Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #161

Frontier Status Report #161

July 30, 1999

Dale M. Gray

A Delta launch, a Shuttle landing, and a final Mir space walk top the week's space activities. The US Congress has been busy cutting NASA's budget while trying to extricate itself from the mess it created by declaring satellites "munitions". Deep Space-1 swooped by asteroid Braille even as Lunar Prospector prepared for its own direct lunar encounter.

Highlights of the week of July 30 include:

  • Columbia lands at Kennedy
  • DS-1 passes asteroid Braille
  • Mir crew completes last space walk
  • Delta launches four Globalstar satellites
  • Telstar-7 transfers to Arianespace
  • Congress cuts NASA budget


The STS-93 mission came to a successful end on Tuesday, July 27 at 11:20 pm EDT with a smooth landing of the Shuttle Columbia at Kennedy Space Center's Runway 3-3. The mission duration was 10 minutes shy of 5 days. In addition to deploying the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the crew conducted a series of secondary experiments including the Southwest Ultraviolet Imaging System (SWUIS), the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX), Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), Cell Culture Module (CCM), Biological Research in Canister (BRIC), Plant Growth Investigations in Micro-Gravity (PGIM), Lightweight Flexible Solar Array Hinge (LFSAH), Commercial Generic Bio-Processing Apparatus (CGBA), Space Tissue Loss (STL) and documentation of the flight with a High Definition TV (NASA).

NASA officials have reported that the electrical problem and hydrogen leaks experienced during the launch of Columbia will have to be understood and resolved before the next Shuttle mission can be launched (NASA).

Upon landing, inspection of the engine nozzle of Columbia's Main Engine No. 3 revealed that three of the cooling loops that transport liquid hydrogen along the nozzle were broken open. An additional five pounds of hydrogen per second flowed into the nozzle through the breaks for the duration of the 8.5 minute ascent causing it to burn 100 degrees hotter and require 4,000 pounds of extra oxygen. The Shuttle ran out of oxygen slightly earlier than planned -- putting it into an orbit seven miles lower than intended. A bright streak from the engine can be seen in video recordings of the flight. Each Shuttle main engine has over 1000 of the 3/8 inch diameter stainless steel hydrogen tubes, which serve to cool the nozzles and pre-heat the super-cold hydrogen prior to injection into the engine. NASA believes a small gold-plated injector plug came loose immediately after main engine start and was thrown down the nozzle at 3,000 mph. When it hit the side-walls of the nozzle, it damaged the three tubes -- causing internal pressure to split them open. Tube ruptures have been seen before, but never this large. The suspect injector plug was part of a repair patch that is standard for repaired injector tubes. The Shuttle Engine injector has 600 tubes feeding into the combustion chamber. The plug, the size and general shape of a small nail, is installed with a simple wood mallet. The repair technique has not previously been a problem and Columbia was flying with two such plugs. Engineers say that 20 to 40 lines would have to break open to cause an engine failure and trigger the risk-filled Return To Launch Site abort. The leak could not have lead to an explosion in flight. The damaged area of the nozzle has been removed and sent to Rocketdyne for analysis (NASA; Florida Today).


Following its deployment, the Chandra X-ray Observatory began a series of five firings of its hydrazine /nitrogen tetroxide engines. There are two primary engines and two redundant engines.

The primary X-ray camera of the Chandra telescope was activated on Monday, July 26, to check calibrations and to assure that it had survived the launch. The data from the ACIS camera was good, but no observations were made since the telescope cover is not scheduled to be opened until next week (SpaceDaily).

