Frontier Status Report #187
Frontier Status Report #187
January 28, 2000
Dale M. Gray
After weeks of relative calm, the space frontier saw a flurry of activity this past week with three launches on three continents and the preparation of the Shuttle Endeavor for launch. Several major advances were announced in the realms of both technology and legislation that may have profound affects on the development of space based frontiers.
Highlights of the week of January 28 include:
Endeavor / SRTM
The Shuttle Endeavor is on Pad 39A awaiting launch of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (STS-99). With a confirmed launch date of January 31, Shuttle managers, technicians and crew have picked up the pace in preparation for launch. During the past week tile inspections were completed with the system reported to be in excellent shape. Engineers determined that four camera mounts in the payload bay were showing excessive flexing and replaced them on Tuesday. While the payload door was open, workers took the opportunity to clean the optics of the SRTM Attitude and Orbit Determination Assembly. On January 24, ordnance installation was completed and on-board propellant storage tanks pressurized for flight. On January 26, the aft compartment closeouts were completed. The crew arrived at Kennedy Space Center on January 27 in preparation for the start of countdown on January 28 at 5:30 p.m. Because of cold weather, Endeavor's reaction control system heaters remained activated. NASA predicts a 70 percent chance of favorable weather for launch (NASA).
The Shuttle Radar Topography mission seeks to create a detailed topographic map of 80 percent of the Earth's surface. The mission will produce a 3D fine detail topographic map of the Earth. The mission features double radar: one mounted in the Shuttle's payload bay and one mounted on an extended mast. The X-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (X-SAR) was developed in Germany and Italy by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace. The C-band Spaceborne Imagine Radar was developed by JPL. The mission is a joint project between NASA, the US National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the German Aerospace Centre and the Italian Space Agency ( ESA Shuttle Webpage; DaimlerChrystler Aerospace Webpage; NASA Shuttle Webpage).
At 60 meters, the radar mast will be the largest rigid structure ever assembled in space, even longer than Mir. Because of the complexity of the task of extending and repacking the mast, Shuttle managers decided to cut a day off of the planned mission. this will assure there will be enough time for a space walk to stow the equipment before the return from space. However, Michael Kobrick of JPL, a project scientist is working to have the mission restored to full duration. Should the crew conserve enough Shuttle resources to extend the potential duration to 13 days, then the radar-mapping mission may be extended back to 10 days (NASA; Space.com).
However, Endeavor continues to be plagued by problems discovered on other orbiters. On Friday, Shuttle managers announced they had discovered abnormal wear on a metal alloy seal on the main engine fuel pump on the Shuttle Discovery. The turbo pump performed flawlessly during the Hubble repair mission launch, but maintenance workers using a boroscope observed more rubbing or scoring from the turbine blades than they were used to seeing. The seal is between the turbine blades and the pump housing. It is one of six that direct hot gases through the turbopump. A failure of the seal would have triggered an automatic cut-off of the turbopump and the engine. The fuel pump was sent to Boeing Rocketdyne at Conoga Park, CA for disassembly and analysis. The results of this investigation will be presented at a Saturday, January 29 meeting of the Mission Management Team. The Shuttle has two launch opportunities on Monday and Tuesday before it begins to effect other launches booked on the eastern range (NASA; Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
Atlantis / ISS
Mission managers continue developing plans to send Atlantis to the International Space Station in April, prior to the arrival of the Service Module Zvezda. The original post-Zvezda mission would be rescheduled for later in the year and redesignated as STS-106. The 10 day April mission, STS- 101, would be used for maintenance such as replacing batteries and other degraded systems as well as to ferry additional supplies to the station. NASA will wait until early March before making the final decision (SpaceDaily; Florida Today; Space.com).
