News of October 2002

Dates are those of the events (in UT) when available.

 

Commercial Launchers | Government Launchers | Small Launchers
Missile Systems | RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems | Space Propulsion
Spaceports | Industry | Launch Market | Agencies and Governments

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  Commercial Launchers

Upgraded Ariane 5 Completes Launch Rehearsal
October 16
Arianespace and CNES, the French space agency, have completed the Launch System Rehearsal of the Ariane 5ECA, an upgraded version of Ariane 5 with a payload capability increased to 10 tons to geostationary transfer orbit. The rehearsal included transfer of the vehicle minus its payload to the ZL-3 launch pad, in Kourou, French Guiana, the simultaneous filling of the EPC core cryogenic stage and the new ESC-A cryogenic upper stage, followed by synchronized sequences up to ignition of the EPC's Vulcain 2 main engine which operated for 14 seconds before being shut down. Data from the test are being processed to clear the launcher for its first flight, tentatively planned for November 20 at the earliest.
Vulcain 2
(Snecma)

Editor's note: The Ariane 5ECA is due to replace the current Ariane 5G as Arianespace's workhorse in the coming years. The Vulcain 2, developped by Snecma Moteurs, is an upgraded versio of the current Vulcain engine with a thrust increased from 1,145 kN to 1,350 kN.

Arianespace Unveils Recovery Guidelines
October 14


Ariane 5
(Arianespace)

Arianespace has announced a series of actions approved by its shareholders on October 11 and aimed at getting the company out of the red by late 2003. The company will be restructured around three main poles: commercial, programs and finances, and synergies will be found with its industrial partners, mostly EADS and Snecma, to streamline production. No layoffs are planned but some job transfers to the contractors are likely. Arianespace also calls for more institutional support by national governments and by the European Space Agency, for instance regarding launch site operating costs. An ESA council meeting at ministerial level is due to discuss such support in February 2003. In addition, Arianespace plans to operate a single, standard version of Ariane 5, the Ariane 5ECA, in order to shave production costs. Order of a third production batch of Ariane 5 vehicles (P3) could be decided in December with a cost reduction objective of 50-55% per vehicle compared to the initial P1 production batch of 1995. This P3 batch will cover production of 30 vehicles instead of 50 as previoulsy planned as market prospects are lower than expected.
Arianespace posted losses worth €193 million in 2001. An increase of capital, of about €150-200 million, is still under study and could be implemented in 2003/2004.
Editor's note: EADS Launch Vehicles and Snecma are due to become the two primary contractors for Ariane vehicles, for systems and propulsion, respectively. Currently, Arianespace is prime contractor and deals with seven "first level contractors" for Ariane 5 production: Astrium GmbH, Astrium SAS, Contraves, EADS CASA Espacio, EADS-LV, Europropulsion and Snecma Moteurs. ESA is due to decide restructuration of the European space transportation industrial sector at its next council meeting in December.

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  Government Launchers

Boy Injured by Falling Launch Fairing Debris
October 25

A 9-year-old boy was injured by falling debris from the payload fairing of a Chinese CZ-4B launch vehicle in a village of the Shaanxi Province, downrange of the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Nineteen debris reportedly fell on the village after the launch.
Editor's note: In August 1997, falling debris from a CZ-3B launch carrying the Agila 2 communication satellite killed a farmer in a village of Hunan province, some 1,000 km downrange the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

