News of May 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

May 31 – New Ariane 5 Equipment Bay Undergoes Tests
Astrium is conducting qualification tests of its improved Ariane 5 Vehicle Equipment Bay at Intespace’s testing facilities in Toulouse, France. The new bay, which features a composite structure and smoother pyrotechnic separation systems, will be introduced on the second production batch of Ariane 5 vehicles which due begin flying by mid-2002.
May 29 – Delta 4 CBC Arrives in Cape Canaveral
Boeing‘s first Delta 4 Common Booster Core (CBC) stage was delivered in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station by Boeing’s Delta Mariner cargo ship. The stage was transported aboard the Elevating Platform Transporter to the Delta Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) near SLC-37 where it will be used for compatibility and mechanical testing. During the third quarter, it will be moved to the launch pad itself for further testing prior to the arrival of the first flight model of the Delta 4 vehicle in September.
May 29 – Norwegian Contract on Ariane 5
Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS was awarded a NOK64-million (US$7-million) contract by EADS Launch Vehicles to provide solid booster stages attachment and separation systems for the 20 launch vehicles of the second Ariane 5 production batch (P2). Ten shipsets have been firmly ordered and will be delivered through mid-2005, while the further 10 are in option.
May 25 – Delta 4 CBC Leaves Stennis
Boeing‘s first Delta 4 Common Booster Core (CBC) stage was transferred from its test stand at NASA‘s Stennis Space Center, Mississipi, onboard Boeing’s Delta Mariner ship for a cruise toward Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where it is scheduled to arrive on May 29. The stage will be used for compatibility and mechanical testing at the new SLC-37 launch facilities prior to the arrival of the first flight model of the Delta 4 vehicle in September.
May 17 – SpaceDev to Study Zenit Piggyback Launch
SpaceDev will work with Sea Launch to study the possibility to loft secondary payloads on Zenit 3SL vehicles under a US$175,000 grant from California Space Authority.

Atlas 5/401 and Ariane 5ECA
May 17 – Eutelsat to Launch Hot Birds on Maiden Flights
Eutelsat reportedly plans to fly two of its upcoming Hot Bird direct broadcasting satellites atop new launch vehicles on their maiden flights by mid-2002. Eutelsat is currently in final negotiation with International Launch Services to loft its Hot Bird 6 satellite atop the very first Atlas 5 vehicle in May 2002. The vehicle, designated AV-001, will fly in its baseline 401 configuration, with a 4-m payload fairing and no strap-on booster, as a demonstration for future U.S. Air Force Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) missions. Similarly, Eutelsat plans to use a launch contract previously signed with Arianespace, to fly Hot Bird 7 on a shared launch atop the first Ariane 5ECA vehicle, introducing both an upgraded lower composite, with improved solid booster stages and the new Snecma Vulcain 2 engine, and the new ESC-A cryogenic upper stage. This launch is scheduled in June 2002 according to Eutelsat.
Editor’s note: Eutelsat has already been the initial customer for two previous Atlas vehicles: the Atlas 2AS in December 1993 and the Atlas 3A in May 2000. It is assumed that by flying such missions, Eutelsat will benefit from lower launch fares.

May 17 – Intelsat Taps Ariane as Back-up Launcher
Intelsat has contracted in April with Arianespace for a back-up launch reservation to loft its Intelsat APR-3 satellite in case the primary Chinese launch vehicle is unavailable due to ‘political reasons’. The Astrium-built spacecraft is currently planned for launch between March and May 2002 atop a China Great Wall Industry Corp. CZ-3B ‘Long March’ vehicle but, since it features major U.S.-built components, its shipment to China will require a U.S. export license to be awarded by the U.S. State Department.
May 16 – Saab Ericsson Space on Atlas 5
Lockheed Martin Astronautics has awarded a contract worth SEK100 million (US$10 million) to Sweden’s Saab Ericsson Space to provide two versions of a new Low Shock Separation System for its Atlas 5 launch vehicles during the next 10 years. The low shock separation systems will reportedly reduce the launcher induced shock environment for the satellite by several orders of magnitude. the system, available in two diameters, will also be capable of supporting future growth in satellite mass.
Editor’s note: Saab Ericsson Space, which claims more than 260 successful in-orbit-separations, is also providing separation systems for the Atlas 2 and Atlas 3 vehicles, GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s Proton, Arianespace‘s Ariane, Boeing’s Delta 3 and Sea Launch‘s Zenit 3SL.
May 13 – Malaysian Payloads on Indian Boosters
India’s Antrix Corp. and Malaysia’s Astronautic Technology (M) Sdn Bhd will sign a memorandum of understanding on May 14 for the launch of Malaysian piggyback payloads on India’s PSLV and GSLV launchers depending on mission requirements. Malaysian missions will use the AeroAstro Small Payload Orbit Transfer (Sport) module to reach their operational orbit.
Editor’s note: Astronautic Technology is working with AeroAstro to develop the NeqO messaging satellite constellation to be deployed in equatorial orbit.
May 11 – FAA/Comstac Issue Launch Forecasts
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration‘s Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) and the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) have issued their yearly report on projected global demand for commercial space launch services over the next 10 years. The prospective report, which combines Comstac’s model for geosynchronous satellite launch demand and FAA’s own model for launch demand to non-geosynchronous orbits, concludes in an average of 32 commercial space launches per year worldwide expected through 2010, a 22% decrease from last year’s projections. This downturn in expectations is said to be the result of continued funding difficulties. The breakdown between the missions would be 25.5 flights of medium-to-heavy launch vehicles including 24 toward geosynchronous orbits (to loft an average 30.5 satellites) and 6.5 flights of small launch vehicles to non-geosynchronous orbits.
Download the report (484 kb, PDF)
May 6 – Delta 4’s CBC Completes First Round of Tests
The first series of static firing tests by the Common Booster Core stage of Boeing‘s new Delta 4 launch vehicle has been completed. The CBC and its Boeing Rocketdyne RS-68 engine ghave undergone four hot firing tests on the B-2 test stand at NASA‘s Stennis Space Center. From March 17 to May 6, the CBC logged 553 seconds of cumulated firing time in four burns. On its latest firing test, the CBC almost reached its full actual in-flight burn duration. The stage will be shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in early June onboard Boeing’s Delta Mariner freighter ship for a series of handling tests at the Delta 4 launch pad in SLC-37. These tests will last through August. The first flight model of the Delta 4 CBC is planned to arrive in Cape Canaveral in September to be prepared for a maiden flight now scheduled in March 2002. The RS-68 engine has logged more than 12,000 seconds of cumulated burn time and should be qualified for flight in September or October.
 CBC Test Campaign Summary

 March 17

15 sec.
First CBC firing test.
 April 3

145 sec.
Automatic shutdown at LH2 depletion.
Nozzle gimballing and throttling.
 April 23

90 sec.
Automatic shutdown at hydraulics test limit.
 May 6

303 sec.
Automatic shutdown at LOx depletion.
Nominal flight burn time.
May 1st – Boeing Plans Delta 3 Phase-out
Boeing plans to build no more than 20 Delta 3 launch vehicles as the market has evolved toward launch masses beyond the vehicle’s 3,800-kg payload capability to geostationary transfer orbit, according to Dave Schweikle, vice-president of Boeing Delta launch Services. No Delta 3 launch is currently due before 2003. Only five firm launches with identified payloads are on the launch manifest. All of these launches will be conducted on behalf of Boeing Satellite Systems for its customer ICO Global Communications.
Editor’s note: The Delta 3 has flown three times since August 1998, logging only one partial launch success on its third launch attempt in August 2000.

