News of February 2001

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 | Miscellaneous

 Commercial Launchers

February 26 – Boeing Plans Zenit/Delta Back-up Policy
Boeing Expendable Launch Services and Sea Launch, the Boeing-led joint-venture with Russia’s RKK Energiya, Ukraine’s NPO Yuzhnoye and Norway’s Kvaerner AS, have signed a memorandum of agreement to prepare for a future commercial policy based on mutual back-up between Boeing’s Delta 4 family of launchers and Sea Launch’s Zenit 3SL. The two partners are still discussing some major issues such as sharing the cost of implementing such a policy, for instance by developing techniques and adapters to rapidly switch a payload from one launcher to another.
February 15 – RoCSat 2 Launch Contract in Limbo
Taiwan’s National Space Program Office may have to rescind its contract with India’s Antrix Corp. Ltd. for the launch of its RoCSat 2 satellite atop an Indian PSLV launcher under pressure from the United States. The contract, whose value was not disclosed, was reportdely signed in 2000. The Astrium-built satellite, due for launch into Sun-synchronous orbit in mid-2003, will incorporate a high resolution remote sensing payload. China is strongly opposing the program too.
Editor’s note: The reported commercial price of a dedicated PSLV launch was US$24 million in 1999.

Ariane 5G
February 15 – Ariane 5 to Launch Artemis
The European Space Agency eventually signs with Arianespace for the launch of its 3,100-kg Advanced Research & Technology Mission (Artemis) spacecraft atop an Ariane 5G vehicle between June and August 2001. The contract, approved by ESA’s council in December 2000, has a reported value of ¤80 million. In addition to its experimental communication payloads, Artemis will incorporate ion thrusters designed by Astrium GmbH (former DASA) and Astrium Ltd (former Matra Marconi Space UK).
Editor’s note: Artemis was initially planned for launch in 1995, on the maiden flight of Ariane 5. Due to numerous development delays, it slipped to the second qualification flight and then, in September 1996, to the maiden flight of Japan’s H-2A, in exchange for utilisation time of its payload by Japan’s National Space Development Agency. Due to delays in the development of the new launcher and a decision to fly an instrumented payload on its maiden flight, Artemis was removed from the H-2A in September 2000. ESA issued a RfP in October to select a launch service for Artemis. In May 2000, ESA had refused a proposal by Alenia Aerospazio, prime contractor of the satellite, to fly it almost for free atop the third Boeing Delta 3 vehicle which eventually in August 2000 flew with a dummy satellite.

Zenit 3SL
(Sea Launch)
February 9 – Sea Launch Shuffles XM Launches
Sea Launch and its customer Boeing Satellite Systems have reshuffled their launch manifest for XM Satellite Radio‘s two digital audio radio satellites. XM-1 "Roll", which suffered a launch abort on January 8, will now go in second place, in early-to-mid-May, while XM-2 "Rock", is now scheduled for launch on March 18. XM-1’s Zenit 3SL booster is now being refurbished with a new first stage engine at Sea Launch’s Homeport facilities in Long Beach, California. Sea Launch claims that the new schedule will only delay XM Radio’s commercial debut by 15 days.
Editor’s note: XM-1 second launch attempt had previously been announced for February 28.

February 8 – Intelsat Satellite on Chinese Booster
Intelsat announces its plan to launch a new satellite, dubbed Intelsat APR-3, on a China Great Wall Industry Corp. Chang Zheng vehicle in the second quarter of 2002. The satellite will be provided by Astrium. Intelsat plans to operate this new satellite from 85 degrees East in partnership with Sino Satellite Communications Co. Ltd. (Sinosat).
Editor’s note: This will be the first Intelsat satellite to fly on a Chinese booster since the dramatic loss of Intelsat 708 on the CZ-3B‘s maiden flight in February 1996. After this failure, Intelsat had cancelled two more launch contracts with CGWIC. Intelsat APR-3 has actually been ordered twice by Intelsat. It was first ordered to Matra Marconi Space in January 1997 as Intelsat KTV and handed over to Intelsat’s spinoff New Skies Satellites in May 1998. Renamed NSS-6, the spacecraft was sent to Kourou for a launch on an Ariane 4 vehicle in March 1999 but had to be repatriated to Toulouse, France, for refurbishment after a generic problem was reported on a batch of solar arrays. New Skies took the opportunity to cancel the contract as the satellite was no longer adapted to its Asia-Pacific market prospects. The satellite has been in storage in Toulouse since then, awaiting for a potential customer.
February 6 – Delta 3 Phased-Out in 2005
Boeing Expendable Launch Systems plans to phase out its Delta 3 vehicle in 2005. No Delta 3 launch is planned in 2001 but four to five are reportedly booked for 2002. The Delta 3 is to be replaced by the Delta 4 when this new vehicle becomes available in 2002.
February 5 – ILS to Launch Two Echostar Satellites
Echostar Orbital Corp. has signed an agreement with International Launch Services for the launch of two Echostar satellites in late 2001 and early 2002. The Lockheed Martin-built Echostar 7 is due for launch in the 4th quarter of 2001 atop a Lockheed Martin Atlas 3B vehicle (presumably this version’s maiden flight) while Echostar 8, built by Space Systems/Loral, is scheduled for launch atop a GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton K/DM3 in the first quarter of 2002. The agreement also includes options for additional launches through 2006.