Delta 2 Manifest Marred by Pad Incident
October 25

Upper stages of a Boeing Delta 2/7925 vehicle were damaged during the launcher's preparation for a flight planned on November 7 on Cape Canaveral's SLC-17B pad. After mating of the ATK-Thiokol Star 48B upper stage and the Lockheed Martin Navstar Block 2R spacecraft on top of the second stage, a crane operator attempted to hoist their protective canister before it was unfastened from the Star motor casing. The resulting stress severely damaged the upper stage and bent the second stage structure. An assessment is underway to determine if the second stage can be repaired or will have to be replaced too. The US$50-million satellite was apparently not damaged in the accident. The delay induced by the mishap is not critical to the mission as the Navstar 2R-8 spacecraft is due to replenish back-up capacity for U.S. Air Force's Global Positioning System constellation. However, it will affect the maiden launch of the Delta 2H vehicle, previously scheduled for January 9. Since the Delta 2H uses the GEM-46 strap-on motors developed for the Delta 3 instead of the standard GEM-40s of the Delta 2, it can only be processed on SLC-17B, which was modified to accomodate the Delta 3, and not on the nearby SLC-17A. Moreover, the first Delta 2H is due to loft NASA's Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), a US$720-million observatory which has to be in orbit before March 9 due to a tight science window.
Editor's note: In case of significant delay, the current Delta 2 vehicle could be unstacked and moved to SLC-17A in order to free SLC-17B for the Delta 2H. No firm decision has been taken yet.

Soyuz FG Cleared for Manned Launch
October 24

A Russian state commission has cleared the uprated Soyuz FG vehicle for an October 30 launch of the first Soyuz TMA improved manned ferry spacecraft to the International Space Station. According to Rosaviakosmos, the Soyuz FG launcher is a newly-built vehicle while the Soyuz U used to loft Foton M1 had been stockpiled for three years. Moreover, Rosaviakomos pointed out that procedures and quality control on man-rated launcher are a lot more thoroughful, leading to a cost almost doubled compared to launchers planned for unmanned missions.

Faulty Engine Caused Launch Failure
October 18

The launch failure of a Soyuz U vehicle carrying the Foton M1 microgravity researchsatellite was caused by an anomaly in the RD-107 engine powering the Block D, one of the four cone-shaped strap-on boosters forming the vehicle's first stage. The NPO Energomash engine experienced pressure instabilities five to six times beyond average immediately after liftoff. An hydrogen peroxide pipe, feeding the engine gas generator, apparently ruptured, causing a significant drop in pressure and thrust. The Block D strap-on subsequently fell off the vehicle and crashed on the pad without exploding. Major damage were reported on the pad's service towers and at least one of the retractable gantries. The remaining part of the launcher climbed to an altitude of 300 m before all propulsion was automatically shut down by the onboard safeguard systems 20 sec. into flight. The vehicle crashed in a nearly forest and exploded. the shock wave of the explosion killed one Russian soldier and injured another 8. The commission investigating the mishap is expected to issue an initial report by October 22.
Editor's note: The launch vehicle was insured for US$4 million.

Soyuz TMA Launch Slips
October 18

Fuelling of the Soyuz FG vehicle due to loft the first Soyuz TMA manned spacecraft has been postponed in Baykonur, Kazakhstan. The tanking operation was scheduled to begin on October 18 in order to allow a launch on October 28. Although no formal decision has been announced yet, the mission is likely to remain on hold unless the cause of the Foton M launch failure is identified and the necessary corrective actions are implemented.

Proton Lofts European Observatory
October 17

A Proton K booster successfully lofted the €330-million International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (Integral) for the European Space Agency from Baykonur, Kazakhstan. The 4,100-kg spacecraft, built by Alenia Spazio, was successfully injected in a highly elliptical orbit to monitor high-energy astronomical events in gamma-ray, X-ray and visible bands of the spectrum.
Editor's note: This launch was provided free of funds by Rosaviakosmos in exchange for observation time. International Launch Services, which markets commercial Proton flight, was not involved.

