Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #197

Frontier Status Report #197

April 07, 2000

Dale M. Gray

This Thursday marked the beginning of a new space age. Two cosmonauts entered the Mir space station on a mission funded by private money. With MirCorp rising to a second level of financing, the station will remain in orbit for the rest of 2000. It is yet to be determined if this also marks the beginning of the permanent presence of humans in orbit.

Highlights of the week of April 7 include:

  • Soyuz launches cosmonauts
  • Mir reoccupied in a commercial venture
  • Lockheed accused of violating Export Controls with China
  • Shuttle power drive unit may stall Atlantis launch
  • ACRIMSAT goes on-line
  • Galaxy XI begins work in orbit

SHUTTLE - As a result of a two-day Flight Readiness Review, NASA managers have officially listed the launch date for Atlantis as April 24. However, even as Shuttle managers officially posted the date, a problem with the Shuttle may cause the launch to be postponed. During a test of the hydraulic system, a higher than normal pressure reading was seen on the power drive unit (PDU) for the rudder/speed brake. The unit experienced pressures of 1,200 psi instead of the normal 400 psi. Managers are assessing whether the PDU can be changed out on the pad. A PDU from the Shuttle Columbia, currently being overhauled in Palmdale, California, was removed and shipped to Kennedy Space Center to replace the suspect unit. Potential range conflicts give NASA only three additional days to complete the replacement and launch the Shuttle. If the Shuttle is not off the ground by April 26, other launches will bump the launch to May 11-13 (NASA; Spaceflight Now; CBS News).

During the week the Shuttle's hypergolic fuel and oxidizer tanks were loaded. A "quirky" disconnect was replaced on the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) No. 3. The Shuttle has three new APUs. The flight crew participated in the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test from Thursday to Friday, April 7 (NASA)

The upcoming launch of Atlantis will feature the new Shuttle "glass cockpit". The system is similar to that used in advanced commercial airliners. The Shuttle also has over a dozen other improvements (NASA).

ISS - The International Space Station (ISS) continues to orbit the Earth with few serious issues. The electrical system is being managed to maximize available power to internal systems, despite problems with two of the station's batteries. The station is losing about 1-1.5 miles of altitude every week and is now in a 232 x 215-mile orbit. Reboosting the station using station fuel will be unnecessary since the station will be reboosted during the late April visit of the Shuttle Atlantis (NASA).

ICM: While the Russian Space Agency and NASA are currently operating on the assumption that the Service Module will be launched in July on a Proton Rocket, the substitute, the Intern Control Module is being prepared as a backup. The US has long threatened Russia with the substitution of the ICM if the Service Module was delayed, but has not made good on those threats. However, the ICM is being prepared by the US Navy's Naval Research Laboratory near Washington D. C. The $210 million, 30,000-pound module is designed to carry 11,000 pounds of fuel. Apparently NASA has drawn a line in the sand. If the Service Module is not launched in July, NASA has asked the Naval Research Laboratory to have the ICM ready for a launch in December of this year. Should the Service Module be launched on time, NASA would still utilize the ICM. It would be launched in 2001 to give the station additional capability. Unlike the Service Module, the ICM has no crew facilities (Florida Today).

SpaceHab: SpaceHab, Inc. has been awarded an additional $21.6 million on their existing REALMS contract for services in the STS-106 ISS resupply mission in August. The company would provide its Logistics Double Module (LDM) and Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) for the transport of station supplies. The LDM adds 2200 cubic feet of pressurized volume to the Space Shuttle. The ICC allows NASA to deliver equipment and spare parts that will be needed outside the station (SpaceHab News Release).

SSRMS: The Canadian Space Agency has awarded robotic arm operator's wings to two astronauts, qualifying them to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS). Dan Bursh and Carl Walz completed their training in Canada the week of March 27. The SSRMS will be transported to the International Space Station in April of 2001 on STS-100 (Canadian Space Agency PR).

