News of May 2000

Dates are those of the events (in UT) when available.
 
Commercial Launchers | Government Launchers | Small Launchers
Missile Systems | RLVs and Reentry Systems | Space Propulsion
Spaceports | Industry | Launch Market

 Commercial Launchers

May 31
Arianespace has awarded a contract worth EUR 150-million (US$140 million) to Astrium to build 20 Ariane 5 vehicle equipment bays (VEBs) over three years as part of its procurement of a second batch of Ariane 5 launchers (P2 batch). The deliveries are due to begin in late 2001.
Editor's note: Ariane 5 vehicles of the P2 batch will feature different models of VEBs adapted to the new EPS/V restartable storable propellant upper stage and the ESC-A cryogenic upper stage.
 


   
Ariane 4 and 5
(Arianespace)
May 31
Arianespace reports satisfactory financial results with sales worth EUR 975.9 million (US$910 million) for nine Ariane 4 and one Ariane 5 launches compared to EUR 1,086 million (US$1,015 million) en 1998 with one additional Ariane 4 flight. Net income was EUR 7.3 million (US$6.8 million). Arianespace increased its reserves by EUR 10.2 million (US$9.5 million) in 1999, building the reserves to EUR 313 million (US$295 million).
 
 
May 31
Arianespace has begun the launch campaign fot its next mission, V130, now planned with an Ariane 5G vehicle on July 25, to loft the Astra 2B direct broadcasting satellite for Luxembourg-based Société Européenne des Satellites together with GE Americom's GE-7.
May 29
The European Space Agency has rejected a proposal by Alenia Aerospazio to launch the Advanced Relay & Technology Mission Satellite (Artemis) on the third flight of Boeing's Delta 3 this summer. According to Space News, Alenia was willing to purchase the launch at no cost for ESA. Boeing is now likely to fly a dummy payload on the Delta 3.
Editor's note: The Delta 3 has failed on its two flights to date, in August 1998 and May 1999.
May 29
According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei Weekly, Rocket System Corp., of Japan, has returned to Space Systems/Loral an advance worth J¥800 million (US$7.5 million) it had paid on a contract signed in 1996 to cover 10 commercial launches on H-2A launchers. The status of the contract itself is unknown.
May 28
Arianespace has signed a launch contract with Telesat Canada to loft its Anik F2 advanced communication satellite by late 2002. With a launch mass of 5,900 kg, the Hughes-built Anik F2 will be the heaviest communication satellite ever. It will be launched atop an Ariane 5 vehicle, presumably an upgraded Ariane 5ECA or Ariane 5ESV version.
May 26
Arianespace has teamed with AeroAstro to propose a new service for piggyback payloads using a small and autonomous propulsion module to transfer micro and nanosatellites to their final operational orbit. AeroAstro's Small Payloard Orbit Transfer (SPORT) system will be compatible with the Ariane 5 Structure for Auxiliary Payloads (ASAP-5). The SPORT system is composed of a propulsion unit integrated with an electronics and navigation package.
Editor's note: A couple of years ago, CNES had proposed to develop a concept of aerobraking system to bring microsatellites launched by Ariane into geostationary transfer orbit back to a low earth orbit.
May 26
According to the head of Japan's Space & Technology Agency (STA), Mr. Hirofumi Nakasone, despite recent failures of the H-2 launcher, the European Space Agency is "sticking with its plan to fly its Advanced Relay & Technology Mission Satellite (Artemis) on one of the two test launches of the new H-2A launch vehicle, to be flown in 2001.
May 25
In an interview, Arianespace's Secretary General, Ms. Françoise Bouzitat, announces that Ariane launches are planned to resume in July with the launch of two satellites: one for Luxembourg and the other for a U.S. operator. From July to December, Arianespace still plans to launch at least three Ariane 5s and five Ariane 4s.
Editor's note: The mission to be flown in July is apparently the Ariane 5G launch which was initially due in May to loft Astra 2B, for Luxembourg-based Société Européenne des Satellites, and GE Americom's GE-7.
May 25
The four scrubbed launch attempts of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations' first Atlas 3A have reportedly cost the company an estimated US$1 million.
 


   
H-2 and H-2A
(NASDA)
May 25
According to Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, reported by Agence France Presse, Hughes Space & Communications has decided to cancel a J¥90-billion (US$830-million contract) it signed in 1996 with Rocket System Corp., of Japan, for 10 launches on the new H-2A rocket, under development by the National Space Development Agency of Japan. According to insurance sources, the contract included a clause allowing Hughes to cancel the deal at no cost in case of two consecutive failures of the H-2 or H-2A launchers. The H-2 failed twice in February 1998 and November 1999. Hughes is also asking for a complete refund of the US$28 million it already paid on the contract.
Editor's note: A similar contract, also for 10 launches, was signed with Space Systems/Loral, also in 1996.
 
