Frontier Status Report #144
Frontier Status Report #144
April 2, 1999
Dale M. GrayA full week on the frontier with three launches representing the past, present and the future. A Progress supply vessel was launched to the aging space station Mir, which may, or may not have been given a new lease on life. An Ariane 4 rocket delivered an Indian satellite to orbit. Sea Launch, the joint venture involving four countries, has successfully launched its first rocket from its floating launch pad in the Pacific.
Highlights of the week of April 2 include:
ISS - Controllers have entered into a new phase of
operations on the orbiting elements of the International Space
Station. Work has shifted from monitoring systems to
testing. Power systems will be tested by gradually
increasing the activity of heaters on the Unity Module.
Controllers hope to gain an understanding of the best
methods of heating the station prior to the May arrival of the
Space Shuttle Discovery. Engineers are also working on an
intermittent problem with one of the two communications
antennas attached during the last Shuttle mission. The
station is currently in a 251 x 241 statute mile orbit -- circling
the globe every 92 minutes (NASA).
In a March 23 Congressional hearing NASA's Dan Goldin
confirmed earlier rumors that it plans to buy $100 million in
Russian equipment to assure the timely completion of the
Service Module. The money would be used to finance a
three man Soyuz capsule that will be used as an emergency
crew return vehicle (CRV) until the NASA CRV based on
the X-38 is operational. The money will also finance
ground-based virtual reality training equipment for
astronauts. NASA will meet with Russian ISS officials in
the first week of April to address the design of the station
and to obtain assurances that the Mir space station will be
retired in the August/September time frame to allow Russia
to concentrate on its ISS responsibilities. The Service
Module is currently being prepared for rail shipment to
Baikonur Cosmodrome where it will be delivered around
May 1. Once the Module is delivered it will be fitted with
additional equipment and will be subject to 30 additional
tests (Houston Chronicle; SpaceViews).
MIR / PROGRESS - The Progress cargo ship No. 241
carrying 2,438 kg of supplies was launched from Baikonur,
Kazakstan at 6:29 am EST on April 2. The Mir-bound
capsule, designated M-41 after launch, contains the usual
assortment of fuel, oxygen science equipment, clothing,
spare parts and food. The Progress vessel will dock with
Mir on Sunday around 7:50 am EDT (Flatoday; Jonathan's
The roller-coaster saga of the final days of Mir continues.
On Friday, Russian Space Agency Chief Yuri Koptev
announced that a number of investors have stepped forward
to help save the aging Russian space station. While no
names were mentioned, Koptev did say a Canadian of
Russian origin had donated $100,000. Others have donated
money specifically for scientific research or to defray the
$250 million required per year for station maintenance.
Russian funding for the station ends in August, just shy of
the 10th anniversary of continuous occupation. The Mir
Space Station is the focus of considerable Russian pride, but
the nation cannot afford to maintain it while participating in
the new International Space Station (AP).
SEA LAUNCH - The first flight of the Sea Launch venture
was a complete success. The Zenit-3SL was launched from
the Sea Launch Odyssey at 8:30 pm EST on March 28. The
first two stages, built by Yuhznoe in the Ukraine, were
followed by a Blok DM-SL, built buy Energiya/Kaliningrad.
The rocket carried a dummy satellite, dubbed DemoSat, that
was equipped with sensors to provide telemetry for the
flight. The 4,500 kg satellite is a dynamic model of the
Hughes HS-702 satellite. The satellite was placed in a 638 x
36,064 km x 1.2 degree geostationary transfer orbit. The
third stage completed a depletion burn following the release
of the satellite to assure a relatively fast reentry. The flight
occurred after a one day delay on March 27 from a point on
the equator 1,400 miles south of Hawaii. The location on
the equatorial Pacific has three advantages: it works with
Earth rotation to give the greatest possible boost, it makes it
easier to achieve geosynchronous orbits above the equator,
and because of its remote location there are no down-range
or population threat issues (Boeing PR; Jonathan's Space
Report; Sea Launch Webcast; SpaceViews).
