News of September 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

September 26
Rosaviakosmos and the Indian Space Research Organisation have held talks on possible future cooperations in space. According to Itar-Tass, among the planned fields of cooperation is the possible launch of Insat satellites atop Russian Proton vehicles.
Editor's note: India plans to launch five Insat 3 satellites through 2003/2004. Insat 3B was launched by an Ariane 5G on March 21. Insat 3A is slated for launch in early 2001, also on an Ariane 5G. No firm decision has been issued on the remaining three satellites. ISRO's own Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is planned to be available in 2002 to launch Insat-class satellites.
September 26
As previously announced, Intelsat and Arianespace officially sign the contracts for the launch of three Intelsat 9 satellites (905, 906 and 907) atop Ariane 4 or Ariane 5 vehicles from late 2001 to late 2002.
Editor's note: Arianespace will eventually launch six out of seven Intelsat 9s. Intelsat 903 is due for launch atop a Proton M/Breeze M vehicle during the third quarter of 2001. The Space Systems/Loral-built satellites, weighing 4,650 to 4,830 kg at launch, depending on the model, are too heavy for other available launch vehicles, with the exception of Sea Launch's Zenit 3SL and China Great Wall Industry's CZ-3B. However, these two vehicles are not considered eligible by Intelsat to launch its satellites. Intelsat plans to select launch services for its newest Intelsat 10 series, later this year or in early 2001. Launches are tentatively due in 2003.
September 22
Sea Launch has reportedly ordered 76 shipsets of Zenit stages for its Zenit 3SL launch vehicles from NPO Yuzhnoye in Ukraine.
Editor's note: Actually the order, most probably a mere letter of intent, covers 80 shipsets including the 4 vehicles which have already been flown. At Sea Launch's expected 6 to 8 launches per year rate, this procurement would allow the international consortium to operate for at least 10 years.
September 21
According to Go Taikonauts, the Science, Technology & Information Committee under Taiwan's congress recently proposed space cooperation with the People's Republic of China. Among the proposals is the use China's Chang Zheng ("Long March") launch vehicle to loft Taiwan's satellites onto orbit. PRC authorities have previously proposed to provide launch services to Taiwan.
September 20
According to Florida Spacegram, the New ICO company, part of the ICO-Teledesic venture, will contract with International Launch Services and Boeing for one Atlas and one Delta launch to loft its latest two satellites ordered from Hughes Space & Communications on September 13.
Editor's note: ICO-Teledesic was listed among the customers for ILS' series of 13 launch commitments announced in late July.
September 19
Asia Satellite Telecommunications Ltd. (AsiaSat) has signed a launch contract with International Launch Services to loft its AsiaSat 4 satellite atop an Atlas 3 vehicle in the first half of 2002.
Editor's note: AsiaSat was suspected to be among the customers for ILS' series of 13 launch commitments announced in late July.
September 18
The launch of the Sirius 3 direct radio broadcasting satellite, initially due in early October, has slipped into November due to delays in the delivery of modernized RD-0210 engines for the Proton K's second and third stages. RD-0210 engines have been modified following two failures in July and October 1999. The new engines have been introduced in June 2000.
Editor's note: Before the launch of Sirius 3, which will complete Sirius Satellite Radio's network, four Proton launches are already planned, including two for International Launch Services and the first flight of the new Proton M version. If all missions are conducted successfully, GKNPTs Khrunichev will have launched 15 Protons in 2000. The previous record was 13 flights in a single year in 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1994.
September 15
Intelsat's board of governors has approved the award of a contract to Arianespace for the launch of its Intelsat 905, 906 and 907 satellites on Ariane vehicles from late 2001 to 2002.
Editor's note: Intelsat already had three Intelsat 9 (901, 902 and 904) slated for launch on Ariane vehicles and one (903) on a Proton M in 2001. Intelsat 9s are built by Space Systems/Loral. Two Intelsat 10 (Intelsat NI Alpha) have been ordered from Astrium and still have no assigned launcher.
September 8
NPO Yuzhnoye has shipped three Zenit vehicles to Sea Launch. The rockets were delivered by rail in Nikolaev, a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea, where they were loaded into a transport ship bound to Sea Launch's Homeport in Long Beach, California, where they are due to arrive on September 21. The next launch of a Zenit 3SL, carrying Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications' first satellite on behalf of Hughes Space & Communications is now set for mid-October instead of late September as previously announced.
September 6
The maiden flight of Boeing's new Delta 4 launch vehicle is now expected in late 2001.
 



