Frontier Status Report #231
Frontier Status Report #231
December 1, 2000
Dale M. Gray
The Space Shuttle Endeavour's flight to the International Space Station Alpha topped the week's events. The flight will deliver the P6 Photovoltaic Module necessary for the long term occupation of the station. Other news includes a successful launch of a Proton rocket carrying the third Sirius Satellite Radio telecommunications satellite. The week also saw news in the fields of technology, launch systems, satellites and business ventures. The sale of the assets of the defunct Iridium has created a controversy even as the first of the Iridium satellites splashes down harmlessly in the Arctic Ocean.
The history of the new high frontier is now at your fingertips. Research topics from past issues of Frontier Status at FrontierStatus.com.
Dale Gray's comments at the November Space Launch Roundtable in Golden, Colorado were included in a recent Denv er Business Journal article written by Doug Mcpherson.
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Highlights of the week of December 1 include:
At 10:06 p.m. on Thursday, November 30, the Shuttle Endeavor and its five man crew lifted off from Cape Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39B. The launch coincided with the most optimal flight path to the International Space Station (ISS Alpha). The initial orbit was reported to be 202 x 46 statute miles, but a OMS burn at T+44 minutes raised the orbit to 202 x 102 statute miles. A series of burns will slowly alter the orbit until it matches and docks with the ISS Alpha. STS-97 is the sixth ISS Flight (4A). In the payload bay is the P6 Photovoltaic Module. The launch was problem-free despite a small grass fire in the vicinity and an earlier problem with a mounting bracket holding a waterline on the launch structure walkway room. Following the launch, the two solid rocket boosters were recovered at sea and appear to be in good condition. The crew reported no problems during the accent and the mission continues to be on schedule and expects to dock with ISS Alpha in the afternoon of December 2. This was the third Shuttle launch in as many months (NASA; NASA Shuttle Page; Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
The P6 Integrated Truss module is composed of two solar wings. Built by Lockheed Martin at a reported cost of $600 million, the wings will provide power for the station -- allowing Alpha crew members to utilize the Unity Node in the short term and power the U.S. Destiny Laboratory when it is delivered in January. The system is capable of generating 60 kW. The solar panels and associated systems together weigh 35,000 pounds, the heaviest Shuttle payload to be delivered to the station. When unfurled, they will be 73 m (240 feet) x 11.6 m (38 feet). The solar blankets in the panels contain about 32,400 solar cells. Attached to the Truss are 12 nickel-hydrogen batteries and a power converter that will step down the voltage from 160 to 120 volts (Florida Today; Space flight Now).
The P6 module will be attached and made functional by a series of three space walks beginning on Sunday December 3. The first will physically attach the module to the top of the Z1 Truss and to crank open the arrays. The second walk will attach control and power cables and relocate an antenna. The third will be to install a device on the end of the module to measure electrical shock hazard for future Shuttle missions. During the walks, Endeavour will be at reduced air pressure to aid in the spacewalk preparations. Because of the different air pressures (ISS Alpha air pressure is at sea level), the doors between Shuttle and station will remain closed until external work is completed on December 8. The Endeavour crew will also be playing Santa by bringing Christmas presents to the three man ISS crew. (NASA; AP; Spaceflight Now; Space.com).
The Endeavor has an experienced crew with impressive space credentials. Commander Brent Jett (Commander, USN) spent 19 days in space on two previous missions (STS-72 and STS-81) and was pilot during the docking with the Mir space station. Pilot Michael Bloomfield (Lieutenant Colonel, USAF), has spent over 10 days in space on a previous mission to Mir (STS-86). Joseph Tanner has spent almost 21 days in space in two missions (STS-66 and STS- 82), including a mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. Carlos Noriega (Lieutenant Colonel, USMC) has over 9 days of space experience on a previous mission to Mir (STS-84). Mission Specialist Marc Garneau (Ph.D., CSA Astronaut) has over 18 days experience in space on two missions (STS-41G and STS-77). Garneau will operate the Canadian robot arm during the mission (Spaceflight Now; NASA). Tanner, who previously conducted two spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope in February of 1997 (STS-82), will be joined by Noriega for two full-duration space walks and the recently added half- duration walk.