Soyuz Launch Failure, One Killed
October 15

The 1,672th Soyuz U vehicle failed shortly after liftoff from GIK-1 spaceport in Plesetsk, Northern Russia. An anomaly was reported on one of the four booster stages of the vehicle some 16 seconds into flight. The vehicle experienced a major failure at 29 seconds and apparently exploded. The launcher wreckage then fell from an altitude of 300-50 m damaging the launch facility. One Russian military on a nearby facility was killed by a debris and 20 people were injured. This failure ends a record-breaking string of 75 consecutives successes for the Soyuz vehicles, including 11 manned flights. An investigation on the failure was decided. The payload was the first Foton M advanced microgravity research satellite, carrying experiments for Rosaviakosmos and the European Space Agency. The mission was reportedly insured.
Editor's note: If successful, Foton M1 would have become Foton 13 once in orbit. This failure is likely to cause indefinite postponement of several upcoming missions using Soyuz vehicle variants. A Molniya M milititary launch due on October 22 and the launch of the first Soyuz TMA manned ferry spaceship to the International Space Station (with Belgian ESA astronaut Frank De Winne), scheduled on a Soyuz FG on October 28, will presumably slip unless the investigation is completed. This latter postponement may affect the schedule of all missions related with the ISS as the current Soyuz TM34, used as an emergency crew return vehicle, will exceed its in-orbit guaranteed lifetime by November 11, possibly forcing the current crew to evacuate the station if a replacement vehicle is not available.

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  Small Launchers

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  Missile Systems

Interception Test Completed
October 15


Minuteman 2
(U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed the completion of its 7th missile defense interception test. A dummy warhead was launched atop a refurbished Minuteman 2 ballistic missile from Vandenberg AFB, California, toward the Kwajalein Missile Range, Marshall Islands. The warhead was reportedly intercepted at an altitude of 225 km above the Pacific Ocean by a Raytheon Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle launched from Kwajalein, atop a Lockheed Martin PLV. The whole mission was trached by a SPY-1 radar aboard U.S. Navy's Aegis destroyer USS John Paul Jones.
Editor's note: The test was postponed from mid-August due to faulty nozzle seals on the PLV stages.


PLV
(USASMDC)

7th Missile Defense Interception Test Set
October 9

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency will conduct its seventh interception test on October 14. An Orbital Sciences Target Launch Vehicle (TLV), actually a refurbished Minuteman 2 intercontinental ballistic missile, will be launched from Vandenberg AFB, California, carrying a dummy warhead toward the Kwajalein Missile Range, Marshall Islands, 7,700 km downrange. There, a Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Payload Launch Vehicle, made of a Minuteman 2's two upper stages, will boost the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle to intercept the incoming warhead. This will be the first interception test since the U.S. withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in June and it will include previously forbidden radar tracking of the target and its interceptor by a an Aegis destroyer, U.S. Navy's USS John Paul Jones. The mission was initially planned on August 24 and was postponed due to unspecified technical problems.
Editor's note: Under MDA's new secrecy policy, no detail will be provided on the mission's objectives and results.

Pakistan Tests Shaheen SRBM
October 4

Pakistan has test flown a 750-km range Shaheen 1 (Hatf 4) ballistic missile.
Editor's note: The flight was closely followed by a test launch of India's 25-km range Akesh air defense missile. According to political analysts, the Shaheen flight could be linked to the ongoing poll in Indian Kashmir and to the upcoming legislative elections in Pakistan, on October 10.

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  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

First HSFD Flight
October 18
Japan's National Space Development Agency and National Aerospace Laboratory have successfully completed the first flight of their Phase 1 High Speed Flight Demonstration vehicle (HSFD-1). The 735-kg jet-powered automated demonstrator took off from Aeon Field in Kiritimati Island, Kiribati, and reach an altitude of about 5 km, with a speed of Mach 0.6. The vehicle then performed an automated approach and landing on the 1,800-m runway. More test flights are due through November to exeperiment automated approach and landing of a fully automated vehicle with a Flight Control Computer an integrated Inertial Measurement Unit, a differential GPS receiver and telemeters.
HSFD-1
(NASDA/NAL)

Editor's note: The 3.8-m-long HSFD-1 test vehicle is a 25% cale model of NASDA's proposed H-2 Orbiting Plane-Experimental (HOPE-X) unmanned winged reentry vehicle. Another vehicle, the HSFD-2, with a similar shap but no propulsion nor landing gear, will test high speed flight in the atmosphere after being released from an high altitude balloon at 30 km to reach transonic speed. The HSFD-2 campaign will be conducted in partnership with France's CNES and Swedish Space Corp. between May and August 2002 in Kiruna, Sweden.
Watch the videos of the HSFD's take off and landing (Mpeg, 1 Mb and 1.9 Mb).