 
May 24
After several holds in the countdown due to a boat and an aircraft detected in the danger zone, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations' first Atlas 3A eventually lifted off at 23:10Z on its maiden flight. The new RD-180-powered core stage performed flawlessly and the Single Engine Centaur cryogenic upper stage eventually released its payload, Eutelsat's W4 communication satellite, on a supersynchronous transfer orbit with a 45,800-km apogee.
May 23
The Atlas 2AS vehicle, due to loft the Echostar 6 satellite on July 14, has been shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations' integration facilities in Denver, Colorado, to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, onboard an Antonov 124 cargo aircraft. The vehicle will have to wait until the much-delayed launch of the first Atlas 3A (AC-201), tentatively set for May 24, to be stacked on the SLC-36B launch pad. Any further delay of Atlas 3A's maiden flight might thus endanger this schedule.
May 22
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations decides to delay the launch of its new Atlas 3A vehicle by another day, to May 24 to allow the replacement of critical batteries and further checks on a faulty valve.
May 20/21
The fourth attempt to launch Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations' new Atlas 3A vehicle on its maiden flight is scrubbed as some 70 boats, participating to a fishing tournament, were detected in the prohibited area off the coasts of Florida. Another attempt has been set for May 21 at first and then delayed to no earlier than May 23 to allow some rest for the launch team. A faulty liquid oxygen topping check valve prevented the vehicle normal de-tanking unless a failed gasket in the valve was replaced. According to Rocky Mountain News, Lockheed Martin pays US$150,000 to the U.S. Air Force to use the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station range facilities. Each scrubbed launch attempt costs up to US$500,000 to Lockheed Martin.
May 17
The maiden flight of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations' new Atlas 3A vehicle is scrubbed for the third time in three days after a problem was detected on the vehicle's Master Inhibitor Bus electrical system 29 sec. before liftoff. Previous attempts on May 15 and 16 were scrubbed due to a faulty downrange tracking radar in Bermuda and unacceptable weather conditions respectively. No new launch date has been set yet as NASA's space shuttle Atlantis, which was already bumped from May 18 to May 19 to give the Atlas 3A a third chance, is taking precedence over the Cape Canaveral launch range.
May 16
Aerospatiale Matra Lanceurs has delivered to Arianespace the first and third stages for the 100th launcher in the Ariane 4 series. The stages are planned to be shipped to French Guiana in early June. The L4100 vehicle is tentatively slated for launch in November, depending on the actual delivery of satellites in Kourou.
May 12
To differentiate the vehicle model from the whole family, the standard Ariane 5 launcher has been redesignated Ariane 5G.
May 12
Sea Launch is working on a series of minor improvements of the Zenit 3SL vehicle to increase its launch capability from a current 5,250 kg to about 5,700 kg to geostationary transfer orbit. Some 200 kg will be gained simply by replacing kerosene in the Block DM-SL upper stage by more efficient Boctan synthetic fuel. A better management of propellant margins will also add another 100 kg.
May 11
Sea Launch officials announce that the next Zenit 3SL mission, carrying PanAmSat's PAS-9 satellite has slipped to late July instead of mid-July as recently reported.
May 9
AssureSat officially announces that its two high-power AssureSat back-up communication satellites will be lofted on Sea Launch Zenit 3SL vehicles in 2002 under a bulk launch contract previously signed by Space Systems/Loral. Sea Launch plans to propose an AssureSat back-up service to its customers in case of launch failure.
Editor's note: Space Systems/Loral contracted for five launches with Sea Launch in 1996. Two will be used by AssureSat. No satellite has been officially assigned to the remaining three launches.
May 6
NPO Yuzhnoye officials announce that the next Zenit 3SL mission on behalf of the Sea Launch consortium is now scheduled for mid-July instead of June 29 as previously reported.
May 5
Saab Ericsson Space was awarded a contract by Matra Marconi Space for the procurement of 40 Ariane 5 Onboard Computers (OBCs) to be delivered through 2003. These OBCs will be mounted on Matra Marconi Space-built Vehicle Equipment Bays (VEBs) to be flown on the 20 Ariane 5 vehicles (L517 to L536) ordered by Arianespace in 1999.
May 4
Two spherical objects, tentatively identified as a pressurization tank from the second stage of a Delta 2 vehicle launched in March 1996 and a fuel tank, possibly from the same stage, have fallen in South Africa on April 27 and 28. The 35-kg pressurization tank landed in a vineyard near Worcester, 70 km northwest from Capetown. The 60-kg fuel tank crashed near a farm in Durbanville.
May 4
GenCorp Aerojet is awarded a US$8.8-million contract by Lockheed Martin Space Systems' Astronautics Operations division to develop and produce unsymmetrical composite nose cones for the solid strap-on boosters of the Atlas 5 series of launchers. Aerojet was awarded a US$500-million contract in 1999 to develop the boosters. The first completed nose cone will be delivered in August 2001. The strap-on boosters and the nose cones will be manufactured separately and assembled directly at the launch site.

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 Government Launchers

May 31
Rosaviakosmos' Space Marketing Center (SMC) is expected to file suit in Russia against Pizza Hut Inc. for improper use of its name and reputation. In October 1999, Pizza Hut announced that it had entered an agreement with SMC to fly its logo on the Proton K vehicle due for launch on July 8 to loft the Zvezda resource module to the International Space Station. According to SMC's general director, no such contract or deal actually exists.
 


   
Atlas 5 and Delta 4
(Lockheed Martin/Boeing)
May 30
According to Space News, the U.S. Air Force is setting aside funds to pay for qualification flights of the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles in case Lockheed Martin and Boeing cannot secure commercial customers for these maiden flights, tentatively slated for the first quarter 2002 and April 2001 respectively.
Editor's note: The EELV development contracts requested the two launch systems to conduct a qualification flight before being allowed to loft U.S. military payloads.
 
