|News of April 2001|
- Commercial Launchers | Government Launchers | Small Launchers
Missile Systems | RLVs and Reentry Systems | Space Propulsion
Spaceports | Industry | Launch Market | Miscellaneous
Atlas 5 rollout ceremony
- April 30 – Inmarsat Negotiates Atlas 5 Launches
- Inmarsat is reportedly negotiating with International Launch Services for the launch of its new Inmarsat I-4 satellite series atop Atlas 5 vehicles. A contract is expected within weeks. Arianespace‘s Ariane 5 is considered as a backup launch system. Three 6,100-kg Inmarsat I-4 satellites are being manufactured by Astrium under a US$700-million contract. Launches of the first two are scheduled in late 2003 and 2004 while the third will be kept as a ground spare.
- Editor’s note: Sea Launch‘s bid for this selection was rejected when the mass of the satellites grew beyond the Zenit 3SL‘s maximum expected payload capacity of 6,000 kg, to be achieved in 2002.
- April 25 – Two Customers in Sight for First Atlas 5
- International Launch Services is in negotiation with two potential customers for its maiden Atlas 5 flight in May 2002 according to Lockheed Martin. An announcement is expected in May. The vehicle (AV-001) is due for shipment from Denver to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on April 30.
- April 25 – Sea Launch’s Fleet Sails to Launch Site
- Sea Launch‘s Odyssey launch platform and Sea Launch Commander assembly & command ship have left the company’s Home Port in Long Beach, California, for the launch area to prepare for the launch of XM Satellite Radio‘s XM-Roll satellite now scheduled on May 7.
- Editor’s note: This is the second trip to the Equator for the Zenit 3SL vehicle and its payload since they were both involved in the launch abort on January 8. The RD-171 engine on the Zenit’s first stage reportedly had to be removed and replaced.
- April 23 – Alcatel Contracts With ILS to Launch GE Satellites
- Alcatel Space has contracted with International Launch Services for two GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton launches to loft two satellites in 2002 and 2003. Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 will serve as a backup solution for these launches. Alcatel Space has been awarded a contract by GE American Communications (GE Americom) to build three more communication satellites in addition to the four satellites already ordered in 2000. Among the new satellites will be an unnamed GE satellite based on Alcatel’s Spacebus 3000 design and carrying 24 Ku and 24 C-band transponders. It will be launched in 2002 to a geostationary slot at 79 degrees West. The other two will be GE-2E, and its ground spare GE-3E. Based on Alcatel’s Spacebus 4000 bus, GE-2E will carry 40 Ku-band transponders and be launched in 2003 to the 24 degrees East geostationary slot.
- Editor’s note: Alcatel Space was awarded a contract for 4 GE satellites in April 2000 (unveiled in July): GE-12, GE-14, GE-1i and GE-2i. GE-14 is tentatively set for a launch on Atlas 2AS while the other three are manifested on Proton.
- April 19 – Arianespace Sees H-2A as Potential Partner
- Arianespace is considering Japan’s H-2A more as a partner rather than a competitor according to Jean-Marie Luton, chairman & CEO of Arianespace. "Cooperation better than competition will provide more flexibility to the customers" Luton said during a press conference in Tokyo.
- Editor’s note: Since 1985, Arianespace has won 18 launch contracts in Japan out of 24 selections opened to foreign launch systems.
- April 19 – U.S./Russia Talks on Sea Launch Technologies Protection
- A delegation of Rosaviakosmos and Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries met representatives of the U.S. State and Defense Departments in Washington, D.C., to discuss guarantees to protect Russian technologies involved in the manufacturing and operations of Sea Launch‘s Zenit 3SL launch vehicle. According to Rosaviakosmos, an agreement is needed to guarantee that Russian technologies will not be transferred to any third party or used in other projects.
- April 13 – Boeing to Study Zenit Launches from Baykonur
- On behalf of their new cooperative agreement, Boeing and Rosaviakosmos will study the prospects for using Zenit vehicles derived from the improved Zenit 3SL operated by Sea Launch for missions launched from Baykonur, Kazakhstan. The project is nicknamed "Desert Launch."
- Editor’s note: Two-stage versions of the Zenit 3SL have been announced under the designation Zenit 2SL by Sea Launch or Zenit 2M by NPO Yuzhnoye. These vehicles would incorporate more modern avionics and payload interfaces compared to the older Zenit 2 design. Under the current agreement between Sea Launch and NPO Yuzhnoye, Sea Launch already has an exclusive marketing right for Zenit 2 launches from Baykonur.
- April 5 – Two ILS Proton Delivered in Baykonur
- Two Proton K vehicles have been delivered to Baykonur Cosmodrome by GKNPTs Khrunichev. They will be launched in mid-May and early June, respectively to loft PanAmSat‘s PAS-10 and Société Européenne des Satellites‘ Astra 2C on behalf of International Launch Services.
- April 5 – Proton M Maiden Flight Postponed One Day
- The first launch of GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s new Proton M vehicle has been postponed from April 6 to April 7 due to several anomalies detected on the Breeze M upper stage, also built by Khrunichev. The payload for this flight is the last Ekran M direct broadcasting satellite.
- April 24 – GSLV Payload Stranded in Drift Orbit
- G-Sat 1, the experimental rural communication satellite lofted by the maiden flight of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle on April 18 is stranded just below its targeted geostationary orbit after its propellant was depleted in an attempt to compensate for a launcher underperformance. G-Sat 1 was released into a 181 x 32,051 km orbit inclined 19.2 degrees on the Equator instead of the 185 x 35,975 km orbit inclined at 19 degrees that was targeted. G-Sat 1 then had to use its onboard propulsion system to raise both its apogee and its perigee to geostationary altitude as well as to decreease the orbital inclination to zero. Unfortunately, an expected satellite orientation contingency, due to a lack of balance between two propellant tanks built in Germany and India that cuased the spacecraft to tilt, required to use more propellant than planned and the satellite now has no propellant left for its final circularization maneuver. Although in perfect technical shape, it is now on a 23-hour orbit. The Indian Space Research Organization is now reviewing options on how to use the satellite from this orbit.
- April 22 – ISRO Has Plans for GSLV Improvements
- The Indian Space Research Organisation is setting up plans for an improved version of its new Geosynchronous Satellite Launch vehicle (GSLV). In an interview to Hindustan Times and The Hindu, the head of ISRO, Dr. K. Kasturirangan, announces that the next-generation GSLV, which has been on the drawing boards for two years, will feature a new core stage powered by clustered engines, improved strap-on boosters and a more powerful cryogenic upper stage, with an Indian engine, to achieve a 2,500-kg payload capability to geostationary transfer orbit. In the meantime, the current design will be upgraded to increase its payload capability from 1,550 to 1,800 kg with the second flight model, due for launch in late 2002, and up to 2,000/2,100 kg with the operational version (GSLV Mk2) due to loft Insat 3D in 2003/2004.
- Editor’s note: No firm date seems to have been set yet for the introduction of an Indian-built replacement for the current 12KRB cryogenic upper stage provided by Russia’s GKNPTs Khrunichev. Six more 12KRB stages are reportedly in production.
