Frontier Status Report #145
Frontier Status Report #145
April 9, 1999
Dale M. Gray
A strange week on the frontier. Despite two attempts, a Delta 3 remains on the pad. The Titan rocket returned to service, but an apparent malfunction of its upper stage left its payload in the wrong orbit. A supply ship docks with Mir as the cosmonauts prepare for a spacewalk. Lockheed Martin literally lays the foundation for the new Atlas 5 launch pad.
Highlights of the week of April 9 include:
SHUTTLEThe Shuttle Discovery is located in the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) bay 1 where it is undergoing closeouts in preparation for its April 14 move to the Vehicle Assembly Building. There it will be joined with the external tank and solid rocket boosters. It is currently slated for transport to Launch Pad 39B on April 21 with terminal Countdown Demonstration Test between April 29 and 30. Discovery and her crew of Rominger, Husband, Ochoa, Jernigan, Barry, Payette, and Tokarev will be launched on the 9 day STS-96 mission to the International Space Station on May 20. The launch date was recently moved up two days when the range became available due to a slip in the Delta / FUSE launch (NASA).
ISSAs a result of last week's power experiments on the International Space Station, controllers have determined that they will be able to adequately heat the station prior to the arrival of the Shuttle Discovery in late May. The tests proved that the Unity Module could be heated with 900 watts of power delivered from the Zarya module. Beginning on April 14 the station will be repositioned and tests made to demonstrate the delivery of 1,400 watts of power to the Unity module. The station is in a 251 x 240 statute mile orbit with a period of 92 minutes. The station has completed 2,150 orbits since its launch in November of 1998 (NASA).
Manager of the NASA portion of the International Space Station, Randy Brinkley, announced this past week that he would be retiring from the space agency to pursue a career in private industry. He will be replaced by Tommy Holloway, the current manager of the Shuttle program. Holloway, in turn will be replaced by Dittemore, who previously managed the Shuttle vehicle engineering office at Johnson Space Center (SpaceViews). NASA is currently reviewing a proposal to use inflatable transhabs to triple the living space on the space station. The transhab would replace a smaller one-room aluminum module currently slated for launch in 2004. NASA is reviewing test data gathered since 1997 and may make a decision on the possible use of the inflatable living quarters sometime in the next couple of months (SpaceNews).
MIR / PROGRESSThe Progress M-41 supply vessel docked with the Mir space station at 8:46 am EDT on April 4. The station crew opened the hatch to reveal a new supply of fuel, oxygen, science equipment, spare parts and clothing. Also on board were 18 lizards for use in biological experiments conducted in the Russian-French Genesis science project (Flatoday).
Russian cosmonauts Victor Afanasyev and French astronaut Jean-Pierre Heignere are slated to conduct a spacewalk on April 16. The walk had been previously postponed due to the rigors of the station work schedule. The purpose of the walk is to test methods of patching the station to help recover from future problems similar to the accident that created a leak in the Spektr module. They will also place and retrieve several experiments including a French "meteorite trap" (AP). AP Article
TITAN 4B/ B-27On April 9 after a short delay, a Titan 4B launched a missile warning satellite from Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Station, Florida. The first two stages of the $432 million rocket performed flawlessly placing the upper stage and $250 million Defense Support Program -19 satellite into orbit. The Boeing-built Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) completed its first 142 second burn 1 hour 14 minutes into the launch --placing the satellite into an elliptical geostationary transfer orbit. However, ground controllers have not been able to confirm the required second 110 second burn 6 hours and 33 minutes into the flight to circularize the orbit. It is not yet known if the satellite has enough fuel to achieve the proper orbit on its own. Without reaching the correct orbit, the satellite won't be able to detect missile launches and nuclear detonations. This is the second consecutive failure for the Titan launch system. This also marks the last use of LC-41 for Titan 4 launches. The pad will now be converted for use with the Atlas 5 launch system (Reuters; Flatoday; Lockheed Martin PR; Boeing PR). Florida Today Article
The launch was approved after the USAF and Lockheed Martin completed an investigation into the failure of a Titan 4A rocket on August 12 of last year. The investigation revealed damage to the wiring harness in the rocket and steps were taken to remedy problem. Quality control problems were uncovered along with 113 cases of wiring damage that could have cause similar launch failures in the 25 Titan missions since 1989. The widening investigations revealed more than 1,000 cases of wiring defects. Additional inspections were ordered for all Titans to correct any and all suspected wiring problems (Flatoday).