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 Government Launchers

February 28 – Lockheed Martin and Boeing Get Extra EELV Contract
U.S. Air Force‘s Space & Missile Systems Center has awarded two US$75-million extensions to its existing Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) requirement contracts with Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services (CLS) and Boeing’s Delta Launch Services Inc., for the launch of U.S. Navy‘s 11th UHF Follow-On (UFO-11) communication satellite. A formal order will be issued later. According to the current scenario, primary launch service will be provided by Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 while Boeing’s Delta 4 will be kept as a back-up solution. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is also considering a commercial option with Boeing Satellite Systems (prime for the satellite) would arrange the launch onboard an International Launch Services Atlas 3 vehicle.
Editor’s note: The 3,020-kg UFO-11 is tentatively set for launch in 2003. If the U.S. Air Force launch option is used, the versions of the vehicles to be used are likely to be an Atlas 5/401 or a Delta 4M.

February 26 – H-2A Launch Debut Set for July 22
Japan’s National Space Development Agency has announced its new target date for the maiden flight of its H-2A launch vehicle. The upgraded version of the ill-fated H-2 launcher is due to liftoff from Tanegashima on July 22, carrying a Vehicle Evaluation Payload (VEP-2). A second test flight is tentatively planned for December, with the first Mission Demonstration Satellite (MDS-1) and VEP-3. The first operational flight is scheduled in February 2002 with the second Advanced Earth Observation Satellite (ADEOS-2) and three piggyback small satellites: Australia’s FedSat 1 and Japan’s Micro-LabSat 1 and Whale Ecology Observation Satellite (WEOS). According to NASDA, all major development tests ahve been completed and only three major routine tests are planned before the maiden flight.
Editor’s note: The summer launch window in Tanegashima, negotiated with local fisheries, opens on July 22 and extends to late September.

February 23 – Titan 4 Delayed Again
The launch of a Lockheed Martin Titan 4B/Centaur vehicle carrying a Milstar 2 strategic and tactical relay satellite has been delayed from February 24 to February 27 at the earliest due to an anomaly with the launcher’s first stage telemetry relay system.
February 22 – ATK Delivers Atlas 5 Composite Structure
Alliant Techsystems (ATK) Aerospace Composite Structures has delivered its first flight composite structure for Lockheed Martin‘s new Atlas 5 series of launch vehicles. This 3-m diameter heat shield will be mounted at the aft end of the Atlas 5 Common Booster Stage and surround its NPO Energomash RD-180 engine.
February 21 – China Plans New Launcher’s Debut in 2007
Chinese space officials have revealed that China’s new family of launch vehicles, based on a series of cryogenic and hydrocarbon-fuelled modular stages, will enter service in 2007. These launchers will be powered by two new engines: a 1,200-kN LOx/kerosene engine and a 490-kN cryogenic engine. The largest vehicle in the family will be able to loft 25 tons to low-Earth orbit in a 1.5-stage configuration and 14 tons into geostationary transfer orbit in a 2.5-stage configuration.
February 21 – BAe Systems to Supply Atlas 5 Equipment
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Astronautics Operations, has selected BAe Systems Controls to develop and provide Upper-Stage Remote Control Units (URCUs) for the Atlas 5 series of launchers. The URCU regulates power distribution for the avionics and performs engine control functions on the Atlas 5’s Centaur upper stage. The US$20-million contract covers the procurement of four development units and 14 flight models from 2003 through 2006. BAe Systems Controls had already been selected in 1999 to provide the Atlas 5’s Booster Remote Control Units, deliveries of which began in May 2000, and is also in charge of the vehicle’s Ordnance Remote Control Assembly, the first flight models of which will be delivered this year, as well as the Redundant-Rate Gyro Unit.
February 6 – Next Generation Chinese Launchers Described
The design of China’s next generation of launch vehicles was described in the latest issue of the Aerospace China magazine. The new family of launchers will rely on a modular design based on three models of core stages (2.25 m, 3.35 m and 5 m in diameter) fitted with either LOx/kerosene or LOx/LH2 engines. An heavy-lift, 1.5-stage configuration, able to loft 25 tons to low-Earth orbit, would feature a 5-m (cryogenic?) core stage with two 3.35-m (hydrocarbon?) strap-on boosters. With an upper stage, this version could also boost up to 13 tons to geostationary transfer orbit. A medium-lift version would be based on a 3.35-m core stage with 2.25-m boosters and a small launch vehicle would use the 2.25-m diameter module as its core stage to loft 1.2 tons to low-Earth orbit.

Delta 2/7320
February 5 – NASA Exercizes a Med-Lite Contract Option
NASA has exercized an option on its Medium-Light Launch Service contract with Boeing Expendable Launch Services to book a Delta 2/7320 flight to loft the NOAA-N meteorology satellite on behalf of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. The launch is cuurrently planned in January 2003 from Vandenberg AFB. The value of the order was not disclosed but NASA’s launch budget for the mission is reportedly worth about US$56 million.
Editor’s note: The "Med-Lite" contract was awarded on February 27, 1996 to McDonnell-Douglas and Orbital Sciences Corp. for a combination of Delta 2 and Taurus launches while NASA’s goal at that time was reportedly to have launch opportunities at half the Delta 2’s capacity for half its price. Actually, all launches eventually went to the Delta 2 series at a price of about US$34 million each for the initial five. Six options had already been exercized before this one. Two options remain available through February 2003. Seven "Med-Lite" flights have already been performed since 1998 (Deep Space 1, Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, Stardust, FUSE, IMAGE and EO-1/SAC-C) and five more are still due (2001 Mars Odyssey, Genesis, MAP, Icesat/Catsat and NOAA-N).

