News of July 2001

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

 Commercial Launchers



Ariane 5G


EPS upper stage
(ESA-CNES-Arianespace)
July 13 - Ariane 5 Suffers Injection Mishap
Arianespace's seventh Ariane 5G launch suffered from low thrust on its upper stage resulting in its dual payload being injected in a lower orbit than intended. According to preliminary analysis of telemetry recordings, the flight was nominal until the ignition of the Astrium-built EPS storable propellant upper stage. The pressure-fed Aestus engine only provided some 80% of its planned 29-kN thrust. Although the onboard computer tried to compensate for the low performance, the stage eventually shutdown on its own, 80 seconds earlier than planned, presumably upon depletion of one of its hypergolic propellants. The two satellites were thus released into a 592 x 17,528 km orbit, inclined 2.9° instead of the targeted 858 x 35,853 km geostationary transfer orbit with a 2° inclination. An independent investigation board will be named on July 16 and is expected to release a preliminay report by early August.
Meanwhile, the two customers for this flight, the European Space Agency and Orbital Sciences Corp., are studying recovery plans for their satellites. ESA's Artemis, which incorporates both a chemical bipropellant propulsion system (Astrium GmbH 400-kN S400 thruster and 1,538 kg of propellant) and an experimental ion propulsion system (Astrium Ltd. EITA and Astrium GmbH RITA thrusters), is likely to be able to reach geostationary orbit. However, several plans for 'alternative' missions from lower orbits are also under study. OSC is more concerned by the fate of the BSAT-2b satellite it had to deliver in orbit to Broadcasting satellite Corp. of Japan (B-SAT). According to J. R. Thompson, Orbital's president & COO, it is not sure yet that the satellite, which incorporates a Thiokol Star 30 solid kick motor, can reach the geostationary orbit and still have enough propellant left for any "meaningful lifetime." The insurance coverage for Artemis is reportedly worth a mere US$48 million, mostly for its commercial L-band payload, while BSAT-2b was insured for US$63 million.
Editor's note: Although the analysis of the telemetry readings have not confirmed this scenario, it is considered likely that the EPS upper stage suffered a propellant leak.
 
 

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 Government Launchers

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 Small Launchers

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 Missile Systems

July 15 - NMD Interception Test Success
The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization reports that the fourth interception test to be carried out on behalf of the development of the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system was successful. eventually set for July 15 (July 14 local time). Under the Integrated Flight Test 6 (IFT-6) mission, a Minuteman 2 ballistic missile, refurbished by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, was launched from Vandenberg AFB, California, and delivered a dummy warhead and decoys on a ballistic trajectory toward the Ronald Reagan Missile Site in Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. Some 21 minutes later, a Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Payload Launch Vehicle was fired from Kwajalein and sent an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) on an interception course. The midcourse interception reportedly took place 10 minutes later, at an altitude of more than 225 km.
Editor's note: This is the second successful interception in four attempts. The first success was on October 3, 1999, but apparently relied on the warhead navigational data to succeed. The other two attempts failed due to a faulty cooling system on a critical sensor, on January 19, 2000, and to a launch vehicle anomaly, on July 7, 2000. A fifth test is tentatively planned for November.
July 12 - NMD to Conflict with ABM Treaty Shortly
The U.S. State Department has notified its diplomats all around the world that the current test campaign of the controversial U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system "will come into conflict with the ABM treaty [within] months." The conflict could come from the opening of a new test site in Fort Greeley, Alaska, with launch facilities for up to 10 Ground-Based Interceptors. Construction of such a test site, which could begin next summer, might be considered as an attempt of "undercover" deployment. Moreover, the ABM treaty, signed in 1972 with the Soviet Union, restricts U.S. missile defense testing to only two sites, namely the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands. According to a 14-page memorandum sent to all diplomatic agents, the NMD could be partly operational with an interim ground-based system deployed in Alaska as soon as 2004.
July 6 - NMD Interception Test Set
The fourth interception test to be carried out on behalf of the development of the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system is eventually set for July 15 (July 14 local time). The mission, designated Integrated Flight Test 6 (IFT-6), will involve a refurbished Minuteman 2 ballistic missile launched from Vandenberg AFB, California, to send a dummy warhead and decoys toward the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands. There, a Payload Launch Vehicle will loft an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) on an interception course. On the three previous interception tests, only the first was successful but apparently relied on the warhead navigational data to succeed. The other two failed due to a faulty sensor and to a launch vehicle anomaly, respectively. A fifth test is tentatively planned for November.
Editor's note: The Minuteman 2 missile is provided by Lockheed Martin Astronautics under the Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS) program while Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space is prime for the PLV, which is made of the second and third stages of a Minuteman 2.
July 3 - GBI Ground Tested
Boeing has conducted a launch rehearsal of its long delayed Ground Based Interceptor, an all-solid three-stage booster developed on behalf the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) program. The test was conducted in Vandenberg AFB, California. According to Logicon, which provides the vehicle's control software, all onboard systems performed correctly clearing the way for an actual test flight later this year.
Editor's note: The GBI is intended to boost the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) toward incoming ballistic warheads. It is based on an Alliant Techsystems GEM-46 motor as firt stage and two Pratt&Whitney Chemical Systems Division Orbus as second and third stages. Due to the delays in the availability of the GBI, U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization recently had to order 7 additional Payload Launch Vehicles, based on the second and third stages of Minuteman 2 ICBMs, from Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space to launch prototype EKVs on Integrated Flight Test (IFT) interception tests #7 to #13.
July 2 - North Korean Engine Tested
North Korea has conducted a static firing test of a large rocket engine in late June according to the Washington Times. The test, which was detected by U.S. intelligence satellites, apparently involved a full-scale first stage of a Taepo Dong vehicle, presumably the new, larger, Taepo Dong 2.
Editor's note: This is the first major rocket development event reported since the test flight of a Taepo Dong 1 ballistic missile, presented as a satellite launch attempt, in August 1998. The test does not violate the current moratorium on missile testing which covers only test flights.