On January 27, officials ordered the destacking of the right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) to be used in the upcoming Atlantis flight. The SRBs, which are assembled in segments, may have been exposed to rain water when the Vehicle Assembly Building's roof leaked. When the potential contamination was discovered, workers were ordered to destack the forward segment so that the segment seals could be checked for water contamination and damage. A very small amount of water was found on some grease. The dried segment was then restacked on January 26. The pair of SRBs were connected to the External Fuel tank the following day ( Spaceflight Now).
The Shuttle on-the-ground infrastructure received an upgrade this past week with the delivery of two new Shuttle payload canister transporters. KAMAG Transportechnik, GmbH of Ulm, Germany, built the specially designed trucks. They arrived by barge on January 17. The trucks will be outfitted with subsystems either newly constructed (electrical power and environmental control) or salvaged and refurbished off of existing carriers (instrumentation /communications and fluid / gasses systems). The existing Payload Canister Transporter system is now 20 years old. One transporter will be outfitted at a time to assure the availability of transporters. The transporters are 65 feet long, 22 feet wide and have 24 tires. Fully laden, they weigh in at 172,000 pounds and can travel at 5 mph between the payload facilities and launch pads. They were designed to carry both EELV spacecraft and ISS elements. The first outfitted transporter is expected to begin work this summer (Spaceflight Now).
Mir is on the move once again. On January 25, controllers used an attached Progress supply vessel to boost the orbit of the space station. In addition, the station's 12 gyroscopes and the main computer were activated. The actively controlled station was then able to recharge its storage batteries. Various systems were then activated and checked. Itar-Tass reported January 26 that the Russian Space Agency has approved the schedule for the new mission to Mir. The station, which has been flying under remote control, will be reactivated and reinhabited on March 30. To support the mission Russia will use three Soyuz rockets: two cargo and one manned. The first Progress supply vessel will be launched on February 1. While the US government has urged Russia to deorbit the station, US businessmen have been working to turn the station into a commercial venture (AP; Spaceflight Now).
Minotaur / JAWSAT
The "new" Minotaur rocket made its debut on January 26. The hybrid rocket, half-military missile and half-civilian rocket, was launched from Vandenberg AFB at 10:03 EST. Once launched, the first two stages, deactivated Minuteman II rocket motors, performed flawlessly. The first stage, a M55A1 (Minuteman II first stage), completing its burn in about a minute. The second stage, an Aerojet SR19 (Minuteman II second stage), completing its burn and separating at T+2:20 minutes. The third and fourth stages, based upon the Orbital Sciences' Pegasus rockets, also performed as planned. The third stage, an Alliant Orion 50XL (Pegasus 2nd stage) motor, completed its burn at T+4 minutes. The rocket and payload then coasted for six minutes. Live relay of data from the rocket was lost about 10 minutes after launch, about a minute earlier than planned. At T+10 minutes the rocket apparently jettisoned the third stage and ignited the fourth stage, an Orion 38 (Pegasus 3rd stage) motor, as planned. The final stage fired for a little over a minute. At T+17 minutes to T+20 minutes the 11 satellites of the payload were released. The launch was the first from the new privately owned Spaceport System International commercial launch pad SLS-7. The first launch attempt on January 14 was scrubbed after two tries due to a failed command and then because of drained destruct subsystem batteries (Orbital Sciences PR; AP; Spaceflight Now; Jonathan's Space Report).
These ultra small satellites are about the size of a pack of playing cards. The picosats have a variety of designs and functions. STENSAT was developed by a group of ham radio operators to help ham radio enthusiasts communicate over long distances. A 30-m tether connects the two MEMS intersatellite communications experiment picosats. The Santa Clara University's Artemis picosat will be used to conduct a VLF experiment. Two others were designed to monitor the energy of lightning strikes (AP; Jonathan's Space Report;) Spaceflight Now; Minotaur fact sheet; Space.com; Weber State JAWSAT Website).