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 Small Launchers

February 28 – OSC to Provide QRLV-2 Sounding Rocket
Orbital Sciences Corp. was awarded its first order under U.S. Air Force‘s 2nd Sounding Rocket Program (SRP-2) procurement, an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract awarded in November 2000 for the provision of suborbital launch services to conduct ballistic flight tests with ranges less than 5,500 km. Under the US$5-million 2nd Quick Reaction Launch Vehicle (QRLV-2) mission, OSC will develop, build and launch a single-stage guided suborbital rocket based on a refurbished Minuteman 2 second stage (SR-19). The QRLV-2 launch is due in March 2002 from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska.
Editor’s note: The QRLV program, which may include up to 8 launches, was set up to validate U.S. Air Force’s ability to launch suborbital missions within a short preparation time, typically less than one year. Four types of vehicles are considered: QRLV-1 (based on a single M-56, the Minuteman 1‘s second stage), the QRLV-2 (a single SR-19 stage), the QRLV-3 (a SR-19 with the Minuteman 2’s M-57A1 third stage as second stage) and the QRLV-4 (a Thiokol Castor 4B with a M-57 upper stage). The QRLV-3 and 4 have already flown under U.S. Air Force’s Atmospheric Intercept Test (ait) program. The SRP-2 is a follow-on to the SRP-1 procurement under which OSC competed for and won task orders to provide nine Navy Theater Wide (NTW) target vehicles, as well as the QRLV-1 and ait-1 vehicles. The ait-1 (based on QRLV-3 design) was launched on November 5, 1998, from Kodiak, and the QRLV-1 is currently due for launch in March 2001, also from Kodiak.
February 25 – Kaituozhe 1’s Third Stage Test-Fired
The solid rocket motor for the third stage of China’s new Kaituozhe 1 all-solid launch vehicle was successfully test-fired. It is assumed that the vehicle’s first and second stages are based on China’s new DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missile.
February 25 – Israel Speeds Up Next Shavit Launch
Israel is speeding up the preparatio fo the launch of its Ofeq 5 military observation satellite atop an Israel Aircraft Industries Shavit 1 launcher as tension is increasing in the Middle East after the New Intifada troubles and the change of government. The launch, due late last year, had been postponed for budgetary reasons.
Editor’s note: This launch will be officially the first of the Shavit 1 version, similar to LeoLink’s LK-A, although it is widely suspected that Ofeq 3 in April 1995 and the failed Ofeq 4 in January 1997 both flew that improved version of the Shavit.

February 21 – FiatAvio and ASI Create New Launcher Venture
FiatAvio and ASI, the Italian Space Agency, have incorporated a new company, dubbed ELV SpA, to develop complementary launchers to Ariane 5. ELV, which is held 70% by FiatAvio and 30% by ASI, will take over the ¤230-million fove-year development contract for ESA‘s Vega small launch vehicle. According to FiatAvio and ASI, the Vega should be considered as the first step in the development of a series of modular elements which could later be used to develop larger complementary vehicles. Maiden qualification flight of the Vega launcher is scheduled in mid-2005. The Vega is expected to fly about 4 to 6 times per year but could break even with only two flights per year.
Editor’s note: In April 1999, a similar venture, Vegaspazio, was formed by FiatAvio and Aerospatiale Lanceurs Stratégiques & Spatiaux (now EADS Launch Vehicles). However, it became inactive after France’s withdrawal from the Vega project in September 1999. France is now involved in the development of the P80 avanced solid rocket motor demonstrator which will be used as Vega’s first stage while ASI is funding 65% of the revamped Vega development program.

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 Missile Systems

February 28 – Bush to Boost NMD
In its budget proposal fr the coming years, the new U.S. administration plans to spend US$20 billion in five years to develop and test missile defense alternatives such as the proposed U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system. A US$2.6 billion budget is planned to support this initiative in 2002. Budget details are will be released not earlier than late April or early May.
February 28 – U.S. Navy to Procure Trident SLBMs
U.S. Navy‘s Strategic Systems Programs has issued a solicitation to negotiate with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Missiles & Space Operations, for the priocurement of an additional batch of Trident 2 (D5) sea-launched ballistic missiles and their reentry bodies.
February 26 – Putin Will Discuss Missiles and Launches in Korea
During his visit to South Korea, on February 26 to 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to improve Russian involvement in the region in trying to convince North Korea not to resume its missile developments. According to Stratfor, a U.S. intelligence think tank, Putin may propose a trilateral cooperation between Russia and both Koreas to launch North Korean satellites.
Editor’s note: The North Korean proposal to suspend indigenous missile developments if foreign countries were ready to pay for the cost of launching North Korean satellites was issued in July 2000, during a visit of Putin. However, this proposal was later described as a joke by North Korean officials.

Taepo Dong 1
February 22 – North Korea May Resume Missile Tests
North Korea has announced that it may resume its missile test launches if the new U.S. administration hardens its policy toward the country. In September 1999 North Korea had decided a moratorium on missiles tests with the former U.S. administration in exchange for the reduction of economic sanctions. Also at stake is the moratorium on nuclear weapon development decided in 1994.
Editor’s note: North Korea test flew a Taepo Dong 1 intermediate range ballistic missile in September 1998, officially attempting to launch a national satellite. Preparation for a second launch was reported in 1999.