- April 11 – NKAU Seeks Funding for Airborne Launchers
- NKAU, the National Space Agency of Ukraine announced that it needs US$300 million to complete the development of two new air-launched satellite launch systems, both by NPO Yuzhnoye, within two years. The Oril (‘Eagle’) vehicle would be dropped from an Antonov An 124-100 ‘Ruslan’ carrier aircraft. The cost of completing its development and modifying the carrier aircraft amounts to US$100 million. The larger Svitiaz (‘Dawn’), an air-launched version of the Zenit 2, would be dropped in mid-air from an Antonov An 225 ‘Mriya’. US$200 million would be needed to complete the vehicle’s development and refurbish the carrier aircraft. The Svitiaz would be able to loft up to 8,000 kg to low Earth orbit while the Oril would have a 1,000 kg payload capability to similar orbits.
- Editor’s note: The Svitiaz project was unveiled by NKAU in late 1994 as part of an expanded Zenit family of launchers also including the Zenit 3 (forerunner of Sea Launch‘s Zenit 3SL) and a four-stage Zenit M4. Ukraine’s interest for air-launched vehicles was dictated by the lack of national launch site. However an agreement with Kazakhstan gurantees Ukraine’s access to the Baykonur launch facilities.
- April 7 – Date Set for 2nd GSLV Try
- The Indian Space Research Organisation has rescheduled the maiden flight of its new Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) on April 18. The launch abort on March 28 was officially caused by a "defective plumbing in the oxidizer flow line of the [Vikas] engine, which had escaped detection during testing." The faulty engine, on one of the vehicle’s four strap-on boosters, is being replaced. Moreover, foam insulation on the launch pad caught fire during the first launch attempt and will require additional flame protection.
- April 4 – TsSKB -Progress Ramps Up Soyuz Production
- TsSKB-Progress plans to produce 13 to 15 Soyuz launchers in 2001, including 8 for missions to the International Space Station. In 2000, the center produced 12 launchers although its current facility could withstand a production of 30 per year. TsSKB-Progress also prepares for the introduction of the improved Soyuz/ST for Starsem, in late 2001, and of the new Aurora/Korvet launcher, developed in partnership with RKK Energiya, which could be available in 2003/2004.
- April 4 – GSLV 2nd Try in Late April
- The Indian Space Research Organisation is considering the possibility to perform a second launch attempt of its new Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) between April 15 and 25 according to Indian newspaper The Hindu. The mishap that led to a on-pad abort one second before liftoff on March 28 has been identified as a faulty regulator in the gas generator of the Vikas engine of one of the four L40 strap-on boosters. The turbopump couldn’t reach its nominal speed thus preventing the engine from reaching the 90% thrust level required for liftoff and automated systems aborted the launch procedure prior to the ignition of the S125 solid-propellant core stage. ISRO will not release an official launch date unless the ongoing investigation on the incident is completed.
- April 3 – NASA Picks Delta 2 to Loft Swift
- NASA has exercised a fifth option on its NASA Launch Service (NLS) contract with Boeing to book a launch on a Delta 2/7320-10 vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in September 2003 to loft its Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer spacecraft. NASA’s budget for the Swift launch campaign is reportedly about worth US$50 million. Total budget for the mission amounts to US$163 million.
- Editor’s note: Under the NLS procurement, two indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts were awarded on June 16, 2000 to Boeing and Lockheed Martin for up to 70 missions. Four options have already been exercised in 2000 for the launches of Aura, Deep Impact, Mars Exploration Rover 2 and Messenger atop Delta 2 and Delta 2H vehicles.
- April 26 – Kosmos Launch Postponed
- The flight resumption of the vintage Kosmos 3M launch vehicle, announced for April 26/27, has been postponed indefinitely by the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) in order to allow additional tests on a faulty flight control system. The payload for this launch is expected to be Tsikada/Parus-type navigation satellite.
- Editor’s note: On its latest mission, on November 20, 2000, the Kosmos 3M, out of production since 1995, failed to placed EarthWatch‘s QuickBird 1 satellite onto orbit.
- April 23 – Kaituozhe 1 Readied for 2002 Launch
- China’s Space Solid Fuel Rocket Carrier Co. Ltd (SSRC) is on schedule to prepare its Kaituozhe 1 all-solid launch vehicle for its first commercial flight in 2002 according to Go Taikonauts. The vehicle’s overall design and its 12 main subsystems have passed critical reviews. The new Chinese launch provider, incorporated in May 2000, is also developing 7 solid rocket motors and three new launch vehicles. SSRC currently plans to conduct up to 10 launches in 5 years.
- Editor’s note: The Kaituozhe 1 (a.k.a. SLV-1) is apparently a civilian derivative of China’s new DF-31 ICBM. SSRC’s partners are China Machinery and Electronics Engineering Integrated Design Department, China Space Machinery and Electronics (Group) Co., the Space Solid Fuel Rocket Propulsion Technology Research Institute, the Controls and Electronics Technology Research Institute and the Chenguang (Group) Co. Ltd.
- April 18 – Corrected – LeoLink Incorporated
- Astrium and Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. have completed the incorporation of their LeoLink joint-venture in Toulouse, France, to market the LK family of small launch vehicles derived from Israel’s Shavit. Astrium and IAI will likely be joined by L-3 Communications‘ Coleman Aerospace, LeoLink’s partner for manufacturing and marketing the LK launchers in the United States.
- Editor’s note: LeoLink plans to fly its first LK-A vehicle from Alcântara, Brazil, in late 2002 with an unidentified commercial payload. The LK-A is a commercial version of Israel’s Shavit 1 due for launch from Palmahim AFB during the third quarter of 2001, to loft Tsahal‘s Ofeq 5 observation satellite.
- April 11 – Iridium Launch on Rokot in October
- GKNPTs Khrunichev reports that two Iridium mobile telephony satellites could be launched from Plesetsk, atop a Rokot KM vehicle, in October. The satellites are planned to replenish the Iridium constellation on behalf of Iridium Satellite LLC.
- Editor’s note: Eurockot Launch Systems GmbH signed a contract with Iridium LLC in January 1999 but the deal folded eight months later with Iridium’s collapse. The contract was apparently revived in November 2000 when all Iridium assets were bought by Iridium Satellite LLC. The revived venture also plans to launch a 5-satellite cluster atop a Boeing Delta 2 vehicle in March 2002.
- April 30 – India Said to Prepare ICBM Test Flight
- India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation might be preparing for the first flight of its Surya intercontinental ballistic missile system in January 2002 according to U.S. publication Defense News. The Surya, also known as Agni 4, would feature both solid and liquid propellant stages and would have a 5,000-km range capability. A 40-ton launch mass has been reported. A follow-on version, dubbed Surya 2,with 12,000-km range capability, is said to be already planned for testing in 2003.
- Editor’s note: According to Defense News, the Surya would incorporate cryogenic propulsion technology acquired through the purchase of 12KRB stages from Russia for the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle. However, this is quite unlikely as cryogenic propulsion precludes launches on short notice. US$75 million are said to have been spent on the Surya program since 1994.
Refurbished Minuteman 3 delivery
(U.S. Air Force)
- April 18 – French SLBM Test
- France’s Marine Nationale successfully conducted a test launch of an operational M45 sea-launched ballistic missile. The 35-ton missile, built by EADS Launch Vehicles and carrying a dummy warhead, was fired from the L’Inflexible submarine off the coast of Brittany and impacted 4,500 km downrange, near French Guiana, where it was recovered.
- Editor’s note: France usually conducts such test flights every other year.
- April 18 – IAM Supports NMD
- The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM), a major U.S.-Canadian trade union and the 2nd largest North American union, has announced its active support to the development of the U.S. National Missile Defense system "with a realistic test program."