On Thursday, while the Shuttle Endeavour was launched into space, the crew of International Space Station Alpha slept. For the past two weeks the crew has been busy unloading two tons of food, equipment and other supplies. The Progress supply vessel docked with the station on November 17. Because the 25-foot long Progress would be in the way of the Shuttle's docking maneuver, it was detached from the station on Friday, December 1. It is now orbiting about 1,000 miles away from the station. If all goes as planned, it will be reattached to the station following the departure of Endeavour. Russian controllers have reported that they have isolated and corrected a software problem that prevented the automatic docking and expect to be able to redock without problems. The vessel will then be used as the station's garbage bin for unwanted packing materials and other station trash. NASA was reported to be concerned about the safety of the redocking maneuver (NASA).
Space Adventurer Dennis Tito has not given up on his dream to fly in space. Following Russia's announcement that it would be deorbiting the Mir Space Station, Tito's hopes appeared to be dim. He had signed on with MirCorp to be its first paying customer to experience space flight and visit the orbiting space station. However, the $20 million on deposit in the bank has the Russians wondering if they can include him in the January mission to prepare Mir for its swan dive into the remote Pacific. Another alternative may be to hitch a ride to the ISS Alpha in April when Russia swaps out the crew's Soyuz "lifeboat". While NASA has not agreed to such a flight, Russian officials stated that NASA was not in charge of their launch systems. Tito's deal with MirCorp is only good until June 30, 2001 ( BBC).
NASA Administrator Dan Goldin has stated that it is "wrong to peddle spaceship seats to rich guys looking for fun." While this may be true for NASA, it does not necessarily hold for all space-based enterprises. Nearly all historic position-based frontiers experienced early entry by wealthy adventurers. The American West was toured by Prince Maximillian of Weid (with entourage) in the 1830s during the fur trade frontier boom. It is not unreasonable to assume that orbital space would experience a similar phenomenon. In historic frontiers, such adventurers often broke the trail for more modestly funded expeditions of well-heeled tourists. These in turn paid for the infrastructure by which ordinary people have been able to visit and marvel at frontier wonders. Public opinion, derived from tourist visits, then became instrumental in the preservation of important aspects of the frontier. Without this historic tourism, many of America's National Parks, beginning with Yellowstone, would not have been established and protected. While NASA seeks to take the high road in this matter, it should remember that it is not the only traveler enroute to the frontier (CNN; AP; Frontier Model).
Proton / Sirius-3
At 2:59 p.m. on November 30 (12:59 a.m. December 1 local time), a ILS Proton / Blok DM rocket was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The payload for the flight was the Sirius-3 satellite built by Space Systems/Loral. The first stage was pushed skyward by six RD-253 rocket engines. The four RD-0210 second stage engines ignited at T+2:20 after separation of the first stage. The third stage ignited around T+6 minutes with payload shroud separation occurring ten seconds later. At T+10:10 minutes the upper stage and satellite separated from the spent third stage. After two firings, one at T+43:50 (six minutes) and one at T+123:17 (under two minutes), the spacecraft separated from the Blok DM upper stage at T+170 minutes. Communications with the satellite was established at T+243 minutes. The solar panels were successfully deployed at T+435 minutes. This was the sixth ILS Proton flight and the 14th overall Proton flight this year. One more Proton flight may occur late in December of the new Proton M with a Briz M upper stage (Florida Today; PR Newswire; ILS Web Page; Sirius Radio; Spaceflight Now).