 
May 19
Boeing Defense & Space Group has been awarded a US$27.4-million increase to a previously signed fixed-price contract with U.S. Air Force's Space & Missile Systems Center for the procurement of 33 payload adapters due to enable the launch of Block 2F Navstar global positioning satellites on Delta 4 and Atlas 5 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles through FY2009.
May 18
Mr. Isao Uchida, head of the National Space Development Agency of Japan, resigns following the dramatic launch failures of the last two H-2 vehicles in February 1998 and November 1999.
May 16
Honeywell Technology Solutions was awarded a US$39.7-million contract by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to perform engineering tasks in the development, test and integration of naval space systems such as space vehicles, launch vehicles and aerospace ground equipment through May 2001.
May 11
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is about to release sollicit industry bids for a series of 3-month studies regarding an alternate resupply vehicle to the International Space Station. NASA is considering two classes of cargo capabilities, one equivalent to that of RKK Energiya's Progress spacecraft (about 2 tons of usable cargo) and a smaller one (150 to 500 kg) with an on-demand launch capability. Six to eight study contracts will be awarded totalling an amount of US$2 million.
Editor's note: A US$315-million budget is already planned under the new "Space Launch Initiative" project backed by the White House. Under its budget request for 2001, NASA is asking for US$40 million to initiate the activity.
May 9
The launch failure of a Japanese H-2S vehicle (8F) on November 15, 1999, was caused by a design error according to the report repleased by the technical assessment borad of the Japanese Space Activities Commission. According to the report, bubbles formed in the liquid hydrogen tank of the vehicle's first stage and induced strees in the turbopump's blade which eventually broke. According to the investigation, the 8F vehicle generated more bubbles than previous H-2 vehicles.

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 Small Launchers

May 29
Itar-Tass reports that the first commercial launch of Eurockot's Rokot is now planned in March 2001 to loft an unidentified international communication satellite.
May 26
A group of Chinese companies and institutes has incorporated the Space Solid Fuel Rocket Carrier Co. Ltd. (SSRC) to design, develop and market solid-fuelled launch systems derived from Chinese new-generation intercontinental ballistic missiles. The proposed initial vehicle, the SLV-1, will be able to loft satellites of up to 300 kg to low Earth orbit. The SLV-1 is apparently a civilian derivative of China's new DF-31 ICBM. According to initial reports, the incorporation of SSRC is intended to foster competition with China Great Wall Industry Corp. for China's civil launch market. The SLV-1 will be also proposed on the international market. SSRC's partners are China Machinery and Electronics Engineering Integrated Design Department, China Space Machinery and Electronics (Group) Co., the Space Solid Fuel Rocket Propulsion Technology Research Institute, the Controls and Electronics Technology Research Institute and the Chenguang (Group) Co. Ltd.
May 24
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. announces that it has signed two launch agreements with China Great Wall Industry Corp. and Russia's Rosvoorouzheniye. Under the first agreement, CGWIC authorized SSTL to procure launch services for the Tsinghua 1 microsatellite, built by SSTL for China's Tsinghua University and initially due for launch on a Chinese launcher. The agreement with Rosvoorouzheniye covers the launch of Tsinghua 1, together with SSTL's SNAP-1 prototype nanosatellite, piggyback on a Russian Kosmos 3M vehicle. The launch is tentatively set for June 28, with a Russian Nadezhda M navigation satellite.
Editor's note: This launch will be the first of a Kosmos 3M toward Sun-synchronous orbit.
 



Rokot in its launch container
(Eurockot)
May 16
Eurockot Launch Services GmbH has successfully completed the commercial demonstration flight of its Rokot/Breeze KM launcher. The vehicle, based on a decommissioned 2-stage RS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, lofted two dummy Iridium satellites. Due to the Iridium collapse, Eurockot's first commercial launch is now due only in June 2001, to loft the two German/U.S. Gravity Recovery & Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites on behalf of DLR. GKNPTs Khrunichev, which owns 49% of Eurockot, expectes to fly some six Rokot missions a year through 2007 when the vehicle will have to be retired as all RS-18 will have to be scrapped to comply with current disarmament treaties. Eurockot is 51% owned Astrium.
 
 
May 12
The founder of the Orbital Transport-und Raketen AG (OTRAG) venture in the mid-70s, Dr. Lutz T. Kayser, claims to have completed the development and testing of its modular low-cost launch vehicle and is looking for industrial partners to initiate serial production. According to Dr. Kayser, the rocket concept has been demonstrated through a dozen of suborbital test flights he conducted in Lybia since the early 80s.
Editor's note: OTRAG tested four demonstrators of the "Volksraket" modular launcher in the 1977-1981, three from Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and one from Lybia. OTRAG officially ceased its activities in 1984.
May 11
TransOrbital Inc., of San Diego, California, has contracted with NPO Mashinostroeniya for the launch of its 2001 Trailblazer lunar orbiting spacecraft toward the Moon atop a Strela vehicle.
Editor's note: Strela is a decommissioned RS-18 (SS-19) ICBM (also used as the basis for the Rokot vehicle) with a new avionics. TransOrbital's 2001 Trailblazer will apparently be launched on the vehicle's commercial demonstration flight.
May 9
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center issues a Request for Information regarding sounding rocket launch services to provide 3 to 7 minutes of microgravity conditions at less than 1/100,000 g. A formal RfP is expected later this year.
 