- April 13 – Greenpeace Likely to Demonstrate in Kwajalein
- The U.S. State and Defense departments have asked for support from the government of the Marshall Islands to prevent Greenpeace activists from disrupting an upcoming missile interception test to be conducted there shortly on behalf of the U.S. National Missile Defense program. Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship is currently touring some islets near U.S. Army‘s Kwajalein Missile Range in support of a "Stop Star Wars" campaign.
- Editor’s note: In May, Kwajalein will be the target for a mock warhead to be launched by a modified Minuteman 2 missile from Vandenberg AFB, California, under the Integrated Flight Test 6 (IFT-6) operation. A prototype Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle will then be launched from Kwajalein atop a Lockheed Martin Payload Launch Vehicle to intercept the warhead.
- April 13 – New Minuteman Service Complex
- The U.S. Army plans to invest US$27.5 million to build a Minuteman 3 missile service complex and command and control support facility in Warren AFB, Wyoming. The facility will be completed in mid-2003.
- April 10 – GBI Test Delayed Again
- New development problems are reportedly forcing Boeing to delay again the maiden flight of its Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) from April to August. Developed under the controversial U.S. National Missile Defense, the GBI is designed to boost Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicles (EKVs) to intercept incoming ballistic warheads. Two test flights with dummy EKVs are planned from Vandenberg AFB, California, before the GBI is introduced in the NMD Integrated test flights. Unless the GBI is available, EKV test flights will be conducted using Lockheed Martin‘s Payload Launch Vehicle as booster.
- Editor’s note: The GBI is based on an Alliant TechSystems GEM-40 (Graphite Epoxy Motor) solid rocket motor as first stage, with two Pratt&Whitney Orbus motors as second and third stages.
- April 6 – United States Plans to Withdraw from ABM Treaty
- The U.S. Administration is reportedly planning to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed with the Soviet Union in 1972 to allow the deployment of the controversial U.S. National Missile Defense system. A final decision is expected within weeks according to U.S. media reports. According to Senator Jon Kyl, from the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the ABM treaty, although strongly supported by Europe, Russia and China, "is an anachronism of the Cold War that prevents us dealing effectively with the threats of the 21st century."
- April 6 – North Korea Sold 540 Missiles to Middle East Countries
- Between 1985 and 2000, North Korea has sold some 490 Scud-type and 50 Nodong missiles to Middle Eastern countries, earning about US$100 million per year from this trade, according to South Korea Institute for Defense Analysis. The price tag for the Scud missiles is estimated at about US$2-2.5 million, while the Nodong missiles, with a 1,300-km range, may have been sold for US$7 million apiece. The identified buyers include Egypt, Iran, Iraq and Libya.
Topol M and RS-18
- April 4 – LockMart Gets Contract for Trident 2 Production Follow-on
- Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Missiles & Space Operations was awarded a US$9.4-million contract by U.S. Navy‘s Strategic Systems Programs to procure long lead material required for the FY2002 follow-on production of the Trident 2 (D5) sea-launched ballistic missile system through September 2005.
|RLVs and Reentry Systems|
- April 28 – X-43A Captive Flight
- NASA‘s Dryden Flight Research Center has successfully conducted a dress rehearsal captive flight of the first X-43A hypersonic propulsion test-bed and its HXLV booster beneath the wing of NASA’s NB-52B carrier aircraft. The 2-hour flight allowed to test flight and range systems for the first free flight, now planned in the second half of May. On its first free flight, the X-43A will be accelerated by its booster to a velocity of about Mach 7 and an altitude of 29,000 m in order to test an hydrogen-fueled scramjet engine developed by GASL and NASA’s Langley Research Center for about 7 seconds before ditching in the Pacific ocean. No recovery is planned.
- April 26 – NASA Asks for Soyuz Postponement
- NASA has asked Rosaviakomos to delay the launch of its Soyuz TM32 spacecraft to the International Space Station from April 28 to April 29 in order to allow its own Endeavour orbiter vehicle to remain docked to the orbital complex for an extra couple of days while the crew is trying to solve computer problems onboard the Unity module. The Soyuz U vehicle carrying Soyuz TM32 was rolled to pad on April 26.
- Editor’s note: For safety reasons, the Soyuz cannot rendezvous with the ISS while the shuttle is docked as the orbiter’s tail fin may fool the Soyuz’s radar during the final approach to the lower docking port. The Soyuz TM32 mission was partly finded by a private passenger, U.S. billionaire Dennis Tito, who reportedly paid US$20 million for a one-week trip into space.
- April 26 – Third X-40A Drop Test
- Boeing‘s X-40A test vehicle has successfully completed its third free flight on behalf of NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center. The U.S. Air Force demonstrator was released by a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 4,564 m above Edwards AFB, California, and conducted an autonomous landing after a 2-minute glide, reaching a speed of 472 km/h. The test flight, which focused on complex maneuvers, such as monitoring vehicle performance during pitch adjustments, aimed at validating technologies for NASA’s future X-37 technology demonstrator. Up to four more drop tests are planned.
- April 25 – NASA Looks for Partnership on CRV
- NASA is in talks with both the European Space Agency and the National Space Development Agency of Japan to share work and development budget for the proposed Crew Return Vehicle needed to allow seven astronauts to crew permanently the International Space Station instead of only three. NASA will need assistance to complete this development beyond the current X-38 demonstrator program due to cost saving restrictions required by the U.S. administration on the ISS program. The CRV development is currently under review and its postponement or even its cancellation would be likely if no international partnership can be set up.
- Editor’s note: ESA is already contributing ¤80 million to the X-38 program and expects to get a major share of the industrial activities on the operational CRVs. Without the CRV, both Europe and Japan will be able to fly their astronauts to the ISS only for about 10 days per year when a space shuttle orbiter is docked to the station.
- April 19 – NASA Looks for Mars Atmospheric Deceleration Systems
- NASA‘s Johnson Space Center has issued a request for offer for R&D activities related to "deployable decelerators" for vehicle entering the Martian atmosphere. Such systems would aerodynamically decelerate slender body entry vehicles flying at high angles of attack in the atmosphere of Mars prior to their transition to a powered descent and landing.
- Editor’s note: NASA’s JSC is in charge of manned space flight activities, not outer space exploration.
- April 18 – X-43A First Flight in Late May
- NASA‘s Dryden Flight Research Center plans to conduct the first of three flights of X-43A hypersonic propulsion test-beds on May 19 at the earliest, some three weeks after an initial captive-carry flight of the expendable X-43A demonstrator and its HXLV booster (a modified Pegasus XL first stage) beneath the wing of NASA’s NB-52B carrier aircraft in late April to test flight and range systems. On its first free flight, the X-43A will test an hydrogen-fueled scramjet engine at a velocity of Mach 7.
- Editor’s note: The X-43A launch may conflict with a planned drop-test of the X-38 (V131R), also due in May from the same carrier aircraft. Two weeks are reportedly needed to reconfigure the interfaces between the two flights. The X-43A is the main element of the ‘Hyper X’ program, a five-year, US$200-million effort to demonstrate hypersonic propulsion and airframe technologies.
- April 16 – OSC Seeks U.S. Air Force Support to X-34
- Orbital Sciences Corp. is asking the U.S. Air Force to provide US$3/5 million in 2001 to keep its X-34 hypersonic test vehicle program alive despite its termination by NASA on March 2nd. According to OSC officials, flying the X-34 with a Russian NK-39 engine would allow to test technical requirements for future space maneuvering vehicles as well as hypersonic and transatmospheric vehicles.
