Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #170

Frontier Status Report #170

October 1, 1999

Dale M. Gray

This week marks the end of an unusual period of five launches in five days (September 22 to 26). It was a busy week for Space Systems/Loral with four of their GlobalStar and two of their FS-1300 satellites placed in orbit. Lots of news concerning the International Space Station (ISS). Yet another delay for the launch of the Service Module, but this one can be blamed on the U.S. Shuttle schedule.

Highlights of the week of October 1 include:

  • Mars Climate Observer lost from software error
  • Proton launches LMI-1
  • Ariane 4 launched Telstar 7
  • Testing of X-33 components under way
  • ISS Truss S-1 shipped

SHUTTLE - Inspection of the U.S. Orbiters continue. The Shuttle Discovery's wiring inspection is about 95% complete. During retests of the recently replaced Orbiter maneuvering system (OMS), the No. 5 oxidizer isolation valve did not cycle correctly due to minor corrosion and managers decided to replace the valve and inspect the other valves. Discovery and the Hubble Space Telescope mission will not launch before November 19 (NASA).

Inspections of the Shuttle Endeavor are 81% complete with retesting of the replaced oxygen/nitrogen panel continuing. Managers are assessing options of launching Endeavor on the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission as early as December (NASA).

Atlantis has been moved to Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3. Payload bay door function tests have been completed and workers are preparing to install the OMS on the right side. Wiring inspections of the Orbiter's mid-body are expected to begin October 1 (NASA).

ISS - Because of delays in the Shuttle launch schedule, the Americans had the less-than-pleasant task of asking if the Russians could delay the launch of the Service Module. The Service Module was scheduled for a November 12 launch -- over a year behind its original schedule. Russia's delays from lack of funding have been a chronic sorespot in the ISS assembly effort. Now the launch has been delayed again because of problems with the American Shuttle fleet. Because of wiring inspections and weather delays from Hurricane Floyd, the next Shuttle mission to the ISS has been moved from December to January 22, 2000, at the earliest. At a late September Joint Program Review, it was agreed to move the launch of the Service Module to a period between December 26 and January 16. A more specific launch date will be announced after a General Design Review in a few weeks. ISS is currently (October 1) in a 247 x 230 mile orbit and has circled the globe over 4,900 times since it was launched (NASA;

Truss: The first truss segment (S1) for the ISS has completed testing at the Marshall Space Flight Center and is being prepared for shipment to Kennedy Space Center. On October 5, the 45-foot-long, 15- foot-wide and 6-feet-high truss will be placed in a Super Guppy for transfer from Marshall. When fully outfitted, the truss will weigh 31,137 lb. It will be carried to the ISS in October 2000 (Space Daily).

Pizza Hut: In a major milestone for the commercialization of the ISS, Pizza Hut, Inc. has signed an agreement that will allow them to place a 30-foot- high logo on the Proton rocket scheduled to launch the Service Module. The launch of the 200-foot-high rocket is expected to be viewed by 500 million viewers around the globe. Pizza Hut also is planning a pizza party on the ISS when the first crew arrives at the station. The Pizza Hut logo will be placed central to media's cameras. To dovetail with the event, Pizza Hut is developing a space theme to its popular BOOK IT school reading program. The space- related materials will be distributed to more than 800,000 classrooms across the U.S. (Space Daily;

Russia: In an effort to finance their portion of the ISS, the Russian Aviation and Space Agency (RAKA) is considering selling more of its research time on the station. The Russians have previously sold time to NASA for $60 million. The are now negotiating with Japan and the European Space Agency (ESA) to sell more research time. No details on potential deals have been reported (AP; Space News).

