Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #99

Frontier Status Report #99

May 29, 1998

Dale M. Gray

A quiet week with no reported launches. However, there has been some progress, notably in terms of the International Space Station. Preparations continue for the last Shuttle flight to Mir. Mars Global Surveyor observed indications of water on Mars away from the polar ice caps. Hot Wheels introduced plans for new Galileo model set.

Highlights of the week of May 29 include:

  • US Laboratory for the ISS completed.
  • SeaLaunch completes fitting of ships.
  • Russia discusses deorbiting Mir.
  • X-Prize trophy unveiled.
  • Discovery on pad awaiting launch


Discovery is on Launch Pad 39A awaiting the June 2 launch of the final Mir rendezvous mission. In addition to delivering supplies and providing a ride home for Mir crew member Andy Thomas, the STS-91 mission also features scientific research utilizing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). Shuttle crew will arrive for the launch on May 30. The crew includes Commander Charles Precourt; Pilot Dominic Gorie; and Mission Specialists Franklin Chang-Diaz, Wendy Lawrence, Janet Kavandi and Valery Ryumin. Count down will commence on May 30 with cryogenic reactant storage on May 31. Loading of cryogenic propellants in the new super lightweight external tank will begin June 2 around 9:40 a.m. EDT. Launch is expected at 6:10 p.m. EDT June 2 (NASA).

Video and audio of the launch will be available on NASA Television with commentary running concurrently on Compuserve's Sport Rocketry forum (

(If you want to take part in the Rocketry forum discussions, it might be best to establish a link to the URL prior to launch time. Once there, one of two free guest memberships plans can be selected and a browser plug-in - Virtual Key - can be downloaded and configured. Limited membership will allow participation in one forum - Sport Rocketry; Full membership allows free access to all 500 forums for 90 days. Once membership is established enter the Sport Rocketry Forum and click the "NASA and Space Conference Room" link on the forum front page. Coverage begins around 5:00 pm EDT June 2).

Discovery's payload bay is configured slightly different than previous missions to Mir. The tunnel adapter, which has a hatch for space walks, is situated behind the external airlock and docking system. In prior missions, the tunnel adapter was between the main hatch and the docking system. The tunnel adapter is connected to the SpaceHab tunnel, which in turn is connected to the single SpaceHab module. Behind the SpaceHab module is the AlphMagnetic Spectrometer (AMS) mounted on a new cross-bay carrier. The AMS, which utilizes a 3000 kg magnet and scintellator detectors, will be used to search for antiprotons and antinuclei in cosmic rays. A more advanced AMS will be used in the ISS. The payload of the Shuttle also contains eight GAS canisters with a variety of high school experiments, a Canadian Space Agency experiment and commemorative flags (Jonathan's Space Report).


This past week the crew of the Mir station has been busy unpacking the Progress M-40 supply ship. Andy Thomas, who is nearing the end of his four month sojourn on the station, is continuing 27 scientific studies in a variety of disciplines. The Biotechnological System Co-Culture experiment which has been studying the 3-dimensional growth of cancer cells is being wrapped up. Thomas has packed 33 bags of experimental results, equipment, film, tools and personal effects in preparation for his ride home in early June. The Shuttle Discovery will link with Mir on June 4 and land with Thomas on June 12 (NASA).

Due to budget problems, the Russians may move up the abandonment of the Mir space station. While Russia hopes to keep the station in orbit until the International Space Station is manned, Russia's space program is rapidly running out of money. By moving the schedule up a year and scrapping the station this fall, Russia will be able to utilize Mir funds in completing their portion of the International Space Station. If the decision to abandon the station goes forward, a series of Progress cargo ships will be docked to the station to use their engines to lower Mir's orbit into the atmosphere. The station will then burn up with some of the larger pieces splashing into the ocean (AP).


The US Laboratory Module of the International Space Station (ISS) is essentially complete. Integrated hardware and software testing of the module at the Marshall Space Flight Center began last week. While all aspects of station lab work will be tested, not all of the software is complete (AW&ST).

