Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #199

Frontier Status Report #199

April 21, 2000

Dale M. Gray

Two launches this week. A Proton rocket launched the SESAT communications satellite for Eutelsat and an Ariane 4 launched Galaxy 4R for PanAmSat. A Delta 2 rocket carrying a NAVSTAR satellite was left on the pad due to a ground-based power problem. As the US prepares to fly to the International Space Station, the Mir crew successfully identified and stopped a slow leak. Lots of space photographs released this week: Olympus Mons on Mars, the asteroid Eros , Jupiter's moons and the secretive Area 51.

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Highlights of the week of April 21 include:

  • Ariane 4 launches Galaxy 4R
  • Proton launches SESAT
  • Delta 2 launch of NAVSTAR delayed
  • Shuttle cleared for launch on April 24
  • Mir crew finds air leak
  • Space stocks dive with NASDAQ

SHUTTLE - On Sunday, April 16, engineers at the Kennedy Space Center completed tests of the power drive unit (PDU) that was replaced last week on the Shuttle Atlantis. The unit was replaced in an innovative process, while the Orbiter was still on the pad. Two "dings" on the vacuum jacket for two liquid hydrogen lines have been cleared for flight. X-ray and engineering analysis confirmed that the dings were minor and did not compromise the integrity of the lines. On April 18, workers replaced the gaseous nitrogen quick disconnects on the auxiliary power units 1 and 2. By Friday, April 21, aft compartment closeouts of Atlantis were complete and the crew arrived for the launch of Flight STS-101. The crew includes Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Scott Horowitz, Mission Specialist (MS1) Mary Ellen Weber, Jeffrey Williams (MS2), James Voss (MS3), Susan Helms (MS4), and Yuri Usachev (MS5). Count down began at 7:00 p.m. April 21 with launch from Pad 39A expected on April 24. The precise timing of the 5 minute launch window will be determined by the orbital position of the International Space Station on launch day, but is expected to occur around 4:15 p.m. EDT (NASA:

ISS - Controllers for the International Space Station continue to prepare for the April 26 arrival of the Shuttle Atlantis and her crew. Battery cycling has been completed and the Unity shell is being warmed up in preparation for the docking of the Shuttle with the module. The station is in a 368 x 342- km orbit that is decaying about 2 km per week. In addition to delivering supplies and repairing systems, the crew of Atlantis will also use the Orbiter to boost the altitude of the station to assure its survival until the Service Module or ICM is launched. The ISS has completed over 8,095 orbits since its November 1998 launch (NASA).


Leak: Cosmonauts Sergei Zalyotin and Alexander Kalery were able to locate and fix a troublesome air leak on Wednesday, April 19. The slow loss of air from the orbiting Mir complex was a major concern and its correction one of the primary tasks for the current mission to Mir. By methodically closing off sections of the station and checking for air loss, the cosmonauts were able to identify the source of the leak, the hatch to the damaged Spektr module. Only 3.5 hours into an eight-hour test, the air dropped significantly in the remaining occupied space. The cosmonauts reported hearing a hissing sound coming from a gauge in the Spektr hatch. During the partial repair of the module following the 1997 collision with an unpiloted Progress supply vessel, a gauge and air pump were installed in the door. Apparently, the slow leak originates with the gauge. The cosmonauts installed a plug to correct the problem. Mission control has since determined that the loss of air has ended and that air pressure is holding steady. Two sealed-off modules, Kvant and Kristall will now be reopened (SpaceViews; MSNBC;; MirCorp PR).

Progress: A Progress M 1-2 cargo vessel is being prepared for launch on April 26 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The ship will replace the Progress M-1-1, which is currently docked to the station. M-1-1 has nearly exhausted its propellant in boosting the station's orbit. The attached Soyuz spacecraft was used on April 16-17 to adjust the station's orbit. Mir is currently in a 326 x 350-km orbit losing about 400-500 meters per day (


Ariane 4 / Galaxy IVR: An Ariane 42L rocket was launched on schedule from the Kourou, French Guiana launch facility on April 18 at 8:29 p.m. EDT. While record rains swept through the Kourou area in the days preceding the launch, the rocket launched on time. The payload for the launch was the Galaxy IVR telecommunications satellite owned by PanAmSat. The rocket was equipped with two liquid-fueled booster rockets, which separated at T+2:20. The first stage completed its burn and separated at T+3:25 minutes. Payload fairing jettisoned at T+4:20 minutes. The confirmation of second stage shutdown and separation occurred at T+5:35 minutes. At T+19 minutes, the long- duration burn of the third stage was completed. At T+21 minutes, the satellite was placed in a 199.6 x 32,231 km (Arianespace PR; Spaceflight Now)