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 Government Launchers

Mayak 12 and Mayak 23
May 17 – Yuzhnoye Studies New Vehicles
Ukraine’s NPO Yuzhnoye is developing a new family of launchers, dubbed Mayak, on behalf of NKAU, the national space agency of Ukraine. The Mayak vehicles will be based on technologies developed for the Zenit launchers and be powered by NPO Energomash RD-120 engines. The Mayak 12 vehicle, the only version to be finded at this point, would be based on a first stage powered by two RD-120s, with a second stage featuring a single RD-120 and an upper stage with a modified NPO Yuzhnoye RD-8 engine. It would be able to loft 1,700 kg to a 500-km-altitude Sun-synchronous orbit. A first flight is planned in 2005/2006. A larger vehicle, the Mayak 23, would be able to loft 3,000-kg to geostationary orbit. Two launch sites are considered: Brazil’s Alcântara Launch Center and South Africa’s Overberg Test Range.

May 17 – ISRO Plans ‘Super-GSLV’
The Indian Space Research Organisation is studying a new launch vehicle which will be able to deliver 5 to 6 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit by 2005 or 2006 at a price of about US$50 million. This launcher, tentatively designated as GSLV Mk3, would feature two 200-ton solid rocket boosters flanking a core vehicle composed of a new 100-t storable propellant stage, powered by two Vikas engines, and an Indian-built cryogenic upper stage. The current GSLV, with its 12KRB upper stage, supplied by Russia’s GKNPTs Khrunichev, will be declared operational after its second flight (D2) in late 2002. The GTO payload capability of this Mk1 version would be capped at about 2,000 kg. An Indian-built C-12 cryogenic upper stage will be test-flown on the third GSLV (D3) flight and will boost the payload capability up to 2,600 kg.
May 16 – Delta 2 Launch Slips
Boeing has decided to postpone the launch of its next Delta 2 vehicle by 24 hours, from May 17 to May 18 in order to replace three flexible hoses on the first stage’s Boeing Rocketdyne RS-27 engine after a leak was detected on a similar hose in production.
May 6 – CALT Develops New Upper Stages
The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) is developping a new upper stage for its stretched CZ-2C vehicle. According to Go Taikonauts, the CTS stage, apparently a derivative of the Smart Dispenser already flown on the CZ-2C/SD version for Iridium launches, would be a 3-axis stabilized stage powered by a FG-47 solid rocket motor. The CZ-2C/CTS combination, able to loft 1,400 kg to a 900-km high Sun-synchronous orbit, would be used to loft the two DoubleStar plasma science satellites in December 2002 and April 2003, as well as South Korea’s Kompsat 2 in April 2004. A larger ETS stage is also being developed as an upper stage for the CZ-2E vehicle.
Editor’s note: The ETS might be similar to the proposed Top Stage (TS), apparently a larger design of the Smart Dispenser, initially due to be introduced in 1998. A CZ-2E/TS combination was selected in 1995 by Space Systems/Loral to loft a cluster of 12 Globalstar satellites. This contract was eventually cancelled in 1998 after the loss of another 12 Globalstar satellites in the failure of a Zenit 2 vehicle.

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 Small Launchers

May 29 – Strela Test Flight in 2002
Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeniya (NPO-M) plans to conduct the first test flight of its Strela launch vehicle during the first quarter of 2002, from Baykonur, Kazakhstan. On its maiden flight, the Strela, a refurbished RS-18 ballistic missile with modernized avionics, will loft a dummy payload. Later in 2002, it is due to launch NPO-M’s first Kondor E remote sensing satellite. The Strela will be available commercially by late 2002 at a price of US$9 million per launch.
Editor’s note: The RS-18 (SS-19) ballistic missile is also the base for Eurockot‘s Rokot launch vehicle which features an additional Breeze upper stage. NPO-M has earlier announced a partnership with Rosvoorouzheniye to market the Strela. A launch price of US$7-10 million was announced in June 1999.
May 21 – Kosmotras Partners to Discuss Strategy
Russian and Ukrainian partners of the MKK Kosmotras venture are due to meet in Moscow on May 29 to discuss future strategic and commercial aspects of Dnepr launch system operations.
Editor’s note: Kosmotras plans to launch its next mission on November 15, carrying University of Rome‘s Unisat 2 microsatellite and a cluster of at least 3 Cubesat nanosatellites for Stanford University on a multiple payload release system provided by One Stop Satellite Solutions (OSSS).
May 21 – Australian Start Launches Under Assessment
Spacelift Australia, a venture proposing to operate Russian Start launch vehicles from Australia will complete its feasibility study late June.
Editor’s note: One of the biggest challenge in operating Start launchers outside of Russia is export licensing of the vehicles since they are based on an operational, latest generation intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-12 ‘Topol’.

