Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #183

Frontier Status Report #183

December 31, 1999

Dale M. Gray

Traditionally the time between Christmas and New Years is a quiet time for space news. With Y2K looming, this was an especially quiet year's end. However, NASA managed to complete the Hubble Telescope Repair mission before year's end. Russia launched two secret spy satellites from two different launch sites while a third, commercial rocket, was damaged by an accidental shroud release. Little business news was reported other than Orbital Sciences being awarded two lucrative NASA contracts. The year-end tallies for the DBS frontier show the most successful year on record for DirecTV and EchoStar.

Highlights of the week of December 31 include:

  • Discovery deploys repaired Hubble
  • Shuttle Discovery lands in Florida on December 27
  • Tsiklon-2 launches Russian Navy spy satellite
  • Moonlit launches Russian reconnaissance satellite
  • Rokot damaged on launch pad
  • Terra and DS1 to return to work with software fixes


The Hubble Space Telescope was released from the Discovery's payload bay on Christmas day. After latches were released, the telescope was maneuvered out of the cargo bay by Jean-François Clervoy who was operating the Shuttle's robot arm. The Hubble was set free at 6:03 p.m. EST. Controllers monitoring the Hubble report that all systems are healthy and that the telescope could be back in business in as little as two weeks. For the next two months the new guidance sensor will be calibrated while back-up sensors assume guidance duties. Astronauts spent a total of 24.5 hours in three spacewalks to repair and upgrade the orbiting telescope. Because of the large number of anomalies encountered, the spacewalks represent the 3rd, 4th and 5th longest spacewalks in NASA's history. The next repair and upgrade mission is scheduled for sometime in 2001. The Hubble is halfway through its expected 20- year work life (Spaceflight Now; AP; NASA; Reuters).

Discovery (STS-103) landed on Kennedy Space Center runway 33 on December 27 at 7:01 p.m. EST. The first landing opportunity was skipped to let local wind conditions settle down. Because of launch delays, the mission was cut short so that the Orbiter could land and be worked on before the turn of the century and any potential Y2K problems. Inspection of the Shuttle after landing revealed a black tile missing from the right inboard elevon. The 9 x 4.5 inch tile appears to have fallen off sometime just prior to final approach (AP; NASA).

TSIKLON - A Tsiklon-2 rocket (11K69) was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on December 26 at 3:00 a.m. EST. The launch comes after three delays due to various weather and technical problems. The rocket successfully carried a Russian Navy payload (Cosmos 2367) into a 147 x 442 km orbit. Thrusters on the payload later circularized the orbit to 404 x 417-km by 65 degree orbit with a period of 92.8 minutes. The two-stage booster, the Tsiklon-2 is a converted R-36 ICBM. The payload is an US-P passive electronic intelligence satellite built by KB Arsenal of St. Petersburg. The spacecraft features two large solar arrays and a low thrust propulsion system for station keeping. The spacecraft will be used to monitor radio and electronic transmissions from ships. The last US- P satellite ended operations in November of 1999 and reentered in December. The launch was widely, but erroneously, reported as Russia's last launch of 1999 (; Itar-Tass; AP; Spaceflight Now).

MOLNIYA / COSMOS 2368 - A Molniya M rocket (8K78M) was launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome on Monday, December 27 at 2:12 p.m. EST (December 28 Plesetsk time). The three-stage rocket carried the upper stage and payload into a 229 x 523 km x 62.8 degree orbit. The Blok-BL upper stage raised the satellite into a 551 x 39138 km x 62.8 degree orbit with a period of 12 hours. The orbit is sometimes described as the Moonlit orbit and was used extensively by the Soviet Union because it maximized the time spacecraft could stay over high inclination locations. The payload for the rocket was a Russian Defense Ministry Cosmos 2368 reconnaissance satellite. The Oko-class early warning satellite was built by the Lavochkin Company. The satellite features a large telescope used to monitor missile launches. (Itar Tass; Spaceflight Now; Jonathan's Space Report).

ROKOT - During a pre-launch test at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on December 22, a Rokot booster was significantly damaged. The Khrunichev-built Rokot was being prepared for the first demonstration flight. The rocket is based upon the Soviet SS-19 (UR-100NUTTKh) ICBM. In the commercial Rokot configuration, the military stages are mated to a Breeze-K (14S12 Briz-K) upper stage to place a satellite payload into orbit. The SS-19 is subject to the Russian-American arms control agreements. While numerous rumors have circulated as to the cause and effect of the incident, Khrunichev spokesman, Sergei Zhiltsov told that explosive bolts on the payload shroud were accidentally set off. As a result the shroud was released and fell into an upper room of a service tower. The rocket was not fueled, nor was the RVSN-40 satellite (military) payload present at the time of the accident. The small RVSN-40 satellite is designed to test the Russian GLONASS GPS system. The shroud was damaged beyond repair. Launch of the Rokot has been repeatedly delayed. This latest incident will likely move the launch date from late January to no sooner than February 2000. The Rokot is marketed internationally by a joint venture between Khrunichev and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (; Jonathan's Space Report).

