Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #167

Frontier Status Report #167

September 10, 1999

Dale M. Gray

Following months of launch delays due to technical issues, nearly all of the world's launch systems are now back on- line with active plans for launches. The Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets were successfully launched while an Ariane 4 launched Koreasat-3. Temporary delays have postponed flights of the Atlas and H-2 rockets. The Shuttle, SeaLaunch, and Athena II have announced launch dates.

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 10 include:

  • Proton rocket returns to service with launch
  • Ariane 4 launches Koreasat 3
  • Soyuz rocket launches international satellite
  • US House cuts NASA budget by $1 billion


Following weeks of wiring inspections that virtually grounded the Shuttle fleet, NASA announced on September 10 that Discovery's Hubble Servicing mission would be moved in front of Endeavor's Space Radar Topography Mission. Discovery will now be launched on October 28, while Endeavor will not fly before November 19. Discovery and Endeavor are in the Orbiter Processing Facility while Atlantis is in the Vehicle Assembly Building (NASA; Florida Today).


The week ending September 10 saw no major problems on the orbiting elements of the International Space Station. Testing of Battery 1 has continued with the battery connected to power for three orbits. Data indicated that the battery charged and discharged in an unpredictable manner. The next major test will be of a pump used to transfer nitrogen through portions of the propellant system. The pump will be used in October in preparation for the November docking of the Service Module. The station continues to orbit at 234 x 244 statute miles with a period of 92 miles. The station has completed 4550 orbits since its first launch last November (NASA).


As part of Russia's plans to mothball the abandoned Mir space station, the station's main computer was turned off on September 8. Without a crew or active life support systems, the station now utilizes a fraction of it former power consumption necessary. It is no longer necessary to manage the station's solar panels to provide the station's meager power needs (Reuters).

PROTON / YAMAL 101/102

A Russian Proton rocket was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on September 6 at 12:36 pm EDT. The Energia DM-2M upper stage placed the satellites in a 197 x 36,311 km x 49.3 degree GTO orbit (Energia reported two burns which would have placed the satellites in 36,000 km orbits). The rocket carried two communications satellites, Yamal 101 and Yamal 102 which will be maneuvered into geostationary orbit. Following successful deployment, Russian mission control "encountered problems" with the RKK Energia built Yamal 101 communications satellite. The satellites were built and deployed for AO Gazcom of Moscow in a joint venture with RKK Energia and RAO Gazprom. Each of the 1360 kg satellites carry 12 C-band transponders built by Space Systems/Loral. The satellites utilize Fakel SPD-70 plasma thrusters. They will be used for internal Gazcom communications (Jonathan's Space Report; Florida Today).

This was the first launch of a Proton rocket since a weld failed in the second stage of a July 5 Proton launch which resulted in the destruction of the rocket and created an international incident that grounded the Proton system. This successful launch clears the way for the November 12 launch of the International Space Station Service Module on a Proton rocket (Florida Today; Reuters citing Interfax News;


A Soyuz U rocket launched the Foton- 12 satellite from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on September 9 at 2 pm EDT. The Foton-12 satellite carries experiments from Germany, France, Sweden and other countries. The satellite was designed to return materials from space (Florida Today).


After a one day delay caused by a problem detected on Koreasat-3 during the count-down, an Ariane 4 rocket was successfully launched from Kourou, French Guiana on September 4 at 6:34 pm EDT. The lift-off of Flight 120 was assisted for 1 minute and 45 seconds by two strap-on solid rocket boosters. At 3 minutes and 45 seconds of flight, the four Viking 5 rockets shut down and the first stage was jettisoned. At 4 minutes and 40 seconds the payload fairing was jettisoned. At T + 6 minutes the second stage completed its burn and was separated from the third stage. The third stage HM 7B engine burned for 13 minutes. Two minutes after third stage burn-out, Koreasat-3 separated into a geostationary transfer orbit (199 x 35,950 km x 6.996 degree inclination). Three burns of the satellite's liquid apogee motor will raise the communications satellite into geostationary orbit at 116 degrees East longitude. The satellite is owned by Korea Telecom who expects to place the satellite in service transmitting television and telephone signals in October. The satellite was built by Lockheed Martin and features 30 Ku-band and 3 Ka-band transponders. The 2,800 kg (6,173 pound) satellite is three axis stabilized and is expected to have a service life of 15 years (Justin Ray, Florida Today; PRNewswire; Jonathan's Space Report).


