Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #166

Frontier Status Report #166

September 3, 1999

Dale M. Gray

For the second week in a row, no launches were reported. The fleet of Shuttles continues to be inspected for wiring damage. Two launch systems have been given green lights for launch following months of inspections following launch failures. A Japanese satellite successfully used a robot arm to automatically grapple another satellite.

The history of the new high frontier is now at your fingertips. Research topics from past issues of Frontier Status at .

Dale Gray's article "Space as a Frontier -- the Role of Human Motivation" has been published in Space Policy, Volume 15, Number 3, August 1999.

Highlights of the week of September 3 include:

  • Proton cleared for launch
  • Atlas 2 cleared for launch
  • Wiring damage found on Atlantis and Discovery
  • Chandra X-ray spectrometer open for business

SHUTTLE - The payload bay doors of the Shuttles Endeavor and Discovery were closed over the week-end to avoid damage or wind-born contamination from Hurricane Dennis. Following the re-opening of the doors on August 31, inspections and repairs of wiring continued on both Orbiters. Damage to wiring has been found and repaired in both Shuttles. Endeavor had 38 repairs while Discovery had 26. Measures have been taken to protect the wiring from further damage. The scope of the inspection has also been expanded from the area damaged during the Columbia launch to under the floor of the payload bay. A bent freon line found during wiring inspections on the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission equipment was also repaired with a brace. Inspections of the wiring in Atlantis will begin after it is moved into Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3. Columbia will be placed on a modified 747 on September 22 for transportation to the Shuttle refurbishing facility in Palmdale, California. Extensive wiring inspections will be incorporated in Columbia's upgrade program (NASA).

ISS - Following last week's recharging test of a suspect battery on the International Space Station, controllers have found only slight degradation. During the test, the battery was reconnected for one 92 minute orbit. Charging was only slightly under expected levels -- consistent with one cell in the battery malfunctioning. Engineers will now conduct a three orbit test of the battery. While the battery appears to be usable, it and its electronics will be replaced during the next Shuttle mission to visit the station. The station is in a 249 x 236 statute mile orbit. It has completed 4440 orbits since its launch last November (NASA).

ATLAS - The Atlas launch system, which has been grounded by technical problems for the last four months, has been cleared to return to action. The launch hiatus was triggered when a RL-10 upper stage engine malfunctioned during the May 4 launch of the new Delta 3 rocket. A variant of the engine is also used in the Atlas upper stage. The cause of the malfunction was traced to a new manufacturing process that left air pockets in combustion chamber solders. Engines are being requalified after they pass X-ray and ultrasound inspections of the solders. The launch of EchoStar-5 is expected to be the first launch on September 10, followed by the UHF Follow-On F10 on September 30 and EOS Terra- 1in October (Florida Today; Lockheed Martin PR).

KAZAKSTAN - On August 31, Kazakstan lifted a ban on Russian Proton rocket launches. The ban resulted from a failed Proton launch on July 5that scattered rocket fuel and debris across the Kazakstan countryside. As a result of the incident, Russia was convinced to pay its first installment on its lease of the Baikonur Cosmodrome (in Kazakstan), to clean up the rocket damage and to pay for damages. The ban was lifted as a result of talks between Kazak Vice-Premier Alexander Pavlov and Russian Vice-Premier Ilya Klebanov. The move clears the way for future Proton launches including the Service Module of the International Space Station in November (NASA).

ETS-VII: On August 31 / September 1, the Japanese satellite Hikoboshi approached the satellite Orihime using an automated system and then successfully grasped a handle on Orihime with a robot arm. While the exercise was to be repeated three times, the exercise was terminated after a change in the orientation in the Orihime satellite upon releasing the robot arm. This was the first automated capture and release of a satellite by a satellite. The technology is expected to be of use in future satellite/satellite captures for repair and refueling (NASDA PR).

Mars Polar Lander: The Mars Polar Lander completed a 30 second firing of its four 5 pound maneuvering engines on September 1 at 10:07 am PDT, increasing the speed of the spacecraft by 2.3 meters per second. This will allow the spacecraft to arrive at Mars one hour earlier than earlier planned. This will allow mission planners to land the spacecraft in the location announced last week at 76 degrees south latitude and 195 degrees longitude. The landing is set for 12:00:26 PDT December 3, 1999 (NASA JPL PR).

