Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #165

Frontier Status Report #165

August 27, 1999

Dale M. Gray

Frontier Status 08/27/99

A decade of human occupation in space came to an end this past week when two Russian and one French cosmonaut left the Mir Space station. No launches were reported, but a landing site for Mars Polar Lander was selected.

Highlights of the week of August 27 include:

* Cosmonauts leave Mir.
* ICO files bankruptcy
* Japan pulls plug on J-1 rocket
* Landing site for Mars Polar Lander selected

MIR - After a decade of continuous occupation, the Mir space station now orbits unoccupied. At 5:17 pm EDT on August 27, the last operational crew of Mir pulled away from the station in their Soyuz capsule. History will record that the last occupants of the 20th Century's greatest space station were commander Viktor Afanasyev, flight engineer Sergei Avdeyev and French cosmonaut Jean-Pierre Haignere. As their last acts on the station, the crew rigged up a remote control computer and filled a Progress capsule with garbage. As they exited, all but a few critical systems were turned off. The Soyuz capsule safely landed in central Asia at 8: 35 pm EDT.

While Energia, who holds commercial rights to the station, insists the station could fly for another three years, it has been unable to find the estimated $250 million required to keep the station in operation for a year. The company will continue to look for private funding even as it gradually lowers the orbit of the station in preparation for a springtime controlled reentry over the South Pacific. Cosmonauts could fly back to Mir in March or April to put Mir for final preparations for its destruction. They would oversee the arrival and docking of a Progress supply vessel that would be fully fueled to push the station into the proper reentry path (Florida Today).

SHUTTLE - The Shuttles Endeavor (STS-99) and Discovery (STS-102) are in Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) bay 1 and OPR bay 2 respectively. Both Orbiters are undergoing wiring inspections to detect and eliminate any possibility of wiring shorts such as those experienced by Columbia during its recent flight. The launch dates for Endeavor's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission and Discovery's Hubble Telescope Servicing mission are under review. A launch of one of the Shuttles is expected in early October (NASA).

ISS - The International Space Station modules are orbiting the Earth with the Unity Module pointed down and in a slow spin to provide temperature control. Little news of note was reported other than announced plans to test connect Battery 1 which was removed from operation because of degraded performance. The station is in a 249 x 236 statute mile orbit with a period of 92 minutes. On August 26, the station had completed more than 4,300 orbits since launch (NASA).

X-33 - This past week the X-33 propellant loading system was installed at the Edwards, California launch site. The complex system which will be used to pump cryogenic oxygen and hydrogen into the X-33 was developed by a Kennedy Space Center team and delivered to Lockheed Martin in July. The system will load 70,000 gallons of cryogenic liquids into the X-33 prior to launch (NASA).

The X-33, the half-size demonstrator for the Shuttle follow- on vehicle, is currently scheduled to make its first flight in July of 2000. The vehicle will conduct 15 test flights from Edwards with landings in Utah and Montana. According to a recent AP article, the program is 16 months behind schedule and is $317.6 million over budget. The program pushed several technologies including propulsion, heat shielding and lightweight cryogenic fuel tanks. As a result of problems in the development programs, the entire program has had several delays. Under the original agreement with Lockheed Martin, NASA was to pay $912.4 million -- a figure recently estimated by the GAO to have risen to $1.23 billion (AP).


J-1: Cost overruns were cited as the reason Japan recently canceled its J-1 rocket program. The last J-1 rocket will be launched in 2001. The rocket with the capability of placing one ton into orbit will be replaced by a new rocket using cheaper foreign-made rocket engines. The first J-1 cost $43 million in 1996. A program to lower the cost of the rocket resulted in a rocket costing $31 million, well below the target cost of $18 million. Japan will now utilize cheaper US or Russian-made rocket engines to propel a new rocket by 2003 (AP).

LE-7A: The National Space Development Agency of Japan announced that it had conducted a third test firing of its LE- 7A (engine No. 2) rocket engine. The test firing at Tanegashima Space Center occurred on August 23. The engine, which was fitted with a lower nozzle skirt, was fired for 350 seconds. The test reported to have produced satisfactory data (NASDA PR).

ETS-VII: NASDA plans on conducting a robotic docking using the Engineering Test Satellites-VII (ETS-VII). The two satellites Orihime and Hikoboshi will be docked between August 31 and September 1 using a robotic arm on the Hikoboshi satellite. The docking will be conducted using an automatic system without commands from the ground. The system is expected to be useful in the recovery and repair of satellites by unmanned spacecraft (NASDA PR).


Mars Polar Lander: Utilizing information from the Mars Global Surveyor, NASA' Jet Propulsion Laboratory has selected a landing site for the Mars Polar Lander at 76 degrees South latitude and 195 degrees West longitude near the northern edge of the Martian South Pole layered terrain. The landing site is in the center of a flat 124 mile by 12.4 mile rectangular area. The site is one of four that were being considered. The landing on December 3 will be at the end of the local spring when the landing area is under constant sunlight. In addition to the Lander, the mission will deploy the two Deep Space Two Microprobes five minutes before entering the Martian atmosphere. These probes will impact at a high speed to search for subsurface water (NASA JPL).


