Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #177

Frontier Status Report #177

November 19, 1999

Dale M. Gray

A wild week on the frontier with a successful launch and a failed launch for the ESA and Japan respectively. The US and Russia continue the ABM/ICBM show of muscles by each firing two test ICBMs. School children and a governor witness New Hampshire's entry into the space age. Kazakhstan reopens Baikonur, but the Proton rocket's future is unclear. CD Radio is renamed. The Satellite Home Viewer Act (SHVA) manages to escape the Senate by hitching a ride on a spending bill. However, the biggest news is the failure of the fourth of six gyroscopes on the Hubble Space Telescope; ending its science mission until NASA can send a repair crew to fix it.

The history of the new high frontier is now at your fingertips. Research topics from past issues of Frontier Status at .

Highlights of the week of November 19 include:

  • Hubble gyro fails, telescope shut down
  • Baikonur reopens for Soyuz launches
  • H-2 rocket destroyed in flight
  • Ariane 4 successfully launched GE-4
  • SHVA passes in Senate on way to White House

SHUTTLE - While NASA fiddled, Hubble burned. The orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, which has been operating on a minimum of three of its six gyroscopes, suffered a fourth failure early November 13. As a result, Hubble was placed in safe mode and will remain there until after the upcoming Shuttle Discovery repair mission. The flow of data from the telescope will remain halted until then. Having endured a number of technical and meteor issues, Discovery will launch on December 6 for the Hubble Repair Mission. The mission was originally slated for the spring of 2000, but was moved up to October 1999 when the third gyroscope failed. With the $2 billion telescope in safe mode with only the two functional gyroscopes, the seven person crew of Discovery will face an additional challenge of approaching the telescope without knowing its orientation until they are relatively close (Florida Today;

Having completed change-out of Engine #3 and repairs to the damaged range safety cable connecting the Solid Rocket Boosters, the Shuttle Discovery was rolled out to Launch Pad 39B on Saturday, November 13. Crew members Brown, Kelly, Smith, Foale, Grunsfeld, Nicollier, Clervoy arrived at KSC on November 14 for the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test which was completed on Wednesday. The Hubble Repair payload was placed into the payload bay on November 16. On November 18, a problem on sister ship Atlantis was discovered that involved cracks on the wiring harness that connects the Shuttle to the External Tank. Engineers inspecting photographs of the same area of Discovery found it has a similar problem. Discovery will not be rolled back to the VAB for the repair. At a meeting on November 19, managers decided to keep the target launch date of no earlier than December 6, but also resolved to convene early next week to determine if the ET cable issue warrants further delay (NASA; Florida Today).


TransHab: A memorandum of Agreement has been signed between Boeing, SpaceHab, DASA, Alenia-Spazio, and Bigelow Aerospace to develop a joint business plan to bid on a commercial version of the TransHab. The TransHab is an inflatable habitation module once proposed for the International Space Station and was considered a stepping stone technology for Mars Expedition living quarters. The TransHab program was cancelled by Congress. Subsequently NASA officials talked with Italian aerospace firms about their possible participation in a TransHab program. The plan submitted to NASA on November 12 and was announced November 13 at the Space Frontier =46oundation's Space Enterprise Symposium in Seattle (MSNBC; NASA Watch;; Frontier Status).

BAIKONUR- Russia has agreed to pay Kazakstan $400,000 for damages incurred from the October Proton rocket failure. In exchange, Kazakstan has reopened Baikonur for all launches with the exception of the Proton rocket. The ban lifted during a joint commission meeting between Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and his Kazak counterpart Alexander Pavlov on November 18. The announcement clears the way for a November 22 launch of a Soyuz rocket carrying Globalstar satellites. The fate of the Proton rocket, which will carry the Zvezda Service Module, is still uncertain -- though it was reported that the Proton ban could be lifted as early as November 19. The RD-0210 engines that caused the two Proton failures this year were both built in 1993 at a Voronezh factory after a production hiatus due to budget problems. The failures are believed to be from production violations (AP; SpaceDaily;

ARIANE 4 / GE-4 - A Lockheed Martin-built GE-4 satellite was launched on an Ariane 44LP rocket from Kourou, French Guiana on November 13. The countdown was uneventful and the rocket launched on time at 5:55 p.m. EST. The four Viking 5 engines and two liquid boosters fired nominally with the boosters jettisoned after 2:45 minutes. At T+4 minutes at altitude of 95.7 km, the first stage separated and the Viking 4 engine of the second engine ignited. Payload fairing separated at T+5 minutes at 129 km altitude. The second stage separated and the third stage HM 7B engine began firing at T+6:05 at an altitude of 171 km and a velocity of 5.22 km/second. The engine completed it burn at T+19 minutes at an altitude of 241 km and a velocity of 9.7 km/sec. At T+21 the GE-4 satellite separated into an elliptical transfer orbit. GE-4 was the 160th satellite deployed by Arianespace. Three Arianespace launches remain on the 1999 calendar. The next Arianespace launch scheduled is the French Helios 1B military satellite (Florida Today;

