Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #171

Frontier Status Report #171

October 8, 1999

Dale M. Gray

Only one satellite launched this week on a Delta 2 rocket. However, the USAF launched a Minuteman missile from Vandenberg, which was destroyed in space at an altitude of 140 nautical miles by a Star Wars interceptor system. Most of the action for the week occurred within governmental circles: NASA gained full funding; American satellite receiver sales were outlawed in Canada; Beal Aerospace gains a rocket assembly plant site in St. Croix, but injunction prohibits final signature on deal; US launch indemnification system extension bill passes in the House. Russia announces full launch schedule, while NASA sets dates for the next three missions.

Highlights of the week of October 8 include:

  • Delta rocket launches NAVSTAR
  • Star Wars interceptor destroys Minuteman target
  • X-34 completes first round of captive carry tests
  • NASA budget clears conference committee
  • China plans new launch complex

SHUTTLE - With wiring inspections nearing completion, NASA managers have set tentative launch dates to return the fleet to service. Discovery's Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission (3A) is targeted for December 2. Endeavor's Radar Topography Mission is targeted for January 13. Atlantis' ISS Logistics/Assembly Flight 2A.2 is targeted. Discovery's right hand orbital maneuvering system manifold #5 oxidizer isolation valve was replaced and has been retested. Rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building is expected in late October (NASA).

ISS - Zvezda: The Zvezda Service Module, likely to be launched in late December, completed a critical leak test this past week. The test was conducted in a vacuum chamber at Baikonur Cosmodrome. The module will now undergo 30 days of final electrical testing. In addition to scheduling problems with the US Shuttle fleet, there are unofficial reports of issues with American software to be used in the module. An agreement was made last week to move the launch of the module from November 12 to the period between December 26 and January 16. The change in launch dates will also allow time to complete testing on the module. The final decision on a launch date for Zvezda will be made during a chief designer review meeting in late October (; SpaceViews). Article

Truss: After a one-day delay to let severe weather leave the Cape Kennedy area, a NASA super-guppy delivered the S1 truss segment of the International Space Station. The aircraft left Redstone Army Airfield early Tuesday with a four-hour weather hold at nearby Huntsville International Airport where it was able to top off its fuel tanks. The Truss arrived at Kennedy Space Center late in the afternoon. S-1 is the starboard side truss for ISS. It is scheduled for launch in October of 2000 (NASA Marshall SFS; Article

DELTA / NAVSTAR - Dodging stormy weather at the Cape, a Delta 2 rocket carrying the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System 2R-3 satellite was launched from Pad 17A October 7 at 8:51a.m. at the opening of a 15 minute launch window. The six ground-ignited solid rocket boosters (SRBs) completed their burn -- followed immediately by the ignition of three air-lit SRBs. After ignition, the depleted SRBs were jettisoned in sets of three. At 2:15 minutes into the flight the air-lit SRBs completed their burn and were jettisoned. At T+4:30 the first stage completed its burn, first stage separated, second stage ignited and the payload fairing was jettisoned. At T+11:30 minutes the Aerojet AJ10-118K engine of the second stage completed its first burn, the engine was reignited T+ 62:34 minutes into the flight for 41 seconds and then separated from the third stage. The Thiokol Star 48B solid-fuel third stage ignited at T+64:444 and fired for 85 seconds. NAVSTAR separated from the third stage at T+68:05 minutes. The satellite was later acquired by Air Force satellite controllers who reported that the spacecraft was healthy (Florida Today; Boeing PR; Article

The rocket was originally scheduled for launch this spring, but a leaky cover in a rainstorm sent its satellite payload back to the factory to be inspected and repaired. Bad weather again delayed the launch in September (Hurricane Floyd) and early October (Florida Today).

