Frontier Status Report #119
Frontier Status Report #119
October 16, 1998
Dale M. Gray
While there were no reported launches during the week, there was plenty of activity in the areas of Legislation, Technology and Charisma. The US Congress passed a key funding bill increasing NASA's budget in 1999. Contracts were awarded for the EELV and Titan programs.
Headlines of the week of October 16 include:
Shuttle Discovery is on Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center. At the completion of the Flight Readiness Review October 29 was announced as the official launch date. In the past week pressure decay tests were conducted on the crew cabin and the SpaceHab module. Astronaut contingency space suits were installed. The mass memory unit #2 was installed and loaded. SpaceHab early stow activities are underway. This is flight unit 1 which has flow three times previously. This flight will feature the Microgravity Glovebox, the PCAM and APCF protein crystal growth units, the STES vapor diffusion unit, the ASP advanced separation facility, and the BioDyn commercial bioreactor. In addition to the SpaceHab experiments, a number of other experiments are located in the payload bay. The HOST payload end-to-end test was completed. Verification tests of the Space-to- Space radio was conducted. Aft compartment closeouts are slated for next week (NASA; Jonathan's Space Report).
The world's interest in the upcoming Shuttle mission appears to be at an all-time high. A record number of reporters have applied for press passes to the late October launch. Indeed, Glenn's popularity has extended to the White House where President Clinton has made plans to attend the launch. As the world turns back the clock for America's first orbital astronaut, Walter Cronkite will provide commentary for the launch for CNN and the city of Perth has announced plans to turn-on their lights for the Shuttle just as it did for Glenn's first flight in 1962 (Flatoday; Launch Space)..
While the media concentrates upon John Glenn's return to space, crewmember Pedro Duque will be the first Spanish citizen to fly in space. Duque will deploy communications antennae, starting SpaceHab systems and monitoring a record 19 portable computers.
The 10 day delay of the launch of the Progress resupply vessel to Mir has placed the two cosmonauts on board into a time- critical situation. On the Progress will be scientific equipment for collecting meteorite data. The equipment must be installed outside the station prior to the November meteor shower. Once the Leonid shower begins, it will be too dangerous for Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev to venture out of the station. The Progress launch was delayed to October 25 when lack of money delayed the purchase of the booster. The Mir continues to work on Russian, American and French experiments while maintaining the Elektron oxygen generators and working out problems with the CO2 scrubbers (AP; Chris v.d. Berg).
While Russia has needs $190 million to fulfill its commitments, the beleaguered space agency has been allocated less than half that amount for the coming year. Only $75 million has been set aside for the space programs this year. Of this the government still owes $44.5 million (AP).
The USAF announced October 16 the long-awaited contracts for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle contracts. Four contracts worth a combined $3.03 billion. Boeing and Lockheed Martin each were awarded $500 million contracts for Engineering and Manufacturing Development. In addition Boeing was awarded $1.38 billion for 19 launches using the Delta 4 system beginning in 2002. The first commercial launch of the Delta IV system will occur in 2001. Lockheed Martin was awarded $650 million for nine launches of their Atlas 3 rocket. The objective of the EELV program is improve the affordability and operability of the American expendable space launch systems. The Delta 4 and Atlas 3 family of launchers will provide medium and heavy launch capabilities for the first decade of the next century (USAF).
Sea Launch has officially announced that its first launch in March of 1999 will be a dummy payload of the same physical characteristics as a Hughes HS 702. The company has a firm contract for 18 launches (Sea Launch PR).
A planned 56 second test firing of a Russian RD-180 rocket engine came to a premature end after only 2.7 seconds. Post- firing inspection showed no damage to the engine. The cause of the shut-down is under investigation. The test was conducted at 3:30 EDT at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. The engine, rated at 860,000 pounds of thrust is over twice as powerful as the Shuttle main engines which are rated at 375,000 pounds of thrust. By comparison, the giant Saturn V F-1 engines produced 1,500,000 pounds of thrust. This was the second of three planned tests of the engine. The first was completed on July 29. The tests are part of Lockheed Martin's program to incorporate the RD-180 engines into the design of the Atlas 3 rocket (NASA).