Arianespace Website

The Hughes-built HS 601 HP satellite features 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders. The satellite will be placed in the 99 degree West longitude orbital slot where it will be part of a satellite constellation that delivers over 140 digital television channels to cable operators via AT&T's Headend in the Sky (HITS), AOL Plus via DirecPC, 3DTM, and other services throughout the United States. The satellite is a replacement for Galaxy 4, which failed in orbit in May of 1998. This was the third satellite deployed for PanAmSat in 2000 (PanAmSat PR; Space Views).

Proton /Sesat: The Sesat communications satellite was successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on a three-stage Proton Blok DM rocket on April 17. The satellite will be placed in the 36 degree longitude orbital slot where its 18 Ku-transponders will serve a variety of telecommunication functions. The satellite is owned by Eutelsat. After confirmation of successful launch, Eutelsat Director dedicated the satellite to Arthur C. Clarke, who first envisioned the theories of the geostationary arc and its uses (Eutelsat PR; Spaceflight Now).

SESAT is owned by Eutelsat and will be placed in the 36 degree East longitude orbital slot. The satellite features 18 Ku-band transponders and two relay beams. The satellite will offer "bandwidth-on-demand", beamed video and data communications. It will support distance-learning, telemedicine and software transferring. The satellite was built by NPO-PM of Drasnoyarsk with a payload built by Alcatel Space (Spaceflight Now).

Delta 2 / GPS: On April 21, a GPS satellite scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was scrubbed The launch of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket would have placed a $42 million NAVSTAR satellite into the E-1 slot of the GPS constellation. The countdown was halted on April 21 when a ground power supply problem was detected. If the rocket does not launch on April 22, the launch will have to be delayed until after the launch of the Shuttle Atlantis, which is scheduled for April 24 with back-up dates of the 25th and 26th (Boeing PR; Spaceflight Now).

The Global Positioning Satellite (GPS Block 2R) will replace one of the original GPS satellites launched on February 14, 1989. The Rockwell-built satellite (GPS 2-1) reached the end of its life March 26 and was decommissioned on April 14 (Spaceflight Now).


Sea Launch: The Sea Launch consortium has announced that they are planning a June 29 launch of a Zenit 3SL rocket from the Sea Launch platform. The announcement by Yuzhnoye Design Bureau (Ukraine) General Director comes after the release of a report on the cause of the launch on April 11. The launch failure was traced to a change in the on-ground support software installed after analysis of the second (successful) flight. The software contained a logical error in an algorithm for automated prelaunch procedures. Sea Launch currently has 18 orders for its launch services (Space Daily; Sea Launch PR).

Ariane 5: With the loss of a satellite payload for its upcoming Ariane 5 flight due to problems with the preparation of the satellite, Arianespace has been seeking a new payload for there upcoming flight. This past week, the National Space Development Agency of Japan announced it had contracted with Arianespace for the launch of the experimental LDREX. The satellite will be launched in the coming months on the awaiting Ariane 5. The LDREX is a half-scale mock-up of a deployable antenna that will be used in the ETS-8 satellite. The antenna will feature a camera to record the deployment of the antenna. Arianespace has launched 17 of 23 Japanese commercial satellites (Arianespace).

Russian Air Launch: A Russian corporation Air Launch has announced plans to launch payloads into orbit using an AN- 124-AL cargo plane as the first stage. The airplane is capable of carrying 120 tons in payload. Two stage Progress rockets would be loaded into the world's largest airplane and flown to launch altitude of 11.2 km (7 miles). The rocket carrying a payload of up to 3.5 tons would then be dropped from the airplane and ignited while under a parachute. The Russian cargo carrier Polyot is working with Energiya and the Antonov design bureau of Ukraine on the project. First launch is expected to occur in 2003. The service is expected to put satellites into low earth orbit (LEO) for $5,000 to $6000 per kg using a fleet of six airplanes. The company expects to compete directly with Boeing's recently announce their own AirLaunch System using a rocket carried aloft on top of a modified 747 (Reuters; Frontier Status 03/03/00).