The $42 million NAVSTAR satellite is third of the Block 2R constellation, but only the second to reach orbit. The first was destroyed in the January 1997 Delta launch failure. Lockheed has a contract for 21 of the Block 2R satellites. A constellation of 24 NAVSTAR GPS satellites circles the Earth every 12 hours in 6 circular orbits at an altitude of 11,000 nautical miles. Together they provide location, elevation, velocity, and chronological information on two different L-band frequencies. Location is accurate to 16 meters (military), velocity to a fraction of a mile per hour and time to within a millionth of a second. Four generations of satellites have been deployed or are in the process of being deployed. Block II and Block IIA comprise the current constellation. The new Block IIR series can be launched into any orbit and require fewer ground contacts to maintain the constellation. They are replacing the earlier series of satellites as needed through 2003 (USAF PR; Florida Today; Lockheed Martin PR).

TITAN 2 / DMSP: The planned launch of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Block 5D-3-F15 has been delayed until early December so that a suspect computer chip can be replaced in the spacecraft. The decision to delay the flight came after technicians found an electrical problem on an onboard solid state recorder. A subsequent investigation traced the problem to the chip. The satellite will have to be taken off of the Titan 2 stack in order to effect the change. The DMSP satellite will be used as part of a system to predict weather conditions for military operations (Florida Today).

X-34 - The X-34 rocket plane technology demonstrator built by Orbital Sciences has completed its final captive carrier flight for 1999. A modified L-1011 airplane carried aloft test article A-1 on September 15 for an eight-hour flight. The flight collected data on the performance of the L-1011/X-34 configuration and the flight condition used when the X-34 will be released from the L-1011. The captive carrier flights will resume in late January 2000. The A-1 will also be outfitted with avionics and hydraulics; after which it will be redesignated as A-1A. The X-34 will then be the subject of 16 ground tow-tests of up to 80 miles per hour. These will validate landing gear, brakes, hydraulics, navigation, and software programs. Following the next series of captive carrier flights, the A-1A will be used for unpowered drop tests. The A-2 airframe, which will be outfitted with the new Fastrac rocket engine for powered flight, is nearing completion (NASA Dryden; Houston Chronicle). Article

SEA LAUNCH: Final preparations are under way for an October 9-10 launch of the DirecTV 1-R satellite on a Sea Launch Zenit 3 rocket. The launch date was moved up a day because the two launch vessels reached the equatorial Pacific Ocean launch site earlier than expected. The new launch time is October 9 at 11:28 p.m. EDT. By moving up the launch by one day, the October 10 launch window can be held in reserve in case the launch needs to be delayed (Curt Swinehart; Article

RUSSIA - While America is having trouble getting even three Shuttles launched in 1999, Russia has announced an ambitious launch schedule. In addition to the launching of the Zvezda module on a Proton Rocket in late December, the Russian Space and Aviation Agency (RASA) plans on launching commercial missions on Proton rockets on October 21 (Garuda-1) and October 27. A Proton will also launch the Sesat communications satellite on November 21. Soyuz rocket launches of Globalstar satellites will occur on October 18 and November 15. A Progress cargo ship launched on November 25 will deliver fuel to the Mir space station. A Soyuz spacecraft is being prepared for possible use if there is a problem docking the Zvezda module with the orbiting International Space Station. The new Rockot is being prepared for test launch at Plesetsk (

CHINA - China has announced plans to construct a new launch facility at Sanya City on Hainan Island. Hainan Island is off the southern Chinese coast. The launch center, which is expected to also become a tourist center, will cost an estimated $241 million. The low latitude launch site will also allow China to place heavier payloads into orbit. The construction of the new center is expected to be cheaper than upgrading older facilities to handle more advanced rockets. The central government has yet to make a final decision (AP; Space Daily).


NASA Budget: A joint House/Senate/White House conference committee met on October 7 and decided to restore full funding to NASA's year 2000 budget. The final figure for the agency is listed at $13.65 billion, about $100 million higher than requested by the White House. It is also $1 billion higher than the budget passed by the House in July. The committee added $25 million for Shuttle safety upgrades. The controversial Triana mission was also funded, but with the stipulation that it could not be launched before January 2001 so that it could not be an election year issue. While $75 million was added to space science, this was partial mitigation for $125 million that was transferred out of space science to fund future transportation studies. The budget is part of a larger budget that funds Veteran Affairs, HUD, and independent Agencies. The bill also restored funding to Americorps program and the Selective Service. The budget goals were met in part by declaring $2.5 billion in disaster aid as a budget emergency that does not count toward spending limits. The nearly $100 billion combined budget package is expected to be signed into law by Clinton (Space Views; Tim Kyger; AP).