February 21 – Minuteman Stage Test-Fired
The first refurbished Minuteman 3 second stage motor, a SR-19 produced by Thiokol Propulsion and Pratt&Whitney Chemical Systems Division (CSD), was test-fired under simulated high-altitude conditions at U.S. Air Force‘s Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC). This was the first SR-19 motor produced under the Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) phase of the TRW-led Minuteman 3 Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP).
Editor’s note: Thiokol has already tested its second refurbished first stage motor in December 2000 and a third stage motor is due for testing in March. Under the LRIP, 14 first stage motor as well as 11 second stage motor and 11 third stage motors will be produced. The PRP is intended to extend the lifetime of Minuteman 3 missiles beyond 2020.
February 21 – GBI Test Launch Within Two Months
The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization plans to conduct the long-delayed test flight of the U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system’s Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) in March or April. The GBI was initially due to fly in April 2000. Built by Boeing, the three-stage GBI incoporates an Alliant TechSystems GEM-40 as its first stage with two Pratt&Whitney Orbus 1A as upper stages. It is designed to boost the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle toward the incoming warheads. All EKV test flights to date have been conducted on Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Payload Launch Vehicles (PLVs), designed from the upper stages of decommissioned Minuteman missiles. On its first Booster Verification Test (BVT-1) flight, only the first stage of the GBI will be active. A second test flight (BVT-2), with all three stages active, is planned during the third quarter.
Editor’s note: BMDO is reportedly pressing Boeing to conduct the GBI launch which has been delayed by about 14 months due to development problems. Other contractors, like Lockheed Martin or Orbital Sciences expect they could replace Boeing in case of major development msihap by Boeing.

February 16 – Ukraine Scraps RS-22 Missiles
Ukraine has begun destroying its 46 solid-fuelled RS-22 (SS-24 "Scalpel") intercontinental ballistic missiles to comply with the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start 1). The missiles are scrapped in Pavlograd, near Dnepropetrovsk. Under an agreeemnet signed on February 12 between Russia and Ukraine, Russian RS-22 missiles will also be destroyed in Ukrainian facilities.
Editor’s note: The RS-22 missile was proposed as an air-launched or a ground-based space launch vehicle first by NPO Yuzhnoye as the "Space Clipper" in 1991 and then in cooperation with France’s Dassault Aviation as the "Talisman" in 1993. Both projects never materialized.

February 16 – Russia Conducts Extensive Missile Drill
The Russian strategic nuclear forces are capable of "overcoming any anti-missile defense, be it a currently existing one or a potential one," according to Col. Gen. Valery Manilov, first deputy head of the Russian military forces general staff. Col. Gen. Manilov was commenting the successful results of a military exercize which included the launches of a sea-launched ballistic missile (presumably a RSM-54 ‘Shtil’) and of a silo-based Topol intercontinental ballistic missile, as well as those of a strategic cruise missile by a Tu-95MS bomber and of two tactical missiles by a Tu-22 bomber. The Shtil was launched from a Northern Fleet submarine cruising in the Sea of Barents and was followed 6 minutes later by the Topol missile fired from a silo in Plesetsk, Arkhangelsk oblast. Both missiles reported hit their target in the Kura Testing Ground, Kamchatka peninsula, 6,800 km downrange, with "minimum deviation."
Editor’s note: It is not clear whether the Topol missile was a RS-12M Topol version or the new RS-12M2 Topol M.
February 14 – Rumsfeld Accuses Russia of Missile Proliferation
Russia is "an active proliferator" according to the new U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld. On a TV show, Rumsfeld, trying to justify the controversial U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system, claimed that Russia is "selling and assisting countries like Iran, North Korea and India and other countries with these technologies, which are threatening other people, including the United States, Western Europe and countries in the Middle East." The proposed NMD system is designed to defend the U.S. territory against the launch of "a handful" of missiles and not a massive attack as only Russia would be able to conduct, said Rumsfeld.
February 9 – Joint Russian-Ukrainian ICBM Production
Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma, are likely to discuss the joint production of new intercontinental ballistic missiles at a summit due on February 11/12 in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. According to the U.S. administration, such a cooperation would breach Ukraine’s engagement against missile technology proliferation.
Editor’s note: Dnepropetrovsk is the location of NPO Yuzhnoye and its giant production facility MZ Yuzhmash which already cooperates with Russian space industry on the Zenit, Tsyklon and Dnepr launch systems.
February 9 – India to Develop Agni 3
In an interview to The Asian Age, V. K. Atre, science adviser to the Indian minister of Defense, reports that India is developing a new nuclear-capable ballistic missile, to be known as the Agni 3. No figure is given but the new missile is described as having a longer range and an improved lift capability than the 2,200-km range Agni 2.
February 7 – Minuteman 3 Test Launch
The U.S. Air Force launched a Minuteman 3 intercontinental balistic missile from Vandenberg AFB under its Force Development Evaluation Program. The three warheads successfully reached their target at the Kwajalein Missile Range, Marshall Islands, some 6,800 km downrange.
February 6 – Next NMD Test Planned
The U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization plans to conduct a fourth interception test of an incoming ballistic missile warhead with a Boeing-built prototype Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) in May or June as part of the preliminary development of a U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) system.
Editor’s note: The EKV precedently scored a successful interception on October 2, 1999 and two failures, due to faulty sensor cooling system on January 19, 2000 and to a malfunction of its carrier rocket on July 8, 2000.

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 RLVs and Reentry Systems

February 28 – Bush Supports NASA’s Space Transportation Plans
The new U.S. administration plans to increase NASA‘s budget by 2% in 2002, reaching an amount of US$14.5 billion. Space transportation activities will be benefiting largely from this increase with a 64% boost for the new Space Launch Initiative (SLI) alone. The proposed budget aims at maintaining a launch rate of six space shuttle missions per year but axes "lower priority" aeronautics reseaerch programs.
February 28 – CRV Likely Cancelled
NASA may shortly decide to cancel the development of the Crew Rescue Vehicle (CRV) which was due to be derived from the X-38 demonstrator and allow a crew of seven astronauts to operate together onboard the International Space Station. This cancellation comes as part of a cost reduction plan proposed after a US$4-billion cost overrun was announced on the whole ISS program. Also to be cancelled are the U.S. Propulsion Module and the U.S. Habitation Module, which will not be assembled.
February 28 – More Rumors on X-33 Cancellation
According to NASA Watch, a major annoucement regarding the X-33 single-stage-to-orbit technology demonstrator program – possibly of its cancellation – is expected shortly. NASA Watch also reports that Lockheed Martin lobbyists are trying to get support from the U.S. Congress for continued support to the ill-fated program, possibly using funds from the US$4.5-billion Space Launch Initiative. A similar lobbying is also underway on behalf of United Space Alliance to get extra funding for Space Shuttle upgrades. Congress hearings of NASA representatives on SLI are due on March 1st.
Editor’s note: The SLI was initially set up as a 5-year effort to foster the development of future, reusable launch systems (other than the X-33 -derived VentureStar) in order to replace the current space shuttle system. NASA has recently claimed that it has no plan to divert funds from SLI to shuttle upgrades.
February 24 – X-33 Possibly Terminated in March
NASA plans to terminate its X-33 single-stage-to-orbit technology demonstrator program and will issue a formal annoucement by mid-March according to industry sources.
February 24 – Columbia’s Transcontinental Flight Delayed
NASA has decided to postpone space shuttle orbiter Columbia‘s return flight to Florida by 24 hours due to rain and high winds over Southern California. the trip is now due on February 25 and 26.

