News of February 2000

Dates are those of the events (in UT) when available.
 
Commercial Launchers | Heavy-Lift Launchers | Small Launchers
Missile Systems | Advanced Launch Systems | Space Propulsion
Spaceports | Industry | Launch Market


 Commercial Launchers

February 29
NASA has decided to put the launch of the first Boeing Delta 2-7326 on hold in order to check power converters on its payload, the US$153-million Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space. A tentative launch date has been set for March 18.
February 28
Itar-Tass reports that undisclosed technical problems have caused the postponement of a Proton K launch, due to loft the Ekspress 6A Russian communication satellite, from March 12 to March 29.
Editor's note: The launch had already slipped from February 29.
February 28
ICO Global Communications reports that Sea Launch's Odyssey launch platform and control ship have left their homeport in Long Beach, California, for a 11-day-long trip to their equatorial launch site, by 154 degrees West in order to prepare for the launch of the ICO-F1 mobile telephony spacecraft now planned on March 12 atop a Zenit 3SL booster.
February 25
A US$600-million insurance coverage for third-party liability has been contracted through OAO Eastern European Insurance Agency, a Russian underwriter, for the launch of Russia's Ekspress 6A and Ekspress 3A communication satellite by a Proton K vehicle on March 12. and June 20.
Editor's note: OAO Eastern European Insurance Agency, together with Ingosstrakh and Military Insurance Company is already providing insurance coverage for the staellites themselves. A US$90-million coverage was contracted for the three Ekspress A satellites and a US$24.4-million payout for the first satellite, lost in the failure of a Proton K vehicle on October 27, 1999 will be paid on March 1st. Please note that our friends of Airclaims Ltd. participated in the insurance investigation on the loss.
February 25
An object which might be the nose cone of an Ariane 5 solid rocket booster was found on a shore in Mustang Island, Texas. Unfortunately, the artifact was removed by unidentified people before it could be firmly identified.
Editor's note: Such nose cones were jettisoned on the boosters flown on Ariane 503 (October 1998) to allow deployment of the parachutes for recovery of the boosters. On Ariane 502 (October 1997), the nose cones failed to separate and no recovery was attempted on Ariane 504 in December 1999. The boosters of Ariane 501 crashed near the launch site after the vehicle's launch failure in June 1996.
Pictures are available on the Corpus Christi Caller Time website.
February 22
According to Space News, Rosaviakosmos has requested Russian launch providers to contract for third-party liability insurance coverage. This covarage will have to reach at least US$300 million (plus US$40 million to cover damage to the launch facilities) for Proton vehicles, and US$150 to 200 million for other launch systems.
February 18
A 2-m-long, several hundreds kilogram fragment from the Proton K vehicle which launched the Garuda 1 satellite from Baykonur on February 12, reportedly fell outside the normal spent stage impact area, actually crashing into a vegetable garden in the village of Korgon, Altai oblast, Russia.
February 15
A Proton propellant tank ruptured during a test at GKNPTs Khrunichev. According to Vesti TV News of Moscow (reported by Space.com), four workers have received minor injuries when they were washed away by about 200 t of water from the tank. The effect of this incident on the Proton launch schedule is unknown.
February 12
Russia's Proton K launch vehicle successfully returns to flight, lofting the US$600-million Garuda 1 mobile telephony satellite for Asia Cellular Satellite (ACeS), a Southeast Asian consortium that plans to provide regional mobile communications services. The launch was provided by International Launch Services (ILS). GKNPTs Khrunichev supplied the three-stage Proton K vehicle while the Block DM3 upper stage was manufactured by RKK Energiya. After three burns of the DM3 upper stage, Garuda was released onto a 6,233 x 35,946 km geostationary transfer orbit inclined 16 degrees on the Equator.
February 10
Russia earned US$900 million from its commercial space launch activities in 1999 according to Interfax.
February 9