Delta 3/8930
(Boeing)
September 6
During a panel presentation at Satel Conseil's 7th Symposium on Communications Satellite Systems, Gale Schluter, Boeing's vice-president for expendable launch systems, presented results regarding the third Delta 3 launch on August 23. The mission was intended to mimick that of the second launch, carrying Loral's Orion 3 satellite on May 5, 1999, and which failed due to a breach in the upper stage Pratt&Whitney RL10-B2 engine. According to Gale Schluter's figures, although the third Delta 3 flight resulted in the dummy payload being injected in a subsynchronous orbit with an apogee 2,700 km lower than expected, it remained within the contractual limits set on thye Orion 3 satellite and would have not resulted in any insurance claim for loss of satellite operational lifetime. Boeing engineers are still reviewing the data to determine why the vehicle did not reach its optimal targeted orbit. The upper stage was shutdown due to depletion of liquid oxygen. Following that launch, fine tuning of the vehicle will allow to improve the accuracy.
Editor's note: Technical analysts from Arianespace and International Launch Systems have both reviewed Boeing's public figures and came to the same conclusion that the vehicle was filled with less propellant than needed which may indicate that Boeing has been overoptimistic on the actual payload capability of its vehicle.
 
 
September 6
Eutelsat has signed two launch contracts with Arianespace, presumably to loft its Atlantic Bird 2 satellite in the third quarter of 2001 and Hot Bird 6 in early 2002 atop Ariane vehicles.
 



Zenit 3SL
(Sea Launch)
September 6
Space Systems/Loral has decided to launch the 5,500-kg Telstar 8 communication satellite for Loral Skynet atop a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL vehicle in the first quarter of 2002 on behalf of a multiple launch contract awarded in 1996.
Editor's note: Sea Launch plans to increase the payload capability of its Zenit 3SL vehicle to 5,500 kg in geostationary transfer orbit by a series of minor modifications, without changing any engine or propellant. Use of syntin in the upper stage could later boost this payload capability to 5,700 kg.
 
 
September 5
International Launch Services claims it did not change the launch vehicle planned to loft GE Americom's GE-6 later this year from the new Proton M/Breeze M combination to the older Proton K/DM-2M design. GE-6 has always been planned on a Proton K but there was a typo on ILS website which suggested it may have been planned on a Proton M. The first flight of the Proton M, tentatively set for September, is now planned in October or November. Officially, ILS still plans to loft two satellites for GE Americom in October: GE-1A and GE-6.
September 1st
Arianespace signs a contract worth 100 million Euros (US$89 million) with Astrium for the firm procurement of ten EPS storable propellant upper stages for Ariane 5 vehicles with options for five more stages. This procurement is part of the Ariane 5 P2 production batch announced one year ago.
Editor's note: Most of these stages are expected to be of the new "Versatile" version (EPS/V) with a capability for multiple restart. Another contract is also expected for a similar number of ESC-A cryogenic upper stages.

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 Government Launchers

September 28
Boeing has been awarded a US$10.7-million increase to a previously signed contract with U.S. Air Force's Space & Missile Systems Center to provide for long-term storage of Delta 2 vehicles through FY2002.
 



H-2A
(NASDA)
September 26
Japan's National Space Development Agency has decided to remove European Space Agency's 3,100-kg Advanced Research & Technology Mission (Artemis) spacecraft from the maiden flight of its new H-2A launch vehicle, tentatively scheduled for February 1st, 2001. This decision was taken in the wake of troubles during firing tests of the vehicle core stage's LE-7 cryogenic engine in August. A report on the incident will be issued on September 27.
Editor's note: ESA's long-delayed Artemis experimental communication satellite was initially due to be launched on the maiden flight of Ariane 5, then planned in 1995. Its launch on the H-2A will be provided by NASDA under a non-exchange-of-funds basis which will give the Japanese agency a part-time access to the satellite's experiments. No information has been given on the actual payload for the H-2A's first flight but an instrumented dummy is a likely scenario. A 70-kg piggyback payload for the Institute of Space& Astronautical Science, the Demonstrator of Atmospheric Reentry System with Hypersonic Velocity (DASH), was also planned on this mission. Its actual status is unknown.
 
 
September 25
Stage debris from the CZ-4B vehicle which lofted the Zi Yuan 2 remote sensing satellite on September 1st fell on the Xiangzhen Cultural Village, in the Wuxi District near Chongqing, some 700 km downrange from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, according to the Yangtse Evening Post, quoted by Space Daily. No damage nor casualsty were reported.
September 25
A Proton K/DM launch planned on September 27 from Baykonur, Kazakhstan, has been delayed to October 12 due to a an undefined technical problem on one of its payloads. The vehicle was planned to loft three Uragan positioning satellites to replenish the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (Glonass) constellation.
 