The government has about 350 Minuteman 2 missiles in its inventory. The Minotaur program serves the government in two ways. It provides a use for the missiles that are currently in storage and it provides an orbital launch for small governmental and student built satellites. These satellites were previously launched as secondary payloads on Ariane and Russian rockets. However, the passage of the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act, which recategorized satellites as munitions, caused the practice of using foreign rockets for student payloads to cease. US satellites and satellite systems had to be approved by the State Department before they could cross national boundaries for launch. Students simply did not have the resources to navigate the bar erected by the State Department. The Minotaur can lift 340 kg into a 724-km polar orbit -- about 1.5 times as much as a Pegasus rocket. By using the hybrid technology, the cost of the launching a payload to orbit was reduced by a reported 30 percent. The first launch cost an estimated $23 million with additional launches expected to drop to around $13 million. The Minotaur launch provided a low cost launch service to students and amateurs while avoiding direct competition with commercial launch systems for payloads. The first operational launch of the Minotaur is slated for mid-June when it will be used to launch the USAF MightySat 2.1. It will also be launched from the SSI commercial spaceport (Frontier Status; Space.com; Spaceflight Now).
Ariane 4 / Galaxy XRAn Ariane 42L rocket carrying the Galaxy XR satellite was successfully launched from French Guiana on Monday, January 24. Flight 126 lifted off from ELS-2 launch complex at Kourou at 8:04 p.m. EST carrying PanAmSat's 3500 kg Galaxy XR satellite. Two and a half minutes after lift off the two liquid fueled rocket boosters completed their burn and were jettisoned. The four Snecma Viking 5 engines cut off at T+3:30, followed immediately by first stage separation and second stage ignition. The payload fairing separated at T+4 minutes. At T+6 minutes, the second stage Viking 4 engine ended its burn and separated from the third stage. The third stage Snecma HM 7B engine continued firing for 13 minutes pushing the spacecraft into a 124 x 20,789 statute mile orbit. At T+19 the third stage shut down -- followed two minutes later by the deployment of the satellite.
Galaxy XR will use its on-board kick motor during the next two weeks to reach its orbital slot at 123 degrees West longitude. Controllers picked up the satellite about 42 minutes after launch. This was the 52nd consecutive successful launch for the Ariane 4 system. This next Ariane 4 launch on February 16, will carry the Japanese Superbird 4 communications satellite into space (Reuters; Business Wire; Frontier Status; Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
The Hughes-built satellite will be used to transmit C- band cable television and Ku-band programming previously delivered by SBS-5 (see satellite news below). Galaxy XR is the replacement satellite for the Galaxy X satellite lost during the Delta 3 maiden flight malfunction in August of 1998. The satellite is an HS 601 HP which features 24 Ku- band and 24 C-band transponders. The dual-junction gallium arsenide solar cells are expected to be delivering 7.8 kW by the end of the 15 year designed life of the satellite. The satellite also has the super efficient XIPS (xenon ion propulsion system) for station keeping. While Galaxy XR is the 21st satellite in the PanAmSat constellation, six of the C- band and one of the Ku-band transponders on the satellite are owned by GCI communications to provide television, Internet and telecommunications services to Alaska. Other non-cable television tenants on-board the satellite include Hughes Network Systems, the State of California, California State University and the University of Southern California. Galaxy XR is expected to begin services in March. The next PanAmSat launch will be that of Galaxy 4R, also on an Ariane 4 rocket. It will replace the Galaxy 4 satellite which failed in orbit in the spring of 1998 (Spaceflight Now; Satnews.com; PanAmSat Website).