More on the Chandra X-ray Telescope


The IMAX people are at it again. Their latest project will be a 3-D film on the construction of the International Space Station. Astronauts from six shuttle crews working on the orbiting station will be trained to handle two special half-sized 3-D IMAX cameras which will be transported to the station in December. The first crew to film station construction are scheduled to be launched next March. The movie is expected to be released (ISS construction depending) in the spring or summer of 2001. The film will concentrate on the lives and jobs of the microgravity construction workers (



The Italian financial newspaper "IlSole24Ore" on July 2 published an account of a meeting between NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in late June. The article reports that NASA will ask Italy to develop the TransHab and part of the Crew Return Vehicle. In exchange, Italy would receive rides on the Space Shuttle and samples of Martian soil (Simone Cortesi).


In the second space walk in as many weeks, Russian cosmonauts Viktor Afanasyev and Sergei Avdeyev were able to adjust power cables to release an antenna that had stymied them last week. The pair also installed devices to measure the effect of electric and magnetic fields on the space station and to detect air leaks. The 5 hour and 22 minute space walk will likely be the last conducting on the aging space station. The crew is slated to abandon the station on August 21. The station may be briefly visited early next year by a team that will lower its orbit in preparation for its reentry (AP).


After a one day delay to accommodate the delayed Shuttle launch, a Delta 2 rocket was launched from pad 17A at Cape Canaveral Air Station at 3:46 am EDT on July 25. The rocket carried four Globalstar satellites as payload. A little after one minute of flight, four solid rocket motors attached to the rocket completed their burns and were jettisoned. Around 4.5 minutes after launch the liquid-fueled RS-27A engine powering the first stage completed its burn and separated from the second stage. This event was closely followed by the jettison of the payload fairing. The Aerojet-manufactured second stage burned for 6.5 minutes and then coasted for 50 minutes before a second burn of 27 seconds to circularize the orbit. At T+ 69.5 minutes the upper two satellites were deployed into an orbit of 738.5 x 735 nautical miles with an inclination of 51.9 degrees. At T+74 minutes the lower two satellites deployed. The second stage of the Delta then completed a short burn to move it away from the satellites and then a depletion burn to remove its remaining fuel. The next Delta/Globalstar launch is slated for mid-August (Florida Today; SpaceDaily).

Shortly after they were deployed, the four satellites extended their solar arrays and began to recharge their batteries. They will undergo a series of tests and checkouts prior to being moved to their operational orbits of 1,414 km (764 nautical miles). The satellites complete the minimum number required to make the Globalstar constellation operational. The Globalstar network now has 32 functional satellites in orbit. An additional 20 satellites are slated for launch on American (Delta) and Russian (Soyuz) rockets before the end of the year. This will bring the constellation up to full strength with four on-orbit spares. Tests of the system have been reported to be successful and service provider partners for the system are "stepping up plans for regional introduction of service". By marketing the service in conjunction with established American wireless carriers such as AirTouch and Vodafone Group, Globalstar hopes to avoid problems now faced by Iridium. International partners include China Telecom, Korean Dacom, Elsacom and a joint venture between France Telecom and Alcatel. Calls on the system are expected to be priced at around $1 - $1.50 per minute (Globalstar PR; CNET News).



The Roton Atmospheric Test Vehicle (ATV) made its first flight at 8:40 am PDT on July 23, 1999. The four minute 40 second test flight demonstrated the two man crew's ability to control and land the vehicle. The vehicle was raised to about eight feet during the test that included three landings. The 65 foot tall test vehicle was designed to gather data on the unique tip thruster rotor-blade landing system. The ATV will ultimately verify the system's ability to operate over a wide range of conditions and demonstrate landings from several thousand feet. The pilot for the flight was Dr. Marti Sarigul-Klijn, Cmdr. USN-Ret. The co-pilot was Brian Binnie, Cmdr. USN-Ret. Rotary Rocket is a privately funded company attempting to develop, manufacture and operate a singe-stage to orbit launch system. The Roton is scheduled to enter commercial service in 2001 (Rotary Rocket PR).

Rotary Rocket Website


On July 26, Russia announced that it would be paying Kazakstan $287,000 as compensation for damage done by the July 5 Proton rocket failure.


