Frontier Status Report

Frontier Status Report #202

Frontier Status Report #202

May 12, 2000

Dale M. Gray

A mixed week on the frontier with two key launches, but disappointing financial news. Two American rockets were successfully launched this past week as the US shored up its GPS and missile launch detection capabilities. The Cosmonauts in Mir took the first commercial space walk. GlobalStar reported lower results than expected. Space stocks generally lower.

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Highlights of the week of May 12 include:

  • Titan 4B returns to service with successful launch
  • Delta 2 rocket launches GPS satellite
  • Mir cosmonauts take spacewalk
  • NASA considers Mars options
  • Celestis introduces lunar funeral service

SHUTTLE - The Shuttle Atlantis is being prepared for its fourth launch attempt at 6:38 a.m. EDT on May 18. The flight will take a crew of seven and tons of supplies to the International Space Station. The crew will return to Kennedy Space Center on May 14 and the countdown will begin anew at the T-43 hour mark on Monday, May 15 at 9:30 a.m. The launch may be delayed one day if the scheduled launch of the new Atlas 3 rocket is delayed until May 17 (NASA).

Spuds in Space: Students at the Shoshone-Bannock High School of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho are once again taking their classroom to the skies. The Native American students will be flying a potato growth experiment on-board the Shuttle Atlantis. Potatoes will be grown in space in a simulated Martian soil (JSD Mars-1). The experiment is one of ten in the Space Experiment Module (SEM), which provides educational incentives to increase access to space for students. Fort Hall students were the first Native Americans to fly an experiment on the Shuttle in 1998 when an experiment flew on-board the Shuttle Discovery (NASA).

ISS - The orbiting modules of the International Space Station are in a 335 x 333 km orbit. After a review of the orbit, managers determined that no thruster firings would be necessary to adjust the attitude of the station to prepare it for the docking of the Shuttle Atlantis on May 21. While docked, the Shuttle Atlantis is expected to boost the orbit of the station by about 30 km.

MIR - On Friday, May 12, cosmonauts Sergei Zaletin and Alexander Kalery ventured outside the Mir space station to inspect for damage, conduct tests and to retrieve exposure experiments. The pair left the Kvant-2 airlock at 6:44 a.m. EDT for the planned 5.5-hour spacewalk. Outside the station they deployed a waffle-like device that they filled with glue designed to fill leaks. The device was later returned to the interior for inspection. The pair then used the Strela crane to move to the Kvant 1 module to inspect the driving mechanism of one of the solar panels. The 100-amp panel ceased functioning in March. Visual inspects revealed the power wiring at the base had short-circuited and had burned. The damage was thought to be repairable on some future spacewalk. The orientation mechanism appeared to be intact could still be moved by hand. The pair then retrieved a solar panel experiment that had been exposed to space for a year and a half. The walk also included a photo and video survey of the exterior of the station. The walk concluded 39 minutes ahead of schedule at 11:36 a.m. EDT. MirCorp, which has financed this mission to the space station declared the first privately funded spacewalk a success (; MirCorp; Spaceflight Now; AP).

Progress: This past week the attached Progress supply vehicle was used on three occasions to boost the station's orbit. The station is now in a 390-km orbit. Because the occupancy of the station is linked to Progress supply vessels, Mir is expected to be abandoned again around June 12-18. If additional food and water is delivered to the station, the mission could be extended. MirCorp has not financed a new Progress mission and no new funding is expected before June (


Titan IVB / DSP: On May 8, a Titan IVB carrying a 3,000 kg Defense Support Program payload was launched into orbit. After two and a half hours of technical delays, the rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40. The two solid rocket boosters separated nominally two and a half minutes into the flight. First and second stage burns were reported to be nominal. The 17-foot long spacecraft delivery unit separated from the Inertial Upper Stage about nine minutes after lift off. The $250 million satellite will now be moved to geostationary orbit where it will be used to detect missile launches. This was the first successful Titan IVB to be launched from Cape Canaveral in two years. Three Titan IV launches have failed in the interim. This launch has been repeatedly delayed to the possibility of oil from an overhead crane leaking on the payload and possible problems with the hydraulic actuators used to steer the rocket and High Energy Firing Units used to initiate actions in the solid rocket boosters. The payload was built by TRW (Florida Today; Spaceflight Now; Jonathan's Space Report).