Long March / Zhongxing-22
On Wednesday, January 26, a Long March 3A successfully launched the Zhongxing-22 telecommunications satellites from the Xichan Satellite Launching Center (Chang Zheng 3A) in Sichuan, China. The launch occurred at 1645 GMT (Tuesday). The three-stage rocket has a liquid hydrogen upper stage. The Zhongxing (China Star) -22 satellite was released into a 210 x 41,974 km geostationary transfer orbit 30 minutes after launch. The satellite is destined for the 98 degree East longitude orbital slot where it will provide domestic communications services for the China Telecommunications Broadcast Satellite Corp. -- a division of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The 2,300-kg satellite was built by the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and has a life expectancy of 8 years. Because China is a closed society, details on the satellite are sketchy. Space launch expert Jonathan McDowell theorizes that the satellite may be based upon the earlier Chinese-built DFH-2A satellites, which were of German design. This may be a replacement satellite for the Zhongxing 8, built by Loral, which has failed to receive export approval. Alternately, this could be the renamed Feng Hoe 1 (FH-1) satellite, which was reported in 1999 to be destined for an early 2000 launch on a Long March 3A. This was the fourth flight of the Long March 3A rocket, which is built by the Chinese Academy of Rocket Technology. This also marks the 18th successful flight in a row for the Long March rocket system since October 1996 when a rocket carrying Intelsat 708 exploded. China News Service announced that the Shanghai Bureau of Astronautics will set a goal of "two rockets" two satellites for this year (Reuters; Space Daily; Xinhua News Agency; Jonathan's Space Report; Space.com).
LAUNCH SYSTEM NEWS
Atlas / HISPASAT
Launch preparations are in final stages as Lockheed Martin prepares an Atlas 2AS for launch next Thursday, February 3. The rocket, which will be launched from Pad 36 B at Cape Canaveral Air Station, will be carrying the HISPASAT as payload. The satellite will be placed in the 30 degrees West longitude orbital slot where it will provide communications and DBS television services to Western Europe and the Americas. The launch will be broadcast on Galaxy 6, Transponder 11, C-band (Curt Swinehart).
Last week Russia announced an ambitious 10-12 launch schedule for the coming year for their Proton rocket. However, this schedule remains up in the air. Kazakstan officials have yet to give official permission to resume flights from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is in Kazakstan. Nurlan Utembayev, deputy head of Kazakhstan's National Space Committee told Reuters that his country had not yet given "any such permission". The apparent cart before the horse announcement is the result of a traditional schedule announcement made at the start of each year's rental of the Cosmodrome by Russia. The return to flight status will come after Kazakstan studies the results of Russian investigations; including the results of test firings of the suspect second stage. The "Contamination Simulation" test firing will occur in the next two weeks. Close timing since the scheduled first flight is only two weeks way. The first launch has been announced to be that of an Asia Cellular Satellite payload on February 12. It will be followed by the launch of the Sirius Satellite Radio payload in April (Reuters; Skyreport.com; Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
Boeing has reported that it is working on vibration problems with their new RS 68 engines. Full power tests of the engines, which will be used in the Delta IV launch system, have been suspended until the problems are corrected. Boeing's Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power Unit is working to install turbines with new turbopumps in the engines before testing is resumed at Edwards AFB and Stennis Space Center next month. With three testing locations, Boeing expects to make up the two months lost to the problem. Boeing expects the problem to be resolved without having to take a charge against earnings. The first commercial launch of the system is expected in April of 2001 with the first military launch the following year. The Delta IV is part of the USAF Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin (Bloomberg News Service).
The engine of the H-2 rocket that failed shortly after launch on November 15 has been recovered from the Pacific Ocean floor. The engine was located 150-km northwest of the Ogasawara Islands in 2,900 meters of water -- well below Japanese salvage companies' operational limits. This past week an American salvage company working for NASDA brought the suspect engine to light. The recovered engine will be sent to the National Aerospace Laboratory in the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture for study. Early analysis points toward a broken liquid hydrogen fuel line as the cause of the failure ( Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
Beal Aerospace is moving forward with its plans for its commercial launch system. On January 14, the company announced that its second stage thrust chamber had been shipped to its McGregor facility for testing. The second stage engine will be test fired for the first time in February. The 14-foot high ground test thrust chamber is shorter than the space flight article. The Stage 2 engine is rated at 810,000 pounds thrust in a vacuum. The company is also gearing up for its first stage engine tests. The Stage 1 engines will develop 4.1 million pounds of thrust. The company recently started production of 90 percent hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer for their rocket engines. The company's Stage 3 engines, rated at 44,000 pounds of thrust, have previously been tested at the McGregor facility. The test stand for the Stage 1 and Stage 2 tests was completed in late November of 1999. Earlier this month, Beal announced that it had dropped plans for a St. Croix launch facility and had confirmed that it was looking at Cape Canaveral (Beal Aerospace PR; Nathan Koren @ Spacepolicy.org; Beal Aerospace Webpage).
