Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #172

Frontier Status Report #172

October 15, 1999

Dale M. Gray

Once again politics dominates the space frontier with final passage of the NASA budget and funding of the Brazilian contribution to the Space Station. But not all news was good, the civilian GPS program failed to gain funding in FY 2000 and the launch of two Iridium on the new Rockot system has been delayed indefinitely pending approval by the State Department. Commercial interests have moved forward with the first launch of the Sea Launch system, the Roton ATV flies again and two of Europe's largest aerospace companies merge. The Galileo spacecraft manages to produce good science during its Io encounter despite a radiation-induced memory problem.

Highlights of the week of October 15 include:

  • Sea Launch's first commercial launch is a success
  • China launches Brazilian satellites
  • Galileo swings past Jovian moon Io
  • Launch Complex 41 demolished
  • NASA budget sent to President for signature
  • Roton ATV flies nearly a mile


Only 10 electrical panels remain to be inspected to complete the wiring inspection of the Shuttle Discovery. Replacement of two leaking isolation valves on the right- hand orbital maneuvering system has been completed. Loading of manifold #5 will occur this weekend with leak testing to follow. After test of Discovery's repaired wiring, the Orbiter will be transferred to the Vehicle Assembly Building on October 28. Discovery is slated for launch on the Hubble Servicing Mission 3A on December 2 and landing on December 12 (NASA).

Wiring inspections and repairs are 90 percent complete on the Shuttle Endeavor. The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission payload is expected to be reinstalled in the payload bay on October 22.

nspections of wiring on Atlantis are in the works. The right-hand orbital maneuvering system will be installed on Saturday following the repair an attachment point. Atlantis is scheduled for a January flight to the International Space Station following the launch of the Service Module (NASA).


Little news was generated by the International Space Station. Controllers continued to cycle the station's batteries with the exception of the faulty Number 1 battery which has been taken off-line. The station is in a 248 x 230 nautical mile 92 minute orbit. The Zarya module has completed more than 5,000 orbits (NASA).


Brazil's executive branch has asked the country's legislature to restore $23 million to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) so that the agency can fulfill its obligations to the International Space Station. The agency needs an annual budget of $23 million each year from 2000 to 2003. The country recently released $20 million previously allocated for the space station, but was frozen during the country's recent financial crisis (SpaceNews).


The abandoned Mir space station appears to be losing both air and altitude. The air leak is said to be minor and that the station will be capable of sustaining life until as late as March or April of 2000. Russia is expected to send an expedition in the spring of 2000 to prepare the station for a fiery reentry. While the air pressure cannot be adjusted remotely, the scuttling crew will be able to correct it by patching the breach or adding oxygen during their month- long stay. The station is also losing about 200 meters of altitude per day. If this becomes problematic, controllers have the option of reboosting the station using the engines of the attached Progress supply ship (AP;


A three-stage Zenit 3SL rocket was successfully launched from the Sea Launch Odyssey floating platform in the eastern Pacific Ocean at 11:28 p.m. EDT on October 9. The launch occurred one day earlier than previously announced when the Sea Launch vessels arrived at the launch site on the equator at 154 degrees West Longitude earlier than anticipated. The Ukrainian rocket carried a 7,600 pound Hughes-built satellite designated DirecTV 1-R as payload. The launch proceeded smoothly with only an oxygen alarm sensor problem to be worked through in the final hour. The rocket was launched in a calm sea with 2 meter waves and winds of 5 to 7 meters per second. The temperature was a balmy 78 degrees (Florida Today).

The first two Zenit stages, built by KB Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash of Ukraine, performed nominally. The first stage burned-out and separated at L+2:50 minutes. The payload fairing separated as planned at L+3:30. At L+4:30 the rocket was acquired by NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. At L+8 minutes the second stage shut down. A minute later the stage separated and the RSC Energia-built Blok-DM-SL ignited (not immediately confirmed by telemetry). The first burn of the upper stage continued until L+17 minutes after which the stage and satellite coasted until L+ 50 minutes. A second Blok-DM burn of four minutes was completed at L+54 minutes. The satellite was released from the Blok-DM upper stage into geostationary transfer orbit about 62 minutes after launch. The Blok-DM then vented its remaining fuel and was positioned for reentry into the atmosphere (Florida Today).