Delta 2 / GPS: On May 10, a Boeing Delta 2 rocket was launched from the Space Launch Complex 17A at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at the opening of the 29-minute launch window. The 2040 kg payload was a $42 million Navstar GPS satellite. The Delta II's RS-27A main engine and six of nine Alliant Techsystems solid-propellant booster rockets ignited at 9:48 p.m. EDT. Seventy seconds into flight, the six ground-lit SRBs completed their burn and separated; three airlit SRBs begin their burn. At T+2:30, the three air-lit SRBs complete their burn and jettison. At T+4:40 the first stage cut off and separated. The second stage Aerojet AJ10-118K engine began its 6:09 minute firing. The payload fairing separated cleanly just prior to T+5 minutes. At T+11 minutes, the second stage finished its first burn. After coasting for nine minutes the second stage restarted at T+20 minutes and burned for 35 seconds. Two minutes later the second stage separation was confirmed along with third stage ignition. The Thiokol-built Star 48B solid-fuel third stage fired for just under one and a half minutes. At T+23:35, third stage burnout was confirmed. The GPS satellite payload was released at T+25:40 minutes. Contact with the spacecraft was established less than a quarter hour later, and the spacecraft was confirmed to be in the correct elliptical orbit. A Thiokol Star 37 apogee motor will be used to circularize the orbit at 20,000-km (Spaceflight Now; Jonathan's Space Report).

The Navigation Signal Timing and Ranging Global Positioning System (NAVSTAR) Block 2R-4 Global Positioning Satellite will be put to work as soon as it reaches its intended orbit. It replaces an 11-year-old GPS satellite, the first of the constellation, which failed on March 26 when on-board reaction wheels ceased functioning. The new satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, is capable of functioning independently for at least 14 days. The satellite features reprogrammable microprocessors that will allow it to be reprogrammed in flight. It also has enhanced radiation protection, additional fuel capacity, and two atomic clocks (Spaceflight Now; Lockheed Martin PR).


Ariane 5: The European Space Agency is preparing for a May 16 test-firing of one of the Ariane 4 solid rocket motors (MPS). The test has four objectives: To qualify a new source for propellant binder; assess the effects of aging on the nozzle and other hardware; qualify a longer S1 segment that has 2.4 metric tons of additional propellant; and to validate repairs to the S3 segment. Other minor objectives will include testing new electronics ducts and recommissioning the test stand that has not been used in 5 years (ESA).

Atlas 3: The new generation of Atlas 3 rockets is poised and nearly ready for its May 15 launch. The rocket is a unique blend of Cold War technologies. To achieve additional efficiency, the Atlas launch system was outfitted with a Russian RD-180 rocket engine. The engine has evolved out of the Soviet RD-170 rocket engines, one of the most powerful rocket engines ever produced. The new RD-180 is marketed by RD AMROSS, LLC a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney and NPO Energomash of Russia. With the new engine, the Atlas 3 has 250,000 pounds of thrust more than the Atlas 2AS (Lockheed Martin PR).


Christmas Island: The Kiribatis government has given final approval to the Japanese National Space Development Agency (NASDA) for the construction of a spaceport on the remote Christmas Island. Under terms of the agreement, Japan will have use of the site free for the first seven years of the lease, followed by a 13-year lease period with a baseline fee of $949,000 (US). The spaceport will be used for landing the Hope-X orbiter, which will be launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre (SpaceDaily).

