News of

May 1999

May 29
NASA resumes pre-launch processing of its US$1.5-billion Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) and decides to proceed with the mating of the 5,200-kg spacecraft with a Boeing Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) on June 1st. The CXO/IUS composite is tentatively scheduled to be released in low-Earth orbit from space shuttle Columbia's payload bay on August 8. The launch, delayed several times, was initially planned in November 1998. The latest postponement resulted from the failure of an IUS used as the upper stage of a Titan 4B vehicle the April 9.
May 28
Spain's Capricornio microsatellite launcher program is currently stopped according to Oren Philips, vice-president of Thiokol Propulsion. The Capricornio program was initiated by INTA, the Spanish space agency, in 1992. Thiokol was selected in 1997 to provide Castor 4B solid rocket motors to serve as first stage on the first two vehicles. A joint-venture with AlliedSignal was expected to market the Capricornio in the U.S.
May 27
Chinese official media report that China will test fly a manned spacecraft on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the People's Revolution on October 1st.
May 26
The European Space Agency announces that the launch of its X-ray Multi Mirror (XMM) mission, previously due on January 21st, 2000, is now scheduled on December 15, 1999, onboard the 6th Ariane 5 vehicle. The 10-m tall spacecraft will be launched to a highly elliptical orbit with a 7,000 km perigee and an apogee at 114,000 km.
(more on Martin Ransom's "Go Ariane" website)
May 26
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) conducts the fourth flight of its indigenously developed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The PSLV-C2 vehicle lofted ISRO's 1,050-kg OceanSat 1 as primary payload, but, for the first time, it also carried to orbit two commercial secondary payloads: the 107-kg Kitsat 3, for South Korea's Advanced Institute of Space Technology (KAIST) and the 45-kg DLR-Tubsat for Germany's space agency, DLR. The piggyback launches were marketed by ISRO's Antrix Corp. which has signed an agreement with Arianespace to jointly market future piggyback launch opportunities.
(see Launch Log)
May 26
Shares of the new Aerospatiale Matra company, created from the merger of Aerospatiale Société Nationale Industrielle and Matra Hautes Technologies, to become effective on June 11, will be introduced on the public stock exchange market on June 4. As part of Aerospatiale's privatization, stocks is being sold to general public at 19.2 Euros (US$20.2) and to institutions at 19.6 Euros (US$20.6). The group is thus valued at about 7.9 billion Euros (US$8.3 billion).
May 25
A U.S. Congress panel headed by Republican representative Christopher Cox releases its 700-page report on Chinese spying in the U.S. The report concludes that U.S. satellite manufacturers Space Systems/Loral and Hughes Space & Communications have illegaly transferred sensitive technology to China during launch failure investigations in 1995 and 1996.
May 25
U.S. Air Force's 91st Space Wing, in Minot AFB, N.D., has successfully completed an operational evaluation of the Minuteman 3 ICBM force to demonstrate its capability to operate in a year 2000 environment.
May 25
A Hera target vehicle fails after launch from White Sands Missile Range, N.M., forcing U.S. Army's Space & Missile Defense Center to cancel a test-flight of a Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile due to intercept it. The Hera, provided by Coleman Aerospace Corp., is built from refurbished stages of Minuteman ICBMs. Another test could be conducted within two weeks.
May 24
NASA's Glenn Research Center plans to foster a R&D effort on advanced technologies for electrostatic propulsion power processing through the design of a high-performance 5-kW-class ion propulsion system.
May 24
NASA's Stennis Space Center plans to refurbish the B-2 test stand in order to allow static test firings of the Boeing Delta 4's Common Booster Core.
 

 For up-to-date information regarding launch vehicles, payloads and space industry, refer to
 ISIR NEWSLINE
 An on-line news service jointly provided by
 Launchspace Publications and Takyon International.