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 Missile Systems

May 31 – India Plans LRBM
The Indian Ministry of Defence has approved the development of a long range ballistic missile system to complement its new, 2,000-km-range, Agni 2 ballictic missile to be fielded in the coming year.
Editor’s note: Plans for a 3,000-km-range Agni 3 vehicle have been reported since 1999.
May 25 – U.S. Navy Completes 3,500th FBM Deterrent Patrol
U.S. Navy has completed its 3,500th Fleet Ballistic Missile deterrent patrol as the USS Florida submarine returned to its home base in Bangor, Washington. Since November 15, 1960, U.S. Navy’s submarines have conducted 1,245 patrols carrying Polaris sea-launched ballistic missiles, 1,182 with Poseidon missiles, 826 with Trident 1 missiles and 247 with Trident 2. All six generations of sea-launched ballistic missiles operated by the U.S. Navy have been developed by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space in Sunnyvale, California: Polaris A1, Polaris A2, Polaris A3, Poseidon C3, Trident 1 (D4) and Trident 2 (D5).
May 17 – 4th Topol M Regiment Planned
Russia will put its 4th regiment of Topol M intercontinental ballistic missiles on combat duty in December 2001.
May 14 – Trident Test Flight
U.S. Navy has test flown a Lockheed Martin Trident 2 (D5) sea-launched ballistic missile from its USS Kentucky submarine off Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The test flight was the 91st successive success for the missile.
May 7 – Two Greenpeace Protesters Arrested in Kwajalein
Two Greenpeace activists were arrested within U.S. Army‘s Kwajalein Missile Range in Marshall Islands. The two went onto the base from Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship and displayed a "Stop Star Wars" campaign banner at an X-band radar site used for interception tests conducted under the U.S. National Missile Defense program.
Editor’s note: In July, 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.
May 5 – India Denies ICBM Development Report
India has strongly denied a report by U.S. publication Defense News regarding the development and upcoming test flight of the Surya intercontinental ballistic missile.
Editor’s note: Inconsistant claims regarding the application of cryogenic propulsion technologies from Russia to a military missile have been spreading from the United States since the inception of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle program in 1987. Cryogenic propulsion is unsuitable for ballistic missile applications. India is already manufacturing large solid propellant motors, like the 129-t S-125 used as first stage on the PSLV and GSLV vehicles, which are much more likely to be used for such purposes.
May 2nd – North Korea Extends Missile Moratorium
During his visit to Europe, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il announced that his country intends to extend unilaterally its moratorium on ballistic missile testing to at least 2003.
Editor’s note: The current moratorium has been standing since September 1999, one year after the first test flight of the Taepo Dong 1 intermediate range ballistic missile on August 31, 1998 which is still the last North Korean missile flight to date. North Korean officials threatened to resume missile testing when the new U.S. administration froze contacts shortly after taking office in January. U.S. president George W. Bush often refers to the threat from so-called "rogue states" like North Korea to justify the controversial U.S. National Missile Defense (NMD) program.
May 1st – Bush Backs Missile Defense
In a speech at the National Defense University, U.S. president George W. Bush officially took position for the development of a missile defense system to protect the United States from possible limited ballistic missile strike from so-called "rogue countries." However, he did not give any detail on a timetable to deploy such a system nor on its actual architecture. According to Mr. Bush, the current policy of nuclear deterrence is no longer adapted to today’s world. As a consequence the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed in 1972 with the Soviet Union has become obsolete and should be withdrawn to allow full scale development of ABM systems. Such missile defense systems would allow to reduce unilaterally the current U.S. nuclear arsenal of 7,295 warheads down to 1,500 units. The U.S. administration will send four consultation missions headed by top Defense and State Departments executives to tour the U.S. allies and try again to convince them for the need of the missile defense policy. Talks with Russia and China are also planned.
    Editor’s note: Under the Start 2 treaty, both the United States and Russia are already supposed to reduce their own arsenal to some 3,000/3,500 warheads each. Meanwhile, the next interception test of a dummy warhead by an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle as part of the National Missile Defense (NMD) system development has slipped again, from June to July. According to analysts, the development of a missile defense system by the United States is only an element of a broader poltical involvement to ensure a U.S. military superiority in space as requested by a congressional commission earlier this year.

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 RLVs and Reentry Systems

May 30 – Canadarm2 Mishap Delays Two Shuttle Flights
NASA has decided to postpone its next space shuttle missions to the International Space Station due to a computer malfunction within the Canadarm2 remote manipulator system. The US$600-million robotic arm is needed to pick the 6,600-kg Airlock Module from Atlantis payload bay and connect it to the Unity module, out of reach from the shuttle’s own Canadarm. Unfortunately, the backup mode of the station’s arm is not operational. The launch of Atlantis on the STS-104 flight was thus postponed from June 20 to early July and that of Discovery, for STS-105, from mid-July to early August. Firm launch dates will be announced by mid-June.
May 29 – Atlantis Resumes Launch Preparation
Workers at NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center have completed tile drying and waterproofing efforts on Atlantis and resumed final preparations to roll out the orbiter vehicle over to the Vehicle Assembly Building. The new launch date for the STS-104 mission remains set to no earlier than June 20.
May 24 – Shuttle Delayed to Dry Up
NASA had to delay the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-104 mission from June 14 to June 20 to leave enough time to dry moisture in about 600 thermal protection tiles on the vehicle’s belly which were soaked by rain during the transfer back from California after landing in Edwards AFB on February 20.
May 24 – OSC Details Contribution to SLI
Orbital Sciences Corp. was awarded two contracts under NASA‘s Space Launch Initiative program. Under a US$47.15-million contract, OSC will develop and launch the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) vehicle with Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. DART will be launched in 2004 onboard a Pegasus vehicle to conduct a series of rendezvous maneuvers with an orbiting satellite using technologies previously developed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and tested in 1997 onboard the Space Shuttle. The second contract, worth US$5.98 million and due to last 19 months, will cover further architecture studies on Orbital’s "Space Taxi" concept for a crew transfer vehicle previoulsy studied with Northrop Grumman under a US$5-million contract on behalf of NASA’s Space Transportation Architecture Study (STAS) program in 2000.
Editor’s note: In 1999, the "Space Taxi" was presented as an autonomous space plane which could serve as a crew rescue vehicle for the International Space Station or as a crew module for launch atop an expendable as well as a reusable unmanned launch vehicle. It would apparently be a 17,000-kg vehicle derived from the earlier HL-20 Personnel Launch System concept studied in the 1980s by NASA’s Langley Research Center and itself based on the aerodynamic design of Russia’s Bor-4 demonstrator.
Reference: The initial SLI contracts are described here.
May 19 – Last X-40A Free Flight for NASA
Boeing‘s X-40A test vehicle has successfully completed its seventh and last free flight on behalf of NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center . The series of drop tests, which began on March 14, was planned to validate technologies for the future X-37 technology demonstrator. The 1,200-kg X-40A, a 85% subscale model of the X-37 on loan from the U.S. Air Force, was released by a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 4,574 m above Edwards AFB, California, and conducted an autonomous landing after a 2-minute glide, reaching a speed of 487 km/h. This last flight was aimed at monitoring the vehicle’s performance during roll and yaw maneuvers to confirm results from earlier test flights.
May 17 – NASA Awards Initial SLI Contracts
NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center has awarded a series of 22 contracts to the U.S. space industry to begin research & development effort under the new US$4.8-billion Space Launch Initiative. The 10-month contracts, which include options for one and two-year extensions, could be worth up to US$766.9 million and cover 37 different task awards. Additional contracts will be awarded in late 2001 and 2002. Technologies to be studied include crew survival systems, advanced propellant tanks, advanced propulsion systems and new thermal protection systems. Five contracts have been awarded for overall system studies and two for flight demosntrations, including a US$10-million contract to Kistler Aerospace with options worth US$125 million to complete the development of the K-1 reusable two-stage-to-orbit launch system before 2003 and to conduct four test flights to demonstrate technologies developed by other contractors. NASA plans to be able to select two designs for a 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle in 2006 and fly them before selecting a final operational design in 2010.
Reference: The initial SLI contracts are described here.
 2nd Generation RLV Task Awards (per Topic)
 Topic Amount Contractors
 Systems Studies US$88.7 M Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Sciences, Futron.
 Airframe US$130.2 M Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Oceaneering, Lockheed Martin, Materials Research & Design, Southern Research Institute, North Carolina State University.
 Vehicle Subsystems US$40.5 M Lockheed Martin, Boeing.
 Operations US$37 M Lockheed Martin, PHPK Technologies, Boeing, Sierra Lobo.
 Integrated Vehicle  Health Monitoring US$46.4 M Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin.
 Upper Stages US$4 M Boeing Rocketdyne, Moog, Pratt&Whitney, General Kinetics.
 Flight Mechanics US$10.9 M Universal Space Lines, Ohio University.
 Propulsion US$219.4 M Pratt&Whitney, Boeing Rocketdyne, TRW, GenCorp Aerojet, Boeing, Andrews Space & Technology.
 NASA Unique  Requirements US$7.3 M Honeywell, Lockheed Martin.
 Flight Demonstration US$182.6 M Kistler Aerospace, Orbital Sciences.
May 17 – Shuttle Orbiter as ISS Module
NASA is considering the use of a Space Shuttle Orbiter vehicle as a temporary research and habitat module for the International Space Station to compensate for the orbital outpost’s lack of accomodations for a larger crew than the current three. When fitted with the Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) fuel cell system, the orbiter could remain attached to the ISS for 30 days.
May 16 – X-40A Completes 6th Flight for NASA
Boeing‘s X-40A test vehicle has successfully completed its sixth free flight under a campaign organized by NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center to validate technologies for the future X-37 technology demonstrator. The U.S. Air Force subscale version of the X-37 was released by a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 4,570 m and performed an autonomous landing at Edwards AFB, California, after a 1-minute glide, reaching a speed of 415 km/h. A seventh drop test is planned.