   
Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5H
and Boeing's Delta 4H
September 20
The U.S. Department of Defense has agreed to modify its Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles development contract with Lockheed Martin in order to allow its contractor to save US$150 million by not building a new launch facility in Vandenberg AFB for heavy-lift versions of its Atlas 5 launch vehicles. Without this contract modification, Lockheed Martin should have invested US$250 million of its own money to complement the US$500-million government budget to develop the Atlas 5 through 2001. In compensation, the DoD is seeking congressional approval to spend about US$141 million to pay Boeing for a test launch of its Delta 4H heavy-lift vehicle due during the first quarter of 2003. The current contract requires Boeing to conduct the test launch with in-house funding.
Editor's note: The first operational flight of the Delta 4H is tentatively set for late 2003 to loft a Defense Support Program (DSP) early warning satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Station.
 
 
September 20
An attempt to launch a refurbished Titan 2 ballistic missile from Vandenberg AFB was scrubbed due to an unidentified electrical glitch. The Lockheed Martin Titan 23G launch vehicle is planned to loft the US$267-million NOAA-L polar meteorology satellite for the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The launch has been postponed by 24 hours.
Editor's note: The launch was successfully conducted on September 21.
September 19
In an interview to Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper, the chief designer of Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), Long Lehao, confirmed that China's space transportation policy was aiming at three primary objectives: upgrading the current Chang Zheng (CZ) family of expendable launchers, developing a new family of heavy-lift launchers able to loft up to 14 tons in geostationary transfer orbit and fed with non-toxic propellant (kerosene and liquid oxgen), and developing advanced technologies for reusable launch systems and deep space exploration.
Editor's note: Plans for a new generation of Chinese heavy-lift launchers were unveiled by the Orbital Report in May 1999.
September 10
Indian Space Resarch Organisation officials announce that the maiden flight of the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle has been delayed into 2001.

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 Small Launchers

September 29
Florida Spacegram reports that Coleman Aerospace Corp. was awarded a US$1.2-million contract from FiatAvio to assist in design reviews for its "Small Launch Vehicle" concept (formerly Vega), which has been studied under a contract with the European Space Agency.
Editor's note: ESA's funding on behalf of the Vega preliminary program were expected to be exhausted by the end of September.
September 22
Astrium GmbH has successfully tested the launch dispenser which will be used on Eurockot's nest Rokot KM flight in June 2001 to release the two joint NASA-DLR Gravity Recovery & Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites into orbit.
 



Shavit
(IAI)
September 22
The launch of Israel's Ofeq 5 military observation satellite atop a LeoLink LK-A booster, initially due this year, might be postponed due to budget cuts for Israeli National Defense Forces. The launch is expected to prove the LK-A vehicle, an improved version of the Shavit launcher, for commercial operations.
Editor's note: LeoLink is a joint venture between Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. in Israel, Astrium SAS in France and Coleman Research Corp. in the U.S.
 
 
September 10
MKK Kosmostras has reset the launch of its second Dnepr 1 vehicle to September 27, with a back-up date on September 28. The launch has been postponed from August 25/26 due to concerns regarding propellant tank pressure on the vehicle's first stage. The faulty Dnepr 1 vehicle has been removed from its launch silo in Baikonur and is being replaced by a new one.
 



Dnepr 1
(Kosmotras)
September 5
MKK Kosmostras has decided to replace the faulty Dnepr 1 vehicle whose launch was scrubbed twice in late August by a new one which will be delivered by rail in Baikonur within a few days. Two launch attempts of the initial vehicle, on August 25/26, were scrubed due to concerns regarding propellant tank pressure on the first stage. The vehicle has been removed from its launch silo and will be shipped back to NPO Yuzhnoye's manufacturing facilities for investigation. A new target launch date, possibly on September 27, will be announced shortly.
 
 