February 22 – Columbia’s Return to Florida
NASA‘s space shuttle orbiter Columbia will be ferried back to Kennedy Space Center atop a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft on February 24 and 25, with a stop in Houston. During its 17-month stay in California, she underwent an extensive maintenance, inspection and refurbishment work, in Boeing Reusable Space Systems‘ Palmdale Air Force Plant 42 facilities. With more than 100 upgrades, the 20-year-old spaceship now features a state-of-the-art "glass cockpit" with flat displays, improved wiring protection and thermal protection systems. Columbia is due to return to flight in November.
Editor’s note: In December, Boeing announced its plans to lay off about 400 out of its 900 workers in Palmdale after the work on Columbia is completed. New workers could be rehired about six months before another NASA shuttle orbiter is sent to Palmdale for upgrade. The shuttle will be Discovery but no firm date has been set yet for her next so-called Orbiter Maintenance Down Period (OMDP). Two shuttle orbiters have been recently upgraded with new avionics, Atlantis in 1998 and Columbia in 2000. Discovery and Endeavour were also planned to receive their new avionics, including improved computer displays in the cockpit, before the end of 2002. However, as the assembly of the International Space Station has slipped by two years, these upgrades are likely to be postponed unless the shuttle launch rate decreases after the ISS becomes operational.

February 21 – X-43A Mated with Carrier Aircraft
The first X-43A hypersonic scramjet flight demonstrator, mated with its HXLV booster stage, was mounted beneath the wing of a NB-52 carrier aircraft at NASA‘s Dryden Flight Research Facility in preparation for a captive carry test flight in late March. The first X-43A free flight is due in June, with the goal to reach Mach 7. No recovery is planned. Two other X-43As will fly before mid-2002, eventually reaching Mach 10.
Editor’s note: The HXLV is a modified Pegasus XL first stage provided by Orbital Sciences.
February 14 – U.S. House Asks for Hearings on SLI Spendings
The U.S. House of Representatives‘ Space & Aeronautics Subcomittee is asking for congressional hearings to make sure that NASA will spend its US$4.5-billion Space Launch Initiative budget on the development of new technologies and not on mere upgrades o the existing space shuttle fleet. NASA has denied having such plans.
February 1st – China Denies Shenzhou Landing Mishap
China Aerospace Science & Technological Consortium (CASTC) denies any problem with the landing of the Shenzhou 2 capsule. Doubts on the actual success of the mission were raised by the lack of pictures from the landed capsule, suggesting that something might have gone wrong. According to CASTC, the capsule has been brought back to Beijing. Unofficial sources claim that the capsule was damaged on touchdown after a parachute line broke. All animals onboard reportedly survived the landing unharmed.