May 15 – X-37 Design Nears Completion
Boeing Phantom Works reports that the development of NASA‘s X-37 space maneuver vehicle demonstrator is progressing well as two-thirds of the design is complete. Assembly is tentatively scheduled to begin in the third quarter of this year. Wind tunnel testing of the vehicle’s aerodynamic shape is 93% complete and aeroheating wind tunnel tests have been completed. Arcjet testing of the X-37’s new thermal protection system matched predictions. In addition, the demonstrator’s approach and landing avionics and software are being validated in a series of drop tests of the U.S. Air Force‘s X-40A, a 85% subscale model of the actual vehicle, on behalf of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The first unpowered drop test of the X-37 from NASA’s B-52N carrier aircraft is planned for 2002 over Edwards AFB, California, while an initial orbital flight, onboard the Space Shuttle or atop an expendable launch vehicle, is scheduled for 2004.

May 8 – X-40A Completes 5th Flight for NASA
Boeing‘s X-40A test vehicle has successfully completed its fifth out of seven planned free flight under a campaign organized by NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center to validate technologies for the future X-37 technology demonstrator. The U.S. Air Force subscale version of the X-37 was released by a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter at an altitude of 4,579 m and performed an autonomous landing at Edwards AFB, California, after a 2-minute glide, reaching a speed of 146 km/h. The X-40A was released off centerline over the landing site in order to test the flight computer’s capability to conduct a straight approach.

May 5 – X-40A Performs Fourth Drop Test for NASA
Boeing‘s X-40A test vehicle has successfully completed its fourth 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 4,625 m above Edwards AFB, California, and conducted an autonomous landing after a 2-minute glide, reaching a speed of 166 km/h. The test flight, due to validate technologies for NASA’s future X-37 technology demonstrator, demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform side-to-side maneuvers, and to maneuver to a safe landing when dropped above its nominal release altitude of 4,575 m. Up to three more drop tests are planned.

Da Vinci rocket and ballute
(Da Vinci team)
May 2nd – Da Vinci Vehicle Unveiled
A Canadian team has unveiled its proposed Da Vinci reusable suborbital manned space vehicle designed as a candidate for the US$10-million X-Prize competition. The 7.3-m long, 2,500-kg vehicle would be deployed at an altitude of 12,000 m from the world’s largest hot air balloon and propelled to an altitude of more than 120 km by a 45-kN thrust liquid oxygen/kerosene engine, reaching a speed of about Mach 4. During the third quarter of this year, a full-scale, 500-kg engineering prototype will be dropped from a hot air balloon from about 3,500 m to test the vehicle’s ballute and parafoil landing system.
Watch the mission animation (10 Mb, Mpeg)

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 Space Propulsion

May 30 – No U.S. RD-180s Before 2008
The U.S. production line for RD-180 engines due to power the core stage of U.S. government Atlas 5 launchers (if required), will be operational in 2008 at the earliest instead of 2005 as previously announced, according to Space News. The production line, set up by Pratt&Whitney within its West Palm Beach plant, was imposed by U.S. Air Force‘s requirements for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) competition, jointly won by Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 and Boeing‘s Delta 4, for a total production capability in the U.S. for strategic autonomy reasons. The RD-180s to be used on upcoming Atlas 3 and Atlas 5 launches are supplied by Russia’s NPO EnergoMash, through RD AmRoss LLC, a joint-venture with Pratt&Whitney, under a US$1-billion contract signed in June 1997 with Lockheed Martin Astronautics and covering the procurement of 101 engines. Only one Russian-built RD-180 has been flown to date.
Editor’s note: It is estimated that U.S.-built RD-180s will cost about four to five times more than their Russian-built equivalents. According to Lockheed Martin officials, the procurement of a stockpile of engines will protect the U.S. military interests in case of production shortage for economical or political reasons.

May 29 – Aerojet to Study New SSME Nozzle
GenCorp Aerojet was awarded an 18-month, US$5-million contract by NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center to conduct a feasibility study regarding the development of a channel wall nozzle for Boeing Rocketdyne‘s Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs), in replacement to the current tube nozzle. Under NASA’s requirements, the new, simpler nozzle should be capable of withstanding 55 flights, 27,000 seconds of operation and one abort flight.
May 25 – Andrews to Study "Alchemist" Under SLI
Andrews Space & Technology was awarded a US$3-million two-phase contract under NASA‘s Space Launch Initiative program. The first phase, to last through mid-March 2002, includes a feasibility and risk assessment study regarding its "Alchemist" Air Collection & Enrichment System (ACES) which would liquefy atmospheric oxygen for future air-breathing space propulsion systems. The second phase would derive detailed design requirements and develop a comprehensive risk reduction development plan.
Editor’s note: Andrews Space & Technology had already been awarded a small business innovation research (SBIR) contract by NASA to study the Alchemist concept for space propulsion with Pratt&Whitney.
Reference: The initial SLI contracts are described here.
May 24 – Aerojet to Develop RCS Engine for SLI
GenCorp Aerojet was awarded a US$3.1-million contract on behalf of NASA‘s Space Launch Initiative program to develop and test a dual-thrust reaction control engine for use onboard a future 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle. The contract includes two options which may bring its value to US$7.6 million if exercised. It covers manufacturing of three prototype engines as well as their static firing tests in White Sands Missile Range through September 2004.
Reference: The initial SLI contracts are described here.