- Editor’s note: Before its cancellation, the X-34 was planned to be powered by a Fastrac experimental engine under development by Marshall Space Flight Center. Accoprding to OSC, the delays in the availability of Fastrac largely contributed to the delays and cost overruns of the X-34 program.
- April 13 – U.S. Air Force Considers Taking Over X-33
- The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin have asked NASA to keep the X-33 advanced technology demonstrator program alive through the end of 2001 in order to allow the U.S. Air Force to take over it in 2002 according to the Washington Post. According to NASA, this would require to invest another US$15 million in the program which was officially terminated on March 31. Lockheed Martin has already proposed to pay for half of the amount. Completing and flying the X-33 would cost an estimated additional US$400 million.
- Editor’s note: No detail has been released on U.S. Air Force plans regarding future use of the X-33. In 1998, a X-33-like suborbital vehicle was considered to deliver the Space Maneuvering Vehicle (an operational version of the X-40/X-37 design), into low Earth orbit. Lockheed Martin even proposes to develop a X-33-derived "space bomber" to carry warheads on suborbital trajectories.
- April 11 – Emergency Shuttle Escape Systems under Study
- Under request from the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, NASA is studying various escape systems that would allow a space shuttle crew to leave the spacecraft in most if not all failure scenarios. Under a recently completed preliminary study, three options are currently being considered: ejection seats (which would limit the crew to 6 and require major structural changes to the crew cabin), a rocket-powered extraction system to pull a crew of 5 through a new overhead hatch or a jettisonable crew cabin. The latter would require major redsign of the whole orbiter vehicle and could cost about US$1 billion to develop.
- April 5 – Space Shuttle Maintenance to Remain in Palmdale
- NASA‘s associate administrator for space flight, Joe Rothenberg, denied earlier reports about NASA studying the possibility of moving space shuttle maintenance activities by Boeing Reusable Launch Systems from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, to Florida. According to Californian economists, the move to Florida would have meant a loss of US$50 million per year for the Palmdale area.
- Editor’s note: The recent 17-month refurbishment of orbiter vehicle Columbia , which had to be extended to conduct extra inspection work on wiring harnesses, reportedly cost US$145 million to NASA, while a previous maintenance work on Atlantis was billed US$60 million.
- April 2 – NASA Evaluates Shuttle Maintenance in Florida
- NASA is reportedly studying the possibility of moving space shuttle maintenance activities by Boeing Reusable Launch Systems (on behalf of United Space Alliance) from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, to Florida amid concerns regarding the lengthy refurbishment of orbiter vehicle Columbia which lasted 17 months. The announcement came while members of the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, representing the Palmdale area, were visiting NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss the possible use of Palmdale as a an alternate shuttle landing site and prospects for the manufacturing of additional space shuttle orbiters.
April 1st – NASA/DoD Plan Additional X-43 Demonstrators
- NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense have issued their roadmap for the development of a 3rd generation reusable launch vehicle incorporating airbreathing propulsion. The 25-year plan includes the development of at least three new versions of the X-43 hypersonic flight demonstrator. Following the three test flights at Mach 7-10 of the current X-43A "Hyper X" in 2001-2002, the X-43C would fly to Mach 5-7 powered by U.S. Air Force/Pratt&Whitney HyTech hydrocarbon ramjet/scramjet engine in 2004-2005, then the X-43D would reach Mach 15 powered by an hydrogen scramjet circa 2007. Eventually, the larger X-43B would be the first reusable flying testbed for a rocket-based combined-cycle (RBCC) or a turbine-based combined-cycle (TBCC) hydrocarbon propulsion system. One of the candidate propulsion systems for this test vehicle is the Integrated System Test of an Airbreathing Rocket (ISTAR) Engine Demonstrator developed by Boeing Rocketdyne, GenCorp Aerojet and Pratt&Whitney. The X-43B would fly from Mach 0.8 to Mach 7 in 2008-2010. The program’s objective would be to fly an experimental airbreathing spaceplane circa 2015-2017 and an operational vehicle before 2025.
April 1st – CNES Proposes Two-Step Program Toward RLV Decision
- France’s CNES, in cooperation with Germany’s DLR and several industrial partners including EADS Launch Vehicles, Astrium and Dassault Aviation, propose a joint-effort, nick-named ANGEL (Advanced New Generation European Launcher), to prepare for a decision to develop a European reusable launch system by 2009. The proposed program would begin with a ¤200-million, three-year phase (2002-2004) dedicated to technological studies and data gathering through ground-testing and the flights of experimental test-vehicles such as Astrium’s Phoenix for automated landing and EADS-LV’s Pre-X for reentry, as well as Japan’s High-Speed Flight Demonstrator (HSFD), under a cooperation with Japan’s National Space Development Agency and National Aerospace Laboratory, or the X-38 reentry test conducted jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency. The ¤600-million second phase, from 2004 to 2009, would include ground demonstrations of the newly developed technologies and test flights of two demonstrators, tentatively designated X-Reuse and X-Reentry. The X-Reuse would be self-propelled, enhanced version of Phoenix, able to reach Mach 8, while the X-Reentry would be based on EADS-LV’s Ares reentry demonstrator concept proposed in 1999 and to be flown atop a Soyuz/ST vehicle. Dassault Aviation also proposes its VEHRA (Airborne Reusable Hypersonic Experimental Vehicle) concept of air-launched test vehicle powered by either a Russian NK-39 engine or a Snecma X-Viking, a modified version of the current Viking engine adapted to hydrocarbon propellants.
- April 1st – ESA to Revamp Future Launcher Technology Program
- The European Space Agency has prepared a program proposal to revive the European initiative on future launcher technologies. The proposal will be presented to ESA’s ministerial council in November with a price tag of ¤600-million over the 2002-2007 time-frame. A major restructuring of these efforts was dictated by the near cancellation of the current Future Launcher Technology Program. The FLTP was approved by ESA’s ministerial council in May 1999 with an initial ¤48-million budget for a 18-month first step. Actually, due to lengthy procedures and management mismatch between the partners, the first contracts to the industry were to be issued in February when the whole program was put on hold to revise its objectives, officially due to major changes in the international market and future launcher strategies, and to improve synergy with other national programs. The new proposal will focus on technologies assessment and demonstration with the objective of federating all national efforts in order to enable a decision by 2006/2007 on a full-scale development of either a reusable commercial launch system or a reusable manned space transportation system, the later possibly as an international cooperation. Two major elements of the new program will be the development of two experimental vehicles. The ¤220-million Socrates (Servicing, Operations, Concept Reusability and Advanced Technologies Experimental System) would be dedicated to reusability testing. Beginning in 2004, it would conduct 20 self-propelled flight to Mach 6/8 with Russian liquid oxygen/liquid methane engines. The ¤180-million Hercules (Hypersonic Earth Reentry and Controlled Unpowered Landing Experimental System) would be designed for reentry demonstration and validation of a RLV shape compromise from hypersonic reentry to subsonic flight and automated landing. It would be launched in late 2005. The remaining ¤200-million budget would be divided between technological studies regarding propulsion (¤65-million), guidance, navigation, control and health monitoring (¤55-million), structures and thermal protection (¤35-million), system studies (¤25-million) and aerothermodynamics (¤20-million).
