Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #73/74

Frontier Status Report #73/74

November 28, 1997 - December 5, 1997

Dale M. Gray

For the last two weeks, news from the space frontier has been truly international. This has been an especially big week for Japan with the nation's first two space walks, the successful launch of a Japanese H-II rocket and the Ariane 4 launch of JCSAT-5 for the Japanese Satellite System. Highlights reported for the last two weeks include:

  • Shuttle Columbia lands on Dec 5
  • Spartan retrieved by astronauts during space walk
  • Japanese H-II launched Nov 27
  • ILS Proton launched Dec 3
  • Ariane 4 launched Dec 3
  • Mir resumes electric furnace experiments
  • The US Military Spaceplane program may be revived in 1999.
  • Delta III booster tests completed


A big two weeks for the Shuttle Columbia with two space walks, a satellite capture, numerous experiments and a safe landing on Dec 5. On Monday, Nov 24, astronauts Winston Scott and Takao Doi successfully nabbed the inert Spartan spacecraft during their first 7 hour, 34 minute space walk. Once the satellite was stabilized, the Shuttle's robot arm was used to place the satellite in its carrier. The satellite had failed to activate when it was deployed from the Shuttle on Nov 21. The $10 million retrievable solar-science satellite has flown on eight previous Shuttle missions. A redeployment of the satellite was considered, but it was determined that the Shuttle did not have enough maneuvering fuel for a second retrieval (Flatoday; NASA).

The space walk had been planned to practice space station construction techniques including use of a new space crane. Because of the time it took to retrieve Spartan, the deployment of the AERCAM/SPRINT Risk Mitigation Experiment (RME) was bumped. The $3 million RME is a small, free-flying inspection tool that is expected to be used in the construction and maintenance of the International Space Station (Flatoday; LS).

On their second space walk on Wed, Dec 3, astronauts Scott and Doi deployed the RME and continued to practice space station construction techniques. For 72 minutes, the 35-pound RME sent video to both the orbiter and to the ground as pilot Steven Lindsey remotely flew it from end to end of the Shuttle. At the conclusion of its outing, the RME was guided into the hands of Scott who stowed it. While the RME was examining the exterior of the Shuttle, the two space walkers continued with their training using the 17-foot extendable crane on a 50-lb cable caddy in the payload bay. The second spacewalk ended after five hours of ISS construction practice (Flatoday; CBS).

On Thursday, Dec 4, astronauts stowed the $56 million worth of plant, crystal and metal experiments and began preparing for landing. On Dec 5, the five men and one woman completed a journey of 6.5 million miles near where it began. After 16 days in orbit, Columbia coasted to a safe dawn (7:20 EST) landing in Florida. Once unloaded, the failed Spartan spacecraft will be impounded so that investigators may determine the cause of its malfunction. The craft may fly again within the year to complete its joint solar observations with the SOHO orbiting solar observatory (CBS; LC; Flatoday).


A week after the power failure caused by the testing of the new solar panel, the station again suffered a blackout. The cause of the Nov 21 failure was traced to the failure of three channels supplying information from the computer to the gyrodynes. The problem was quickly fixed using parts brought up on the October Progress. Because of the quick fix and the rapid powering down of non-essential systems, the batteries were not drained and the station was back on automatic gyrodyne control by Saturday (Flatoday).

With their rejuvenated power supply Mir cosmonauts have resumed a power-intensive experiment suspended after the June collision and the resulting power loss. The experiment requires the heating of semiconductors to temperatures of 750 to 2,400 degrees (Flatoday).

The next Mir space walk will be Jan 5 when the seal for the external air lock will be replaced and the damaged solar panel on the Spektr module will be secured (Flatoday).

Itar-Tass recently announced that Yuri Baturin, an assistant to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, will visit Mir next August. Baturin is a lawyer and an advisor on military reform. In the 1970s, he worked for Energya. He will accompany Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev to the station and return seven to ten days later with returning cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin (Flatoday).


On Dec 3 (6:10 EST), a four-stage Proton-K/DM3 rocket launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome placed the 3,010 kg Astra 1G into orbit. Six hours after launch, a Blok DM3 No. 2L upper stage pushed the spacecraft into a 10,211 x 35,989 km x 12.3 deg transfer orbit. Spacecraft separation from the upper stage was scheduled for 6 hours and 41 minutes into the flight.