May 23
California-based JP Aerospace amateur group successfully launches a rocket from a balloon to an altitude of at least 21.9 km above Black Rock Desert, Nevada. According to JP Aerospace, the rocket is likely to have reached a much higher altitude since it was still travelling upward at more than 240 m/s when the its onboard GPS receiver sent its highest reading. The rocket was intended to be lofted under a balloon from an altitude of 30.3 km to reach a maximum altitude exceeding 97 km, making it the first amateur-built rocket to enter space. However, for safety reasons, the rocket was actually fired some 7.9 km above the ground.
May 22
A tie-down (static) test of Rotary Rocket's Roton ATV demonstrator is interrupted by the vehicle's pilot after the failure of a rotor rpm sensor.
May 21
U.S. Air Force's Space Command convenes an accident investigation board to investigate the mishap that caused a Navstar Block 2R satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space for U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System, to be damaged by rain leaking through the launch pad protective gantry during a rain storm on May 8. The satellite was removed from the launcher for repairs. No new launch date has been set yet and the whole Delta 2 launch manifest is affected.
May 21
Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani denies that Iran is developing the Shahab 4 medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) with a reported range of 2,000 km.
May 20
The Alliant TechSystems-built left-hand composite liquid hydrogen tank of the X-33 hypersonic demonstrator completes its final cure cycle in the Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space autoclave, in Sunnyvale, Calif. The tank will be flown to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center for testing in late July or early August.
May 20
Virgin's Richard Branson has registered the "Virgin Galactic Airways" company to ferry space tourists to orbit. Branson has reportedly been discussing space tourism with Rotary Rocket Co.
May 19
Thiokol Propulsion successfully completes the second of four qualification static firing test of a refurbished Minuteman 3 Stage 2 motor on behalf of the U.S. Air Force's ICBM Prime Integration Program led by TRW, Inc. After completion of the qualification ground firings, a test flight of a refurbished motor is scheduled in November from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
May 19
U.S. President Bill Clinton orders an investigation in six recent U.S. launch vehicle failures, three on Lockheed Martin Titan 4s, two on Boeing Delta 3 and one on a Lockheed Martin Athena 2, which resulted in total losses exceeding US$3.5 billion. This investigation may include a review of the use of NASA's space shuttle to loft some U.S. Department of Defense satellites.
May 18
Spaceport Systems International, ajoin venture of ITT Industries and California Commercial Spaceport, officially announces the operating capability of its Spaceport Launch Facility in Vandenberg AFB, Calif. The first commercial launch is planned on September 15 with an Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur vehicle carrying a cluster of micro- and nanosatellites.
May 18
Beal Aerospace Technologie is studying the possibility to build a backup launch site in the Essequibo region of Guyana.
May 18
Thiokol Corp. was awarded a US$211,770 contract by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to develop a nanosatellite solid propellant motor prototype.
May 18
Australia's Dilankex consortium proposes to launch Russian-built Start vehicles from the Woomera Rocket Range and is reportedly looking for support by the Australian federal government. A plan to launch Start vehicles from Woomera had already been initiated in late 1995 by ASC Engineering Ltd. with support from the Australian Department of Industry, Science & Technology (DIST). United Start, which holds an exclusive marketing license for the Start outside CIS, has no connection with Dilankex.
 

 For additional information regarding launch vehicles, payloads and space industry, refer to
 THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE INDUSTRY REPORT
 A monthly newsletter jointly published by
 Launchspace Publications and Takyon International.