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 Space Propulsion

February 28 – OSC Selects Aerojet for Engine Development
Orbital Sciences Corp. has selected GenCorp Aerojet for a US$350,000 subcontract to develop a hydrogen peroxide engine for the Liquid Propellant Booster candidate it is currently studying under a US$700,000 contract awarded by the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command. The LPB will be used as a threat-representative target for ballistic missile defense systems, it will even have to mimick the infrared signature of "hostile" missiles. Aerojet has actually been working on the program since January and will continue until June. A prime contractor for a 3-year development contract will be selected in November.
Editors’ note: OSC is competing with four other bidders on the program.
February 27 – Miniature Plasma Thruster Tested
Japan’s Advanced Technology Institute Ltd., Astro Research Corp. and Hokkaido Institute of Technology have successfully test-fired a miniature plasma thruster in a simulated space environment at the Japan Microgravity Center (JAMIC) in Hokkaido. The thruster demonstrated the capability of electric propulsion systems for attitude cntrol of future satellites. The test was funded by Japan’s New Energy Development Organization (NEDO).
February 27 – DARPA Looks for Water Thrusters
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a solicitation to the industry for the development of satellite propulsion systems using water as propellant. The use of water would largely simplify the development of robotic on-orbit refurbishment and refuelling systems, as planned under DARPA’s Orbital Express program. DARPA plans to invest about US$10 million over 30 months for this development.
Editor’s note: A water resistojet was developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. and flown onboard U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory‘s Mightysat 2.1 satellite in 2000. Water-based propulsion concepts have also been studied by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1999 under a DARPA contract.
February 26 – Solar Sail Test Flights in April and October
The Planetary Society, a U.S. non-profit organization, will launch a solar sail demonstrator, Cosmos 1, in October. The 40-kg spacecraft, designed by NPO Lavochkin’s Babakin Science & Research Center and featuring eight mylar petals to form a 30-m diameter sail, will be delivered in low Earth orbit by a GRTsKB Makeyev Volna vehicle – a converted RSM-50 sea-launched ballistic missile (SSN-18 ‘Stingray’) – from a submarine in the Sea of Barents. A suborbital demonstration flight, to test the deployment system and unfurl two petals, is due for April 19-24. The US$4-million project is sponsored by Cosmos Studios.
Watch the impressive presentation video (Quicktime, 11.5 Mb).
February 21 – Aerojet Attitude Control System on Suborbital Flight
GenCorp Aerojet‘s Mark 6D attitude control system performed flawlessly on its first active flight, successfully orienting a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory astronomy payload during a 7-minute observation time as part of a suborbital mission. The payload was launched atop a Bristol Aerospace Black Brant 9 rocket from White Sands Missile Range on behalf of NASA‘s Sounding Rocket Program.
Editor’s note: Aerojet was selected in May 1999 by NASA’s Sounding Rocket Operations prime contractor, Litton PRC, to provide Mark 6 ACS under a US$9-million, 4-year contract. A similar mission had to be terminated on February 24, 2000, before the Mark 6D ACS could be activated.
February 21 – Aerojet/Pratt&Whitney to Study Improved Solid Propulsion
U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory‘s Propulsion Directorate has awarded a US$9-million contract to a team of GenCorp Aerojet and Pratt&Whitney‘s Chemical Systems Division (CSD) for the the second phase of the Integrated High Performance Rocket Propulsion Technology (IHPRPT) Demonstration Program, a joint government-industry effort to improve solid rocket propulsion technology. Under this new contract, the Aerojet/P&W team will develop two Technology Assessment Motors (TAMs) to demonstrate downselected insulated case, nozzle and propellant component technologies in late 2002. After these evaluation tests, the most promising technologies will be applied to an improved Pratt&Whitney Orbus 7 motor and test-fired in 2004.
February 15 – Pratt&Whitney to Design Scramjet
NASA‘s Glenn Research Center has awarded a US$173,749 contract to Pratt&Whitney to conduct a scramjet design study.
February 13 – Honeywell Contracted on Propulsion Monitoring System
NASA‘s Glenn Research Center has awarded a US$53,765 contract to Honeywell Technology to develop and demonstrate a propulsion diagnostic and monitoring system.

XRS-2200 Tandem
February 7 – Dual Aerospike Engine Firing Test
A tandem of Boeing Rocketdyne XRS-2200 linear aerospike engines performed irts initial static firing test at NASA‘s Stennis Space Center. The XRS-2200 has already been tested in a single engine configuration through 14 static firings. The new tandem configuration is similar to the propulsion bay of NASA’s X-33 single-stage-to-orbit technology demonstrator. This first test lasted 1.1 second. The test campaign will proceed with a series of short duration tests before reaching the standard X-33 powered flight duration. Eight more firing tests are due.

February 5 – Five to Study Liquid Propellant Booster
Orbital Sciences Corp. and four other companies were each awarded a six-month study contracts by the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command to initiate a study on a Liquid Propellant Booster to be used as a threat-representative target for ballistic missile defense systems. Total value of the contracts amounts to US$3 million. Orbital will base its US$700,000 study on its Upper Stage Flight Experiment already under development for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

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February 26 – APSC Considers Brasilian Investment
Asia Pacific Space Center is reportedly negotoiating with Brazilian authorities to invest in the development of the launch support facilities in the Alcântara Launch Center (CLA). According to APSC, an investment of about R$100 million (US$49 million) is necessary to refurbish the facilities.
Editor’s note: APSC was previously involved in the development of a launch center for Russian vehicles in Christmas Island, Indian Ocean.
February 26 – NASA Looks for ELVIS
NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center has issued a draft RfP for Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support (ELVIS). The acquisition covers ELV launch support from both Cape Canaveral Air Forces Station and Vandenberg AFB as well as potential other launch sites and to maitain a presence at launch service providers facilities. A 5-year contract is considered with a 3-year and a 2-year optional extensions.

Alcântara Launch Center
February 22 – New Venture to Market Alcântara Launch Site
AEB, the Brazilian space agency is preparing the incorporation of Empresa Brasileira de Lancamentos Especiais (Brazilian Space Launches Co.) to take over the marketing of launch support services from the Alcântara Launch Center (CLA) from Infraero, the national airport infrastructure company. The new state-owned company will report to the Brazilian Ministry of Science & Technology. Brazil plans to invest R$27 million (US$13 million) in 2001 for the construction of a port able to handle of heavy cargo, repair works of highways and upgrades of launch equipment.

Angara 1.1
February 21 – Lockheed Martin Experts Tour Angara Launch Facilities
A delegation of U.S. experts from Lockheed Martin Space Systems have toured Russia’s Northern Cosmodrome facilities in Plesetsk to familarize themselves with the operational resources for the future commercial launches of GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s new Angara family of launchers. Angara vehicles will be launched from the former Zenit launch complex in Plestesk, which was never completed. Commercial launches on Angara will be marketed outside Russia by International Launch Services.

February 13 – Brazil to Rent Alcântara
A delegation of businessmen from the United States, Russia, South Korea and Australia is due to visit Brazil’s Alcântara Launch Center this month to discuss possible rental of the launch base’s facilities. According to the Brazilian Ministry of Science & Technology, launch support for small satellite launches could be charged about US$800,000 while launches of large payloads would cost US$3-to-4 million.
February 5 – California Grant for RLV Operations
California will award a US$1-million grant to the California Space & Technology Alliance to study airspace requirements for next-generation reusable launch vehicles operations and launches from Californian sites.