Russia has announced that they have found the money to continue their participation in the International Space Station. A request for more money was rejected Thursday May 28 during a meeting between Yuri Koptev, the head of the Russian Space Agency, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov and Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. The program will, however, be funded from "certain extra-budgetary sources". As of next year funding for the space station will come from a "special budget section". Russia's share of the program for this year is estimated at $240 million. The "space-tug" which has repeatedly delayed the program is currently slated for launch this November, but will likely not fly until the spring of 1999. Another Russian contribution, a module to house the crew is 92 percent complete, but is behind schedule because only half of the required funds have been released. Work on the module has stopped until the Russian government comes up with $70 million to finish the job. Future funding of the program will come from the Mir budget, renting resources on Russian satellites and commercial ventures such as selling space photographs (AP; Flatoday).

While America is still hoping for a late August launch of the first component of the ISS, it is beginning to look like the first element will be launched from Kazakstan on November 20. The Shuttle Endeavor will follow on December 3 to connect the connector "Unity" with the Russian control chamber. NASA hopes to place the first permanent crew on the station during the summer of 1999 (AP).

TECSTAR has shipped to the Naval Research Laboratory the last four of 17 solar panels to be used in the Interim Control Module (ICM). While one panel will be used in testing, the other 16 will be used in the Navy module. The ICM is designed to provide power and fuel for the International Space Station during the initial assembly as a back-up to the Russian Service Module. TECSTAR was the only solar panel manufacturer that could meet the critical delivery schedule for the accelerated ICM program (LaunchSpace).


The Mars Global Surveyor has found evidence of ice for the first time away from the polar ice caps. The craft photographed a 30 mile crater 2,400 miles south of the Mars equator that has a 12 to 18 mile wide discolored area on the bottom and cracks along its rim. The image indicates a deposit of some sort, possibly frozen mud or sand. The photos were taken from an altitude of 108 miles (NASA).


Aerospatiale has delivered the Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator (ARD) to the European Space Agency. The 2.8 metric ton space craft will be launched on the third Ariane 5 flight. The spheroid-conical capsule is two meters high and 2.8 meters in diameter. It will be launched into a trajectory that will reach 830 Km and reenter the atmosphere at a speed of 27,130 Km/hour. It is expected to endure 3.5 g and temperatures up to 2000 degrees C. The craft will be used to validate aerothermodynamic models; the performance of thermal protections; software for navigation, guidance and control; the behavior of the parachute braking system; and mastering splash-down and recovery (ESA).


Japan plans to launch a spacecraft to Mars in July on an M-5 rocket. The Planet-B spacecraft, built by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, a division of Japan's Education Ministry, will be launched from the Kagoshima Space Center in Uchinoura. The spacecraft will orbit the Earth until December when it will begin its 10 month trip to Mars. The two year mission will study the upper atmosphere of Mars with 15 instruments (AP).


The 1998 - 99 Federal budget for Australia has increased its support for science and innovation -- almost $1 billion will be committed. Space related items include: $1.9 million over four years to establish the Space Licensing and Safety Office; and, $1.5 million over three years to operate the Yarragadee Satellite Laser Ranging Station (Chris Wordsworth)


The SeaLaunch venture celebrated the final fitting and launch of their two vessels, the Commander and Odyssey, from the Kanonersk Ship yards (Russia) on May 24. The Commander is a 650 foot long floating rocket assembly and plant and mission control center. It has been in the Kanonersk Shipyard being outfitted with 600 tons of electronic and electronic launch support equipment. The Odyssey is a oil drilling platform that has been modified with 3000 tons of automated rocket handling equipment and is now the worlds first self-propelled, semi-submersible commercial launch platform. The ships will be based out of Long Beach, California. The Odyssey is now in the Port of St. Petersburg loading the first two flight Zenits and Block DMs. SeaLaunch has firm contracts for 18 launches. The first launch will be a Hughes HS 702 communications satellite that will be designated Galaxy XI (Boeing PR).



A toy version of the Galileo spacecraft currently orbiting Jupiter will be produced by Mattel under a licensing agreement with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The toy model will be in the new Hot Wheels Jupiter/Europa Encounter Action Pact which will be released in early 1999 and will include models of the descent probe and one of the giant antenna used on Earth to communicate with the spacecraft. Previously, Mattel issued a model of the Mars Sojourner which was part of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder mission (NASA).


