Frontier Status Report #191
Frontier Status Report #191
February 25, 2000
Dale M. Gray
After three frantic weeks of launches, no launches were reported for the past week. The Shuttle Endeavour's crew completed the radar mapping of the Earth and safely landed at Kennedy Space Center. The Army introduced a new, safer rocket fuel. India tested a rocket engine. Galileo survived intense radiation to swoop close to Io, but went into safe mode two days later. Gilat announces the testing of its two-way satellite Internet connection. A new sub-frontier has been emerging in space, the broadcast of local television stations via satellite.
Highlights of the week of February 25 include:
Despite a small leak in a thruster system, the crew of the Shuttle Endeavour was able to conserve enough fuel to extend the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (STS-99) to Sunday, February 19. The conservation measures allowed NASA to add 9 hours and 10 minutes to the mission, which in turned allowed the Shuttle astronauts to complete one last survey of Australia. However, the additional mapping time removed the possibility of a salvage spacewalk in case the 60-meter-long radar mast jammed during its retraction. While the mast did retract successfully, it took 2.5 hours and three attempts get its stowage canister's three latches to engage. Had the latches failed to deploy, Mission Control would have been forced to eject the canister using small explosives. The mission logged 7 days of continuous radar mapping. The project recorded 80 percent of the Earth's landmass -- 47 million square miles -- most of it twice. The radar mission will result in the most detailed topographic maps of the world ever made (AP; Reuters; Michael R.; Spaceflight Now).
The data from the 222-hour mission was stored on 332 high-density tapes. NASA's primary partner was the US National Imagery and Mapping Agency, which provides detailed maps for US defense and intelligence agencies. While high-resolution maps will likely to be classified, lower-resolution maps, which are still superior to most terrestrial-generated topographic maps, will be made public. Because the maps cover every nation in the world, the mission generated international interest. This was reflected in the crew of Endeavour, which included Mamoru Mohri of the Japanese space agency (NASDA) and German astronaut Gerhard Thiele (ESA). Other partners in the mission include: the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI). An international team of 42 scientists, which include Guo Huadong of the Peoples Republic of China, will review the mission data(Reuters; ESA; Agence France Presse; Spaceflight Now ; Inside China ).
The Shuttle touched down at 6:22 p.m. EST at the Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility Runway 33. The landing came on the second landing opportunity after excessive crosswinds across the runway violated flight runs for the first landing window. Earlier weather concerns at both Kennedy Space Center and Edwards Air Force Base presented a possibility of a rare White Sands, New Mexico, landing. The landing at Kennedy was the 21st consecutive and 50th overall for the Shuttle. Endeavour's next flight will be STS-97 - ISS flight 4A (NASA; Reuters; Spacefligh t Now Prelanding article; Spaceflight Now Post landing article).
Boeing got called on the carpet this past week for cost overruns. NASA Inspector General Roberta L. Gross announced that Boeing would forfeit the majority of its profits from the construction of the International Space Station (ISS) because of nearly $986 million in cost overruns. The company will receive only $75.4 million in profits instead of $203 million. The decision is part of a review of the ISS contract that was ordered last year after Boeing reported additional overruns only weeks after Goldin announced to Congress that the overruns had stopped. Gross blamed most of the overruns on unexpected costs associated with reorganization after Boeing acquired Rockwell International and merged with McDonnell Douglas. Boeing is the prime contractor on the ISS project with over 150 subcontractors (LA Times; AP; Space.com).
The two orbiting elements of the ISS continue to function without any new problems. The next Shuttle flight to the station was finalized this past week with the Shuttle Atlantis launching no earlier than April 13 for an 11-day mission. The flight will include the transfer of cargo and supplies, the replacement of defective equipment and batteries and a spacewalk to assure that a crane attached to Zarya is properly secured in its socket. The mission will be commanded by Jim Halsell and piloted by Scott Horowitz. Mission specialists include the second ISS crew of Jim Voss, Susan Helms, and Yuri Usachev. Other Mission Specialists for the flight include Mary Ellen Weber and Jeff Williams (Space Daily; Spaceflight Now Split Mission article; Spaceflight Now ISS Status article).