- Editor’s note: Germany and Italy, who did not contribute to the FLTP, have initiated their national efforts with the Astra (Selected Systems and Technologies for Future Space Transportation Systems Applications) and Prora/USV (National Aerospace Research Program/Unmanned Space Vehicle) programs respectively.
- April 30 – ATK Test Fires Demonstration Motor
- Alliant Techsystems‘ ATK Aerospace Propulsion Co. successfully completed a static test firing of its Material Qualification Motor (MQM), an independently developed prototype solid rocket motor incorporating new technologies to reduce costs and enhance reliability. The MQM, based on GEM 40 graphite epoxy motor, was hot fired at ATK Thiokol‘s test facility in Promentory, Utah. It demonstrated new propellant formulation as well as new nozzle and insulation materials. These technologies will later be integrated into ATK’s GEM and Orion families of solid rocket boosters. The ATK-funded MQM project began in April 2000 and was reportedly completed on schedule and under budget. The MQM nozzle was funded and manufactured by HITCO Carbon Composites Inc., the nozzle supplier for all GEM motors.
- April 23 – RS-68 Logs More Than 10,000 sec. of Test Time
- Boeing Rocketdyne reports that its new RS-68 cryogenic engine has exceeded 10,000 sec. of cumulated hot-fire testing, logging a total of 11,639 sec. of test time. Three engines are tested in parallel: one at U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory‘s facilities in Edwards AFB, California, and two at NASA‘s Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, including one mounted on a full-scale Delta 4 Common Booster Core stage. Three back-to-back tests have been completed in 48 hours and one engine in SSC has achieved its 2,450-sec. endurance limit with a new, modified turbopump. The RS-68 is planned to perform its maiden flight on a Boeing Delta 4 booster in early 2002.
- April 15 – Modernized Engines on Soyuz
- NPO EnergoMash announces that modernized versions of the vintage RD-107 and RD-108 engines will be introduced on an improved Soyuz U vehicle due for launch in May. This new version is reportedly designated Soyuz FG. The modified engines, which will have a specific impulse increased by 5%, will be required to loft heavier Soyuz TMA manned spacecraft to the International Space Station beginning in late 2002 and will also fly on the nw Soyuz/ST vehicle to be introduced by Starsem in 2002..
- Editor’s note: An improved Soyuz U, the Soyuz U2, was introduced in 1982 and phased out in 1995 after 47 flights due to its high operating cost. Instead of kerosene, it used syntin (also known as cyclane) synthetic propellant. Its booster and core stages were powered by RD-117 and RD-118 engines, modified versions of the RD-107 and RD-108 engines adapted to syntin. The new development is aiming at a similar performance (7,500 kg to ISS orbit) with standard kerosene propellant.
- April 12 – GD Thrusters on Europe’s ATV
- Astrium GmbH has awarded a US$7.9-million two-year contract to General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems (formerly Primex Aerospace), to procure R-4D-11 bipropellant thrusters for the propulsion module of European Space Agency‘s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). Nine ATVs are planned to bring supplies to the International Space Station and to reboost the space complex regularly. Each ATV will be powered by four R-4D-11 thrusters.
- April 11 – No Budget for MSFC Propulsion Center
- NASA‘s budget request for FY2002 does not include any budget for Marshall Space Flight Center‘s propulsion research laboratory. The budget to develop and run the facility has been removed like all other congressional earmarked projects. According to NASA officials, the research laboratory, due to conduct propulsion research on behalf of the Space Launch Initiative (SLI) program, could be funded through other sources such as NASA’s Aerospace Technology program.
- April 11 – Solar Sail Test Flight Delayed
- The planned April 26 suborbital test flight of a solar sail deployment demonstrator by the Planetary Society and Cosmos Studios has been postponed indefinitely after the test article was damaged during ground testing at Severmosk prior to its transfer to a Russian submarine for its launch from the Sea of Barents atop a GRTsKB Makeyev Volna vehicle. The demonstrator will be shipped back to NPO Lavochkin’s Babakin Science & Research Center for repair. This postponement may induce a significant delay in the launch of a the actual Cosmos 1 solar sail planned for the last quarter of 2001.
- April 9 – Space Propulsion Materials Testing
- NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center plans to hire the Southern Research Institute to provide testing and analysis services for advanced materials to be used in space propulsion activities. These materials, to be tested at temperatures of up to 3,000°C, will include carbon phenolic materials for the Space Shuttle‘s Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM), graphite phenolic materials, prototype or experimental composite materials, as well as advanced materials and composites which may be used for future applications in solid, liquid and hybrid rocket motor systems. Ceramic matrix composites and carbon-carbon for both propulsion and structural applications will also be analyzed and tested.
- April 6 – NASA Plans to Buy Part of Beal’s Test Equipment
- NASA‘s Stennis Space Center plans to purchase some hydrogen peroxide/JP-8 kerosene propulsion test equipment from Beal Aerospace Technologies. A formal RfQ has been issued for six storage tanks and various pumps and compressors.
- Editor’s note: Beal Aerospace shelved its plans to develop the BA-2C, a 60-m-tall, hydrogen peroxide/JP-8 kerosene-fueled expendable commercial launch vehicle, in October 2000, citing NASA’s effort to subsidize competing launch systems as an unfair government-backed competition to private space entrepreneurs. In March 2000, Beal Aerospace had conducted a static firing of the 3,600-kN BA-810 engine, designed to power the BA-2C’s second stage. Beal’s assets are now on sale on the Internet.
- April 4 – Delta 4’s CBC Completes Long Duration Test
- Boeing has completed the first long duration static firing test of the Common Booster Core (CBC) stage for its new Delta 4 family of launchers. The stage, powered by its Boeing Rocketdyne RS-68 cryogenic engine, performed a 145-second burn at NASA‘s Stennis Space Center, ending upon depletion of its liquid hydrogen fuel. The test, the third in the campaign, simulated an actual Delta 4M flight profile and included nozzle gimballing and throttling thrust between 58% and 101% of nominal. The fourth test will simulated a Delta 4H flight profile, with liquid oxygen depletion.
- April 24 – Russia Pushes for Soyuz Launch Pad in Kourou
- During a visit in Moscow of French Research Minister Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg, Rosaviakosmos has again asked France to consider the possibility of building a Soyuz launch pad within the French Guiana Space Center in Kourou. A joint French-Russian working group will be set up to evaluate this option by year end. A formal decision could be taken at European Space Agency‘s ministerial council meeting in November.
- Editor’s note: Russia has been trying to get a Soyuz launch capability from Kourou since the inception of Starsem, the Euro-Russian venture in charge of marketing Soyuz launches, in 1996. With a launch pad near the Equator, Soyuz vehicles would be able to access the geostationary transfer orbit market. France has already announced on several occasions that no foreign vehicle would be admitted in Kourou if it may harm the commercial activity of Arianespace and its Ariane vehicles. TsSKB-Progress, the prime for the Soyuz family and a 25% shareholder in Starsem, is also involved in a competing project with RKK Energiya to launch a Soyuz derivative, the Aurora/Korvet vehicle, from Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean.
- April 17 – Zenit in Florida
- In its Florida Spacegram e-bulletin, Florida Spaceport Authority announces that it is interested in working to accommodate Zenit launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
- Editor’s note: Boeing recently announced its intent to study the prospects for commercial launches of Zenit vehicles from Baykonur, Kazakhstan ("Desert Launch") as a complement to its current Sea Launch venture which operates the Zenit 3SL version from the Odyssey off-shore launch platform.
