Frontier Status Report #125
Frontier Status Report #125
November 20, 1998
Dale M. Gray
This week revealed the first fruits of the new space age. From a launch pad in Kazakstan the first element of the International Space Station was successfully launched into orbit. Japan launched a sub- orbital rocket and a Delta 2 rocket with an American-made television satellite for Russia was scrubbed 4 minutes from launch. Australia introduced a commercial space bill and several cases of space fraud have been exposed.
Headlines of the week of November 20 include:
A new age of space exploration began at 1:40 am EST November 19 with the launch of the Zarya Control Module on a Russian Proton rocket. The launch of the three stage SL-13 version of the Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome proceeded without incident. The rocket placed the module into a 220 x 115 statute mile orbit inclined 51.6 degrees. Both solar arrays deployed 16 minutes after launch. Three hours after launch a command was sent to the spacecraft which began a 0.2 degree per second multiaxis rotation for thermal control. The two 35 foot solar panels were tested and confirmed to be tracking the sun. During the next week the main engines will be fired to circularize the orbit in preparation for next month's docking with the Unity Node launched on the Shuttle Discovery (Flatoday).
The 44,100 pound module is 41 feet long and 13.5 feet in diameter. The module has 16 exterior propellant tanks covered with 2,640 pounds of shielding. Through its life, the Zarya Service Module will serve as the station's fuel depot. While launched with 5 tons of fuel, the 16 external tanks are capable of holding 6.1 metric tons of hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. The tanks were launched only partially filled to keep the module within the capabilities of the Proton rocket. The module has 42 rocket engines to maneuver the station in its early stages of construction. Of these two are the 917 pound thrust orbital adjust engines; 14 are the 88 pound thrust maneuvering jets and 16 are 3 pound Vernier engines used for attitude control. The FGB can survive in orbit without being refueled for 430 days. In December, the Shuttle Endeavor will dock the Unity node to the forward port of the module (AW&ST; AP; Flatoday).
The Proton launch was the first use of the new ISS Flight Control Room at the Johnson Space center and a similar room at the TsUP Russian flight control center. The centers will continuously monitor ISS operations (AW&ST).
Even as the final preparations for launch were being made in Russia, The US Laboratory module was making its first flight. The module, constructed by Boeing at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was transported by NASA;s "Super Guppy" aircraft to the Kennedy Shuttle runway on November 17. The Laboratory is 28 feet long, 14 feet in diameter and weighs 32,000 pounds. It is made up of three cylindrical sections and two end cones. The Laboratory will provide a shirtsleeve environment for research in life sciences, microgravity, Earth science and space science. The module contains four "stand-off" structures to provide space for the lines necessary for the power, water, vacuum, air and data links for the 24 experimental racks. Thirteen of the racks will be dedicated to various science experiments while the remaining 11 will provide support for the experiments. The module also features a 20 inch round window made out of highest-quality optical glass. The module is slated for launch on the Shuttle on the 5A assembly flight (NASA).
Shuttle Endeavor is on Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A being prepared for its December 3 launch. The Endeavor contains the first US launched element of the International Space Station. During the flight, the Unity connecting node will be connected with the now orbiting Zarya module. During the past week hypergolic propellant loading operations were completed and the payload bay doors were reopened for final inspection of the Unity module. Preparations are underway for purging the external fuel tank. Upcoming milestones include ordinance installation (November 23), flight crew equipment stow (November 24), crew arrival for launch (November 30), and initiation of launch countdown (November 30) (NASA).
Because no cause has been determined for the loss of the drag chute door on Discovery's mission, the door and mortar that deploys the chute will be removed for Endeavor's mission. The Shuttle Endeavor will land December 14 and be allowed to coast to a stop without using the drag chute (NASA).
It is all but official that Mir will stay in orbit an additional year. Technical and economic problems have plagued the Russian space agency. Russia currently is able to spend $13.6 million per year to keep Mir in orbit. Presidential aide Yevgeny Shaposhnikov stated that Mir's life expectancy is linked with the launch of the Russian Service Module for the ISS. Mir would remain in orbit a few months after the launch of the ISS Service Module to the end of 1999 or early 2000. NASA recently moved to pay Russia $60 million to assure that the Service Module would be completed in time for its rescheduled July 1999 launch. While Moscow scrambles to find funds, both internally and abroad, for their contribution to the International Space Station, national pride remains invested with the Mir space station. By maintaining Mir until the occupation of the International Space Station, the uninterrupted human habitation of space would continue to be counted from the reoccupation of Mir on September 7, 1989. The first ISS crew is expected to be launched to the partially complete station in January 2000 at the earliest (AP; NASA; Frontier Status).