The September 10 launch of the EchoStar satellite on an Atlas 2AS rocket was delayed due to adverse weather. A lightning strike hit Complex 35 during a September 5 evening storm. The launch has been rescheduled for September 13. The launch will be the first Atlas rocket launch since the system was grounded by the Delta 3 failure which involved an upper stage similar to that used in the Atlas. The Atlas variant used for the launch will have four strap-on solid boosters with a Centaur upper stage. The rocket will place the spacecraft into a 23,399 nautical mile apogee GTO orbit. The spacecraft will use its own onboard system to achieve its orbital slot at 110 degrees West longitude. The EchoStar 5 satellite is a Space Systems/ Loral built communications satellite. Based on the FS-1300, the satellite has 32 110 watt Ku-band transponders (Business Wire; MediaNews posting).


Sea Launch has set September 28 as the target date for its first commercial launch. The ocean-based Zenit 3SL launch platform will be positioned on the equator to launch the DirecTV 1-R satellite. The satellite is an HS 601 HP model with 30 percent more capacity than its predecessor. It will be placed in the 101 degrees West Longitude orbital slot where it will join DBS-2 and DBS-3 satellites (SpaceDaily).


One of two identical hydrogen tanks produced for the X-33 program will undergo a series of stress and pressure tests this coming week. The testing will occur at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The tank, which weighs only 4,600 pounds, is an integral part of the airframe of the X-33 demonstrator and is designed to hold 29,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen at -423 degrees Fahrenheit. The 29 foot high tank will be chilled with cryogenic propellant and structural loads and tested with pressure cycles over the four to six week test period. Test loads will be applied to simulate those encountered during fueling, launch, flight and landing. The tank will be tested with partial and full loads of liquid nitrogen prior to testing with liquid hydrogen. Following the successful completion of tests the tank will be shipped to the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks for integration into the X-33. Assembly of the second tank has been completed and is expected to be shipped to Marshall later this year (SpaceDaily).



On September 10, the National Space Development Agency of Japan postponed the launch of the multifunctional transport satellites (MTSAT),a weather and aircraft monitoring satellite, from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The delay was caused when workers preparing the H-2 rocket for launch discovered a cable had fallen out of place. The cable is the umbilical that links the rocket to the fairing that provides pre-launch power, fuel and other materials to the rocket before launch. The rocket was previously scheduled for launch on September 5, but a defective part pushed the launch back five days (NASDA PR).


The National Space Development Agency of Japan completed the fourth in a series of test firings of the LE-7A rocket engine. The test, on September 4, was conducted with the lower nozzle skirt fitted and lasted for 344.2 seconds. The next test firing will occur after the upcoming launch of the H-2 (NASDA).


The USAF has announced that the planned launch of an atmospheric interceptor technology (AIT) rocket from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska will be postponed from September 11 to September 14. The delay was due to unfavorable long-range weather forecasts. The last AIT launch from Kodiak was on November 5, 1998. The rocket launch will be used to evaluate radar performance and utility on the US west coast and to provide an experiment platform for future technology (Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center News Release).


US House of Representatives

On September 9, the US House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 2684 which is an appropriations bill that contains a budget that strips NASA of $1 billion in funding. The massive cut was made to help Congress with strict limitations in the spending bill for Veteran Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and independent agencies such as NASA. If the cut remains after the Senate considers the spending package, then NASA will be forced to cancel a number of exploration, aviation and science programs while scaling down on others. The ISS program, however, would remain untouched. The bill was passed despite public outcry against the budget and intense lobbying efforts by space activist groups such as ProSpace. To date only $400 million of the $1.4 billion cut has been restored. Space advocates hope the money will be injected into NASA's budget in an "11th hour" spending deal between Congress and the White House. The White House recommended a budget cut for NASA in excess of $900,000. (Florida Today; ProSpace PR; SpaceViews).

In a separate, but related vote, Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind. introduced legislation to eliminate funding for the International Space Station. The annual attempt to kill the station was defeated 298 to 121 (Florida Today).

White House

In what could be a major change in US policy, the White House has suggested moving control of the US launch facilities from the military. The change is hoped to move the operation of the facilities closer to that of commercial airports. The change is thought to be inevitable in the face of rising international competition, aging launch range infrastructure and the now dominant commercial use of both Florida and California launch facilities. At the same time, military budgets are no longer capable of absorbing large-scale improvements to the launch ranges. Commercial enterprises will for the first time contribute to operation, maintenance and modernization of the launch ranges (Florida Today; SpaceViews).