A private company, MirCorp, signed an agreement last week to lease the Mir space station. The company expects to use the orbiting property in a variety of commercial endeavors, which include tourism, manufacturing, and promotion. Led by American entrepreneur Walt Anderson, MirCorp signed a lease for commercial use of the station on February 17. While much of the financing of the new venture comes from the west, RKK Energiya is the majority shareholder in MirCorp. Energiya, in turn, is 38 percent owned by the Russian government. The new corporate administration layer will allow Western-style marketing of Mir's commercial resources, while removing many of the bureaucratic hurdles that come with governmental operations. The amount paid for the commercial rights has not been reported, but is widely believed to be between $10 and $20 million. MirCorp's president is American businessman Jeff Manber, but the corporation will be based out of Bermuda and Amsterdam to avoid conflicts with the American government (Ransom Wuller, ProSpace; AP; Florida Today; MirCorp Web Page).
Russian actor Vladimir Steklov (52) is preparing for a role of a lifetime. The actor is preparing to play the part of a cosmonaut reluctant to leave Mir in the movie "The Final Journey." While space operas are hardly novel fare for moviegoers, Steklov's new venture will go where no one has gone before. Much of the movie will actually be shot on location in Mir. If all goes as planned, Steklov will be launched to Mir with the returning Mir crew on March 31. The action will be filmed by Russian cosmonauts Sergey Zaletin and Alexander Kaleri and directed from Russian mission control. Steklov has been in training for the role for two years. Terrestrial-based scenes will include Hollywood actors Sean Penn and Gary Oldman and Russian actors Mikhail Ulyanov and Leonid Korolev (BBC).
LAUNCH SYSTEM NEWS
Japan signed a deal on February 23 with the small South Pacific republic of Kiribati for the construction of a landing strip for the HOPE-X unmanned shuttle. The landing strip will be built on Christmas Island. If all goes as planned, the mini-shuttle will be launched on a NASDA H-2A rocket in 2004 and use the island as a landing site. To prepare for the event, a quarter-scale model equipped with a jet engine will be used for tests of landing systems and facilities beginning in 2001. The 20-year lease for use of the island comes with no price tag, but Japan expects to spend 2.3 billion yen ($21 million US) to renovate an old runway and to build infrastructure. The H-2A development program has been set back by over a year by a string of launch failures of the H-2 rocket (SpaceDaily Spaceflight Now).
Taurus / MTI
A planned launch of a four-stage Taurus rocket carrying a classified military payload has been delayed due to downrange concerns. The delay came when it was discovered that a small South Pacific Island in the impact zone of the third stage, believed to be uninhabited, was not. The USAF was notified on February 25 by the Tahitian government that the island had a small population. If the island cannot be evacuated, the launch will be delayed by a month to reprogram the booster's flight computer (Spaceflight Now; Space Views).
A Department of Energy payload, the Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) was expected to be launched into a sun synchronous polar orbit on an Orbital Sciences Taurus rocket on February 28. Because of the downrange problem, the earliest the rocket can be launched is now March 4. Launch coverage will be broadcast on SBS-6 Transponder 4 at 74 degrees (frequency 11798 MHz). The three-year proof of technology mission will use a telescope to view the Earth in 15 spectral bands. The mission will be conducted in concert with on-the-ground surveys to establish validity of the measurements. The satellite also carries a joint NOAA, Czech Republic Astronomical Institute instrument to measure rare high-energy particle storms associated with solar flair activity (MediaNews; Orbital Sciences PR).