MIR / Soyuz - At 11:01a.m. EDT on April 4, the Soyuz TM-30 was launched from Baikonur carrying two cosmonauts and supplies bound for the 14 year old Mir space station. The Soyuz-U launch vehicle was built by TsSKB-Progress of Samara. It was launched from the Gagarin pad (5-GIK) At T+2:19 minutes the four first stage booster rockets completed their burn and separated. At T+3 minutes the fairing separated. At T+5 minutes the Blok A center stage completed its burn and separated. The Blok-I third stage burned for about four minutes. At T+9 minutes the Soyuz capsule separated into a 235 x 193-km orbit with a 51.69 degree declination. The solar panels also unfurled at this time. The orbit of the spacecraft was then gradually raised with three burns in two days to bring it to a rendezvous with the Mir station. The cosmonauts, Sergei Zalyotin and Alexander Kaleri, will first work on isolating a slow leak in the station and to assess the structure for future commercial use. They will also install a new cooling system (Space Daily; Reuters; Jonathan's Space Report).

Docking: The docking of the Soyuz spacecraft with the Mir space station proceeded nominally until the spacecraft was in final approach. At eight meters from the station, Commander Sergei Zalyotin noticed that the spacecraft was off target and as a result the spacecraft was taken off of the automatic system. The spacecraft was then stabilized and docked manually with no problems. Docking with the -X port occurred at 10:31 a.m. Moscow time (2:31 EDT). The crew entered the space station about 90 minutes later while the station was out of communications range. They reported the station to be filled with warm air and began preparations for their first night in the station. The station's depleted air supply has been augmented by a supply brought up by a Progress supply vessel (AP;; Jonathan's Space Report).

MirCorp: The mission to Mir has been called the first commercial space flight in history. The launch was financed in large part by a $20 million infusion of cash from MirCorp. MirCorp, while based out of Amsterdam, has its roots in both Russian and American soil. The Russian company RSC Energiya is the majority stockholder in the corporation with their experience with the Mir space station as an obvious asset. The cash to lease the station from the Russian government and make the project work comes from venture capitalists brought into the fold by the Space Frontier Foundation's Keep Mir Alive Campaign spearheaded by Rick Tumlinson and Walt Anderson. The first round of financing has resulted in the reawakening of Mir.

As the cosmonauts opened the door to the Mir station, MirCorp President Jeffrey Manber announced that they had secured a second round of financing. Investments from Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria and Gold & Appel have made possible a second manned mission in September and an extension of the current mission beyond the original 40 days. The additional capital assures that the station will stay in orbit and will be renovated for commercial use. In September an Internet portal will be set up on the station that will carry both content and live video from space. MirCorp is expected to go public in the third or fourth quarter of 2001. The station is expected to produce revenue from "the entertainment and media sector, foreign missions to the station, aerospace research projects, satellite assembly and repair, and industrial production". MirCorp also revealed that it is in negotiations with four clients who would pay $30 million each for the privilege of spending a week on Mir and being recorded in history as the first space tourists. Video streaming of the cosmonaut's activities is available at:

LAUNCHES - (See Mir / Soyuz)


Delta 3: Boeing is moving forward on the third launch of its Delta 3 rocket, which is slated for later this summer. The intended payload, an ICO Global Communications Ltd. satellite was to be lofted on May 31. However, the company has asked that the launch be delayed until October 5. Boeing is now seeking a replacement payload, but will proceed with a dummy payload if no customers sign on. The $85 million flight will be used to prove the system. Boeing currently has 18 Delta 3 flights purchased through 2002 (Spaceflight Now; Florida Today).

Sodruzhestvo: In the wake of several Proton launch failures in 1999, Kazakhstan is seeking to develop the Sodruzhestvo carrier rocket. The rocket, touted as environmentally friendly, would replace the Proton rocket. The development of the rocket would occur in the currently idle Energia-Buran facilities at Baikonur. With finances far from secure, it is difficult to determine when the $300 million project will begin (Space Daily).

Pegasus: The Pegasus winged rocket celebrated its 10th anniversary on April 5. In the past decade, Orbital Sciences has logged 25 successful flights out of 28 attempts with 14 straight successes in the past three years. The rocket was originally carried aloft by NASA's B-52, but in recent years the rocket was launched by OSC's LC-1011. The rocket is capable of carrying 455 kg into low Earth orbit. The rocket has been launched from both east and west coast ranges and from the Canary Islands (; Frontier Status 4/26/97).