KSC: KSC Director Roy Bridges announced that the Kennedy Space Center would be reorganized to serve as a research institute in addition to its roll in manned space flight. About 150 employees will be moved to new jobs, while an additional 500 will retain their jobs, but be physically relocated to new areas of the center to make them more efficient. The Kennedy Space Center work force has dropped in the past five years form over 2,500 to only 1,650. NASA was recently given the authorization to bring that number back up to 1,800. The move is seen as a necessary step to prepare for the new post-shuttle launch vehicles of the future (Florida Today).


IRTD: With the spring thaw progressing, search for the missing Fregat upper stage has resumed in a remote region between Russia and Kazakhstan. The Fregat upper stage was returned to Earth using a new inflatable shield technology (IRTD). A smaller IRTD shield was also used to return an instrument package to earth, which was recovered. The shields were made by the Lavochkin Research and Production Association, which is leading the search for the missing rocket stage by using aerial photography and by placing a classified ad in a local newspaper. No ground- search teams were working in the area. Lavochkin is hoping to launch an improved IRTD in the fall of 2000 or the spring of 2001 on a converted submarine-based missile (

TCFEC: A new software technique entitled Turbo Code Forward Error Correction (TCFEC) has been licensed to France Telecom by STMicroelectronics. The technology will allow satellite transponders to deliver from six to eight standard television channels or two HDTV channels. This is a significant increase of the four to five channels per transponder typical of Direct to Home satellites. In Europe, where the number of channels is not the driving force, the technology will allow reductions in the size of the satellite dish receivers. By increasing bandwidth, the technology will also allow existing broadcast satellites to begin transmitting broadband Internet services and a Return Channel for Interactive Satellite TV. A low-cost, two-way satellite modem chip based on Turbo Code technology is expected in 2001 (Business Wire).


India: The Indian Department of Space (DOS) has announced new rules that will allow private ownership of satellites and private control of transponders on the five satellite INSAT constellation. Companies with foreign ownership of less than 74 percent will be allowed to own and operate satellite systems. The ruling was designed to spur private investment in domestic satellite systems and to provide a source of revenue for the INSAT system (Space Daily).

NASA Budget: US House and Senate appropriations committee met this past week to divvy up the US Fiscal Year 2001 budget. As a result of this process, the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies were funded at $76.2 billion, which is more than 2 billion less than the $78.4 billion estimated by the Congressional Budget Office for the agencies to maintain FY 2000 level of services. As a result, if VA programs are protected, the other agencies will see a cut to their programs of 10 percent. NASA, and the National Science Foundation will be among the agencies to feel the bite of the budget reduction (Spaceflight Now).


Science Fiction to Science Fact: The European Space Agency has funded a study to look at science fiction for ideas and technology to be used in future space missions. A panel of readers will examine early 20th century science fiction novels and short stories to see if fact has surpassed the flights of fiction. Examples of fiction-derived ideas include planetary landers (1928), stabilizing fins (1929), space station (1945). The Dick Tracy cartoon of the 1940s features a videophone watch similar to one introduced by Casio in January. In the past science fiction authors have been used in focus groups in pre-planning stages of missions. Authors Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and Larry Niven helped NASA draw up ideas for the exploration of Europa. Much of our society has derived benefit from ideas once confined to the pages of speculative fiction. For example the FAX machine was proposed in the 1890s, but had to wait for the necessary electronic advances before it came to fruition (BBC News Online).

The Extreme Generation: Americans appear to be headed down a road that demands more and more extreme experiences. Heli-skiing, sky surfing have replaced stunt skateboarding as the extreme sport of choice. However, 44 percent of those surveyed indicated that a ride on the Space Shuttle would be their most extreme fantasy -- easily outpacing a date with a super model, which came in with a modest 12 percent (PR Newswire).