DELTA 2/ BONUM-1
The launch of a Delta 2 rocket carrying the Russian Bonum-1 television satellite has been postponed. A problem with the nozzle of the Delta 2 rocket's main engine was detected prior to the scheduled November 19th launch during the 10 minute T-4 minute hold. Movement of the nozzle was found to be restricted during a standard pre-launch mobility test. The engine could only slew 94 percent of its intended tract -- flight rules require a 98 percent slew capability. Following the scrub, the fuel and oxidizer tanks of the rocket were drained to prepare for repair of the nozzle and recycling of the rocket for launch. The 1400 kg Russian satellite was built by Hughes and will provide Direct-to-home television service to Russia and Siberia. The satellite, a Hughes HS-376, is the first American-made satellite to be purchased for use in Russia. This launch will also mark the first commercial Russian satellite to be launched on a US rocket. Bonum-1 is owned and controlled by Bonum-1 Co., a subsidiary of Media Most, a Moscow media group that also owns NTV -- the largest television network in Russia. The spacecraft has 8 active Ku-band transponders and will provide 50 television channels from its position in the 36 degrees East longitude orbital slot (Boeing PR; Justin Ray @ Flatoday; Hughes PR).
After an eight day deployment, the two Sea Launch vessels have returned to their Long Beach home port. The vessels left port on November 5 to conduct sea-going testing of the innovative rocket launch system. Milestones achieved during the voyage include: linking the vessels with a hydraulic gangway in heavy seas, remote control of the launch platform from the command ship, lowering of the 213 foot launch platform 90 feet into a stable launch position, engaging the automatic stabilization system while a mock rocket was moved on rails from the hanger to the launch pad, and about 40 helicopter landings and takeoffs from the command ship. Additional testing involving the roll-out, erection and fueling of a rocket and a simulated countdown is planned for late January or early February (Launch Space PR).
Despite dire predictions, satellite operators found little damage occurred from Earth's passage through the tail of the Comet Tempel-Tuttle. On November 17 the Earth's atmosphere was pelted with hundreds to thousands of particles up to the size of grains of sands. In 1966, the last peak of the meteor shower, as many as 100,000 shooting stars were observed an hour in some locations. The Leonid Meteor shower was reported from around the globe -- at a rate of up to 500 per hour. A NASA balloon stationed at 100,000 feet was able to capture eight "fireballs" on video (NASA; AP).
A sounding rocket was fired on November 20 by the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) from the Tanegashima Space Center. The TR-1 rocket appears to have performed well, but the combustion experiment module did not perform as planned (LaunchSpace).
Deep Space 1
The Deep Space 1 spacecraft has returned to normal cruise configuration following its entering a safe mode last week. The craft, which has the ability to monitor its own condition, entered the mode when it could not reactivate its star tracker after several attempts. On Friday, November 13, the low gain antenna was used to contact the craft and reactivate systems beginning with the higher rate telecommunications system. The flight team was able to replicate on the ground an unrelated solar array deployment activation. The team is also studying the problem with the star tracker and the unplanned shut down of the ion propulsion system. Controllers are preparing to restart the ion engine which shut down early last week after firing only 4.5 minutes (NASA).
On November 12, contact was lost with the Voyager 2 spacecraft which is approaching the edge of the solar system. The contact was lost while the craft was powering down the spacecraft's scan platform to conserve its plutonium energy source. After 66 hours, controllers at the Deep Space Network station in Madrid, Spain were able to reestablish contact. Early analysis indicate that the proper commands were sent to the spacecraft. About 720 commands were sent Thursday to activate the X-band transmitter, but without response. Analysis indicated that the S-band exciter which generates the spacecraft's carrier frequencies might have been turned off. On Friday evening 360 commands were sent to turn on the S-band exciter. Saturday evening contact was reestablished at 40 bits per second. The telemetry found the craft slightly warmer than usual and the power-down sequence had been executed correctly. The back-up X-band transmitter was on at the time of reacquisition. Recontact with the spacecraft was delayed in part because it takes 16 hours for signals to travel between spacecraft and Earth. Researchers continue working on the reason for loss of contact. Voyager 2 was launched in 1977 and has since visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. It is currently 5.2 billion miles from Earth and traveling towards the edge of the solar system at 35,000 miles per hour. Scientists hope to continue at least one of the probe's five instruments until 2020 (AP; NASA).