HyShot experiment in flight (University of Queensland)
May 24 – Australian Hypersonic Demonstrator Passes Test
The University of Queensland‘s Centre for Hypersonics has completed a series of ground tests on its HyShot experimental scramjet which will be flown to Mach 7.6 atop a Terrier Orion suborbital rocket on August 13, from the Woomera Rocket Range, Southern Australia. The rocket nose cone has been jetissoned several times to expose the airbreathing engine as it will actually do in flight, after reentry from an altitude of 350 km. The scramjet will be operated between 35 km and 23 km of altitude. The ejection system uses compressed gas to pop off the cover instead of pyrotechnics which could not be used in multiple testing. The experimental scramjet has alos undergine severe dynamic and thermal testing. The HyShot 1 launch was initially due in October 2000 and slipped to March and June before being set to the present date. An HyShot 2 is planned on August 20. Total cost of the HyShot program is AU$1.25 million.
Editor’s note: Also participating in the project are British Aerospace Australia, the British Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (DERA), NASA‘s Langley Research Center, the Australian Department of Science & Technology (DSTO), South Korea’s Seoul National University, Germany’s DLR, the Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI), Alesi Technologies, AECA and Luxfer Australia.

May 24 – Shuttle SRB Test Firing Planned
Thiokol Propulsion has successfully completed a 123.2-second static firing test on a Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) in its facilities in Promontory, Utah. The Flight Support Motor-9 test, conducted on behalf of NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center was intended to qualify a new insulation design on the nozzle-to-case J-leg joint in order to improve flight safety and reduce costs. This upgrade is planned to be introduced in late 2004. The test also demonstrated a new adhesive to bond metal and phenolic parts in the nozzle, non-toxic solvents and a new nozzle ablative insulation. Next RSRM static firing is tentatively set for next October.

Titan 2 and Titan 4
May 23 – Aerojet’s Titan Contracts Extended
Lockheed Martin Astronautics has awarded a one-year extension to GenCorp Aerojet‘s contracts to support the Titan family of launchers through September 2003. Aerojet provides LR-87 and LR-91 engines to Lockheed Martin to power the first and second stages of the Titan 2 and Titan 4 vehicles. Total value of the extension of existing contracts beyond September 2002 is US$31 million. The US$318-million production contract will receive a US$19-million extension to maintain Aerojet’s full capabilities for engine spare parts, processing, testing and repairs, as well as for systems engineering and logistics support. and testing. The US$88-million launch operations contract will be extended by US$12 million for provision of technical support at the launch sites, performance analysis, engineering, procedure maintenance, training and validation support. Eleven remaining Titan flights are scheduled between through September 2003, including Titan 4s and three Titan 2s.

May 23 – Laser Ignition Technology for RBCC Engine
NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center plans to award a R&D contract to CFD Research Corp. to continue the development and prepare the demonstration of an advanced laser ignition system for future hydrocarbon rocket-based combined cycle (RBCC) engines. This ignition system could later be used on other rocket engines.
May 21 – Shuttle SRB Test Firing Planned
A Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM) will undergo a 123.2-second firing test at Thiokol Propulsion‘s facilities in Promontory, Utah, on May 24, on behalf of NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center. The test, designated Flight Support Motor-9, is mainly intended to qualify a new insulation design on the nozzle-to-case J-leg joint in order to improve flight safety and reduce costs. This upgrade is planned to be introduced in late 2004. The test will also demonstrate a new adhesive to bond metal and phenolic parts in the nozzle, non-toxic solvents and a new nozzle ablative insulation.
Editor’s note: The FSM-9 is a full-scale RSRM and its elements will be refurbished for actual flight activities.
May 20 – Soyuz/ST Propulsion Demonstrated
A Soyuz vehicle, featuring modernized versions of its NPO EnergoMash RD-107 and RD-108 engines on its core and booster stages, was flown on May 20, lofting a Progress M1 cargo ship toward the International Space Station. The modified engines have a specific impulse increased by 5%, as required to loft heavier Soyuz TMA manned spacecraft to the ISS. Reportedly designated Soyuz FG, the improved vehicle is also a pathfinder for Starsem‘s Soyuz/ST, currently planned to be introduced in late 2002.
Editor’s note: In addition to improved propulsion on its first and booster stages, the Soyuz/ST will introduce a redesigned second stage, to accomodate the new mixture ratio of its new RD-0124 engine, and digital avionics to enable the use of a larger Ariane 4-derived payload fairing.
May 18 – Russia Proposes New Space Cooperations with Japan
Russia has proposed to Japan to expand their limited space cooperation, initiated in 1993, to new topics including joint work on space propulsion systems. Japanese authorities are reviewing the proposal and will provide an answer within 3 months.
May 17 – P&W-Aerojet to Develop Reusable Engines
As part of the series of contracts awarded by NASA under the Space Launch Initiative, the Pratt&WhitneyAerojet Propulsion associates joint-venture was awarded a combined two-year US$115 million contract to develop three reusable liquid-fueled engines for possible use on a future 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle. Pratt&Whitney will lead the effort on the Cobra and RLX engines while Aerojet will be in charge of the Ajax engine. Cobra is a 2,600-kN-class single preburner, staged-combustion cryogenic engine and the RLX is a 1,300-kN-class split expander, cryogenic engine. Ajax is a single preburner, staged-combustion hydrocarbon engine.
May 16 – Corrected – SRB Separation Rocket Malfunction
One of the four upper separation rockets on Space Shuttle Endeavour‘s right solid rocket booster did not burn its full 35-kg propellant load and left about 2 kg of unburnt solid propellant after the launch of the STS-100 mission on April 19. NASA is investigating the mishap. More than 1,600 such separation motors have been fired in space shuttle flights since 1981 and it is the first time the problem occurs. The separation motors are built by Pratt&Whitney Chemical Systems Division (CSD).

May 10 – Aerojet to Resume NK-33 Testing
GenCorp Aerojet is reportedly touring several test facilities in the United States to select one for the ground testing of an "americanized" version of Dvigateli NK’s NK-33 engine. A likely candidate for the tests is said to be the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory‘s facility in Edwards AFB, Calfornia. The NK-33 is being modified into the AJ26-58/59 engine for use as a reusable propulsion system on the first stage of Kistler Aerospace‘s K-1 two-stage-to-orbit reusable launch system. An expendable version is also planned to boost the first stage of Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy IndustriesJ-2 launcher.
Editor’s note: Aerojet has purchased 70 NK-33 engines from Russia in 1996. Early NK-33 firing tests were conducted in 1995 and 1998 at Aerojet’s own facilities in Sacramento, California. The improvements on the AJ26-58/59 version include a gimbal system for vehicle steering, a solid propellant gas generator, electrically-operated valves, main combustion chamber pyrotechnic igniters, and a harness assembly.