DELTA 3 / ORION 3A Boeing Delta 3 rocket slated for launch this past week from Cape Canaveral Air Station Space Launch Complex 17 was twice delayed. First on April 5 when the launch was called off due to unfavorable winds and a barge in the safety zone. The launch was recycled for the next day, but a false alarm on a batter heater and a balky valve on the oxygen tank delayed the launch and though the problems were resolved, a down-range radar went off line and could not be made operational until after the launch window had closed. Because of range scheduling conflict, the launch could not be recycled and had to be rescheduled for April 23. This was to have been the second Delta 3 launch attempt. The rocket, when launched, will carry the 4,300 kg Orion 3 satellite for Loral Space & Communications (Boeing webcast; Boeing PR; Business Wire).
ATLAS 2 / EUTELSATA Lockheed-Martin Atlas 2AS is in the last stages of preparation for an April 12 launch of a Eutelsat W3 communications satellite. The launch, designated AC-154, is slated to occur from Complex 36A at the Cape Canaveral Air Station during a nearly one hour launch window beginning at 6:50 pm EDT. The Atlas rocket is configured with a Centaur upper stage and four strap-on solid rocket boosters. The W-3 satellite is destined for the 7 degrees East Longitude orbit. The satellite is based on the Lockheed Martin Spacebus 3000 design (ILS PR).
ATLAS 5Lockheed Martin has laid the foundation, literally, for the new launch complex to be used in association with the new Atlas 5 rocket. On March 27, 1,500 cubic yards of concrete were poured to form the base of the Vertical Integration Facility for the Atlas 5 rocket. The 76 x 75 x 5 foot deep foundation contains 392,00 pounds of re-bar and required a parade of 167 trucks to complete the pour of nearly 200 tons of concrete. By late 2000 the 280 foot high VIF will be completed. Atlas 5 rockets assembled in the building will be moved to the LC-41 launch pad 1,800 feet away the day before launch. The first Atlas 5 launch from LC-41 is scheduled for 2001 (Lockheed Martin PR). Lockheed Martin Press Release
StardustDuring the past week, the Stardust spacecraft passed the Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter which were launched before it, but are moving slower. All three are bound for Mars, but Stardust will only stay long enough to use the planet for a gravity boost. Stardust is traveling at 114,000 km/h on its way to Comet Wild-2. The spacecraft remains in excellent condition (JPL/NASA). NASA / JPL Release
Commercial SpaceThe Satellite Industry Association announced April 5 that commercial space revenue world- wide rose by 15 percent. Of the $65.9 billion generated commercially, $30.7 billion was the result of US space activities. Leading the way, the sale of satellite services generated $26.2 billion, satellite manufacturing produced $17.6 billion and launch services produced $7 billion. Government spending, including both civilian and military space program spending remains flat at around $36.5 billion. With the continued 15 percent growth rate, commercial space revenue will double governmental space spending next year (SpaceViews).
IridiumThe US Defense Information Systems Agency plans to buy $219 million on Iridium telephones, pagers and other equipment built by Motorola. The contract also includes an unspecified amount of air time. The US government will communicate with the Iridium network using a government-owned Earth station in Hawaii (SpaceNews).