Brazil: The loss of funding for the Brazilian space agency (INPE) earlier this year during a financial crisis has threatened its contribution to the ISS. While the agency remains dedicated to its contribution, delays have become inevitable. Luis Gylvan Meira-Filho, the head of the agency, stated that critical components are being produced on schedule, but less critical components are delayed. Boeing recently pulled an ISS consultant out of Brazil because Brazil was behind on payments. The U.S. is reportedly considering taking responsibility for Brazil's $120 contribution to the station to ensure timely delivery of components (

PROTON / LMI - An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket was launched on September 26 at 6:30 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Blok DM upper stage and the Lockheed Martin Intersputnik (LMI) satellite were released into orbit less than 10 minutes after launch. The satellite is bound for the 75 deg East Longitude orbital slot. The Lockheed-built A2100AX series bus supports 44 C and Ku-band transponders and is expected to have a service life of 15 years. It will be located in the 75-deg East longitude orbital slot to provide broadcasting, telecommunications, and other services from Central Europe to Southeast Asia to Africa and the Middle East. LMI is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Intersputnik International Organization. This is the second Proton launch from Baikonur since the lifting of the July 5 ban of Proton rockets following a failure that scattered rocket debris in Kazakstan (ILS PR; Florida Today;

ARIANE 4 / TELSTAR 7 - On Saturday, September 25, at 2:29 a.m. EDT, an Ariane 44 LP rocket launched the Telstar 7 satellite into orbit. At T+1:45 minutes the two solid strap-on boosters were jettisoned from the first stage. At T+2:45 minutes the two liquid strap-on boosters with Viking 5 engines were jettisoned. The first stage continued upward on its own two Viking 5 engines until T+4 minutes (at 94 km) when the first stage was depleted and separated. The Viking 4 engine of the second stage fired for two minutes and separated at T+6 minutes (167 km). During the second stage operation the payload fairing was jettisoned at T+5 minutes. The third stage HM 7B engine fired from T+6 minutes to T+19 minutes reaching an altitude of 271 km and a velocity of 9.96 km/second. Payload separation occurred at T+21 minutes. Signal from Telstar 7 was acquired by ground controllers 71 minutes after launch. The satellite was placed in a 129 x 59944 km x 7.0-deg supersynchronous transfer orbit. The spacecraft will be maneuvered to its 128 deg East longitude orbital slot. This was the fifth Ariane launch this year and the 44th successful consecutive Ariane flight (Jonathan's Space Report; Florida Today; Reuters).

The Telstar 7 satellite was built by Space Systems/Loral. It will provide digital television transmissions for cable operators in the Western Hemisphere. The 8,330-lb (3790-kg) FS-1300 satellite has 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders and has a designed life of 15 years. The total cost for the satellite, launch, and insurance is reported at $250 million (Jonathan's Space Report; Reuters).

X-33 - Test firing of the first of four linear aerospike engines produced for the new X-33 program will begin this coming week at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. The firing of less than five seconds is part of a 41 test firing series for the reusable engines. Two of the engines, including the first, will be used as test engines; the other two will be placed in the X-33. The initial series of six tests on Engine No. 1 will be to understand engine ignition and start sequence development. After these short-duration tests are complete, eight additional tests will be conducted lasting as long as 250 seconds. This second series will create data on engine performance at various mixture ratios; power levels and thrust vectoring. Total engine run time for Engine No. 1 is expected to be 1,142 seconds. The two flight engines will then be tested on 11 runs for 1,042 seconds. After successful completion of the tests in late 1999, the engines will be transported to the Skunk Works to be installed in the X-33. In January 2000, the two test engines will be joined together on the test stand in flight configuration and undergo 16 additional tests totaling 2,646 seconds. The engines have been produced by Boeing Rocketdyne (SpaceDaily).

Pressure tests on the X-33 liquid hydrogen tanks are under way at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The tanks passed an initial pressure test with liquid nitrogen and a 5 psi helium pressure test. On September 21, the 29-foot-long, 4,600-lb graphite epoxy tank was filled with 2,900 gallons of liquid hydrogen for the first time. As expected, several minor hydrogen leaks were discovered. Sealant and patchwork are being applied to the affected areas before the next pressure test. To be flight-approved, six pressure and combined structural load tests will occur. Testing is expected to be concluded in the next few weeks, followed by transport to the Skunk Works for installation in the X-33 (Space Daily).

Delivery of five of six segments of flight software has been completed. The undelivered segment, which deals with approach and landing, is undergoing testing and is expected to be completed later this year. The software is being developed by Allied Signal of Teterboro, New Jersey (Space Daily).