      
Rokot, Ariane 5 and Soyuz
(Eurockot, Arianespace and Starsem)
May 4
Arianespace plans to bring Eurockot's Rokot small launch vehicle into its launch service offer along with its own Ariane 5 heavy-lift launch vehicle and Starsem's Soyuz medium-sized launchers to cover the whole range of commercial launch services.
 
 

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 Missile Systems

May 29
According to Israel daily newspaper Ha'aretz, North Korea has supplied 700-km-range Scud D ballistic missiles to Syria and is in negotiations to sell the weapon to Egypt as well.
May 28
Orbital Sciences Corp. (OSC) has successfully completed the inaugural launch of the Orbital Suborbital Program's Target Launch Vehicle OSP/TLV) from Vandenberg AFB. Due to replace Lockheed Martin Astronautics' Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS), the OSP/TLV is s the combination of a three-stage Minuteman 2 intercontinental ballistic missile with an OSC front section. One of the Minuteman 2 stages was built in 1966. The OSP/TLV reportedly costs about US$11 million to launch compared to US$21 million for a MSLS launch. OSC is under contract to conduct three more OSP/TLV flights through 2001.
May 25
U.S. Air Force's 576th Space Test Squadron in Vandenberg AFB is setting up an investigation group to analyze telemetry data from the second test flight (FTM-02) of a refurbished Minuteman 3 missile on May 24. The missile, which featured motors refurbished under the Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP), did not reach its planned target area in Kwajalein Missile Range, Marshall Islands. The following Minuteman 3 launch (GT-172GM), with a standard missile, has been postponed indefinitely. It was previously planned on June 1st.
May 25
Pakistan's National Command Authority, instated in February, reaffirms the country's determination to consolidate its nuclear capability as a means of deterring aggression.
May 19
According to a report under preparation by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a decision to deploy the much controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) system could lead to a nuclear capability build up in China whose current fleet, composed of some 20 silo-based, liquid-fueled DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missiles, might be considered as an unsufficient deterrent. China is thus likely to speed up the deployment of its mobile truck-based DF-31 solid ICBMs says the report. As a consequence to that Chinese nuclear buildup, India would increase its own missile force, leading to an arm race with Pakistan.
May 19
BAe Systems Applied Technologies, a U.S.-based subsidiary of BAe Systems, is awarded a US$9.6-million contract by U.S. Navy's Strategic Systems Programs to provide engineering services and integration support regarding the development and qualification of British submarines with a Trident 2 (D5) ballistic missile capability.

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 RLVs and Reentry Systems

May 31
Post-flight inspection of NASA's orbiter Atlantis following return from the STS-101 mission has confirmed that thermal protection tiles under the right wing have been damaged, probably by ice shed from the External Tank at launch. As expected after launch video analysis, the orbiter's lower surface took 64 debris hits. However, such damage is not a concern according to NASA.
May 29
NASA's orbiter Atlantis successfully lands on Kennedy Space Center's landing strip, completing the 9-day and 20-hour STS-101 mission to the International Space Station.
May 28
Space.com reports that NASA is still considering the possibility to organize a rescue mission to salvage the Orion 3 satellite which was stranded in low Earth orbit (156 x 1,369 km) after the failure of a Pratt&Whitney RL10B-2 engine on the second stage of a Boeing Delta 3 vehicle on May 4, 1999. According to Mr. Dan Tam, assistant for commercialization to NASA's administrator Daniel Goldin, after having circularized the satellite's orbit using its onboard thrusters, Space Shuttle Columbia would rendezvous with Orion 3 to fit it with a kick motor. The satellite would then be boosted on a translunar trajectory to perform a flyby of the Moon allowing to reduce the inclination of its orbit. Orion 3 would then end up into a 184 x 25,550 km transfer orbit and reached geostationary orbit by its own means.
Editor's note: In May 1999, NASA's representative in Europe, Mr. Jeff Hoffman, told Orbireport.com that NASA had ruled out such salvage missions for the time being.
 
 


   
X-40A being prepared by Boeing before delivery at DFRC and X-37 concept (Boeing-MSFC)
 
 
May 22
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center has taken delivery of U.S. Air Force's X-40A space maneuvering vehicle prototype which will be used for ground and air tests in order to reduce risks for the development and testing of NASA's 120% larger X-37 reentry demontrator on behalf of Marshall Space Flight Center's Future X Pathfinder program. These tests will include a drop-test from an helicopter to check guidance and navigation systems planned for use in the X-37. Both the X-40A and the X-37 have been designed and have been or are being built by Boeing Reusable Launch Systems.
Editor's note: The X-37 is developped under a US$173-million cooperative agreement signed in July 1999 between NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Boeing Phantom Works. The U.S. Air Force is contributing US$16 million to the X-37 program as a complement to its own effort on the X-40A. The X-37 will perform atmospheric drop tests in late 2001, followed by two orbital missions beginning in late 2002 or early 2003. As a reusable technology testbed it will be deployed from the space shuttle cargo bay in orbit for free flights lasting up to 21 days before autonomously reentering the atmosphere and landing.
 