A July 22 test firing of the advanced LE-7A engine by the National Space Development Agency of Japan was called to halt early when computers detected higher than normal temperatures. Twelve cracks in the engine nozzle upper skirt caused a drop in fuel to the engine's pre-burners. This was the seventh in a series of tests for the engine at the Tanegashima Space Center. The LE-7A is being developed by NASDA for use in its H-2 rocket (; SpaceNews). article


Iran is apparently hoping to join the space "bandwagon" with their own Zohreh satellite. The government recently approved between $250 and $300 million to buy a telecommunications satellite to be launched in 2002. Iran currently leases capacity from Intelsat and Eutelsat. Iran is also working with six other countries to develop satellite production expertise (SpaceNews).


As with Iran, Vietnam has committed funds for the purchase of its own Vinasat satellite. The country has earmarked $197 million for a late 2001 launch. The decision to order a satellite is the result of feasibility studies by the Vietnam Broadcasting and Telecommunications Organization (SpaceNews).



At 9:46 pm PDT on July 28, the Deep Space-1 spacecraft swooped by the asteroid "Braille" in a demonstration of the accuracy of its AutoNav system. The spacecraft passed about 15 km of the asteroid, recording four sets of spectra from the infrared camera. The data will help scientist determine the asteroid's composition. While the passage was accurate, the aiming of the on-board camera appears to have been problematic. A distant shot was taken of the asteroid at 70 minutes before the encounter and again 15 minutes after the encounter, but the camera was apparently aimed the wrong direction during the encounter. The fly-by was complicated by a "safing event" about 17 hours before encounter. Following the asteroid pass the DS- 1's ion engine was powered up and will thrust continuously for the next three months to prepare for a fly-by of Comet Wilson-Harrington and Comet Borrelly in 2001 during a possible extended mission (The Planetary Society;; NASA/JPL; AP).

NASA Press release article

The small asteroid, with a diameter of between 1 and 5 km was first observed by Dr. Eleanor Helin and Ken Lawrence at the Palomar Observatory on May 27, 1992 and named 1992 KD. It was given a new name, 9969 Braille, on July 26 to honor Louis Braille (1809-1852), the inventor of the Braille raised dot alphabet. The name was submitted to The Planetary Society's Web site in a world-wide contest by Kerry Babcock of Port Orange, Florida who stated that Braille invented the Braille language "so that those who could not see could obtain knowledge and explore through the written word. Likewise, asteroid Braille provides knowledge about our universe and its origin to the people of Earth, through Deep Space 1. The name change was given official approval by the Small Bodies Naming Committee of the International Astronomical Union. Ironically, with the malfunction of the camera on DS-1, the asteroid Braille remains unseen, but has been explored by other "senses" on the spacecraft (SpaceDaily; The Planetary Society PR).

Lunar Prospector

It has been a busy final week for the Lunar Prospector spacecraft. On July 26, the orbit of the craft was raised slightly to assure survival until the desired termination experiment. The MAG/ER was activated to get better resolution data during the full moon. On July 28, the moon entered Earth's shadow creating the longest period of darkness encountered by Lunar Prospector. Non-critical systems were powered down to conserve batteries. Spectrometer instruments were turned off for the final time for the mission. On July 29, the spacecraft was "spun-up" to 23.7 rpm to assure proper fuel feed during the final termination maneuvers when the fuel tanks will be nearly dry. On July 30, the apoapsis of the orbit was raised by an engine firing to increase the angle of impact after passing over the south pole crater's wall. Three kg of fuel, about half of the remaining supply was used. The space craft is in good condition for its 3,800 mph lunar impact at 5:51 am EDT July 31. It is hoped that the nearly transparent debris plume from the creation of the Moon's newest crater will reach as high as 30 km and be observable from Earth and orbital telescopes. Spectrographic examination of the plume is hoped to reveal evidence of water. During the past 18 months, the Lunar Prospector has collected data during more that 6,800 lunar orbits. The successful $63 million mission was launched on an Athena 2 rocket on January 6, 1998 (Lunar Prospector PR; NASA).