Space Tourism: While a third of Americans have indicated that they would consider a vacation in space, public perceptions concerning the necessary "Right Stuff" has dampened the potential market. Space currently has a reputation for being unattainable by ordinary people. Many believe that only members of the elite cadre of astronauts are capable of withstanding the rigors of space flight. Changing public perceptions about space flight is deemed nearly as important as reducing the cost of space flight (


Mars: From dozens of options, NASA has selected two concepts for the 2003 Mars mission. One concept will feature a Mars scientific orbiter and the other concept proposes a large rover placed on the surface using airbag technology proved during the Pathfinder mission. Two independent teams at JPL and Lockheed Martin Astronautics will spend the next two months defining the missions and evaluating risk, cost and readiness. NASA will make the decision of which, if any, will be selected for development and launch in 2003. The Mars Surveyor Orbiter will recapture the data lost with the Mars Climate Orbiter while seeking new evidence of water-related materials on the surface. The Mars Mobile Lander will be based on the Athena rover design that was considered for the canceled 2001 mission. Unlike the Pathfinder, the MML will be self- contained and will not require a base unit to transmit information (JPL).

Return to the Moon: NASA has unveiled plans for a mission to return lunar rocks. The proposed mission would be part of the next generation of robotic explorers.


Compton: NASA has set June 3 for the deorbiting of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. A series of four thruster firings will bring the Observatory down in the remote Pacific Ocean. While scientists scratch their heads wondering why the valuable observatory must be destroyed, bureaucrats have ordered its destruction in the name of safety. Safety is a priority for the science community, but engineers have found a way to continue its mission and even deorbit the 13,800-kg facility without the use of gyroscopes. The European space community, which contributed to the creation and operation of Compton, were not included in the decision to deorbit. Compton suffered a gyroscope failure in December and bureaucrats want to destroy it before any of the two remaining gyroscope failures. The issue is made more complex due to the increased solar activity. A solar flare at a critical point of the deorbiting has the potential to change the point of impact. The observatory was launched from the Shuttle in April of 1991 on STS-37 (Jonathan's Space Report; SpaceViews).


GEOS-L: Following its May 3 launch on an Atlas 2A rocket, the GEOS-L is raising its orbit with a series of three firings of its liquid-fueled apogee kick engine. The first maneuver was a 53.5-minute firing on May 4. The second occurred on May 7 and lasted 28.5 minutes. The last thruster firing on May 9 for eight minutes put the spacecraft into a geostationary orbit at 104 degrees West Longitude. It will now undergo testing to assure function and then be placed in storage on-orbit (Spaceflight Now).

AssureSat: AssureSat has announced that it has signed an agreement with Sea Launch to loft its two satellites in 2002. The powerful telecommunication satellites will be built by Space Systems/Loral. Last week the company announced that they would offer their satellites as on-orbit replacements for telecommunications satellites lost through launch failures. The service would reduce the risk to businesses with narrow time-lines for execution of business plans. The satellites would be able to be moved to new locations and brought into service with no interruption of customer service (AssureSat / Sea Launch PR).


Hughes sues Gilat: On May 8, Hughes Network Systems has filed a lawsuit against Gilat Satellite Networks for patent infringement. The suit, filed in US District Court for the District of Maryland, alleges unlicensed use of Hughes' patented adapter card and high speed Internet access technology. Hughes seeks an injunction against Gilat as well as damages owed as a result of the infringement (Business Wire).

Inmarsat: Inmarsat has awarded a $700 million contract to Astrium (formerly Matra Marconi Space) to build three broadband telecommunications satellites. Two satellites will be launched with the third on the ground as a reserve. Services are expected to begin in 2004. The satellites will be positioned to serve 80 percent of the land. The network will be interoperable with existing 64,000 bit/s systems. Inmarsat is currently preparing for an IPO (Total Telecom).


GlobalStar: Fighting the ghost of Iridium, the GlobalStar satellite telecom reported higher than expected losses for the first quarter of 2000. The company reported a net loss of $216 million or $0.98 per share. The company had revenues of only $609,000 -- reflecting only partial introduction of the worldwide system. The company's services are available in only 38 countries, but is expected to be available in 80 by the end of the year. The company has shipped 67,000 phones to date with orders for 300,000 more. The company is well financed, but must renew a $250 million line-of-credit in September. Because of the lower than expected earnings, Salomon Smith Barney downgraded the stock to "neutral" on May 8 (Space Daily).