Astra1G is a HS 601HP (High Powered) model produced by Hughes Space and Communications. It is the fifth of seven satellites ordered from Hughes by the Societe Europeenne des Satellites (SES) of Luxembourg. The satellite, featuring 7 kW of power generated by state-of-the-art gallium arsenide solar cells, carries 32 transponders and is expected to provide telecommunications services for 15 years. The satellite will be placed in the 19.2 degrees East longitude orbital slot (Flatoday; LS; Hughes).


The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Space Agency signed an agreement Nov 18 for a Russian Proton rocket to launch the ESA Integral gamma-ray observatory satellite in 2001. The four-stage Proton will place the four-ton Integral into a very high 48-hour orbit. By approaching no closer than 46,000 km, the observatory will avoid Earth's radiation belts and be available around the clock for observations. NASA will take part in the mission by providing a continuous communications link through the Deep Space Network. In exchange for the ride into space, the Russian astronomers will be granted about a quarter of the observing time (ESA).

Because of its backlog of 42 flights, Arianespace has placed an order for an additional 20 Ariane 4 rockets. The order is estimated to be worth about $2 billion. On Nov 25, Arianespace also took possession of the ELA 3 launch pad which will be used for Ariane 5 launches (Flatoday; ESA).


An Ariane 44P rocket was launched from Kourou, French Guiana on Dec 2. Flight 103 left the ELA 2 launch pad at 5:53 EST after a 16-minute hold caused by cloud cover around the launch pad. The rocket carried JCSAT-5 and the Equator-S spacecraft which separated from the third stage 21 and 24 minutes, respectively, after launch.

The 2,981 Kg JCSAT-5, built by Hughes S &C for the Japan Satellite System, was placed in a 214 x 35758 km x 4.0 deg geo-transfer orbit and will ultimately be placed at 150 degrees East to serve the Asian-Pacific. The HS 601 body-stabilized satellite, rated at 5 kW, is expected to broadcast voice, data and television on 32 Ku-band transponders for the next twelve years (LS; Flatoday, JSR).

The 234-Kg Equator-S, built by the Max-Planck Institute, will measure the effect of solar winds on Earth's magnetic and electrical fields. Placed in a 500 x 63700 km orbit by a Thiokol Star 13A solid motor, it will be the first spacecraft to use the GPS system beyond geosynchronous orbit. The two-year mission is a joint project of the Max Planck Institute, NASA and the German Aerospace Agency (LS; Flatoday).


On Nov 27, Japan successfully launched an H-II rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center. Although lift-off was 42 minutes late due to a ship in the restricted area and a minor launch-vehicle problem, the rocket placed the 3,620 kg Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission into a 350 km orbit with a 35 degree inclination. The spacecraft is part of a joint NASA/NASDA mission. The rocket also delivered the ETS-7 technology demonstrator into orbit. The ETS-7 consists of a 2,370 kg Chaser (Hikoboshi) and 403 kg Target (Orihime) satellites. A problem was encountered early in the flight when an anomaly was detected in the main solar paddle drive. The paddles were switched to a redundant system which performed nominally. The Chaser and Target satellites will practice numerous rendezvous and dockings in the next 18 months (SC; LS).


Japan's NASDA has moved their H-2A rocket test facility to Woomera, Australia because of safety concerns. Previous tests were conducted at Hokkaido, Japan, but testing was moved because of complaints from local residents and the need for a larger safety parameter for the larger H-2A solid boosters. Australian tests will provide information on potential damage from explosions and other hazards that might be associated with future launches at the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan (SN; SC).


On Nov 21, Russia and Brazil signed an accord of cooperation for satellite launches and space research (SN).


The USAF has awarded a $18 million contract to Alaska-Aerospace Development Corp (AADC) to build a launch complex at the Narrow Cape site on Kodiak Island. The first launch from the Kodiak Launch Complex is expected around Sept 1998 (Orbital).


The beleaguered Military Spaceplane program may have been granted a reprieve. Despite President Clinton axing the Military Spaceplane budget for 1998, the program is expected to remain alive until 1999 using remaining funds from previous years. In 1999, the program is expected to be revived with $10 million from two different accounts (SN).


A series of three test firings of the new Boeing Delta III GEM-LDXL solid rocket motors have been completed by Alliant Techsystems. Evolved out of the Delta II strap-on solid rocket motors, the new motors are larger in diameter and a third more powerful. The Delta III will be equipped with nine strap-on motors, three of which will have nozzle vectoring. The new rocket will be able to lift nine tons into LEO and four tons into geosynchronous orbit--twice the rating of the Delta II. The completion of twenty-seven months of development and tests clears the way for the production of the first flight sets, which will be delivered in January of 1998 (Flatoday).


