Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #82

Frontier Status Report #82

January 30, 1998

Dale M. Gray

Two rockets were launched this week: a manned Soyuz and an Atlas IIA. Unfavorable winds aloft postponed two launches (including the Atlas II before it was launched). Endeavor visited Mir - transferring goods and one crew member. Officials from 15 countries signed an agreement covering operations of the International Space Station.

Highlights reported for the week include:

  • Endeavor docks with Mir
  • Atlas IIA launched from Cape Canaveral
  • Endeavor undocks from Mir
  • Soyuz launched from Baikonur
  • Ariane launch delayed from Kourou
  • New battery announced
  • Space population reaches 13


On Sat, Jan 27, the Shuttle Endeavor docked with the Russian space station Mir. This was the 8th shuttle docking with the station, but the first for Endeavor. The 7 person crew of Endeavor included: Terrence Wilcutt, Joe Edwards, James Reilly, Michael Anderson, Andy Thomas and Bonnie Dunbar (all of NASA) and Salizhan Sharipov of the Russian Air Force (NASA; JSR).

In addition to its duties in connection with Mir, the Shuttle also carried four "Getaway Specials": 2 German material processing experiments, a University of Michigan fluid dynamics experiment and a Chinese materials processing payload. The Shuttle also carried a dinosaur skull for a museum - the Shuttle periodically carries small items to give them special interest for having flown in space. Several other experiments will also be conducted from the SpaceHab module (JSR).

On Friday, Jan 30, at 11:57 am EST, Endeavor undocked from the space station carrying astronauts, experiment results, equipment and Mir crew member David Wolf. Wolf completed 4 months on board Mir. The Shuttle circled the station from 75 meters before setting out on its course for a Saturday landing in Florida (Flatoday).

The Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) from the launch of the Shuttle Endeavor have been recovered at sea. However, 35 mph winds and 12 ft waves have hampered recovery efforts. It is believed that $7.2 million in damage occurred to the SRB when it entered the Atlantic. Two of the parachutes (one from each booster) were lost along with a diver operated plug. The initial inspection revealed cracks and dents in the right booster forward skirt and forward segment. The left exit cone was also damaged. The damage to the right segment appears to be beyond repair (Flatoday; NASA).


After the Shuttle linked with Mir, Andy Thomas, 46, exchanged places with Dr. David Wolf with the traditional act of exchanging custom-fitted seat liners in the Soyuz return vehicle. This transfer was complicated at one point when Thomas tried on his space suit and found that it no longer fit. Thomas had apparently grown an inch in the microgravity. The crew of Mir was able to modify the suit - allowing Thomas to continue with the crew transfer. The suit would be necessary in event the station had to be abandoned. Supplies and equipment totaling 3400 kg were transferred to Mir. This included a back-up computer, an air conditioner, science equipment, and food. Water, the by-product of Endeavor's power supply was also transferred (Flatoday; AP).

One of the experiments transferred to Mir is a University of Wisconsin study of a full life cycle of a special dwarf variety of wheat. The 9 inch wheat plants will be monitored from germination - hopefully - to harvest 80 days later. The study hopes to establish that plants can complete full life-cycles in space. Two previous experiments using the same variety of wheat in 1995 and 1996 did not produce mature plants. The special growth chamber will be transported back to earth on the Shuttle Discovery in May (SC).


On Thurs, Jan 29, 23 minutes before Endeavor undocked from the Mir station, Soyuz TM-27 lifted off from Baikonur, Kazakstan. The crew included Russians Talgat Musabayev, 47, and Nikolai Budarin, 44, and Frenchman Leopold Eyhart, 40. The capsule is expected to link with Mir at noon on Saturday. The Russians will form the Mir 25 crew with Andy Thomas, 46, who was delivered to the station by the Shuttle Endeavor. Eyhart will return to Earth in three weeks with the departing Russian Mir 24 crew. The new crew will continue to maintain the station, conduct science experiments, repair an outer hatch, and hopefully make further progress in rehabilitating the damaged Spektr module. To make room for the Soyuz a trash-filled Progress supply craft was undocked from the station on Friday (AP; Flatoday).


Officials from 15 nations met in Washington Thurs, Jan 29, to sign a formal agreement on how the International Space Station (ISS) will be built and operated. The agreement delineates each nation's contribution to the construction and maintenance of the station and how the station will be shared when it is operational. No decision was made who would pay for supplying the station once it was in orbit. Countries signing the agreement include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States (Flatoday; NASA).

Officials have conceded that the Service Module under construction in Russia is 3 months behind schedule and will probably not make its December 1998 launch date. The module is set to be shipped to RSC Energia for electrical integration and testing in February. The ESA recently delivered the Data Management System for the central on-board computer (SN; ESA pr).


After three scrubs due to winds aloft exceeding launch limits, an Atlas IIA rocket was finally launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station pad 36A. The rocket carried a classified NRO payload. The countdown was stopped twice, once from winds aloft out of limits and once from a problem with a reading from a battery on the rocket. The launch progressed as planned and the payload was successfully deployed 70 minutes into the flight. This is the first Lockheed Martin Atlas to be launched in 1998 (Flatoday).


The launch of an Ariane 44 LP rocket from Kourou, French Guiana on Fri, Jan 30 was postponed due to excessive winds aloft. The rocket will carry Inmarsat-3 and Brasilsat B-3 into orbit (Flatoday; Reuters).

The Inmarsat is the fifth and final satellite of the Inmarsat-3 series and will act as a functional spare for the Inmarsat system of mobile- media satellite telecommunications. The satellite was designed and built by Lockheed Martin with some components from Matra Marconi Space. The new generation of Inmarsats is 8 times more powerful than the Inmarsat-2 series. This has allowed, since Jan of 1997, the use of smaller, lower powered mobile terminals (Inmarsat pr).