Black Box: Future Mars missions will likely feature a "black box" to deliver telemetry from the mission and hopefully salvage flight data in case of misfortune. The 5 to 7 kg device, which is currently under development, would record engineering data and descent images in a solid-state medium that could withstand 3,400 Gs. Newer technology currently in development could boost that level of endurance to 15,000 or even 20,000 Gs. The new "black boxes" will feature separate batteries and electronics contained in a Kevlar covered titanium mesh container. Engineered to survive reentry and impact, the units would be able to transmit data for three to ten days. Airlines use a commercial tape system that can withstand 1,000 Gs. Such a recorder was not included in the Mars Polar Lander due to budget constraints. Testing of the system by firing the recorders from air guns could begin as early as this summer (


Russia: For the first time in recent years, Russia has fully met its obligations to Russian space companies. Newly elected President Vladimir Putin stated that the Mir station must be preserved and that Russia would continue to participate in international space programs. Planned activities for the year include both replacement of satellites and manned missions. Russia recently launched the Express-A satellite, the first of a new generation. On March 30, Putin signed the Federal Space Program for 2001-2005 (Space Daily).

Brazil: The United States and Brazil signed an agreement to permit US companies to launch from the Brazilian Alcantara Launch Center. The Technical and Safeguards Agreement was signed on April 18. This agreement will work to assure that US technology does not transfer to the Brazilian military. The Center's position only 2.3 degrees from the equator provides significant benefits for launch systems. To date only two Brazilian rockets have used the center, both failed in flight (Space Views).


Olympics: The upcoming Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station will carry a symbol of the Olympic spirit into space. An Olympic torch and an official flag for the Sydney Olympics have been stored on Atlantis. The Shuttle will return from orbit only a few days before the Olympic flame begins its relay to Sydney, Australia from Mount Olympus, Greece. This is the second time a Shuttle has carried an Olympic torch, previously carrying a torch for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games (AP). On of the Web's foremost space sites,, announced April 19 that it would extend its presence to the printed work by launching a monthly magazine. Illustrated will debut in July. The company also plans on publishing several books in the coming year. The move into publishing is part of a partnership with Hearst Corp. Despite its high profile, the site has not achieved 250,000 unique visitors each month -- the watermark for tracking by Media Matrix. A $10 million advertising campaign will begin next month to generate interest in the company's variety of publishing and Internet ventures. By creating a vertically integrated site,'s founder Lou Dobbs hopes to attract "space buffs", science fiction movie fans and space professionals -- now numbering around a million (


Galileo: High resolution photographs of Jupiter's moon Io that were taken during the February 22 fly-by are now on line. The photographs show cliffs, lava flows and volcanic depressions. The new batch of images also includes photographs of Europa. Galileo has been orbiting Jupiter since 1995, successfully completing both primary and extended missions despite technical problems such as an undeployed main antenna and radiation induced computer resets. It is currently in its second extended mission, entitled the Galileo Millennium Mission (JPL NASA).

Mars Global Surveyor: NASA has released a new photograph of the solar system's largest volcano, Olympus Mons. The 550-km diameter volcano is about three times the height of Mount Everest.

Europa Explorer / Pluto Express: Technical delays have been cited by NASA officials as the root cause of a delay in the launch of the Europa Explorer and the advancing of the launch of the Pluto Express mission. The technology of the spacecraft needs to be hardened to survive Jupiter's intense radiation. The mission profile will cause the spacecraft to experience 4 megarads of radiation -- far in excess of that experienced by Galileo during its mission. NASA denies circulating rumors that problems with funding and the redesigning of NASA's planetary exploration program triggered by the recent Mars Explores have caused the delay. Under options now being explored, the mission to seek life in Europa's subsurface oceans will be delayed by 26 months. Under the new schedule, the spacecraft would not be launched until January of 2006 and would not arrive at Jupiter until 2008 with Europa orbit achieved in the summer of 2010. Europa Explorer's sister ship, the Pluto Express mission will be bumped up to an earlier mission in 2003 to take advantage of planetary positions. The Pluto Express will be launched on either a Delta 4 or Atlas 5 and will pass by Pluto in 2011. Jupiter is in position to act as a "gravity sling-shot" for the Pluto Express only until 2004 (Space Daily).