The GE-4 satellite is based on the A2300AX bus. The satellite masses 3,903 kg fully fueled with a 26.81 meter wingspan once in orbit. It features 24 C and 28 Ku-band transponders with 110 watt transfer wave tube amplifiers (TWTA). The satellite, which is owned by GE Americom, is expected to be operational for 15 years. It will provide supplemental coverage for GE-1, GE-2 and GE-3, from the 101 degrees West Longitude orbital slot. It is the 12th GE Americom satellite to enter service. The satellite will be used for cable and broadcast television distribution, business television and broadband data distribution throughout North America, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and South America. The satellite was originally slated for launch on an ILS Proton rocket, but was transferred to the Ariane after the July Proton failure (Lockheed Martin PR; Florida Today; Business Wire).

H-2 - After three postponements, the Japanese H-2A rocket was finally launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on November 15 at 4:29 p.m. local time. However, the Japanese space agency was forced to destroy the $180 million H-2A rocket carrying the Multi-functional Transportation Satellite (MTSAT) eight minutes (JSR reports this as 4 minutes and reported it at 80 seconds) into the flight. The two solid rocket boosters separated normally 90 seconds into the flight. The rocket's main engine shut down unexpectedly prior to ignition of the new LE-5B second stage. As a result, the rocket and $95 million satellite were destroyed at an altitude of 28 miles. Rocket debris rained harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean. A video record and telemetry point toward liquid hydrogen leaking from cracked pipes in the booster stage. A video of the launch showed abnormal jets of gas shooting out of the rocket's main engine shortly after launch. The Space System/Loral-built MTSAT was to conduct weather observation and monitor aircraft. The satellite would have replaced the Himawari 5 that will remain operational only until March. This is the second H-2 failure this year. The failure is expected to delay the development of Japan's next generation of rockets that use rocket engines similar to that used in the H-2. It is also expected to delay the launch of the second Advanced Earth Observing Satellite (Jonathan's Space Report; AP; Reuters; SpaceDaily).

DELTA IV - Alliant Aerospace Company has completed the first of three test firings of the solid rocket motor that will be used in various combinations in the Boeing Delta IV launch family. The GEM-60 motors were tested at a leased facility owned by Thiokol Propulsion near Brigham City, Utah. The new Delta IV rockets will be capable of lifting from 12,890 to 14,475 pounds to geosynchronous transfer orbit (SpaceDaily).

The Boeing Company has announce that it has received 30 orders worth over $2 billion for its new line of Delta 4 rockets. The order from Loral Space & Communications Ltd. brings the number of back ordered rockets to 50 including 19 rockets ordered by the USAF for a reported $1.38 billion. Boeing has also been negotiating with Aerospatiale Matra SA of France (AP; Wall Street Journal).

VIPER DART 3A - A Viper Dart 3A was launched in Rhode Island on November 18 by the Spaceport Florida Authority. The rocket contained equipment to capture dust from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. A crowd that included 2,500 schoolchildren and Rhode Island Governor Charles J. Fogarty witnessed the launch. The ballistic flight reached 56 miles and then splashed into the Atlantic 20 miles east of Block Island. The payload, however, was not recovered because the Coast Guard vessel that was to recover the payload was called away at the last second on an emergency call. The $30,000 flight was paid for by private and public funds (Florida Today).

SEA LAUNCH / ICO GLOBAL - The next commercial launch of the Sea Launch system has been slated for January 31, 2000. This will be the second commercial launch of the system. The Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket will carry satellites for ICO Global Communications, which recently emerged out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy (Reuters).

On October 31, Craig McCaw agreed to lead a group of investors to bail out ICO with a package worth $1.2 billion. On November 11, US Bankruptcy court in Delaware along with courts in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands approved the first transfer of funds, a payment of $150 million in interim debtor-in-possession financing. The bid was accepted by the court after hearing a competing bid last week. Subhash Chandra of India placed the counter offer and expecting a final hearing on the matter on December 3. ICO Global was established in 1995 to create a satellite- based personal communication network that can provide voice, data, high-penetration notification and messaging services. McCaw is the chairman of Teledesic LLC, which is building a global broadband Internet-in-the-Sky satellite communication network (SpaceDaily; SpaceNews).

ARIANE 5 / XMM - The European Space Agency's (ESA) 29 tonne XMM telescope is set for launch as the first commercial payload for the Ariane 5 launch system. The launch is scheduled for December 10 (ESA PR).