South Korea/ North Korea
South Korea President Kim Dae Jung has announced a 5- year plan to design, build and launch a commercial rocket from his country. The project, as envisioned, will use only South Korean industries and technology. External sources conjecture that the move is a way to strengthen South Korea's launch capability in the wake of North Korea's threats to renew its missile development program. North Korea recently announced that it was considering such a program in the wake of the US Anti Ballistic Missile tests over the Pacific. The US has stated that the tests are to protect itself against so-called rogue states such as North Korea, which tested an advanced launch system in 1998. The US also responded to the North Korean test by offering to ease sanctions, if the North Korean launch tests were stopped ( Space.com).
Clinton Space Policy
The Clinton Administration on February 8 will reveal a new space policy concerning spaceports. The plan is a result of a comprehensive review of current launch ranges after a string of US launch failures. The guidelines will set out who is responsible for maintenance and operation of spaceports and their constituent launch pads and infrastructure. The plan is expected to recommend a government / commercial industry partnership in the administration of launch sites. This would also result in a phase out of USAF control of the launch sites. The US's two busiest spaceports in Florida and California are on US Air Force bases ( Space.com).
US Space Budget
While the US Budget for next year is still in its formative stage, NASA appears to be heading for a five percent budget increase. This would restore the Agency to a level not seen since 1995. There are also in the works two new space- based initiatives will be included in the federal funding request of February 7. NASA will get a 32 percent increase in its information technology work. The Agency will also receive a 400 percent increase in its nanotechnology studies to produce smaller components for spacecraft. The NASA sponsored, 6-day, NanoSpace 2000 convened January 26 at the Johnson Space Center. The increase in funding is in part due to increased tax revenues and to increased awareness by key figures such as Alan Greenspan for the need to increase spending on space and science research (Space.com).
Rules of the Road
The US has begun informal discussions with other space faring nations over new trade agreement that will cover commercial space. The current agreement by which US space technology can be launched on Russian / Ukrainian and Chinese launch systems dates from the Bush Administration and was completed as the Clinton Trade Representative in the early 1990s. Collectively, the agreements are known as the "Rules of the Road" and provided a legitimate route for the three countries to enter the commercial space business with the US. The three countries have taken widely divergent routes to business. Ukraine has partnered with Boeing in the Sea Launch Venture. Russia has entered into business launching its rockets with Lockheed Martin through ILS. China has remained independent and is separately marketing its rockets. The Rules of the Road established upper limits to the number of rockets each country could sell to US payloads and pricing controls. Official talks with Russia are on hold until after the spring Russian elections. The agreements with Russia and Ukraine expire at the end of the year while that with China expires next year (Space.com).
The Soyuz-Fregat rocket poised to be launched on February 9 contains a technology demonstrator that could substantially reduce the cost of returning payloads from orbit. The mission features a new inflatable reentry shield. Stowed in the Fregat stage the Inflatable Reentry and Descent Technology (IRDT) is a compact 1 cubic meter package that inflates to 12-16 meters just before reentry to protect the Fregat upper stag and serve as a parachute. A smaller IRDT will protect a payload demonstrator. Lavochkin Bureau in Moscow built the shield as a joint project with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG, DASA of Munich. One possible use for the new technology would be in association with the ATV space tug used to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The shield would be able to provide a less expensive way for the Station to return payloads to Earth. The shield could also be used to recover upper rocket stages for reuse. Both Fregat and payload are expected to land in Russia about eight hours after launch. DASA has set up a Web site for tracking the Fregat and demonstrator (Space.com; Spaceflight Now).
