Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #192

Frontier Status Report #192

March 3, 2000

Dale M. Gray

Another quiet week on the frontier with only the launch of a sounding rocket from Alaska's Poker Flat spaceport reported. Proton and Taurus launches were delayed. NASA announced a pricing plan for the International Space Station. Boeing and Lockheed Martin both reach milestones in the construction of their EELV launch complexes. McCaw drops plan for Iridium bailout.

Highlights of the week of March 3 include:

  • Sea Launch sets sail for ICO Global launch
  • Boeing loses two ISS tanks
  • Boeing announces AirLaunch system
  • X-38 drop test halted in flight
  • Satellite Privatization Bill passes through Senate

SHUTTLE - The Shuttle Atlantis is being prepared for launch to the International Space Station. The Mission, STS-101 is designated the 3rd ISS Flight (2A.2a). The Shuttle is being outfitted with a SpaceHab double module. Lift off is slated for no earlier than April 13. Endeavor is currently in Orbiter Processing Facility bay 3. The Orbiter will be transferred to the Vehicle Assembly Building for mating with the External Tank / Solid Rocket Boosters on March 13 (NASA).


Zvezda: The next module to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS), the Zvezda Service Module is being prepared for its July 12 launch date. Officially, the preparation work and delivery of the upgraded second stage Proton engines are on schedule. However, insiders state that it will be difficult for all the work to be completed on time. KB Khimmash of Voronezh is still testing the upgraded second stage engines that will be used on the Zvezda flight. These engines will be flight tested on two Proton flights prior to July (

Pricing Plan: NASA has announced prices for commercial space in its Laboratory Module on the International Space Station. The prices cover both internal racks an external adapter sites. The bundled prices cover location, energy use, crew time and connection with the ground. The standard bundle comes with a price tag of $20.8 million. A premium pricing plan is also in place for additional services ranging from $100.00 per minute transponder time; $10,000 per pound each way for Shuttle passive pressurized cargo; $12,000 per pound each way passive unpressurized cargo; $15,000 per space station IVA crew-hour; and $2,000 per space station kWh energy (NASA).

NASA Pricing Structure Webpage

Boeing: Equipment for the International Space Station continues to pile up on the ground awaiting a ticket to space. As a result of this pile-up of materials, contractors are running out of place to store the sensitive and expensive equipment. This past week Boeing realized that it had lost two tanks that were to be installed on the ISS. Oxygen and nitrogen tanks were accidentally trashed. The tanks were in 5 x 5-foot wooden crates that were placed outside Boeing's Huntsville plant to make room in the plant. Instead of being put back in the plant, they were mistakenly sent to the land fill. When Boeing realized its mistake, it sent workers to the land fill to search for the $750,000 tanks. The tanks were not recovered. Boeing is responsible for the loss and has already installed spares (Tampa Bay Online; AP).

Station Simulation: An on-ground simulation of the International Space Station conducted in a Moscow complex has concluded after 240 days. Four crewmembers were placed in two sealed chambers and conducted 85 medical and scientific experiments while in communications with a remote "Mission Control". The crew also conducted simulated docking of supply vessels. While three of the crew have emerged, a fourth will continue until March 22. The experiment was sponsored by the European, Russian, Ukrainian, Canadian and Japanese space agencies and private companies (AP).


Soyuz: The launch of the new Mir crew on a Soyuz rocket has been delayed three days to April 3. The change comes from technical reasons (Itar-Tass as cited in Reuters).


Black Brant: A Black Brant-12 rocket carrying the Canadian Space Agency's GEODESIC experiment was launched from Poker Flat, Alaska on February 26. The four-stage sounding rocket climbed to an altitude of 1,600 km. The GEODESIC experiment studied the Northern Lights during the 17-minute flight. The payload and rocket were built by Bristol Aerospace of Winnipeg for a reported price tag of $8 million. The payload impacted in the Beaufort Sea at the end of the mission (Canadian Space Agency PR;


Proton / Express A: The launch of the Intersputnik satellite Express A has been rescheduled for March 29. The satellite was to be launched on a Proton rocket on February 29, but technical problems have pushed back the launch. The satellite, one of two Express satellites to be launched this year, will be placed in the 80 degrees East longitude orbital slot. The satellites will provide Ku-band and digital television services (Spaceflight Now).