ICO Global: ICO Global Communications Ltd., which has been developing a satellite-based telecommunications network filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on August 27. Citing the "Iridium Effect", the company has been unable to complete financing of the 12 satellite constellation that was to be launched in 2000. Trading of the company's stock on the NASDAQ was halted at $3.625 per share after the announcement. The company needs in excess of $1 billion to complete its network. To date, it had obtained 3.1 billion in financing, but needed in excess of $1 billion to complete its business plan. While ICO Global Communications Services has only $41 million of assets and $18.3 in liabilities, its Cayman Island affiliate lists $2.33 billion in assets and $2.32 billion in liabilities. Another Bermuda- based affiliate lists its assets at $2.57 billion and only $18.2 million in liabilities. ICO's creditors include Bank of New York, NEC Corp., Hughes and KPN Telcom (Reuters).

Thiokol: NASA announced the completion of negotiations with Thiokol Propulsion for a contract to deliver 73 Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motors. The Shuttle SRMs are the only solid fuel rocket motors qualified for human flight. The contract, worth $1.73 billion, calls for the manufacture and delivery of solid rocket components beginning this fall and continuing until September 2004. A post-flight review will extend the contract until the last motor has flown in 2005. The contract includes three motors that will be used in on-ground testing. The test motors will be fired in Thiokol's Utah facility in May 2001, November 2002 and May 2004. Each of the post-1986 design motors is about 126 feet long, 12 feet in diameter and contains 1.1 million pounds of propellant. During the 123 seconds each motor fires, it generates 2,600,00 pounds of thrust, the equivalent of 15.4 million horsepower. The two RSRMs attached to each Shuttle provide 85 percent of the power to accelerate the Shuttle from zero to 3,000 miles per hour and lift it from sea level to 24 miles in altitude. Since return to flight in 1988, Thiokol has delivered 146 flight RSRMs to NASA. The contract brings the total number of Shuttle Solid Rocket Motors purchased from Thiokol to 230 with 11 flight support motors used for testing. Thiokol Propulsion is a subsidiary of Cordant Technologies (NASA PR; Cordant PR).


Advanced EHF System: Both Lockheed Martin and Hughes Space and Communications Company have won 18 month contracts to define the next generation of military communications satellites. Teams lead by Hughes and Lockheed Martin have been selected for preliminary work on the Advanced EHF System which is the follow-on for the current Milstar satellite system. The system will be designed to transfer data at ten times the speed of the Milstar II system. Under the $22 million fixed-price contract, each teams will define the system requirements, architecture and design concepts. Following this phase, a contract will be let to one of the teams in 2001 for the production and deployment in 2006 of a highly protected five-satellite system. Hughes is joined by Raytheon and Logicon; Science Applications International Corp, and Integrated Information Technology Corp. Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space is teaming with TRW. TRW produced the digital switching bandwidth-on-demand used in the two Milstar II satellites currently in orbit. Hughes was a team member with Raytheon and Applied Signal Technology to develop the Advanced EHF digital signal processor as part of a 1997 contract (Space Daily; Lockheed Martin PR).

COMING EVENTS - Courtesy J. Ray, and J. Foust

Early September - Ariane 4, flight 120, Koreasat 3, ELA-2 Kourou, French Guiana.

September 6 - Russian Proton, Yamal 101, Yamal 102, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

September 7 - Russian Soyuz-U, Foton-12, Plesetsk, Russia.

September 10 - Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS (AC-155), MCI- 1, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

September 10 - Japanese H-2, Multi-functional Transport Satellite, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

September 21 - Ariane 44LP, Telstar 7, Kourou, French Guiana (previously slated to fly on Atlas 3).

September 23-26 - Space Frontier Conference 8, Los Angeles, CA.

September 23 - USAF Delta 2, NAVSTAR (GPS 2R-3), pad 17A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

September 24 - Athena 2, Ikonos (previously Ikonos-2), SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.

September 24 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 satellites), Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.

September 30 - Atlas 2A (AC-136), Navy UHF-10, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

Late September - Sea Launch Zenit 3SL, DirecTV 1-R, equatorial Pacific Ocean.

October 2 - Titan 2 (G-8), Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather satellite, SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB.

October 7? - Space Shuttle Endeavor, STS-99, SRTM, pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center.

October 13 - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM (8 satellites), Kwajalein Missile Range.

October 15 - Orbital Sciences Minotaur, JAWSAT, FalsonSat, ASUSat 1, Vandenberg AFB.

November 12 - Proton, ISS flight 1R, Zvezda Service Module, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

November 13 - Space Enterprise Symposium, Seattle.

CENSUS - For the first time in almost a decade, no humans are living and working in space. The Mir station is now orbiting unoccupied after 3,641 days of continuous human habitation since its reoccupation on September 8, 1989. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 281 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1999

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