ARIANE 4 / INSAT-2E - An Arianespace 42P, the Ariane 4 variant with two solid propellant strap-on boosters was launched from Kourou, French Guiana at 6:02 EST on April 2. It marked the sixth Indian satellite launched by Arianespace. Flight 117 was the second Ariane launch of 1999. The next Ariane launch is scheduled for April 28 (Arianespace PR).
The 2,550 kg Insat-2E was built by the Indian Space
Research Organization (ISRO) in Bangalore, India. It will
be placed in the 83 degree East orbital slot where it will
provide telecommunications and meteorological services.
The spacecraft is equipped with 10 C-band transponders
rated at 32 W operating at the 36 MHz bandwidth and 7
transponders rated at 60 W operating at the 36/72 MHz
bandwidth. The platform is host to a charge coupled device
camera operating in visible, near infrared and short wave
infrared bands with a ground resolution of 1 km. It also has
a very high resolution radiometer with a ground resolution of
2 square km in the visible and 8 square km in thermal and
water vapor bands. The spacecraft has a design life of 12
years (Arianespace PR).
DELTA 3 / ORION 3 - A Boeing Delta 3 rocket is slated for
launch on April 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Station Space
Launch Complex 17. The rocket, only the second Delta 3
launch to be attempted, will carry the Orion 3 satellite. At
4,300 kg, this will be the largest payload ever placed into
geosynchronous orbit by a Delta launch vehicle. The first
Delta 3 launch on August 28, 1998 ended in failure due to an
unforeseen roll mode that the control system was unprepared
to handle. The Orion 3 satellite was built for Loral Space &
Communications by Hughes. The satellite is an HS 602HP
model with 10 kW powering 43 Ku and C band
transponders. The satellite also utilizes a xenon ion
propulsion system. Boeing has 12 firm contracts for
launches on the Delta 3 (Boeing PR; Business Wire).
CHANDRA X-RAY OBSERVATORY - The Chandra X-ray
Observatory is in the Vertical Processing Facility at Kennedy
Space Center being prepared for its launch on the Space
Shuttle Columbia. The advanced telescope passed an over-
all health test on March 17. Solar arrays were installed on
March 26. On March 31, Chandra was moved from its test
stand to a fueling stand. the hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide
necessary to propel the craft to its final orbit will begin to be
loaded on April 5 -- taking about 10 days. Batteries will be
installed on April 17 which will allow the Observatory to be
joined to the Inertial Upper Stage Booster (NASA).
INDIA - India is preparing to enter the commercial launch
business with the May launch of its Polar Satellite Launch
Vehicle (PSLV). The PSLV rocket will launch India's
Oceansat along with two other satellites: Kitsat-3 for the
Republic of Korea and DLR-Rubsat for Germany. The
rocket will be launched from Sriharikota, an island 100
kilometers north of Madras (SpaceNews).
Mars Global Surveyor: The Mars Global Surveyor, having
survived an extended aerobraking due to a weakened solar
panel joint, has now completed its high-gain antenna
deployment. A suspect dampening device (hinge damper)
on the 2 meter boom prompted the delay of the deployment
of the 1.5 meter antenna until several data sets could be
gathered as insurance. Having completed this preliminary
work, scientists crossed their fingers and deployed the
antenna at 9:30 pm PST on March 28. Following the
successful deployment, scientists performed several
calibration activities to assure the gimbals will point the
antenna accurately. Previously, when the antenna was in the
stored position, the entire spacecraft had to be moved to aim
the antenna at Earth. The deployed antenna can now be
aimed independent of the orientation of the spacecraft and
will allow data to flow to Earth even as it is being collected.
When the spacecraft is out of contact with the Deep Space
Network, it stores data on solid state recorders which are
then dumped during the next 10 hour tracking pass. The
trickle of information that characterized the previous
operation will be replaced by a torrent of between 40,000
and 80,000 bits per second. The spacecraft will now begin
its two year mission to map the Martian surface and to
prospect for minerals. The orbiting space craft is expected to
collect more information than all previous Mars probes
combined and will serve as a communications link for the
Mars Polar Lander mission (Flatoday; NASA/JPL).