On-orbit testing of the satellite is expected to take about 45 days with inauguration of services in early 2001. The satellite will be placed in 14,900 x 29,200 elliptical orbit inclined at 63.4. The satellite is part of a three-satellite constellation that will provide 50 channels of music and 50 channels talk/commentary/sports radio with digital quality anywhere in the continental US for $9/95 per month. Because of the unique orbit, two Sirius radio satellites will be over the horizon at any one time -- to compensate for any obstacles vehicle-mounted receivers may experience. The satellite is based on the SS/L 1300 series satellite bus and is expected to have a 15 year service life (PRNewswire; Spaceflight Now; Space Systems/Loral PR).
Editor's note: This is the second Sirius 3 satellite to be launched. The first was a HS 376 built by Hughes for Nordiska Satellitaktiebolaget (NSAB) of Sweden and launched on an Ariane 4 rocket in October of 1998 (Hughes Space; Frontier Status 117).
The Japanese National Space Development Agency (NASDA) has opted to postpone the inaugural flight of the H-2A rocket to conduct more tests of the systems. The launch, which was originally set for February 2001, will now be slated for sometime in the summer of 2001. The delay was called for after cracked pipes and peeled plating were observed following the rocket's final ground test in November. NASDA has focused on the development of the H-2A after the cancellation of the problem-plagued H-2 program (AP; NASDA PR; F lorida Today).
Lockheed Martin Space System's Denver facility has taken delivery of four more RD-180 rocket engines from Russia. Three of the engines will be installed on Atlas 3 rockets, but the fourth, engine 9T, will be used on the first Atlas 5. Installation of 9T will begin in January of 2001 and delivery of the rocket to Cape Canaveral in April. Launch of the first Atlas 5 is expected in early 2002. The RD-180 engine is a unique throttleable rocket engine that evolved out of Soviet RD-170 rocket technology, but is now marketed by RD AMROSS, which has a contract to deliver 101 of the engines to Lockheed Martin. Eight of the two-chamber rockets have been delivered to date. Each was test fired for at least 200 seconds at five different throttle settings. RD AMROSS is a joint venture between NPO Energomash of Khimky, Russia and US rocket motor maker Pratt & Whitney. The Atlas 5 is being developed as part of the USAF Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle and will be marketed commercially by ILS (EELV) program (Lockheed Martin PR).
The November 23 loss of the QuickBird 1 remote sensing satellite from a Cosmos 3 rocket failure is under investigation. Early reports by Interfax stated that the rocket's second stage shut down too early, causing the loss of the satellite when its orbit intersected the atmosphere. A study of Plesetsk operations show that the launch sequence was performed correctly. The Russian Aerospace Agency and Defense Ministry are continuing the investigation to find the root cause of the loss (AP).
The Khrunichev space center is hoping to expand its launch services in the future. This past year the center was responsible for 14 Proton launches to date with one more on the way. However, next year only three Proton launches have been scheduled. The dearth of launches is in part caused by ICO Global pushing back the launch dates of four satellites to 2002. While 2001 may have few Proton launches, Khrunichev already has 12 orders for Proton rockets in 2002 (SpaceDaily.com; Interfax).
Integrated Powerhead Program
The Air Force Research Lab and the Marshall Space Flight Center have awarded $7.9 million in added in-scope work on the Integrated Powerhead Program to Aerojet. The company has been working on advanced combustion device technology for cryogenic hydrogen / oxygen rocket engines. The prior contract was reported at $15 million; bringing the total for the project to $23 million through 2003. Aerojet will now work to update combustion device demonstration hardware. These include long-lived formed platelet liner combustion chambers; hydrogen-cooled; milled channel nozzles; oxider and fuel rich preburners; and testing and evaluating the technology demonstration engine. Engine testing will be conducted in 2003 at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. The program is part of the evolution of technology for the 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle program, a joint venture with Pratt & Whitney on their Cobra engine (SpaceDaily.com).