The Fregat upper stage, designed and built by NPO Lavochkin, performed correctly in orbit after its launch by a Soyuz U vehicle. The Fregat was released on a suborbital trajectory and successfully reached orbit with a first engine burn and circularized this orbit with a second burn. After release of a dummy satellite, the Fregat performed a third and a fourth burns to deorbit. Before reentry, the Fregat released the Inflatable Reentry & Descent Technology (IRDT) demonstration payload. Both the Fregat and the IRDT were protected by experimental inflatable reentry shields. Landing apparently occurred 8 hours in the mission in the Orenburg oblast, Russia, near the Kazakh border. However, none of the payloads was located before local nightfall.
Editor's note: Following this qualification flight of the Fregat upper stage, a Cluster 2 mission rehearsal flight is planned in March. If successful, it will clear the stage for the launch of two pairs of Cluster 2 plasma science satellites by Starsem in June and July under a contract from the European Space Agency.
February 8
Boeing Expendable Launch Systems is preparing the launch of a dummy satellite on its third Delta 3 vehicle in order to demonstrate its reliability in case no customer is available to ride the ill-fated launcher before mid-year.
February 7
Kazakhstan's National Space Committee announces that the ban on Proton launches from Baykonur has been lifted over the weekend thus clearing the way for resumption of commercial missions with the launch of the Garuda 1 mobile communications satellite by International Launch Services (ILS) on February 12. A total of 12 to 14 Proton launches are reportedly planned in 2000, including 7 for ILS.
February 3
Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA), of Madrid, has delivered to Lockheed Martin Astronautics the first of twenty conical adapters it is manufacturing for the Atlas 5-400 series of launchers. CASA was selected in July 1998 to provide these adapters which will be used to connect the Atlas 5's 3.8-m-diameter Common Core Booster stage to the 3.05-m-diameter Centaur 3 cryogenic upper stage.
February 3
Kazakhstan's National Space Committee announces that all conditions have been met to allow the lift of the ban on Proton launches from Baykonur. A formal decision is expected within days. The ban was instated following the crash of a Proton K vehicle in Kazakh territory shortly after launch on October 27, 1999. Russia has agreed to pay US$370,000 in compensation.
February 2nd
NPO Yuzhnoye announces that the third launch of Sea Launch's Zenit 3SL, carrying the first satellite of ICO Global Communications' mobile telephony constellation, has been postponed from February 28 to the period between March 10 and March 15. Four Zenit 3SL vehicles are reportedly in storage at Sea Launch's homeport in Long Beach, California.
February 2nd
PanAmSat Corp. awards a contract to Sea Launch Co. for the launch of its Galaxy 3C communication satellite atop a Zenit 3SL vehicle from the Odyssey off-shore launch platform during the second quarter of 2001. The deal, previously announced by PanAmSat, includes options for four additional flights through 2003.
February 2nd
Arianespace has signed a launch agreement with iSky (formerly KaStar Satellite Communications) for the launch of two high power satellites devoted to broadband Internet services, iSky 1 and iSky 2. The two spacecraft, weighing some 5,300 kg each, will fly atop Ariane 5 vehicles during the third quarter of 2001 and by mid 2002 respectively. Under the agreement, Arianespace Finance, the financing arm of the European launch provider, will provide iSky more than US$100 million of construction period and long-term financing.
February 1st
International Launch Services (ILS), through its contracting entity Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services, and Eutelsat officially sign the previously announced contract for the launch of the much delayed Eutelsat W4 communication satellite on the first flight of the new Atlas 3A launch vehicle, currently due on April 14.
Editor's note: Eutelsat W4 was initially due to fly on an Ariane vehicle by mid 1999 but Eutelsat decided to postpone the launch indefinitely due to commercial uncertainty regarding the Russian launch market that the satellite is planned to cover. The contract with Arianespace was later modified for the launch of another Eutelsat satellite. Lockheed Martin Astronautics' Atlas 3A was planned to perform its maiden flight in late 1998 carrying a Space Systems/Loral-built satellite. The launch was eventually set for June 15, 1999 with Telstar 7 but had to be cancelled following the launch failure of Boeing's Delta 3 on May 5 which was due to a malfunction on a Pratt&Whitney RL10 engine also present on the Atlas' Centaur upper stage. In June, Loral decided to transfer Telstar 7 on an Ariane vehicle through a contract signed earlier with Arianespace to backup Globalstar launches. Telstar 7 was eventually launched by an Ariane 4 on September 25, 1999.