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February 21 – L-3 Integrates Coleman in MPRI Division
L-3 Communications, which recently acquired Coleman Research Corp., has completed the integration of Coleman’s two businesses, namely Coleman Federal and Coleman Aerospace, into its MPRI division.
Editor’s note: Coleman Research is involved in space transportation and ballistic systems through its Coleman Aerospace unit which provides Hera target vehicles to the U.S. Department of Defense and is the U.S. partner of the LeoLink partnership (with Israel Aircraft Industries and Astrium) which plans to market the LK launchers, a U.S.-built derivative of Israel’s Shavit, in the United States.
February 15 – EADS Posts Space Sales
EADS Space Division, which incorporates EADS Launch Vehicles and 75% of Astrium, posted sales worth ¤2.5 billion in 2000, 0.7% increase compared to 1999. Orders reached ¤3 billion, resulting in a year-end backlog worth ¤4.8 billion, i.e. about two years of activity.

Zenit 2, Tsyklon 3 and Dnepr 1
February 12 – Russia/Ukraine Cooperation in Space
During their meeting in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma, have agreed to broaden their cooperation in space research and missile systems with priorities in the fields of remote sensing, science activities onboard the International Space Station and commercial use of Zenit, Tsyklon and Dnepr vehicles with an enlargement of the launch infrastructures in Baykonur, Kazakhstan. Cooperation between the two countries will be fostered through the development of mutually advantageous joint industrial, technological and scientific initiatives in aerospace industries as well as with an improved legal basis for bilateral efforts. The two presidents also have renewed their political support to the MKK Kosmotras venture which plans to conduct about 14 launches of its Dnepr series of vehicles through 2004.
Editor’s note: Kosmotras plans to launch its third Dnepr mission during the 4th quarter of 2001 and its fourth during the 2nd quarter of 2002. The payloads are not identified yet.