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 Missile Systems

September 29
TRW Inc. was awarded a US$119.5-million incresae to a previously signed contract with U.S. Air Force's Ogden Air Logistics Center, to provide for low rate initial production, test support and ordnance, on behalf of the Propulsion Replacement Program for all three stages of the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles during FY2001 and FY2002.
September 29
TRW ICBM Systems has been awarded two modifications, respectively worth US$16.5 million and US$14.2 million, to a previously signed contract with U.S. Air Force's Ogden Air Logistics Center, to provide engineering support regarding advanced reentry vehicles, and ballistic missile avionics during FY2001.
September 28
Two Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles were launched from Vandenberg AFB on behalf of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The first one released 20 objects on a suborbital trajectory toward the Kwajalein Missile Range, in Central Pacific, to test the ability of a ground-based radar system to track and discriminate warheads and decoys as part of the development of a U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system. The second missile lofted a dummy warhead to test various tecchnologies including an "in-flight interceptor communication system" which will be used to provide guidance data from ground-based radars to future NMD interceptor vehicles.
Editor's note: One of the second missile's Mk12 warheads was carrying the Slender Hypervelocity Aerothermodynamic Research Probe (SHARP-B2), developed by the NASA's Ames Research Center as part of Marshall Space Flight Center's Future X program. This flight experiment, which was successfully recovered at sea, was intended to test Ultra-High Temperature Ceramic (UHTC) material which could be used to design reentry vehicles with sharp leading edges thus improving their aerodynamic behavior in the atmosphere.
September 28
TRW ICBM Systems has been awarded a US$17.3-million increase to a previously signed contract to provide engineering support to the U.S. Air Force Space Command regarding missile, reentry and launch vehicle systems and technology during FY2001.
September 27
Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) have successfully completed the 11th test flight of a RS-12M "Topol M" ballistic missile. After a launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome, near Arkhangelsk, the dummy warhead hit its target on the Kura testing ground in Kamchatka.
September 23
Syria conducts the first test flight of its new 600-km range Scud-D ballistic missile.
September 22
Iran's National Aerospace Authority has successfully tested its first solid-fuelled rocket, dubbed Shahab 3D, according to a report by the Islamic Republic News Agency. The rocket is planned to be used for civilian purposes and in the development of a national satellite launch vehicle. No technical information has been made available on the rocket or the launch results. According to U.S. intelligence sources, the vehicle should be considered as a military missile and the test was actually a failure.
September 20
The U.S. House of Representatives' Speaker Advisory Committee on Russia, a Republican partisan panel led by representative Christopher Cox, has issued a report titled "Russia's Road to Corruption, How the Clinton Administration Exported Government Instead of Free Enterprise and Failed the Russian People". This document, which criticizes U.S. president William J. Clinton's policy toward Russia, includes statements on the International Space Station program (Chap. 5) and Russia's commitments in ballistic missile technology proliferation (Chap. 9).
Editor's note: The Speaker Advisory Committee on Russia has no tie with the non-partisan Cox Committee which issued a report on technology transfers to China in May 1999, which became famous as the "Cox Report", detailing charges against U.S. satellite manufacturers which allegedly transferred sensitive technologies to China and indirectly helped it to improve its ballistic missile forces.
September 20
The Associated Press reports that a group of five U.S. experts from the Environment Protection Agency and the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control has been sent to Ukraine to help investigate the origin of a recent "mass poisoning" in the southern Mykolaiv area that may have been caused by pollution by solid rocket propellant from a nearby RS-22 (SS-24) ballistic missile launch base to be dismantled in 2001.
September 18
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun a preliminary inquiry into fraud and cover-up charges against TRW upon request from 53 democrat U.S. representatives who pointed out that the company mauy have faked test results in developing a prototype Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle for the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system.
September 13
China's foreign minister, Tang Jiaxuan, has asked the United Nations to counter plans by the United States to deploy its National Missile Defense (NMD) system, arguing that this "dangerous" proposal could be detrimental to world peace.
September 12
Pakistan has the capability to destroy all major Indian cities if India commits agression according to Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's most prominent nuclear scientist citing the new Ghauri ballistic missile as the carrier of the country's nuclear weapons.
September 12
The U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to Truax Engineering Inc. Under this deal, potentially worth up to US$6.6 million over two years, Truax will support the development of a liquid-fueled reusable ballistic missile target.
September 12
As part of a training exercize, Russian Navy launches an unidentified sea-launched ballistic missile, presumably a RSM-54, from the Karelia submarine in the Sea of Barents. The missile's dummy warhead successfully reached its target in Kamtchatka.
September 11
Russian Ministry of Defense's chief of general staff, Anatoliy Kvashnin, has issued a directive "On the Centralization of Military-Space Activity" which removes the Military Space Forces and the Missile Space Defense Forces from the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) and resubordinates them to the General Staff before the end of the year.
 



M-51 SLBM
(EADS-LV)
September 7
Workers at EADS Launch Vehicles' facilities in Les Mureaux, near Paris, and St.-Médard-en-Jalles, near Bordeaux, have been on strike for half a day to protest against a decision by Délégation Générale pour l'Armement, the French Ministry of Defense's procurement agency, to turn its firm 5-year contract for the final development of the M-51 sea-launched ballistic missile, into a two-year contract with two optional three-year extensions. DGA claims that the decision was caused by 40% cost overruns by EADS-LV while the former Aerospatiale Matra Lanceurs acknowledges only a 10-15% overcost due to the new French regulation regarding the reduction of working time to 35 hours per week which will force the company to close its St.-Médard-en-Jalles plant for two weeks in November and December.
Editor's note: The M-51 program was decided in January 1996 to replace French navy's current M-45. The M-51 is a cheaper version of the M-5, whose development had been decided in 1992 but was facing major cost difficulties. The program was officially instated under a FF3,765-million (US$500-million) two-year contract in September 1998 with a major cost reduction compared to Aerospatiale's proposal. The M-51 is tentatively planned to be introduced in 2008.
 