May 9 – Aerojet Gets R&D Contract on SMV Propulsion
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate has awarded a US$10.4-million contract to GenCorp Aerojet to develop a non-toxic Advanced Reusable Rocket Engine (ARRE) through November 2002. The contract includes options which could increase its value to US$29 million through April 2005. The ARRE, which will burn kerosene with hydrogen peroxide, is planned to power U.S. Air Force‘s future Space Maneuver Vehicles.
Editor’s note: The SMV would be an operational military derivative of the Boeing X-37 orbital spaceplane under development for NASA. The main propulsion system of the X-37 is planned to be a 31-kN Boeing Rocketdyne AR2/3 non-toxic propellant engine also fed with kerosene and hydrogen peroxide.
May 1st – Andrews to Study Advanced Propulsion Concepts
Andrews Space & Technology was awarded two contracts under NASA‘s small business innovation research (SBIR) program to study the Alchemist and Mini-MagOrion concepts for space propulsion. A proof of concept design analysis will be performed on the "Alchemist" Air Collection and Enrichment System (ACES), under study with Pratt&Whitney, which would liquefy atmospheric oxygen for future air-breathing engines to be developed for third-generation reusable launch vehicles. Andrews will also conduct proof of principle experiments on its Mini-MagOrion propulsion system, under study with Sandia National Laboratory and the University of Washington, which would use a micro-pulse fusion and a magnetic nozzle to provide efficient propuslion for future large interplanetary spacecraft.
May 1st – Green Propellant Venture Receives First Order
ECAPS (Ecological Advanced Propulsion System), the joint venture incorporated in January by the Swedish National Space Board and Volvo Aero, was awarded an initial SEK11-million (US$1.2-million) contract by SNSB to demonstrate a non-toxic, non-hazardous propellant for satellite thrusters. ECAPS’ HPGP 101 (High Performance Green Propellant) was developed to replace the highly toxic hydrazine storable propellant to fuel satellite thrusters. ECAPS will also begin the development of satellite thrusters using the new propellant.

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May 29 – New Satellite Processing Facility in Kourou
Arianespace and the European Space Agency will officially inaugurate their new S5 Payload Processing Complex in Kourou in early July but the facility is already partly operational for the preparation of ESA’s 8,100-kg Envisat polar platform for environmental monitoring. With 3,380 sq.m. of clean rooms, the new complex doubles the current payload processing capacity on the launch site. The S5 consists in three main halls, for integration and filling of up to four large satellites (up to 18-m-tall) in parallel, connected by ‘clean corridors’ which avoid to use containers to move the spacecraft from the integration to the filling stations. This design will enable to significantly reduce the duration of satellite processing campaigns, and thus to decrease their cost. The €75-million (US$70-million) investement was funded 2/3 by Arianespace and 1/3 by ESA. The S5 is operated by CNES.
May 23 – New Californian Grant for RLV Infrastructure Studies
The California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency will award a US$1-million grant to the California Space Authority (CSA) to identify cost-effective projects for the development of activities related to future Reusable Launch Vehicles and NASA‘s Space Launch Initiative in California in order to prepare the state’s infrastructure for future launch systems.

Aurora/Korvet and Start
May 23 – Australia Signs Space Agreement with Russia
Russia’s Rosaviakomos aerospace agency and the Australian Ministry of Industry, Science and Resources have signed an intergovernment cooperation agreement regarding space activities in general and the launch of Russian-built vehicles from Australian territories in particular. The agreement namely covers the launch of TsSKB-Progress/RKK Energiya Aurora/Korvet vehicles from Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, on behalf of the Asia Pacific Space Centre, and of Start vehicles from the Woomera Rocket Range in Southern Australia as proposed by Spacelift Australia. A first launch by either of the ventures could occur within three years.
Editor’s note: In its release, the Australian Ministry of Industry, Science and Resources gives no mention of Unity Launch Systems International Pty Ltd (ULSI) which plans to launch Unity vehicles, developed by GRTsKB Makeev, from Hummock Hill Island, Queensland.

May 18 – Brazilian Congressmen Reluctant to U.S. Agreement
An influent group of Brazilian congressmen is trying to convince the Brazilian government to step down from a technology safeguard agreement signed with the U.S. administration in April 2000 to allow the launch of U.S.-built satellites and launch vehicles from Brazil’s Alcântara Launch Center (CLA), in the Maranhão Province. According to Brazilian daily newspaper Gazeta Mercantil, the members of the International Relations Commission consider that the agreement includes provisions which may harm its aerospace industry, such as one preventing Brazil to invest money raised from the launch activity into its own space program. The agreement has to be ratified by the Brazilian parliament to come into force.
May 11 – Guiana Propellant Plant Expansion
CNES, the French space agency, has awarded a series of contracts worth about €40 million (US$35 million) contract to extend the Guiana Propellant Plant (UPG) facilities in Kourou where solid propellant is produced for the lower segments of Ariane 5‘s solid booster stages. Two new wells will be dug to cast propellant in the segments with only one fully equipped to support the increase of Ariane 5’s launch rate up to 8 missions per year in 2003. The second well will be kept for future use if required.
Editor’s note: The UPG is run by Regulus, a joint-venture of Groupe SNPE and FiatAvio.
May 11 – Newest Control Room at Cape Canaveral
NASA will dedicate an upgraded Launch Vehicle Data Center (LVDC) within its AE hangar of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 15. The new facility, with three control rooms, replaces an older single-room LVDC in use since the mid-1970s to support checkout and launch operations for expendable launch systems. It allows multiple test oparetions in parallel or a single large launch operation.
Editor’s note: The new LVDC was actually inaugurated on April 7 with the launch of NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey probe.

