Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #153

Frontier Status Report #153

June 4, 1999

Dale M. Gray

Three Year Anniversary Issue

The Shuttle Discovery mission to the International Space Station dominated the space news. Despite the additional space coverage by the media, there were no launches to report for the week. Most of the action on the frontier this week related to legislative response to space frontier issues.

Highlights of the week of June 4 include:

  • Discovery docks with ISS May 27
  • Discovery astronauts conduct 8 hour space walk
  • Discovery undock from ISS June 3
  • Russia officially announces end of Mir missions
  • Chandra mission preparations resume
  • Frontier Corner posted at Space Policy.


Following its May 27 launch, the Shuttle Discovery docked with the orbiting components of the International Space Station at 12:24 am EDT on May 29. On May 30, Tamara Jernigan and Dr. Daniel Barry emerged from Discovery's airlock to conduct a spacewalk. The pair quickly attached a five foot American-built crane, but had some trouble loosening bolts securing components of a Russian- built crane. The booms will be used on future spacewalks to move large items around the exterior of the station. They also attached three bags of tools and hand rails to the exterior and attached a thermal cover on Unity's payload bay attach pin. To conclude their walk they conducted a photographic survey of the exterior (with a short break to replace a jammed camera). Upon reentering the airlock, the pair had some problems connecting Jernigan's air hose to the airlock. The spacewalk extended 90 minutes longer than planned to 7 hours, 55 minutes. This is only 34 minutes shy of the NASA spacewalk record set in 1992 during a satellite retrieval. NASA estimates that 158 more space walks totaling more than 1,000 hours will be needed to complete the station (AP; NASA).

On May 30, Mission Specialist Tammy Jernigan and Russian Space Agency cosmonaut Valery Tokarev opened the hatch into the Unity module at 9:14 p.m. EDT. The pair found the module in order, but at a slightly cool 57 degrees F. The pair entered the Zarya module at 10:07 pm EDT. To equalize pressures and open all six hatches between the Shuttle and the Zarya module took more than two hours. The rest of the crew followed on the heels of Jernigan and Tokarev. Tokarev and Canadian Julie Payette went to work replacing 12 of 18 battery recharge controllers (MIRTS) in Zarya which control the battery charging of six batteries. Mission Specialist Dan Barry and Tokarev also placed "mufflers" over air circulation fans to lower the background noise on the station. High noise levels on the station have been a concern in recent weeks. Barry and Pilot Rick Husband replaced a power distribution unit and transceiver for the Early Communications System in Unity -- restoring it to full capability. The crew completed the day with interviews with the NBC Today show, CBS's This Morning and CNN (NASA).

On May 31, the crew continued to work on fan mufflers and replaced the last two battery recharger control modules. However, the main order of business was transferring and stowing 2,900 pounds of supplies, water and equipment to the station. Commander Kent Rominger and Tokarev also conducted a news conference with the Russian media. By June 2, the crew had completed the transfer of 115 items 3,718 pounds including the external transfers. The crew began closing hatches early Thursday, June 3. Once lights and equipment were turned off and the six hatches were closed, the Reaction Control System thrusters on Discovery were used to boost the orbit of the station by about six statute miles. Having spent five days 18 hours and 17 minutes connected to the station, Shuttle Discovery undocked at 6:39 pm on June 3. The Shuttle circled the station two and a half times before departing the vicinity at 8:53 pm EDT. The next task for the Shuttle crew will be the release of the small student Starshine satellite which features 900 external mirrors to allow it to be easily seen from the ground. The Shuttle is slated to land at Kennedy Space Center at 2:02 am EDT on June 6 (NASA; Florida Today; SpaceViews).

On Wednesday, May 26, workers at the Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility began the second of five planned Multi-element Integration tests on a variety of components that will fligh to the International Space Station. The current test involves the Z-1 truss, the P-6 photovoltaic module and the Pressurized Mating Adapter 3. The test is expected to be completed in mid June. A third test slated to begin soon after the completion of the present test will feature the Italian-made Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, called "Leonardo," and the U.S. Laboratory. The fourth test will feature the Canadian Robot arm with other space station elements and the final test will concentrate on how the various elements of the station interact with flight software. The first test, completed in January of this year, revealed a number of problems and incompatibilities that have since been corrected. The tests are designed to minimize the problems that crew will encounter once the various components are in orbit (NASA KSC PR).