The next slated Sea Launch mission is in the first quarter of 2000. The Sea Launch Odyssey and Commander ships are now returning to their home port of Long Beach California where they will prepare for their next launch early next year. Sea Launch has 18 confirmed payloads on its future launch manifest. Over the next 30 days, spacecraft controllers will move the satellite into its orbital slot, deploy solar panels, radiators and antennas. The DirecTV R-1 will enter service by December of this year (SpaceViews; Sea Launch PR; Reuters;

DirecTV 1-R is an HS 601HP with 7.5 kilowatts of power and 16 high power Ku-band transponders. The body- stabilized telecommunications satellite is the 50th HS 601 built by Hughes Space and Communications (HSC) to be launched. It will have the capacity to provide direct-to-home television programming to 50 million homes in the United States from the 101 degrees West Longitude orbital slot. The satellite will enable DirecTV to add about 80 local content TV channels to its line-up (subject to pending legislative approval). Both HSC and DirecTV are subsidiaries of Hughes Electronics Corporation (Sea Launch PR; Florida Today; DirecTV PR)


At 0326 UT on October 14 (11:25 p.m. EDT, October 13), a Long March 4B rocket was launched from Taiyuan Launching Center in central China. The rocket carried as payload the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite 1 (CBERS-1), which is also known as Ziyuan-1. The $300 million satellite carries three high- resolution cameras and was developed as a joint Brazil / China project. The rocket also carried the Brazilian SACI-1 satellite as a secondary payload. The satellites were placed into sun-synchronous orbits. This is only the second launch of the Long March 4B that started service in May of this year (AP; SpaceViews).

PROTON / ACeS/Garuda

An improperly seated valve on the Blok DM upper stage fueling system has delayed the Baikonur launch of the International Launch Services Proton from October 21 to October 31. The Lockheed Martin-built satellite payload, ACeS Garuda-1, is owned by Asia Cellular Satellite (ILS PR).


The Roton ATV has completed a third flight test at the Rotary Rocket test facility in Mojave, California. The Atmospheric Test Vehicle used its unique tip-powered helicopter rotors to conduct a low-level horizontal flight along runway 30-12 at the Mojave airport at 7:23 a.m. PDT on October 12. The demonstrator flew about 4,300 feet with several rapid turns that produced observable pitch and yaw shifting. The vehicle, following a predetermined flight plan, reached speeds up to 53 miles per hour and a maximum altitude of 75 feet. Time from rotor start to rotor stop was 9 minutes and 45 seconds with total flight time of 3 minutes and 47 seconds. Rotary rocket hopes to use a Fastrac engine in a launch vehicle equipped with a tip thruster powered rotor-blade landing system -- beginning commercial service in 2001 (Doug Jones; SpaceDaily).


Communist North Korea has begun using a Thai satellite to produce its first satellite television broadcasts. The broadcast coincides with the 54th anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea. Satellite broadcasts run from 4:30 to 11:30 p.m. each day and are available throughout Asia as well as most of Europe and Africa (AP).


The launch complex once used to assemble and launch 17 Titan rockets was reduced to rubble by a precise demolition explosion on 10:00 a.m. October 14. LC 41 will be remembered as the launch site for Viking and Voyager probes. Only 200 pounds of explosives were used to bring down the 30 story gantry and 20 story umbilical tower. The protective lightning masts remained untouched. When the seven million pounds of debris is cleared away, construction will begin on a new launch complex for the Atlas 5 family of rockets. The new rocket will require only three weeks to be prepared for launch as opposed to the Titan 4 which requires about six months preflight work. The new rockets will not use extensive launch structures at the launch pad, but will be assembled away from the pad and transported to pad for launch. The system is similar to the one used by the Soviet Union for decades and has the advantage of keeping the launch pad available for alternative launches in case of late process launch delays. The Atlas 5 will be assembled on a mobile launch platform inside the 290 foot high Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) now under construction at LC 41. The payload will be assembled at a separate facility and transported to the VIF and attached to the Atlas 5 five to seven days before launch. Following tests, the rocket will be rolled to the pad that consists of only a big launch duct, some equipment buildings and fuel tanks. Lockheed Martin has already sold nine Atlas 5 rockets to the USAF (Florida Today; Reuters;