Lunar Prospector: Following the July 31 plunge into the lunar south pole, scientists are still analyzing data from telescopes trained on the impact. No direct observation of the impact plume was reported. To date, no data from the observations has revealed the presence of water, but scientists do not rule out the possibility of evidence of water being collected (Space Science News). m

GlobalStar: Following the domino-effect bankruptcies of competitors Iridium LLC and ICO Global Communications, GlobalStar Telecommunications stock price fell a modest 10 percent. Because GlobalStar is utilizing a different marketing strategy that compliments rather than competes with cellular phone companies, analysts expect GlobalStar to fare better. Handsets will debut at $1,000 to $1,100 but are expected to drop in price to $750. Airtime will run between $1.00 and $1.25 per minute -- well below that of Iridium. GlobalStar is aiming at "cellular phone customers" living in areas where there is no cellular phone service. GlobalStar is 42 percent owned by Loral Space & Communications (Reuters).

Iridium North America: Following the bankruptcy of Iridium LLC, the independently-owned Iridium North America has reported a 25 percent increase in subscribers and a 20 percent increase in airtime. The increase is the result of lowered airtime and equipment prices (Iridium North America PR).

Chandra: On Saturday, August 28, the Chandra X-ray Observatory made the most accurate measurements ever of the energy output from the corona of a star. The observations using the High Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer produced a thousand-fold improvement in science's ability to measure X-ray spectra in space. The observations were of Capella, a double star 40 light years away in the constellation of Auriga. The first images from Chandra were taken last week of a gigantic stellar explosion (NASA Marshall SFC PR).

Telkom-1: The Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems-built Telkom-1 satellite is experiencing a problem with its solar array. The A2100 satellite, is owned by Telkomunikasi of Indonesia, was launched on August 12 by an Ariane 4 rocket. Both of the south array's drive motors do not appear to be functioning properly. While the satellite is fully functional, controllers have had to alternate between the two degraded motors to properly align the array toward the sun, keeping the satellite's batteries fully charged. Officials have declined to expound on the problem, but if the problem persists or grows worse, the capacity and lifetime of the satellite could be diminished. Officials expect the problem to be specific to Telkom-1 and not a process problem that would affect the upcoming Koreasat-3 launch that is scheduled for September 3 (Florida Today).

Intersputnik: The first Lockheed Martin-built Intersputnik (LMI-1) satellite has been delivered to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan. The satellite will be launched in September on a ILS Proton rocket. The satellite will be placed in the 75 degrees East longitude orbital slot where it will provide telecommunication and television services with its 44 C and Ku band transponders. The satellite was transported from Moffett Federal Airfield to Baikonur on an Antonov transport vehicle (Lockheed-Martin Commercial Systems PR).

Delta 2: Boeing has announced that it is developing a new variant of the Delta 2 rocket. To create the new variant, a Delta 2 will be outfitted with nine of the new 138,000 pound thrust solid rocket motors that are used in the new Delta 3 rocket. The new Delta 2 will be able to lift 4,550 pounds to geosynchronous transfer orbit, 10 percent more than previous configurations. The first payload of the new rocket will be the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) in late 2001 (Boeing PR).

Itasca: The Illinois town of Itasca, which announced that it would be giving $100 rebates to residents that signed up for Direct-to-Home television services, has withdrawn its offer. The local cable TV provider AT&T Broadband and Internet Services, had objected to the offer saying it was a misuse of public fund. The town will now host a television fair on September 18 where DirecTV and EchoStar Communications will have booths to entice new customers. AT&T Broadband will also have a booth at the fair. They expect to be able to offer a competitive package for its new customers (MediaNews).

JD Power: For the third straight year, Direct-to-home television providers have topped the customer satisfaction study released by J. D. Power and Associates. Primestar was rated No. 1 in 1997, the first year direct broadcast television firms were included in the study. In 1998, Primestar again topped the chart. This year EchoStar rated No. 1 while DirecTV placed second. InterMedia Partners of Tennessee was the highest-ranking cable company in its first appearance on the list (MediaNews).

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

September 3 - 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), EchoStar V, 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, ASU Sat 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 288 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

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