On June 1, Russia officially announced that the current crew will be the last to man the orbiting Mir station. When the crew leaves in August, it will be left unoccupied. New on-board computers will allow the station to be controlled from the ground. Atmospheric drag is expected to bring the complex into reentry in February or March of 2000. While most of the 130 complex will burn up, officials expect the remains to drop harmlessly into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. Russia has kept the door open for extending the life of Mir, contingent on developing an outside source of funds. By abandoning Mir, Russia will be better able to fulfill its commitments tot he International Space Station. The decision must still be approved by Russian President Boris Yeltsin (Florida Today).


On June 1, processing of the Chandra X-ray Observatory was resumed to prepare for a launch on STS-93 no earlier than July 22. Inertial Upper Stage-27, which is similar to the IUS used in a failed Titan launch this past April 9, was delivered June 1 to the Vertical Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. There it was joined on June 2 with the Chandra Observatory. After testing, the joined assembly will be loaded into the Shuttle Columbia's payload bay in Orbiter Processing Bay 1 on June 25. The processing was resumed after NASA determined that it had taken "all appropriate actions to mitigate any issues regarding the Inertial Upper Stage" (NASA Marshall SFC PR, NASA Kennedy SC PR).


A Delta 2 rocket is on the pad at Space Launch Complex 17B of the Cape Canaveral Air Station preparing for a June 8 launch of four Globalstar satellites. The Delta 2 is a scaled down two-stage version of the popular launch system (Boeing PR).



The International Bureau recently granted a DirecTV application to transfer 11 DBS channels from Tempo's DBS satellite at 119 degrees west longitude. The new channels will give DirecTV the ability to transmit DBS signals from three orbital slots to all portions of the United States (International Bureau PR).


Mars Life

Recent experiments with a methane-making microbe have found that it is able to thrive in a simulated Martian environment. Researchers at the University of Arkansas used a group of methanogens in dishes bathed in carbon dioxide and hydrogen gases with solids resembling the soil of Mars. Methanogens usually live in Earth environments were there is no oxygen such as deep underground, around sea floor vents and even cow stomachs. The microbes use nitrogen and hydrogen to make methane, but are poisoned by oxygen. Methanogens may someday help produce fuel for Mars explorers or colonists (AP).


Lunar Prospector

NASA has set a date for the dramatic conclusion of the Lunar Prospector mission. On July 31, while all available telescopes are watching, the spacecraft will be guided to an impact in the permanently shaded Mawson crater on the Moon's south pole. Lunar Prospector data shows unusually high concentrations of hydrogen in the crater. Cornell University in conjunction with JPL utilized the Goldstone antennas to obtain 3- dimensional images of the crater which is 50 km across and 2.5 km deep. Using the resulting topographic maps, NASA is considering impact sites. While the spacecraft has a mass of only 161 kg, because of its velocity the energy released will equivalent to crashing a 2 ton car crashing at more than 1,100 miles per hour. It is hoped that the artificial cratering of the moon will eject up to 40 pounds of water that will be detectable from observatories from Earth and the Hubble telescope. While the idea of a lunar impact has long been discussed in various amateur space forums, NASA Ames Research Center and the University of Texas McDonald Observatory are planning the mission. Lunar Prospector was launched in January 6, 1998 and in its 18 months of lunar observations has detected an estimated six billion metric tons of water ice buried in the permanently shadowed craters of the Moon (NASA Ames Research Center PR; SpaceDaily).

Deep Space 1

The Deep Space 1 mission has now completed almost all of its technological goals and is now preparing for its encounter with asteroid 1992 KD on July 29. The ion engine utilized the by space craft has been in operation for 74 days and has proven itself to be both efficient and reliable. It and other technologies which were considered advanced and exotic at the beginning of the mission are now proven and ready for incorporation in future space applications. The last 5 percent of the testing of the AutoNav system will come when it will be used to bring the spacecraft in close proximity to the asteroid. This will be the closest non-landing planetary encounter to date (Dr. Marc Rayman; SpaceDaily).