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 Launch Market

February 28 – No Funds for Pluto and Solar Probes
The new U.S. administration‘s latest proposed FY2002 budget for NASA no longer includes any funding for the Pluto-Kuiper Express and Solar Probe missions, all funds being redirected to support Mars exploration and high-energy astrophysics missions.
February 28 – Eutelsat Orders e-Bird 1 from Boeing
As expected, Eutelsat has signed a contract with Boeing Satellite Systems for the procurement of its first e-Bird broadband communication satellite. A vintage Boeing 376HP spinner with 20 Ku-band transponders, e-Bird 1 will be delivered in orbit in the second quarter of 2002.
February 26 – SkyBridge to Lease GEO Capacity
SkyBridge LLC plans to lease capacity onboard geostationary communication satellites in order to demonstrate the feasibility of its Ku-band high-data rate communication service. Such a demonstration is expected to attract investors to back the 80-satellite low-Earth orbit constellation system whose development is now on-hold as insufficient funding has been raised to date to support industrial manufacturing of the spacecraft.
Editor’s note: It is unclear yet if SkyBridge will stick to its LEO cosnetellation complex or move to a geostationary design. Alcatel Space, prime for the satellite system, has contracted with Boeing, for two Delta 3 and four Delta 4M+ (5,4) launches, and with Starsem, for eleven Soyuz ST launches, to loft the SkyBridge constellation.
February 21 – Vietnam May Order Satellite from Russia
Vietnam may order its first communication satellite from Russia’s NPO Prikladnoy Mekhaniki (NPO-PM) by late February. The Vinasat satellite is likely to be based on a Gals-R or Ekspress platform and to fly atop a GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton launch vehicle.
February 21 – Norway Plans Military Monitoring Satellite
Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt (FFI), Norway’s military research center, is studying a concept of high-latitude monitoring satellite. The spacecraft will collect imagery and to detect navigational radar systems. This US$100-million project could lead to a launch circa 2007.
February 20 – Spectrum Astro to Build GPS Outage Monitoring Satellite
The U.S. Air Force‘s Space & Missile Systems Center (SMC) has awarded a US$50.9-million contract to Spectrum Astro develop and integrate the Communication/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS), a satellite designed to detect and predict ionospheric disturbances as well as resulting disruption insatellite communications and navigation services. Launch is due circa August 2003.
February 20 – Canada to Study Radarsat 3 Feasibility
The Canadian Space Agency and McDonald, Dettwiler & Associates Ltd. (MDA) have begun the feasibility study for a third Canadian radar remote sensing satellite, Radarsat 3. This satellite would be launched a few years after Radarsat 2, currently slated for launch in 2003, and the two satellites would be operated jointly.
February 20 – Teledesic Lays Off 25% of its Staff
Teledesic is laying off 20 of its 75-people workforce in order to reduce costs. Teledesic will also reduce its office space and move its headquarters to a less expensive site. The company has raised US$1 billion to fund its fourth redesign since the origin of the project. Recently, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has ruled that, to keep its operating license, Teledesic must have its first satellite under manufacturing before January 2002, and completed before January 2004. All satellites are due to be in operations before January 2007.
Editor’s note: After its alliance with ICO, it is likely that Teledesic will change its constellation from the latest 288-satellite design in low-Earth orbit to a concept involving less, larger satellites orbiting at a higher altitude. This would likely mean that the current FCC operating license would no longer be applicable. Teledesic has reportedly contracted with International Launch Services for at least three Proton M and three Atlas 5 launches.
February 19 – AVStar Launch Slips to 2003
AstroVision International Inc. has postponed the launch of its first AVStar satellite from early 2002 to mid-2003 as it still manages to raise the necessary funding for its 5-satellite constellation in geostationary orbit to provide live video imagery of the planet. The whole system should be operational by mid-2005. According to Space News, AstroVision plans to select a prime contractor in March.
Editor’s note: In January 1998, AstroVision had signed a contract with Intraspace for the design, manufacturing, test and launch of three spacecraft based on the T-Sat small satellite bus.
February 19 – Italy to Build Egyptian Microsatellite
During his visit in Rome, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak signed an intergovernmental agreement for the manufacturing of Egypt’s Desertsat science microsatellite by Italy. The satellite, to be manufactured by Carlo Gavazzi Space on the basis of the Mita platform, will conduct hydrologic and environmental observations on behalf of the Egyptian National Authority for Remote Sensing & Space Science.
February 18 – EROS-A2 Remote Sensing Satellite Cancelled
ImageSat International (formerly West Indian Space Ltd.) plans to cancel the manufacturing of its second EROS-A commercial remote sensing satellite and to move directly with its enhanced version, EROS-B. A formal decision is expected in late February at the meeting of the company’s board of directors. EROS-A2, similar to the EROS-A1 satellite launched on December 5, 2000, was due for launch in late 2001. The following satellite, EROS-B1, will be ready for launch by late 2002 or early 2003. ImageSat International plans to eventually operate a 8-satellite constellation.
Editor’s note: ImageSat International still holds the contracts with Puskovye Uslugi, through its U.S. agent United Start Corp., for the launches of two EROS satellites atop Start 1 vehicles.
February 16 – Hyundai Spinoff Plans Satellite
Space Broadband Corp., the newly created satellite communication subsidiary of Hyundai Electronics Industry Co. Ltd., plans to procure and launch a Ka-band satellite to an orbital slot at 113 degrees East in 2003.
February 14 – Vietnam Plans Small Satellite with SSTL
Vietnam’s National Centre for Natural Science & Technology (NCST) plans to cooperate with Great-Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. to develop a US$20-million small satellite in the 100-200-kg range in the near future. NCST and SSTL have already completed a feasibility study for such satellites in 1999.
February 14 – Stellat Venture Finalized
Europe*Star and France Telecom have finalized their agreement to establish the Stellat joint venture in order to launch and operate the Stellat 5 satellite into geostationary orbit in mid-2002. Stellat 5 will be an Alcatel Space Spacebus 3000B3 satellite with 35 Ku-band and 10 C-band transponders which will be launched by Arianespace and located at 5 degrees West.
February 12 – ESA Picks Alenia to Build GOCE
The European Space Agency has confirmed the selection of Alenia Aerospazio as prime contractor for its Gravity Field and Steady State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite, to be launched in 2005 as the first Earth Explorer mission undertaken on behalf of the "Living Planet" program. GOCE will be based on an Astrium GmbH Flexbus platform and will carry a highly sensitive Alcatel Space gradiometer to map the gravity field and define an accurate model of the geoid.
Editor’s note: GOCE is likely to fly atop a Vega launcher, if available.
February 9 – Star One Plans Satellites
Star One, the new Brazilian satellite operator created in December by Embratel and Société Européenne des Satellites, plans to invest US$500-million to launch two satellites designed to provide high-speed Internet access in 2003. Release of a RfP to the satellite industry is expected shortly.
February 9 – SatMex to Pick Launcher
Satelites Mexicanos SA de CV (SatMex) will select a launch system to loft its SatMex 6 satellite in early March, according to Mexican financial daily El Economista. Arianespace is reportedly competing for the early 2003 launch with Sea Launch.
February 8 – Orbcomm to Auction Off Activity
Orbcomm Global LP plans to auction off its low data rate messaging constellation. The company, a joint venture of Orbital Science Corp. and Teleglobe which has been under protection of the U.S. Chapter 11 law on bankruptcy since September 15, 2000, plans to sell its business by late February, pending approval from a U.S. bankruptcy court.
Editor’s note: Two Pegasus XL launches, each carrying a 7-satellite cluster to replenish the Orbcomm constellation, were planned in 2000 and 2001 but have been delayed indefinitely after the venture required Chapter 11 protection.
February 1st – Loral Drops its Support to Globalstar
Loral Space & Communications announces that it will stop its financial support to the Globalstar mobile satellite telephony venture and focus its business on satellite development and manufacturing.
Editor’s note: This announcement comes a few days after Globalstar announces it would stop paying off its debt to save US$400 million in 2001. Without Loral’s support and still lacking its market, Globalstar is now likely to ask for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy status shortly. Loral is still under contract with Boeing for two Globalstar replenishment launches on Delta 2 vehicles and with Starsem for a single Soyuz-Ikar mission.
February 1st – Astrium Completes Envisat
Astrium is completing final testing of European Space Agency‘s Envisat environmental montoring satellite. The 10-m tall, 8-ton spacecraft, currently undergoing tests at ESA’s ESTEC technical center in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, will be shipped to French Guiana in April and prepared for launch atop an Arianespace Ariane 5G vehicle in late July.

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February 12 – Corrected – First Asteroid Landing
NASA‘s Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR-Shoemaker) probe, built and operated by John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, performed the first landing ever on an asteroid, the 33-km long 433 Eros, at 19:44:35 UT. The probe actually soft-crashed at a velocity of about 1.9 m/s. Launched on February 17, 1996, the 495-kg spacecraft had completed its 363-day long orbital survey of the asteroid and was not designed for such a landing. A beacon confirmed that the probe survived the landing.
Editor’s note: Total cost of the NEAR-Shoemaker mission has been quoted at US$233 million. The probe’s propulsion system was designed by GenCorp Aerojet and includes a 470-N Atlantic Research Corp. Leros bipropellant thruster as its main propulsion system (Large Velocity Adjust thruster) with four 21-N and seven 3.5-N Primex Aerospace fine velocity thrusters.
February 8 – Safety Report Issued to NASA
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) has issued its annual report to NASA. According to the 2000 edition of the report, "safety is being well served by both NASA and its contractors."
Download the ASAP report (PDF, 1.7 Mb).

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