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May 22 – Hydrogen Tank Testing Facility
Thiokol Propulsion and Quantum Technologies plan to open an hydrogen storage testing facility at Thiokol’s Reusable Solid Rocket Motors manufacturing plant in Promontory, Utah. The facility will provide hydrogen cycling testing for compressed gas storage tanks and subsystems designed for aerospace and ground-based applications.
May 18 – France Prepares Snecma’s Privatization
The French Ministry of Finances is about to select a coinsultant bank to prepare for the privatization of Snecma. Currently, the French govrenment owns 97.3% of the aerospace motorist.
Editor’s note: On several occasions, the French government has expresed its will to consolidate Europe’s aerospace propulsion industry around Snecma. Talks have already been held with Italy’s FiatAvio.
May 16 – Alcatel to Buy Thales Stake in Alcatel Space
Alcatel will acquire the 48.83% stake in Alcatel Space currently held by Thales for an amount of €795 million to be paid half in cash and half in Thales shares. The deal, which will turn Alcatel Space into a 100% Alcatel subsidiary, will have to be approved by the European Commission.
May 11 – Lockheed Martin Lays Off
Lockheed Martin Space Systems has laid off 125 workers from its satellite manufacturing activities in Sunnyvale, California, to cope with overcapacity. Most of the layoffs affected Lockheed Martin Commercial Space whose workforce was reduced to 1,400.
May 3 – Alenia Talks with Alcatel and Boeing
Following the failure of its merger talks with Astrium, Italy’s Alenia Aerospazio is discussing with Alcatel Space and Boeing to form a strategic alliance in satellite manufacturing with one of the two. In an interview to the French aerospace newsletter Aéronautique Business, Giorgio Zappa, head of Alenia Aerospazio, presented the Alcatel option as "a strategic choice" while the Boeing option would be "a great industrial operation."
May 2nd – Pemco to Close Space Vector
Pemco Aviation Group Inc. has decided to close its Space Vector Corp. subsidiary due to its "lack of success in winning new contracts." During the first quarter of 2001, Space Vector, which provides suborbital launch services and specialized flight hardware for sounding rocket programs, lost US$700,000 for sales amounting to a mere US$800,000.

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 Launch Market

May 30 – Ellipso’s License Revoked
The U.S. Federal Communication Commission has revoked the operating license it awarded in July 1997 to Ellipso Inc. as the company has failed to meet its deadline for beginning to build its satellites. Ellipso, which held licenses for two constellations, Concordia, in equatorial orbit, and Borealis, has recently teamed with ICOTeledesic Global in March.
Editor’s note: Ellipso (formerly Mobile Communications Holdings, Inc.) had planned to launch two constellations of satellites into medium Earth orbits, the 7-satellite Concordia and the 10-satellite Borealis, to provide mobile satellite telephony worldwide. Ellipso’s main partners include Boeing, which was selected in May 1998 to build the Ellipso satellites (based on the same satellite bus as U.S. Air Force‘s Navstar Block 2F satellites) , Harris Corp. and L-3 Communications. An agreement was also signed in June 1999 with Arianespace for the possible launch of four-satellite clusters on four Ariane 5 vehicles. ICO-Teledesic also plans to deploy a 12-satellite constellation of Boeing-built satellites, also in medium Earth orbits.
May 29 – ESA Denies New Funding for Spektrum RG
European Space Agency‘s Science Program Committee has declined a request by Rosaviakosmos to provide another US$20 million to complete the development of the long-delayed Spektrum Roentgen-Gamma astrophysics satellite. The program is now likely to be cancelled. Built by NPO Lavochkin, the 6,000-kg Spektrum RG incorporates major science payloads from Denmark, Finland, Great-Britain, Israel, Italy, Switzerland and the United States. Launch was due on a Proton K.
Editor’s note: Designed as a follow-on to Granat, Spektrum RG was initially due for launch in 1992. Recently, its earliest possible launch date was announced in 2006.
May 28 – Russian Docking Module Completed
RKK Energiya has completed the manufacturing and testing of the Docking Compartment (DC-1), a 4-m-long, 3,900-kg module which will be shipped to the Baykonour cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in late June or early July. The Docking Module will be flown to the International Space Station atop a Soyuz U booster in late August or early September.
Editor’s note: The Russian Docking Compartment is not to be confused with the U.S.-built Airlock Module which will be launched in July onvboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.
May 28 – SatMex to Procure Launch Services
Satelites Mexicanos SA de CV (SatMex), plans to contract for launch services for its 6-ton-class SatMex 6 satellite by mid-to-late June. Two bids have been reported: one from Arianespace with its Ariane 5 heavy-lifter and the other by another company which has signed a confidentiality agreement with SatMex not to be identified publicly. Launch of SatMex 6 is due in early 2003.
Editor’s note: The unidentified bidder is likely to be Sea Launch which has publicly stated that it will increase the payload capacity of its Zenit 3SL launcher beyond 6 tons to geostationary transfer orbit by late 2002.
May 26 – FCC Extends GE’s and NetSat 28’s Licenses
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has agreed to postpone the deadlines for the completion and launch of GE Americom‘s Ka-band satellite systems and for the beginning of the manufacturing of NetSat 28 Co. LLC‘s similar system. However, the FCC refused similar extensions to Loral Space & Communications and VisionStar Inc. who may loose their own licenses later this year. It also refused to reinstate six cancelled licenses to PanAmSat Corp. and Morning Star Satellite Co. LLC which were revoked in June 2000 when the operators failed to meet their due deadlines. New operating licenses will be auctionned during the third quarter.
May 25 – NASA Okays Comet Impactor
NASA‘s Office of Space Science has given its go ahead to the development of a US$279-million automated probe designed to fire a 350-kg impactor at a comet nucleus in order to study its structure and composition. The 1,010-kg Deep Impact probe, the 7th in the Discovery series of low-cost Solar System exploration spacecraft, will be built by Ball Aerospace & Technology. Its launch is scheduled atop a Boeing Delta 2/7925 vehicle on January 2, 2004 to allow a flyby of comet P/Tempel 1 in July 2005.
May 25 – Canada Considers National Mars Mission
The Canadian Space Agency is reportedly planning a C$500-million (US$325-million) mission to Mars circa 2007-2009. Concepts and goals of the mission will be detailed later.
May 24 – Five Bidders for Amazonas
All five major satellite manufacturers have bid to build Hispasat‘s Amazonas 1 communication satellite for the Brazilian market, due for launch in 2003. The tender was opened on May 10 and will close by mid-June. Alcatel Space, Astrium, Boeing Satellite, Lockheed Martin Commercial Space and Space Systems/Loral have joind the competition. A prime contractor should be selected in September. The total investment on the project is reportedly about US$300 million
Editor’s note: Space Systems/Loral is already buiding Estrela do Sul, Loral‘s own entry on the Brazilian market through its Loral Skynet do Brasil venture.
May 21 – Lockheed Martin to Build Cablevision Satellite
Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems was reportedly selected by Cablevision Systems Corp., to provide an all-Ku-band geostationary direct broadcasting satellite based on its A2100 satellite bus. Launch is planned in early 2003, presumably on an International Launch Services vehicle.
Editor’s note: Cablevision’s contract was apparently signed to prevent the expiration of an operating license awarded by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to R/L DBS Co. LLC, a company now under control of Cablevision. The license requires the satellite to be launched before the end of 2003.
May 23 – Astrolink Still Looking for Funds
Astrolink International LLC, the joint venture of Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications, Liberty Media, Telespazio and TRW, is still looking for investors to pour US$2.4 billion in its broadband communication satellites project. The venture has been failing to attract new investors since October 1999. The cost for the implementation of the initial four-satellite system is reportedly US$3.7 billion. The initial partners have agreed to invest US$1.33 billion and may be asked to invest more money.
Editor’s note: Astrolink has reportedly commited to launch its four satellites with Lockheed Martin-led International Launch Services. Launch agreements ahave been signed for two Atlas and two Proton flights from late 2002 to mid-2004.
May 23 – Russia to Provide Iran’s Zohreh
Russian space industry, presumably NPO Prikladnoy Mekhaniki, has reportedly been selected for the development of Iran’s Telecommunications Corp. US$300-million Zohreh ("Venus") domestic communication satellite system. Six geostationary satellites are planned, with launches possibly beginning in 2002. Four satellite manufacturers from China, France (presumably Alcatel Space), India and russia were reportedly in competition.
Editor’s note: Procurement of one or two Zohreh satellites has been announced and postponed almost every year since 1987. The initial project was actually drafted by the Shah’s regime in the 1970s. A US$500-million budget was quoted for a single satellite procurement in 1999
May 22 – ESA Books Soyuz Flights to the ISS
The European Space Agency has signed an agreement with Russia’s Rosaviakomos to fly European astronauts onboard the Soyuz ferry flights to the International Space Station through 2006. About one flight per year is planned on missions to deliver replacement Soyuz crew rescue vehicles to the orbital outpost.
May 17 – Intelsat Plans to Procure 17 Satellites
Intelsat plans to order about 17 large communication satellites in the 2004 to 2009 period. Among them, 11 are planned to replace the current Intelsat 7 and Intelsat 8 series. They will be 5,000-kg class satellites fitting under a 4-m-diameter payload fairinng. In addition, up to six satellites are expected to be dedicated to broadband communication services. These will probably weigh more than 6,000 kg at launch and require wide 5-m-diamter fairings. A formal RfP for the launch of the two Astrium-built Intelsat 10s si planned during the 3rd quarter of 2001.
Editor’s note: Eight Intelsat 9 satellites were launched from 1993 to 1996 and six Intelsat 8 from 1997 to 1998. Three of them have been transfered to New Skies Satellites, an Intelsat spinoff company, in 1998.
May 17 – Uzbekistan Plans Satellite
Uzbekistan’s Uzbekkosmos space agency has plans to launch a military communication and observation satellite into low-Earth orbit in 2002.
Editor’s note: The project was first announced in December 1999. It was then estimated to cost about US$200-250 million.
May 17 – DoD to Revive Military Test Programs
Under its new policy toward space militarization, the U.S. Department of Defense is expected to revive some technologies program proposed by the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization that were shelved by the previous U.S. administration. Among these is the Clementine 2 probe designed to test sensors by intercepting a near-Earth asteroid. Also under consideration is the joint Russian American Observation Satellite (RAMOS) program which would fly experimental infrared sensors on two satellites, one built by the United States and the other by Russia.
May 14 – Mars 2005 Investigator Wanted
NASA‘s Office of Space Science releases an Announcement of Opportunity to select a principal investigator for its planned Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) mission in 2005. The probe is due for launch in August 2005 and would operate in orbit around Mars from March 2006 through May 2009.
May 14 – ASI Will Exchange Module for Launches
ASI, the Italian Space Agency, would like NASA to provide launch services for part of its Skymed/Cosmo four-satellite radar remote sensing constellation in exchange for the manufacturing of an habitation module for the International Space Station, according to Space News. As part of a potential future barter deal, launch of several Skymed/Cosmo satellite atop a U.S. vehicle is among several options included in the preliminary agreement signed on April 19 between ASI and NASA regarding the transformation of the Node 3 module into a crew quarters module. Other options include flights of Italian astronauts to the ISS and access NASA’s space sutation resources. Negotiations are expected to be completed by October.
Editor’s note: Skymed/Cosmo will be the radar segment of an Italian/French remote sensing system with two Pleiades optical satellites provided by CNES. Italy had initially planned to launch its 1,000-kg-class satellites atop the Vega launcher but it will not be ready in time due to its late development start. The first satellite is tentatively planned for launch in late 2003, witth a second launched in 2004 and the last two in 2005.