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 RLVs and Reentry Systems

July 11 - NASA Closes Morocco Landing Site
NASA has decided not to activate the Ben Guerir transatlantic abort landing site in Morocco during the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 12 citing concerns about possible terrorist actions. In case of propulsion failure during the early phases of the flight (between 142 and 276 seconds after liftoff), the shuttle would be redirected to Moron AFB or Zaragozza AFB, both in Spain.
July 10 - NASA Gets CRV Funding
NASA was awarded an additional US$415-million to its budget for fiscal year 2002 by the U.S. House of Representatives' appropriations subcommittee for the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development and the independent agencies. On this extra funding, US$275 million will be devoted to the development of the Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) for the International Space Station. The subcommittee also asked NASA to preserve the hardware developed for the X-34 reusable hypersonic testbed until June 2002 or until the U.S. Air Force decides whether to take over the program. The proposed extra budget still has to be approved by the full U.S. Congress and by the U.S. president to become effective.
Editor's note: The CRV development, which is required for the increase of the ISS crew from 3 to 7 astronauts, has been shelved since February when the U.S. administration decided several cuts in the ISS program to compensate for a US$4-billion cost overrun. Actually, the overrun was recently revealed to exceed US$4.8 billion. The CRV will be derived from the current X-38 demonstrator.
July 10 - X-38 Completes 7th Drop Test
An advanced scale-model of NASA's X-38 Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) demonstrator successfully completed an autonomous landing test at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards AFB, California. The V-131R test vehicle was released from its NB-52B carrier aircraft at an altitude of 11,400 m. The 13-minute-long glide allowed to evaluate European Space Agency's guidance and navigation software to be used on the actual CRV. It was also the second test flight to deploy a full scale 700-sq.m. parafoil for the final approach and landing phase.
Editor's note: V-131R is the former V-131 test vehicle which flew twice in March 1997 and February 1999 and has been refurbished to the final X-38 aerodynamic shape, designed by France's Dassault Aviation. Its first flight as V-131R occured in November 1999.
July 9 - Boeing Proposes Second X-37
NASA is still evaluating a proposal by Boeing PhantomWorks to build a second X-37 demonstrator vehicle. The proposal was included among Boeing's bids for the first round of the Space Launch Initiative program in late 2000. If approved, the second test vehicle would be designed for orbital and reentry test flights while the model currently under construction would be dedicated to atmospheric drop-tests. The orbital vehicle would also include several U.S. Air Force requirements to serve as a full-scale prototype for the proposed Space Maneuvering Vehicle (SMV). The bid was deferred while NASA, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force are still discussing the funding plan for the original X-37 program. A decision is expected before late September as no funding has been decided yet for FY2002 spending. The program is now treportedly two-year beyond schedule and significantly over budget.
Editor's note: Under a 1999 agreement, NASA agreed to pay US$72 million for the X-37 development while Boeing invested US$85 million of its own money. The U.S. Air Force contribution amounted to US$16 million. The initial plan was to fly the vehicle to low-Earth orbit onboard the U.S. space shuttle and perform an autonomous reentry and landing in late 2002 in order to complete the whole testing program in 2003. If transferred to a commercial expendable launch vehicle, the launch cost would have to be added to the budget as the shuttle was supposed to carry the vehicle to orbit at no cost for the program.
 