May 14
China is preparing a manned launch shortly after an unmanned test flight of a manned spacecraft reportedly planned on October 1st, according to Li Jianzhong, director of the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). Launches will be conducted atop an upgraded version of the CZ-2E vehicle.
May 14
Swedish Space Corp. launches a Matra Marconi Space Skylark 7 rocket carrying the MASER-8 suborbital microgravity payload from Esrange, in Kiruna, Sweden, on behalf of the European Space Agency's EMIR program. The 4-experiment payload reached an apogee of 260 km and experienced 6 min. 18 sec. of microgravity conditions. It was successfully recovered 90 min. after liftoff.
May 13
Thiokol Propulsion successfully completes the third of eight qualification static firing test of a refurbished Minuteman Stage 1 motor. The motor was processed under the Minuteman Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP)/Technical Integration Program. The test is conducted on behalf of the U.S. Air Force's ICBM Prime Integration Program led by TRW, Inc.
May 13
China Development Industrial Bank of Taiwan agrees to invest US$8 million in Kistler Aerospace's K-1 project of fully reusable two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle as soon as Kistler has raised an additional US$142 million from other U.S. and Taiwanese interests.
May 13
NASA's Glenn Research Center plans to demonstrate solar electric propulsion under its Future-X program by flying the experimental 5-kW T-160E Hall-effect thruster system onboard Russia's Ekspress A3 communication satellite in February 2000.
May 13
NASA decides to roll space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center's LC-39B to the Vehicle Assembly Building to perform repair work on the external tank foam insulation which was damaged by an hailstorm on May 8. Holes in the foam will have to be filled to prevent the formation of ice inside them when the tank is loaded with cryogenic propellant. As a consequence the STS-96 mission is postponed from May 20 to no earlier than May 27.
May 13
The U.S. Air Force officially declares the Milstar 2-F1 satellite, launched to a wrong orbit by a faulty Titan 4B/Centaur vehicle on April 30, dead.
May 12
The U.S. House of Representatives' Technical and Tactical Intelligence subcommittee plans to initiate an independent investigation on the recent string of launch failures affecting the Lockheed Martin Astronautics Titan 4 family of launchers.
May 12
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation is discussing with British authorities for launch responsibility over Beal Aerospace's BA-2 vehicles to be launched from Sombrero island, a British territory dependent of Anguilla, in the Caribbean.
May 11
Pakistani armed forces are planning to test a new intermediate range ballistic missile, the Tipu, on May 28, according to local daily newspaper "Frontier Post". The Tipu has a reported range of 4,000 km.
May 11
The U.S. President clears the export of propellant and satellite separation systems to China for the launch of a pair of Iridium satellites by a CZ-2-3/SD vehicle on June 7.
May 11
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center plans to issue a request for quote for a research study on integrated design optimization for rocket engine injectors.
May 11
The U.S. Air Force postpones indefinitely the launch of a Titan 4B with no upper stage, due in early May from Vandenberg AFB, following the series of three launch failures of Titan 4 vehicles.
May 11
The launch of a Boeing Delta 2/7925 vehicle from Cape Canaveral's SLC-17A, initially planned on May 15, has to be delayed for at least 15 days after its payload, a Navstar Block 2R satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space for U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System, has been damaged by rain leaking through the launch pad protective gantry on May 8.
May 11
The Council of the European Space Agency, meeting at ministerial level in Brussels, Belgium, approves the development of new cryogenic upper stages to improve the launch capability of Ariane 5 launch vehicles. However, the planned budget is cut by 10% to 533 million Euros (US$570 million) through 2001. The Future Launcher Technology Program (FLTP) is subscribed for 54 million Euros (US$58 million) instead of 70 million (US$75 million), through late 2001 too, but the subscription line will remain opened for 4 to 6 months. The much controversed Vega small launcher program will receive its planned 317 million Euro (US$340 million) budget but only after successful completion of an additional technical, financial and economical assessment in September. A vote is planned at next council meeting, at delegate level, in October.
May 11
Lockheed Martin names ten experts to form a comprehensive review panel to investigate program management, engineering and manufacturing processes and quality control procedures at Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space and Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems following a series of launch failures involving Lockheed Martin's Titan 4 and Athena 2 launch vehicles as well as its Centaur upper stage. A report is due before September 1.
May 11
Pioneer Rocketplane plans to move its activities to Utah's proposed new commercial spaceport near Cedar City.
May 11
Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan plan to set up a joint-venture to foster a launch service based on Zenit vehicles in Baykonur. An initial investment of US$100 million is planned.
May 10
GKNPTs Khrunichev is studying a winged version of its Angara core stage as part of a proposed improvement of its Angara 1.2 small launch vehicle project.
May 10
China prepares two advanced launch vehicles for the years 2005-2010, respectively a single-stage-to-orbit launcher with strap-on boosters, able to loft up to 24,000 kg to low Earth orbit, and a two-stage-to-orbit vehicle, also with strap-on boosters, with a payload capacity of up to 13,000 kg to geostationary transfer orbit.
May 10
China introduces its new CZ-4B launch vehicle with the successful launch of its Feng Yun 1C meteorology satellite. The CZ-4B is a derivative of the CZ-4A flown since 1988 with a new, restartable upper stage.
 

 For up-to-date information regarding launch vehicles, payloads and space industry, refer to
 ISIR NEWSLINE
 An on-line news service jointly provided by
 Launchspace Publications and Takyon International.