 
September 5
The U.S. Department of Defense is likely to postpone to January 2001 the next interception test of an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) for the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system. This delay would allow to complete the analysis of the previous test's failure on July 8 which was apparently caused by the EKV's booster, a Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV).
September 1st
U.S. president William J. Clinton announces that he will leave the decision whether to proceed with the initial deployment of the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system to his successor, to be elected on November 7. With this new delay, the NMD could not be available before 2006 at the earliest.

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 RLVs and Reentry Systems



X-33
(Lockheed Martin Skunk Works)
September 29
NASA and Lockheed Martin have set up a revised plan to complete the development of the long-delayed X-33 advanced technology demonstrator and begin its flight campaigns in 2003. This launch date would allow Lockheed Martin to bid for additional funding on behalf of NASA's new US$4.5-billion Space Launch Initiataive. Under the revised plan, the X-33's damaged composite liquid hydrogen tank will be replaced by an aluminium tank. Milestones payments worth US$68 million will also be made to Lockheed Martin's team for testing and delivering hardware this year. This amount was initially planned to be paid only at vehicle rollout.
Editor's note: Lockheed Martin's X-33 single-stage-to-orbit design was selected for development by NASA in August 1996 with a maiden flight scheduled in June 1999. NASA was then planned to contribute US$941 million and the industrial team US$220 million. On November 3, 1999, numerous delays had already bumped the first flight to 2000 when the vehicle's composite liquid hydrogen tank was damaged during tests and the whole program had to be revised. NASA has already spent US$800 million in the X-33 effort while Lockheed Martin and its partners have invested some US$300 million and have promised another US$56 million.
 
 
September 20
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center issues a solicitation for the first phase of its 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle engineering and risk reduction effort, covering 10 technology areas such as system engineering and rrchitecture definition and risk reduction efforts related to airframes, vehicle subsystems, integrated vehicle health monitoring systems, operations, upper stages, flight mechanics, proposal, unique NASA requirements and flight demonstration. The proposed research investigations may encompass integrated RLV architectures, systems engineering approaches, architecture trades, business analysis, and required risk reduction activities.
September 19
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has released its final rules and regulations regarding the operation of Reusable Launch Vehicles within the U.S. airspace.
 



Proposed RLV Design
(CALT)

    The concept's flight plan mimicks that of Kistler's K-1
 
September 13
Go Taikonauts reports that Missiles & Space Vehicles, a publication by the Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), has published a description of a proposed reusable launch vehicle able to loft 2-tons to low-Earth orbit. The vehicles is a two-stage-to-orbit design powered by four 1,200-kN engines fed with kerosene and liquid oxygen. The stages would be recovered using parachutes and airbags for landing. A selection of an actual RLV design is expected late this year according to rumors quoted by Go Taikonauts.
Editor's note: China also is studying much larger partly reusable launch systems able to loft 24 tons to low Earth orbit and up to 13 tons to geostationary transfer orbit.
 
 



K-1
(Kistler)
September 6
Kistler Aerospace announces that it is negotiating with investors to raised the US$500-million funding it needs to complete the development and begin in-flight testing of its reusable two-stage-to-orbit K-1 launch vehicle. Through 1999, the venture has raised US$500 million from private sources in the United States, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, but was still looking for about US$400 million to enable lift-off. Kistler plans to finalize funding conditions by December. this would enable three test flights of the K-1 to be conducted from Kistler's launch facilities in Woomera, South Australia, in 2002.
Editor's note: Due to its design, the K-1 has to be test-flown to orbit as the recovery of its second stage requires it to reach orbital velocity. The K-1 project was initiated in 1993 as part of family of launchers which also included the K-0 demonstrator, as well as the K-2 and K-3 launchers, the latter being a fully reusable single-stage-to-orbit man-rated vehicle. Kistler expects to generate US$1.7 billion in revenues in 12 years.
 
 
September 5
Boeing has selected Atlantic Research Corp.'s Liquid Propuslion division to provide reaction control thrusters for irts X-37 Future-X Pathfinder demonstrator. ARC will supply 100-N peroxide monopropellant thrusters. The X-37 is intended to perform a flight test onboard Space Shuttle Columbia in early 2002.