- April 16 – LMA Will Maintain SLC-36A
- Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Astronautics Operations was awarded a US$5.8-million increase to an existing contract with U.S. Air Force‘s Space & Missile Systems Center for the maintenance of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station‘s SLC-36A launch complex through September 2002. The launch complex, designed for Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 2 vehicles, will have to be ready for launch operations on six-month notice.
- Editor’s note: SLC-36A is owned and managed by the U.S. Air Force while neigboring Atlas 3-compatible SLC-36B is operated by Lockheed Martin. However, both pads are used for commercial flights. SLC-36 pads are expected to remain in operation through 2004/2005 when the Atlas 3 is phased out in favor of the new Atlas 5.
- April 2 – Spaceport Florida to Support X-37 Tests
- The Spaceport Florida Authority will support ground testing of NASA‘s X-37 reusable spaceplane demonstrator by Boeing Phantom Works beginning in 2003. Boeing plans to use SFA’s launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station‘s SLC-20 for static firing tests of the vehicle’s AR-2/3 engine.
- April 2 – Would-be RLV Facility to be Used for Shuttle Operations
- United Space Alliance, the Boeing/Lockheed Martin venture in charge of Space Shuttle operations on behalf of NASA, will lease a hangar developed by Spaceport Florida Authority near Kennedy Space Center‘s shuttle landing strip to support Space Shuttle processing operations for at least two years. The 5,000-sq.m facility was developed as part of a US$11.5-million joint NASA/SFA Reusable Launch Vehicle Support Complex, designed to accommodate proposed reusable launch systems like NASA’s X-34 hypersonic demonstrator. Following the cancellation of the X-33 and X-34 programs and the collapse of most private RLV projects, the US$4-million facility could only be used by the current space shuttle.
- April 26 – French Report Backs European Space Capability
- "Europe, and mostly France, has to maintain and improve its capabilities in space if it wants to oppose the U.S. hegemony" according to a report issued by the French Parliamentary Office for Science & Technologies Choices Assessment (OPECST). This report on "French Space Policy: Appraisal & Prospects" estimates that Europe must proceed with the upgrades of the Ariane 5 launcher and the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. The use of the launch site by foreign launch systems, like the Russian Soyuz, must be studied too. According to the report, Europe must maintain an independent and reliable access to space to resist with the U.S. attempt to restore its dominance over space transportation. Similarly, strong ties must be kept with Russian space industry to preclude a U.S. monopoly on the marketing of Russian space products.
- Editor’s note: The current Russian-French space cooperation agreement on the use of the Soyuz launcher expires in July.
- April 25 – ATK to Provide Delta Structures
- Alliant TechSystems‘ ATK Aerospace Composite Structures Co. was awarded a contract by Boeing Expendable Launch Systems to provide composite structures for Delta 2, Delta 3 and Delta 4 vehicles through 2008. The contract covers the production of payload fairings, payload adapters, centerbodies and interstage structures. ATK was already providing 16 structures for Boeing’s Delta 4 vehicles and graphite epoxy motor casings for Delta 2 and Delta 3 strap-on boosters.
- April 23 – Alcoa Completes Thiokol Sale to ATK
- Alcoa and Alliant TechSystems (ATK) announce the completion of the sale of Alcoa’s Thiokol Propulsion business to ATK. The deal, worth US$685 million, was approved in January.
- April 19 – AFRL Studies Advanced Materials
- U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a five-year R&D contract, worth US$10.4 million, to UES Inc. to study materials including high temperature intermetallics, metal-matrix composites, ceramic-matrix composites, and nanocrystalline materials.
- April 17 – OSC Posts Losses
- In 2000, Orbital Sciences Corporation‘s sales decreased to US$725.7 million from US$766.4 million, with net losses more than doubling from US$122 million to US$278.2 million. To recover, OSC plans to have sold four non-core businesses before June 2001 to focus on its main launch systems and satellite manufacturing activities. The Launch Vehicles business revenues declined from US$157 million to US$119.6 million.
- April 13 – Boeing, Rosaviakosmos Ink Deal
- Boeing has signed a major cooperation agreement with Rosaviakosmos covering various aerospace activities in which the U.S. company may involve Russian partners in the future. Although the main topic of the deal seems to be Boeing’s proposed sonic jetliner, it covers commercial space activities as well. For instance Boeing and Rosaviakomos have agreed to conduct a feasibility study on commercial uses of the GKNPTs Khrunichev-built FGB-2 module. Boeing also plans to procure more titanium from Russia.
- Editor’s note: A backup version of the International Space Station‘s initial Zarya module (FGB-1), the FGB-2 is reportedly 70% complete.
- April 11 – NASA Selects More SBIR’99 Proposals
- NASA has selected 27 additional proposals from 25 small firms which will receive study contracts totaling US$16 million under the 2nd phase of the 1999 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR’99) program. These new contracts will come in addition to 110 study contracts, worth US$66 million, already awarded in September 2000. Seven of these proposals deal directly with space transportation issues:
|Intelligent Optical Systems Inc.||
||Multipoint fiber optic sensor for cryogenic propellant leak detection.||
|Triton Systems Inc.||
||Space durable flexible tether.||
|Orbital Technologies Corp.||
||Aerodynamic fluid physics research facility.||
|Stottler Henke Associates Inc.||
||Artificial intelligence techniques for payload and vehicle processing scheduling.||
|American GNC Corporation||
||Autonomous docking with the laser dynamic range imager optical sensor.||
||High Isp Hall thruster for advanced in-space propulsion.||
|Physical Sciences Inc.||
||Thin film, variable reflectance materials for solar sail control.||
- April 10 – Russian/German Space Cooperation Agreement
- A cooperative agreement between Russia’s Rosaviakosmos and Germany’s DLR was signed in Sankt Petersburg during a visit of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to Russian President Vladimir S. Putin. Rosaviakomos and DLR will cooperate in space research, remote sensing, materials and life sciences, space communications and satellite navigation. A separate provision deals with customs regulation of cross-border movement of spacecraft, launch vehicles and their related subsystems, as well as technology transfer issues in accordance with limitations required by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
- April 4 – California to Consolidate Space Support Groups
- The California State Assembly is proposing to merge its two major space industry public-private partnerships, the California Space & Technology Alliance and the Western Commercial Space Center, into a single agency to be called the California Space Authority.
- April 4 – Herakles Due in July
- Herakles, the joint-venture of Groupe SNPE and Snecma Moteurs which will consolidate the solid propulsion businesses of the two groups as well as their related activities in composite materials, will be incorporated by July 1st, according to Groupe SNPE’s chairman & CEO Jean Faure.
- April 3 – OSC Delays Financial Results Due to X-34
- Orbital Sciences Corp. will delay the filing of its annual report for 2000 with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission to April 16 at the earliest as it needs more time to assess the impact of NASA‘s decision to cancel the X-34 hypersonic demonstrator program on March 1st.
- April 3 – Northrop-Grumman Completes Litton Buy
- Northrop Grumman Corp. has completed its US$5.1-billion acquisition of Litton Industries. The deal was cleared by the European Commission on March 23 and by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on March 30.
- April 2 – Ariane Test Center in Spain
- Spain’s National Institute for Aerospace Techniques (INTA) has inaugurated its new Ariane Program Test Center (CEPA), in Torrejon de Ardoz, near Madrid. The facility will be used for dynamic testing of large structures, up to 20 meters in height, such as upper stage and payload composites.
