Russian cosmonauts will attempt to patch the holes in the Spektr module (Flatoday)


On Sat, Nov 8, a two-stage Delta 2 launched from Vandenberg AFB and placed five Iridium satellites into orbit. Satellite separation occurred from 62 to 85 minutes after launch. This raises the total number of Iridium satellites in orbit to thirty nine of the sixty six that will ultimately make up the network. Since the resumption of Delta flights in May, nine of the rockets have been launched. Next year, Boeing hopes to launch sixteen Delta 2's and one of the next generation Delta 3's (Flatoday).


On Wed, Nov 12, Russia launched a Proton-K/DM-2 rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan. The rocket delivered the Kupon satellite into orbit for the Central Bank of Russia. The 2,300 kg satellite was built by NPO Lavochkin. It will be used by subscribers to the bank's plan to create its own global accounting and information service (Flatoday; LS).


On Wed, Nov 12, Flight 102 was launched from Kourou, French Guiana at 4:48 pm EST. The rocket carried the Cakrawarta direct TV and Sirius 2 communications satellites. The 1,385 kg Cakrawarta, was built by Orbital Sciences for Indovision of Indonesia at a reported cost of $173 million, including launch. The 2,930 kg Swedish Sirius 2, built by Aerospatiale for Nordiska Satellit Aktie Bolaget, reportedly cost $227 million. The next Ariane 4 launch, carrying a Japanese communications satellite and a German scientific satellite, is slated for early Dec (Flatoday; LS).


A $30 million contract between MAN Technologie of Germany and the French-Italian Europropulsion seeks to cut 2,000 kg off of the Ariane 5 solid-rocket boosters. The contract will seek to replace bolted steel casings with casings that are welded together by the year 2001 (SN).

During the Oct 30 flight of the first successful Ariane 5, the main engine cut of 6.53 seconds early, resulting in a final orbit of 16,780 miles instead of the planned 22,394 miles. Had the rocket contained a commercial satellite, it would have been able to achieve the proper orbit at a cost of 2 years of operational fuel. The problem is linked to a sloshing of the fuel in the Vulcain engine's tanks. This was caused by more roll torque from the solid rocket separation than expected. Sensors erroneously reported the tanks to be empty - - causing the engine's turbopumps to be shut down (AW&ST; JSR).

The rocket's 88 ft long solid rocket boosters fell into the Atlantic at the planned location, but sank and have not been recovered as planned. Officials believe the large recovery parachutes did not deploy as planned and that the boosters were probably heavily damaged when they hit the water. Because the main engine shut down earlier than planned, it splashed down 5000 miles short of the Boeing Airborne Surveillance Testbed IR telescope which had been sent out to observe its reentry (AW&ST).


On Nov 12, the US Post Office announced that it will be honoring the Mars Pathfinder with a $3.00 Priority Mail stamp. The stamp will be based upon the first image received from the lander after its July 4 arrival on the surface of Mars. It will show the rover resting on the lander with a panorama of the Ares Vallis region in the background. The words "Mars Pathfinder, July 4, 1997 and USPO" will be printed on the stamp, but will only be visible by using a special decoder lens. The stamp will be dedicated Dec 10 at JPL in Pasadena (USPO).


Aerobraking resumed this past week with three brief propulsive maneuvers at apoares on Nov 7, 9 and 12. The more gentle aerobraking will preserve both mission objectives and the damaged solar panel. An average of 0.2 newtons, a third of the original aerobraking force, will be exerted on the panel. Changes in the mission include a 180 degree alteration of the data track and the delay of mapping by one year to mid-March 1999. The craft is orbiting Mars every 34.5 hours, at altitudes ranging from 125 km to 44,400 km (NASA).


On Nov 14, the 25-acre X-33 launch facility north of Haystack Butte at Edwards AFB was dedicated. The $30 million complex will play host to all fifteen planned launches of the X-33 reusable rocket. The site will include a retractable vehicle shelter, a rotating vehicle launch mount, storage areas for both O2 and H2 used as fuel, storage for helium and nitrogen used in vehicle operations, a water tank for the noise suppression system, a concrete flame trench and other needed infrastructure. The first launch of the LockMart built is scheduled for July of 1999 (NASA).

The SR-71 flight carrying the prototype aerospike engine did not fire the rocket engine as previously reported. For the first flight the "canoe" containing the rocket and fuel tanks was filled with inert gases. It was found that the SR-71 burned more fuel than expected passing through maximum drag at Mach 1.04 - 1.05. This point was also lower than expected. The next flight is to extend the envelope out to Mach 1.5 and have cold flow of gases through the engine. The third flight around Christmas is expected to fire the rocket engine for the first time at Mach 0.9. The goal of the program is to achieve Mach 3 at high altitude to check the rocket's plume expansion (AW&ST).


Japan is preparing for a Nov 18 launch of their H2 rocket from the Tanegashima launch facility. The rocket will be carrying a second-generation weather satellite built by Hughes Space and Communications. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission will monitor tropical and subtropical rainfall on a global basis for three years. The mission is co-sponsored by the Japanese National Space Development Agency and NASA (Flatoday).


In the face of President Clinton's 1999 NASA's budget cuts, a third of the US House have asked for an increase in funding levels. A letter sponsored by Reps. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is asking for funding levels to be raised from the current $13.6 billion to $14.4 billion for 1999 and $15 billion in 2000. In the coming weeks, the letter will be sent to Newt Gingrich then to the Senate and the White House (SN).


Globalstar: The launch of the first four satellites of the Globalstar constellation from Cape Canaveral has been delayed eight weeks to allow additional testing and rehearsals of launch and deployment of the satellites. The company plans to launch forty four satellites in 1998 so that it may begin commercial services in the first quarter of 1999. The remaining twelve satellites of the system will be launched in early 1999 (Flatoday).

Hispasat 1C: Aerospatiale has been chosen by Hispasat to build a DBS television satellite. The $87 million satellite, featuring twenty four transponders, is expected to be launched by 1999. It will be placed at 30 degrees west longitude where it will join two other Hispasats (SN).


Loral: With losses of $15.6 million for the third quarter, Space Systems/Loral (LOR) has announced that it will lay off seventy employees, cut over-time and reduce the use of temporary employees. The cuts are being made to increase efficiency and reduce overhead (SN).

Intelsat: Intelsat and International Launch Services have signed an agreement to launch the Intelsat 901 on Russia's newest launch vehicle, the Proton M. The first commercial launch for the rocket will occur in 2000 with options for five additional launches to follow (Flatoday).

EUTELSAT: Aerospatiale recently signed an agreement with EUTELSAT for a fourth W series satellite. W4 will be placed at 36 degrees East in early 1999 to begin digital television broadcasts primarily to Russia. The craft will be equipped with 32 transponders and a spot beam (EUTELSAT).


(Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke)

  • 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 22 - Start-1, Svobodny, Russia.
  • Nov 24 - ILS Proton, ASTRA-1G, Baikonur, Kazakstan
  • Dec - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM comsats and Celestis-2, Wallops Flight Facility, VA
  • Dec 1 - Ariane 44L, Flight 103, JCSat-5 and Equator-S, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Dec 5 - Landing, Columbia, Kennedy Space Center
  • Dec 7 - Long March 3B, Chinastar-1, Xichang Satellite Launching Facility, China.
  • Dec 8 - Atlas 2AS, AC-149, Galaxy 8I, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • 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 2989 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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