 



IRDT in flight (ESA)
May 10
NPO Lavochkin has resumed search for the Fregat upper stage which was lost in a snowstorm shortly after its reentry from orbit on February 9. The stage, on its maiden flight, reentered as part of a two-spacecraft test of inflatable reentry shields. A smaller spacecraft, the 110-kg Inflatable Reentry & Descent Technology (IRDT) demonstrator, sponsored by the European Space Agency and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, was recovered on February 15 while the search for the 1,200-kg Fregat was put off until springtime. It eventually resumed in late April with an aerial photographic survey of the targeted landing area in the Orenburg oblast, Russia, near the Kazakh border.
 
 

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 Space Propulsion

May 31
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center reports that one hour of testing has been logged on an air-breathing Rocket-Based Combined Cycle (RBCC) engine in May at the General Applied Science Laboratory (GASL) facilities in Ronkonkoma, New York state, on behalf of the Advanced Space Transportation Program. The test engine was developed in partnership with Boeing Rocketdyne. During the test, the engine demonstrated performance in all of its operating modes as well as for transitions beteween the modes. MSFC now plans to define a flight-weight structure and engine systems required for an in-flight demonstration of a RBCC engine.
May 23
Volvo Aero has completed its 1,000th thrust chamber for Snecma's Viking engine. Volvo began manufacturing Viking thrust chambers in the mid-70s.
May 22
NASA's Stennis Space Center is looking for a site to build a new test stand for Rocket Based Combined Cycle (RBCC) engines.
May 16
Boeing Rocketdyne has successfully completed a series of tests on its AR2-3 non-toxic propellant engine at NASA's Stennis Space Center. The AR2-3 burns kerosene with hydrogen peroxide and is considered as the main propulsion system for NASA's X-37 Future X Pathfinder test vehicle. The engine logged 385.5 sec. of operating time in 16 tests at various power levels and mixture ratios.
May 16
Alliant Missile Products Co., a subsidiary of ATK (formerly Alliant TechSystems) has completed the first of two static firing tests of a 56-cm-diameter and 4-m-long solid rocket motor due to power the first stage of the two-stage Oriole suborbital launch system under development for Astrotech Space Operations. The 32-second test was conducted at Alliant's facilities at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory. The Oriole will compete for a planned procurement by Litton PRC of low-cost suborbital launch systems for NASA.
 


  
ARTA-1 firing test and
overloaded S1 segment during assembly
(ESA-CNES-Arianespace)
May 16
CNES, the French space agency, has successfully completed the static firing of a modified Ariane 5 EAP solid booster stage in Kourou on behalf of European Space Agency's Ariane 5 Technological Accompaniment (ARTA-5) program. The 120-seconf firing was intended to test a new materials on some elements of the nozzle as well as an overloaded upper propellant segment. With 2.4 tons of additional propellant, the redesigned upper segment will allow a 200-kg increase in payload capacity to the geostationary transfer orbit.
 
 
May 16
NASA's Glenn Research Center has awarded a US$600,000 contract to Primex Aerospace Co. to study high-performance monopropellant thruster technology.
May 15
NASA's Johnson Space Center has successfully conducted a series of tests on a Mars In-situ Propellant Production Precursor (MIP) experiment. The MIP produced several grams of oxygen in 15 days from a simulated Martian atmosphere.
 



XRS-2200 (Rocketdyne)
May 12
The last in a series of 14 ground firing tests of a Boeing Rocketdyne XRS-2200 linear aerospike engine was aborted 290 sec. into a planned 325-sec. firing after a flexible seal, designed to prevent the exhaust from circulating back into the engine's cavity, beagn to erode. Despite the abort, the test exceeded the previous maximum test duration by 27 sec. Almost 13 minutes of firing time have been logged during the test campaign which was conducted NASA's Stennis Space Center. A 15th static firing is being considered before the testing proceeds with two XRS-2200 engines mounted in tandem to simulate the overall propulsion system of NASA's X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator.
 
 
May 10
CNES, the French space agency, plans to test-fire a modified Ariane 5 EAP solid booster stage in Kourou on May 16. The static firing, conducted on behalf of European Space Agency's Ariane 5 Technological Accompaniment (ARTA-5) program will allow to test a 6-year-old nozzle and an overloaded upper propellant segment. This will be the first EAP test firing since the development program was completed in July 1995. The operation was initially scheduled in April but had to be postponed to May 10 and then 16 after heavy rains in French Guiana flooded the test stand's exhaust evacuation trench.
May 9
According to NASA Watch, Boeing is currently redesigning the U.S. Propulsion Module (USPM), initially due to provide the International Space Station with a propulsion capability independent to Russia's ability to maintain its long-due Zvezda ressource module. The original USPM was planned to be designed from off-the-shelf components such as elements from the Space Shuttle Reaction Control and Orbital Maneuvering Systems (RCS/OMS) and to be available by January 2002. The new Propulsion Module would actually incorporate crew quarters and be able to fully replace the Zvezda module but would not be ready for launch before May 2003 (Flight 10A.1). NASA Watch also points out that the new design will be much more expensive than the original one.
May 9
NASA's Glenn Research Center plans to set up a Revolutionary Aero-Space Engine Research (RASER) program in order to support R&D efforts on advanced aeronautical engine concepts but also on the demonstration of various new propulsion technologies for space transportation such as Rocket Based Combined Cycles (RBCC) engines, Turbine Based Combined Cycles (TBCC) engines and Pulsed Detonation Engines (PDE). RASER will also support development of computational simulation tools to modelize the engines' performance and behavior.
May 4
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has signed a series of contracts for the development of an actively cooled ceramic matrix composite aerospike nozzle ramp.