- April 2 – NEC Toshiba Space Systems
- Japan’s NEC and Toshiba have incorporated their satellite manufacturing joint-venture, NEC Toshiba Space Systems, as announced in December 2000. The joint-venture consolidates the two groups’ space businesses with a ¥3.5-billion (US$28-million) capital owned 60% by NEC and 40% by Toshiba.
- April 25 – An Israeli Milsatcom in 2006
- The Israeli Air Force is planning to launch a military communication satellite in 2006 according to its monthly publication. The 2-ton satellite will be built by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. and an unidentified U.S. industrial partner.
- April 23 – Turkey Delays Spy Sat
- Turkey will delay the planned procurement of a military observation satellite from Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. due to the government’s new budget restrictions. The contract, estimated worth some US$250 million, will not be signed before 2003 or 2004 at the earliest.
- Editor’s note: Negotiations with Alcatel Space for this military satellite system were terminated in January as a retaliation after the French parliament eventually decided on January 18 to recognize the extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1917 as a genocide. Alcatel’s bid, based on the Proteus small satellite bus, was reportedly worth US$149 million (US$259 million according to different sources) and had been selected over competition from Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. and Orbital Sciences Cororation. IAI had been negotiating with Turkey since 1997.
- April 23 – Astrium Will Build Eutelsat’s W3A
- Eutelsat has contracted with Astrium to design and build the 4,300-kg W3A communication satellite. Based on Astrium’s new Eurostar 3000 bus and carrying 50 Ku-band transponders, W3A will be launched by mid-2003 on a launcher to be selected later by Eutelsat.
- April 19 – Loral to Build DirecTV-7S
- DirecTV Inc. has selected Space Systems/Loral to build its second direct broasdcasting satellite dedicated to local television channels. DirecTV-7S is also the first satellite procured from another company than Boeing Satellite Systems (formerly Hughes Space & Communications). Launch is due in late 2002, reportedly atop a Boeing Delta 4 vehicle. No launch contract has been announced yet.
- Editor’s note: DirecTV is a subsidiary of Hughes Electronics, former parent company of HSC.
- April 19 – Intersputnik Discusses Satellite for Iraq
- Russian-led Intersputnik international satellite telecommunications organization is reportedly negotiating with Iraq to provide communication links to the country and prepare for the launch of a small national communication satellite. Alfa Eco Group, a venture of Alfa Bank, is also involved in the talks.
- Editor’s note: Although not a member, Iraq has been a long-term user of Intersputnik’s network.
- April 19 – NASA/ASI Agreement on Habitation Module
- NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) have signed a framework agreement to prepare the possible development of a U.S. Habitation Module for the International Space Station by ASI to replace the previously proposed Boeing-built module which was shelved in March as part of a cost-reduction effort on the ISS program. A bilateral cooperative agreement could be signed later if ongoing negotiations allow the project to proceed. The Habitation Module, which would allow to house six or more crewmembers in the ISS could be developed from a redesigned, stretched version, of the Node 3 module that NASA had already planned to procure from ASI.
- April 19 – ESA to Cooperate on China’s Double Star
- A European Space Agency delegation has travelled to China to discuss the possibility to fly instruments from Europe’s Cluster 2 mission onboard China’s Double Star plasma science satellites. The two 270-kg satellites will be launched in December 2002 and April 2003 to compelementary orbits (350 x 25,000 km, inclined 90 degrees and 550 x 60,000 km, inclined 28.5 degrees).
- Editor’s note: No detail has been provided yet on the launch of the Double Star satellites but the use of CZ-4B vehicles with restartable upper stages are likely.
- April 17 – Insurers Agree to Pay for ACeS Claim
- Space insurance underwriters have agreed to pay US$101.5 million to PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and Asia Cellular Satellite (ACeS) to cover a claim for an anomaly reported on one of their Garuda 1 mobile communication satellite’s two large L-band antennas.
- Editor’s note: A Garuda 2 spare satellite, built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space like the first one, is reportedly available for launch. However, due to slow growth of the demand for mobile satellite telephony, Garuda 1 is still far from using even its limited capacity.
- April 17 – Competition for Spanish Milsatcom
- Alcatel Space, Astrium and Space Systems/Loral are reportedly competing to develop a military communication satellite system for the Spanish Ministry of Defense. A selection is expected before mid-year to enable a launch before late 2003. A joint commission of Hispasat SA and Spanish Armed Forces is reviewing the project and will decide among two options: either a dedicated military communication satellite to be operated by Hispasat or a military communication payload to be flown onboard the Hispasat 1E satellite, also due for launch in 2003.
- April 16 – NASA Selects MSR Study Teams
- NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has selected four industrial teams to conduct initial studies on a Mars Sample Return mission to be launched in 2011 at the earliest. The four teams, led by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., The Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and TRW, will each be awarded a six-month contract worth US$1 million to study mission scenarios.
- Editor’s note: The Mars Sample Return mission is currently planned to be conducted in partnership with France’s CNES which would provide the mars orbiting vehicle in charge of collecting sample capsules in orbit and send them back to Earth. Alcatel Space is prime contractor for the French spacecraft.
- April 13 – Russian Contribution to ISS Still Lacking Money
- Delays in government payments may prevent Russia from meeting its commitments on the International Space Station assembly according to RKK Energiya. On a planned Rbl3.5-billion budget for 2001, Rosaviakosmos has merely provided funds for the launch of the Soyuz TM32 manned ferry due on April 28. Another Soyuz TM launch is due in October and four Progress M and Progress M1 are also scheduled for launch in 2001 but have not been paid for yet.
- April 11 – Five Bids for NASA’s Revised Pluto Probe
- NASA has reportedly received five proposals for a revised deep space probe to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. As no funding is planned for the mission under the NASA budget proposed by the new U.S. administration, the program, shelved in 2000 due to cost overruns, will proceed only if one of the mission is considered technically feasible under a restricted budget to be approved directly by the U.S. Congress.
- April 10 – PT Telkom Plans Telkom 2 in 2003
- PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia plans to invest about US$195 million to procure and launch its Telkom 2 satellite in 2003.
- Editor’s note: This amount is similar to the cost of the Telkom 1 satellite procured from Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems and launched in August 1999 atop an Arianespace Ariane 4 booster.
- April 9 – First SBIRS-Low Design Approved
- The U.S. Air Force has approved the design proposed by Raytheon and TRW Space & Electronics for the low-Earth orbit segment of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS-Low) early warning satellite system. Follwoing their successful System Design Review (SDR) Raytheon and TRW will proceed with the engineering and manufacturing phase. Another design , proposed by Spectrum Astro and Northrop Grumman will be reviewed on April 23.
- Editor’s note: The SBIRS-Low constellation will consit in 24 low-Eath orbit surveillance satellites carrying infrared sensors to track ballistic missiles and discriminate between active warheads and decoys to target missiles intercpetors under the U.S. National Missile Defense program.
- April 5 – EU Gives Green Light for European GPS
- The European Union‘s transport ministers have eventually agreed to back the development of the ¤3.25-billion Galileo global navigation satellite system with the release of an initial ¤100-million funding for the current year. An additional grant is expected in December. The European Union is due to provide 50% of the ¤1.1-billion to be invested in the development of a constellation in medium Earth orbit (about 30 satellites at a 23,000 km altitude) to be deployed through 2008. Selection of the final system design and industrial team is expected by November.