The launch of the third Ariane 5 mission has been delayed one day to October 21. The delay was prompted when filling the first tank of the attitude control system with hydrazine took more time than was expected. The rocket is expected to be transferred to the launch vehicle on October 20. Launch is expected on October 21 between 12 pm and 1:30 pm EDT (Arianspace PR).
Because of the August 12 failure of the Titan 4A carrying a NRO satellite, the launch of two Titan 4B rockets have been delayed. Affected missions include an USAF missile warning satellite due to launch on December 18 and a military communications satellite slated for launch on January 27. Both rockets are already in place at Cape Canaveral launch complexes 41 and 40. The delay is due to a continuing probe into the cause of the August 12 failure which destroyed a $700 million satellite. The investigation is expected to be completed at the end of November (Flatoday).
Despite the failure and delays, the USAF has awarded Lockheed Martin Astronautics a $1.327 billion contract to produce 40 additional Titan 4 rockets and five Titan 2 rockets. These will be for 39 Titan 4 missions through 2002 with one rocket in reserve as a spare. Lockheed Martin is currently operating under a contract that has resulted in the launch of 22 Titan 4A and 3 Titan 4B rockets. There are 14 Titan 4B launches remaining under this contract. Under the previous contract an additional 14 Titan 2 ICBMs were refurbished for use as space launch vehicles with 7 successfully launched to date.
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced that they recently completed their 100th suborbital mission in the last 15 years. The late September flight of a Missile Technology Demonstrator (MTD-3) rocket from White Sands rose to 180 km traveled 113 km downrange and impacted within 5 feet of its target. The demonstration project is test technologies to defeat hardened, deeply buried targets. Other recent missions included astronomical and Earth Science research, missile defense system testing, and new space-related technology demonstrations. The company has a total order backlog of 115 suborbital flights over the next five years worth about $400 million (Orbital PR).
Final testing and extensive review program have delayed the launch of the $1.3 billion Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF). The observatory was slated for launch on the Shuttle Columbia on January 21. Plans for testing AXAF in Florida to speed the process have been scrapped. TRW officials are now preparing for a mid-March launch. This is the second delay for the program which was originally slated for August of 1998. AXAF will examine X-rays from black holes, clusters of galaxies, exploding stars and collapsing neutron stars. It is the third of NASA's "Great Observatories" following in the wake of the Hubble Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (Flatoday).
Thomson Tubes problem
Loral Space and Communications has returned the Skynet Teltar 6 communications satellite to its facility in Palo Alto, California. Following notification by AEG of Germany that a traveling wave tube in the satellite may be susceptible to thermally induced fatigue, Loral recalled the satellite to replace the suspect part. The satellite is now expected to be put into service in the second quarter of 1999. The satellite will provide telecommunications services to all 50 states, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America utilizing 52 transponders - - 24 C-band and 28 Ku-band (Loral PR).
EchoStar Communications has announced the loss of four of 44 traveling wave tube amplifiers in the EchoStar 3 telecommunications satellite. EchoStar continues to work with Lockheed Martin over cause and the possibility of future loss. EchoStar was previously insured the satellite with a policy with value in excess of $200 million, but the policy lapsed on October 5. A 60-day policy has been issued, but it does not cover amplifier problems. EchoStar continues to provide over 300 digital video and audio programming channels. EchoStar, who added 81,000 new customers in September, recently announced it would acquire Media4, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia. Media4 is a supplier of broadband satellite networking equipment for personal computers (EchoStar PR; Launchspace).
Having reestablished control over the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), ground control is now testing and activating science equipment. Images from the Michelson Doppler Imager and the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager have been received and have been posted on the Internet. By October 16, nine of 12 instruments were switched on and recording information. The remaining three instruments will be activated in the coming weeks. The recovery of SOHO is counted as fortunate by solar scientist as the sun enters a period of increased number of sunspots. Contact was lost with SOHO on June 26 (SOHO web page; ESA; SpaceNews).
On October 11, 1998 the Japanese Earth Resource Satellite (JERS-1) malfunctioned. Failing to receive a signal from the satellite on October 12, as a result controllers sent a terminate command. The satellite, originally designed for a two year study of Earth resources, has exceeded its design life by 4.5 years (NASDA PR).
