Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #85

Frontier Status Report #85

February 22, 1998

Dale M. Gray

There will be no Frontier Status issued Feb 27 - March 6 so that author Dale Gray might attend the ProSpace March Storm on Washington DC. March Storm is a citizens grass-roots lobbying effort to promote the advancement of the space frontier. Frontier Status will return March 13.

While the effects of weather continues to delay launches, five different rockets were launched this last week. Progress was made on the International Space Station while a 10-week delay was debated. Sea Launch gains status as the World Bank backs the efforts of business partners from the former Soviet Union.

Highlights of the week include:

  • Mir 23 crew lands in a blizzard in Kazakstan
  • Delta launch of the first Globalstar satellites from KSC
  • Delta launch of 5 more Iridium satellites
  • H-2 launch (Japan) of COMETS fails to achieve proper orbit
  • Military launches from the US and Russia
  • Voyager 1 becomes the furthest human made object


The Shuttle Columbia is in the Orbiter Processing Facility Bay 3 being prepared for its April 16 launch. Work on the main engine heat shield attach points continues. The main engine installation is scheduled to follow this activity on Feb 24 with mating to the SRBs on Feb 26 (NASA).

In preparation for his Oct Shuttle flight, John Glenn, 76, began his training this past week at Brooks AFB. The Mercury 7 astronaut/Senator/space aging experiment went for two 9-minute rides on a 3 G centrifuge on Thursday. On the first US orbital flight on Feb 20, 1962, Glenn experienced up to 8 Gs. After the runs, Glenn stated The run went very well. Its a good drill. The Senator broke the previous age record on the centrifuge by over 15 years. At the conclusion of his turn in the centrifuge, Glenn paused to watch fellow crewman Pedro Duque, 34, take his turn on the machine (AP).


On the 12th anniversary of the launch of Mir, the Mir 24 crew departed from Mir in their Soyuz TM-26 capsule at 5:52 UTC. The two Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov had been on the station since August. The pair were accompanied down to Earth by the visiting French spationaute Leopald Eyharts who arrived with the Mir 25 crew. Three hours after leaving Mir, the trio endured a rough landing at 09:10 UTC (4:10 am EST) in a blizzard near Arkalyk, Kazakstan. While the touchdown was nominal, afterwards the capsule was dragged across the steppe by the wind. This marks the end of Solovyovs 5th mission to Mir - totaling 20 months on the station (Flatoday; MirNews; NASA).

Remaining on the station are Russians Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin along with American astronaut Andy Thomas. On Feb 20 the remaining Soyuz capsule was transferred from the aft port on the Kvant-1module to the forward port. This maneuver was to make room for the return of the Progress M37 freighter which was undocked from the station several weeks ago and placed in a parking orbit to make room for the arriving Mir crew. In the coming months Thomas will conduct 27 research experiments including the Biotechnology System Co-Culture (COCULT) experiment and the Renal Stone Risk Assessment experiment. This week marks the 700th day of American presence on the Russian station. Thomas will be the last US astronaut to stay on Mir (Flatoday; MirNews).


NASA managers at the Feb 10 Flight Production Schedules Working Group at Johnson Space Center have requested a 10-week delay in the launch of the first US element of the International Space Station (ISS). While a final decision has not yet been reached, a delay of the US node would likely also push back the launch of the Functional Cargo Block - the first Russian-built component as well. The schedule change is in part due to delays with the AXAF observatory which created gaps in the Shuttle schedule. A final decision on the rescheduling has not yet been reached (Flatoday).

While the scheduling slip dominated the ISS news, several advances were made. The Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3) was delivered to KSC from Boeings Huntington Beach fabrication facility. This is the 3rd PMA to be delivered and will be mated to Node 1 along with the Z1 truss by astronauts on the third Shuttle station assembly flight. Fabrication of the Z1 Integrated Truss Segment was begun this week at the KSC Space Station Processing Facility. The PMA-3 will serve as a Shuttle docking port during later assembly flights. The Z1 truss allows the temporary installation of the US power module, Ku- and S- band telemetry equipment and control moment gyroscopes for attitude control. (KSC).


Two launches from opposite coasts have demonstrated the growing capability of Boeing's Delta II launch system. Both Delta launches had previously faced repeated delays due to excessive weather conditions. The first launch on Feb 14 marked the 50th Delta flight utilizing Alliant Techsystems graphite epoxy motors (GEM). The first use of the GEM boosters on a Delta was on Nov 26, 1990 (Alliant Techsystems pr).