The new Fregat upper stage seeks to dramatically increase the venerable Soyuz rocket's ability to deliver payload to orbit. The rockets equipped with the Fregat can carry up to 900 kg more than the traditional Soyuz /Ikar combination ( Space.com).
SETI @ home
The world-wide project to utilize spare time on personal computers to analyze data from the SETI project is preparing to release a new version of its software. The new software contains several bug fixes and includes several security- related alterations. It will allow use of computers behind security firewalls or proxies to connect through the Internet and will also have increased measures to prevent tampering with the data. Evidently, individuals have been caught altering their data to highest values so their names will appear in the SETI web site. Because of the security measures imposed by the response to these individuals, all those wishing to continue with SETI @ home will have to download the new software. The program is available for Windows, Mac and UNIX computers. While not formally released, the program became available this past week at the FTP site at the University of California Berkeley. A new upgrade in the analysis of the work units was not included in the version 2.0 software, but will be added to a version 3.0 that will be available in about a month (SpaceViews).
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB has announced that it has achieved laminar flow of air over a wing traveling at supersonic speeds. The Supersonic Natural Laminar Flow Experiment achieved laminar flow over 80 percent of a test wing flown on a modified F-15B. The flight reached speeds up to Mach 2 at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet during four flights. Previously only active measures such as blower motors and suction gloves have achieved laminar flow. The new wing achieved the remarkable results passively through the improved design of the wing. Supersonic laminar flow has profound implications on aerodynamic friction of wings. The better the flow, the greater the fuel efficiency and range of aircraft. The SS-NFL experiment data will help engineers create and verify prediction tools used in the design of wings for supersonic flight (Dryden PR).
At the recent Consumer Electronics show in Los Vegas, Datron/Transco unveiled its third generation CruiseTV DBS- 4500. The new system provides "portable in-motion satellite television reception system for vans and SUVs". The new units feature ease of use, easy-to-install, and plug-and play. Rather than the form-follows function dome exterior of earlier units, the new system resides in a plastic housing that resembles a rooftop luggage carrier and can be painted to match the vehicle. Systems can receive either DISH or DirecTV, retailing around $4,000 without DBS service agreement (Datron PR; New York Times).
e*star Inc. has begun marketing a new 19 inch satellite dish that can simultaneously receive DBS television signals from both DISH and DirecTV satellites in three different orbital slots. The dish can also receive simultaneous signals from broadcast data services and Internet services. The dish meets stringent FCC specification (e*star PR). e*star
Just as the Mars Polar Lander controllers called it quits of hearing from the Lander, a ray of hope burst from the heavens. Analysis of signals received by the 45-meter antenna at Stanford University shows what may have been an extremely weak signal from the Lander during tests on December 18 and January 4. While the signal is artificial, scientists have yet to pin point its source and eliminate possible terrestrial sources. MPL controllers at JPL sent a message Tuesday to MPL to send a signal back to the Stanford antenna. Any signal would have been received during a listening window on Wednesday. For the signal to originate with the MPL, two malfunctions would have had to occur. The Lander's X-band radio used for direct communications with Earth would have had to malfunction. The second malfunction would have had to occur in the relay circuit on the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor. the MPL team at JPL considers such a double malfunction to be unlikely, but are proceeding with their effort to confirm or deny the possibility. Because of the weakness of the received signal, it will be several days before NASA can determine if a reply signal has been received. Mars Global Surveyor has been imaging the MPL landing site, but to date there has been no evidence of the Lander's parachute or shadow -- the MPL itself is smaller than the resolution of orbiting MGS (JPL; Reuters). Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
NEAR controllers have completed a 30-hour dress rehearsal for the Valentine's Day encounter with the asteroid Eros. The practice session tested the command script that will lead to critical science observations and maneuvers that will put the NEAR spacecraft in a low phase flyby (February 13) then insertion into an orbit around the asteroid (February 14). As the NEAR spacecraft approaches the asteroid, the photographs it is taking are being analyzed for small moons and debris that could hamper the final maneuvers on February 14 (Space Daily).