Launch Indemnification Bill: On October 4, the US House passed H.R. 2607 that extends the government indemnification of commercial launches. The indemnification, which would have expired at the end of the year, has now been extended to 2004. Under the current system, commercial launch companies must purchase several hundred million dollars worth of liability insurance to cover possible launch accidents. The US government provides and additional umbrella of up to $1.5 billion in third-party excess liability insurance to cover accidents that may affect people or property not connected with the launch. While the bill funds a study to examine the risk- sharing arrangement, the current system has been in place since 1988. The Senate version of the bill (S. 832) has passed through committee, but has not yet been put before the full Senate (SpaceViews).

Beal Aerospace: The Senate of the U.S. Virgin Islands approved a deal with Texas-based Beal Aerospace Technologies for land on the south coast of St. Croix. The land exchange involves a parcel along the Great Pond Bay. The vote, 10-5, was controversial because the parcel contains pre-Columbian ruins, and 1765 plantation remains. Wetlands and coral in the area could also be damaged by increased ship traffic. However, Governor Charles Turnbull has stated that the project would bring 130 jobs and $50 million investment in St. Croix. While St. Croix has one of the highest employment rates in the Caribbean, at 8.6 percent, it is twice the US national average. On Friday, October 8, Territorial Judge Alphonso Andrews placed a 10-day restraining order on Turnbull prohibiting him from signing the bill. Beal plans on using the site to assemble rockets that would be launched on either Guyana or Sombrero Island in Anguilla (AP; Virgin Islands Daily News).

ExpressVu: Ontario Superior Court ruled on October 5 against Tedmond & Co, a satellite dish retailer. The ruling prevents the company from selling US Satellite receivers from their Tedsat store until a final decision is in place. Since 75 percent of Tedmond business comes from non- Canadian dishes, the company is expected to close its doors. Brian Dinsdale, chair of the national satellite distributor association called the ExpressVu suit "a disgusting use of corporate power designed to crush competition through litigation." Attorney Ian Gavaghan, vice-president of ExpressVu stated that the company was cracking down on "illegal competition" and that "We are trying to bring credibility to the marketplace" The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have reported that up to 30 firms are facing similar charges or equipment seizures (Toronto Star).


Spectrolab: Spectrolab Inc. recently announced the completion of 25,000 triple-junction gallium-arsenide solar cells with an average conversion efficiency of 24.5 percent. Spectrolab provides more than half of the world's spacecraft solar cells. More than 50 kilowatts of Spectrolab dual-junction solar cells are currently in orbit. The cells are designed to retain 86 percent of their original power after 15 years in orbit. The first spacecraft to be launched with the new triple-junction solar cells is slated for launch by the end of the year on the Citizen Explorer 1 spacecraft developed under NASA's Colorado Space Grant Consortium. Spectrolab is developing a new solar cell that is expected to reach an efficiency of 40 percent which will be available around 2002 (Space Daily).


SkyCorp: SkyCorp CEO Dennis Wingo at a recent Space Frontier Foundation Conference in Los Angeles announced plans to radically change the way satellites will be constructed and launched once the International Space Station is functional. His firm has plans to ship satellite components to the International Space Station where astronauts would engage in final assembly, test the satellites and then release them directly into orbit out the station's airlock. Wingo, stated that the new procedure would reduce by 80 percent the current cost of producing satellites. He plans on an initial run of six satellites for about $9 million. Of these, three would go to NASA as payment for NASA's delivery of components to the station, assembly, and launch (

Apstar: Loral Space & Communications has announced a deal to lease the majority of the transponder capacity of the Apstar IIR satellite from APT Satellite Holdings. When the deal was first announced in September, the deal was reported at $304 million, but reduction in capacity on the satellite has lowered the value slightly to $298 million. The satellite, which was launched in 1997, has a footprint of more than 100 countries representing 75 percent of the world's population. Loral will have full use of 27 C-band and 16 Ku-band transponders for the remainder of the satellite's expected 15-year design life. APT will retain title of the spacecraft and control it from its control center in Hong Kong (Loral PR; Reuters).