Taurus / MTI: The launch of an Orbital Sciences Taurus rocket carrying the Department of Energy's Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) continues to be on hold over the issue of risk to a down-range population. Late in the preparations for launch it was learned that the island of Maria in the South Pacific would be in the impact zone of the rocket's third stage, an Orion 50 motor built by Alliant TechSystems. The island is one of the 180 islands that make up French Polynesia. The US State Department is working on a resolution to the problem. The satellite launch has been tentatively rescheduled for March 12, pending resolution of the island dilemma. This will be the fifth launch of the Taurus launch system (SpaceDaily; Spaceflight Now).

EELV: The development program for the Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle reached a new milestone this past week. The 100-meter high Mobile Service Tower has topped out. A steel girder was put in place on March 2 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch pad. The pad is currently about half finished with completion slated for this summer. The first launch is expected to occur from the pad in April of 2001. The 9 million-pound tower is being built by Met-Con Inc. Boeing has an USAF contract for 19 Delta IV launches worth $1.38 billion (Florida Today; Spaceflight Now).

On March 3, Lockheed Martin also celebrated a topping out of its 30-story assembly building for the Atlas 5 boosters. The assembly building was built on a former Titan launch complex in only six months. Lockheed Martin has an USAF contract for six Atlas 5 launches worth $639 million (Florida Today).

Beal Aerospace: Environmental concerns and other factors have caused Beal Aerospace to give up on plans to build a rocket manufacturing plant on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The company had planned to build its BA-2 rocket there. The Beal is now searching for a new coastal location for the plant. Florida has offered $10 million in tax incentive grants to lure the business to its shores. The $122 million plant would employ 300 people. Beal has plans in place to build a temporary launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The first launch of the three-stage, 236-foot tall rocket is slated for 2002. The company has scheduled a test of the second-stage engine at its McGregor, Texas facility on Saturday, March 5. The hydrogen peroxide and kerosene powered engine has a vacuum rated thrust of 810,000 pounds (Florida Today;

Sea Launch: The Sea Launch Commander and Odyssey launch platforms are at sea sailing for the equator. The pair of vessels left their Long Beach, California homeport on February 27. When they arrive at the launch spot in the remote South Pacific, they will begin preparing for a March 12 launch of a Zenit 3SL rocket. The launch is slated for 6:49 a.m. PST. The launch was delayed from February 19 due to unspecified non-technical issues. The rocket will be carrying an ICO Global constellation. The 2,750-kg satellite is the first of 10 satellites to be placed in a 10,390-km orbit. ICO Global is emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in large part due to an influx of cash from Craig McCaw. The Sea Launch / Zenit 3SL system is capable of placing 5,250 kg to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. Sea Launch has a backorder of 19 launches (Spaceflight Now; Reuters; Space Daily).

Ariane 5: Plans for a hot-tub constructed in a Port Aransas, Texas motor home park have been put on hold pending a NASA investigation. A cone-shaped object, thought to be a nose cone from an Ariane 5 solid rocket booster, found on February 28 on a Mustang Island beach was about to be used by Barney Corey as a spa. The 1.5 meter diameter, 1 meter high object disappeared from the beach shortly thereafter, but local law enforcement officials were able to deduce its location. When NASA officials got wind of the unusual object, they sent Nicholas Johnson, to check the object for serial numbers. Johnson, who is a program manager for orbital debris, will contact Aerospatiale officials to confirm the object's identity. If Aerospatiale wants the nose cone back, NASA and the US State Department will arrange for its transfer. If Aerospatiale does not want the artifact, the object will likely be saved for local display (Corpus Christi Caller Times;

AirLaunch: Boeing and Thiokol Propulsion have teamed together to produce a new air-launched rocket. The system, appropriately named AirLaunch, would utilize a modified Boeing 747-400F jet to launch a three-stage solid rocket built by Thiokol. A wing and tail assembly would be attached to the rocket to provide lift and stability during launch as the 747 drops out from under the rocket. Once the rocket ignites, wings and tail separate, thereby reducing drag and mass. The rocket would then carry a payload of up to 3,000 kg to LEO. The system will feature launch-on-demand at competitive prices. The system is designed for the deployment of the USAF Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV), but will also support a Conventional Payload Module that could be used by either military or commercial applications. The AirLaunch system is being developed at the Boeing Phantom Works (Boeing PR; SpaceDaily; Spaceflight Now).