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 Space Propulsion



LCPE
(TRW)
September 25
TRW Space & Technology has successfully completed the first series of static firing tests of its Low-Cost Pintle Engine (LCPE) at NASA's Stennis Space Center. To achieve a 50 to 75% cost reduction compared to cryogenic engines of similar thrust, TRW's 2,900-kN cryogenic engine has parts made from common steel alloys using standard industrial fabrication techniques, employs ablative cooling techniques instead of more expensive regenerative cooling, and features a single element coaxial pintle injector. The injector was replaced three times and the 1.73-m-diameter ablative chamber once during the series of test which ran at 65 to 100% thrust.
Download LCPE test program description in PDF format (484 kbytes)
 
 
September 21
NASA has selected the Node-X concept for the U.S. Propulsion Module (USPM) which will provide backup propulsion capability to the International Space Station. The US$540-million module, to be built by Boeing, will be based on a refurbished existing structural test article, similar to the Unity (Node 1) module already in space, outfitted with propulsion modules incorporating propellant tanks and thrusters. The USPM node will weigh 8,100 kg at launch. It will be connected to one or two propulson elements, each weighing 5,130 kg and able to carry up to 8,200 kg of propellant and pressurant. Launch is planned onboard a Space Shuttle in 2004.
Download Node-X design information.
September 13
NASA's Langley Research Center plans to contract with Pratt&Whitney Space Propulsion for computational fluid dynamics analysis of the X-43 "Hyper-X" dual-mode scramjet combustor to compare with future experimental data to be collected in flight.
September 13
NASA's Glenn Research Center is looking for industrial sources to provide regeneratively cooled combustion chamber liners for nozzles made of GRCop-84 advanced copper alloy for use on 2nd generation reusable launch vehicles.
September 11
NASA's Glenn Research Center plans to issue a RfP on behalf of its Revolutionary Aero-Space Engine Research (RASER) program in order to support research efforts under the Ultra Efficient Engine Technology (UEET), Aeropropulsion Base Research (R&D), Space Transportation and High performance Super Computing and Communications (HPCC) programs. The topics to be studied include airbreathing engine technology, pulsed detonation engines (PDE), auxiliary power systems, propulsion/airframe integration, (5) rocket-based combined cycles propulsion systems, turbine-based combined cycles, design tools and cross-cutting technologies for second and third generation reusable launch vehicles.
September 8
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center is looking for industrial sources to develop new channel wall nozzles for the Boeing Rocketdyne Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs). A formal RfP might be issued later.
September 6
Under an agreement with NASA, Thiokol Propulsion plans to increase the rate of static firing tests for space shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motors (RSRM) from one every 18 months to one per year. The increased rate will allow Thiokol not to layoff workers although it had to slow down its production as the space shuttle launch rate decreased significantly in the past two years. Thiokol and NASA are also discussing possible RSRM firing tests under conditions different from those of shuttle launches.
September 4
Japan's National Space Development Agency will conduct two 50-sec. acceptance firing tests for the LE-5B cryogenic engine due to power the second stage of its first H-2A vehicle (TF#1) at the Kakuda Propulsion Center on September 4 and 8. The test campaign could be extended to September 12 if needed.

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 Spaceports

September 11
Boeing dedicates the 10,000-sq.m. Delta 4 Horizontal Integration Facility in Cape Canaveral Air Station. The US$27-million processing plant located near SLC-37, was funded by Spaceport Florida Authority, an agency owned by the State of Florida, and will become operational in 2001.
September 6
Local Russian electricity company ArkhEnergo has agreed to lift restrictions on power supply to the Northern Cosmodrome facilities in Plesetsk, in order to prepare for a launch due on September 18. ArkhEnergo is currently providing only limited electrical power to the Russian launch site which has not paid its electricity bills for months and owes the company some US$1.5 million.
Editor's note: The Russian Ministry of Defense, which owns the Plesetsk launch site, reportedly owes some US$4.4 million to ArkhEnergo.

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 Industry

September 27
The European Union's Commission and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have both given their approval for the US$3.75-billion acquisition of Hughes Space & Communications, Spectrolab and Hughes Electron Dynamics, by Boeing. The European Commission was reportedly satisfied by the pledges by the two group to protect the confidentiality of their respective customers in order not to set up an uncompetitive advantage for the resulting group on both the satellites and launch markets. The commission also investigated whether Hughes customers could be convinced to select Boeing launch services by making the integration of satellites with other launchers more expensive than with Boeing vehicles. These concerns were rejected. Hughes claimed that it will provide similar satellite information to Boeing, Sea Launch as well as other launch providers and that it will cooperate with every launch providers to integrate spacecraft with their vehicles.
September 8
NASA's Langley Research Center has awarded three contracts, worth US$45 million each, to Ball Aerospace & Technology, Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Swales Aerospace for unspecified "space technology R&D" efforts.
September 6
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has selected 110 innovative proposals from 97 small firms which will receive study contracts totaling US$66 million under the 2nd phase of the 1999 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR'99) program. Nine of these propsals deal directly with space transportation issues:
 
 Company

Location
Proposal

NASA Center

Aviation Safety & Capacity
 Command & Control
 Technologies Corp.