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 Heavy-Lift Launchers

February 24
Lockheed Martin Astronautics is discussing with the U.S. Air Force the possibility not to complete the development of the heavy-lift version of its Atlas 5 launcher. In an interview to Defense Daily, the U.S. Air Force Secretary, Whitten Peters, estimated that Lockheed Martin may stop its effort on this version after completeion of a critical design review. This would allow to resume the development later if ever needed.
Editor's note: The U.S. Air Force awarded all its heavy-lift launch contracts under the initial Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle (EELV) procurement to Boeing with its Delta 4H vehicle. No commercial market is expected for this class of vehicles in the foreseeable future.
February 14
The U.S. Air Force plans to create an engineering oversight committee to watch over the contractors of its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, namely Boeing Expendable Launch Systems for the Delta 4 and Lockheed Martin Astronautics for the Atlas 5, in order to provide 'an independent verification and validation of key processes' and ensure that risk reductions plans are carefully applied by the contractors.
February 8
The launch of the Lockheed Martin Astronautics Titan 402B/B-29 vehicle is delayed to April to replace actuators on the core vehicle's engine.
February 2nd
The launch of a NPO Yuzhnoye Zenit 2 vehicle carrying a Russian eavesdropping satellite from Baykonur is delayed for at least 24-hours following a power shortage on the launch site. Officially, the Kazakh company supplying electricity to the base had to interrupt its services due to technical problems. Additional testing to investigate the effects of the power shortage on the vehicle might delay the launch for a few more days.
Editor's note: The Zenit 2 was eventually launched February 3 - See Launch Log
February 1st
Multiple Chinese sources report that a second mission of the Shenzhou man-rated spacecraft could be conducted soon on the occasion of the opening of the year of the Dragon. However, the tracking ships that were used for the first mission in November have not been dispatched again, making such a mission unlikely for the short term.

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 Small Launchers



MTI on Taurus (Sandia)
February 27
The U.S. Air Force has postponed the launch of a Darpa Taurus vehicle from Vandenberg AFB, California, from February 28 to March 4 at the earliest after the territorial government of French Polynesia announced that Maria island (21.88°S, 13.33°W, in the Gambier archipelago), which is located in the vehicle's third stage impact area, although quoted as uninhabited on U.S. Air Force maps, is now actually populated. While U.S. Air Force officials are reviewing the Taurus' flight path, the U.S. State Department is negotiating with local authorities in Tahiti for the possible move of the island population (200 people) into a safer area during the flight. If no solution is found, the Taurus vehicle will have to be disassembled in order to reprogram its onboard computer with a new trajectory. This would cause the launch to slip for at least one month. The payload for this flight is U.S. Department of Energy's Multispectral Thermal Imager (MTI) spacecraft.
 
 
February 26
A Bristol Aerospace Black Brant 12 sounding rocket is launched to an altitude of 1,000 km from Poker Flat Research Range, Alaska, carrying the Canadian Space Agency's GEODESIC experiment to study polar auroras.
February 22
Japanese experts investigating the M-5 launch failure on February 10 have found fragments of heat-resistant graphite from the first stage motor's nozzle near the vehicle's launch pad at Kagoshima Space Center. This suggest that the nozzle was actually damaged only 3 to 4 s after lift-off. More debris fell off the nozzle at 25 and 41 s. A major exhaust leak began at 52 s leading to a partial loss of thrust and directional control.
February 18
The launch of a Start 1 vehicle carrying the EROS-A1 remote sensing satellite on behalf of West Indian Space Ltd. has been postponed from February 24 to late this year due to a malfunction in the satellite's communication system and funding problems. The launch was contracted in 1999 by United Start.
February 10
The US$107-million Astro E astronomy satellite was lost shortly after launch by a M-5 vehicle. Japan's Institute of Space & Astronautical Science was responsible for both the payload and the all-solid launch vehicle, which was manufactured by Nissan Motor's Aerospace Division. The M-5 was apparently shaken by vibrations some 25 seconds into flight and it seems that ceramic heat shields in the first stage's nozzle broke and fell off at 41 seconds. Despite loss of thrust vector control, the first stage completed its 75-second burn but the second and third stages of the M-5 were unable to bring the mission back into its planned trajectory. The 1,680-kg payload was apparently released on a very low perigee orbit (80 x 410 km) which caused it to reenter the atmosphere and burn up. The mission's cost reportedly amounted to US$105 million for the satellite and US$62 million for the launch vehicle.

