Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #120

Frontier Status Report #120

October 23, 1998

Dale M. Gray

Following weeks of disappointing news on the Space Frontier, we appear to be entering into a Golden Age of space flight. Three important launches occurred this week. News media coverage of the coming Shuttle launch is coinciding with an unprecedented number of favorable space related bills coming out of the US Congress.

  • Headlines of the week of October 23 include:
  • Launch of an Atlas 2 with UHF Follow-on
  • Launch of Ariane 5 with Maqsat and ARD
  • Launch of Pegasus with Brazil's SCD-2
  • Shuttle Endeavor moved to launch pad to prepare for the first US space station assembly mission.


Discovery is on Launch Pad 39B being prepared for its October 29 launch. The media coverage of the launch of Glenn and company has moved into high gear. Meanwhile at the pad, aft compartment and payload closeouts are completed. Prelaunch inspections are in process. The payload bay doors were closed for flight on October 22 with SpaceHab late stow slated for October 26 when the countdown for launch begins (NASA). The International STS-95 crew are:

  • Curtis L. Brown, Jr., LtCol USAF, NASA, Commander, (4 flights)
  • Steven W. Lindsey, LtCol USAF, NASA, Pilot, (1 flight)
  • Stephen K. Robinson, Ph.D, NASA, Mission Specialist 1, (1 flight)
  • Scott E. Parazynski, MD, NASA, Mission Specialist 2, (2 flights)
  • Pedro F. Duque, ESA, Mission Specialist 3 (Rookie)
  • Chiaki Naito Mukai, MD, NASDA, Payload Specialist 1, (1 flight)
  • John H. Glenn, Jr., Col. USAF (Ret.), U.S. Senate (D-Oh.), Payload Specialist 2, (1 flight)

(Jonathan's Space Report)


The first Shuttle flight of the International Space Station is in its last stages of preparation with the transfer of Shuttle Endeavor from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 39A. The Orbiter arrived at the Launch Pad on October 22. The Rotating Service Structure was extended and auxiliary power units No. 1 and No. 3 were test hot fired. The Unity connector module will arrive at the pad on Monday, October 26. Unity is destined to be united in orbit with Zarya, the Russian Control Module which will be launched November 20. The flight of STS-88 is slated for December 3 (KSC PR).

Dan Goldin, NASA Administrator, stated in a letter to House Science Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. that NASA will proceed on long-term procurements for a US propulsion module that would provide "permanent, independent reboost and attitude control" for the ISSS. Previously the White House had stated that it would not study such a proposal until year 2000 (House Science Committee PR).


Russia's lower house passed a resolution October 9 asking Boris Yeltsin to reconsider de-orbiting the Mir Space Station. Under current plans, the Russian station would be de-orbited before the occupation of the ISS to free funds for Russia's participation in the International Station (Space News).


When the Progress resupply vehicle blasts off October 25, it will be carrying an unusual cargo in addition to the usual station supplies and scientific instruments. On board will be the Znamya or Banner project. This consists of a lightweight membrane that when unraveled creates a 100 foot diameter mirror. The nine pound experiment will be a prototype to see if space mirrors can reflect sunlight onto some of Russia's frozen northern cities. The mirror will be unfurled in February when the Progress vehicle pulls away from the station. Cosmonauts will use the Progress to align the mirror as well. A smaller mirror was taken into orbit in 1993. Russia's budget problems kept the experiment from flying on earlier flights (AP).


The Atlas 2A carrying the Navy's UHF Follow-on satellite F-9 was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Station at 3:19 am EDT. The communications satellite is the 9th of 10 planned satellites of the Global Broadcast Service operated by the US Department of Defense. A slight power problem was discovered about 15 minutes before launch during the T-5 minute hold. Count was resumed at 3:14 am. Two firings of the Centaur upper stage successfully placed the satellite into a 13,967 nautical mile apogee which exceeded the contract minimum of 11,551 nautical miles. The perigee of 154.5 nautical miles and inclination of 27 degrees were close to specification. The higher orbit is expected to lengthen the satellite's life by using less fuel for final orbit. The launch was delayed from October 19 because of upper level winds out of safety limits. The launch was the 12th and final Atlas launch for the year. All but one of the launches occurred from Florida with the remaining one from Vandenberg (Justin Ray, Florida Today).

