Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #79

Frontier Status Report #79

January 9, 1998

Dale M. Gray

The first full week of 1998 contained two American launches carrying 1500 kg to LEO and 295 kg into lunar orbit. Highlights reported for the week include:

  • Lunar Prospector launched
  • Mir space walk finds broken hatch lock
  • Orbcomm satellites are checked out in orbit
  • Delta 2 launches Skynet-4D
  • Endeavor launch date set as preparations continue


Endeavor is on Launch Pad 39A being prepared for its Jan 22 launch and Jan 24 rendezvous with Mir. The Orbiter was cleared for launch in an all-day meeting of Senior NASA officials on Jan. 7. The crew of Wilcutt, Edwards, Dunbar, Anderson, Reilly, Sharipov, and Thomas arrived at the Cape on Jan 8 to participate in launch familiarization activities and began participation in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test on Friday and Saturday. Flight managers conducted the STS-89 Flight Readiness Review earlier in the week. Hypergolic propellants have been loaded into the Orbiter's maneuvering system. On Jan 8, a hot-fire testing of auxiliary power units was delayed because of weather concerns. Thursday, thermal blanket installation was begun on the previously-damaged payload bay door. Payload bay doors will be closed Jan 14, with countdown set to begin on Jan 19 (NASA; Flatoday).

Because of a shortfall of $100 million in the Shuttle budget, United Space Alliance--the joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin company that operates the Shuttle fleet--plans to begin reducing the Shuttle workforce. The cuts will reach 10 percent, or 600 of the workers at the Kennedy Space Center and Shuttle spare parts depot. There is growing concern over how these cuts will affect the safety of the launch system (Flatoday).


The crew of Mir has completed the restoration of power to the complex following the computer shutdown of Jan 2. While a computer virus was suspected, an anti-virus program found no evidence. By Monday, the 10 gyrodynes which keep the station oriented in relation to the sun, and which use the most power, were back on line (Flatoday; Chris v.d.Berg)

Work continues to repair systems. While the Elektron oxygen generators were being repaired, lithium perchlorate cartridges were burned to provide oxygen. The Vozdukh (CO2) scrubber has been repaired and efforts continue to remove moisture from the air. (Chris v.d.Berg).

On Thurs, Jan 8, Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov combined two previously planned spacewalks on a three hour space walk to repair the leaking external airlock of the Kvant-2 module and to retrieve an American experiment. A new hatch seal had been sent up to renew what was believed to be a failed seal on the hatch. However, inspection of the hatch revealed one of the ten main locks was broken--a relatively simple repair. The two spacewalkers also retrieved a box containing American experiments on a neighboring module. Until the broken lock is fixed--sometime after next Wednesday's spacewalk-- the hatch can be completely secured using ten auxiliary locks. This clears the way for a Jan 14 joint Russian/American spacewalk to retrieve more American experiments (Flatoday).


At 7:32 pm EST on Friday, Jan 9, a Boeing Delta 2 rocket was launched from pad 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Station. The launch was delayed almost an hour by weather, a ship in the impact area, and a telemetry problem with the third stage. Delta Flight 252 placed Skynet-4D satellite into orbit for the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense. The $150 million satellite separated from the third stage 73 minutes after launch. The 1500 kg Skynet-4D was built by Matra Marconi Space and has such new features as steerable antennas for super-high-frequency spot-beam communications, increased power and a greater anti-jamming capability. It is the first of three new military communications satellites that will eventually replace the present constellation of military communications satellites launched in 1988. Skynet-4D will be placed in geostationary orbit at 5 degrees East longitude (Flatoday).


After a one-day delay due to a range-safety radar failure, the long-awaited Lunar Prospector was launched at 9:28 pm EST, Jan 6. The small craft was carried to orbit from Spaceport Florida's pad 46 on a Lockheed Martin Athena 2 rocket. This is the first launch on the State of Florida's revamped multi-system launch pad that last served as a Navy Trident launch complex. The first stage of the rocket burned out on schedule at 62,500 feet at T+ 88 seconds. The second stage then placed the craft into a 125-mile parking orbit. Three quarters of the way around the Earth at T+55 minutes, the spacecraft was turned on and "spun up" for the 64-second Trans Lunar Injection burn of a Star 37 solid-rocket motor, which placed the craft on a 105-hour journey to the Moon. On Sunday, a 31-minute burn of Prospector's engine followed by two smaller firings will place the craft into a 63-mile lunar orbit (Doug Pratt, CIS Sport Rocketry Forum; NASA; LS; Flatoday).

In addition to the five scientific instruments on-board Prospector, the craft also carries one ounce of the ashes of Gene Shoemaker. Shoemaker, who died last summer in a car crash, was part of the team that discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy that broke up and impacted Jupiter in 1994. Shoemaker, a planetary scientist who started out as a geologist, was also instrumental in advancing theories of asteroid strikes shaping the development of life on earth (NASA; Flatoday). For more information, check out


With an annual budget of only $127 million, Brazil nevertheless plans to be next spacefaring nation in 1998. Brazil's first attempt to reach orbit, on Nov 2, 1997, ended when the $6.5 million VLS rocket veered off course one minute after launch and had to be destroyed at an altitude of only 11,000 ft. Later this year Brazil plans to launch a second VLS from its Alcantara Launching Center. A replacement for the satellite that was destroyed, the SCD-2, will be lofted to orbit in May 1998 by an American Pegasus rocket. The satellite will then join SCD-1, launched in 1993, to collect data on agriculture and other environmental aspects. Another satellite built in cooperation with China will be launched in mid-1998 on a Chinese rocket. Brazil will also participate in the construction of the International Space Station in the coming years (Flatoday).