Brasilsat B-3 was built by Hughes Space & Communications. It is a model HS 376W spin-stabilized communications satellite similar to Brasilsat B-1 and B-2 which were also built by Hughes. The satellite contains 28 c-band transponders that will carry voice, data, corporate networks and television. The telecommunications system is operated by Embratel of Rio de Janerio (Hughes pr).


A Boeing Delta 2 is prepared to launch 5 more Iridium satellites into orbit on Jan 31 from Vandenberg AFB. The flight will bring the total number of Iridium satellites in orbit to 51 (Boeing).

A second Delta 2 launch in less than a week is slated for Feb 5 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will carry 4 Globalstar satellites into orbit. Globalstar will provide telecommunication services in competition with the Iridium system.


An Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket is being prepared for a Feb 4 launch of NASA's Student Nitric Oxide Explorer (SNOE) satellite. An Orbital Sciences-built satellite, BATSAT will be the secondary payload. The rocket will be launched from 39,000 ft from an L-1011 aircraft based out of Vandenberg AFB (Orbital Sciences pr).


Ball Aerospace and Technologies has been selected by NASA to build the Laser Altimetry Mission (ICESAT). The craft will be launched on a yet to be chosen rocket into a near-polar orbit in July of 2001. The $200 million mission will utilize pulsed infrared and visual green lasers to accurately measure the levels of icepacks and clouds. While Ball produces the spacecraft, the laser altimeter will be produced by the Goddard Space Flight Center. The space craft is one of a series of missions to measure the effect of human activities on the global environment (NASA).



The Air Force Research Laboratory has announced the successful testing of a new sodium-sulfur battery cell. The cell was tested on the Columbia Shuttle flight in November. The battery is roughly the size and shape of a rolling pin, but generates 150 watts per kilogram - about three times the power of a similar nickel- hydrogen batteries. Other advantages over nickel-hydrogen include greater reliability due to its simpler design and lower cost because it is composed of materials half as expensive. This weight and power advantage is critical in satellite applications. The battery is the result of a collaboration between the USAF, the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA and the Eagle Pitcher Co (SC).



As preparations are underway for the addition of 5 more satellites in orbit, Iridium has authorized the construction and operation of an Iridium gateway in China. The facility will be operated by the Chinese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The agreement is subject to the successful negotiations between Iridium China (Hong Kong), its parent company China Aerospace and the Chinese Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (Iridium pr).


Hughes Space and Communications has been awarded a $423.1 million contract by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for the design, construction and launch of two Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GEOS). The program is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The satellites, designated GEOS-N and GEOS-O, will be launched in 2001 and 2003. Options for two additional satellites, GEOS-P and GEOS-Q, were included in the contract for $190.9 million and $185 million respectively. The satellites will be based upon the HS 601 model. In the 1980s, Hughes provided 5 GOES weather satellites as well as 5 meteorological satellites for Japan (Hughes pr).


International Launch Services (ILS) has announced that it has been awarded a contact to launch HISPSAT 1C on an Atlas IIAS. The satellite built by Aerospatiale Espace of France will join Hispasat 1A and 1B already in orbit to provide direct-to-home television (ILS pr).


As a result of the stock market problems in the Asian Pacific, Loral Space & Communications has halted construction on three satellites for Asia Broadcasting & Communications Network Public Co. of Bangkok and P.T. Pasifik Satelit Nusantara of Jakarta. The company has laid off 300 workers at the Space Systems/Loral plant in Palo Alto. The company could lose as much as $400 million revenue if the satellites aren't delivered on schedule (Flatoday).


EarlyBird 1

EarthWatch has given up attempts to communicate with its EarlyBird 1 Earth imaging satellite. While the satellite was placed into the proper orbit, it has failed to properly respond to commands. As result, the company has laid-off a third of its employees and is reorganizing. A replacement satellite named QuickBird is now being fabricated (Earthwatch pr; LS).


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke


  • Early Feb - Ariane 44LP, Flight 105, Brasilsat-B3 and Inmarsat, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Jan 31 - Delta 2, Iridium (7 sats), 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 - Pegasus XL, SNOE and BATSAT, Vandenberg AFB.
  • Feb 5 - Delta 2, Globalstar-1 (4 comsats), pad 17A, KSC.
  • Feb 9 - Taurus (Orbital Sciences), Navy Geosat Follow-on, ORBCOMM (2 sats), Celestis-2, Vandenberg AFB.
  • Feb 15 - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM-2 (8 sats), Wollops Flight Facility, VA.
  • Feb 15 - Voyager 1 Overtakes Pioneer 10 as furthest man-made object.
  • Feb 19 - H-2 (#5), COMETS, Tangageshima Space Center, Japan.
  • Feb 19 - Soyuz capsule landing, Mir 24 crew return.
  • Feb 20 - Long March 3B, Chinastar-1, Xichang Satellite Launching Center, China.
  • Feb 27 - Ariane 42L, Flight 106, Hot Bird-4, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Late March - ILS Proton, EchoStar 4, Baikonur, Kazakstan.


With the launch of Soyuz TM-27 space is at the current maximum capacity of 13. This number was last reached in Feb of 1997. The Soyuz crew includes 2 Russian and 1 French cosmonauts. The crew still on Mir includes 2 Russians and 1 Australian-born astronaut. On Endeavor there are 6 US astronauts including former Mir 24 crewman David Wolf and 1 Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov. This marks the completion of 3066 days of continuous human presence in space since the reoccupation of Mir on Sept 8, 1989. Only 151 days remain until the launch of the first element of the International Space Station.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1998

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