Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #117

Frontier Status Report #117

October 9, 1998

Dale M. Gray

A big week for Eutelsat with the launching of two satellites with a combined total of 46 telecommunications transponders. The two satellites were launched on an Ariane 44L and an Atlas 2A rockets. A Russian military launch (September 28) and an Orbital Science Taurus launch round out the list in one of the busiest launch weeks of the year. Improving the legislative climate of the frontier, the US Congress has been busy with space related bills.

Headlines of the week of October 9 include:

  • Atlas 2A launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • Ariane 44L Launch from Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Taurus launch from Vandenberg AFB
  • Russia launches satellite from Plesetsk
  • NASA and ESA work to bail out Russian Space Agency
  • X-33 turbopumps calibrated


Shuttle Discovery is on Pad 39B and the STS-95 flight crew has successfully completed the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test. Replacement of Discovery's mass memory unit 2 is underway. The Rotating Service structure will be removed Saturday, October 10 for the KSC open house. Flight Readiness Review is slated for October 13 with the SpaceHab early stow October 16. Media coverage of launch is gearing up for the most watched Shuttle launch of the decade (NASA).


In an effort keep the International Space Station viable, NASA has opted to buy Russia's research time on the station for $60 million. The money will be transferred this month with another $40 million to be sent over by year's end. The money will be used to complete the Service Module. Delays in the construction and completion of the Module have been caused by chronic lack of funding for the Russian elements and have repeatedly delayed the initial launches of the space station. The transfer, part of a $600 million Russian Space Agency bail-out, must be approved by Congress. NASA chief Dan Goldin approached a hostile US House Science Committee October 7 for the additional funds necessary for the completion of the station. An additional $600 million will be needed for the US to replace station modules and equipment formerly assigned to the Russian (AP; Flatoday).

The European Space Agency has also announced plans to pump money into the cash-strapped Russian space program. A $35 million payment would be made in exchange for a automated ESA docking port on the Service Module. Utilizing this port, ESA spacecraft could deliver supplies to the station and help boost the orbit of the station. ESA officials have yet to decide if the Russian Space Agency can get the job done and whether to pay the money for the work (SpaceNews).

Following a meeting of space station partners in Moscow on October 2, it was announced that the current schedule for the launch of the first elements of the station will stand. The first element, the Russian-built "Zarya" base block was built with $210 million from the US. It will be launched on November 20 from Baikonur on a Russian Proton rocket. Two weeks later on December 3, the US will launch Node 1 and join it to the orbiting Russian element. The Service Module launch will slip once again, this time from April 1999 to July of 1999. This will push back occupation of the station to September 1999. With this latest delay, the remainder of the assembly flights will be rescheduled as needed (Flatoday).


Financial problems have forced a delay of the launch of supplies to the Mir Space station. Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeev have been informed that the launch of food, water, fuel and equipment will be postponed from October 15 to October 25. The Progress M-40 resupply vessel will be launched on a Soyuz-U rocket from Baikonur (Launch Space).


On Friday, October 9, at 6:50 pm EDT, Lockheed Martin launched an Atlas 2A from Cape Canaveral Air Station. The rocket carried the 2200 kg Hot Bird 5 aloft for Eutelsat. The $226 million mission will place the satellite in the 13 degrees East Longitude orbital slot where it can provide television and radio services to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Since March of 1993 the Atlas launch system has chalked up 40 successive successful flights (Flatoday).

With the successful launch of HotBird 5, Eutelsat has amassed a network of 13 satellites in orbit with 200 transponders. Hot Bird 5 contains 22 transponders and will replace Eutelsat II-F1. The satellite will provide digital television, radio and multimedia services to 70 million homes in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Eutelsat PR).