Proton: A Proton/ Blok DM rocket is being prepared for the launch of the Siberia Europe Satellite (SESAT0 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The launch will occur on April 17. SESAT was built by NPO-PM of Krasnoyarsk with equipment supplies by Alcatel Space. The satellite will be placed at the 36 degrees East longitude orbital slot where it will provide Internet backbone communications, high-speed Internet access, distance-learning, telemedicine, along with traditional data and video broadcasting (Space Daily).

Titan 4: The Solid Rocket Motor Upgrade (SRMU) booster for the Titan 4 was test fired at Edwards Air Force Base on March 129. The 10:58 a.m. test occurred on Test Stand 1-C and lasted 140 seconds. The 750,000-pound, 11- story high booster generated 1.7 million pounds of thrust. The test validates the performance of new materials in the enhanced Carbon-Carbon nozzle, which was designed to replace a less desirable environmentally non-compliant nozzle. The SRMU is a product of Alliant Tech Systems under a contract with the Titan 4 prime contractor Lockheed Martin Aerospace Corp. (USAF PR).

X-33: The 11th test firing of the X-33 aerospike engine was successfully completed on March 22. The longest duration test to date, the XRS-2200 engine fired for 220 seconds -- simulating the longest predicted firing during a launch. The test also demonstrated a 30 percent per second throttling rate that altered the engine's output from 100 percent to 72 percent. The test comes in the wake of Test 10, which shut down prematurely due to a software problem. The 12th test of the engine was scheduled for April 3, but no reports of this test have been released. The final three tests of the engine are planned to last 250 seconds (NASA Marshall).


Hybrid rocket motors: On April 6, the California Space and Technology Alliance announced that SpaceDev had been selected to receive a grant to test its hybrid rocket motors. The motors utilize solid fuel with an oxidizer that is gaseous and self-pressurizing at room temperature. The simple design has only one moving part. The engines are designed for long-term storability and can be restarted and throttled. The motors are designed for use in SpaceDev's Orbital Transfer Vehicle. The OTV was being developed under a grant from the National Reconnaissance Office that was completed in March of 2000 (SpaceDev PR).


Strom Thurmond Defense Act: The ill-written Strom Thurmond Defense Act continues to play havoc with the satellite industry. According to the figures released by the Aerospace Industries Association, satellite exports dropped 36 percent in 1999. This represents a loss of nearly half a billion dollars in US export revenues. The root cause of the decline can be directly linked to the Strom Thurmond Defense Act of 1998, which reclassified satellites as munitions and transferred the licensing of satellite exports from the Department of Commerce to the US State Department. When the Act took effect in March of 1999, the State Department was ill equipped and understaffed for to handle the requirements of processing the many satellite export requests. As a result, a bottleneck developed in the licensing procedure and the US lost satellite business (Florida Today).

Rural Loan Program: The US Senate has passed a Bill that will provide loan guarantees for direct broadcast satellite television companies to upgrade their local programming for rural areas. The $1.25 billion loan program would be funded by a $5 per dish annual tax placed on every satellite dish in America. The legislation is similar to that passed by the House Commerce Committee this past week. If enacted, the act would set up the "Geographically - Disadvantaged Americans Spectrum Conservation Bank and Savings and Loan", which would loan money to DBS providers like Hughes and EchoStar to build new satellites. A last minute amendment added rural electric agencies to the loan program (NAB Newswire).


Stamps: The Hubble Space Telescope will be honored in an April 10 ceremony at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (Building 8). The occasion marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble. During the ceremony, the US Post Office will unveil five stamps featuring Hubble images of Eagle Nebula, the Ring Nebula, the Lagoon Nebula, the Egg Nebula and Galaxy NGC 1316. The Hubble was deployed by the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990 (NASA / USPS PR).

Space Awareness Initiative Poll: An annual poll taken by the Space Foundation's Space Awareness Initiative has found that support for both NASA and space exploration has risen in the US. The survey of 1,000 registered voters found 75 percent favored space exploration and 80 percent favored NASA. Over half of those surveyed indicated that in the upcoming presidential elections, the candidate's position on space issues is important with 16 percent saying it was "very important". Almost 90 percent of those polled indicated that it was important to use space capabilities to protect against missile attack. The poll was conducted by Shandwick World Research and has a margin of error of three percent.