NASA Budget

The House/Senate conference on the VA/HUD/Independent Agency budget bill and passed it on to the House and Senate for passage. The final NASA budget was $100 million over the amount requested for FY 2000. The U.S. House voted 406-18 in favor of the budget bill on Thursday, October 14. One of the 18 dissenting votes was House Science Committee Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) whose vote protested a rider added in the conference committee. The rider allows NASA to add the Space Station Commercial Development Demonstration Program. The program that expires in 2004, will allow NASA to keep profits from commercial deals involving the International Space Station. Sensenbrenner's protest vote was based on the lack of debate on the rider by the House and the Senate. On Friday, October 15, the U.S. Senate approved the spending bill that included NASA's budget. The 95 to 3 vote is the last legislative step for the spending bill. The bill will now be sent to the White House for the President to sign into law (Tim Kyger; SpaceViews; SpaceNews;


US technology transfer concerns appear to have been the cause of an indefinite postponement of a launch of a Russian Rockot carrying two Iridium satellites. Eurockot Launch Services GmbH of Bremen, Germany had contracted to launch the two U.S.-built communications satellites. The launch will be delayed until the US reaches and agreement with Russia concerning the Plesetsk launch site. Eurockot is an Euro-Russian joint venture with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace as the major partner (SpaceNews).


The U. S. Congress has eliminated funding for the modernization of the U.S. Global Positioning System. A relatively modest $17 million was eliminated which represented the first installment on the Federal Aviation Administration's planned $130 million contribution to the development of a new civilian signal. The funding was taken from the FY2000 budget of the FAA which was approved October 1 by the U.S. House and October 4 by the Senate (SpaceNews).



NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has developed a new system that can semi-autonomously operate spacecraft. The Reduced Operations by Optimizing Tasks and Technology (ROBOTT) system was developed for the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO). The use of the system has allowed flight operations teams on the Compton to be reduced from three shifts totaling 22 people to seven people working eight hour shifts. For the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer the Automated Mission Operations system (AMOS) has reduced the workforce from 16 to 6-7 people. The RXTE is one of the most active satellites in orbit with 10-20 maneuvers per day. The ROBOTT and AMOS systems use a series of rules to make decisions and perform actions. The systems, begun in 1995 and 1996 respectively, are to be completed by January, 2000. Once operational, the programs will also be applied to the operations of the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) and the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM). The project was funded by a Space Operations Directive Agreement with both projects funded for $650,000 (Goddard NASA PR).



On October 11, Globalstar announced the official introduction of its world-wide satellite telephone service. The service will be available initially through user trials in select countries -- allowing adjustment and refinement of the system. The full-service will be launched in the next few months. Over a million calls were placed on the system during the testing phase. The system currently offers services provided by traditional cellular services with fax and data capabilities added in 2000. The new system was show-cased during the recent Geneva Telecom 99. The show allowed attendees to evaluate a variety of Globalstar phones including Qualcomm's tri-mode phone, Ericsson's super-light R290 dual-mode phone, Telital's dual-mode handset and Schlumberger designed pay phone. Globalstar currently has 36 of its planned 48 satellites in orbit with four in-orbit spares. The system has a designed capacity of 7.5 million users. The company is expecting to show its first quarter of profit in early 2001 when it hopes to have 1 million users (Globalstar PR; Space Daily;

DASA AG / Aerospatiale Matra

Two European companies are set to merge to form the world's third largest aerospace company. DASA AG, the German aerospace unit of DaimlerChrysler AG is planning on merging with Aerospatiale Matra S. A of France in a deal announced on October 14. While the companies already have teamed on commercial and military airplane projects, the companies fear that as individual players, they are ripe for acquisition by American companies interested in expanding into the European market (AP;



On October 12, Space Imaging released the first one-meter resolution image from a commercial satellite. The Ikonos satellite took the black and white image of the Washington D. C. mall area on September 30. The satellite also has 4-meter color capability. After final calibration, Ikonos images will be marketed under Space Imaging's CARTERRA (tm) brand name. The Ikonos satellite orbits the globe 14 times a day and utilizes an Eastman Kodak-built camera for optical imaging. Images will be available commercially by the end of the year. Initially orders can be made through Space Imaging's Customer Service Center at 301-552-0537 or 800-232-9037. Ikonos was launched on an Athena II rocket on September 24, 1999 (Space Imaging PR; SpaceViews; Eastman Kodak PR).