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 Missile Systems

February 28
Recent intelligence reports from Israel and Germany estimate that Iraq was able to conceal some 50 Al Hussein medium-range ballistic missiles from the United Nation's Special Commission (UNSCOM) inspectors which left the country in 1998, is now developping long-range ballistic systems. According to BND, the German foreign intelligence service, Iraq could introduce a nuclear capable ballistic missile system with a range of 3,000 km circa 2005.
February 23
According to Jane's Defence Weekly, U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources allege that Western technologies obtained by Egyptian state-owned companies might be transferred to North Korea and adapted for use on that country's Nodong and Taepo Dong ballistic missiles programs.
February 18
GenCorp Aerojet is awarded a five-year contract worth US$49.2 million by U.S. Air Force's Space & Missile Systems Center to provide for 75 thrust-vector control systems for Minuteman SR-19 motors being converted into first stage for Hera target vehicles.
February 16
The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization awards a US$63.8-million increase to Boeing's National Missile Defense (NMD)-Lead System Integrator contract for expanded and enhanced test capability and the impact of a two-month shift in the original contract award. The current contract expires at the end of FY2001.
February 14
The current schedule for assessing the feasibility of a U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system is 'unrealistic' according to a report issued by Philip E. Coyle, U.S. Department of Defense's director of testing and evaluation, to the U.S. Congress and the Defense secretary William Cohen. A review of the NMD effort is currently planned in June to lead to a firm decision during the third quarter on the actual deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system.
February 10
North Korea is still developing its Taepo Dong long-range ballistic missile system despite it agreed not to test-fly any missile system while talks with the United States were under way according to Robert Walpole, a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency official in charge of strategic and nuclear issues reporting to the U.S. Senate.
February 8
The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization reports that the failure of a US$100-million missile interception test by a Raytheon-built Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) on January 19 was caused by a leak in the interceptor vehicle sensor's liquid nitrogen cooling system. Actually, the EKV came within 30 m of the dummy warhead. Next EKV test flight will be delayed by about one month due to the mishap. First test-flight of the Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI), due to carry the operational EKVs, is due in March.
However, U.S. President William J. Clinton is still expected to announce his decision regarding the actual deployment of the US$12.7-billion National Missile Defense (NMD) system during the third quarter of this year. Funding for the program is already included in U.S. Department of Defense's US$291.1-billion budget proposal issued February 7. The proposal includes a US$10.4-billion budget through 2004 and an additional US$2.3 billion in FY2005 if NMD deployment is eventually approved by the White House.
February 8
Libya denies that it is trying to acquire long-range ballistic missile technology as claimed by U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen on February 5.
February 6
Russian strategic forces successfully conduct the tenth test flight of the RS-12M Topol M (SS-27) all-solid intercontinental ballistic missile from Plesetsk, Northern Russia.
February 5
A Hera target missile, provided by Coleman Aerospace, is launched from Fort Wingate launch complex in U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, to simulate a theater ballistic missile as part of an interception test by a Boeing PAC-3 interceptor missile. The PAC-3 missile successfully intercepts the target.
February 5
The U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen is discussing National Missile Defense (NMD) issues with representatives of U.S. European allies at the Wehrkunde Conference on international security policy in Munich, Germany. According to Cohen, the proposed U.S. NMD would allow the United States to defend their allies from 'nuclear blackmail' by so-called 'rogue nations.' Cohen listed North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya as countries actively seeking missile technology and denied that the U.S. system, if deployed, will be targeted against Russian or Chinese missile systems.
February 4
North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) accuses South Korea to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capability instead of a civilian satellite launch system. In December South Korea announced its plan to develop an indigenous satellite launch capability by 2005. According to KCNA, the North Korean government will take 'a strong countermeasure' against South Korea's program.
Editor's note: Since North Korea had agreed to suspend its tests on the Taepo Dong ballistic missile/satellite launch vehicle to ease negotiations with the United States in September 1999, this announcement could indicate that test launches of Taepo Dong vehicles are about to resume.
February 2nd
TRW Space & Missile Systems is awarded a US$107.2-million contract from the U.S. Air Force to refurbish the Propulsion System Rocket Engine (PSRE) on the fourth stage of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The PSRE Life Extension and Sustaining Engineering Program (LEP/SEP) is intended to extend the service life of the liquid-fuelled fourth stage of the Minuteman 3 missile through 2020. TRW was already in charge of refurbishing the missiles' three solid stages under the Propulsion Replacement Program. Under the new contract, TRW will design, develop and deliver replacements for seven flight components of the PSRE such as the axial actuator motor and electrical ordnance. Atlantic Research Corp. (ARC), TRW's sole subcontractor on the project, will provide the replacement components.