XM Satellite

XM Satellite, which is developing a satellite- based radio system, has set an estimated price for its pending initial public stock offering between $14 to $15 per share. The company expects net proceeds to reach $138.7 million or $159.9 million if an over allotment of 1.5 million shares is exercised. The money will be used to pay for current satellite contracts, terrestrial reporter contracts and for working capital. The company also has a $50 million contact with General Motors to outfit new cars with the new technology. The stock issue represents about 40 percent ownership of the company (Dow Jones Newswire).


GPS Augmentation

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved two space and ground based augmentation systems for the Global Positioning System (GPS). The systems will improve the safety of aircraft navigation and precision landing. The creation of the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and Local Area Augmentation System will lead to the decommissioning of current ground-based augmentation systems (Space News).

Orbital Sciences / Hertz

Under an agreement inked earlier this year, Orbital Sciences is now delivering and installing 50,000 car navigation units for the Hertz NeverLost rental car service. Deployment of the satellite-based service will be completed by year's end in the US and Canada with installation in Europe in 2000. Cars with the NeverLost system will feature Orbital's 750 NAV system that charts routes by destination name or address -- giving turn-by-turn directions and voice prompts in a choice of seven languages. The system also features an "Instant Locate Button" that displays the vehicle's location if roadside assistance is needed. This is reported to be the largest deployment of vehicle-based GPS technology in history (Space Daily).

Orbcomm / Harris Railway Electronics

An agreement between Orbcomm Global and Harris Railway Electronics (GE Harris) was recently announced. Under the agreement, GE Harris would use the Orbcomm satellite communication system as part of its Pinpoint Locomotive Tracking System. The system is capable of determining the position of locomotives to within 100 meters, fuel status and several other important readings. The system allows for better overall efficiency of the railroad fleet and refueling operations. A pilot program resulted in a six percent increase in locomotive utilization and a 10 percent increase in the miles traveled over the road. GE Harris is a joint venture between General Electric and Harris Corporation (Orbcomm PR).


Athena / Ikonos

The Ikonos remote sensing satellite built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems for Space Imaging has been delivered to Vandenberg AFB in preparation for its September 24 launch. The satellite is based on the LM900 bus using advanced processing technology to produce images of the Earth's surface -- both panchromatic (1 meter resolution) and multispectral (4 meter resolution). The satellite will be launched on a Lockheed Martin Athena II rocket. Satellite imagery will be available 60 - 90 days after launch (SpaceDaily).

Landsat 7

The Landsat 7 satellite launched April 15 from Vandenberg AFB has completed its checkout and is now open for business. The remote sensing spacecraft is orbiting the Earth at 438 miles and images the entire globe every 16 days. The spacecraft has the capability to collect 450 scenes per day. Images are archived at the EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and are available on-line 24 hours after collection. Images are available for viewing or purchase at (NASA).


Boeing has won a multi-billion dollar contract by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to build the next generation of imaging spacecraft. The Future Imagery Architecture is expected to meet the needs of the US Military and intelligence community into the next century. The award, announced September 3, runs to 2010 and ends the long-time dominance of Lockheed Martin over the NRO contract (SpaceNews).



Celestis, the space-burial service company based in the United States, is in negotiation with the Po Fook Hill funeral services firm of Hong Kong. Po Fook provides hotel-like accommodations for ashes of the departed and has indicated that some of their 25,000 customers could be potential customers of the Celestis service. Celestis has placed funeral ashes into orbit as secondary payload on rockets. The orbital service will be offered first in Hong Kong and then on mainland China (SpaceNews).


Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews

  • September 10 - Japanese H-2, Multi-functional Transport Satellite, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.
  • September 13 - Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS (AC-155), EchoStar V, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • 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 - Ariane 44LP, Telstar 7, Kourou, French Guiana (previously slated to fly on Atlas 3).
  • September 24 - Athena 2, Ikonos (previously Ikonos-2), SLC-6, Vandenberg AFB.
  • September (late) - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 satellites), Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
  • September 26 - ILS Proton (Blok DM), LMI-1, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
  • September 28 - Sea Launch Zenit 3SL, DirecTV 1-R, equatorial Pacific Ocean.
  • Delayed - September 30 - Atlas 2A (AC-136), Navy UHF- 10, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • October 3 - Titan 2 (G-8), Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather satellite, SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB.
  • October 13 - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM (8 satellites), Kwajalein Missile Range.
  • October 15 - Orbital Sciences Minotaur, JAWSAT, FalsonSat, ASU Sat 1, Vandenberg AFB.
  • October 28 - Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-103, Hubble Servicing Mission, pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.
  • November 12 - Proton, ISS flight 1R, Zvezda Service Module, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • November 13 - Space Enterprise Symposium, Seattle.


There are currently no humans in orbital space. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 295 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

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