Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #175

Frontier Status Report #175

November 5, 1999

Dale M. Gray

Highlights of the week of November 5 include:

  • Shuttle and Service Module delays
  • ICO Global back in the game
  • X-33 hydrogen tank damaged during test
  • Intelsat votes to privatize
  • Russia launches ABM


On November 4, the Shuttle Discovery finally completed rollover to the Vehicle Assembly Building after numerous delays due a wide variety of reasons ranging from wiring issues, to meteor shows, a batch of suspect Shuttle tiles, hurricanes and most recently, a faulty sensor. However, the third Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission is not yet free of delays. A broken drill bit lost in the coolant cavity of the Shuttle main engine #3 has caused managers to schedule the engine to be replaced. The work will take place on the launch pad and is expected to take 10 days, much of it in conjunction with other prelaunch work. The half inch long, half-gram drill bit fragment in the engine has long been known, what is not known is why the shuttle management team waited until the eleventh hour to replace the engine. This is especially confusing in light of the many months in which the Orbiter sat awaiting other work. On the bright side, the delays have allowed Hubble replacement equipment to be completed and integrated into the mission. This may allow NASA to drop a follow-up Hubble servicing mission. The mission was originally slated for the spring of 2000, but failures of the Hubble's gyroscopes created the need for an abbreviated mission in 1999. The Hubble has only three of six gyroscopes on-line. One more failure will result in the end of observations until a replacement can be fitted. The new mission launch date will be announced next week. The launch was slated for December 2, but will likely be delayed 3 to 5 days. Managers hope to have the launch before December 14, so that Discovery will not be in orbit during the Y2K roll-over period. This will be only the third Shuttle launch of 1999 (NASA; Reuters;


Russian mission managers announced a new delay in the launch of the Zvezda Service Module. The launch, over two years behind schedule, is now slated for February. The cause of the delay was reported as unspecified problems with the American Shuttle schedule. No mention was made of the ban on rocket launches from Baikonur where the module will be launched on a Proton rocket (SpaceViews citing Itar-Tass).


The space enthusiast community has long wondered what happens to all the money spent on Russia launch services. A part of the answer came to light late October when Russia authorities opened Anatoliy Nedayvoda's bank safety deposit box and found $1.6 million. Nedayvoda is well-known as the designer of the Proton and Rockot launch systems as well as the Mir space station. Nedayvoda's official salary is listed at $700 per month with some additional money from lecturing at the Moscow Aviation Technology Institute. However, Nedayvoda is also on the board of two Russian-U.S. joint ventures. One of which promotes launches of the Proton rocket for $70 million a ride. When questioned about the money in the safety box, he initially stated that it belonged to a friend and that he was taking care of it, Nedayvoda later changed his story and said that it was a loan on one of three apartments that he owned. The magnitude of the safety deposit box fortune is sharply defined inn an industry where the average aerospace worker gleans a salary of only $100 per month and a month long fund raising campaign to save Mir netted only $70,000 (Sergey Leskov as cited in NASA Watch).


International Launch Services, marketer of the commercial Proton rocket, announced that they will retain their launch schedule despite the recent loss of a Proton rocket from Baikonur. The only satellite manifest to be rescheduled will be the ACeS Garuda 1, which was to be launched in mid-November. This flight will be scheduled once the on-going failure investigation is complete and a new date is set by ILS and Lockheed Martin Failure Review Oversite Board. Flexibility built into the schedules are expected to compensate for any delay in return to flight status (ISL PR).


Testing of the liquid hydrogen fuel tank of the X-33 at the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works has resulted in damage to the tank. On Wednesday, November 3, damage to the "protoflight" article was detected after it had successfully completed its fifth validation test, a cryogenic pressure test with structural loads to simulate those experienced during launch and flight. The tank had been filled with 29,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen at a pressure of 42 psi, which is 105 percent of its design, and held for seven minutes. The damage was detected two hours later as workers prepared to pump gaseous helium into the tank. Some of the graphite composite tank's insulating core material was observed to have broken through the skin shell. The tank is one of two that will be used to provide cryogenic hydrogen to the X- 33's linear aerospike engines. The first test flight of the X- 33 was scheduled for late summer of next year, but the damage to the tank will likely push the flight back at least six months (Florida Today; Washington Post; SpaceViews citing LA Times).


