Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #131

Frontier Status Report #131

January 1, 1999

Dale M. Gray

A quiet week on the frontier with only one reported launch. Some small action in satellites, legislation and charisma. The launch totals for the year have been prepared by Jonathan McDowell.

Highlights of the week of January 1 include:

  • Russia launches 3 navigation satellites on a Proton
  • Mars Polar Lander prepares for launch
  • NEAR mission burn slated for January 3
  • US House returns findings on technology transfer


The following launch system totals were produced by Jonathan McDowell and originally distributed as part of his weekly Jonathan's Space Report.

Launch Vehicles - - Launched (Failures)

US vehicles

  • NASA Space Shuttle - - 5 (0)
  • Lockheed Martin Titan - - 3 (1)
  • Lockheed Martin Atlas - - 6 (0)
  • Lockheed Martin Athena - - 1 (0)
  • Boeing Delta 2 - - 12 (0)
  • Boeing Delta 3 - - 1 (1)
  • Orbital Pegasus - - 6 (0)
  • Orbital Taurus - - 2 (0)

Subtotal - - 36 (2)

Russian vehicles

  • TsSKB-Progress Soyuz - - 11 (0)
  • Krunichev Proton - - 7 (0)
  • Polyot Kosmos - - 2 (0)

Subtotal - - 19 (0)

Other vehicles

  • Arianespace Ariane - - 10 (0)
  • Arianespace Ariane 5 - - 1 (0)
  • NASDA H-II - - 1 (1)
  • CALT Chang Zheng - - 6 (0)
  • Yuzhnoe Tsiklon - - 1 (0)
  • Yuzhnoe Zenit - - 3 (1)
  • Nissan M-V - - 1 (0)
  • Makeev Shtil' - - 1 (0)
  • IAI Shaviyt - - 1 (1)
  • DPRK Taepodong - - 1 (1)


Total 82 (6)

These launches resulted in the deployment of about 150+ satellites and spacecraft. An additional 16 satellites were either destroyed in flight by a failure of the launch system or failed to reach orbit. Last year there were 89 launches -- compared to 77 in 1996 (Jonathan's Space Report).


The core of the International Space Station, the Central Truss Segment recently underwent acoustic tests at the Johnson Space Center. The 43 foot long ground test article will now be returned to Palmdale for structural loads test. If these tests are successfully completed, the final design of the flight version will be set and construction begun. The flight version will be launched in January of 2001. Attached to the station, it will provide interface settings for the mobile transporter, global positioning system, rate gyros and will provide attach points for the US central thermal control system (Don Nelson, Space Online).


On December 24, the Progress supply vessel was used to raise the orbit of the station to 372 x 361 km. The reboost of the station was reported as being for ballistic reasons and was not related to any plans connected with saving the station. A high ranking official at Korolyov told Chris v.d. Berg that the rumors of extending the station's life were unfounded and that plans to bring Mir down in June of 1999 were still in effect (Chris v.d. Berg).


On December 30, a Krunichev Proton-K rocket with a Block DM-2 second stage was launched from Baikonur at 1:35 pm EST. On board were three Uragan satellites built by AKO Polyot, Omsk. The satellites will be utilized as part of the GLONASS navigation system. This system, developed by the Russian military to pinpoint position within 50 feet is similar to the GPS system developed by the US. Like the US system, the GLONASS system will utilize 24 satellites -- this launch brings the total number of satellites in the system up to 21 (Jonathan's Space Report; LaunchSpace; AP).



At noon on January 3, the NEAR spacecraft will fire its main engine for 24 minutes to put the craft on course for a rendezvous with the asteroid Eros in February of 2000. The burn will increase the spacecraft's speed by 939 mps which will nearly match the spacecraft's speed with that of Eros, but will travel slightly behind and closer to the sun. The first attempt to orbit Eros was unsuccessful on December 20 when at the onset of the burn certain safety limits were exceeded and the burn aborted. These values will be reprogrammed for the January 3 burn. Following the aborted burn, the NEAR team successfully uplinked commands to photograph the asteroid as it flew by the asteroid at a distance of 4,100 km. About 1,100 photographs were taken during the fly-by-- showing features as small as 500 meters. The spacecraft also returned data on the composition of the asteroid and discovered a magnetic field around the asteroid. Data collected during the December 23 fly-by of the asteroid will be useful in planning next year's orbital operations (NASA; SpaceViews).