X-38: A drop test of an X-38 technology demonstrator from a modified B-52 bomber was delayed on February 28 after an electrical short was experienced after the B-52 had taken off, but before it had reached the altitude of 38,000 feet where the X-38 was released. The minor electrical problem was believed to be in the flight control system. After the problem was identified, the B-52 landed with the X-38 still attached. The will be rescheduled in about a week to allow personnel to participate in the drop test of the new X-38 parasail in Yuma, Arizona. The X-38 program is a joint NASA / ESA effort to develop an emergency crew return vehicle for the International Space Station (CNN).

Future X - Design for an experiment on the Future-X technology demonstrator was completed in February. The Slender Hypervelocity Aerothermodynamic Research Probe (SHARP B2) consists of an ultra-high temperature ceramic material. The material is significant in that its use may allow future spacecraft to have sharp leading edges. Current spacecraft have blunt edges to form an area of compression in front of the vehicle that absorbs reentry heat. The compression wave comes at a price due to its high inefficiency due to drag. Use of the material in sharp-edged launch applications will improve the effectiveness of propulsion systems. The material will be tested in a modified Mk12A reentry vehicle launched on an USAF Minuteman III launch vehicle. Launch is slated for June 28 (Space Daily).

Laser Propulsion: NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has managed to move a super-lightweight carbon material attached to a pendulum using only laser light. By throttling the laser, engineers were able to achieve a steady state deflection. The experiment was conducted in a vacuum chamber to show that lasers can be used in spacecraft using laser-sails. The experiment, using a porous mesh that easily unfolds after intricate folding, has great significance in that spacecraft using a laser-light powered system would not have to carry heavy propulsion systems and fuel (

Pulse Engine: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is looking for an answer to expensive turbo pumps used in today's liquid rocket engines. Working with "pulse engines" engineers are experimenting with rocket engines that have low-pressure combustion engines. Fuel and oxidizer enters into the combustion chamber where it is ignited. The rapidly burning gases create a detonation. Because combustion is completed before the gas has a chance to expand, exhaust gases are pushed out the open end of the thrust chamber, providing thrust to the system. The cycle can be repeated up to 100 cycles per second. The advantage of the pulse engine is that the fuel and oxidizer enters the thrust chamber at 200 psi instead of the 2,000 psi necessary to push the materials into the continuously thrusting rocket engines in use today. The pulse engine can be throttled by controlling the frequency of the pulses. Marshall SFC is working on ignitor technology, control software, testing fuel mixtures. A demonstrator engine is expected to be ready by 2005 with an operational engine to follow in four years (Spaceflight Now).


Satellite Privatization Bill: An accord filed on Thursday, March 2, in both House and Senate sets steps to privatize Intelsat and Inmarsat. The companies were originally established to provide satellite transport links for television and telephone in the 1960s. The Bill will end the cartel-like structure of Intelsat. Another aspect of the Satellite Privatization Bill will change the ownership rules for Comsat, the US signatory to the Intelsat. Lockheed Martin currently owns 49 percent of Comsat. The passage of the Bill will allow Lockheed Martin to complete its purchase of the company. Comsat was established in 1962 to keep AT&T or any other company from creating a monopoly over telecommunications. The Senate passed the Bill on Thursday night. Intelsat is planning an emergency meeting of 143 member nations and convene an arbitration tribunal as a direct response to the US legislation. Intelsat will examine whether the Satellite Privatization Bill violates US obligations to the Intelsat agreements (AP; SpaceDaily).