Celestis: The Celestis funeral service has introduced a new method of memorialization. The company is offering lunar funerals for $12,500. The company has begun to take reservations for the service and in negotiations with two different firms planning lunar missions to carry small capsules of ashes as a secondary payload. Both missions will be launched on Orbital Sciences rockets. Mareta N. West, who helped select the Sea of Tranquility for the Apollo 11 flight has the first confirmed reservation. She died in 1998 at the age of 83. Dr. Eugene Shoemaker's ashes were the first to be transported to the Moon on board the Lunar Prospector. A number of people have had their ashes transported to orbit by Celestis (AP).

TransOrbital: The TransOrbital company is planning the first commercial mission to the Moon. The company plans to launch a HDTV camera on a Strela launch vehicle in 2001. The low-cost lunar satellite will use a telescope lens to produce high quality video images from lunar orbit. The HDTV video will be used for Internet content and other commercial products such as advertising. The project seeks to produce an atlas of the entire lunar surface, footage for movies, lunar e-mail and will produce the background for an Interactive Lunar Flight CD-ROM game (TransOrbital PR).

TransOrbital Website

Memorabilia: On May 7, Superior Galleries concluded a two-day sale of space memorabilia and artifacts. The 1,650- lot sale was the most successful space auction to-date. The silver outer-layer of a Mercury flight suit sold for $90,000 and an Apollo 17 tool kit sold for $30,000. Even Soviet items sold at good prices. A complete Soviet space suit sold for $17,000 (CollectSpace).

SPACE STOCKS - The stock listing is for informational purposes only and not intended for trading purposes. Frontier Status shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Additional stocks may be listed by request (

Company              Ticker       Friday Close     Prev. Friday

Boeing                  BA           37.125            39.50
EchoStar                DISH         45.4375           54.125
GlobalStar              GSTRF         8.8125           10.0625
Hughes Electronics      GMH          86.75             89.6094
Lockheed Martin         LMT          25.5625           26.1875
Loral Space             LOR           8.25              8.5625
Motorola                MOT          96.0625          109.50
Orbital Sciences        ORB          12.3125           13.625
Sirius                  SIRI         43.00             44.0625
SpaceDev                SPDVE.OB      1.625             1.625
SpaceHab                SPAB          4.75              5.0625
TRW                     TRW          55.875            58.4375


Courtesy J. Ray, and J. Foust

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

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

May 16- Eurockot Rokot, Experimental payload, Plesetsk, Russia.

May 18 - Shuttle Atlantis (STS-101), ISS flight 2A.2A, Kennedy Space Center.

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

May 24-26 - 5th ISU International Symposium, The Space Transportation Market: Evolution or Revolution, Strasbourg, France.

May 26-29 - International Space Development Conference, Tucson, AZ.

May 29 - Landing, Shuttle Atlantis, Kennedy Space Center.

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

May 31 - Minuteman III, GT-172-GM, Vandenberg AFB.

Late May - Proton / Briz, Gorizont 45, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

June 3 - Zenit-2. Kosmos, Baikonur.

June 8 - Proton, Intersputnik Express-3A, Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

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

June 15 - Delta 2, NAVSTAR GPS satellite, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

June 28 - ILS Proton, Sirius 1 (CD Radio), Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.

June 29 - SeaLaunch Zenit-3SL, PanAmSat PAS-9, Odyssey launch platform, equatorial Pacific Ocean.

June 29 - Atlas 2A, TDRS-H, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station pad 36A.

Late June - Proton / Briz, Geyser data-relay satellite (Russian Ministry of Defense), Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

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

July 1 - Minotaur, MightySat II, Vandenberg AFB.

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

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

Delayed - Pegasus XL, TSX 5, Vandenberg AFB.

CENSUS - The population of space remains at two, both Russian cosmonauts on board the Mir space station. Mir has been occupied for 37 days. Humans have spent a total of 145.5 man-days in orbit in the year 2000. The first element of the International Space Station has been in orbit for 540 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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