- Editor’s note: In December, the European Space Agency has approved an initial investment of ¤53 million as part of its planned ¤550 million contribution to the system’s development. The remaining amount is to be released in late 2001. A group of European space industry companies, including Alcatel, Alenia Aerospazio, Telespazio and Thales, has pledged to provide an initial investment of ¤200 million to the Galileo program. The initial deployment of the Galileo constellation could represent a market of three to five Ariane 5 launches for Arianespace.
- April 5 – Italy May Provide ISS Habitation Module
- NASA‘s administrator, Daniel Goldin, confirmed in a congressional hearing that NASA is in talks with its Italian counterpart, ASI, for the development of a new habitation module, built from the stretched Node 3, to replace the cancelled U.S. Habitation module for the International Space Station. Node 3 is planned to be built for ASI by Alenia Aerospazio and turned to the ISS on behalf of the European Space Agency.
- Editor’s note: The cancellation of the U.S. Habitation module has been proposed as part of a plan to save some US$2 billion from the reported US$4-billion cost overrun of the ISS program.
- April 5 – Star One to Procure Satellite
- Star One, the former satellite division of Embratel (now 20% owned by Société Européenne des Satellites), is about to sign a US$280-million contract to procure a new satellite, to be launched in 2003.
- April 4 – India Aims at the Moon
- The Indian Space Research Organisation will submit a preliminary study on a lunar mission to the Indian cabinet on April 15.
- Editor’s note: The payload capability to translunar orbit for India’s PSLV launcher is estimated at about 275 kg. GSLV‘s performance to such orbits might reach 1,000 kg.
- April 2 – PO-KS Needs Government Support
- Russian legislators have drafted a series of recommendations asking the Russian government to provide sufficient funding for the manufacturing and launch of seven GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton M/Breeze M launch vehicles to loft Ekspress AM communication satellites to orbit through 2006 on behalf of PO Kosmicheskaya Sviaz (PO-KS), the national communication satellite operator. The government is also required to provide guarantees on US$225 million in French and Japanese credit lines to support the procurement of advanced communication payloads to be supplied by Alcatel Space, Alenia Aerospazio and NEC.
- April 2 – Astrovision Selects Ball to Build Two AVStars
- Astrovision International has selected Ball Aerospace & Technology to build the first two of its planned five AVStar Earth observation satellites, with options for the remaining three. The first launch is planned in 2003.
- Editor’s note: Reported total cost of the 5-satellite constellation is estimated at about US$250 million.
- April 2 – Globalstar About to File for Bankruptcy
- Globalstar Telecommunications Ltd. eventually announced in its annual report to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission that it may file for bankruptcy as it may not be able to restructure its activities while revenues remain far below expectations. In 2000, the company’s net revenue amounted to US$3.7 million while the losses reached US$3.8 billion.
- Editor’s note: Space Systems/Loral still holds two launch contracts with Boeing and one with Starsem for the launch Globalstar satellite clusters atop Delta 2 and Soyuz-Ikar vehicles respectively.
- April 2 – Intelsat to Procure Broadband Communication Satellite
- As announced in December 2000, Intelsat has issued a RfP for the procurement of a high-power geostationary satellite dedicated to IP transmissions with broadband capacities in Ka and Ku-bands and multibeam coverage. A contract is planned for the 4th quarter of 2001 with a launch due in 2004. Options for four more spacecraft are expected.
- Editor’s note: A US$1.5-billion budget has been reported for the procurement, presumably including optional satellites.
- April 2 – Norwegian Support Sought for Lao-Thai Satellites
- Thailand’s United Communications Industry plc (Ucom) is reportedly asking Norway’s Telenor, its financial partner, to invest in LaoStar, a Laotian satellite venture set up by Ucom’s subsidiary Asia Broadcasting & Communications Network (ABCN). In 1996, LaoStar had ordered two L-Star satellites from Space Systems/Loral and contracted with Arianespace for two Ariane launches due in late 1998 and 1999. The late 1997 financial crisis in Asia prevented forced LaoStar to put its plans on hold in early 1998. One satellite has reportedly been nearly completed. According to ABCN, another US$200 million are needed to complete the US$800-million project. If sufficient funding is found, work on the satellites could resume in June.
- Editor’s note: Due to the 1997 crisis in Asia, Space Systems/Loral had to stop work on the two L-Star satellites as well as on PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara’s MultiMedia Asia (M2A) spacecraft. Work has reportedly resumed on the latter which is now due for launch on a Boeing Delta 4M+ vehicle in 2003. Telenor bought 24.9% of Ucom in May 2000. In November 2000, ABCN reportedly attracted a US$200-million investment to revive LaoStar from an unidentified investor. Other reported partners in the LaoStar project include International Engineering Corp., Télésat Canada, Loral Space & Communications and Itochu.
- April 2 – Loral Still Waiting for Chinasat 8’s License
- Loral Space & Communications‘ chairman & CEO, Bernard Schwartz, is reportedly confident that the U.S. State Department will eventually issue the export license for the Zhongxing 8 (Chinasat 8) satellite built by Space Systems/Loral for China Telecommunications & Broadcasting Satellite Corporation. The US$200-million satellite was due for launch atop a Chang Zheng 3B (CZ-3B "Long March") vehicle in late 1998 but could not be shipped to China.
- Editor’s note: In February 2000, CTBSC gave Loral until July 31, 2000, to settle the issue. Since then, it has been in right to rescind the contract but has not done so yet. If the contract was terminated, Space Systems/Loral would have to refund US$134 million (US$174 million according to some sources) to its customer and might incur additional penalties of up to US$11 million.
- April 10 – Japan Space Agencies Move Toward Merger
- Japan’s three major space research agencies, the National Space Development Agency (NASDA), the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) and the Institute of Space & Astronautical Science (ISAS) have signed a cooperative agreement to collaborate on all projects. This agreement, effective immediately, is the first step in the planned merger of the three entities in a future Japanese Aerospace Agency.
- Editor’s note: NASDA is in charge of developing the H-2A family of launchers and application satellites as well as managing Japan’s contribution to the International Space Station while ISAS operates the M-5 launcher and science satellites. NASDA and NAL were already collaborating on the H-2 Orbital Plane Experimental (HOPE-X) program and future spaceplane studies.
- April 9 – White House Issues NASA Budget Plan
- The new U.S. administration has issued its final FY2002 budget plan for NASA. The U.S. agency’s budget would reach US$14.51 billion next year, a 1.4% increase compared to FY2001. The proposal include a US$2.38-billion budget for aerospace technology, including the new Space Launch Initiative (SLI). Other major directions required by the White House include the scrapping of International Space Station‘s Crew Return Vehicle and U.S. Propulsion Module, as well as the U.S. Habitation module. Also scrapped are the Pluto-Kuiper Express and Solar Probe missions. Meanwhile, NASA is cleared to proceed with completion and early test flights of the X-37 reusable space-maneuvering vehicle demonstrator.
- Editor’s note: To revive the Pluto mission, NASA will have to look for less expensive propulsion systems for future deep-space probes.
- Download NASA budget narratives (PDF, 4.7 Mb).
- April 4 – Russian Space Forces Reinstated in June
- The Russian Space Forces will be reinstated by June 1st, according to the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) officials quoted by Interfax. The Space Forces are expected to take over launches and operations of dual-purpose communications and navigation satellites.
- Editor’s note: The Russian Military Space Forces were initially formed in 1992 and disbanded in 1997 to be merged with RVSN.