 Contractors
 Contract values
 Rockwell Science Center
 US$4.35 million
 Snecma Moteurs
 US$4.1 million
 Honeywell Advanced Composites Inc.
 US$2.9 million
 Refractory Composites Inc.
 US$2.7 million
 
May 1st
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has decided to shelve its plans to award a sole-source contract to CFD Research Corp. for the demonstration of an advanced laser ignition system to be used in hydrocarbon-fueled Rocket-Based-Combined Cycle (RBCC) engines. Instead, the demonstration program will be procured competitively.

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 Spaceports

May 29
China recently completed a new network of ground stations for tracking, telemetry and control (TT&C) for spacecraft and launch vehicles. The new network, designed by Beijing Tracking and Telecommunications Research Institute is based on existing stations but now incorporates an S-band tracking capability.
May 19
According to the International Herald Tribune, Beal Aerospace has signed an agreement with the government of Guyana for the development of US$100-million commercial launch complex for its BA-2 vehicle in the Essequibo County. Beal will take over a 400-sq.km area in the Waini region of Essequibo County. First launches from the site are expected in 2003 at the earliest. Venezuela is protesting against the deal since the Essequibo County is part of a disputed area between Venezuela and Guyana.
Editor's note: Venezuela is claiming control on about two-thirds of Guyana's territory.
 
 


   

Christmas Island launch site artist concept and reference flightpaths (APSC)
 
 
May 11
The Australian government has approved an environmental impact study which gives the green light for the establishment of a commercial space launch center on the southern part of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean (10°29'S, 105°37'E, not to be confused with Kiritimati Island - formerly Christmas - in the Pacific, see below). Work on the launch site is due to begin later this year on behalf of Australia-based Asia Pacific Space Centre Pty Ltd. First commercial launch from the facility is expected in early 2003. The most prominent potential user for the site is the Angara family of launchers under development for the Russian government by GKNPTs Khrunichev. Angara will be marketed outside CIS by International Launch Services.
 
 
May 11
The government of Kiribati has given its final approval to Japan to set up a landing site for its Hope-X unmanned orbital spaceplane on the island of Kiritimati (Christmas) as planned under an agreement signed in February. Japan's National Space Development Agency will get a 7-year free lease of the landing base followed by a 13-year lease at a baseline yearly fee of AU$1.3 million (US$0.95 million). The Hope-X is tentatively planned to perform its first flight on a H-2A vehicle in 2004 but the site may be used as soon as 2001 for landing tests with a subscale prototype, the High Speed Flight Demonstrator (HSFD). NASDA plans to invest J¥2.3 billion (US$21 million) to set up the infrastructure in the next three years.
May 8
NASA's Kennedy Space Center introduces a new organization scheme 'focused on safe operations of the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, expendable launch vehicle programs and customers, and spaceport technology development.' The new structure features a Spaceport Services group to address the needs of NASA's internal and external customers and a a Spaceport Engineering and Technology organization to handle spaceport technology and development and project management.
 



Alcântara launch pad (CLA)
May 5
According to Brazil's Jornal do Commercio, China, India and Argentina are negotiating with Brazilian authorities to get access to the Alcântara Launch Center (CLA), in the Maranhão Province. China could be the next country to sign a technological cooperation agreement. A technology safeguard agreement has been signed with the U.S. Department of State on April 18. Talks with Ukraine and Italy have already been reported regarding the launch of Tsyklon 4 vehicles from Alcântara.
 
 
May 4
According to Space News, the U.S. government is about to endorse a French security plan presented in December 1999 to the U.S. Department of State that would formally exempt launches of U.S.-built satellites from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou from tight scrutiny by U.S. Department of Defense monitors.