US Congress

With US Allies reeling and US satellite manufacturers losing business under the new satellite export rules, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss) has proposed additional measures. Last year the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act of 1999 moved the approval of satellite export licensing from the Department of Commerce to the Department of State. Under Lott's new proposed legislation, the Pentagon would be given additional capability to monitor foreign launches and the CIA would be given a role in reviewing satellite export licenses (SpaceNews).

Conversely, Senator Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) is working on a new draft of the Export Administration Act. This export law would ease dual-use technology sales to US friends and allies, but would further tighten restrictions on exports to China and other nations of concern. Enzi has also asked the Senate Appropriations committee to allocate an additional $10 million for the State Department's office of defense trade controls to help speed export licensing of commercial satellites (SpaceNews).


In light of increased restrictions on the export of technology by the United States, Canada is considering withdrawing a $305 million Radarsat contract from the U. S. company Orbital Sciences and awarding it to European companies. The US company that was building the satellite's shell (bus) and support systems has not been able to discuss technical details with its own Canadian subsidiary, Macdonald Dettwiler of Richmond, B.C., which is the prime contractor and is supplying other systems for the satellite. The crackdown on the flow of technical information was designed to stop transfers to China, North Korea and unfriendly Middle East countries. Instead, the new rules have primarily hurt American companies and American's traditional allies. The Canadian space agency has had preliminary discussions with various European satellite suppliers about taking over the US portion of the contract if the US technology blockade does not ease in a few months. NASA launched Radarsat-1 in 1995 in exchange for access to its images (Toronto Star).

Telesat Canada

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has decided it will no longer tell Telesat Canada how much to charge television networks and other firms to use its satellites. The decision comes one week after CRTC announced that it would not regulate the Internet. As a result of this week's decision, Telesat can stop submitting detailed rate applications to the CRTC before changing its rates. Telesat will, however, still face regulation in the form of a $170,000 price ceiling per channel per month on its new Anik F satellites which will be launched beginning in March 2000. Existing users pay about $114,000 per month on Telesat's operational Anik E spacecraft (Ottawa Citizen Online).


Brazilsat B-4

Because of restrictions on the export of technical data, The Hughes-built Brazilsat B-4 is having trouble finding insurance underwriters. The satellite is not a new model, it is a HW 376 which has been exported since the early 1980s. Because Hughes is following new US policies, it is unable to release the technical details European insurance underwriters and as a result several European underwriters are refusing to participate in Brazilsat's coverage. The satellite is slated for launch in late 1999 on an Ariane 4 rocket (SpaceNews).


Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews

  • June 6 - Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center.
  • June 7 - Long March 2C/SD, Iridium replacement mission (2 satellites), Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, China.
  • June 8 - Delta 2 (7420), Globalstar (4 satellites), pad 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • June 12 - Proton K, Raduga satellite, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
  • June 14 or 15 - Ariane 44P, flight 118, New Skies K- TV, ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • June 16 - ILS Proton (Blok DM), Astra-1H, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
  • June 18 - Titan 2, QuikSCAT, SLC-4 West, Vandenberg AFB.
  • June 23 (no earlier) - Delta 2 (7920), flight 272, FUSE, Pad 17A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • June 23 - 24 - First U.S. Space Tourism Conference, Washington, D.C.
  • June 26 - Atlas 2A, AC-137, GOES-L, pad 36A Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • July 2 - Delta 2 (7420), Globalstar (4 satellites), pad 17B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • July 2 - Ariane 504, flight 119, Telkom-1 and Asiastar, ELA- 3, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • July 7 - Inaugural flight Atlas 3A (AC-201), Telestar 7, Cape Canaveral.
  • July 22 - Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-93, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.
  • Delayed - Delta 2 (7925), flight 270, NAVSTAR GPS 2R-3


With the continued flight of the four men and three women on the Shuttle Discovery and the three men on the Mir Space Station, the population of space remains at a total of 10. The Shuttle contains five Americans, one Canadian and one Russian. The Mir station contains one French cosmonaut and two Russians. This marks the completion of 3550 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 197 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.


The May 28 issue of Frontier Status stated that Insat 2E was launched on the Indian-built Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle earlier this year. The satellite was actuality launched successfully on an Ariane 4 rocket on April 2, 1999 (Robert Kennedy III).

Index for Frontier Status Report 1999

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