As of Nov 26, Mars Global Surveyor had completed forty nine orbits of Mars, including thirteen since the resumption of aerobraking. As a result of the aerobraking the original 45-hour orbit has been trimmed down to 32 hours and is being further reduced by 14 minutes each orbit. The high point of the orbit is 41,907 km and a low point of 123.5 km. All systems are performing as expected (JPL).


Arabsat: On Nov 26, the Arabsat consortium sold the orbiting Arabsat 1C to the India Department of Space for $40 million. The satellite was launched in 1992 and has about five years of fuel remaining. It will be moved into an Insat constellation orbital slot in January 1998. The satellite will replace the Insat 2D which was launched in July and failed from an electrical short on Oct 4 (SN).

Intelsat: A third orbiting Iridium satellite may have failed. The latest failure, Space Vehicle 11, was launched on a Proton rocket in June and is parked in orbit fifteen kilometers below its operational orbit. The craft is reported to have a broken momentum wheel, which would make it unlikely to be used in the final sixty-six-satellite constellation. Motorola, which constructed the fleet of satellites, has denied that the satellite has failed, maintaining instead that it is being kept in a lower orbit for special tests before being placed in the constellation. To date, thirty nine Iridium satellites have been launched (SN).

Lunar Prospector: The much-awaited Lunar Prospector has been delivered to Florida. The craft is now in the Astrotech commercial payload processing facility in Titusville, where it is receiving final preparations for its January 5 launch. It will be fueled with attitude-control propellant and mated with its solid rocket motor Trans-Lunar Injection Stage. On Dec 23, the craft will be transported to Cape Canaveral Air Station's Launch Complex 46 and placed on the awaiting three-stage Athena rocket. This will be the third launch of the Athena (formerly the Lockheed Martin Launch Vehicle) and the first use of Launch Complex 46 (NASA; Flatoday).


Thiokol: The US Dept of State issued an export license to Thiokol Corp for the export of its Castor IVB to Spain's Instituto Nacaonal de Technica Aerospacial (INTA). The rocket motors are to be used in Spain's Capricornio launch vehicle slated to be operational by 2000. The three-stage rocket will be first used to launch a University of Madrid communications satellite. The Castor IVB is a movable nozzle derivative of the Castor IVA used on the Atlas II. The IVB was developed for export for Germany's Daimler-Benze Aerospace MAXUS launch system in the late 1980s (Flatoday).

Orbital: JPL has selected Orbital Sciences to develop the Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor Satellite (ACRIMSAT). Under the $8.3 million contract, Orbital will produce the new spacecraft based on its proven MiniStar satellite. Orbital is also being considered to launch the satellite on their Pegasus rocket in 1999 (Flatoday).

Orbital also recently signed an agreement that will merge privately held GPS technology developer Ashtech with the Orbital subsidiary Magellan, which produces GPS consumer goods and satellite communications equipment (SC).


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke

  • Dec 8 - Long March 2C/SD, two Iridium satellites, Taiyuan Satellite Launching Facility, China.
  • Dec - 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 11 - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM-1 (eight comsats), Wallops Flight Facility, VA.
  • Dec 14 - Start -1 (w/ EarlyBird), Svolbodny, Russia
  • Dec 16 - Delta 2, Flight 251, Iridium (five comsats), SLC-2, Vandenberg AFB
  • Dec 18 - Orbital Sciences Taurus, Two ORBCOMM comsats, Celestis-2, SLC-576, Vandenberg AFB
  • Dec 20 - Soyuz-U, Progress M-37 to Mir, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan
  • Dec 20 - Ariane 42L, Flight 104, Intelsat 804 from ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Dec 24 - ILS Proton, Asiasat-3, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • Jan 5 - Athena-2, Lunar Prospector, Cape Canaveral Air Station.


With the landing of Columbia, the space population has been reduced to the baseline of three. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. This marks the completion of the 3010 day of continuous human presence in space beginning with the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989. The completion of STS-87 has increased the total number of space-faring Americans to 233 and has increased other national totals: Japan (5), India (2) and Ukraine (1).

Index for Frontier Status Report 1997

Home Tour Join! Contents Team News Catalog Search Comm
Sources of information. ASI W9900225r1.1
Frontier Status Report is written by Dale M. Gray. Maintained by by Jim Sealy Jr.
Additional web formatting by Simone Cortesi. FSR is also archived on the web at
Copyright © 2001 Artemis Society International, for the contributors. Updated Sat, Oct 20, 2001
Maintained with WebSite Director. Internet services provided courtesy of CyberTeams.