Mars Polar Lander

NASA is set for a Sunday, January 3 launch of the Mars Polar Lander on a Delta 2 rocket. The 30 second launch window opens at 3:21:10 pm EST. The next window opens on Monday at 3:13:34 pm EST. The rocket is poised at Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Station. The mission seeks to place a lander on the north pole of Mars and send two microprobes to test for water several feet below the surface. NASA TV will carry the launch (KSC PR).

Lunar Prospector

The Lunar Prospector has been in its new lowered orbit for 11 days -- averaging 40 km above the lunar surface. Plans are now in the works to further lower the orbit to 25 km to obtain higher resolution data. Because lunar gravity is asymmetric the new orbit may vary by as much as 15 km. Controllers are examining data from the Clementine mission to assure that the new orbit will clear lunar mountain by at least 6 km. The orbit is slated to be lowered on January 16 (NASA/Ames PR).



The European Meteorological Satellite Organization (Eumetsat) has selected Arianspace to launch their second generation series of weather satellites. The first launch of this series will be of the MSG 2 on an Ariane 5 rocket in the second half of 2002. The satellite will be built by Alcatel and will weigh about two metric tons. The 12 channel satellite will transmit images every 15 minutes. It will be the seventh Eumetsat launched by Arianespace (Arianespace PR).


NASA has awarded the launch contract for the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) to Orbital Sciences. Orbital will launch the satellite on a Pegasus rocket originating out of Cape Canaveral Air Station in September 2001. Orbital was previously awarded the contract to build and integrate the GALEX spacecraft. The spacecraft is designed to explore the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars and heavy elements using an ultraviolet camera (Orbital Sciences PR).


US House

A special House sub-committee has concluded unanimously that technology transfers with China have harmed national security. The committee, lead by Rep. Christopher Cox, was investigating military and commercial deals with China. The investigation began with an inquiry into the Clinton administration's satellite export deals with China -- specifically if the actions compromised security or were influenced by campaign contributions. Several federal and congressional probes were conducted into whether China was provided restricted information that could be used to improve missiles or military satellites. This information allegedly took place from failed US commercial satellite launches on Chinese rockets. However, the transfer of technology goes beyond the investigations of Hughes and Loral to other technology deals. The committee made 38 recommendations for legislative or executive action to remedy the situation (AP).



DBS Industries has signed an Authorization to Proceed with Alcatel Space Industries of Paris to begin construction activities associated with the E-SAT constellation of satellites. These Low Earth Orbiting satellites will be used in a two-way, low-cost data messaging service available world-wide (LaunchSpace).


Smithsonian Institution

Motorola has donated an Iridium satellite to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. This is the first commercial satellite to be included in the museum's collection. The satellite will be displayed in the Museum's "Beyond the Limits" gallery by late spring 1999. The mass-produced satellite represents several "firsts". It was the first commercial use of inter-satellite links in satellite to satellite communication. The satellites were produced at a rate of one every four days and at a cycle rate of 25 days. The orbiting constellation was completed by launching 72 satellites from three countries in only 12 months and 12 days. Sophisticated onboard packet switching payloads were developed that allow switching to be carried out on the satellite instead of on the ground. The Iridium satellite system is now operational -- providing wireless communications services from anywhere on Earth (Motorola PR).


Courtesy J. Ray and R. Baalke.

  • January 3 - Delta 2, flight 265, Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 probe, pad 17B Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • January 3 - NEAR main engine firing.
  • January 13 - Atlas 2AS, AC-152, JCSAT-6, pad 36A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • January 14 - Delta 2, flight 266, USAF ARGOS, SUNSAT & ORSTED, SLC-2, Vandenberg AFB.
  • January 26 - Athena 1, ROCSAT, Complex 46, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • January 30, ILS Proton (Block DM), Telesar 6, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • January - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 comsats), Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • February 3 - Ariane 44L, flight 116, Arabsat-3A & Skynet-4E, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • February 6 - Delta 2, Stardust, Cape Canaveral Air Station.


The current population of space remains at the baseline of two -- both Russian cosmonauts on the Mir space Station. This marks the completion of 3403 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 43 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is scheduled to begin in about 12 months.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1999

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