Peregrine Semiconductor has announced the introduction of the first space-qualified prescaler integrated circuit. The PE9301 is a high performance monolithic CMOS prescaler with a fixed divide ratio of two. It operates in the 2.0 to 3.5 GHz frequency range and is designed for low power operations. The PE9301 is built using Peregrine's Ultra Thin Silicon (UTSiš) Silicon-On-Sapphire (SOS) process. The IC is expected to be able to attain 300Krad total dose tolerance along with impressive Single Event Upset tolerances (SpaceDaily.com).
Power of Five
PanAmSat's new Power of Five allows cable operators to access programming from Galaxy XR, Galaxy V and Galaxy IX satellites along with NET-36 IP Broadcast Network from a single satellite dish. These satellites are located from 123 to 127 degrees West longitude. A similar dish set-up will allow single dish access to Galaxy XI and Galaxy IIIR at 91 and 95 degrees West longitude. (BusinessWire: PanAmSat PR).
>From December 3 - 8, experts from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be speaking at the combined NOISE-CON 2000 and Acoustic Society of America meeting in Newport Beach, California. Among topics will be Ultrasonic motors, Nanoscale Ears Based on Artificial Stereocilia and Atmospheric Humity Sensor (JPL News).
A small robot that moves by rolls and hops was named "robot of the month" in the Robot Watch section of "Discover" magazine's December issue. Powered by a single motor, the 1.3 kg robot is capable of jumping up to 1.8 meters on Earth , but could hop up to 6 meters on a lower-gravity planet such as Mars. Though small, the robot contains a camera, solar panels, sensors and an autonomous computer. The device stores energy in a spring attached to the single leg. When the spring is released, the Frogbot hops. The hopping technology is expected to be mature enough in three years to be included in future space missions (JPL PR; Spaceflight Now).
On December 1, SpaceDev successfully tested a hybrid rocket motor, the Maneuvering and Transfer Vehicle (MTV). The test firing built on data derived from the late American Rocket Company (and now owned by SpaceDev). The 5 inch diameter x 12 inch long motor was fired at the new SpaceDev motor test facility. The facility was built using a grant from the California Space and Technology Alliance. A series of rocket motor firings will be conducted during the next two months as part of a contract with the National Reconnaissance Office to demonstrate hybrid rocket motor technology. The motor is expected begin service as a relatively inexpensive solution to orbital maneuvering and transfer for small secondary payloads. Ultimately, SpaceDev hopes the small kick-motors will give the company the experience necessary to scale up to larger hybrid motors (SpaceDev PR).
There is a new player in the spectrum and it isn't a satellite operator. On December 1, the Federal Communication Commission voted to allow Northpoint to use radio spectrum normally reserved for satellites for tower- based broadband networking. The company has run three pilot tests licensed by the FCC from 1997 to 1999. In the most recent test in Washington, D.C. Lucent Technologies found interference with satellite signals to be negligible in all weathers. The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association has protested the move. Northpoint's technology will allow it to rapidly develop local Broadband networks with national coverage in about two years. Another company, Pegasus Communications, hopes to use the same spectrum for redistribution of DirecTV service in rural areas, but has not yet proven it can share the bandwidth without interference (USA Today; Business Wire).
Chattahooche High School in Alpharetta, Georgia has found a unique way to motivate their young math students. Since January of 2000, math teacher Michael Buchanan has been assigning the book "October Sky" by Homer Hickam as required reading for his trigonometry class. The assignment is seen as a way to engage the students and to get them to delve deeper into the mathematics by showing that there is a connection with the outside world. To assist in the use of the book, Homer Hickam and his wife Linda Terry have set up a Web site with suggested lesson plans (Gannett).
Brevard County, Florida's Central Middle School has students building and flying rockets. Not in a science class, but as an assignment in a seventh-grade English class. In addition to building and flying the models, students are asked to write a manual on how to build and operate the rockets. The students also completed mathematic and scientific calculations to determine whether the rockets would fly and how high. The class project was the result of English teacher Barbara Acree attending a Summer Industrial Fellowship for Teachers. The rockets were test flown at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Space Missile Museum (Florida Today).