On Feb 14, a Delta 2 (7420-10) booster in a special light configuration launched 4 Globalstar satellites into orbit from Cape Canaveral. Lift-off was at 9:34 am EST after a 70-minute delay due to thick fog. All four satellites were successfully placed into their proper 675 mile orbits. The 450 kg 1,100 watt satellites were manufactured by Space Systems/Loral with 4 subsystems from Daimler-Benz Aerospace. The $2.6 billion constellation of 48 satellites with 8 spares in orbit is slated to be operational in 18 months. It is estimated that the mobile satellite telecommunications business will reach 20 million by 2005. With a system capable of serving 7.5 million customers, Globalstar hopes to capture 37% of the market. The next Globalstar launch, also from a Delta 2 from Cape Canaveral, is scheduled for April 24; 36 satellites will be launched by Ukrainian Zenit II rockets beginning in July (Flatoday; Loral pr).

The 2nd launch occurred from Vandenberg AFB's Space Launch Complex 2 at 8:58 am EST. The launch came after 8 reschedulings from weather, excessive winds aloft and scheduling conflicts with other rockets. The two-stage rocket successfully released 5 Lockheed Martin-built Iridium satellites into orbit about an hour after launch. The planned 66 satellite Iridium system now has 49 operational satellites in orbit. Iridium is set to debut Sept 23 with its worldwide mobile telephone system (Flatoday; Boeing pr).


An improper second stage burn has left COMETS in a useless orbit. After a weather delay of 1 day, the Japanese space agency (NASDA), launched the H-2 (No. 5) rocket carrying the Communications and Broadcast Engineering Test Satellite (COMETS) - nicknamed Kakehashi. The launch from the Yoshinobu launch pad at the Tanegashima Space Center occurred at 2:55 am EST. The satellite was deployed about 27 minutes after the launch. However, the second stage did not place the satellite into its proper orbit. The second stage second burn lasted only 44 seconds instead of the planned 3 minutes and 12 seconds. The satellite is now in an oval orbit instead of the planned geostationary orbit. It is unlikely any of the $366 million experimental satellites 3-year mission objectives will now be met. The satellite was to test Ka-band transmissions, satellite-to-satellite communications and advanced satellite technologies. The launch had originally been slated for Aug 18, 1997, but problems with similar solar arrays of another spacecraft (ADEOS) caused the arrays of COMETS to be reassessed (Flatoday; SC).


Now 6.5 billion miles ( 10.4 billion km) from home, on Feb 17 Voyager 1 assumed the crown formerly held by Pioneer 10 as the most distant human-made object. On the edge of the Solar System where the Sun is only 1/5000th as bright as on Earth, the sturdy Voyager 1 continues to send back data on the limits of the Suns influence called the heliosphere. The craft utilizes radioisotope thermal electric generators to keep the craft warm and operational. Signals from the 20-watt signal radio transmitter take over 9 and a half hours to reach Earth. Voyager 1 was launched on March 2, 1972 and encountered Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980. It is currently traveling away from the sun at 17.4 km/sec. The craft should pass through the termination shock at the edge of the heliopause and pass onward into interstellar space in the next 3-5 years (NASA; Flatoday).


The 14 international banks comprising World Bank announced Feb 10 that they would provide risk guarantees to the creditors of the Russian and Ukrainian companies involved in Sea Launch. Russian Energiya has 25% interest and Ukraine's KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash has 15% interest. Other partners include Boeing with 40% and Norway's Kvaerner Maritime Co with 20%. The World Bank guarantees amount to $200 million and also cover various political risks. This is the first time such guarantees have been extended to Russian enterprises (CNN).

Sea Launch is currently considering expansion of its launch services to Baikonur, Kazakstan. While the floating launch platform would still be used for geostationary launches, the Baikonur launch site would be used for low, medium and polar orbit launches (SN).



Aerospatiel of France has announced that it will reorganize to prepare for the integration of Europes aerospace and defense businesses. The move is part of a program to create a balanced partnership that can compete with American aerospace conglomerates such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. DASA of Germany and British Aerospace have also been asked to join in the program (AW&ST).

Aerospatiale has also announced that it has received an order for Eurasiasat-1 (Turksat 2A) from Euroasiasat. Aerospatiale previously delivered two satellites to Turk Telecom in 1994 and 1996. Since that time Turk Telecom joined with Aerospatiale to form a joint subsidiary named Eurasiasat for the exploitation of satellites. Based on the 3400 Kg Spacebus 3000 platform, the 9-watt Eurasiasat-1 will contain 32 Ku-band channels (Aerospatiale pr).