OrbImage: Orbital Imaging Corp has announced plans to distribute its OrbView Cities imagery through ArcData Online data store. The high-resolution imagery currently includes one-meter resolution black and white aerial imagery of 15 North American cities. These include: Las Vegas, New York City, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, San Diego, Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta, Vancouver, Toronto, Phoenix, Newark and the Long Island, New York area. As the OrbView-3 and OrbView-4 imaging satellites come on-line in 2000, hundreds of additional areas will be added. Orbital Imaging is a subsidiary of Orbital Sciences Corp. (Orbital Sciences PR).


EchoStar 5: The EchoStar 5 satellite launched on September 23 on an Atlas 2 rocket has reached its final orbital location at the 110-deg West longitude orbital slot. The DBS satellite successfully deployed its main antenna on October 4. The spacecraft is undergoing testing, but is expected to enter service in November (SkyReport; Frontier Status).


Galileo: Galileo is on course and on target for an October 10 encounter with the Jovian moon Io. The spaceship is expected to pass within 612 km of the surface at 10:06 p.m. PDT. Scientists are hoping that the spacecraft will return data that will help understand how and when volcanoes erupt on the solar system's most volcanically active body. The high-radiation environment near Jupiter challenges the mission's science. In preparation for the encounter the spacecraft completed downloading data from its September flyby of Jupiter and Callisto--providing room on the tape recorder for Io data (JPL PR).

JPL PR Article

Mars Polar Lander: Reviews of the Mars Polar Lander software indicate that it is not effected by the mixed measurement systems problem that affected the Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO). However, programmers are scrambling to rewrite code that would have used the MCO as a communications satellite to transfer MPL data to Earth. Instead, the Lander will send its scientific finding to Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), which is currently mapping Mars. While no information will be lost, the data stream will be slower. However, MGS is cannot be configured to relay commands back to the Lander and will not be available as an uplink until several days after the December 3 landing. The Lander is capable of transmitting directly to Earth on its 2-foot antenna dish, but direct transmission takes 15 times more power than transmission to satellites. The Lander will now receive its instructions directly from Earth through this same dish. Without the MCO or MGS transmission links, the Lander science teams will have to scale down experimentation (AP; Article


EKV: An Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) was successfully tested this past week when it hit and destroyed a Minuteman missile with a dummy warhead while in flight. The 55-inch-long, 120-pound EKV, built by Raytheon, hit the missile at a combined speed of 16,000 mph at a point 140 miles above the Pacific. The Minuteman, equipped with a dummy balloon, was launched October 2 from Vandenberg AF. Shortly thereafter a booster rocket carrying the EKV was launched from the Marshall Islands 6,880 km away. The test was the first of three planned tests before a readiness review by the Pentagon next June. The system is not designed as a deterrent for massive nuclear ICBM attacks, rather as a response to rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran, and Syria which are developing long-range missiles that could reach the United States. Touted as the first "Star Wars" launch, the test was denounced by Russia as a violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that forbids the development of systems to destroy long-range strategic weapons. Colonel-General Vladimir Yakovlev, the head of Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, stated that they had "retaliatory cards" up their sleeves (Florida Today; Jake Rees; Article

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

October 9-10 - Sea Launch Zenit 3SL, DirecTV 1-R, equatorial Pacific Ocean.

October 11 - Galileo flyby of Io.

No date set - 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 2-4 - International Space Business Assembly, Washington, D.C.

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.

December 2 - Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-103, Hubble Servicing Mission, pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.

December 8 - Ariane 5, X-ray Multi-Mirror, ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana.

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

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

CENSUS - There are currently no humans in orbital space. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 323 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

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