Titusville, Fla.
Planning and operations toolset for air traffic management of RLVs.

Ames

Space Transportation
 Accudyne Systems Inc.

Newark, Del.
Cost effective processing equipment for large composite parts.

Marshall
 Accurate Automation Corp.

Chattanooga, Tenn.
Friction drag reduction system.

Marshall
 Advanced Methods & Materials

San Jose, Calif.
Heatpipe power system (HPS) in-space fueling.

Marshall
 Advanced Ceramics Research Inc.

Tucson, Ariz.
Rapid prototyping of continuous fiber reinforced ceramic matrix composites.

Marshall
 Andrews Space & Technology

El Segundo Calif.
Nuclear-propelled MagSail for manned exploration of the outer planets.

Marshall
 Plumetech

Huntsville, Ala.
Unified test stand design and environmental model.

Stennis
 Touchstone Research Laboratory

Triadelphia, W. Vir.
Brazed aluminum matrix composite material for cryotanks, lines and ducts.

Marshall

Experimental Flight Research
 MSE Technology
 Applications Inc.

Butte, Mon.
Magnetohydrodynamic energy bypass application for single-stage-to-orbit vehicles.

Langley
 
September 1st
Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Lockheed Martin Technology Services plan to establish an advanced Propulsion, Thermal, and Metrology Center at NASA's Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. Lockheed Martin Space Systems will operate the Propulsion and Thermal functions, mainly production of thrusters and thermal protection systems for Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft, of the 20,000-sq.m. center which is due to begin operations in about one year.