H-2 - Debris from the failed Japanese H-2 and its MTSAT payload has been located in the Pacific Ocean 150-km northwest of the Ogasawara Islands. The rocket failed shortly after launch on November 15. Early search efforts failed to find rocket debris needed for analysis of the failure. On Christmas Eve, December 24, the "Deep Toe" deep-sea probe found what appears to be engine pipes on the sea floor 1250-km from the launch site. Analysis of the photographs will determine whether NASDA will attempt to recover the objects that are 2,913 meters below the surface. The Space Activities Commission believes the launch failure was caused by a broken liquid hydrogen fuel line (Spaceflight Now).

TERRA - Having suffered a winter solstice glitch and small problems with the high-gain antenna, NASA's Terra Earth observation satellite appears to be headed back on track thanks to a pair of software patches. The spacecraft spent a week in safe mode after the software attempted to take the arc sine of a number less than a negative one while calculating the position of the sun. This mathematical impossibility caused the computer to shut down and a back- up computer to activate. Without the software patches, the spacecraft would go into save mode every winter and summer solstice. The software fix will be uplinked after January 1. Terra will then be raised to its final orbit of 705 km and then activate its suite of five instruments. Another software patch will keep the spacecraft from having problems with its high-gain antenna as it passes through the South Atlantic anomaly. Stray protons have been causing false readings from a portion of the antenna. The spacecraft is otherwise in excellent health. The $1.3 billion satellite was launched December 18 from Vandenberg AFB (

Terra (formerly EOS AM-1) Website


Rose Parade: Boeing has completed a space station in time for the first day of 2000. The 45,000-pound station was not launched, however, rather it was wheeled down Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, California January 1, 2000 as the first float in the 111th annual Rose Parade. The flower-covered creation featured solar panels and pods that were reported to contain a laboratory, museum and a docking port. The award-winning float was built for Boeing by Phoenix Decorating of Pasadena. The parade was viewed by approximately 425 million people around the world (States News Service; ABC).

On another float NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was honored. The Edison International float entitled "Soaring to the Future" carried Dr. Ed Stone (JPL Director), astronaut Yvonne Cagle, M. D. and several Southern California science students. The float features a large eagle and a red planet. The world's first all-electric float runs on batteries charged using solar energy (JPL).


MGS: During the past nine months, the Mars Global Surveyor has returned 40,000 images of Mars. In addition, the spacecraft has mapped topography, measured gravity and magnetism and analyzed the composition of the surface. The altimeter accurately measured the elevation of the entire surface of Mars to within 16 cm. Cameras have revealed objects 10 meters across with some high resolution images recording objects only 3 meters across. Among the more profound of discoveries was the detection of ancient shorelines of a large ocean that once covered a large portion of the Northern Hemisphere. While Mars has no magnetic field, magnetic stripes were detected and measured in the Southern Hemisphere. Along the equator, large deposits of hematite were detected which suggests that hot springs existed on the surface for thousands of years -- indicating the presence of liquid water in a stable environment. In addition to its scientific tasks, the MGS is currently conducting a photographic campaign searching for the parachute or shadow of the Mars Polar Lander (

DS1: A fix appears to be in the works for the Deep Space 1 technology demonstrator spacecraft. The spacecraft recently lost its way in space when its star tracker failed. The failure may be linked to a short circuit in another instrument that occurred on November 11. Since that time the spacecraft has been drifting through space in safe mode. The JPL engineering team lead by Marc Raymond is working on a solution whereby the science camera can be pressed into duty as the star tracker. The DS1 main technology demonstration and asteroid fly-by mission was completed in September of 1999. With 75 percent of the vehicle's propellant (82 kg) remaining, the DS1 was pressed into service on an extended mission to visit two comets (Wilson-Harrington and Borrelly). While the star tracker problem has eliminated the possibility of one of the cometary encounters, a successful science camera/star tracker on-the-fly transplant would allow the second cometary encounter to occur in 2001. Controllers are currently determining the spacecraft's attitude by analyzing signal strength from the spacecraft's low-gain antenna. They have been able to achieve precise control over rotation of the spacecraft. The necessary software to activate the science camera / star tracker is expected to be ready to uplink in March 2000-- allowing the spacecraft to resume its mission (Marc Raymond;

DBS FRONTIER - It was a banner year for the American DBS companies. DirecTV announced an increase of 42 percent over last year's November new subscribers while EchoStar recorded an astonishing 70 percent increase. Together the two companies are expected to have added 3 million new customers for 1999, bringing the total number of American DBS subscribers to 11 million (to November 1999). Holiday sales fueled by the new Satellite Home Viewer Act have boosted both sales and stock prices for the two companies. DirecTV has added 17 local market broadcast channels to their line-up while EchoStar has added 18. DirecTV charges $5.99 per month with a free trial period for local channels while EchoStar charges $4.99. As DBS television increases market share, competitive efforts by cable operators such as AT&T Digital Cable is expected to increase (Monica Hogan; MediaNews).