Optus Australia

With the declining performance of the current Aussat 3 satellite, Optus Australia is considering a program to put a 4-ton satellite into geostationary orbit as soon as late 2000. The present satellite is expected to reach the end of its extended life by 2002. It is presently being allowed to drift in a north-south figure 8 to conserve fuel. As a result, only ground stations with tracking capability can utilize the satellite. One of the biggest potential partners in the $500 million venture is the Australian defence establishment. Optus has to decide on replacing Aussat no later than mid-1999 (SC; Optus Australia).


On Feb 15, SpaceDev announced that it had completed the $3 million acquisition of Integrated Space Systems (ISS). ISS is a profitable aerospace and engineering company with estimated 1997 sales of $1.8 million. The acquisition will give SpaceDev the engineering capability to complete their Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) and future deep-space missions. NEAP is a privately funded asteroid landing mission. SpaceDev is the worlds first commercial space exploration and development company with expected sales of $10 million in 1998 (SpaceDev pr).

Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority

The FAA has granted a 3rd federal license to operate a commercial spaceport to the Virginia Commercial Spaceflight Authority. The commercial facility will be located within NASAs Wallops Island Flight Facility. The Virginia Spaceport organization has already signed several Memorandums of Agreements with commercial space transportation providers for both reusable and expendable launch systems. The first commercial launch is slated for 1999 (SC).


Contingent on FCC and Department of Justice approval, Primestar will acquire Rupert Murdochs American Sky Broadcasting (ASkyB) division. The move would transfer a valuable satellite slot to the direct-to-home broadcast television company owned by 5 cable companies. The deal is reported to have been for $1.1 billion. Primestar is also planning to alter its organization from partnership to a publicly traded company (SN).


Anik C2

After 14 years, 6 months and 19 days the faithful Anik C2 satellite has been deorbited. The Hughes-built HS376 was built for Telesat Canada and launched from the Space Shuttle on June 18, 1983. The satellite was expected to have a life span of only 8 years. All told, the Anik HS 376 fleet of five has exceeded its contractual lifetime by more than 21 years. Anik C1, the first to be launched in Nov of 1982 is still operational and is expected to be retired in 2002 (Hughes pr).


Minuteman 3

In an unarmed test, a Minuteman 3 missile was launched from Vandenberg AFB this past week. The missile was to have sent two dummy re-entry vehicles to targets at the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands, 4,200 miles away. The missile was destroyed when controllers could not track it properly. This was the last time that the command to launch came from an EC-135 Looking Glass aircraft - the Cold War system is slated to be retired in Oct (AP).


A Cosmos 2349 photo recon satellite was launched on a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 5:35 am EST on Feb 17. The 6,500 kg spacecraft was placed into a 203 x 292 km orbit inclined 70.3 degrees (LS).


The Navy's Geosat Follow/On ocean research satellite launched Feb 10 by an Orbital Sciences Pegasus rocket is being checked out in orbit. After the first few passes, it was realized that the satellite was not in the right attitude and was tumbling. Momentum wheels on the spacecraft were turned off while a solution was determined. A review of the attitude and control equations revealed that the equations had the momentum and torque in the wrong direction. New tables were uploaded and the satellite stabilized. Other aspects of the satellite appear to be nominal (LS).


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke


  • Feb 23 - Progress M37 redocking with Mir.
  • Feb 26 - Pegasus XL, SNOW / BATSAT, Vandenberg AFB.
  • Feb 27 - Ariane 42L, Flight 106, Hot Bird-4, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Feb 27 - Atlas 2AS - INTELSAT 806, Cape Canaveral Air Station, pad 36B
  • post March 12 - Delta 2, Iridium (7 sats), SLC-2, Vandenberg AFB.
  • Mar 15 - Soyuz-U, Progress-240 resupply ship to Mir, Baikonur.,
  • Mar 16 - Atlas 2, AC-132, UHF-F8 military comsat, Vandenberg.
  • Mar 18 - Long March 2C/SD, Iridium (2 comsats), Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, China.
  • Late March - Pegasus XL, TRACE, Vandenberg AFB.
  • Late March - ILS Proton, EchoStar 4, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • April - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM-2 (8 sats), Wollops Flight Facility, VA.


With the landing of the Mir 24 crew and the French cosmonaut, the population of space has returned to a baseline of 3 - all on board the Mir space station. The Mir crews include 2 Russians and one Australian-born astronaut. This marks the completion of 3086 days of continuous human presence in space since the reoccupation of Mir on Sept 8, 1989. Only 130 days remain until the launch of the first element of the International Space Station.

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