Ariane Flight 111 was launched from Kourou, French Guiana on October 4 at 6:51 pm. The Ariane 44LP with four liquid strap-on boosters delivered two satellites into orbit, the W-2 for Eutelsat and the Sirius 3 for Nordiska Satellitaktiebolaget. The next Ariane launch will be the third qualification flight of the Ariane 5 on October 20 (Ariane PR)

Eutelsat W-2, with 24 transponders, will replace Eutelsat II-F3 at 16 degrees East Longitude. The 2,050 kg satellite is based upon the Alcatel Spacebus 3000B2. It will proved a variety of telecommunications services for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Built by Alcatel Space Industries, the satellite was originally slated to fly on an Ariane 5 rocket, but was moved to the proven Ariane 4 after the loss of W-1 in a ground accident (Ariane PR; AP).

Sirius 3, built by Hughes Space and Communications, was the 7th Hughes launch for the year. The satellite, based on the HS 376 model, was built for Nordiska Satellitaktiebolaget of Sweden (NSAB). NSAB is a joint venture of Swedish Space Corporation, Tele Danmark A/S and Teracom AB. The 1400 watt telecommunications satellite has 15 Ku-band transponders powered by 44 watt traveling wave-tube amplifiers. It is the 52nd HS 376 to be built. For the first year of its service life it will be leased to ESE- Astra at 28 degrees East Longitude. At the end of the lease the satellite will be moved to 5 degrees East Longitude where it will provide direct-to-home television services to Scandinavian countries and northern Europe (Hughes PR; Jonathan's Space Report)


Orbital Sciences Corp. announced the successful launch of their Taurus rocket carrying an experimental satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The four-stage rocket lifted off from Vandenberg AFB complex 576 -East at 6:04 EST on October 3. In the military configuration of the rocket, the first stage utilized a TU-904 solid motor -- the same as is used in the Peacekeeper ICBM. Second and third stages utilized Orion 50 solid motors manufactured by Alliant. The fourth stage is an Orion 38 solid rocket motor. After 13 minutes of flight, the satellite was successfully released into a 665 km orbit inclined at 85 degrees. This is the third Taurus launch and the second for this year (Orbital PR).

The 693 kg Space Technology Experiment (STEX) will test 29 new technologies over the next two years. Among the main experiments are the Hall Effect electric thrusters adapted from Russian technology, a six km polyethylene tether experiment (ATEX) and experimental solar arrays. The satellite was built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics and will be operated by the NRO (Jonathan's Space Report).


On September 28, the Russian Defence Ministry launched a 8K78M (Molniya-M) rocket carrying a satellite reported by Tass to be Kosmos 2361, but listed by NASA's OIG bulletin board as a Molniya -1 communications satellite. If the satellite is indeed a Kosmos it is likely to be an Oko-class early warning satellite built by Lavochkin. However, the orbit of the satellite is characteristic of the Molniya communications satellites. The launch from Plesetsk put the satellite and its Blok-L 4th stage into a 12 hour, 419 x 40708 km orbit inclined at 62.8 degrees (Jonathan's Space Report).


The X-33 program tested the powerpack for the Linear Aerospike Engine for the first time on October 1. The test was to calibrate the liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen turbopumps; verify valve timing to prime the gas generator and to test facility settings. The turbopumps are based upon those used in J-2S cryogenic engines from the Saturn program. They will be used in XRS-2200 engines which are being designed for the X-33 program. Two of the XRS-2200 engines will be used to power the demonstration launch vehicle. This marks the start of the engine test program that will culminate in the flights of the X-33 next year (NASA; Launch Space).


The FAA has issued a license to the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp for commercial launches from the southern tip of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Previously, only Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Wallops Island, Virginia have received commercial launch permits. White Sands Missile Range is currently under development. The Alaskan launch facility will utilize small to medium class rockets such as the Athena and Taurus XL to launch LEO satellites (AP).


SeaLaunch is back in business after paying a $10 million settlement with the US State Department over technology transfer charges. While some questions remain, plans are moving forward for the launch of PanAmSat's Galaxy 11 satellite in the first quarter of 1999. PanAmSat, however, was looking for alternate launch providers as recently as October 1 (Space News).