This past week a deal was struck between key members of the US Senate and US House over the privatization of Intelsat and Inmarsat. The legislation would end COMSAT's monopoly over Intelsat access in the U.S and end certain legal privileges enjoyed by Intelsat and COMSAT as well as end the outside ownership cap on COMSAT. Under the deal, the Members agreed to support the draft legislation without modification through the legislative process and its enactment into law. The enactment of the law will allow the Lockheed Martin/COMSAT merger to move forward (SpaceDaily).
The US Army announced the development of a new, safer rocket fuel. The Competitive impulse, non-carcinogenic hypergol (CINCH) fuel has been demonstrated for use in launch vehicles that currently use Aerozine-50, which is a carcinogenic hypergolic fuel. The new fuel is reported to be versatile and can be used in a wide variety of rocket applications. It reacts on contact with nitrogen tetroxide or inhibited red fuming nitric acid. The fuel was designed to work even in low temperatures. Though never tested, theoretical calculations show that it work better than RP-1 when used in thrusters with hydrogen peroxide or liquid oxygen. The preliminary evaluation of the fuel was conducted at Marshall Space Flight Center. Demonstration projects at Marshall and at Edward Air Force Base are planned. 3M has a pilot plant producing CINCH for commercial applications. Research for CINCH was funded by the Army Acquisition Pollution Prevention Support Office (Space Daily).
India Rocket Engine
A new 7.5-tonne liquid hydrogen/LOX engine was tested this past week at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri in southern Tamil Nadu, India. The test marked the beginning of a series of rocket engine ground-tests, which are the results of a seven-year development project. The program was initiated when India failed to obtain Russian rocket technology due to pressure from the US. The engine was placed on a test stand on December 23 and has since been subject to a series of cryogenic propellant tests. A planned firing of 30 seconds on February 16 was aborted after only 15 seconds. Scientists will now study the data from the firing to find and correct the anomaly that caused the shutdown. The engine is designed for use in the indigenously designed and produced Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SpaceDaily; AFP).
Rockwell Science Center has announced that it has produced the world's largest infrared image sensor. The new sensor is capable of detecting minute quantities of heat from distant astronomical objects -- a sensitivity capable of detecting one billionth of the heat produced by a light bulb. The sensor is the result of a two-year program funded by a University of Hawaii-led consortium of observatories. With 4.2 million picture elements and 13 million transistors, the device will be used in the next generation of telescopes. The first device is currently being delivered to the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy and will soon be in the hands of observatories worldwide. An array of these new generation sensors (100 million pixels) will be used in the Next Generation Space Telescope to observe galaxies formed at the beginning of the universe (SpaceDaily).
With one out of two inflatable shields (IRDT) recovered from the frozen mountain slopes of Russia, plans are in the works for a second launch test. A Volna rocket launched from a Russian Navy test site in Northern Russia would carry the second IRDT test article. The Volna is a converted RSM 50 submarine-launched ballistic missile produced by Makeyev Design Bureau. NPO Lavochkin, of Russia, has proposed the new test in September to its ESA partners. The first test launched on the new Soyuz Fregat combination was a qualified success, only one of the two reentry shields has been recovered. When a tear developed in the shield material, the inflatable shield experienced a loss of pressure late in the descent. Several attached experiments were lost and the instrument package protected by the shield hit the ground harder than expected. The lower section of subsystems and radio beacon were damaged, but the sensor package, built by DaimlerChrysler, functioned perfectly (Space.com).
The European Space Agency has launched (figuratively) a campaign to find a name for the Cluster II space weather satellites. The satellites will replace the four lost during the maiden flight of the Ariane 5 rocket. The new Cluster will be launched on two rockets launched from Baikonur in June and July of this year. The competition is available to all ESA member countries. One finalist entry from each country will go to the final round and the person submitting the entry will get to attend one of the launches. The grand prizewinner will get a trip for four to Paris in early autumn 2000 along with an award and model of the satellites. Entries must be postmarked by May 10, 2000. For more information, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Terra Earth observing satellite reached its final orbit on Wednesday, February 23. As a result of eight thruster firings, the spacecraft is now in its final 705-km polar orbit. The $1.3 billion mission is controlled by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center ( Space.com).