Iraq appears to have signed an agreement with Russian firms to buy satellite intelligence photographs. The agreement, reported in a British newspaper, will allow Iraq to target neighboring Arab Gulf states with its missiles (


The U.S. and Canada have reached a tentative accord on the operation of Radarsat 2 imaging satellite. The accord, reached during a recent trip to Canada by President Bill Clinton, will help clear the way for future U.S. industrial participation in the program. The agreement balances national security needs with the benefits of commercial remote sensing (SpaceNews).



In the hours immediately before the October 10/11 Galileo encounter with the Jovian moon Io, the intense radiation cause an error in the spacecraft's computer memory. As a result, the spacecraft entered safe mode as it approached the volcanically active moon. Engineers were able to get the spacecraft on-line in time for the fly-by. At 9:33 p.m. PDT the spacecraft passed within 612 km (380 miles) of the moon. The stage was set for the encounter earlier in the day (October 10) by passing by Callisto at a distance of 1.2 million kilometers at 1:10 a.m. PDT. Around 5:00 a.m. PDT the spacecraft passed by Ganymede at 923,000 km. At 1:30 p.m. PDT, Galileo swung past Europa at a distance of 221,000 km. The final encounter was a passage around Jupiter at 5.5 Jupiter Radii (393,00km). Because of the 33 minute delay in the transmission of radio signals from Jupiter to Earth, scientists did not learn of the successful transit until 10:06 p.m. PDT (NASA/JPL;

The first set of data to be returned to Earth was from the Fields and Particles instruments. This will be followed by the Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (100+ meter resolution). The first three observations to be captured include the Loci, Pele and Pillan volcanic regions on Io's night side. Seven additional regions were captured on the day side. The Prometheus eruption on the day side was first noted twenty years ago by Voyager 1 and continues to be active. Transmission of data from the Solid-State Imaging camera will be delayed since they are in the same portion of memory that caused the pre-encounter anomaly. The SSI camera is expected to provide image resolutions of better than 7 meters per picture element. Stored images will be transmitted once this memory has been examined. The last time Galileo passed close to Io was during the orbital insertion maneuver in December of 1995, but a problem with a tape recorder prevented the collection of data on the moon. The dangerous second encounter was delayed until near the end of the extended mission in case the spacecraft succumbed to the high radiation in the vicinity of Io. Another, closer encounter with Io is slated for late in the evening of November 25 when the spacecraft will pass within 300 km of Io (NASA/JPL; SpaceViews; Galileo Homepage; NASA Headlines;

Mars Polar Lander

A firing of the Mars Polar Lander's thruster has been set for October 20 to fine-tune the spacecraft's path to Mars. Extensive analysis of the spacecraft's software has determined that MPL does not suffer from the same unit conversion problem that doomed the Mars Climate Orbiter. The mission team is now preparing plans for the MPL to transmit data directly to Earth for the first few days of operation when Mars Global Surveyor is not available to act as a communications relay. MPL is 23.6 million km from Mars, approaching at a rate of 4.6 km per second (JPL).

Lunar Prospector

At an October 13 American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Padua, Italy, David Goldstein, a University of Texas at Austin researcher, stated that no water was detected from the July 31 designed crash of Lunar Prospector near the Moon's south pole. While instruments on the craft detected the presence of hydrogen, more than a dozen Earth-based telescopes failed to detect water inowever, scientists cautioned that the lack of any shorelines\par visible in the images does not mean such an ocean did not exist at\par all. "While the suggestion that Mars at one time had oceans cannot be\par ruled out, the foundation for the 'ocean hypothesis' developed in the\par 1980s on the basis of suspected shorelines appears now to have been\par incorrect," said Malin. "However, it should be understood that there\par is significant other evidence of water on Mars in the past, both from\par M from Cape Canaveral Air Station on January 6, 1998. In March 1998, mission scientists announced the presence of water ice in shadowed polar craters (AP NASA Headlines).


Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews

  • October 18 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 satellites), Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • October 15-17 - Artemis Project Conference, Hampton Inn, Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • October 19 - Ariane 4, Orion-2, ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • Late October - Eurorocket, experimental flight, Plesetsk, Russia.
  • October 31 - ILS Proton (Blok DM), Garuda-1, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • November 2-4 - International Space Business Assembly, Washington, D.C.
  • November 4 - 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.
  • November 13 - Ariane 4, GE-4, ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • November 14 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 satellites), Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • 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.


There are currently no humans in orbital space. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 330 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

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