The 3,227 Kg satellite is based on the Hughes HS 601 satellite with high-power, high-speed GBS payload in addition to the standard UHF and EHF capabilities. The GBS package which has been incorporated into satellites F8, F9 and F10 is expected to revolutionize defense communications when the three GBS satellite system comes on line in early 1999 (ILS PR).


Third time was a charm for the Arianespace Ariane 5 launch program. Ariane flight 503 lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana on October 21 at 4:37 pm local time. Solid propellant boosters separated 10 minutes into the flight. The Atmospheric Reentry Demonstrator was released at 12 minutes into the flight at an altitude of 216 Km. The ARD splashed-down 103 minutes after launch, at a point situated between the Iles Marquises and Hawaii -- only 4.5 Km from its planned location. ARD was built by Aerospatiale for the ESA. It tests new technologies and flight control capabilities for atmospheric reentry and landing (Arianespace; ESA; CNES PR; LaunchSpace).

Thirty-three minutes after launch, the upper stage injected the 2.6 ton MAQSAT 3, mock-up satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. The flight was declared a complete success by Fredrik Engström, ESA's Director of Launchers and Ariane 503 Flight Director. The Ariane 5 has twice the lift capability of the Ariane 4 rocket (AP; Arianespace PR; ESA PR).


The Navy salvage operations recovering fragments of the Titan 4A has drawn to a close. The vehicle was destroyed by explosion 41 seconds into flight. The recovered physical remains are heavily damaged because of the blast, subsequent impact with the ocean and 11 week immersion of the guidance system in the Atlantic. As a result, the recovered remains are unlikely to help pin- point the cause of the failure. It is known from telemetry that a battery powering the guidance system suffered a split-second electrical outage 39.4 seconds after the launch. When power was restored, the guidance system directed the rocket to pitch down. The rocket then auto-destructed when aerodynamic forces began to break up the body of the rocket. The $344 million Titan rocket was carrying a classified NRO payload. Salvage operations, which recovered 80 percent of the classified satellite, have cost $2.24 million. Computer simulations will now be used to pin-point the cause of the guidance failure. The Air Force hopes to end its investigations by late November to clear the way to reschedule two pending Titan 4B launches. The official report will be released to the public upon its completion (Accident Investigation Board PR; Flatoday).


On October 22 at 8:02 pm EDT a Pegasus rocket was launched from an L-1011 about 100 miles off of the coast of Florida. The rocket, in its shorter, standard version, deployed the $11 million SCD-2 into a 400 mile orbit for Brazil. The environmental monitoring satellite will replace the aging SCD-1 by collecting information from over 300 autonomous data collection stations scattered in the Amazon River basin. The data will be used to study the hydrology of the basin, chemistry of the atmosphere, oceanography and for weather and climate forecasting.

The rocket also carried the $550,000 NASA Wing Glove experiment. The experiment consisted of a smooth steel cover over the leading edge of the right wing of the first stage. Instrumentation collected data on the boundary layer transition from smooth to turbulent flow over the wing at hypersonic speeds. The information could be used in the future to design and cool leading edges and other surfaces. The eight year $10 million program includes four Orbital launches (Flatoday).


Investigations into the cause of the August 26 failure of the first Delta 3 rocket flight have concluded. The cause was confirmed to be linked to the control software. The software was designed to compensate for 56 roll modes. In the past, on Delta 2 flights, the most significant roll mode at take-off continued to dominate throughout the first phase of the flight. The 4 hertz roll mode displayed in the Delta 3 flight was not significant at lift-off and was not designed into the control system -- becoming significant 40 to 50 seconds into the flight. When the control system recognized the problem it attempted to control the oscillations until hydraulic fluid used to move the nozzles of the solid rocket motors was exhausted. After which, the rocket was pushed out of an aerodynamically stabile configuration and was automatically destroyed as wind-shear began breaking up the vehicle (Boeing PR).