Eutelsat and Society Europeene des Satellites (SES) are in conflict over the ownership of the 29 degrees East longitude orbital slot. The companies plan to take the dispute to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) during its meeting in Minneapolis (Launchspace).
Mars Global Surveyor
Aerobraking of the Mars Global Surveyor continues. After two weeks and 32 orbits, the orbit has been reduced by an hour to 10.3 hours. Because of the two week delay, pressure will be allowed to increase so as to make up an extra eight minutes per week so as to arrive at the proper glide slope in early December. Science observations with the MAG and TES instruments will continue at periapsis. The TES interferometer fringe counting lamp was reactivated on the 12th try on October 3, but failed three days later. Temperature readings will be deferred until next March when the backup lamp will be used (Mars Surveyor Operations Project Report).
Mars Surveyor 98
Operations Readiness Test rehearsals were conducted for the Mars 98 launch, initial acquisition and first trajectory correction maneuver on October 6 and 8. A full ORT will be conducted with KSC participation on October 16 and 19 (Mars Surveyor Operations Project Report).
German Daimler Benz Aerospace and British Aerospace PLC are in merger talks. The effort will create a giant "pan- European defense contractor" that will be better able to compete with American giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing. While the Financial Times reported that the two companies would join forces next year, representatives from the companies involved admitted only that talks were underway, but that no dead-line had been set (AP).
Daimler Benz is currently in merger negotiations with Italian Alenia Aerospacio's space division and with Matra Marconi Space. The deal is expected to be stuck by the end of the year. The new company would have sales of about $3.4 billion (Space News).
PanAmSat Corp. recently ordered three HS 601 satellites from Hughes Space and Communications. The satellites will replace Galaxy 4, Galaxy 10 as well as add new capability. The company also announced that their Galaxy 11 satellite will now be launched on an Ariane 4 rocket in March or April of 1999. PanAmSat now has four launches slated with Arianespace in the next year. Galaxy 11, had previously been slated for launch on the maiden flight of the Sea Launch system. Sea Launch will launch another PanAmSat satellite in the 4th quarter of 1999 (PanAmSat PR).
For the first time in five years, the US Congress has raised the budget of NASA. In the 1999 budget, NASA would receive $13.67 billion which is $200 million more than the President requested. and $17 million more than it received in the 1998 budget. The appropriations bill (HR 4194) was passed by both the House and the Senate in separate votes. Among the winners in the NASA budget, the International Space Station was fully funded, but language was inserted in the bill to prevent NASA for raiding other accounts for station overruns (Space News).
Following last week's briefing of the House Science Committee by Dan Goldin, Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) introduced HR 4820 to remove Russia from the critical path of the International Space Station construction. Dubbed the International Space Station Act of 1998, the act lays the groundwork to prevent future cost growth and schedule delays by directing NASA to solve systemic problems instead of expending effort and money on short- term solutions to problems. Specifically, the bill prohibits additional payments to the Russian Space Agency, requires the Administration to develop a contingency plan for removing each element of the Russian contribution from the critical path for assembling ISS, imposes a $21.9 billion total cost cap for the program, requires a report on the cost and benefits of each station related agreement with foreign entities, requires reports on the transfer of any manufacture of station hardware to foreign entities, prohibits NASA for entering into a contract with a foreign government which grants the government the right to recover profit if the contract is terminated (NASA Watch).
REMOTE SENSING FRONTIER
The launch of NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS) satellite EOS AM-1 will be delayed until the last half of 1999 due to control software problems. AM-1 was originally slated to be launched in June of 1998, but problems with the software developed by Lockheed Martin put the launch on hold. In the latest development, Raytheon has proposed to NASA that they substitute software they developed for the Eclipse satellite control system. NASA is considering the offer and sources indicate that they will probably accept it (SpaceNews).
Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke
October 19 - Atlas 2A, AC-130, UHF Follow-On, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORT
The current population of space is at the base-line of two - all Russians on the Mir space station. This marks the completion of 3323 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 34 days.
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