X-33 - NASA has confirmed that the cryogenic hydrogen tank for the X-33 that was being tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center was damaged. A section of the starboard tank suffered a "disbond" in which the outside of the tank peeled away from the inside skin. NASA is expecting to issue a full report in about six weeks (


SHVA: The Satellite Home Viewer's Act (H.R. 1554, S. 247) went into extra rounds this past week. Passage of the SHVA bill would allow direct-to-home satellite broadcast companies better able to directly compete with cable companies by providing local programming. Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex) had vowed to filibuster the bill unless a $1.25 billion loan guarantee rider was removed. The rider sought to encourage DTH broadcast of local programming to rural areas through loan guarantees. The bill appear to be moving ahead when assurances were given to the rural provision sponsor Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) that the issue would be revisited next year. However, a Burns aid later stated that the deal was off. Late Wednesday night, the provisions of the SHVA were added to a massive omnibus budget bill that contains the remaining appropriations bills. The $390 billion bill funds seven Cabinet departments and the District of Columbia. Passed 74-24, without the loan guarantee program, the legislation will allow the two main satellite TV providers EchoStar and DirecTV to legally provide local programming for 50 or 60 of the nation's 211 markets. The bill moves on to the White House for the President's signature (Business Wire; MediaNews; Reuters; Idaho Statesman).

Two other space-related issues have hit road blocks in Congress. A measure to extend the launch indemnification for commercial launch companies for five more years has stalled. However, Herb Kohl, D-Wis. has held up the bill until an unrelated dairy compact is resolved. The current indemnification runs out on December 31, 1999. The issue is not pressing since a one year indemnification extension was placed in the VA/HUD spending bill passed last month.

Another important space bill pending is related to the licensing of satellite exports. It is aimed at speeding up the process. However, the bill stalled when a controversial abortion and family planning provision was added.


Iridium/Motorola: Motorola announced on November 17 that it might take an addition $500 million charge on its Iridium exposure. The company took a $994 million charge during the 3rd quarter and the new 4th quarter would write down the remaining value of the Iridium bonds it holds. On November 15, Motorola made $743 million payment to banks for Iridium debts. Motorola holds an 18 percent holding in Iridium, which is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy for defaulting on over $1.5 billion in loans (Reuters).


Telstar: Loral Space and Communications has renamed its Loral Orion satellites to reflect their inclusion in the Loral Skynet constellation. Orion 1 and 2 have been redesignated Telstar 11 and 12 respectively. Apstar IIR(a) will be known by the hybrid Telstar 10/Apstar IIR. The Apstar IIR's transponders are leased by Loral Orion from APT Satellite Co for the life of the satellite (Business Wire).

Hughes: The U. S. Navy has awarded a contract to Hughes Space and Communications to build the 11th UHF Follow- On (UFO) Satellite. The Navy has granted initial funding of $27 million for UFO F-11 with the ultimate value of the contract as high as $213 million. The award is an amendment to a previous contract with Hughes to proved 10 UFO satellites. The 11th satellite is slated for launch in 2003. The F-11 satellite will be based on the HS 601 bus and will be part of a satellite communications network that provides global coverage for the armed forces. The UFO F- 10 satellite is slated for launch on an Atlas 2A rocket on November 21 (SpaceDaily).

MUOS: In separate awards, Hughes and Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space were awarded two of four $700,000 contracts by the U.S. Navy to study replacement technology and systems for the current Navy Fleet Satellite Communications satellites and UFO constellation. The contracts covers six month's work on the Advanced Narrowband System/Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). The contract for the development and construction of the MUOS system is expected to be let in 2003 (Hughes PR; Lockheed Martin PR).

Russia: Russia recently petitioned the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for an extension of its rights to 11 reserved orbital slots. The reservations will expire in 2000. Russia hopes to place the Express satellites in most of the orbital slots (SpaceNews).


Mars Polar Lander: The twin Deep Space 2 impact probes riding along with the Mars Polar Lander have been named. As a result of a contest, the probes have been named Amundsen and Scott in honor of the first explores to reach Earth's South Pole. The contest winner, Paul Withers, is a graduate student at the University of Arizona in Tuscon. The essay was picked from 17,000 entries. Amundsen beat Scott to the South Pole by about a month during the Antarctic summer of 1911/1912. Scott's team perished on the return trip. His memorial reads, "To strive, to seek, to find, not to yield." Goals worthy of the Deep Space 2 probes. Withers wins the honor naming along with a CompUSA gift certificate worth $4000 sponsored by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and CompUSA. The probes, which are primarily technology demonstrators, will impact the South Pole of Mars on December 3 at 400 mph. The hardened instruments will then search for the presence of water ice about 1 meter below the surface (JPL/NASA).

This past week, NASA has conducted a detailed simulation of the entry, descent and landing operations for the Mars Polar Lander. The spacecraft is in good condition. The next scheduled event is a thruster firing on November 30 to adjust the spacecraft's flight path. On November 19, the MPL was 5.8 million kilometers from Mars (JPL/NASA).