Shenzhou 3 Mission Completed
October 11

China announced that the orbital module of its Shenzhou 3 protootype manned vehicle has completed its mission. No information was given on the status of the module which remains in orbit.
Editor's note: The Chinese communiqué suggests an in-orbit shutdown of the module. In this case, the suspected docking attempt that might have been planned for the Shenzhou 4 mission would be impossible. Shenzhou 4 is tentatively planned for launch in early 2003, atop a Chang Zheng 2F (CZ-2F 'Long March') vehicle.

Shuttle Flight Delayed by Hurricane
October 3

Flight resumption of NASA's space shuttle was postponed to October 7 as Hurricane Lili is heading toward Louisiana and Southern Texas. As a safety precaution, power was cut off at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where the flight will be monitored. Space Shuttle Atlantis is due to deliver a US$390-million, 12.5-t truss element to the International Space Station to begin the assembly of a 108.5-m-long keel carrying the outpost's solar arrays and radiators.

NASA Asks for Guarantees on Russian Contribution to ISS
October 1st

NASA has asked Rosaviakosmos for guarantees that it will meet its commitments to provide Progress freighters and Soyuz ferries to service the International Space Station in 2003. NASA's request follows announcements by RKK Energiya, prime contractor for Progress and Soyuz, that it may not be able to deliver the spacecraft due to a lack of payment.
Editor's note: ISS program partners are due to meet on October 15.

GAO Asks for Delays in SLI Decisions

October 1st

NASA is not ready to freeze requirements for a 2nd-generation Reusable Launch Vehicle under its Space Launch Initiative, according to a report released by the U.S. General Accounting Office. System requirements are tentatively planned to be released in November but the GAO reports reveals that "NASA has not even decided if such a vehicle would make any sense." According to GAO, if NASA cannot make sure that it will get the necessary technologies to develop the RLV in the coming years, it should keep on developing technologies while upgrading the current space shuttle fleet. Moreover, NASA's requirements should be coordinated with that of the U.S. Department of Defense to make sure that a future RLV might address both U.S. civilian and military needs.
Editor's note: SLI began in June 2001 with hundreds of architectures considered. By March 2002, the number of designs was reduced to 15. Three are planned to be selected in November after the Systems Requirements Review. At least two designs would be selected in September 2003.

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  Space Propulsion

Atlas 5 Booster Firing Success
October 30

Gencorp Aerojet has successfully completed the third static firing test of a 40-ton solid rocket motor it developed as a strap-on booster for the uprated versions of Lockheed Martin's new Atlas 5 launch vehicle. The 20.5-m long motor, presented as the largest monolitic solid propellant motor ever, delivered thrust from 1,270 to 1,740 kN for 92 seconds. This test comes seven months after the failure of the second firing test, the first for qualification, on March 15, due to a burnthrough in the motor's lower joint at 30 seconds. The initial test, in August 2001, was successful. One more qualification firing test is planned in early December before the motor is cleared for operational service in January.
Editor's note: Aerojet was awarded a US$500-million contract in February 1999 to develop and manufacture these boosters. The first flight of a thrust-augmented Atlas 5 vehicle, an Atlas 5/521 featuring two strap-on boosters, is tentatively due in March 2003, to loft Lockheed Martin's Rainbow 1 direct broadcasting satellite on behalf of Cablevision. The boosters are the key to the Atlas 5's performance which is currently limited to 4,950 kg into geostationary transfer orbit, roughly equivalent to that of an Arianespace Ariane 44L. Fitted with one to five booster depending on the version, this performance will be increased up to 8,670 kg, i.e. almost twice the performance of the earlier Atlas 3B.