Following clearance by the US Government, Odyssey, the one-of-a- kind launch platform, arrived at its home port of Long Beach on October 4. The sea-going launch platform was docked for the first time next to its sister ship the 667 foot long Sea Launch Commander. The 436 foot long, 200 foot high former North Sea oil drilling platform will be used by SeaLaunch to automatically erect, fuel and launch Zenit rockets carrying commercial satellites. The 20-story high Odyssey is capable of cruising at 12 knots on its two pontoons each as big as a Trident submarine. In the first quarter of 1999, the two vessels will sail to a point near the Christmas Island on the equator. There the platform will be semi- submerged for stability and its crew transferred to the Sea Launch Commander for automatic launch procedures. Sea Launch has contracts for 18 launches: 13 with Hughes Space and Communications and five with Loral Space Systems (AP; Sea Launch).



Loral Space & Communications recently announced that it had signed an agreement with KaStar Satellite Corp. to construct two Ka-band spot beam satellites. The contract, worth $300 million will place the satellites at 109.2 degrees West Longitude and at 73 degrees West Longitude beginning no later than 2002. KaStar, a Denver-based company will provide the US with multi-media services such as Internet, two-way interactive digital transmission and a variety of direct-to-site options (Loral PR).

Thomson Tubes problem

Problems with power-amplification tubes have grounded two satellites after two nearly identical satellites in orbit have been crippled by defects. EchoStar 3 and EchoStar 4 have experienced problems with high-power frequency amplifiers manufactured by Thomson Tubes Electroniques of France and its German subsidiary. As a result, Telsat Canada's Nimiq satellite and the Loral Skynet Telstar 6 have been removed from launch preparations in Kazakstan to replace the traveling wave tube amplifiers which are prone to failure under certain extreme temperature fluctuations (Space News).


Following a series of moves to reestablish contact with the Solar and Heliosperic Observatory (SOHO), the spacecraft was oriented toward the sun on September 16 and is now under ground control. Tests are underway to determine the condition of systems and 12 solar observing instruments. To date, two of the three gyroscopes utilized by SOHO have been found to be malfunctioning (SOHO web page; SpaceNews).


Mars Global Surveyor

Phase 2 of the aerobraking program continues. By October 2, the orbital period had been shortened by 40 minutes to 10.93 hours -- slightly less than predicted. Because the resumption of aerobraking was delayed by nine days, discussions are being held whether to opt for a higher density corridor to make up for orbital reduction lost during the delay. Commands were uplinked on September 26 to activate the TES and MAG instruments. The TES interferometer fringe counting lamp, which has shown degraded performance over the last year, did not respond. Nine subsequent attempts at activation also failed. By October 2, the orbital minimal altitude was reported at 116 km (JPL).

Mars Surveyor 98

Launch preparations are underway at the Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility -2 (SAEF-2) at Kennedy Space Center. Hydrazine and Nitrogen Tetroxide loading has been completed on the Mars Climate Orbiter. The Mars Polar Lander arrived at KSC on October 1 and transported to the SAEF-2. Work on the Power Distribution and Drive Units (PDDU) for both the orbiter and lander progressed with the PDDU reinstalled on the Orbiter and the PDDU for the Lander arriving at KSC for replacement on October 5 (JPL).



Iridium LLC has selected CellStar Corp to distribute phones and accessories for the Iridium World Product Care and the Iridium World Roaming Service. Iridium World Product Care will provide Iridium subscribers with replacement equipment in the event of loss or theft. CellStar will provide delivery services for the replacement equipment. Iridium World Roaming Service will provide subscribers with cross-protocol roaming services across terrestrial wireless services previously incompatible. CellStar will be a non-exclusive global distribution vender of fulfillment services for global travelers. In 1997 CellStar recorded revenues of nearly $1.5 billion (Cellstar PR).