Deep Space 1: On November 11, the Deep Space 1 spacecraft suffered a significant equipment problem with the failure of its star tracker. As the management team works on the problem, the spacecraft is in safe mode. The star tracker, while an advanced new device, is not one of the 12 technologies being tested on the spacecraft. The fault was discovered by the autonomous control system on the spacecraft that attempted to fix the star tracker three times before placing the spacecraft in safe mode. Ground controllers discovered the problem the next day during a scheduled communication session with the DS1. The star tracker has previously displayed anomalies, but the has always returned to normal relatively quickly. The DS1 team is working with the star tracker manufacturer to understand and hopefully correct the problem (SpaceDaily).


Trimble: Trimble, a GPS technology company, has been awarded an exclusive contract by the US Navy to supply Military Survey GPS Receivers (MSGR). The MSGR units will be used in combat support roles and by approved government agencies and approved foreign governments. The MSGRs will be a P(Y) code version of the 4000SSi GPS survey receiver, TDC2 data logger, GPSurvey software, TRIMTALK radios, antennas and a variety of accessories. The value of the contract was not reported (SpaceDaily).


Space Hotel: Architects Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WAT&G), creators of the Legoland Theme Park in Windsor, southern England, are entering the 21st Century by designing an orbiting space resort that is part cruise ship and part theme park. As many as 100 patrons will orbit the globe at an altitude of 320 km. While obviously still in the concept stage, the space hotel is hoped to be operational by 2017. Built like a giant bicycle wheel, patrons will experience a variety of gravities (accelerations) from the spinning of the wheel. The designers propose to keep costs down by utilizing discarded items already in space along with the External Tanks used by the Shuttle (Reuters).

Zegrahm /Space Voyages: During the 13 Space Enterprise Symposium in Seattle Eric Anderson, General Manager of Space Adventures, announced that Space Adventures had merged with the Space Voyages division of the Zegrahm adventure travel company (Dale Gray;


CD Radio: CD Radio recently announced that it is changing its name to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. The announcement came at a party to celebrate the completion of its national broadcast and production studios. The company will change its ticker symbol from CDRD to SIRI in January 2000 (Sirius PR).


Trident: Two Trident II D5 Ballistic missiles were launched from the USS Kentucky from the Eastern Test Range off the Florida coast. The launch marks the 86th and 87th consecutive successful launch for the Lockheed Martin-built missiles (Lockheed Martin PR).

Minuteman 3: The USAF launched a Minuteman 3 missile from Vandenberg AFB on November 13. The rocket reached its target 4200 miles away at the Kwajalein Missile Range half an hour later. The missile was from the 564th Missile Squadron at Malstrom AFB in Montana (AP).

Russia: A Russian submarine test-fired two missiles from the Barents Sea on Wednesday, November 17. The missiles were launched within two hours of each other. The missiles reached their target 3,100 miles away at a proving ground in Kamchatka. Russian military sources stated that this, the third of three sets of test launches, was the direct result of the US ABM tests. The previous tests involved an ABM launched November 2, followed by a Stiletto ICM last week (Reuters; AP).


John Paul Stapp: Once known as the "fastest man on Earth", John Paul Stapp died on November 13 at the age of 89. Stapp came to fame by taking 29 rides on NASA's rocket sled in the 1950s, but is best known for coining the phrase "Murphy's Law" in connection with pessimistic observations of Captain Edward A. Murphy, an engineer at Edwards during the rocket sled tests. Stapp attributed the rocket sled's record of success and safety to a firm belief in "Murphy's Law" and the need to circumvent it (AP).

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

Florida Today Schedule
Spaceviews Website

TBA - Eurockot, experimental flight, Plesetsk, Russia.

November 21- Atlas 2A (AC-136), Navy UHF-10, pad 36B, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

November 22 - Starsem Soyuz, Globalstar (4 satellites), Baikonur, Kazakstan.

November 25 - Galileo, second Io encounter.

December 3 - Mars Polar Lander, Mars south pole landing.

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

Early December - Ariane 4, flight 125, Helios 1B, Kourou, French Guiana.

December 6 - Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-103, Hubble Servicing Mission, pad 39B, Kennedy Space Center.

December 7 - Orbital Sciences, Minotaur, JAWSAT, FalconSat, ASUsat-1 and OPAL (with picosats), 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 11 - Titan 2 (G-8), Defense Meteorological Satellite Program weather satellite, SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB.

December 16 - Shuttle Discovery, landing, KSC.

December 16 - Atlas 2AS, AC-141, EOS AM-1 (Terra), SLC-3, Vandenberg AFB.

December 19 - Orbital Sciences Taurus, KOMPSAT / ACROMSAT, Vandenberg AFB.

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

CENSUS - There are currently no humans in orbital space. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for one year. 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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