RS-68 Test Fired on Pad
October 14

The Flight Readiness Firing of Boeing Rocketdyne's RS-68 cryogenic engine was successfully completed at Cape Canaveral's SLC-37B launch complex. The 2,900-kN thrust power plant was ignited for about 5 seconds at the end of the last launch rehearsal of Boeing's new Delta 4 vehicle. The test was delayed for about 90 minutes due to an anomalous pressure reading some 38 seconds before ignition. This success clears the vehicle for its first actual launch campaign, aiming at a liftoff no earlier than November 14.
Watch the video of the firing test.

RS-68 Flight Readiness Firing
October 13

Boeing will conduct a Flight Readiness Firing of its Delta 4's new main engine, the Boeing Rocketdyne RS-68, on October 14 at about 20:00 UTC, in Cape Canaveral's SLC-37B launch complex. The 2,900-kN thrust cryogenic engine is due to perform for about 5 seconds while the launch vehicle itself remains bolted to the launch pad. The test firing is due to clear the vehicle for its actual maiden launch campaign with a liftoff tentatively planned on November 16.

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  Spaceports

Baykonur Extended Lease Discussed
October 2

Russia and Kazakhstan are reportedly studying the extension of the 20-year lease of the Baykonur space launch center to 50-years. As the agreement came into force in 1994, the extension would guarantee Russian present on the launch site through 2044.
Editor's note: Russia pays US$115 million per year to Kazakstan for Baykonur. Kazakhstan had initially proposed to extend the current agreement from 2014 to 2024. Since the early 1990s, Russia has repeatedly announced that it will move all its national launches to Plesetsk (and Svobodniy) circa 2010.

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  Industry

Astrium Plans Additional Layoffs
October 7

Astrium has increased the number of layoffs it plans for 2003 from 1,200 to 1,500, i.e. 20% of its current workforce, according to French trade unions. One third of these layoffs would be in Astrium's French facilities in Toulouse and Vélizy.

Finmeccanica Looks for Satellite Partners
October 2

Italy's diversified group Finmeccanica, owner of satellite manufacturer Alenia Spazio and satellite operator Telespazio, has resumed talks with European rivals Alcatel Space and Astrium regarding possible partnership in the satellite manufacturing business.

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  Launch Market

U.S. DBS Merger Proposal Rejected
October 31

The U.S. Department of Justice has rejected a revised proposal by Echostar Corp. for a US$26-billion merger with Hughes Communications and its DirecTV Inc. subsidiary that included substantial support to the development of a rival company, Cablevision, with the transfer of three satellites and dozens of frequencies in order to cope with antitrust regulations. The DoJ does not consider that Cablevision could become a viable contender to the combined Echostar/DirecTV and plan to challenge the deal in federal court. The proposal was already rejected by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on October 10. The merger agreement between Echostar and Hughes expires on January 21, 2003.
Editor's note: Echostar owns eight direct broadcasting satellites and claims 7.5 million subscribers while DirecTV operates five satellites and has 10.9 million subscribers.

Chinese Science Projects Unveiled - WSC-2002
October 18

China unveiled several projects of science satellites at the World Space Congress in Houston, Texas, during sessions of both the Committee on Space Research (Cospar) and the International Astronautical Congress (IAC):
• SVOM, the Space Variable Objects Monitor, is a US$10-million astronomy satellite to be launched in late 2005. This 104-kg satellite will carry two optical and one X telescopes to search for extrasolar planets.

• Solar Telescope, a previously reported observatory with a 1-m-diameter optical telescope. Launch is due in 2007.

Astrium Studies Robot Satellite to Clean GEO - WSC-2002
October 15

Astrium GmbH's Raumfahrt Infrastruktur division is studying a concept of autonomous kick stage that could connect to aging geostationary satellites in order to ensure their disposal into a "graveyard orbit", at 245 to 435 km above the geostationary ring. The 670-kg Robotic Geostationary orbit Restorer (Roger) would carry some 2,700 kg of propellant for its liquid propellant thrusters to move up to 20 satellites out of the useful geostationary orbit during its 5-year mission.