The Stardust comet material return mission successfully completed Deep Space Maneuver 1 (DSM-1), a series of thruster firings on January 18, 20, and 22. Each firing lasted about 30 minutes and combined with a short firing in late December have changed the spacecraft's velocity by 171 meters per second (383 mph), but used only 29.34 kg of propellant. The maneuver puts NEAR on track for an Earth swing-by assist in January of next year. The Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft is aiming for an encounter with Comet Wild-2 in January of 2004 when it will pass within 150 km of the comet's core. Samples of the comet's tail will be captured in aerogel and then returned to Earth in 2006. Stardust was launched on a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Station on February 7, 1999 (NASA/JPL; Frontier Status).
During an Ariane 4 post-flight speech, PanAmSat president Doug Kahn announced that the PanAmSat SBS-5 ran out of operational fuel last week. The satellite's Ku-band duties will be assumed in early March by the Galaxy XR launched on the Ariane 4. It is unclear whether any fuel remained to deorbit the satellite (Dishnut).
INTERNET IN THE SKY FRONTIER
Space Systems / Loral
NetSat28 Co. has announced that it has selected Space Systems/ Loral to build a Ka-band satellite. The satellite is to be delivered on-orbit in October 2002. The satellite, from its position in geostationary orbit will provide Internet access 20 times faster than a T-1 line. NetSat28 has targeted small businesses, home offices and high-end residential users for the service. No value was reported for the contract (SpaceDaily; PR Newswire; NetSat28 Website).
General Motors Truck Group (GMTG) has ordered 50 Subscriber Communicators, antennas and vehicle interface boards from American Millennium Corp. Use of the system in this pilot program will allow GMTG to track a fleet of trucks utilizing only a web browser. The American Millennium system utilizes the Orbcomm satellite system to transmit positional data to a ground station that then places the information on a Web site. The system also allows for Near-real-time access to vehicle diagnostic and operating data useful in tracking GMTG prototype performance and maintenance (SpaceDaily).
The meteor that flashed over the Yukon during the late morning commute on January 18 has been the subject of a NASA investigation with their ER-2 airplane. NASA placed two paddles coated with silicon oil on the plane to capture any lingering meteor dust. The plane flew through the explosion three days after the fireball exploded. After the passage, the paddles were drawn into a hermetically sealed enclosure. Upon landing the paddles were sent to Houston for analysis. The explosion was calculated to be the equivalent of 2-3 kilotons of TNT at an altitude of 16 miles. The vapor trail of the exploding meteor was captured on film by local Realtor Ewald Lemke who made a series of photographs of the slowly dissipating trail during the course of 18 minutes. Lemke achieved a measure of fame when he posted the photos on the Web. The last major meteor explosion occurred in 1908 when a meteor exploded over Siberia with an estimated force of 20 megatons. The Yukon meteor is thought to have been a sporadic meteor consisting of dust boiled off of comets (Wired News; Spacescience.com; Space.com).
Jim Benson, Chairman and CEO of SpaceDev announced this past week that his company has filed a Form 10-SB registration as a required step to advance from listing on the Over The Counter Bulletin Board to the NASDAQ Small Cap market (Jim Benson)
Due to the loss of several lucrative aircraft contracts, Lockheed Martin has determined to trim its work force by 2 percent. The cuts consist of 2000 workers at the Marietta, Georgia aircraft plant and 400 workers at the Sunnyvale, California plant. Other cuts occurred at Fort Worth, Texas and Denver, Colorado. Much of the potential business loss revolved around the award of the Joint Strike Fighter to competitor Boeing. Lockheed is also reshaping its operation by consolidating six of its divisions into just two. Missiles & Space will now be part of the Space Systems- Sunnyvale Operations. This move is expected to save the company $200 million annually. Lockheed Martin stock has lost more than half of its value since August 1999 closing Thursday at $19.44 per share (San Jose Mercury News; States News Service).