Mars Polar Lander - The Mars Polar Lander remains in
excellent health following the Trajectory Correction
Maneuver (TCM-2) last week. Subsequent navigation data
indicates the arrival coordinates are close to target values
Hughes: Hughes Space and Communications Company (HSC) recently inked a deal with DirecTV for a new high- power satellite which is to be launched in the coming summer. The deal revolves around an HS 601HP model satellite to be placed at 101 degrees West longitude where it will provide Direct-to-home television utilizing 16 Ku-band transponders. Rated at 7.5 Kw, the satellite will deliver 50 percent more power than its predecessor a HS 601 satellite and will allow DirecTV to add 20 channels to its programming service. Both HSC and DirecTV are units of Hughes Electronics Corporation (Hughes PR).
DirecTV: The Federal Communications Commission has put a stamp of approval on the DirecTV merger of the United States Satellite Broadcasting Co. The $1.3 billion deal was announced last December -- contingent on the FCC approval. The announcement came on the same day that deregulation of the cable industry took effect. The FCC views direct-to-home satellite services as competition to cable services and has concluded the satellite merger would foster increased competition with cable companies (AP).
PanAmSat: As a result of announced plans to change the
PanAmSat satellite fleet, shares in the company fell $6.25.
PanAmSat announced March 31 that it would launch six
satellites by the end of 2000, but that some of the satellites
would be used as on-orbit spares. The move was prompted
by problems on five of the company's satellites: one lost in
orbit and one lost during launch. This new plan lowered
expected revenues for the year from $1.25 billion to $1.15
billion. The company currently operates 19 satellites and
expects to expand its fleet to 24 satellites. The company is
controlled by Hughes Electronics (Reuters).
Orbcomm: Orbcomm, a partnership between Orbital
Sciences and Teleglobe Inc. announced the launching of
commercial services of Orbcomm Japan Ltd. on March 31.
The Japanese service distribution partner has completed the
testing of its gateway Earth station and gateway control
center and has been granted a license from Japan's Kanto
Bureau of Telecommunications for its ground infrastructure
and a radio license for its subscriber communicators.
Among the applications are tracking and two-way
communications with mobile assets and monitoring remote
environmental sites and industrial equipment (Orbcomm
SpaceHab: A Memorandum of Understanding has been
signed between SpaceHab and OHB-System GmbH to
jointly provide a commercial life-sciences space flight
service. SpaceHab will work to establish a biotechnology
business enterprise and operate and upgrade the Commercial
Biological Research Unit (CBRU) for use on the Space
Shuttle and the International Space Station. The OHB-
System, originally developed under contract with the
German Space Agency, comprises a habitat for aquatic
organisms. The companies hope to fly the CBRU in a
SpaceHab double research module on STS-107 in
September of 2000. The facility, a commercial research
enterprise, is hailed as an important step in the
commercialization of the Space Shuttle and International
Space Station (SpaceHab PR).
Vozdushnyi Start Corp: The Russian company Vozdushnyi
Start Co. is seeking western investors for its air-launched
rocket project. If the company realizes its investment goal, it
will proceed with the $750 million project to develop a
rocket that will be launched from the Ukrainian An-124-100
cargo plane (SpaceNews).
North Korea: A two day series of talks between North
Korean and American officials ended March 30 with little
progress. During the talks, US officials attempted to
convince the North Koreans to stop developing and
exporting missiles. This is the fifth set of talks since 1996
with at least another set of talks agreed upon. North Korea
is reportedly the world's leading exporter of missile
equipment and technology with sales to Pakistan and Iran.
While the US sees North Korea's export policy as a threat to
world peace, North Korea maintains that it has a "legitimate
right of self-defense to develop, test and produce missiles by
its own efforts to defend the security of the country because
the U. S. is posing constant threats to it with enormous
nuclear missiles and weapons of mass destruction." Another
statement from the same source indicated that North Korea
might consider suspending its exports if the U. S. were to
tender a bribe of $1 billion annually for three years (AP).