CANADA: In a battle of business taken to federal levels, efforts are being made to outlaw all USA-based direct-to- home broadcasting systems used in Canada. Under provisions of the Radio Communications Act, Canadians can only watch Canadian-content television, but cannot watch Canadians performing on U.S. television or U.S. television filmed in Canada. The act was intended to give the infant Canadian DBTV industry a chance to compete against the established U.S. satellite service providers. The Canadian Federal Court of Appeals ruled in 1997 that as a result of the Radio Communications Act only Bell ExpressVu and StarChoice satellite television services based in Canada were legal. However, satellite system sale companies such as Tedsat Satellite in Etobicote have been selling "grey market" US systems. Over 700,000 Canadians have bought and subscribe to U.S. services such as EchoStar and DirecTV through distributors such as Tedsat. These distributors have paid import dues and sales taxes on those systems. To force the issue ExpressVu has sued Tedsat owner Ted Edmonds for $15 million. It has also filed a $15 million suit against "The Spot" which it accuses of selling illegal DBS systems On October 1, ExpressVu lawyers asked an Ontario Superior Court judge to place an injunction on Edmonds. However, the judge reserved judgment on the motion. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have not enforced the 1997 decision, but has recently issued statements to satellite system distributors warning them of fines and potential seizure of equipment. The RCMP could fine owners of U.S.- brand systems $5,000 and the illegal equipment is subject to seizure. Should Tedsat lose the $15 million suit, it would likely be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ironically, ExpressVu uses satellite signal decoding equipment purchased from EchoStar (Toronto Sun; Calgary Sun).

Sea Launch: The upcoming October 10 launch of a Sea Launch Zenit 3 rocket from the equator was delayed by the U.S. State Department. In order to grant an export license for the DirecTV-1-R satellite that will be the payload, the State Department in August asked Sea Launch to provide a list of subcontractors working for Rocket Space Corp, Energia, KB Yuzhnoye, and PO Yuzhmash -- Boeing's Russian and Ukrainian partners in the venture. Sea Launch had not anticipated the request and it took 45 days for the State Department to clear the subcontractors associated with the launch. Approval is still pending on five subcontractors who will do maintenance work after the launch (SpaceNews).


Space Prizes: First came the X-prize for reusable private access to space. Then came the CATS award for lowering the cost to travel to space. Now NASA is mulling introducing its own prize incentive. The $10 to $20 million prize would be promote development of new launchers. The program would not compete with current prize programs, but would seek to compliment them. Because congressional approval is required, the official announcement of the prize is at least a year away (Space News).


Orbcomm: There appears to be a large gap between the amount of Orbcomm satellite message equipment ordered and number of units in operation. As a result, Wall Street appears to be critical of the company's ability to generate a profit. Orbcomm's remote-monitoring and position-location equipment is widely used by the trucking industry (Space News).

Teledesic: On September 27, Teledesic confirmed that it was exploring opportunities to enter the market several years ahead of schedule. In the past, Teledesic has announced plans to launch a $9 billion constellation of hundreds of satellites by 2004 to link computers around the world. One of the new strategies would be to invest heavily in established companies such as Iridium or ICO which have both filed for bankruptcy. The move is seen as a way to compete against rapidly evolving land-based wireless network systems (Reuters; SpaceViews;

GE Americom: GE Americom has announced that it has signed launch agreements with Arianespace to launch GE-4 on an Ariane 44LP by the end of the year and a second satellite on an Ariane 5 rocket sometime after 2001. GE Americom currently has launch agreements in place with Arianespace for GE-7 and GE-8 that will be launched by Ariane 4 or 5 rockets in 2000. Arianespace has previously launched four satellites for GE Americom. The 3,900-kg GE-4 is an A2100 satellite built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems and will be placed in the 101-deg West longitude orbital slot over the Gulf of Mexico (SpaceDaily).

CD Radio: CD Radio has successfully raised $200 million through the sale of 3 million shares of common stock and the issuance of debt convertible into stock. The shares sold at $24.75 per share. To complete the financing for the $1.17 billion system, CD Radio is also negotiating a $225 million bank loan (Space News).