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 Launch Market

September 29
Space News reports that the U.S. State Department will not take any decision regarding the export license for the Space Systems/Loral-built Chinasat 8 satellite to China before a new administration is introduced in January. Chinasat 8 was initially due for launch in 1999 atop a Chinese CZ-3B vehicle but its export license was suspended in December 1998 after Loral was charged with violations of U.S. export control laws.
September 28
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded three US$3.8-million increases tp previously signed US$6-million contracts with three industrial teams led by Sanders, Spectrum Astro and Boeing to study prototypes for its Orbital Express Advanced Technology Demonstration program. Sanders' team includes Lockheed Martin Space Systems Missiles & Space Operations, Space Systems/Loral, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and Moog. Spectrum Astro's team includes Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Science Applications International Corp. and Oceaneering Space Systems. Boeing's team includes Hughes Space & Communications, Ball Aerospace & Technologies and TRW Space & Electronics.
Editor's note: Darpa's Orbital Express Space Operations Architecture program intends to develop and demonstrate robotic techniques for pre-planned in-orbit upgrade, refuelling and reconfiguration of satellites. A demonstration spacecraft is planned to be launched in 2004.
September 28
MirCorp has secured financing to launch a third Progress M supply ship to the Mir space station in mid-October.
September 26
Société Européenne des Satellites is studying four bids by two European and two U.S. satellite manufacturers to build 3 to 4 high-power Ka-band satellites, tentatively dubbed "Pioneer." Two bidders will be downselected in October and a single contractor is expected to be appointed at the end of the year for a procurement estimated worth some 1.18 billion euros. The satellites, weighing 6,500 to 7,000 kg each, will be launched from late 2003 on.
Editor's note: The bidders are presumably Alcatel Space, Astrium, Hughes Space & Communications and Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems.
September 22
Norway's Telenor has acquired a quarter of the capacity of Intelsat's future Intelsat 10.02 (aka NI Alpha 2) to be launched in 2003 to be co-located with telenor's own Thor satellites at 1°W. This purchase, worth US$100 million, may indicate another postponement of the long-delayed procurement of the Thor 4 satellite. A RfP for Thor 4 has been pending for about two years.
September 21
Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the Chinese Acadamy of Space Technology have agreed to build two more joint Earth observation satellites, designated China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellites (CBERS-3 and 4), they will be launched by Chinese boosters.
Editor's note: Chinese-built CBERS-1 was launched in October 1999 by a CZ-4B vehicle. CBERS-2, integrated in Brazil, is due for launch in 2001.
September 21
Teledesic, which will merge with New ICO in November, will name a new prime contractor for its long-delayed wideband communication system in 2001 and expects to launch its constellation in 2004/2005. Since its inception, in 1990, Teledesic has lost US$392.7 million while ICO's losses amount to US$592.6 million since 1995.
Editor's note: Teledesic's plans have been largely modified several times since the program's announcement. The original 840-satellite system (to be launched in 1997!) would have required 60 to 100 heavy-lift vehicles to deploy and has been officially scaled down to 288 satellites. New 80/140-satellite designs have been rumored. Boeing was selected as prime in April 1997 and replaced by Motorola following the Teledesic/Celestri merger in May 1998. In 1999, Teledesic has booked three Proton M and three Atlas 5 launches from International Launch Services., with options for five more launches on each vehicle. More contracts have been announced, but not confirmed, through the new ICO-Teledesic venture. Any re-design of the system will require new frequency allocations by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the International Telecommunications Union as earlier licenses will become useless.
September 20
A decision by NASA to stop work on its Pluto-Kuiper Express mission might delay the earliest visit to Pluto from 2012 to 2019 if the 2004 launch opportunity is missed. A stop-work order was issued last week as cost overruns were reported on the Ice & Fire series of missions, which also include the Europa Orbiter and the Solar Probe, due largely to increased costs for the launch vehicles and radioisotopic thermal generators.
Editor's note: The Pluto-Kuiper Express mission was planned for launch in December 2004 atop an Atlas 5 or Delta 4 vehicle with a Thiokol Star 48V kick motor. The Europa Orbiter is due for launch in November 2003 for an arrival near Jupiter in early 2007 while the Solar Probe is planned to go in February 2007. The launchers for these missions should also be medium versions of the Atlas 5 or Delta 4 vehicles.
September 18
The European Space Agency's Space Science Advisory Committee has given its priorities for Europe's future space science programs under the Horizon 2000+ program. These include two "Cornerstone" missions due not to exceed US$500 million (excluding instrument costs). These will be Bepi-Colombo, a 2,500-kg Mercury orbiter to be launched by an Ariane 5 in 2009, and the Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics (GAIA), a 3,000-kg astrometric observatory, also due to ride an Ariane 5 in 2011, which will map a billion stars. Other, smaller "Flexi" missions include a 50% particiaptaion to NASA's Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission, due for launch in 2009 atop a Delta 2/7925H (or equivalent) vehicle, to study gravity waves, a 15% contribution to the NASA-led Next-Generation Space Telescope (NGST), due for launch in 2009, and a Solar Orbiter, launched from Baykonur by a Soyuz-Fregat, which will reuse technologies developed for Bepi-Colombo. If more funds are available, ESA could also launch Eddington, a 1,200-kg astrosismology mission which would also ride a Soyuz-Fregat.
September 15
Orbcomm Global LP has filed for protection under the chapter 11 of U.S. legislation on bankruptcy. The Orbital Sciences-led venture, which missed an interest payment on a US$170-million loan on August 15, will try to restructure its activities as operator of the 33-satellite Orbcomm constellation. Orbcomm still has at least 16 satellites at different steps of integration by OSC but all plans to actually launch them are currently on hold.
Editor's note: Orbcomm's failure to break even casts doubts on the feasibility of numerous projects addressing the same market of low-rate data gathering and transmission. Among Orbcomm's contenders on this market are E-Sat, by DBS Industries, and Leo One Worldwide, both of which have booked firm flights on Eurockot's Rockot KM vehicle.
September 13
New ICO has signed a contract with Hughes Space & Communications for the procurement of three more ICO satellites. In addition, Hughes is modifying the 11 previous ICO spacecraft in order to adapt them to their new broadband communication mision on behalf of ICO-Teledesic. The 14 HS-601M satellites will be launched from 2001 to 2003 onboard Atlas, Delta and Proton vehicles.
September 10
France Télécom and Europe*Star Ltd. have teamed to order the Stellat 1 satellite from Alcatel Space. This SpaceBus 3000B3 spacecraft will be launched by an Ariane vehicle in April 2002 to provide television and internet broadcasting services.
September 7
Hughes Space & Communications has begun the manufacturing of the AsiaSat 4 communication satellite for Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. Ltd. This HS-601HP satellite was initially orderd as a backup for AsiaSat 3S and is now planned for launch in 2002, presumably atop a vehicle supplied by International Launch Services.
September 6
Space News reports that the U.S. Department of Defense has requested the U.S. Navy to acquire two more UHF Follow-On (UFO) military communication satellites from Hughes Space & Communications. These UFO-12 and 13 satellites are intended to give more time to the U.S. Navy to define its strategy for its future telecommunication needs. In a similar way, DoD asked the U.S. Air Force to contract for three EHF Wideband Gapfiller (WBGF) satellites instead of two.
Editor's note: The initial U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) procurement contracts in 1998 already included two Delta 4 and one Atlas 5 launches to loft three WBGF satellites in 2004-2005.
September 1st
A series of 17 measures decided by the U.S. State Department under the Defense Trade Security Initiative are becoming effective. Among them seven will ease the issuance of export licenses for U.S.-built satellites to NATO countries, Australia and Japan.
 


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