As the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft settles into it long-term mission orbiting the Eros asteroid, new information is already flooding in. Observations of the asteroid hint of parallel striations, which indicated the asteroid was once part of a stratified larger body. The surface of the asteroid is saturated by craters -- a sign that the asteroid is of ancient origin; older than the asteroid Gaspera, but younger than Mathilde. Scientists have also determined that the 33-km-diameter asteroid has a density of 2.4 grams per cubic centimeter, which is the same as Earth's crust. This evidence supports theories that Eros was once part of a larger planetoid that broke apart as a result of collisions. On February 24, controllers fired thrusters to move NEAR 25-km closer into a 200-km orbit around the asteroid. By December, NEAR is expected to pass within 35 km of the surface (Andy Cheng NEAR Project Scientist; Space Science News ; Spaceflight Now ; NEAR Web Page).
On February 22, Galileo made its third and closest flyby of the Jovian moon Io. The veteran spacecraft passed within 198 km of the surface at 6:32 a.m. PST. Scientists hope to see how the geologically active moon has changed since the last encounter and to study the moon at a higher resolution. The spacecraft was also used in a radio science experiment that was performed when Jupiter partially blocked radio signals to Earth -- allowing scientists to study Jupiter's atmosphere. As with previous Io encounters, radiation-induced false-resets of the computer occurred during the approach. Specially designed software correctly diagnosed the events and kept the spacecraft operational. While much of the data from the flyby was transmitted within a few hours, it will be several weeks before scientists have all the information gathered. SpaceScience; Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
Two days after the successful flyby, Galileo entered safe mode. The event was triggered by the same false readings experienced during the Io approach. However, the corrective software was disabled during the playback of the encounter data. After controllers confirmed it was a false reset event, Galileo was restored to normal function. Galileo was launched from Shuttle Atlantis in 1989 and is now in its second extended mission. While the early mission was marred by the failure of the main antenna to extend, the spacecraft has since redeemed itself by lasting long after its design life and enduring twice the planned radiation (Space Daily; AP). Spaceflight Now; Galileo Web Site).
On February 22, the Stardust spacecraft extended its aerogel collector and began its work sampling the interstellar dust passing through our solar system. The return capsule heat shield was commanded to open and a particle collector was extended out of the capsule. The 0.1-meter-square sampler was then retracted 50 deg for correct positioning. The sampler contains 130 blocks of silicon dioxide gel known as aerogel. The ultra-light, super insulating material has been described as frozen smoke. The aerogel will be stowed around May 25. A second sampling period will occur in mid-2002. In 2004, the aerogel will be fully extended for the spacecraft's encounter with comet Wild-2. Following the encounter the spacecraft will return to Earth and drop the samples off. The return capsule is expected to touch ground at the Utah Test and Training Range in 2006. The spacecraft was launched on February 7, 1999 (NASA; Space.com; Spaceflight Now ; Stardust Web Page).
On February 11-12, the antique Pioneer 10 spacecraft was successfully ordered to repoint toward Earth. At a distance of 11.07 billion kilometers from Earth, it took the commands 10 hours and 15 minutes to reach the sturdy craft. Because of its power supply has degraded over time, the maneuver had to be conducted with the transmitter turned off to conserve power. Ninety minutes after Pioneer 10 completed its turn, the transmitter was turned back on. This is the seventh of a series of such maneuvers without the benefit of the transmitter. The spacecraft is currently being used to test chaos theories, to help develop advanced communications technology and to study the heliopause and the interstellar medium (SpaceDaily).