SpaceDev announced October 6 that it had acquired all outstanding stock of Space Innovations Ltd. of Newbury, England in exchange for SpaceDev stock. SIL is an engineering company that specializes in the design and manufacture of small satellites, satellite products and subsystems. SpaceDev is seeking to launch its privately funded spacecraft - Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) to study asteroid 1982 DB Nereus (LaunchSpace).


Gilat Satellite Network of Israel and GE American Communications of New Jersey have announced that GE Capital Spacenet Services will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Gilat. In exchange GE American will receive shares equal to about 30 percent of Gilat's outstanding shares. Subject to governmental and shareholder approval, the deal puts GE American on the board of Gilat as its single largest share-holder. Gilat, which designs, develops, manufactures, markets and supports Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite earth stations and related hub equipment and software, has been Spacenet's primary product provider since Spacenet began business. Gilat acquired Skydata a Florida based VSAT company in December of 1996. GE Spacenet is a provider of global communications networks and services. The consolidation puts Gilat in position to compete with industry giant Hughes Network Systems (Gilat / GE American PR; SpaceNews).


In the face of continued cuts in defense spending, Raytheon has been forced to restructure its work force -- eliminating 14,000 jobs. Facilities at Lewisville, Texas; Mukilteo, Wash.; Orangeburg, S.C.; San Jose, Calif.; and Waltham, Mass. will be closed -- though workers at Waltham will be transferred to other plants. It not reported how the restructuring, which originally was to impact 8,700 positions, will affect Raytheon's operations at Cape Canaveral Air Station. Earlier this week, union workers working for Raytheon at the Cape rejected proposed cost-cutting measures affecting new-hired employees (Flatoday).


The US house passed HR 572 Monday, October 5, which will authorize private companies to launch and land reusable spacecraft. The bill give the FAA authority to license and regulate reusable launch craft developed by US companies. Other aspects of the bill requires NASA to study commercial use of the International Space Station. President Clinton is expected to sign the legislation within 10 days (AP; Flatoday).

The US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has opted to sit on Senate Bill 2365. The would have pushed for the privatization of Inmarsat and Intelsat and would have established how Comsat Corp, the US signatory to the international organization, would operate in the future. The bill is to assure that the international organizations privatize according to guidelines and timetables established by the US. The bill passed through the House as H.R. 1872 on May 6. The bill has strong White House support and is expected to be reintroduced in 1999 (SpaceNews).


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke

  • October 19 - Atlas 2A, AC-130, UHF Follow-On, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • October 20 - Ariane 503, MAQSAT 3 / Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • October 22 - Pegasus XL, Brazil SCD-2/NASA Wing Glove, Skid Strip, Cape Canaveral Air Station (no earlier than October 22).
  • October 25 - Delta 2, Flight 261, Deep Space 1 / SEDSAT-1, pad 17A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • October 25 - Soyuz-U, Progress M-40 resupply mission to Mir, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • October 28 - Ariane 44L, Flight 113, Afristar / GE-5, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • October 29 - Shuttle Discovery, STA-95, Spartan 201, Hubble Orbital Systems Test, PanSat, pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.
  • October 31 - Delta 2, Iridium Mission -11, SLC-2 Vandenberg AFB.
  • Early November - ILS Proton, PanAmSat-8, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • November 5 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 comsats), Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • November 7 - Shuttle Discovery lands, Kennedy Space Center.
  • November 20 - Russian Proton, Zarya Control Module, first ISS element, Baikonur Kazakstan.
  • November 27 - Athena 2, Ikonos-1 (CRSS), SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.


The current population of space is at the base-line of two - all Russians on the Mir space station. This marks the completion of 3301 days of continuous human habitation in space since the reoccupation of Mir on September 7, 1989. The first element of the International Space Station is slated for launch in 48 days.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1998

Home Tour Join! Contents Team News Catalog Search Comm
Sources of information. ASI W9900534r1.0
Frontier Status Report is written by Dale M. Gray. Maintained by by ASI Office of Space Flight.
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.