United Nations

In response to a recent Anti-Ballistic Missile demonstration system test by the United States, the United Nations passed a resolution aimed at preventing a space-based arms race. The resolution passed in the General Assembly 138 to 0 with the United States abstaining. The US was the only space-faring nation to abstain. The non- binding resolution asked governments to "contribute actively to the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and to refrain from actions contrary to that objective." Russia voted for the resolution, even while its own military was conducting its own ABM tests (see Military below) (



The on-going program to upgrade the Soyuz rocket has been given a boost by the infusion of cash from Starsem, the French-Russian commercial launch company. An undisclosed sum was transferred to the Russian Samara company for its development program (


The Japanese company Mitsubishi Electric (Melco) has completed construction on a new satellite factory at its Kamakura Works. The plant features an environmental chamber for testing satellites and components in a simulated space environment. The new plant has 4,554 square meters of floor area on six levels. The large-scale facility was begun in August of 1998 and designed to compete with American and European satellite manufacturing facilities (SpaceDaily).



Two new companies have thrown their hat into the ring for the $10 million X-Prize. The Russian company Cosmopolix XXI and American TGV Rockets will seek to fly the first privately funded rocket above 100 km twice within two weeks. The Russian team will used a reusable rocket launched from the top of an aircraft while the Americans will deploy a vertically launched rocket using kerosene and oxygen (


Over a half century has passed since Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. At the time it took the concentrated effort of a nation in the early years of the Cold War. Recently XCOR Aerospace announced that they plan to recreate the famous rocket plane. Unlike the original X-1 which was drop launched from a B-29, the replica NeX-1 will probably launch from the ground. The replica airframe will cost between $2 and $3 million with an updated version of the XLR-11 engine costing an additional $2.5 million. While this is well above the market price of most replica aircraft, there is an identified market for such an aircraft (


ICO Global

ICO Global has found a heavy hitter to bring the bankrupt company out of Chapter 11 protection. Craig McCaw, who made a fortune with cellular phones and is a driving force behind the Teledesic system, plans to invest up to $1.2 billion in ICO. The investment will come in the form of three payments. The first of $225 million will be completed by next week and will take care of ICO's immediate cash needs. In exchange McCaw is expected take control of the ICO board of directors. The ICO global satellite phone system is expected to begin service in the first half of 2001 (Wall Street Journal).


By unanimous decision, the INTELSAT Assembly voted to privatize the INTELSAT organization. The 143 member nation INTELSAT met in its annual meeting in Penang, Malaysia from October 26 - 28. During the meeting the privatization vote took place to assure that INTELSAT can continue to compete in the world market and provide vital services to its members. As part of the lifeline connectivity Obligation (LCO), eligible member countries are assured capacity on the INTELSAT system beyond privatization. This assures that countries relying on INTELSAT for a connection to the rest of the world will be able to maintain their links. Plans for privatization will be submitted by July 1, 2000 with creation of a private Intelsat by April 2001 (INTELSAT PR; SpaceNews).


Following Craig McCaws investment in ICO Global, big-money investors are regaining interest in satellite communications companies. The Abu Dhabi Investment Company (ADIC) has announced that it will invest $121 million in Teledesic. The investment raises the total capital raised by Teledesic to $1.5 billion. Previous investors in the system include McCaw, Bill Gates, Motorola, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and the Boeing Company. Teledesic is based out of Bellevue, Washington (Teledesic Press Release).


The past week, SpaceHab announced contracts with both Lockheed Martin and Boeing. SpaceHab's subsidiary, Astrotech Space Operations, was awarded a 6- year contract by International Launch Services through Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services. The contract will be to support satellite launched on the Atlas family of rockets based out of Cape Canaveral Air Station and Vandenberg AFB. Astrotech has supported commercial Atlas launches since 1989. The new contract extends the service through the end of 2005 with options through 2010. Under the current contract, SpaceHab will enlarge its Titusville facilities to support the Atlas 5 (SpaceHab PR).

SpaceHab also announced they had been awarded a 10 year contract to provide payload processing services for the Boeing Company. SpaceHab's Astrotech subsidiary has been providing launch support for satellites launched on the Delta rocket family since 1984. Astrotech also holds a 14 year contract for support services associated with Sea Launch. The new contract also includes the addition of new, larger satellite preparation facilities in Titusville to be associated with the new Delta IV program (SpaceHab PR). SpaceDev This past week SpaceDev announced that it had been selected by Space Sciences Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley to design, manufacture and operate the CHIPsat microspacecraft. The contract, expected to generate $5 million, will result in a one year astronomy mission in LEO. The 85 kg CHIPSat will carry the Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer (CHIP). The satellite is expected to be launched in early 2002. Dr. Mark Hurwitz, at SSL, is the principal investigator and overall CHIPSat Mission Manager (SpaceDev PR).