During a recent ceremony at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the specially commissioned X-Prize trophy was unveiled. The trophy and a prize of $10 million will be awarded to the first registered team able to launch a spacecraft capable of lifting 3 persons to an altitude of 100 km and then repeat the feat within two weeks. The award, open only to privately financed teams, is designed to spur the development of cheap access to space. The ceremony was attended by such notables as Voyager Pilot, Dick Rutan; Mercury Astronaut, Scott Carpenter; Apollo 9 Astronaut, Rusty Schweickart, and Paul MacCready, winner of the Kremer Prize. Joining them were National Geographic Explorer in Residence, Sylvia Earle, Congressman Richard Gephardt and X PRIZE supporter and author Tom Clancy. To date, $5 million of the prize money has been raised with the remaining money expected within the next year (X-Prize PR).



Hughes Network Systems (HNS) recently announced that they had signed an agreement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to install a new and advanced VSAT network in more than 4000 locations in the US, Canada, and Europe. Enterprise uses the network to connect its host site's 23 IBM AS/400 computers to 3,500 worldwide rental locations (Hughes; SpaceCast).

CD Radio

CD Radio announced May 29th that it exercised an option to buy a fourth satellite from Loral Space & Communications. The additional satellite will double the number of planned broadcast channels to 100. The satellite-to-car system will provide CD quality music and programming throughout the continental United States. In addition to $290 million provided by CD Radio, Loral Space has arranged $145 million in financing primarily through Bank of America. Launches of three satellites on Arianespace rockets will occur between November 1999 and January 2000. The fourth satellite will serve as an on-ground spare (LaunchSpace).


Eagle Vision

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has awarded a contract to ERIM International to manufacture and deliver the Eagle Vision 2 system. The system is a deployable ground station that can receive and process unclassified, commercial satellite imagery from the French (SPOT) and Canadian RADARSAT systems. It will be upgradable to utilize the US LANDSAT 7 and next-generation high-resolution US commercial satellites as they become available. The Eagle Vision 2 system will be used to produce imagery products to assist air crew mission planning and rehearsals along with topographic and intelligence applications in tactical environments (LaunchSpace).



Telesat of Canada recently selected Arianespace to launch the Anik F1 communications satellite in early 2000. The satellite will be placed into orbit on an Ariane 44L rocket. The satellite, built by Hughes, will be based on the new HS 702 platform and will boast 48 Ku-band and 36 C-band transponders. The 4,400 kg satellite will be placed in the 107.3 degrees orbital slot with an expected life of 15 years. This will be the fourth Anik satellite (SpaceCast; Launch Space).


Orbital Sciences has delivered the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) to The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) three weeks ahead of schedule. Along with mission support, Orbital will be paid $37 million to design, manufacture, integrate and test the FUSE spacecraft bus. The satellite is part of a three year NASA program to explore the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and solar systems. It is slated for a March 1999 launch on a Delta II rocket.


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke


  • May 31 - Long March 3B, Chinastar-1, Xichang, China.
  • June 2 - Shuttle Discovery, STS-91, mission to Mir, pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center.
  • June 9 - Delta 2, Thor-3 comsat, pad 17A Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • June 12 - Shuttle Discovery Landing, STS-91, Kennedy Space Center.
  • June 18 - Atlas 2AS, AC-153, Intelsat 805, pad 36A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • June - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM-2 (8 communications satellites), Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.
  • June 23 - Athena 2, Ikonos-1 (CRSS), SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.
  • July /Aug - Ariane 44L, Flight 109, Eutelsat 3-F1 and Sirius-3, ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • July 10 - Delta 3, Galaxy 10, pad 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • July 17 - NPO Yuzhnoya Zenit 2, Globalstar Mission 3 (12 comsats), Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
  • July 25 - USAF Titan 4A, Mission A-20 (classified), Centaur upper stage, Cape Canaveral Air Station.


The current population of space is at baseline of 3 - all on board the Mir space station. The Mir crews include 1 Kazakh, 1 Russian and one Australian-born astronaut. This marks the completion of 3187 days of continuous human presence in space since the reoccupation of Mir on Sept 8, 1989. The first element of the International Space Station is likely to be launched in late November.

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