The US Justice Department has forced Primestar to drop plans to use a direct-broadcast orbital slot currently controlled by News Corp. The government cited Primestar's ownership by a consortium of cable TV operators disqualified the company from using the US's last full-view orbital slot (SpaceNews).



Data from Galileo have revealed similarities between Callisto and Europa. Buried beneath its 60 mile thick icy crust, Callisto may have a liquid ocean heated by radioactive materials. It is estimated that the ocean is about six miles deep and covers the entire moon. The discovery was triggered by Galileo's magnetometers which detected a magnetic field explainable only by a buried liquid ocean or a 4 story thick sheet of iron covering its surface. Callisto, the third largest moon in the solar system, is the size of Mercury with a diameter of 2,985 miles. It is the third largest moon and the most heavily cratered surface in the solar system (Gannett PR).

Deep Space 1

The launch of Deep Space 1 on board a Delta 2 rocket is scheduled for Saturday October 24 from Pad A of Launch Complex 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Station. The launch is dependent on the successful launch of the Pegasus rocket on Wednesday in order to reset the launch range. Deep Space 1 will validate 12 new technologies including an ion propulsion engine. The ultimate goal of the mission is six mile flyby of asteroid 1992 KD (KSC PR; Flatoday).



Technical problems affecting voice quality and problems with dropped calls are challenging Iridium technicians as they race to complete tuning the system prior to its November 1 start of service. Both Motorola and Iridium LLC officials have stated that many of the engineering problems have been resolved (Space News).


After four years of doubt, the Agrani satellite system of India appears to have both financing and governmental licensing. Afro-Asia Satellite Communications expects to finalize contracts with Lockheed Martin and the Indian media company Essel Group. The funding for the satellite which will be launched in 2001, came from the Essel Group based out of New Delhi. The project is expected to cost 32 billion rupees ($755.5 million US) (Space News).


Australia's Optus Communications has chosen Mitsubishi Electric Corp to supply a geostationary communications satellite. The contract for the Optus C1 is reported to be $500 million Au ($312 million US). This is Mitsubishi's first contract where they are lead contractor for a commercial satellite. The company has long been a major sub-contractor for solar panels and payload sub- assemblies (Space News).



The premature shut-down of test firing of a Russian-made RD-180 engine has been traced to an avionics failure. The test firing abruptly ended after 2.7 seconds. The engine was not damaged (LaunchSpace).


The space station cross-waver provision was recently excluded from the $13.7 billion NASA spending bill last week. The legislation would have protected US companies from lawsuits stemming from mishaps aboard the International Space Station. European contractors currently enjoy such legal protection. An attempt to add the provision into a catch-all appropriations bill was unsuccessful (SpaceNews).



In Washington's current pro-space environment, funds have been reinstated for the KEAsat program. Kinetic Energy Antisatellite (KEAsat) is a US Army anti-satellite development program. Under the new funding, the Army will study ways of using KEAsat hardware to temporarily disable enemy satellites. A third KEAsat test weapon will also be procured from Boeing (SpaceNews).


Mozambique plans to utilize satellite and aerial photographs to locate anti-personnel mines. The operation is part of a $5 million effort led by the European Union and several other European nations. Holland's ITC aerospace survey institute is searching satellite images to track changes in land use that could be attributed to the presence of land mines (SpaceNews).


Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke


  • October 24 - 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.
  • November 5 - ILS Proton, PanAmSat-8, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • November TBD - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 comsats), Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • November 7 - Shuttle Discovery lands, Kennedy Space Center.
  • November 19 - Delta 2, flight 263, Russian Bonum-1 comsat, pad 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • November 20 - Russian Proton, ZARYA CONTROL MODULE, first ISS element, Baikonur Kazakstan.
  • November 24 Ariane 42L, Flight 114, Satmex comsat, ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • November 27 - Athena 2, Ikonos-1 (CRSS), SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.
  • December 3 - Shuttle Endeavor, STS-88, UNITY NODE 1 Assembly flight for the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION, Pad 39A, KSC.
  • December 10 - Delta 2, Flight 264, Mars Climate Orbiter, Cape Canaveral.


The current population of space is at the base-line of two - all Russians on the Mir space station. This marks the completion of 3330 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 27 days.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1998

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