NASA Ames Research Center

LunarImpact site


Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin and Khrunichev space centre have signed an agreement for joint marketing and exploitation of the new Russian Angaras rocket. The rocket is being developed by Khrunichev to replace the aging Proton rocket and to be used for both satellites and cosmonauts. Unlike the Proton, the Angaras uses the relatively environmentally friendly fuels of LOX and kerosene. The agreement calls for Lockheed Martin to spend $68 million marketing the rocket and for the two firms to work together to upgrade the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. The agreement is subject to State Department approval (Reuters; SpaceNews).



The FUSE spacecraft is still in a "bake-out" period in preparation for normal operations. One of four telescope doors was opened on July 14 allowing the Fine Error Sensor CCD guide camera to take a picture of the sky. Focus was found to be near nominal and stars down to about 17 magnitude could be discerned. The spacecraft successfully took a picture, processed it on board, and then locked onto stars. Controllers were then able to identify the stars and tell the satellite exactly where it was pointing -- a procedure called "Found in Space". In the first light photograph several galaxies and HST Guide Star Catalog stars were identified. The other three telescope baffle doors will be opened in the coming week (FUSE status report).

Telstar 7

Telstar 7, a cable television satellite, has opted to drop off the maiden flight of the Atlas 3 due to the problems associated with RL 10 upper stage. Another version of the RL 10 malfunctioned during a May 4 Delta 3 launch, causing all RL 10 based launch systems to be grounded. Telestar 7 will instead be launched on September 15 from Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 4 rocket -- taking advantage in gaps in Arianespace's schedule caused by the American export bottleneck and satellite delivery delays. Lockheed Martin is now seeking a new customer for its first Atlas 3 rocket. Loral Space which has a contract for three Atlas 3A launches opted to move the Telestar 7 launch because the Atlas was not "flight-ready". Loral may use the first Atlas 3 to launch its Echostar-6 satellite later this year. The Atlas 3, which features a modified version of a Russian rocket motor, has been stacked on the pad awaiting launch since April (Aviation Week & Space Technology; Florida Today).


Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers

Because of failures of Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTAs) in orbit this past year, NEC Corp of Tokyo has revealed plans to market two of their own TWTAs. The amplifiers are expected to be able to meet the high power demands of the new geostationary satellites. NEC will be marketing the TWTAs to Lockheed Martin and Space Systems/Loral (SpaceNews).



A team of astronomers using the CFH12k (Canada- France-Hawaii) telescope in Hawaii have discovered two more moons orbiting Uranus. This brings the total number to 20 which exceeds Saturn's count and gives Uranus the most moons in our solar system (SpaceDaily).


The Keck telescope on Mauna Kea may have discovered that Earth is not alone in having seas. The telescope may have found frozen hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's largest moon Titan. Instead of water, the dark areas detected by the telescope could be seas of hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane. Up to this time, only Earth has been found to have surface liquid. Titan also has the only nitrogen-rich atmosphere in the solar system, but its distance from the sun keeps its surface around minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA and the European Space Agency plan to land a probe on Titan in 2004 (AP).

iota Horologii

A new planet in an Earth-like orbit has been discovered orbiting iota Horaologii. While the sun's mass is very close to that of our own sun, the new planet is over twice the mass of Jupiter (720 times that of Earth) and has an orbital period of 320 days. This is the first Earth-like orbit discovered among the extra solar planets cataloged to date. iota Horaologii is located 56 light-years away (SpaceDaily).



