Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #174

Frontier Status Report #174

October 29, 1999

Dale M. Gray

This week could be a pivotal one for the development of the International Space Station. The Service Module is in the final stages of launch preparation, but it may not have a ride to orbit. For the second time this year, a Proton rocket has crashed in Kazakstan and caused Baikonur to close. Up in orbit, the two ISS modules were commanded to boost orbit in order to miss some space junk. NASA is preparing to let contracts for a Mars fuel machine.

Highlights of the week of October 29 include:

  • Proton rocket destroyed in flight
  • Baikonur closed to rocket launches
  • ISS maneuvered to avoid space junk


A Proton K rocket carrying the Russian Ekspress -A1 communications satellite failed during the second stage burn. This was the same model of Proton rocket, the 8K82K Proton-K, this year. The rocket was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 12:16 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27. The malfunction came during the second stage burn 220 seconds after launch.

Early reports from the Khrunichev Space Center indicated that they lost control of the satellite in an "intermediary orbit". The Interfax news agency later quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as stating the rocket fragments crashed somewhere in the Russian Altai Mountains or in nearby Kazakhstan. As details filtered out of remote Kazakhstan, it was revealed that the rocket crashed 16 miles northeast of the town of Atasu and the event shattered windows over an area of 8-10 kilometers. Atasu is 180 miles south of the regional center of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. A 19-member emergency rescue team quickly mobilized to investigate the crash scene, to determine the extent of contamination from the toxic giptil rocket fuel, and to search for any radiation contamination. A Kazak government commission that will investigate the crash site followed the team. No casualties were reported from the crash (Jonathan's Space Page; Reuters; Florida Today).

The crash is similar to a July Proton failure when a weld seam attaching a turbine cover in place failed -- producing a fire in the turbine. The problem may have been made worse by microparticles that had been introduced during the fueling process (Florida Today).

On Thursday, October 28, Kazakhstan banned all launches from Baikonur pending the results of the crash investigation. Two Proton rocket launches were slated for launch November. The first launch was to be of the Garuda 1 satellite which was originally scheduled for a late October launch, but was moved to November 16 when a fuel leak on the Blok DM upper stage caused the stage to be replaced. The long awaited launch of the Zvezda Service Module is also slated for launch on a Baikonur-launched Proton rocket in late December or early January. International Launch Services has announced that it will conduct no more Proton launches until the Russian investigation is complete. It is not yet known what effect the Baikonur closure will have on the International Space Station flight (Florida Today; Space Daily;


Wiring inspections of the Shuttle Discovery has revealed and repaired 57 exposed conductors. Discovery is currently being prepared for its move to the Vehicle Assembly Building on November 2. The roll-out was delayed one day so that a faulty sensor could be replaced after it is mated with the External Tank and SRBs it will be rolled out to Pad 39B on November 7. Launch for the 3rd Hubble Servicing Mission is scheduled for December 2 (NASA).

Workers accidentally damaged the Shuttle Atlantis last week. During routine tests the elevons were being moved when workers heard a noise and halted the tests. Investigations found the rods (mechanical actuators) that move the flaps had been bent and have to be replaced. The work on the flaps is expected to be completed next week and is not expected to affect the March supply flight to the International Space Station. Wiring inspections of Atlantis, 85 percent complete, have found 34 exposed conductors to date (Florida Today).


The International Space Station was maneuvered in orbit on Tuesday, October 26, to avoid a spent Pegasus rocket body. The maneuver increased the gap between the orbiting objects from one mile to 15 miles. While debris avoidance has been attempted previously, this is the first successful utilization of the system. The maneuver raised the orbit of the station by one-mile (AP).

A major "glitch" in the main computer on the Zvezda module has been found. the problem has been disabling the computer. An Energia representative indicated that it would take some time to implement the corrections. The computer, which was provided by the ESA will be running flight control software being produced by both Russia and the United States. A series of software problems have plagued the software project and have pushed back development of associated systems and training. The official review to set the launch date of the Zvezda Service Module has been moved from late October to mid November (


Lockheed Martin has announced that it is contemplating a follow-on X-33b project. Seen as an interim step between the X-33 technology demonstrator and the VentureStar spacecraft. Under the plan, at the conclusion of the 15 flight X-33 program, the X-33 would be retrofitted with advanced lightweight avionics, internal metallic components would be replaced with lightweight composites, and a more advanced thermal protection system installed. The new avionics alone would save 14 pounds and would require less cooling (


Following France's decision not to participate in the Vega small satellite launcher program, Italy has vowed to develop the Vega on its own. An angry Sergio De Julio, president of the Italian Space Agency also announced that Italy would not participate in any future Ariane 5 rocket upgrades or other ESA launch vehicle development programs. By not participating in ESA launch system development programs, Italy will save 80 million euros that can be used make the Vega operational by 2002. The dispute between France and Italy has already resulted in the postponement of a decision to upgrade launch facilities at French Guiana (SpaceNews).


Satellite Home Viewers Act

The Satellite Home Viewers Act has passed the Senate and is now in conference committee to hammer out the differences between the House and Senate versions. The bill is expected to sanction local-to-local service and will allow those receiving distant network signals (DNS) to keep receiving the signals until the FCC can examine eligibility more closely. Many direct-to-home viewers are slated to lose their network signals on December 31 (MediaNews).



Spectrolab in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have announced record efficiency of 32.3 percent conversion in a solar cell. The efficiency, which is double the power output of most production solar cells, was achieved by using triple-junction gallium-indium-phosphide on gallium arsenide on germanium concentrator solar cells. The industry, which is driven by the improvements in space solar cells, has in the past driven improvements in terrestrial solar cells. However, the rapid growth of terrestrial solar power sales has increasingly moved to drive improvements in the efficiency of solar cells used in space (Hughes Space & Communications PR).