Numerous Microsatellite Projects Unveiled - WSC-2002
October 15

Numerous projects of small and microsatellites were unveiled at the World Space Congress in Houston, Texas, during sessions of both the Committee on Space Research (Cospar) and the International Astronautical Congress (IAC):
• FalconSat 3, a follow-on to U.S. Air Force Academy's Falconsat 2 microsatellite for the study of the ionosphere, currently due for launch into low Earth orbit on Space Shuttle Columbia in January 2003.
FalconSat 3 will also incorporate micropulse plasma thrusters (µPPTs) for attitude control. Launch date and mass unknown.
• Index, a 60-kg microsatellite for auroral studies developed by the Japanese Institute of Space & Astronautical Science. It will be launched piggyback to a 680-km, Sun-synchronous orbit on a H-2A mission in the third quarter of 2004 (presumably with the Alos 1 remote sensing satellite).
• M-2, a plasma science nanosatellite developped by the Institutet för RymdFysik, Umeå University in Kiruna, Sweden, as a follow-on to Munin, launched in November 2000 piggyback on a Boeing Delta 2/7320. Launch date and mass unknown.
• Steam, a follow-on to the Odin microsatellite for upper atmosphere studies currently under pre-phase A preliminary study by the Swedish Space Corporation. It would reuse elements of the bus developed by SSC for ESA's Smart 1 technology demonstration lunar probe. Launch is tentatively expected by 2006/2007.
• Telemachus, a successor to the ESA/NASA Ulysses mission to study the solar poles and the heliosphere currently under study by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for the NASA Sun-Earth Connection Roadmap. Telemachus would be injected into a 0.2 x 2.6 AU solar polar orbit after gravity assist maneuvers on one flyby of the Venus, to of the Earth and one of Jupiter. Launch is tentatively planned in 2012.
Editor's note: Watch out for more information on Indonesia's Ganesya-CXM, Amsat-DL's Amsat P-5A Mars probe, the Mars Mikrolander and other projects in the coming days.

Brazil Studies Interball Microsatellite - WSC-2002
October 12

Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) are discussing a cooperation with Russia's Space Research Institute (IKI) and NPO Lavochkin to launch a 100-kg microsatellite as part of the Interball auroral research mission with Ukraine. The spacecraft would be launched piggyback on a Soyuz vehicle but will require a kick stage to reach its final highly elliptical orbit where it will operate in conjunction with the two Prognoz M spacecraft of the Interball mission. Total cost of the mission is estimated at US$10 million.

South Africa Plans Small Satellites - WSC-2002
October 12

South Africa's Stellenbosch University is discussing with educational entities in several African countries to develop an African Resources Management constellation (ARM) based on its own Sunsat experience. The constellation would include an unspecified number of 100-kg satellites carrying remote sensing payloads. Launches could begin as soon as 2004 with Stellenbosch's Sunsat 2004, an improved version of Sunsat. A more ambitious Sunsat 2, with a launch mass of 200 kg and a remote sensing payload three times more efficient than that of Sunsat, could join the ARM system by 2006/2007.
Editor's note: Sunsat was launched in February 1999, piggyback on a Boeing Delta 2/7925 vehicle.

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  Agencies and Governments

DARPA's Space Budget Increasing
October 7

The space budget of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency could increase by 15-20% a year to reach about US$500 million within two years according to officials. DARPA's total budget could reach US$2.7 billion in 2003.
Editor's note: DARPA is active in space transportation research with studies such as the Responsive Access, Small Cargo & Affordable Launch (Rascal) system for low-cost access to orbit.

EC Asks Germany/Italy to Stop Galileo Leadership Rivalry
October 1st

The European Commission has sent letters to the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, asking them to end their discussions on who will lead the development of Europe's Galileo global navigation satellite system. Germany and Italy have been fighting on the topic for six months, preventing the €3.6-billion program from actually starting. Any further delay would endanger the planned full constellation availability in 2008.

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