EchoStar announced on November 2, that it had acquired conversion rights to 1.4 million existing and inactive Superstar/Netlink C-band customers. Under the deal EchoStar will pay for each converted customer in addition to $10 million up front. Customers will offered incentives to convert. Superstar/Netlink, a subsidiary of RV Guide Inc., will continue C-band operations (


Optus C1

Arianespace has been awarded the contract to launch the Optus C1 satellite. The satellite will be built by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. Satellite structure and integration is sub-contracted to Space Systems/Loral. The multi-purpose telecommunications satellite will be launched on either an Ariane 5 or Ariane 4 in late 2001 or early 2002. Cable & Wireless Optus Ltd., the satellite's owners will use the satellite to provide telecommunications services to Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia (Reuters).



On November 4, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory released photographs of the volcano Prometheus on the Jovian moon Io. The photographs show volcanic characteristics similar to those found on the Hawaiian volcano Kilauea. The volcano has been active for at least 20 years. The 50 to 100 km high volcanic plume has been observed by Voyager, the Hubble Space Telescope and now by Galileo. The photos reveal that after the lava reaches the surface, it travels for up to 100 km in lava tubes before spreading out on the surface. The volcanic plume appears to be the interaction of the lava with sulfur-dioxide "snow". The photographs are part of a batch of images captured during Galileo's Io encounter on October 10. The transmission and subsequent release of the photograph was delayed until recently due to Galileo's slow speed of data transmission. On Tuesday, November 2, Galileo fired its thrusters to adjust its course for a second Io flyby on November 25. During the second flyby, the spacecraft will pass over Io's south pole at an altitude of 300 km. The thruster firing will also position the craft for future encounters should the Galileo mission be extended. Funding for the mission runs out on December 31. Images of Io can be seen at

Io photos

Galileo homepage

Mars Polar Lander

A 12 second thruster firing of the Mars Polar Lander at 10:28 am PST has put the Mars Polar Lander on track for a December 3 landing near the south pole of Mars. At the time of the maneuver, the spacecraft was only 11 million miles from Mars. The firing was delayed for ten days so that the software could be checked for problems such as the one that resulted in the loss of the Mars Climate Orbiter. The next course correction is slated for November 30 (JPL/NASA; Florida Today).



An infamous piece of space history was offered for sale this past week on the EBay web site. A black heat tile reported to be from the Shuttle Challenger was placed for sale on the popular on-line auction. The item was said to have been recovered from the Atlantic Ocean by a crewmember of one of the first Coast Guard vessels to reach the crash site. Bidding on the 6 x 6 x 2.5 inch tile started at $199 and reached $331 before it was removed from the site. Possession of Challenger wreckage is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 fine. The matter has been turned over to the NASA security office, which is looking into reclaiming the tile. The tile owner, identified only as "Chuck" stated that he was selling the tile because he was in financial difficulties and had no idea that possession of it was illegal (Florida Today; SpaceViews;



For the first time since 1993, Russia has test launched an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM). The medium- range interceptor missile was launched from Sari-Shagan test centre in Kazakhstan. The test is apparently a response to an ABM test by the Untied States. The launch took place during ABM discussions between Russia and the US and during a vote against the military use of space by the United Nations. Long-range ABM systems were prohibited by the 1972 Anti- ballistic Missile Treaty. However, ABMs used to defend missile silos were permitted (SpaceDaily; Mike Lockwood).


Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews

  • TBA - Eurockot, experimental flight, Plesetsk, Russia.
  • DELAYED - ILS Proton (Blok DM), Garuda-1, Baikonur, Kazakstan.
  • 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 15 - H-2 (#8), Multi-functional Transport Satellite, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.
  • November 21- Atlas 2A (AC-136), Navy UHF-10, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
  • November 25 - Galileo, second Io encounter.
  • December 3 - Mars Polar Lander, Mars south pole landing.
  • December 3 - Orbital Sciences, Minotaur, JAWSAT, FalconSat, ASUsat-1 and OPAL (with microsats), Vandenberg AFB.
  • December 5-7 - 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.
  • Early December - Pegasus XL, ORBCOMM (7 satellites), Wallops Island, VA.
  • 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 March / 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 351 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in March of 2000.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1999

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