Two weeks after the activation of its global telephone network, Iridium has announced the world's first global paging and messaging service. The service will allow the transmission of up to 200 characters in any one of 19 languages and may contain numeric messages of up to 20 digits. It may be used either as a stand-alone service or in conjunction with telephone services. Messages may be sent via touch-tone phones, operators or even e-mail and the world- wide web. The pagers have batteries with a 30 day life and can receive messages inside buildings, airplanes and in ships at sea. The service allows customers to receive messages from a single Iridium number no matter what their location. Agreements have been made with pager services world-wide, including PageNet, Hutchinson and DSS Mobilink. The service is based upon Iridium's network of 66 Low Earth Orbital satellites (Iridium).
The advent of Iridium phone services has been slowed in much of the former Soviet Block countries. One problem has been the delay of certification of the Motorola satellite equipment and phones by the Russian Sate Committee for Communications. Lack of a supply of phone sets has hampered the spread of the system in Russia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It currently takes, Iridium-Eursia, the supplier in these countries several weeks to deliver an Iridium satellite phone despite the $8000 price tag (SpaceNews).
PanAmSat announced November 9 that InterPacket Group, Inc. has signed up to be the first customer to use multiple satellites to deliver Internet services internationally. InterPacket is transmitting Internet traffic to 10 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East utilizing PanAmSat's PAS-2, PAS-3 and PAS- 4. Although PanAmSat has provided multi-satellite Internet services since the early 1990s, this is the first time they have entered into a multi-satellite agreement with another Internet provider (PanAmSat PR).
Loral Space Systems
Loral announced on November 5 that its subsidiary Loral Skynet of Bedminster, New Jersey will assume responsibility for the Orion 1 satellite. The satellite was previously operated by Loral Orion. The satellite will be joined in orbit by Telstar 6 and 7 and Orion 2 and 3 in the next two years (SpaceNews).
Originally slated for launch in December of 1998, the launch of NASA's Landsat-7 Earth science satellite has been rescheduled for April 15, 1999. The delay was required to change the design of the electrical power-supply hardware for the science instruments. During instrument-level thermal vacuum tests the power supply on the ETM Plus instrument failed twice. These technical issues have been resolved and the satellite is now being prepared for launch. The ETM Plus was designed and built by Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing while the spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space at their Valley Forge facility. Landsat has been continuously monitoring the Earth's continental surfaces since advent of operations of the Landsat-4 thematic mapper in 1982 (NASA).
PanAmSat announced on November 19 that it has discovered battery problems with another one of its satellites in orbit. The problem is similar to the one found on another satellite in March. The problem has already caused brief transponder outages and could lead to service outages for its broadcast news and paging customers. CBS News, several cable television channels and PageNet are major customers of the PanAmSat system. PanAmSat has in place backup plans to move customers to other existing satellites or yet-to-be-launched satellites if a failure occurs. The company plans to launch seven additional satellites over the next 18 months which would bring their fleet up to 25 satellites (CNET News; Reuters).
The Space Communications Corp (SCC) and the Japan Satellite System Inc.(JSS), both of Japan, announced the signing of contracts for the manufacture and launch of their joint satellite. Lockheed Martin and Space Communications Corp received the contract to build the 24 Ku-band transponder satellite. Some of the components will be provided by Misubishi Electric Corp. The 3,540 kg satellite will be launched by Arianespace in the third quarter of 2000 and placed in the 110 degree East orbital slot. Possession of this desirable orbital slot was contested by SCC and JSS. The contracts with Lockheed and Arianespace is the result of the resolution of the dispute (LaunchSpace).
Inmarsat has dropped its plans to contest the US Global Positioning System's exclusive use of its portion of the L-spectrum. Inmarsat had introduced plans to use a portion of the L-spectrum for its planned Horizon's system at the last World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC). Inmarsat has since redesigned the system to operate in the S-band (SpaceNews).
European Union (EU) officials are meeting with a US delegation to consider joint work on a future satellite navigation system. The EU will propose several satellite navigation options to its member nations by the end of the year. Other alternatives include a European-only system or a partnership created by bailing out the fiscally-troubled Russian Glonass system (SpaceNews)
John Glenn and his crew mates continue America's first orbital astronaut's return to glory. As in 1962, Glenn and the other astronauts of Discovery were honored with a ticker-tape parade down New York's "Canyon of Heroes". Police estimate that the spectators -- swelled by noontime crowds from Wall Street -- was nearly 500,000. The parade repeated a 14 block portion of the seven mile route traveled by Glenn after his first flight. After the parade each of the members of Discovery's crew were presented with keys to the city during a ceremony at City Hall. The crew's next stop on the glory tour is another parade in Cocoa Beach, Florida on December 5. The parade will run along State Road A1A from South First Street and travel north to the Doubletree Hotel. The astronauts will ride on the back seats of red, white, and blue corvettes. Glenn was also honored by a Cocoa Beach parade in 1962 (AP; Flatoday).