The Garuda-1 satellite launched on an ILS Proton rocket on February 12 has reached geostationary orbit. The satellite was released into an elliptical orbit six hours after launch and has since fired its onboard engine five times to slowly raise its perigee from 6,348 km to 36,000 km. The last firing, on Friday February 18, placed the satellite in geostationary orbit at 128 deg East longitude. The Lockheed Martin-built satellite is drifting 1.5 deg per day to reach its final position at 123 deg East longitude. On February 23, the satellite successfully deployed its two 12-meter reflector antennas and solar panels. The satellite is based on the Lockheed Martin A2100AXX bus and operates in the L-band. It can simultaneously handle 11,000 telephone channels and up to 2 million subscribers. The Garuda-1 satellite will provide cellular phone service to Asia. The satellite is owned by P.T. Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN). Garuda is the first satellite of the ASIA Cellular Satellite (ACeS) system (PSN PR; Space.com).
The giant HS 702 satellite owned by PanAmSat and known as Galaxy XI has reached its position in geostationary orbit and has unfurled its solar panels. The 30-minute deployment was captured by an onboard on camera for the first time. The satellite has a wingspan of 34 meters -- the equivalent of a Boeing 737. The solar panel features angled solar reflector panels on each side of an array of gallium arsenide solar cells with an efficiency of nearly 24 percent. The solar wings were designed and manufactured by Spectrolab Inc. a subsidiary of Hughes Electronics Corporation. Three more of the powerful satellite will be launched in 2000. In late 1999, Hughes announced an enhanced version of the satellite, the HS 702+, which will deliver 25 kW of power. Galaxy XI was launched on an Ariane 4 rocket on December 21, 1999 (Business Wire; Hughes Web Site. Spaceflight Now).
Debris from the exploding Yukon Meteorite has been found on frozen Tutshi Lake near Carcoss, Yukon Territory. A 6-ounce fragment has been sent to the Johnson Space Center for analysis. The fragment is believed to be part of a "fireball" that exploded over Alaska and western Canada on January 19. The fragment was recovered from about 0.3 m of snow. Because it was recovered before being immersed in water and has not been handled by people, the fragment has huge scientific potential. The area resident that discovered the meteorite has not been named because of potential controversy over the ownership of the land around the lake (Anchorage Daily News).
SpaceDev Inc. announced this past week that Stan Dubyn has been appointed president and chief operating officer. Dubyn was previously the COO and senior vice president of Spectrum Astro Inc. He has also extensive experience working for Hughes and TRW. The appointment was made to prepare SpaceDev for a period of rapid growth (SpaceDev PR).
INTERNET IN THE SKY FRONTIER
The Israeli satellite services company Gilat has announced that it will be teaming up with Microsoft and EchoStar to provide two-way high-speed Internet access through satellite connections. Subsidiary Gilat-to-Home, based out of McLean, Virginia, will produce systems that can communicate directly with its satellites as opposed to current satellite systems that require an out-going landline. Download speed run from 400 kilobits per second to 40 megabits, while uploads range from 56 to 156 k. The system is currently being tested by Gilat employees with additional Microsoft employees added to the system next month for a combined total of about 2,000 homes. Gilat projects a customer base of 3 million by 2005. In preparation for the debut of the system, Microsoft has added a special MSN-Gilat-To-Home cobrand portal for the service and EchoStar will bundle the service with its dish system. Microsoft recently announced that it would invest $50 million in the system in exchange for a 26 percent stake. The Gilat/EchoStar system was announced on February 23 at the DISH Network's annual conference in Denver. EchoStar will market the service through its system of 20,000 retailers nationwide. The standalone system will also be available at Radio Shack. To fund the project over the next three years, Gilat plans to raise $300 million through equity and debt (EchoStar/Gilat PR; USA Today; Broadband Week On-line).
Loral Space & Communications has reached an agreement with Hughes Network Systems (HNS) for the leasing of transponder capability from their Satmex 5 satellite. The arrangement covers the use of 10-Ku band transponders through 2005. Hughes will use the capacity for its DirecPC satellite Internet service. Satmex 5, owned by Mexico, was launched on December 5, 1998, and is located at 116.8 deg West longitude (Business Wire).