Chandra: Eight of 10 critical detectors in the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) in the Chandra X-Ray Observatory appear to have lost sensitivity. The charge- coupled devices are needed to produce high-resolution images and spectroscopic studies. The ACIS can work on as few as two CCD with virtually no loss of ability (Space News).

SOHO: Having been lost in space and having lost its last gyroscope, ESA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) refuses to quit. The sun-studying spacecraft was lost in June 1998 and froze up without its solar panels powering the craft's heaters. When it was found and control regained, the satellite was carefully thawed out and put back to work. In December of 1998, the craft's last gyroscope failed. Controllers came up with a unique solution using the star tracker that allowed the spacecraft to orient itself. However, the software fix was temporary. Matra Marconi Space has since led a team that has created a permanent software solution. Under the new software, SOHO will remain stable even if the guide star is lost. The new fix utilizes minute changes in the speed of the momentum wheels to determine SOHO's drift. Indeed, the new software uses the momentum wheels as if they were gyroscopes. After a week of testing, scientific observations will resume. SOHO is now expected to continue its work until 2003, but engineers are hoping to extend the craft's life for a full 11-year solar cycle (Space Daily).

INTEGRAL: The ESA recently signed an agreement with the Russian Space Agency for launch services for the International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (Integral). The four-tonne satellite will be launched into an eccentric orbit by a Proton rocket in 2001. The satellite will be used to study Gamma radiation coming from distant objects. In exchange for the free launch services, the ESA will provide Russian scientists with 25% of the scientific results (SpaceDaily; Space News).


Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO): The loss of the MCO on September 23 has been traced to a failure to correctly translate measurements from metric to English units. Different measurement systems were used by the spacecraft team in Colorado and the navigation team at JPL in California, but failed to convert all measurements in the final software used to place the spacecraft in Mars orbit. Specifically, JPL engineers plugged an acceleration reading measured in pound-seconds for a metric measurement of Newton-seconds. As a result, the spacecraft's first swing around Mars was at too low an altitude. MCO entered the atmosphere and was lost. NASA is now investigating the underlying cause of the processes used to develop the software. An internal peer group and a special review board have been formed of JPL and outside experts. An independent NASA failure review board is also being formed. The results of the investigation will be directly applied to the Mars Polar Lander program to maximize its chances of success when it arrives at Mars in December of this year (NASA;; SpaceDaily; LA Times)


Star City: While the avid space tourist cannot quite get off the ground yet, starting in October, he/she will be able to get the training for future spaceflights at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. Beginning in October Zegrahm Space Voyages will bring groups of 10 civilians to the Center for an exclusive training program that features the same facilities used by the cosmonauts and astronauts. Training will include sessions on parabolic flights, in a giant centrifuge, and in a neutral buoyancy tank. Other activities include wearing an ORLAN-M spacesuit and spacecraft flight and docking simulations. The once secret facility has been used by space travelers from 17 countries. Tourists from around the world will pay $14,950 for the seven-day adventure (Space Daily).

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

Florida Today World Wide Launch Schedule
Spaceviews Website

October 5 - Titan 2 (G-8), Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather satellite, SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB.

October 5 - USAF Delta 2, NAVSTAR (GPS 2R-3), pad 17A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

October 10 - Sea Launch Zenit 3SL, DirecTV 1-R, equatorial Pacific Ocean.

October 15 - Orbital Sciences Minotaur, JAWSAT, FalsonSat, ASU Sat 1, Vandenberg AFB. (date uncertain).

October 18 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 satellites), Baikonur, Kazakstan.

October 15-17 - Artemis Project Conference, Hampton Inn, Las Vegas, Nevada.

October 21 - ILS Proton (Blok DM), Garuda-1, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

November 4 - September 30 - Atlas 2A (AC-136), Navy UHF-10, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

November 5 - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM (7 satellites), Wallops Island, VA.

November 13 - Space Enterprise Symposium, Seattle.

Delayed - Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-103, Hubble Servicing Mission, pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.

Delayed to late December - Proton, ISS flight 1R, Zvezda Service Module, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

CENSUS - There are currently no humans in orbital space. The first element of the ISS has been in orbit for 316 days. The occupation of the ISS is expected to begin in March 2000.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1999

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