HughesA 26 year court battle came to a close on March 12 when Federal Claims Court Judge James Turner entered a judgment against the Federal Government for $154 million. The claim revolves around a patent awarded to Hughes in 1973 for the use of gas jets to position and orient satellites so that their antennas point toward earth. The patent is a core technology for the satellite communications revolution. Hughes sued the government in 1973 stating that the government used the technology in dozens of communications satellites without their permission. The technology was developed by Hughes scientist Donald Williams in 1959 and first used in a Hughes satellite built for NASA in 1963. In 1989 Hughes reportedly accepted $75 million from Ford Aerospace to settle a similar suit. The US Government paid the settlement to Hughes on March 30 (AP).
JapanWith increased tension caused by the North Korean rocket program, Japan has announced that it will be developing and producing its own spy satellite. While some parts may be purchased from the United States, the program to produce the satellites will be a domestic one. The decision to build four surveillance satellites was announced after the August 1998 failed satellite launch attempt by North Korea passed over one of the Japanese islands. The satellites will also be used to detect smuggling and illegal immigration. The Liberal Democratic Party had previously advocating buying the satellites from the US so that they could be launched quickly. The satellites are expected to be launched by March 2003 (Reuters; Houston Chronicle Interactive).
3 Corners SatelliteResearch at New Mexico State University on a cluster of satellites to be launched in 2001 may result in the satellites communicating utilizing cellular phone technology. The project in conjunction with the University of Colorado at Boulder and Arizona State University is funded by the USAF Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA under the University Nanosatellite program. The three satellites under development each weigh less than 10 kg. While the satellites will work together on the science experiments, each university will be responsible for one satellite. While most satellites use a dedicated radio link, these will be the first to utilize cellular phone technology to communicate. As a result, instead of being in communications for 5 to 10 minutes four times a day, the satellites can be called up any time using existing cellular satellite communications systems accessed through local phone companies. Several technical challenges remain before the new satellite communication system can implemented (Spacer.com). Space Cast Article
US State DepartmentThe US State Department has announced plans to add eight full-time staffers to help handle the export-licensing of satellite exports. The US Congress directed the State Department to spend $2 million on staffing as part of the transfer of the licensing duties from the Department of Commerce to the State Department.
The move to relocate the licensing of satellite exports to the State Department has increasingly come under fire as allies of the US feel the effect of delays caused from the licensing changes. While the change was aimed at controlling the flow of satellite technology to problematic nations such as China, allies such as Italy have seen a three-fold increase in the time it takes for licenses to be approved. Loral Space & Communications application for the export of the ChinaSat 8 geostationary communications satellite appears to be stalled. The government temporarily suspended the technical assistance agreement needed for Space Systems /Loral to complete the $174 million spacecraft (SpaceNews).
Editorial by Dale M. Gray on the subject is available at Space Policy Digest
FloridaThe Business Development and Interstate Trade Committee of the Florida State Legislature unanimously passed a bill to fund the Spaceport Florida Authority under the state Department of Transportation. The bill will make it easier for lawmakers to earmark funding for space-related projects in the way that they currently fund projects involving seaports, airports and Interstate Highways. With Space transportation currently at $80 billion a year, Florida's share is $4.4 billion. SpacePort Florida Authority hopes to double their business in the next six years (Gannett).
REMOTE SENSING FRONTIER
NROThe US has announced that it will invest $1 billion over the next five years to utilize commercial imagery that is processed by private companies. The imagery will be from a new generation of satellites slated for launch this coming year. Both the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) will be able to take advantage of the commercial images. Recently, Space Technology Development Corp's Naval EarthMap Observer hyperspectral satellite was licensed without resolution restrictions. However, Orbital Imaging's OrbView 4 satellite will be restricted to a resolution of 24 meters (SpaceNews).
Courtesy J. Ray and R. Baalke.
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORTThe population of space remains at the baseline of 3 -- all on the Mir Space Station. The station contains one French cosmonaut and two Russians. This marks the completion of 3501 days of continuous human habitation in space since the reoccupation of Mir on September 8, 1989. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 141 days. Because of uncertainties connected to the docking of the Service Module to the orbiting elements of the station, occupation could occur as early as October of 1999, failing that, the occupation of the International Space Station but will probably begin in about 9 to 11 months.
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