RVT
(ISAS)
July 3 - ISAS Tests Delta Clipper Lookalike
Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) has completed a test campaign of its reusable rocket vehicle test (RVT), a 3.6-m-tall automated vertical take-off and landing rocket-powered demonstrator similar to the former McDonnell-Douglas Delta Clipper concept. From June 9 to June 26, the RVT, which is powered by a liquid hydrogen engine, successfully performed three test flights at ISAS's Noshiro Testing Center in northwestern Honshu, reportedly reaching an altitude of about 9 m. The campaign, designated VT-6, was mainly aimed at demonstrating some technologies for future reusable launch systems regarding flight on demand and quick turnaround capability, as well as lightweight structures and materials.
Editor's note: The RVT, which is a refurbished version of an earlier test vehicle with a new, conical airframe, had performed a series of six static firing tests to demonstrate operability from July 17 to August 4, 2000. It had also conducted a series of test flights without its new airframe in March 1999.
Watch the third test flight (Quicktime, 604 kb).
 

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 Space Propulsion

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 Spaceports

July 2 - France to Support Soyuz in Kourou
The French government is ready to support Russia's proposal to launch Soyuz vehicles from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou "as long as Soyuz does not compete with Ariane" said French president Jacques Chirac durinhg his visit to Russia. This support is linked to an expected decision by Russia's Aeroflot to buy 36 Airbus aircraft, a deal reportedly worth some US$1.5 billion. In parallel to the visit, French presidential advisers explained that they would support the proposal during ESA's council meeting at ministerial level, to be held in Edinburg in November, if a solution can be found to raise the US$250 million needed to fund the building of a dedicated launch pad. According to these advisers, "the Soyuz vehicle will not compete with Ariane 5 as the two are addressing different market segments." According to some analysts, the Soyuz launch capability from Kourou would also allow to prepare the launch site for manned missions to the International Space Station.
Editor's note: From Kourou, the new Soyuz/ST vehicle with a Fregat upper stage will be able to loft up to 2 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit. This class of satellites currently represents some 20% of Arianespace's backlog. However, with the introduction of more powerful versions of Ariane 5 (Ariane 5ECA in 2002 and Ariane 5ECB in 2006), Arianespace might less rely on this class of satellites to form pairs of payloads to be launched together. Moreover, the Soyuz might be used primarily to launch Russian communication satellites.

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 Industry

July 10 - EU Clears Alcatel Space Take Over
The European Commission has cleared Alcatel to take over the 48.83% stake detained by Thales in Alcatel Space. The ¤795-million deal turns Alcatel Space into a wholly owned subsidiary of Alcatel.

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 Launch Market

July 12 - Belgium and Spain to Join Helios 2
Belgium will sign an intergovernment agreement with France on July 13 to officialize its contribution to the Helios 2 optical military observation satellite system. Spain is expected to join shortly too. Belgium will contribute 2.5% to the ¤2.13-billion program. Two satellites are being manufactured by Astrium under the program. the fisrt one is tentatively planned for launch in March 2004.
July 11 - Echostar to Procure Satellite for StarBand
Echostar Communications Corp. plans to initiate the construction of a Ku-band spot beam satellite which will be used both by StarBand for high-speed Internet delivery services over the United States and by Echostar for direct broadcasting. The satellite's construction is expected to begin by late 2001. In parallel, Echostar invested US$50 million in StarBand to increase its stake from 19% to 32%. Echostar's shareholding is planned to increase to 60% as the manufacturing of the satellite begins.
Editor's note: StarBand Communications Inc. (formerly Gilat-to-Home) is a joint-venture of Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd., Echostar, Microsoft Corp. and ING Furman Selz Investments. In November 2000, it had announced plans to procure two satellites (one active and one in-orbit spare) for launches in 2003.
July 3 - SS/L to Build Spanish Milsatcom
Spanish newspaper ABC reports that Space Systems/Loral was selected to build the US$150-million Hisdesat military communication satellite, defeating Alcatel Space. The satellite will be operated by a new venture, Hisdesat SA, held by Hispasat (45%), INSA (30%), EADS CASA Espacio (13%), Indra (7%) and Sener (5%).
Editor's note: Hisdesat's launch is due in late 2003. No launch provider has been selected yet.

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 Miscellaneous



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