NEAR Shoemaker: A new set of four movies of the asteroid Eros have been captured by the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft as it slowly orbits the asteroid. The movies can be viewed at:


Terra: The on-orbit testing and check-out of the Terra Earth observing satellite has been completed. The satellite was declared "open for business" during an April 19 press briefing at the James E. Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The satellite will monitor the Earth's "vital signs" and will help scientists to differentiate between natural and man-made changes. The data from Terra will be incorporated with other traditional data sources in complex Earth science models. The orbiting observatory will collect up to 6 terabytes of data per month on Earth environmental conditions. During the press briefing, several images from the Terra were released (NASA; Space Views):


Space Stocks: Space stocks had mixed results in last week's tumble of the NASDAQ. While Lockheed Martin stock price closed down only 93 cents (4.34 percent), Boeing's fell $1.62 (4.39 percent). Young telecommunications companies appeared to be worst hit. Globalstar Telecommunications dipped $1.93 (8.1 percent); parent company Loral Space and Communications dropped even more at $.93 (10.42 percent). EchoStar Communications was another notable loser, dropping by $10.13 (9.13 percent) (

Platco: Only weeks after Rupert Murdock announced plans to pool his digital and satellite resources in a new company called Platco, he has now announced that he would merge his satellite and investment units in one company. Platco would receive Murdoch's share of BSkyB, Star TV, Australian Foxtel and Sky Latin America. The company expects a July flotation garnering 31 billion pounds ($49.26 billion) (Reuters).

Silicon Valley Space Enterprise Symposium: The Space Frontier Foundation and RNR Ventures have announced the Silicon Valley Space Enterprise Symposium. The one-day event will occur on June 10, 2000 at the Double Tree Hotel in San Jose, California. Jeff Manber, president of MirCorp, will be the featured speaker at the luncheon. The Symposium will provide sessions focusing on space-related investment opportunities. Symposium details are available at (Space Frontier Foundation).


JSAT: JSAT Corporation of Tokyo announced on April 20 that it had selected Arianespace to launch its JCSAT-8 telecommunications satellite in late 2001. The contract, signed April 18, provides for the on-orbit deployment of a Hughes HS 601 satellite (Arianespace PR).

Triana: While the Vice-President Gore's Triana satellite is not expected to launch until 2001, part of the infrastructure necessary to relay its round-the-clock view of the Earth has been installed. This past week Universal Space Network announced that they had installed a new 13-meter antenna at its Hawaii facility to support Triana and USN's other customers. Other facilities are being built in Australia and Alaska. The Hawaiian ground station was dedicated April 11 and named after the late astronaut and USN founder Charles Pete Conrad (USN PR; Tim Kyger).


XM Radio: XM Satellite Radio has reported that the communications payload for the first of its two satellites has been completed by Alcatel Space and delivered to Hughes Space and Communications factory in El Segundo, California. The payload will be integrated into an HS 702 spacecraft bus. The spacecraft will have a total of 18 kW of power. The satellite radio will be broadcast from a multi- stage configuration of sixteen combined 228-watt S-band traveling wave tube amplifiers. This power of transmission is necessary for the radio programming to be received in car or home receivers throughout the U.S. The satellite will be launched later this year (XM Satellite Radio PR).

XM Satellite Radio Website


Area 51: This past month, satellite images of the once secret Groom Lake military base, more popularly known as "Area 51" were released on the Internet. On Monday, April 17, two-meter resolution satellite views of "Area 51" were posted on the Internet by Aerial Images Inc. Less than a week later, Space Imaging released 1-meter resolution photographs of the area that were taken by their Ikonos satellite on April 2. The images revealed a typical USAF base with a 3,800-meter runway. In a post-posting Pentagon response Spokesman Kevin Bacon stated that the U.S. military has had over 40 years of experience dealing with overhead surveillance and as a result the Pentagon was not worried about compromising any strategic information. Area 51 has long been held to contain or have once contained the remains of a crashed UFO along with its crew. The remains were rumored to have been stored in Hanger 18, clearly visible in the images. When queried about a possible history of alien presence at the facility, Bacon replied, "I think I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have no classified program that relies on aliens from outer space." The heavy interest in the images overwhelmed the Aerial Images web page, causing it to remain off-line for several days (; Space Views)

You can view the images at:


A report released April 21 recommends that the Federal government continue to study space-based solar power concepts. The nine-month study examined the market for electricity between now and 2020 and found that satellite solar power will have a tough time competing with conventional power sources until cheap launch systems can be developed. One of the problems cited is the evolving technology of ground based systems that would compete with a space-based power generating system. The study did identify a market for satellite solar power in the International Space Station, future lunar bases and future space missions. The study provided market analysis until the time when it is generally believed satellite solar power would be available, around 2020 (


1HT: The search for extraterrestrial Intelligence took another step forward this past week with the unveiling of the Rapid Prototype Array. This small-scale model of the proposed One Hectare Array (1HT), was is located at the University of California near the Berkeley campus. The prototype consists of a set of seven 3.6-meter dishes linked into an array. The One Hectare Array would link hundreds or even thousands of such small commercially available dishes to form an area of one hectare (10,000 square meters). The design will allow for inexpensive construction and easy expansion. The project is hoping to build the antennas on a property near Mount Lassen. The 1HT project is expected to cost only $25 million (Space Views; AP).


Space Force: In accordance with U.S. legislation a commission is being formed to study the proposed U. S. Space Force. The Commission to Assess U.S. National Security Space Management and Organization will generate a report to recommend relationships to other armed forces, whether a separate Space Force is a sound concept, and assess whether a new assistant secretary for space should be named for the Pentagon. Eight members of the 13-member commission are being named by U. S. Senator John Warner (R-Va.) and U. S. Representative Floyd Spence (R-S.C.), chairmen of Armed Services Committee in the Senate and the House respectively. The remaining members of the commission will be named by the minority leaders of the two committees. Initially, the Space Force would have about 30,000 personnel, primarily from Patrick Air Force Base and U. S. missile crews (Florida Today; Space Views).


Journalistic Judas: A recent magazine article has revealed that it is possible to create a satellite jamming system with inexpensive parts purchased at local hobby electronics stores and electronics fairs. The article states that a US Air Force team built a system for only $7,500 that was capable of jamming some military satellite signals. In an almost unbelievable display of journalistic opportunism, the article also gave details on how to obtain instructions on building such device. As a result of this journalistic gloating, the world is just a little more unstable and dangerous. While the article asks to be cited, preferably with a hyperlink, the availability of such articles to terrorist organizations using the Web for research precludes its inclusion here. Closer to home, sharing this information in a magazine and on the Web is no different than telling thieves how to disarm your home security system and pick the locks of your house. One wonders if the same magazine would also print detailed instructions on how to construct nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

The world is and always has been a dangerous place and guiding the unscrupulous to the means to achieve evil is folly of the highest order. If you do not think this is so, remember that the Chinese made fools of Hughes, Loral and Lockheed Martin in their quest for rocket technology. The US satellite industry is in decline as a direct result. The transfer of technology to the wrong hands is costing the US economy billions of dollars every year. If you work in aerospace, the job lost may be yours.

While I will not deny that the magazine has the right to publish such an article, but the folly of reporting such details should have been apparent to any who hold their own life and liberty dear. Some articles should not be published even when the information is publicly available. I do not know how much the magazine and author made off of the article, but the usual price for betrayal is 20 pieces of silver. Pretty cheap price for selling a piece of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (FS editorial).


Courtesy J. Ray, and J. Foust

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

April 22 - Delta 2, NAVSTAR GPS satellite, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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

April 25 - PBS television airs Nova program "Stationed in the Stars" on the International Space Station.

April 26 - Soyuz U, Progress M1, Baikonur, Kazakstan.

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

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

May 2 - Space Transportation Roundtable - Space Launch Initiative, Dirksen 628. Washington D.C.

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

May 4 - Space Day

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- Eurockot Rokot, Experimental payload, Plesetsk, Russia.

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

May 17 - Pegasus XL, TSX 5, Vandenberg AFB.

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

May 31 - Cosmos-3M, CHAMP, MITA, BIRD, complex 132 Plesetsk, Russia.

June 10 - Silicon Valley Space Enterprise Symposium, San Jose, California.

July - Ariane 5, Astra 2B and GE-7, ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana.

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

July 20 - Lunar Development Conference, Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada.

CENSUS - The population of space is at two, both Russian cosmonauts on board the Mir space station. Mir has been occupied for 16 days. Humans have spent a total of 103.5 man-days in orbit in the year 2000. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 519 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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