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 Advanced Launch Systems

February 29
According to Space.com, the European Space Agency is studying the possibility to launch a 35-kg experimental solar sail, measuring over 20 x 20 m, atop a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr launch vehicle during the third quarter of 2000. The experimental sail would remain attached to the vehicle's upper stage which would provide attitude control. The test-launch was initially planned piggyback on an Ariane 5 vehicle but ESA has received an unsollicited proposal from an undiscloed industrial partner and a private sponsor. The Dnepr launch would be provided by MKK Kosmotras.
February 29
NASA's Kennedy Space Center is looking for support from U.S. universities to develop a Magnetic Launch Assist (MLA) system which coold boost launch vehicles on the ground to up to 1,000 km/h with an accelerations not exceeding 2 g. NASA plans to fund initial studies focusing on a suitable configuration of the magnetic track and sled, as well as related energy storage issues in order to identify the necessary technologies foor such a development.
February 26
A subscale model of the NASA/ESA X-38 Crew Return Vehicle demonstrator (Vehicle 131R) experienced an electrical short, possibly in its flight control systems, minutes before its planned release from beneath the wing of B-52N carrier aircraft over Edwards AFB, California. Although the problem might be minor, the drop-test, to be conducted on behalf of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, will probably be postponed to March 29 to allow a complete investigation on the mishap.
February 25
A planned drop-test of a subscale model of the NASA/ESA X-38 Crew Return Vehicle demonstrator (Vehicle 131R) is scrubbed due to high winds over the test area in Edwards AFB, California. Another attempt is set for February 26.
February 25
NPO Lavochkin is evaluating a possible suborbital flight for another Inflatable Reentry & Descent Technology (IRDT) demonstrator late this year. NPO Lavochkin is reportedly negotiating with GRTsKB Makeev for a flight onboard a Volna sea-launched vehicle. Such a launch could be conducted as soon as September from a Russian Navy test site in Northern Russia. The demonstrator would land in Kamchatka. NPO Lavochkin plans to propose the deal in late March or early April to the European Space Agency and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, which funded the IRDT mission flown on the Soyuz/Fregat maiden flight on February 9.
February 22
NASA's space shuttle orbiter Endeavour lands at Kennedy Space Center after completion of its 11-day radar mapping mission.
February 18
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will sollicit proposals for risk reduction concepts regarding multiple competing approaches for full scale development of second generation reusable launch system architectures by 2005 under the Space Launch Initiative program. Researches will focus on safety, reliability, cost, and mission performance requirements and their link to alternative competing RLV system architectures with both commercial and NASA-unique elements.
February 16
DaimlerChrysler Aerospace reports that initial examination of the recovered Inflatable Reentry & Descent Technology (IRDT) spacecraft shows that the innovative inflatable heatshield was successful on February 9 but also that it failed to deploy to its full extent and act as a drag chute. As a consequence, the descent rate exceeded planned values (60 m/s instead of 13 m/s) and resulted in the spacecraft being damaged on impacting the ground.
February 15
Russian search teams have recovered the Inflatable Reentry & Descent Technology (IRDT) spacecraft (not the Fregat upper stage as previously reported) that landed in the Orenburg oblast on February 9. The 110-kg spacecraft successfully reentered the atmosphere protected by an inflatable aeroshield but was apparently damaged when it landed in the middle of a snowstorm. The search continues for the missing, NPO Lavochkin-built Fregat upper stage.
February 14
NASA's X-43A hypersonic air-breathing vehicle ('Hyper-X') has undergone controlled radio frequency testing of its S-band telemetry transmitter and C-band transponders in the Benefield Anechoic Facility at Edwards AFB, California. The first of three X-43A flights is planned in June.
February 13
NASA considers cutting short space shuttle Endeavour's radar mapping mission because a cold-gas thruster at the end of the 62-meter-long extendible mast carrying the radar antenna is not functioning properly. The Endeavour crew has to use the orbiter's own thrusters to stabilize the spacecraft, a maneuver that consumes more propellant than planned.
February 11
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center plans to conduct next drop-test of a subscale model of the X-38 Crew Return Vehicle demonstrator (Vehicle 131R) on February 24. Deployment of the operational Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) is now planned in 2006.
February 10
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) submits its yearly report for 1999 to NASA's Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. Among its conclusions, the independent board estimates that recent workforce reductions and industrial restructuring in the Space Shuttle program have negative impacts on the system's safety as the launch rate will increase for International Space Station assembly and servicing. Actually, according to the report an increased launch rate is not achievable with the current workforce. The report also pinpoints an 'erosion of critical skills and loss of experience at [NASA's] Office of Space Flight centers.'
Download ASAP's Annual Report for 1999 in PDF (1.8 Mb).
 



IRDT in flight (ESA)
February 10
Although earlier reports announced its recovery, the Inflatable Reentry & Descent Technology (IRDT) spacecraft has not been found yet by search teams in the Orenburg oblast, Russia. The IRDT reentered from orbit protected by a NPO Lavochkin-designed inflatable reentry shield about 8 m in diameter. The search also continues to locate the larger Fregat upper stage which reentered too, protected by a 14-m-diameter inflatable reentry shield.
Both spacecraft were tracked on their reentry trajectory down to an altitude of 80 km when communications were interrupted by atmospheric ionization around them. No signal was picked up after reentry suggesting a transmitter malfunction but radar chaffs released at an altitude of 30 to 25 km were spotted by ground-based radar.
The search is currently hampered by bad weather conditions in the Orenburg area including high winds and snow.
 