EchoStar: Plans of EchoStar Communications to fulfill the public-interest-channel set-aside obligations have been rejected by the FCC. The Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 requires that four percent of the programming to be public interest. The recent Satellite Home Viewers Act puts DBS television on the same regulatory level as cable companies. EchoStar had planned to offer the required channels using a satellite located at 61.5 degrees west longitude -- creating a "educational neighborhood". NASA Select, C-SPAN, Eternal Word Television Network and Trinity Broadcasting were to be added to the channel offering at that location. However, the FCC rejected the proposal because the satellite can not be accessed throughout the United States. EchoStar maintains that it expects to fulfill its educational requirement by the January 7, 2000 deadline (Monica Hogan; MediaNews).


Orbital Sciences: A wild week for Orbital Sciences stockholders. On December 28, NASA announced that it had awarded Orbital Sciences with a 5-year contract for the design, production and testing of small and medium class satellites for space science, Earth science and advanced technology demonstration missions. With options, the contract has a maximum value of $1.5 billion. Last week Orbital Sciences was awarded a NASA contract for the launch of two satellites using the Orbital Sciences Pegasus launch system (NASA Reuters).

Faced with debt and a need to raise capital to cover contracts, Orbital sold a minority share in its subsidiary MacDonald Dettwiler & Associates for $75 million. MacDonald Dettwiler, based out of Canada is best known for its robot arm that is used on the American Space Shuttle. Orbital stock rose 22 percent as a direct result of the financial news and the NASA contracts -- gaining 5 points in less than a week to close at 17-9/16 (NASA; Reuters).

Since 1982 Orbital Sciences has built and launched at least 74 satellites. Through its subsidiary, Orbcomm, it operates a constellation of 28 small relay satellites. In 1999, the company reported 19 successful space missions -- including the delivery and launch of 11 satellites. Orbital's Space Systems group recently was certified as being compliant with ISO-9001 standards. The company also provided carriers for the gyroscopes used in the recent Discovery mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Despite 1999 revenues targeted to exceed $900 million, the company reported a negative cash flow for the year, primarily due to costs associated with deploying the Orbcomm constellation (PR Newswire; Orbital Sciences).


Launch Vehicle           Date Launched        Failures

US vehicles:
Boeing Delta                  11                  1*
 Lockheed Martin Atlas         5                  0
 Lockheed Martin Titan         5                  2*
 NASA Space Shuttle            3                  0
 Lockheed Martin Athena        3                  1
 OSC Pegasus                   3                  0
 OSC Taurus                    1                  0

Russian vehicles:
 TsSKB-Progress Soyuz         14                  0
    (Includes 2 Molniya)
 Krunichev Proton              9                  2
 Polyot Kosmos                 2                  0

 Arianespace Ariane 4          9                  0
 Arianespace Ariane-5          1                  0

 China Long March              4                  0

 Yuzhnoe Zenit                 3                  0
    (Includes two Sea Launch
 Yuzhnoe Tsiklon/Dnepr         2                  0

 ISRO PSLV                     1                  0
    (Indian Space Research Organization)


 NASDA H-II                    1                  1


 AEB VLS                       1                  1
    (Brazil's Satellite Launch Vehicle)


Total                         78                  8

Launch information is drawn from Jonathan's Space Report 1999 launch summary (No. 417 draft).

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

Space Flight Now - Tracking Station: World Wide Launch Schedule
Spaceviews Website

January 15 - Orbital Sciences, Minotaur, JAWSAT, FalconSat, ASUsat-1 and OPAL (with picosats), Vandenberg AFB.

January (Delayed) - Shuttle Endeavor, STS-99, Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center.

January 21 - Atlas 2A, DSCS B8, SLC-36A, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

January 24 - Ariane 4, Galaxy 10R, ELA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.

January 24 - Pegasus, HETE 2, Kwajalein Missile Range (first orbital launch from range).

January 30 - Titan 4B, DSP Payload, SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

Late January - Sea Launch Zenit 3SI, ICO Mobile Satellite F1, Odyssey platform, equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Late January - Soyuz-Fregat, Russian military satellite, Baikonur, inaugural flight of Fregat upper stage.

February 3 - Atlas 2AS, Hispasat 1C, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

February 6 - Delta 2, Globalstar 7, SLC-17B Cape Canaveral Air Station.

February 8 - Taurus, MTI, Vandenberg AFB.

Delayed - ILS Proton (Blok DM), CD Radio Satellite 1, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

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

CENSUS - With the landing of the Shuttle Discovery, there are currently no humans in orbital space. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 407 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin sometime in 2000.

Index for Frontier Status Report 1999

Home Tour Join! Contents Team News Catalog Search Comm
Sources of information. ASI W9900715r1.0
Frontier Status Report is written by Dale M. Gray. Maintained by by ASI Web Team.
Additional web formatting by Simone Cortesi. FSR is also archived on the web at
Copyright © 2001 Artemis Society International, for the contributors. Updated Sat, Oct 20, 2001
Maintained with WebSite Director. Internet services provided courtesy of CyberTeams.