LOCAL TV SATELLITE FRONTER
Capitol Broadcasting Co.
While EchoStar and DirecTV have been publicly developing their local television services, the Capitol Broadcasting Local TV on Satellite (LTVS) division is working to enter the new frontier as service provider for both companies. The company is planning to launch two Ka-band satellites between 2002 and 2003. The $1 billion project is being financed through private investors, though EchoStar recently indicated an interest in the project. A dual encryption system integrated in the satellites would make it possible to beam signals to both EchoStar and DirecTV customers. The company has to-date signed retransmission agreements with 500 of a planned 800 television stations in the US. The system is envisioned to provide high-definition channels, multicast digital networks, and datacasting. In one possible market application, a new dish would be capable of receiving data from EchoStar's two satellites and LTVS spot-beam satellites. Customers would then get one bill for the service from EchoStar (Multichannel News).
The DISH network announced this past week plans for an ambitious new nine-satellite system, which will include three new satellites. Utilizing spot-beams, two of the satellites, EchoStar VII and VIII, will provide local programming to 60 national markets. The satellites will be located at 119 and 110 deg respectively. The third satellite, EchoStar IX, will be a Ku/Ka-band satellite designed to provide business to business communications and may include two-way Internet capabilities. It will be located at 121 deg. The addition of the new satellites was announced on February 23 at the DISH Network's annual conference in Denver.(SkyReport; Business Wire; Lockheed Martin PR).
A bill to provide $1.25 billion in loan guarantees for the expansion of local satellite TV programming to rural areas was supported by the House Agricultural Committee by a vote of 41- 0. The loan guarantees are felt to be necessary for EchoStar and DirecTV to expand their local programming service to rural areas. In its current form, the bill would not provide help to small cable operators who wished to expand their services to rural areas. The loan guarantee provision was removed from the Satellite Home Viewers Act passed last year to assure its passage (Multichannel News).
SATELLITE RADIO FRONTIER
The satellite radio frontier reached a new plain of activity this past week with an agreement between rivals XM Radio and Sirius to jointly finance the development of dual-mode radios. The proposed radios would be able to receive programming from either of the two satellite systems. By sharing intellectual property, the companies expect the new radios to be available by 2004. Other agreements include the development of a joint service mark to identify satellite radios, backup service for each other in case of satellite failure and a promise to work on their patent-infringement litigation. The development of the interoperable satellite radios is mandated by the FCC, but retailers are not required to sell them. Both companies have acknowledged that more can be accomplished through cooperation than through litigation and competition over alliance partners (Joseph Palenchar).
The USAF has decided not to exercise options on a contract to produce global positioning satellites (GPS). In 1997, Boeing won a contract to deliver six GPS satellites with an option for up to 27 more. The contract will be completed with options for only 6 additional satellites exercised. USAF stressed that it was not displeased with Boeing's performance, rather it hoped to obtain the most advanced GPS system by opening the contract up for bidding. The new bid requirements will include an anti-jamming feature. Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin are expected to bid on the new contract (AP).
The Marshall Islands, which contain the Kwajalein Atoll missile range, is seeking a new deal in their arrangement with the US military for the use of the range. The US currently pays local landowners nearly $13 million per year for use of the range. It is estimated that the US has spent $4 billion in missile range infrastructure. The US State Department has stated that the issue of increased rent payments is not subject for negotiations. However, the Marshall Islanders have in the past found ways to bring rent increases to the bargaining table. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, "sail-ins" were conducted, which disrupted test schedules. Ultimately, the protests were able to raise the rent from a few hundred thousand dollars to $13 million each year (SpaceDaily).
Courtesy J. Ray and SpaceViews
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORT
With the landing of the Shuttle Endeavour, there are currently no humans in orbital space. Humans have spent a total of 67.5 man-days in orbit in the year 2000. The first element of the ISS has been in orbit for 463 days. The occupation of the ISS is expected to begin in the fall of 2000.
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