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 Industry

May 30
Aerospatiale Matra's shareholders have approved the liquidation of the company on July 8. This liquidation is part of the merger process with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace in order to form the European Aeronautics, Defense & Space (EADS) company.
May 26
The European Commission has announced an in-depth anti-trust review regarding the acquisition of Hughes Space & Communications by The Boeing Co. This investigation might delay the US$3.8-billion transaction into the 3rd quarter. In the meantime, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has requested additional information from Boeing and Hughes following objections issued against the merger by Lockheed Martin and other competitors like Arianespace. The main concern is that Boeing could favor its own rockets for the launch of Hughes-built satellites and also provide sensitive ionformation on satellites built by Hughes' competitors it may have collected through its launcher business.
May 25
The French Participations and Transfer Commission has given its green light for the merger of Aerospatiale Matra, which is 48% owned by the French government, with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and Construcciones Aeronauticas SA to form the European Aeronautics, Defense & Space (EADS) company.
May 25
Alcoa Inc. has completed the acquisition of Cordant Technologies, parent company of Thiokol Propulsion, for an estimated US$2 billion.
May 25
NASA's Langley Research Center has awarded a series of research contracts, worth up to US$30 million each, to Analysis and Technology, Engineering Technologies Group, Bell Helicopter Textron, BBN Technologies, Boeing's Commercial Airplane Group and Rotorcraft Division, Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp., Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems, United Technologies' Sikorsky Aircraft Division and Wyle Laboratories to study acoustic solutions for noise control onboard aircraft and space transportation vehicles.
May 21
Alcoa Inc. has completed its tender offer for the acquisition of Cordant Technologies, parent company of Thiokol Propulsion. The transaction is valued at about US$1.97 billion.
May 19
The European Commission has approved the proposed acquisition of Cordant Technologies, parent company of Thiokol Propulsion, by Alcoa Inc. for US$2.3 billion.
May 16
Astrium's new chairman & CEO, Mr. Armand Carlier, considers that Arianespace should not be integrated into the new European Aeronautics, Defense & Space (EADS) company to be incorporated in July after the merger of Aerospatiale Matra, DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (DASA) and Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA).
Editor's note: EADS will own about 27% of Arianespace while CNES, the French space agency, is keeping a 30.5% stake.
May 15
The merger of Matra Marconi Space with the space businesses of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace as Astrium NV is effective. The new company is 50% held by Matra Marconi Space and 50% by DASA. Eventually, after the merger of Aerospatiale Matra with DASA into the European Aeronautics, Defense & Space (EADS) company, Astrium shareholders will be EADS (75%) and BAe Systems (25%).
Editor's note: Among other businesses, Astrium takes over MMS activities on Ariane launchers' vehicle equipment bays and multiple launch adapters as well as DASA's prime role on Ariane 4's second stage an liquid boosters and Ariane 5's upper stage and dual launch adapters, and its involvement in space propulsion systems, from attitude control thrusters to large engine components. Astrium owns 51% of Eurockot Launch Services GmbH, 15% of Arianespace and will be a strategic partner of Israel Aircraft Industries and Coleman Research Corp. in the LeoLink venture to be incorporated shortly.
May 15
Boeing and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) are again announcing their intention to cooperate on various aerospace markets including launch systems. MHI already provides structural parts on Boeing's Delta 4 cryogenic upper stage.
May 12
The European Commission has approved the proposed merger of France's Aerospatiale Matra, Germany's DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (DASA) and Spain's Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA) into a single entity to be known as the European Aeronautics, Defense & Space (EADS) company. The commission has required the sale of some minor minor space activities, mainly in satellite composite structural parts and antenna reflectors were Aerospatiale Matra Lanceurs and CASA are controlling the European market. The merger will be effective in June or early July.
Editor's note: EADS will bring together 75% of the soon-incorporated Astrium company (resulting from the merger of Matra Marconi Space with DASA's own space activities), prime for Ariane 4's liquid boosters and second stage and Ariane 5's upper stage and both vehicles' equipment bays, and Aerospatiale Matra Lanceurs, industrial architect of the Ariane system and prime for the first and third stages of Ariane 4 and the core and booster stages of Ariane 5. A restructuring plan has been reported which could result into the incorporation of two EADS subsidiaries: Astrium and EADS Launch Systems.
EADS will own 27% of Arianespace, 51% of Eurockot and 35% of Starsem.
May 12
Atlantic Research Corp. has acquired Kaiser Marquardt Inc.'s hydrazine monopropellant thrusters business to complement its current bipropellant thrusters product line.
Editor's note: Kaiser Marquardt's bipropellant thrusters business was acquired by Primex Aerospace on May 4.
May 4
Lockheed Martin Space Systems' Michoud Operations division plans to lay off about 150 workers by year end due to the slow down in the production of external tanks for the Space Shuttle and delays in the decision to build metallic replacement tanks for the X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator.
May 4
Primex Technologies announces that it will take over Kaiser Marquardt Inc.'s bipropellant propulsion systems business in a transaction worth US$22.5 million. This activity will complement that of Primex which manufactures monopropellant thrusters and is also involved in electric propulsion systems.
May 4
Athena Technologies was awarded a contract by U.S. Air Force under the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program for a 9-month study on the application of its patented fault-tolerant algorithms to next-generation space launch vehicle computers.