 
February 8
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems have completed the first component for an experimental X-34 composite liquid oxygen tank. This tank will be used for ground testing. Pressure and temperature tests are due to last from late May to early August. A second similar tank is planned to be used for flight tests on the third X-34 vehicle. It will first undergo ground testing beginning in mid-to-late August.
February 4
The first powered flight of NASA's X-34 hypersonic demonstrator is postponed from August to November/December 2000.

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 Space Propulsion

February 23
U.S. Army's Redstone Laboratory has developed a low-toxicity storable liquid fuel, dubbed Competitive Impulse Non Carcinogenic Hypergol (CINCH) that could be used in hypergolic combustion with nitrogen tetroxide or inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA). CINCH has already been tested on monopropellant thrusters in 1998 and could replace hydrazine and hydrazine-based fuels. Tests will soon be conducted at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to demonstrate CINCH combustion with hydrogen peroxide or liquid oxygen.
February 18
NASA's Glenn Research Center plans to initiate a research effort on storable bipropellant thruster upgrade technology to examine the technology base for using hypergolic propellants, such as oxygen difluoride with hydrazine or monomethyl hydrazine.
February 18
Snecma Moteurs and Pratt&Whitney Space Propulsion Operations have signed an agreement to jointly develop an advanced cryogenic engine to power the upper stages of next generation launch vehicles. The SPW2000, which would be able to deliver 200 to 270 kN of thrust, would be the result of the merger between the Vinci engine, currently developed by Snecma for upgraded versions of Ariane 5, and the RL50, under development by Pratt&Whitney for use on Boeing's Delta 4 and Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5. The two companies will now apply for the necessary technology transfer licenses and government approvals to begin the actual development of the SPW2000. Meanwhile, both will proceed with their own developments. The Ariane program board of the European Space Agency is expected to discuss the possible use of the SPW2000 engine on a future version of Ariane 5 during its next meeting in March.
Editor's note: This agreement follows an annoucement by Boeing Rocketdyne and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries regarding the joint development of the MB-60, an upper stage engine with similar performances to address the same market (see February 14).
February 17
Thiokol Propulsion successfully completes a ground firing test of a full-scale Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor at its Northern Utah facility. The static firing allowed allowed to test a new epoxy adhesive for bonding nozzle ablative/insulation liners to nozzle metal housings, asbestos-free insulation for the cylinder cases, and the performance of various components cleaned with new non-ozone depleting chemical solvents. The next such test is planned in April 2001.
February 16
Initial testing of an Indian-designed cryogenic engine intended to power the upper stage of India's Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle is aborted after only 15 seconds, apparently due to an hydrogen leak. The static firing test, conducted at Indian Space Research Organisation's Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, was planned to last 30 seconds. In flight, the Cryogenic Upper Stage engine will have to provide thrust for 740 seconds. The certification process requires a qualification for 1,400 seconds of combustion. The maiden flight of the GSLV with an Indian-built upper stage was tentatively planned for 2001.
February 14
Boeing's Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power division and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries announce that they will jointly develop a new cryogenic upper stage engine series, tentatively dubbed 'MB-XX'. The first derivative in the series, the 270-kN MB-60, is planned for use on Boeing's Delta 4 launch vehicles. Other versions could be used on Japan's H-2A launcher or on future European launchers. Full-scale development of the engine was actually initiated in January 1999. Combustion test will begin in May in order to complete the development in 2003 and begin operational flights in 2004. Rocketdyne will develop turbopumps and nozzle skirts while Mitsubishi will be in charge of the main combustion chamber and valves.
February 3
The Boeing Rocketdyne XRS-2200 cryogenic linear aerospike engine performs its longest ground firing test to date and demonstrates its full thrust vector control capability. The XRS-22000, intended to power NASA's X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator, was fired for 125 seconds at NASA's Stennis Space Center and performed plus and minus 15 degrees thrust vector control. The test also demonstrated XRS-2200 operations at varied power levels and tested different mixture ratios.
February 3
Thiokol Propulsion performs the fifth static firing test of a refurbished Minuteman Stage 1 motor in a series of six under the Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP) qualification program. The PRP also includes two launches of a full-scale refurbished Minuteman 3 missile. The first test flight was completed in November 1999. The second is due on February 23.
February 1st
Thiokol Propulsion conducts the first firing test of a prototype solid propellant motor designed to boost nanosatellites. The motor, 14-cm-high and 11.5 cm in diameter, weighs 1.5 kg. This motor could be used to deploy a constellation of about 100 nanosatellites to monitor the magnetosphere under NASA's Magnetospheric Constellation Mission (Mag-Con) project.