The 40th anniversary reenactment of the world-shaking Sputnik launching has come to a close after 55 days. Instead of being launched on a Cold-War rocket, the 3 kg scale model was hand deployed by the space-walking cosmonauts on Mir. As it orbited the globe, the satellite was monitored by radio hobbyists around the world. The satellite was built by the Center for Polytechnical Education of Nalchik in the Republic of Kabardio-Balkaria and was expected to last only 3 weeks (LS).


Due to a solar array that may not be deployed properly, one of the eight Orbcomm satellites manufactured and launched by Orbital Sciences is not receiving full power. While controllers expect to use the satellite in the 36-satellite Orbcomm constellation, they may give it lighter work loads as a result of the lower power level. The satellite was launched on Dec 23 on an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket that placed eight Orbcomm satellites in Low Earth Orbit (SN).

EarlyBird 1

EarthWatch Inc.'s EarlyBird-1 satellite is out of communication with its controllers. The satellite was launched on Christmas Eve on the inaugural flight of Russias new Start 1 launch vehicle. The rocket, which is a commercial variation of a Russian ICBM, successfully placed the satellite into the predetermined orbit. On Dec 28, communications were interrupted with the satellite and have not been reestablished. The satellite is in a stable orbit and controllers are trying to reestablish communications. NASAs Satellite Tracking Data Networks is assisting in the effort to recontact the craft, but to date has not been successful (EarlyBird pr; LS).


Orbital Sciences

NASA recently awarded a $16.5 million contract to Orbital Sciences Corp for the design, manufacture and testing of the Galaxy Evolution Explorer satellite. GALEX will explore the origin and evolution of galaxies and stars using an ultraviolet telescope. The satellite is part of the Small Explorer (SMEX) program. The satellite is slated to be launched in 2001. Previously, Orbital participated in the SMEX program by launching the Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST) satellite on a Pegasus rocket in Aug of 1996 (Orbital PR).

Spectrum Astro

On Jan 5, NASA selected the High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) as the next mission of the Small Explorer (SMEX) space science missions. The craft, to be built by Spectrum Astro, will investigate the physics of particle acceleration and energy release of solar flares by observing X-ray and Gamma ray emissions using both high-resolution imagery and spectroscopy. The $12 million mission will be launched on a SELVS II rocket in July of 2000.

Kisler Aerospace

On Jan 4, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $145 million contract by Kistler Aerospace Corp. to continue the designing, development and manufacturing of structures for their K-1 space transport system. The reusable two-stage K-1 vehicle is expected to make about 100 flights delivering satellites to LEO. About 400 people are presently working on the program at Northrop Grumman (LS).

ICO Global

In an effort to complete financing on its twelve-satellite global telephone system, ICO Global is expected to announce a stock offering. While the London-based company has already raised $2.1 billion to date, the total cost of the system is expected to reach $4.5 billion. The stock offering is hoped to raise $2 billion. The telecommunication system is expected to go on-line with commercial service in 2000 (SN).


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke


  • Jan 11 - Lunar Prospector Enters Orbit Around Moon
  • Jan 14 - External Spacewalk, Solovyov and Wolf, Mir station. Experiment retrieval.
  • Jan 16 - Mars Global Surveyor, Aerobraking Ends
  • Jan. 22 - Shuttle Endeavor, STS-89, Shuttle-Mir Mission-8, pad 39A, KSC.
  • Jan 23 - Pegasus XL, SNOE and BATSAT, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jan 23 - NEAR, Earth Flyby
  • Jan 24 - Shuttle Endeavor dock with Mir space station.
  • Jan 25 - Long March 3B, Sinosat-1, Xichang Satellite Launching Facility, China.
  • Jan 26 - Orbital Sciences Taurus, two ORBCOMM comsats, Celestis-2, SLC-576, Vandenberg AFB
  • Jan 26 - USAF Atlas 2A, AC-109, NRO payload, pad 36A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • Jan 29 - Soyuz TM-27, Mir-25 crew, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • Jan 29 - Shuttle Endeavor undocks from Mir.
  • Jan 30 - Ariane 44LP, Brasilsat-B3, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Jan 30 - ILS Proton, Astra-2A comsats, Baikonur, Kazakstan
  • Jan 31 - Delta 2, Iridium (seven satellites), SLC-2, Vandenberg AFB.
  • Jan 31 - Soyuz TM-27 with Mir 25 crew docks with Mir.
  • Jan 31 - Shuttle Endeavor lands at KSC.
  • Feb 5 - Delta 2, Globalstar-1, KSC.


The space population remains at the base line of three. There are two Russians and one American on Mir. This marks the completion of 3045 days of continuous human presence in space since the reoccupation of Mir on Sept 8, 1989. Only 162 days remain until the planned launch of the first element of the International Space Station.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1998

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