On November 27, the Ulysses spacecraft became the first to ever pass over the Sun's south pole a second time. The first passage over the pole occurred on September 13, 1994. By comparing data from the two passages, scientists hope to come to a better understanding of the Sun's behavior over time. The space craft will next pass over the high northern latitudes in October of 2001 (ESA PR; Spaceflight Now).
Mars Global Surveyor
Scientists working on imaging from the Mars Global Surveyor plan to announce a new discovery on the Red Planet on December 7. The announcement will coincide with an article that will be published in the December 8 issue of Science Magazine. It is expected that the announcement will concern the discovery of layered sedimentary rocks on the Martian surface. Such layering is typical of deposition in a lake or ocean environment.
Images can bee seen at: MGS Photo Journal.
NASA's Explorer's office recently completed a confirmation review of details relating to the CHIPSat program being developed by SpaceDev. The mission, which is to be launched in 2002, appears to be on-time and on-budget (SpaceDev PR).
While Iridium stock has long since fallen, the orbital constellation continued to circle the globe. That is until Friday, when satellite number 79 reentered the atmosphere. The satellite was one of several that failed not long after launch. Scientists expect some debris from the uncontrolled satellite to hit a remote area of the Arctic Ocean. The next inert Iridium satellite to reenter will be number 85, which will reenter in mid-December ( Space.com preview; Space.com report).
The last three of 11 instruments on the Rumba Cluster II spacecraft have been switched on. The CIS, RAPID and PEACE instruments will now be tested along with the other instruments for mutual interference. Even though the full compliment of instruments are not yet on- line, the four Cluster II spacecraft are beginning to collect data. On November 9, data from the PEACE and EFW instruments showed the quartet had made its first crossing of the Earth's magnetosphere -- one week earlier than predicted. The spacecraft also measured the effect of the recent powerful solar storm, but were not damaged by it. the four spacecraft are currently about 600 km apart and rotating at 15 rpm (ESA; Spaceflight Now).
INTERNET IN THE SKY FRONTIER
With the recent introduction of StarBand, pricing plans are now available for comparison. Using a $950 RadioShack-purchased Compaq computer, StarBand equipment installation is free with a $59.95 per month service charge. The same service is available through EchoStar bundled with 150 channels of TV service for $99.99 per month. DirecPC, which currently offers a one- way broadband service for around $20, but expects to introduce a true, two-way satellite broadband service in early 2001 for $69.95 per month. WildBlue, has not yet published its rates, but expects to begin service in 2002 with a competitive priced service (Washington Post).
The Astrium consortium has announced plans to begin marketing geo-information products through its subsidiary "InfoTerra". This company, formerly known as National Remote Sensing Centre Ltd. of the UK is located in Farnborough and Barwell. The 190-employee company has a 20-year history in the field, distributing satellite and aircraft-originated data. The company currently distributes data from existing resources, but hope to begin using data generated by its own TerraSAR satellites. These 600 km polar orbit satellites will have high spatial and thematic resolution. Because of their orbits, they will be able to cover any spot on earth every six to seven days. Urgent requests can be imaged in as little as two days (SpaceDaily.com).
XM Satellite Radio
Two 702 satellites built by Boeing have been delivered to SeaLaunch's Long Beach facility to be prepared for launch. Dubbed "Rock" and "Roll", the satellites will be the backbone of the XM Satellite Radio service. The first of the two, Roll, will be launched from Sea Launch's floating platform on the Equator in on January 8. Rock will be launched by Sea Launch later in the quarter. The company expects to begin providing services in the middle of 2001. Monthly subscription to the service is listed at $9.95. The company has agreements with Honda America and General Motors (PR Newswire; XM Radio).