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 Spaceports

February 23
Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA) signs an agreement with the government of Kiribati to build a landing site for its Hope-X unmanned orbital spaceplane on Kiritimati (Christmas) island. The Hope-X is tentatively planned to perform its first flight on a H-2A vehicle in 2004 but the landing site may be used as soon as 2001 for landing tests with a subscale prototype, the High Speed Flight Demonstrator (HSFD). NASDA plans to lease land for 20 years for its landing site and to invest J¥2.3 billion (US$21 million) to set up the infrastructure in the next three years.
February 22
Kazakh authorities have asked GKNPTs Khrunichev, RKK Energiya and TsSKB-Progress to pay about 3 to 5% of the amount of their commercial launch contracts for Proton and Soyuz vehicles as fees for the use of the Kazakhstan-based Baykonur cosmodrome.
February 16
The Spaceport Florida Authority (SFA) will provide US$300 million in private financing to Lockheed Martin Astronautics to foster the development of the launch infrastructure for the new Atlas 5 family of launchers at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. SFA will own the refurbished Launch Complex 41 (LC-41) and its related processing facilities and lease them to Lockheed Martin. The first launch of an Atlas 5 vehicle from Cape Canaveral is currently slated for early 2002.
February 10
A team led by Lockheed Martin Mission Systems has demonstrated a new satellite-based system for tracking launch vehicles in flight and possibly send them self-destruct signals when needed to without the need for any downrange tracking station. Eventually, this system could provide reliable high-frequency two-way communication links between a central control center and launch vehicles in flight. Other members of the team included Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, L3 Communications, Reliable System Services, and ITT-Advanced Engineering & Sciences.
February 8
The U.S. Air Force awards a US$425-million contract to Computer Sciences Corp. for 6.5 years of technical services for Cape Canaveral launch support facilities and downrange stations.
February 8
The Virginia Space Flight Center plans to conduct two suborbital flights to demonstrate its new commercial launch facilities within NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia.
February 8
An interagency working group, co-chaired by the U.S. Office of Science & Technology Policy and National Security Council issues a report on 'The Future Management and Use of the U.S. Space Launch Bases and Range' that recommends an increased role of commercial and government users in range management processes, an increased funding from states and spaceports for maintenance and upgrades of existing launch bases and ranges and more transfers of responsibility to U.S. government contractors for the operations of launch sites.
Download the report in PDF (280 kb)
February 4
The U.S. Air Force announces that it is changing back the name of Cape Canaveral Air Station (CCAS) into Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) as it was before 1992.

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 Industry

February 14
Nissan Motor Co. and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the acquisition of Nissan's Aerospace Division, Japan's leading supplier of solid rocket motors, by IHI. The transaction is expected to become effective before August.
February 3
Nissan Motor Co. is in final negotiation to sell its Aerospace division to Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. (IHI) for about J¥40 billion (US$370 million), according to Japan's main business daily newspaper, Nihon Kensai Shinbun. Nissan Aerospace is Japan's leading supplier for solid rocket motors while IHI provides liquid rocket engines and major space propulsion subsystems.
February 1st
Boeing Space & Communications Group and SpaceDev announce that they will jointly investigate small, low-cost, deep-space mission concepts initially proposed by SpaceDev. SpaceDev is already working on a commercial space probe project, the Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP), and recently proposed to develop a lunar orbiting probe and a mars carrier probe on a similar commercial basis.