Mars Fuel

NASA's Johnson Space Center will be awarding contracts this fall for design ideas for small machines capable of producing rocket fuel from the Martian atmosphere. The studies will result in the creation of a prototype for testing in a simulated Martian atmosphere (Space News).



The Eurockot Launch Services GmbH has been selected by Leo One Worldwide to launch its constellation of 48 LEO satellites. The Leo One network will provide data communication services including tracking and fleet management, monitoring and remote control, two-way messaging, and emergency services. Eurockot features highly reliable first and second stage boosters based on the SS-19 ICBM which has logged 140 flights. A new Breeze third stage has been added for the commercial deliveries to orbit. The rocket is capable of launching up to 1,850 kg to LEO. The first commercial flight is slated for early 2000 (Eurockot PR).



Scientists think that reflection of the Earth's Van Allen belt may have damaged eight of ten silicon chips in the Advanced Charge-Coupled Device Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS). The one-inch square front-illuminated chips received damage as it passed through the Van Allen Belt, which is about one sixth of its 64 hour elliptical orbit. The damage occurred early in the mission when protons from the Belt reflected off of the telescope mirror better than anticipated. Scientists noticed degradation in the energy resolution of the ACIS. The ACIS reads incoming X-rays and produces electrical signals that can be used to fix the position of X-ray sources and energy levels. Positioning Chandra so that the ACIS is shielded during the passes through the Van Allen Belt has prevented further damage. Scientists think they can repair the damage by cooling the chips. The two undamaged chips, which are back- illuminated, can produce the same results as the front- illuminated chips, but take longer for the same result (


The Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology has released the first images from the CBERS-1 satellite. The image, taken on October 21 is of 300 x 300 km swath of the Amazonas in northwest Brazil. The satellite, a joint Brazilian/Chinese project, will be used to monitor environmental changes. The satellite was launched on a Chinese Long March rocket on October 14 (


The secondary payload on the October 14 Long March launch was the SACI-1. Controllers were unable to establish contact with the spacecraft. After consultation with NASA, determined that the spacecraft is in the proper orbit with its solar panels deployed. However, the solar panels are not facing the sun and the batteries have been drained. It is hoped that after a few months when the angle of the sun changes, the batteries will recharge. Controllers will then try to reboot the spacecraft's computer. It is believed that the interface between the batteries and the computer is faulty (

Orihime / Hikoboshi

The Engineering Test Satellite -VII known as Orihime and Hikoboshi began a series of on-orbit tests beginning on October 27. The test includes remote control of the satellites, collision avoidance flight, R-bar approach flight. The object of the test is to obtain operation data during a propulsion system failure. If the approach is difficult, then an additional Satellite Inspection and Release test will be conducted (NASDA).


The Orion-2 satellite launched October 19, does not appear to have a final home due to a dispute between Loral and Eutelsat. Pending resolution of the dispute, the satellite will be placed in an unassigned orbital slot at 15 degrees west for testing. The satellite will remain in orbit off the coast of Africa for the next two months (Space News).



A small Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM #20) of the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission was conducted on October 20. Analysis of the burn indicates that the burn was under the desired target by 35 to 40 percent. The error was believed to be related to errors in the accelerometer biasing. The spacecraft is 221,358 km from Eros (NEAR PR).

Deep Space 1

The Deep Space 1 technology demonstration mission has celebrated its first anniversary. During the course of the mission, the spacecraft operated its main engine for nearly five months. Using less than 22 kg of xenon propellant, the spacecraft speed has been increased by over 1300 meters per second and has traveled 800 million kilometers. On Wednesday October 20, the ion engine was shut down until December when it will be fired for another three months. During the hiatus, the spacecraft's instruments collect data and will be calibrated for use in the two comet encounters slated for 2001 (Marc Raymond).


Chimps in Space

Twenty-one chimpanzees that once worked for the USAF in the space program have finally been allowed to retire. As with other retirees, they have moved to Florida to enjoy their golden years. The chimps are part of a group of 111 Air Force chimps that were turned over to the Coulston Foundation lab last year. All 111 are descendants or companions of Ham, the first chimpanzee to fly in space. The animals were mostly used in early jet airplane research including ejection seat development. Among the 21 space- chimps is Lil' Mini, the offspring of Mini the last remaining "Astro-chimp" from the early space program. Mini died last year at the age of 41. More recently, many of the animals were used in AIDS and hepatitis research. Recent charges of mistreatment leveled by the Agriculture Department forced the Coulston Foundation labs to release 300 of its 650 chimpanzees. The Florida-bound Chimps all have clean bill of healths (AP).


Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews

  • Late October - Eurocket, experimental flight, Plesetsk, Russia.
  • DELAYED - ILS Proton (Blok DM), Garuda-1, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • November 2-4 - International Space Business Assembly, Washington, D.C.
  • 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. (Launch may be delayed due to Baikonur closure)
  • November 21 - Atlas 2A (AC-136), Navy UHF-10, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • December 2 - Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-103, Hubble Servicing Mission, pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.
  • December 6 - Pegasus XL, TSX-5, Vandenberg AFB.
  • December 6 - Titan 2 (G-8), Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather satellite, SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB.
  • December 10 - Ariane 5, X-ray Multi-Mirror, ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana.
  • December 10 - Orbital Sciences Taurus, KOMPSAT / ACROMSAT, Vandenberg AFB.
  • Delayed to late December / January - Proton, ISS flight 1R, Zvezda Service Module, Baikonur, Kazakstan.


There are currently no humans in orbital space. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 344 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

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