Popular Science magazine in its 11th annual "Best of What's New " awards honored Hughes Global Services for their salvage of the former AsiaSat telecommunications satellite. The satellite was launched on December 25, 1997 on a Russian rocket. A malfunction of the upper stage placed the functional satellite into a useless elliptical orbit with a high inclination. After the satellite was declared a loss by its consortium of insurers, Hughes offered a deal to salvage the satellite in return for ownership and a shared profit with the insurers. By extending the elliptical orbit of the re-named HGS-1 satellite through a series of thruster firings, the craft was eventually sent on an orbit of the Moon in mid-May which flattened the inclination and circularized its orbit. The results were so good a second lunar flyby was ordered to further improve the orbit. Through these maneuvers, the satellite was placed in a nearly geostationary orbit over the Pacific. The satellite retains a few degrees of movement north and south of the equator. While the satellite will not be used for its original telecommunications role, the powerful HS 601HP will be used in maritime applications that have some satellite tracking capability. Using the trans-lunar flyby trail blazed by HGS-1 opens the way for heavier payloads to be launched to Geostationary Earth Orbit by smaller launch systems -- resulting in a significant savings of money or enhancement of satellite capabilities (Flatoday).
On Thursday, November 12, the Space Activities Bill of 1998 was introduced into the
Australian Senate. The bill creates regulations for obtaining licenses for commercial
space flights launching and/or landing in Australia. The bill also addresses insurance
requirements. The Bill is similar to the US 1998 Commercial Space Act which President
Clinton signed into law on October 28. The Australian bill would result in a new office,
the Space Licensing and Safety Office (SLASO) which is funded in the current Australian
budget at A$1.3 million. The bill, which seeks to attract commercial space companies,
passed through the formalities of a first and second reading when it was introduced. It
will next be considered later in the month (SpaceViews
On November 17, the Japanese Cabinet gave final approval for its participation in the International Space Station. Fifteen nations signed a new version of a previous space station pact in Washington in January 1998. The pact was signed by the Japanese Parliament in April (Flatoday).
China, this week adamantly denied allegations that unauthorized technology was transferred to them by the American companies. The international controversy follows two Chinese launch failures in 1996 which involved of Hughes Telecommunications and Space and Loral Space Systems. Xu Fuxiang, director of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, was quoted by the China Daily as stating that the improvements to Chinese launch systems was due to improved quality control and a continuing program of improved management and operations of its satellite system -- not from technology transferred from the American companies. In the past year China has successfully launched nine foreign satellites this year with 17 more to be launched in the near future. Great Wall Industries has agreements to launch 10 satellites for Hughes by 2006 and five launches for Loral between 2000 and 2003. Fallout of the technology transfer controversy has since delayed development of the international Sea Launch venture and is continuing to be problematic for Globalstar in its negotiations with Russia for launches of satellites on Soyuz rockets (AP; Reuters; Frontier Status).
Unfortunately, one of the milestones of an active frontier is the encroachment of illegitimate activities. In the "boom and bust" environment, even fantastic schemes appear to be honest and viable. So too, today's space frontier has attracted society's bottom-feeders. Brian and Ronald Trochelmann of Atlanta have been accused of trying to sell a fake moon rock for $300 million. The fist-sized rock was said to have been collected by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean and given to John Glenn. The brothers claimed that their father was given the rock for inventing a space food packaging process used by NASA. The Trochelmanns initial court appearance is scheduled for November 19. They face up to five years of prison and a $250,000 fine (AP).
As a result of NEC's admission that it overcharged the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), a moratorium has been placed on new contracts. NASDA expects to get the full amount of overcharge, plus interest from NEC. No fines were levied (SpaceNews).
Courtesy J. Ray, and R. Baalke
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORT
The current population of space returns is at the base- line of two Russians on the Mir space station. This marks the completion of 3358 days of continuous human habitation in space since the reoccupation of Mir on September 7, 1989. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for one day.
Additional web formatting by Simone Cortesi. FSR is also archived on the web at cortesi.com.
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