Dr. Gerald Soffen
On November 22, Dr. Gerald Soffen died at the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. at an age of 74. Soffen, a NASA Scientist, led the Viking science team that placed Viking 1 on Mars on July 20, 1976 and Viking 2 on Mars in September of 1976. Following Viking, Soffen worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center where he helped establish the Mission to Planet Earth program. He formed the University Programs Office at Goddard in 1990. In 1993, Soffen formed the NASA Academy, a summer institute of higher learning for future leaders in the space program. He was instrumental in the founding of the Astrobiology Institute. Most recently, Dr. Soffen was planning the 25th anniversary celebration of the Viking lands. He was also a close advisor of NASA Administrator Dan Goldin (NASA).
General Motors is declining to comment on a recent analyst's report that a deal may be in the works for its Hughes electronics arm. The report is based upon GM recently canceling its $1.1 billion share repurchase program. GM owns Hughes, but only holds 43 percent of Hughes' GMH tracking stock. A board meeting on December 2 may be critical in the decision process. Potential buyers have been reported as Microsoft, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., John Malone's Liberty Media Corp., the Walt Disney Co. and Viacom Inc (AP).
Touting itself as the Hertz of space, AssureSat , plans to launch in 2002 two SpaceSystems / Loral-built satellites as potential replacement satellites. Under their business plans, customers would pay about $4 million per year as a retainer to assure satellite service. Should a customer's satellite fail, one of the AssureSats would be moved into the proper orbital slot and pick up the work load. The satellites will be equipped with 72 special "flexible" transponders to assure that they can meet a wide range of customer's telecommunications requirements. Following the replacement, the customer would then be charged about $2.5 million per month, depending on services provided. Because of the lag between order an on-orbit delivery of satellites, AssureSat has identified what it thinks is a viable market for its service, especially with satellite service providers with few on-orbit resources. There are currently 200 satellites in GEO with a growth rate of 10 percent. The specter of launch failures and on-orbit failures will put AssureSat in the cost-benefit analysis of every communications satellite enterprise working out of GEO. The enterprise is funded by Securitas Capital and SpaceVest, equity investment and venture funds respectively. The El Segundo, California based company is headed by Mark Fowler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and, Jerald F. Farrell, former president of Hughes Communications (Los Angeles Times).
Now that a deal to sell Iridium LLC's assets to the newly formed Iridium Satellite LLC has been made, complaints are surfacing that the New York bankruptcy court acted too swiftly and was unfair in the judgment. Venture Partners head, Gene Curcio has asked some pointed questions as to why his own $27 million cash bid was not accepted over the $25 million mixed cash and debt bid. IR Acquisitions group CEO, Carl George, also wants to know why his $42 million bid was not accepted. Both companies maintain that Motorola and former Iridium executives have been working behind the scenes to sway the disposition of the bankrupt company. Motorola will maintain a small equity stake in Iridium Satellite constituent with its ownership of the Iridium North America gateway.
In related news, Iridium Satellite LLC, has retracted its promise to relaunch telephone services on the Iridium network in 60 days. The retraction came November 16, the day after the company had been awarded the assets of the original Iridium LLC by the bankruptcy court. The company has instead taken a wait-and-see attitude and will not issue new predictions until it is closer to relaunching the service (Communications Week International).
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Courtesy J. Ray, Florida Today, and SpaceViews
FRONTIER CENSUS REPORT
With the Thursday evening launch of the five astronauts on the Shuttle Endeavour, the space population has risen to eight from a baseline of three. Five US astronauts (1 ISS, 4 Shuttle), two Russians cosmonauts (2 ISS) and one Canadian astronaut (1 Shuttle) are currently in orbit. Humans have spent a total of 539.525 man-days in orbit in the year 2000. The International Space Station has been occupied for 30 days beginning on November 2, 2000. ISS has been in orbit for 742 days.
139 articles archived; 99 used
(c) Copyright Dale M. Gray December 1, 2000.
Dale M. Gray is the president of Frontier Historical Consultants. Frontier Status reports are a free weekly annotated index chronicling the progress of the emerging "space frontier". Send subscription requests (subscribe or unsubscribe).
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