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 Launch Market

May 30
U.S. Air Force's Space & Missile Systems Center awards a US$98-million to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space to lead a team including TRW Space & Electronics and Hughes Space & Communications to perform the system definition phase of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite communication system.
Editor's note: Four AEHF satellites are planned to be launched from 2006 on.
May 29
Israel's H.L.L. company is planning to raise NIS 200 million (US$48 million) by issueing bonds later this year in order to finance the manufacturing of its Amos 2 satellite, tentatively slated for alaunch on an Ariane vehicle in 2002. The remainder of the financing will come from H.L.L.'s principal shareholders: Israel Aircraft Industries, Gilat Communications, the H. Mar-Mati group and Bank Leumi.
May 24
Spain's Hispasat SA plans to select a manufacturer for its Hispasat 1D communication satellite. The three remaining bidders under consideration are Alcatel Space, Astrium and Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems. The satellite will be delivered for launch by mid-2002.
Editor's note: The overall budget for Hispasat 1D reportedly amounts to Ptas 30 billion (US$165 million).
May 19
IR Acquisition Group, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, proposes too acquire Iridium's assets for US$61 million. IR Acquisition Group presents itself as a group of "space exploration and satellite technology pioneers, high-ranking military professionals and people experienced in debt and operational restructuring" but does not give information on what it plans to do with the Iridium system.
May 18
MirCorp, the company established in February to market commercial applications on the Mir space station, has signed an initial protocol with a potential Italian customer regarding a possible paying trip to the Russian space station onboard a Soyuz TM vehicle.
Editor's note: The information was mistakenly reported in Russia's Kommersant Daily as the signing of a US$10-million contract with Italia-Mir to fly an Italian engineer, Mr. Carlo Viberti (37), as a paying passenger on a Soyuz TM mission to Mir in November 2000.
May 18
The U.S. Department of Commerce is asking the U.S. Senate to give it back control of satellite exports from the U.S. State Department to avoid substantial losses to the satellite industry. According to Department of Commerce's officials, reporting in a congressional hearing, satellite exports have dropped by 40% from 1998 to 1999 due to excessive export control rules. This reduced the U.S. share on the international satellite manufacturing market from 73% to 52%.
May 17
ICO Global Communications emerges from bankruptcy and is restructured under the name "New ICO." The company si planned to merge shortly with Teledesic to form ICO-Teledesic Global and a new launch schedule is to be issued within weeks regarding the deployment of its 11 remaining satellites which will be modified to provide advanced mobile multimedia services beginning in 2003.
Editor's note: Hughes Space & Communications is under contract by ICO to provide launch services for the constellation on two Atlas 2AS, four Proton K and five Delta 3 launchers
May 13
Teledesic is expected to unveil its revised strategy on May 16, the day after ICO Global Communications recovers from bankruptcy. The US$10-billion Ka-band multimedia constellation, initially designed as a 924-satellite system, has already been reduced to 288 satellites and might well be shrunk again to about 140 satellites or less, possibly including ICO's 10-satellite system. Teledesic is also expected to unveil new investors.
Editor's note: Teledesic has already contracted with International Launch Services (ILS) for three Atlas 5 and three Proton M launches.
May 12
The U.S. State Department and Department of Defense have agreed on some 15 proposed amendments to reform the export control regime on space technologies. The amendments will be examined by the White House. Among the proposals are a licensing process that would allow U.S. satellite and space component manufacturers to bid on international competitions and negotiate insurance policies within reasonable delays. An important amendament proposes to establish a special regime for exports toward allied countries such as NATO members, Australia or Japan. Meanwhile, a bill from Representative Sam Gejdenson will be examined by the U.S. House to give back the licensing responsibility on the export of space-related technologies to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Under the bill, exports to China would still require approval by the U.S. Department of Defense.
May 12
NASA has selected two concepts of missions that could be flown to Mars in May 2003 as a follow-on to the Mars 2001 Orbiter mission or a replacement to the cancelled Mars 2001 Lander. Competitive two-month studies will be conducted by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations. The Mars Mobile Lander could be a 130-kg surface rover, based on the former Mars 2003 Athena rover design which would perform a hard-landing under the protection of an airbag cocoon, like the Mars Pathfinder probe in 1996. The Mars Surveyor Orbiter would be another scientific orbiter simlilar in size to the current Mars Global Surveyor. A final selection is due in July. Launch will be conducted on a Delta 2/MedLite class vehicle.
May 12
Matra Marconi Space (to be officially merged into Astrium on May 15) is awarded a US$700-million contract by Inmarsat to build the three satellites of its new Inmarsat I-4 series. Due to provide high data rate mobile communication services, the 9-kW spacecraft will be based on Matra Marconi Space's new EuroStar 3000 bus with a launch mass exceeding 5,000 kg. Two Inmarsat I-4s will be launched in 2003 while the third model will be kept as a ground-spare. A launch provider will be selected within 12 months.
May 6
Iranian daily newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami reports that Iran is manufacturing two satellites to be launched within 'the next few months'. One is apparently a small communications or remote sensing satellite manufactured in cooperation with Russia's NPO Mashinostroeniya and due to fly on a Russian booster. The other is a joint research satellite with China, Pakistan, South Korea, Indonesia and Mongolia and will be launched on a Chinese rocket.
May 3rd
Two industrial teams, led by Lockheed Martin Space Systems' Astronautics Operations division and TRW Space & Electronics , have been each awarded a US$6-million five-month contract to continue the definition study for the Discovery 2 constellation of military radar satellites. Discovery 2 is a joint project of the U.S. Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency and the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. A single contractor will be selected in early 2001 for a demonstration phase including the launch of two demonstration spacecraft in 2005. Deployment of the full Discovery 2 system could occur in 2010.
May 3rd
AssureSat has officially signed a previously anounced contract with Space Systems/Loral to procure two high-power LS-1300-type spacecraft in order to provide back-up telecommunication services to operators in case one of their satellites becomes temporarily of definitively unavailable. First launch is due in 2002. AssureSat's first customer will be Loral Skynet.
Editor's note: Space Systems/Loral reportedly plans to loft at least one the AssureSat satellites on a Zenit 3SL flight previously booked from Sea Launch.
May 1st
Motorola claims that it still expects to find a buyer for its bankrupt Iridium venture.
May 1st
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center releases an Announcement of Opportunity for one or more further missions in the Discovery program for low-cost exploration of the Solar System. Proposals are due by September 30 for launches within six years.
 


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