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
Oklahoma Museum Heist
The theft of a number of museum display pieces from the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission is slowly coming to light. Earlier this month the Oklahoma City Omniplex museum reported that it had been burglarized with a number of space- related items stolen. The Museum tentatively appraised the loss at $93,000. Most of the items are irreplaceable, but of limited value without the certificates of authenticity left at the museum. This past week the Oklahoma police recovered a unique Soviet razor, designed to work in space. They found the razor in an unoccupied home used by junk dealer David Albert Rhoades for storage. It is not clear how Rhoades obtained the razor -- he does not appear to be a space collector (Reuters).
General Discovery (Canada) has filed a $1.5 billion law suit in the Superior Court of Ontario in Whitby for alleged and unspecified special, general and punitive damages in respect to the Sovcan Star Satellite Communications joint venture. The suit names Canadian Satellite Communications (Cancom, COM DEV, and Spar Aerospace along with 10 individuals as defendants. The named companies reportedly stated that they view the action as a nuisance claim without merit and plan to vigorously defend it (CNW)
(Editor's note: litigation tends to be present in all active frontiers. While a hallmark, it is not a welcome one as it tends to raise the launch bar and thus slow the progress of frontier development. Of course lawyers may have a different view of its usefulness).
The Saturn V resting outside the Johnson Space Center was recently surveyed by the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute. The 351 foot long, three-stage rocket has been declared a national treasure by the museum. It is one of only three remaining Saturn V rockets. During the survey of the rocket, a pair of barn owls were found nesting in it. More serious, a second stage engine mount is failing and as a result the rocket engine will eventually rip out of the rocket unless there is intervention. To protect the rocket a temporary structure 500 feet long and 200 feet wide will be built. The funding comes from a $1.2 million federal grant received by the Smithsonian, which requires matching private funds. The Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center has already been restored and is on display in a new museum. The restored Johnson Space Center rocket will be housed in a new permanent structure. The third Saturn V at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama also needs extensive restoration work. The passage of time with rust and electrolysis has eaten away portions of all three of the rockets (Houston Chronicle).
On January 22, the 140 foot high mobile gantry at Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 3 West was toppled by a 20 pound explosive charge. Since its activation in 1960, the launch pad hosted 81 rocket launches. Most of the launches were Atlas D, E, and F rockets with 38 Thor- Agena rockets. The A-frame structure had been extensively salvaged and weakened prior to the final demolition. SLC-3 West has been selected as one of two sites for launching the new Atlas 5 rockets (Spaceflight Now).
In a week that marked both the Apollo 1 and Challenger disasters, the space satellite community also paused to remember Geoff Perry MBE. Perry, who is best-known for deducing the location of the secret Plesetsk launch site in 1966 died of a heart attack at the age of 72. He began monitoring radio signals from satellites with the launch of Sputnik. He was fascinated with changes of Doppler shift and recorded a change in Sputnik 4 when an error put it into a higher orbit instead of deorbiting. In May of 1966, he realized that the launch of Cosmos 112 did not appear to have come from the Baikonur launch site. A second launch in October of Cosmos 129 allowed him to pinpoint the secret Plesetsk launch site south of Archangelsk. The Soviet Union would not officially reveal the existence of their secret spaceport for 17 more years. At the time of this discovery, Perry was a teacher at the Kettering Grammar School in England. His discoveries of Soviet space secrets led to the formation of the Kettering group -- now an international organization of space enthusiasts who continue to track and monitor satellites. He retired from teaching in 1884, but continued to track satellites (BBC).
Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORT
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 435 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin sometime in 2000. Humans have spent a combined total of 0 days in orbit this year.
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