May 7
The U.S. Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence releases a report confirming that U.S. technology transfered to China on the occasion of international launch failure investigations in 1995 and 1996 has allowed China to improve its ballistic missile technologies.
May 7
The Orion 3 satellite, left stranded on a 162 x 1,378 km orbit by the failure of Boeing's second Delta 3 vehicle on May 5, fires its Kaiser Marquardt R-4D thruster to enter a safer 367 x 1,145 km orbit. Various options are under review to save the US$145-million spacecraft including a rescue mission by a NASA space shuttle, or the use of its onboard propulsion system to reach the geostationary orbit, either directly or through a lunar flyby trajectory.
(see the Launch Log)
May 7
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has completed a series of stress tests on a test version of the aluminium liquid oxygen tank due to fly onboard the X-33 hypersonic demonstrator. The 2,700-kg test tank will now be shipped to NASA's Glenn Research Center for additional tests whilst the flight tank will be installed directly in the X-33's frame at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works' facility in Palmdale, Calif. Both the test and flight tanks were built by Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems.
May 6
Boeing's Delta 2 launch vehicles are cleared to proceed with their current launch schedule since common parts in the Delta 2 and 3 vehicles have been determined not to ˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­˙­he second Delta 3 on May 5.
(see the Launch Log)
May 6
According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the failure of a Titan 4B/Centaur flight on April 30 was caused by a corrupt software, which had been verified by Lockheed Martin Astronautics. The software apparently caused the Centaur upper stage to fly off course some 9 min. into flight and conduct two "abnormal firings" before releasing the spacecraft in an improper orbit.
May 6
According to Boeing, on the Delta 3's second flight, the Pratt&Whitney RL10-B2 engine of the vehicle's second stage shut down less than 1 sec. in its second burn. This unexpected shutdown came with a jolt that sent the stage and its payload tumbling. Onboard control system later recovered attitude control and released the Orion 3 spacecraft in low Earth orbit.
May 6
NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) decide to delay the launch of the GOES-L meteorology satellite, initially due on May 15 atop an Atlas 2A vehicle, pending completion of various reviews by NASA and manufacturers regarding recent launch failures. The Atlas 2A's second stage is a Lockheed Martin Astronautics Centaur.
May 6
Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA) will conduct a series of short duration (10 sec.) firing tests of its new LE-7A cryogenic engine on May 10, 14 and 22. These tests are planned to provide additional data for the determination of the cause of a defect earlier reported on the engine's pre-burner injection unit. The LE-7A qualification campaign was interrupted after the 5th firing test on March 30.
May 6
The U.S. Secretary of the Air Force launches an investigation into the three consecutive failures of Titan 4 vehicles.
May 6
According to the U.S. Air Force's Space Command, during the April 9 Titan 4 failure, the two motors of the Boeing Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) did not separate correctly and the apogee motor's extendible nozzle was damaged during deployment. The apogee motor did ignite but the IUS/DSP-19 composite tumbled during the burn.
May 5
The launch campaign for the first commercial flight of Ariane 5 is temporarily halted, waiting for its payload. Arianespace now plans to loft Ariane 504 betwwen July 2 and 5.
(Monitor the Ariane 504 launch campaign)
May 5
The launch of a Proton K vehicle carrying the first Breeze M upper stage developed by GKNPTs Khrunichev for an improved version of the Proton launchers, is delayed after an anomaly was detected in the upper stage's control system. The Proton K is rolled back to the integration and test area to replace the faulty components.
May 5
Boeing's Delta 3 launch vehicle fails on its second flight, apparently due to an anomaly during the second burn of its new cryogenic upper stage. The US$145-million Orion 3 satellite is released in a 162 x 1,378 km orbit. The mission was reportedly insured for US$265 million.
May 4
Lockheed Martin plans to name an independent panel of a dozen of experts to conduct a comprehensive review of program management, engineering and manufacturing processes and quality control procedures at Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space and Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems following a series of launch failures involving Lockheed Martin's Titan 4 and Athena 2 launch vehicles as well as its Centaur upper stage. A report is due before September 1.

 For additional information regarding launch vehicles, payloads and space industry, refer to
 THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE INDUSTRY REPORT
 A biweekly newsletter jointly published by
 Launchspace Publications and Takyon International.

 

Other reliable space industry news services are available from:

Back to the top of the Page

Back to the Archives Section

Latest News


© Takyon International - 1997/99