GLAST: Stanford University has been awarded a contract by NASA to develop the Gamma ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) to observe the extreme universe. The project is a unique collaboration between particle physics and astronomy. The project will involve 20 institutions in six countries. Stanford will build the telescope in collaboration with NASA and the Department of Energy. The orbiting observatory will be an order of magnitude more powerful than the EGRET instrument on the Compton Observatory. The satellite will utilize 100 square meters of silicon strip detectors. GLAST is slated for launch in 2005 (


Galileo: The Galileo spacecraft may be deliberately crashed into Jupiter or Io. The move to control the end of the explorer is designed to prevent any possible contamination of Europa. The spacecraft may contain microbes and Europa may harbor its own brand of life in the ocean under the ice crust. The end of the spacecraft will likely occur in 2002 well after the end of the Galileo Millennium Mission in February 2001 (AP).

NEAR: On March 3, the NEAR spacecraft fired it engine for 22 seconds. The maneuver lowered the spacecraft into a 200-km orbit around the asteroid Eros. The spacecraft is moving 3 hours per hour relative to the asteroid. On April 3, the engine will be fired again to lower the spacecraft into a 100-km orbit (NEAR Science Update).


Iridium: Craig McCaw, who is pulling ICO Global from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has dropped plans to work a similar magic on the troubled Iridium space-based phone company. Eagle River Investments LLC, McCaw's investment management firm, announced on March 3 that it would no longer work toward investing in Iridium. Instead, it would continue its work with ICO Global and Teledesic LLC. The announcement leaves Iridium in the lurch with little time to find a new investor to stave off liquidation. Since February 17, the company has been operating on $5 million in interim financing provided by Motorola and Eagle River Investments. Iridium managed to put a 66 satellite phone network in place at a cost of about $5 billion. The company has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since August of 1999. A Bankruptcy court meeting on Monday, March 6 will set conditions for any future operations (SpaceDaily).


North Korea: South Korea's news agency Yonhap reported that North Korea has formed between four and six missile launch units. The battalions will be stationed in underground bases. While North Korea has signed an agreement with the US promising to suspend ballistic missile tests, the South Korean news agency reports North Korea plans to complete the development of the long-range Taepodong-1 missile within the year. The missile has a range of between 2,000 and 2,500 km (Space Daily).

US Military Tech: A study recently completed by Forecast International / DMS's Electronics Group has projected U. S. defense electronics industry will generate $125.6 billion in sales in the 2000-2009 period. The dramatic increase in revenues is the results of payoff from U. S. companies heavily investing in research. The major players for the coming decade are expected to be Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, TRW, Boeing and Northrop Grumman. However, almost half the market is expected to be held by small projects (Forecast International PR; SpaceDaily).


Courtesy J. Ray, and J. Foust

Spaceflight Now - Tracking Station: World Wide Launch Schedule
Spaceviews Website

March 12 (tentative) - Taurus, MTI, Vandenberg AFB.

March 12 - Sea Launch Zenit 3SI, ICO Mobile Satellite F1, Odyssey platform, equatorial Pacific Ocean.

March 13 - 17 - ProSpace March Storm in Washington, D.C.

March 18 - Delta 2, IMAGE, SLC-2, Vandenberg AFB.

March 20 - Atlas 2AS, MLV-11, pad 36A, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

March 20 - Starsem Soyuz - Fregat, Cluster-2 satellites, Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

March 21 - Ariane 5, Insat-3B and Asiastar, ESA-2, Kourou, French Guiana.

March 29 - Proton, Express 6A, Baikonur, Kazakstan

April 3 - Soyuz TM, Mir 28 crew, Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Late March - Eurockot Rokot, Experimental payload, Plesetsk, Russia.

April 3 - Soyuz TM, Mir-28 crew, Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

April 3-6 - 16th National Space Symposium, Colorado Springs, CO.

April 9 - Titan 4B, DSP Payload, SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

April 13 - Shuttle Atlantis (STS-101), ISS flight 2A.2A, Kennedy Space Center.

April 14 - Atlas 3A, Eutelsat W-4, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

April 15 - Pegasus XL, TSX 5, Vandenberg AFB.

Moved to July 10-14 - Proton, ISS flight 1R, Zvezda Service Module, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

CENSUS - With the landing of the Shuttle Endeavor, 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 International Space Station has been in orbit for 470 days. The occupation of the International Space Station is expected to begin in the fall of 2000.

Index for Frontier Status Report 2000

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