In a strange turn around, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has promised to use products of commercial imagery companies if they increase the resolution of their products. NRO director Keith Hall told reporters at a July 8 Pentagon press briefing that "There's not much need for me to be taking 1-meter imagery if I can acquire it from commercial [systems]. NRO currently utilizes imagery with resolution of inches. Both the Defense Department and the CIA have already endorsed increased outsourcing of some remote sensing images. NRO plans to give commercial incentives for increased capabilities. The decision to promote the usage of commercial images is part of the NRO's Future Imagery Architecture which will use a mix of sources of information (Joseph Anselmo, Aviation Week & Space Technology).


Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act

The 1999 Commercial Space Transportation Competitiveness Act (HR 2607) has been marked up by the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. The Act would extend the launch indemnification on catastrophic launch accidents which would have otherwise expired at the end of the year (; SpaceViews).

US State Department Authorization Bill

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) introduced an amendment to the State Department's Authorization Bill that would create a two-tiered review of US Satellites bound for export. US Allies would be subject to a more expedient review procedure. Exports to China would be not be eligible for the expedited procedure. The Bill was approved by the House on July 21 (SpaceNews).

NASA Budget

As if to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the landing on the Moon and the subsequent canceling of the Apollo program, the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee has cut NASA's year 2000 budget by 10 percent or $1.3 billion dollars. While NASA and portions of the space activist community perceive the cuts as an attack on a program that has turned itself around, the Committee was forced to find $7 billion in budget cuts throughout the US independent agency budgets to help pay for emergency Veteran Affairs funding. The cuts were necessary due to a balance budget cap deal between the Republican Congress of 1997 and President Clinton. Unexpected funding for Bosnia and Kosovo have added pressure to lower other Federal budgets. The final budget cut amount is expected to be adjusted when it is taken to the House Appropriations Committee on July 31 (

Budget cuts include: $600 million from overall space, $150 million cut from Space Shuttle, $680 million cut from Space Science ($100 million for a Space Infrared Telescope Facility), $280 million cut from Earth Science, $ 50 million for facilities upgrades, $100 million cut from personnel. Other cuts are in the works, possibly exceeding the $1.3 billion figure. Programs expected to be canceled include: the Discovery space probes, Mars Exploration program missions, SIRTF space probe, CONTOUR space probe. Budgets for Aero-space Technology was increased as was Life and Microgravity Sciences (; VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Report pp 76 -82). article


Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews

  • July 31 - Lunar Prospector impact. Near Mawson crater, South Pole, Moon.
  • August 4 - Ariane 4, flight 118, Telkom-1, ELA-2 Kourou, French Guiana.
  • August 15 - Delta 2 (7420), Globalstar (4 sats), pad 17B Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • August 23 - Mir Space Station final crew abandons station.
  • August 26 - Ariane 4, flight 120, Koreasat 3, ELA-2 Kourou, French Guiana.
  • August 29 - Sea Launch Zenit, DirecTV 1-R, equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • September 3 - Athena 2, Ikonos (previously Ikonos-2), SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.
  • September 8 - Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS (AC-155), MCI- 1, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • September 14 - Ariane 44LP, Telstar 7, Kourou, French Guiana (previously slated to fly on Atlas 3).
  • September 15 - Orbital Sciences Minotaur, JAWSAT, FalsonSat, ASUSat 1, Vandenberg AFB.
  • September 16 - Space Shuttle Endeavor, STS-99, SRTM, pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center.
  • September 19 - Titan 2 (G-8), Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather satellite, SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB.
  • September 23-26 - Space Frontier Conference 8, Los Angeles, CA.
  • September 24 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 sats), Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • Delayed to October - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM (8 satellites), Kwajalein Missile Range.
  • November 12 - Proton, ISS flight 1R, Zvezda Service Module, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • Delayed - Inaugural flight Atlas 3A (AC-201), no payload, Cape Canaveral.
  • Delayed - Atlas 2A, AC-137, GOES -L, pad 36A Cape Canaveral Air Station.


With the landing of the Space Shuttle Columbia, the space population has returned to the base-line of 3. The Mir station contains one French cosmonaut and two Russians. This marks the completion of 3,604 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 253 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

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