Einstein Gravity Probe B: The NASA/Stanford University probe designed to test how Earth's mass warps spacetime has suffered a serious set-back. The program has experienced a $70 million overrun and possible delays in launch. The spacecraft uses four ultra-sensitive gyroscopes in a supercooled structure. However, positioning the gyroscopes has proven to be problematic. The spacecraft was originally expected to be launched in 1999, but now the Principle Investigator Francis Everitt gives the probe only a 50/50 chance of making its new September 2001 launch date (Astronomy Now).

ACRIMSAT: The Active Cavity Irradiance Monitor Satellite (ACRIMSAT) began taking measurements of the Sun's total energy output on April 3. ACRIMSAT was launched on an Orbital Sciences Taurus rocket from Vandenberg AFB on December 20, 1999 into a sun- synchronous orbit of 695 km. ACRIMSAT is funded by the Earth Science Programs Office of NASA Goddard. The satellite was built, launched and is being operated by Orbital Sciences in preparation of "hand-over" to JPL (JPL; Spaceflight Now).


Galileo: The Galileo spacecraft passed through its apojove on April 6 and is now heading back into the Jupiter system. The spacecraft adjusted its flight path slightly on April 7. Managers continued to download data from recording made during the February flyby of Io (NASA/JPL).

Ulysses: Two articles in the April 6 journal Nature reported that the ESA/NASA spacecraft Ulysses passed through the tail of comet Hyakutake on May 1, 1996. The passage at a distance of .5 billion km from the nucleus makes it the longest comet tail ever recorded. Two different teams studying old data from the spacecraft made the discovery. Magnetic field lines were being studied by a team lead by Dr. Geraint Jones from Imperial College, London and the composition of the solar wind was being studied by a team led by Dr. George Gloeckler of the University of Maryland. Hyakutake was one of the brightest comets of the 20th Century, appearing in the spring of 1996. Ulysses was launched in 1990 to study the Sun's magnetic fields, solar winds and cosmic rays (ESA).

NEAR Shoemaker: At 9 p.m. EDT on April 1, the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft fired its thrusters for 36 seconds to lower its orbit around the asteroid Eros. The spacecraft is expected to be in its new 100-km orbit on April 12. The close orbit will allow the spacecraft to detect any faint magnetic field from the asteroid (Spaceflight Now; NASA)

Mars: NASA has named Dr. Firouz Naderi as the manager of the newly created Mars Program Office at JPL. The Office will serve as the contact between NASA and all Mars programs. Maderi has managed NASA's Origins Program since 1996 (JPL).


Galaxy XI and IVR: Touted as the world's largest commercial satellite, Galaxy XI commenced service this past week. It carries advanced video, audio, Internet, and telecommunications services across North America and Brazil. Fully deployed, the HS 702 satellite is 102 feet long and 29.5 feet wide. The satellite features 40 Ku-band and 24 C-band transponders. The satellite was launched on December 21 on an Ariane 4 rocket and is temporarily located in the 99 degrees West longitude orbital slot.

PanAmSat recently shipped Galaxy IVR to French Guiana for an April 18 launch, it too will be placed in the 99 degree West orbital slot. Galaxy IVR is an HS 601 HP with 24 C and 24 Ku-band transponders (; PanAmSat PR).

Teal Group: The Teal Group has announced new predictions for satellite launches in the next ten years. According to the Group's report released at the U.S. Space Foundation's 16 Annual National Space Symposium, a total of 2,147 satellite payloads will be launched between 2000 and 2009. this is up slightly from last year's prediction for 1999-2008. Over 50 percent of the total originate in the U. S with 75 percent commercial and 25 percent governmental. Of these payloads, 57 percent will be classified as small satellites between 1 and 1000 kg. The report also listed 30 launch vehicle programs. The Teal Group first prediction in 1992 counted 656 proposed payloads for the 1992-2002 period.


Alzheimers: A Spanish Alzheimers association hopes to prevent needless deaths caused by the confusion associated with Alzheimers disease by using GPS technology. When Alzheimers sufferers become lost for over 24 hours, there is a significant chance of death. The association plans to begin using a device created by Technosearch that emits a GPS tracer signal. A pilot program will debut in October in Barcelona. The $500 tracer is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, but generational evolution is expected to reduce its size to that of a bracelet (AP).