US Army: On Monday, March 29, the US Army's Theater
High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile program
failed in its sixth test. The weapon is designed to destroy
enemy missiles from ranges as far as 800 miles away. The
system, which has a development cost of $50 billion to-date,
is designed to defend against missiles being developed in
North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. While an Army spokesman
could not say what caused the miss, all targeting, radar and
launch systems worked well together for the first time.
During the Monday test, the system came within 10 - 30
yards of hitting its modified Minuteman 2 missile target.
Lockheed Martin, which is developing the system was levied
a $15 million fine for not achieving a direct hit. The next
THAAD test is in May. Assuming a successful completion
of development, deployment is not expected until 2005
US Pentagon: On March 1, the US quietly ended the
practice of releasing satellite tracking information. The
information was previously released to NASA's Orbital
Information Group Web site. Under the new system,
information will be released only to select parties on a case-
by-case basis -- citing the need to avoid orbital collision as
one approved case. The US is currently operating about 100
military satellites for a variety of communications,
reconnaissance and navigation applications. The Pentagon is
concerned about providing information to adversaries who
could damage or interfere with the function of the satellites
(Washington Post; SpaceNews).
Mars Fuel: NASA engineers announced that they have
successfully derived oxygen from a simulated Martian
atmosphere consisting of 95 percent carbon dioxide. The
demonstration, conducted at NASA's Johnson Space
Center, is the initial test of a technology slated to fly on the
Mars Surveyor 2001 mission which will be launched April
10, 2001. During the test the device was placed in a
chamber filled with a thin carbon dioxide atmosphere cooled
to -75 degrees centigrade -- approximating Martian
conditions at the landing site. The device features two
platinum electrodes separated by a thin zirconia disk. When
the system is heated to 750 degrees Centigrade the zirconia
cell "cracks" carbon dioxide passing through it allowing only
oxygen to pass on to the other side of the disk. The 2001
mission would set the stage for future missions that would
utilize local resources. Though not currently approved, the
In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) program is one possible
source of return-flight fuel for the 2005 Mars Sample return
mission (Spacer.com; ProSpace).
ESEX: An electric propulsion space experiment (ESEX) on-
board the Advanced Research and Global Observation
Satellite (ARGOS) spacecraft was successfully demonstrated
on March 15. The 26 kilowatt ammonia-fueled arcjet was
fired for 141 seconds and was shut down as it passed out of
range of Vandenberg AFB. The firing generated about a
third pound of thrust and changed the orbit of the ARGOS
spacecraft by 215 meters. The experiment consumed four
times less propellant than the best chemical rocket in use.
The firing of the high-power thruster created a directed
plasma, yet did not affect other equipment on the spacecraft.
ARGOS was built by Boeing and launched from
Vandenberg AFB on a Boeing Delta 2 rocket on February 23
April 5 - Delta 3, flight 268, Orion-F3, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
April 9 - Titan 4B, B-27 missile warning satellite, Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida.
April 12 - Atlas 2AS, AC-154, W3 (Eutelsat), Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida.
April 13 - Pegasus XL, TERRIERS/MUBLCOM, Vandenberg AFB.
April 15 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 comsats), Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
April 22 - Delta 2 (7920), Landsat-7, SLC-2 West, Vandenberg AFB.
April - Long March 3B, ChinaSat-8, Xichang Satellite Launching Center, China.
Delayed - Long March SC/SD, Iridium (2 comsats), Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, China.
April 27 - Athena 2, Ikonos-1, SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.
April 28 - Kosmos (Russian), ABRIXAS (German), Kapustyn Yar, Russia.
April 28 - Arianespace Ariane 44P (flight 118), New Skies K-TV, Kourou, French Guiana.
April 30 - Titan 4B, Milstar (B-32), Cape Canaveral Air Station.
Additional web formatting by Simone Cortesi. FSR is also archived on the web at cortesi.com.
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