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 Launch Market

February 24
NASA is considering a possible reshuffle of its plans for the robotic exploration of Mars. The Mars 2001 Lander, due for launch on a Delta 2 vehicle in March 2001, would be replaced by an orbiter due to carry out the same mission as the ill-fated Mars Climate Orbiter. The Mars 2001 Lander would then be launched in 2002 for a one-year cruise to Mars, possibly including a flyby of Venus in order to land near the South Pole of the Red Planet as the Mars Polar Lander was supposed to. A sample collection mission in 2003, in preparation to the joint CNES/JPL Mars Sample Return Mission of 2005 might be reduced to a less ambitious in-situ study mission.
February 23
Echostar Corp. has awarded one contract to Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems and two to Space Systems/Loral to build the Echostar 7 and Echostar 8 direct broadcasting satellites as well as the Echostar 9 advanced communications satellite. Echostar 7, based on Lockheed Martin's A2100AX bus, will be delivered in December 2001. Echostar 8 and 9 will be based on Loral's LS-1300 platform and delivered in December 2001 and during 2002 respectively. Echostar plans to contract later for launch services.
February 20
Eagle River Investments LLC, the investment group led by cellular phone magnate Craig McCaw, has reduced its proposed financing support to Iridium from US$74.6 million to US$5 million. This amount would keep the ill-fated mobile satellite telephony venture operating through mid-March instead of mid-June as previously announced. Eagle River Investments plans to sell the company on auction by mid-April for at least US$600 million. Iridium still holds contracts for satellite launches on Rokot, Delta 2 and CZ-2C/SD vehicles.
February 18
The U.S. Air Force plans to initiate a competition for the procurement of up to 27 Navstar Block 3 satellites for future replenishment of its Global Positioning System constellation. The Block 2F procurement, which was planned to include 33 satellites built by Boeing, will be downsized to only 12 spacecraft.
February 18
ICO Global Communications has completed its restructuring and filed for approval by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. ICO plans to launch 12 satellites to medium earth orbit through 2001 using two Atlas 2AS, five Delta 3, four Proton K and one Zenit 3SL vehicles.
February 16
NASA has given its go-ahead to the Cornell University-led Comet Nucleus Tour (Contour) mission which involves a 1,005-kg spacecraft, to be assembled by John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory for a launch on a Boeing Delta 2-7425-9.5 vehicle in July 2002 with an extra kick stage (a Thiokol Star 27 or Star 30). The US$156-million mission includes flyby of comets P/Encke in November 2003 and comet P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 in June 2006. The mission could later be extended to allow observations of comet P/d'Arrest in 2008 or retargeted to a yet undiscovered comet.
February 11
NASA and Rosaviakomos announce that the launch of Russia's Zvezda service module to the International Space Station is now slated between July 8 and July 14 atop a three-stage Proton K vehicle. Rosaviakosmos also announced that it will launch one Soyuz TMA manned spacecraft and two Progress M1 automated cargo vehicles to the ISS this year. The three launches will be provided by Soyuz U vehicles. NASA has also requested for a third Progress M1 in 2000 but RKK Energiya, which manufactures them, lacks the necessary funding to complete it. Two Progress M1 and one Soyuz TMA spacecraft have been removed from the ISS program for launches to the Mir space station.
February 10
Eagle River Investments, an investment group led by cellular phone magnate Craig McCaw, will provide US$74.6 million in financing to Iridium to allow the ill-fated mobile satellite telephony venture to operate through June 15 and possibly complete its restructuring effort. Iridium still has plans to loft satellites on Rokot, Delta 2 and CZ-2C/SD vehicles in 2000.
February 7
Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) has renegotiated its contract with China Telecommunications and Broadcasting Satellite Corp. (CTBSC) regarding thedelivery of the Zhongxing 8 (Chinasat 8) satellite which is currently stranded in California as the U.S. Department of State has been refusing since December 1998 to award an export license that would clear it for shipment to China. Under the renegotiated contract, SS/L has until July 31 to get the license. After that date, CTBSC will be able to rescind the contract. Zhongxing 8 is planned for launch on a CZ-3B vehicle under a contract signed by SS/L with China Great Wall Industry Corp. in 1997. SS/L could loose as much as US$174 million if the contract was cancelled.
February 4
NASA Administrator Dan Goldin has ordered the completion of the US$100 million Interim Control Module (ICM) by U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for a possible launch by the Space Shuttle in December 2000 as a backup solution in case Russia cannot launch its Zvezda service module to the International Space Station. The ICM is derived from the propulsion module of a classified U.S. Navy intelligence satellite. Zvezda's launch by a Proton K vehicle is currently expected in August 2000.
February 2nd
New Skies Satellites NV has cancelled an existing contract with Matra Marconi Space for the delivery of the NSS-6 (formerly Intelsat K-TV) satellite. NSS-6 was planned for launch in mid 1999 on an Ariane 4 vehicle and was shipped to Kourou for final processing. It had to be repatriated to MMS facilities in Toulouse a few weeks later after concerns were raised regarding its solar arrays. The satellite was cleared for flight in late 1999 and was until recently planned for launch on an Ariane 5 vehicle during the third quarter of 2000. The completed satellite may now be available for another customer.
 


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