Milstar: TRW has shipped the final low data rate (LDR) payload for the Department of Defense's ultra-secure communications system. The payload will be integrated into the sixth of a series of six Milstar communications satellites constructed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems for the DOD. Hughes Space and Communications also provides payloads for the satellites. The Milstar satellites are known as "digital switchboards in space", providing on- board processing to provide communication on demand between military users anytime and anywhere. The system features a constellation of ultra-secure geosynchronous satellites operating in extremely high frequency and super high frequency bands. The sixth Milstar satellite is slated for launch in 2002 (TRW PR).

Russia ICBM launch: While President-elect Vladimir Putin watched from the cruiser Borisoglebsk, the submarine Karelia fired a missile during a military exercise involving 3,000 men. The missile landed on a testing ground in the Kamchatka Peninsula. Putin was shown on Russian television watching the test and being initiated by the submarine crew (Reuters; Robert Kennedy III).


Lockheed Martin: The Washington Post reported on April 6 that the U.S. State Department has charged Lockheed Martin Corp. with providing rocket technology data to a Chinese company. Lockheed Martin has been informed by the Office of Defense Trade Controls that it violated the Arms Export Control Act and that it has 30 days to respond to the civil charges. If found guilty, Lockheed Martin could be fined up to $15 million and could be banned from exporting satellites or satellite systems for three years. No criminal charges have been filed. The 30 civil charges revolve around a 1994 incident when Lockheed Martin was invited to send a team of scientists to China to assess a Chinese-made "kick-motor" to be used in the launch of the Lockheed Martin-made AsiaSat-2. Lockheed Martin produced a 50-page study that identified flaws in Chinese testing procedures, confirmed Chinese tests that found faulty insulation, and identified problems with US solid rocket motor technologies. The Defense Department blacked out all but five pages of the 50-page report. Lockheed Martin is accused of sending 10 copies of the unedited report to Asia Satellite Telecommunications (AsiaSat). AsiaSat is partially owned by China International Trust and Investment Corp. (CITIC), a state-owned conglomerate. CITIC gained notoriety for its chairman, Wan Jun, attending a 1996 White House coffee for political contributions that was hosted by President Clinton. The existence of the reports was only recently discovered by US Customs Service. AsiaSat-2 was successfully launched in 1995 (Washington Post; Reuters).

On April 4, the Washington Times reported that the US Ambassador in Beijing hosted a meeting of US and Chinese satellite companies. The March 16 meeting was at the request of SpaceSystems Loral and Hughes Electronics to discuss Loral's suspended export license and the status of ChinaSat 8. Inexplicably, the subject of ChinaSat 8 did not arise during the March 16 dinner meeting. Both Loral and Hughes have been under Justice Department investigations for three years for alleged missile technology transfers (Washington Times).


Courtesy J. Ray, and J. Foust

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

April 17 - Proton, Sesat, Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

April 18 - Ariane 4 - Galaxy 4R, Kourou, French Guiana.

April 21 - Eurockot Rokot, Experimental payload, Plesetsk, Russia.

April 21 - Delta, NAVSTAR GPS 2R-4, pad 17A, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

April 24 - Shuttle Atlantis (STS-101), ISS flight 2A.2A, Kennedy Space Center.

April 27-29 - Space Access 2000 conference, Scottsdale, Arizona.

April 28 - Cosmos-3M, CHAMP/BIRD/MITA, Complex 132, Plesetsk, Russia.

Late April - Soyuz U, Progress M1, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

April - Zenit-2, Badr-2, Meteor-3M, Malaysian Tiungsat-1, Maroc-Tubsat, Complex 45 Baikonur, Kazakstan.

May 3 - Atlas 2A, GOES-L, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

May 8 - Titan 4B, DSP Payload (B-29), SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Station.

May 10 - Orbital Sciences TLV (Target Launch Vehicle, TL-DEMO, LF-06, Vandenberg AFB.

May 15- Atlas 3A, Eutelsat W-4, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Inaugural Launch.

May 21 - Pegasus XL, TSX 5, Vandenberg AFB.

May 24 - Minuteman III, FTM-02, Vandenberg AFB.

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

CENSUS - With the April 4 launch of a Soyuz rocket carrying two cosmonauts, the population of space now stands at two. Mir has been occupied for 2 days. Humans have spent a total of 75.5 man-days in orbit in the year 2000. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 505 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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