Herschel and Planck
atop Ariane 5
May 10 – ESA Contracts Alcatel for Dual Science Mission
The European Space Agency is about to award a record-breaking contract to Alcatel Space Industry as prime contractor for the design, manufacturing, testing and launch of the Herschel and Planck observatories scheduled to fly together on a single Ariane 5 vehicle in February 2007. Due to the combination of the two missions, the contract, worth €369 million (US$332 million), is the largest ever awarded by ESA in the field of space science. Alcatel was officially selected as prime by ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee on March 14 with Astrium GmbH and Alenia Aerospazio as its major subcontractors. A formal signature is currently planned in mid-June during the Paris Air Show.
Editor’s note: Herschel, previously known as Far-Infrared/submillimetric Space Telescope (FIRST), is the last ‘Cornerstone Mission’ of ESA’s ‘Horizon 2000′ science program. It will be a 9-m-high spacecraft about 3,300-kg at launch with a cryogenically cooled 3.5-m-diameter infrared telescope. Planck, initially Cobras/samba and then Planck Surveyor, is an ‘Horizon 2000′ medium-sized mission and will study the cosmic microwave background radiation with a 1,5-m-diameter telescope. Its launch mass will be around 1,500 kg. Herschel and Planck will be launched as a single payload composite onboard an Ariane 5ESV with a 17-m-long payload fairing. They will be released on a transfer orbit toward the L2 Lagrangian point of the Earth-Sun system, about 1.5 million km of Earth in the opposite direction to the Sun.
Watch the launch animations (various Mpegs)

May 10 – UARS Shuttle Recovery Studied
NASA is reportedly studying the possiblility to retrieve the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), a 10.36-m long, 6,500-kg observatory which was released into orbit by Space Shuttle Discovery in September 1991.
Editor’s note: The spacecraft, which was built by GE Astro (now part of Lockheed Martin Commercial Space), was designed with a 3-year lifetime for a 1.5-year baseline mission and is still operational.
May 9 – ISRO/CNES MoU on Megha-Tropiques
The Indian Space Research Organisation and France’s CNES have signed a MoU for the joint design of the Megha-Tropiques climatology satellite. The 570-kg satellite, to be based on the Proteus platform developed by Alcatel Space for CNES, will carry three radiometers – one developed jointly by CNES and ISRO and the other two by CNES – to study the atmosphere’s behavior in the intertropical region. Launch is due in late 2005 atop an Indian PSLV launcher.
May 5 – New Turkish Satellite in 2004
Türk Telekom plans to launch a new satellite by 2004 in order to replace then then 10-year old Türksat 1B. A satellite could thus be ordered as soon as 2002 and a financing plan is being set up as the Turkish national satellite operator is about to be privatized.
Editor’s note: All Turkish satellites to date have been built by Alcatel Space and launched by Arianespace but Turkey decided to rescind a series of contracts with the French industry 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
May 4 – ISAS Plans Venus Orbiter
Japan’s Institute for Space & Astronautical Science (ISAS) plans to launch an orbiter probe to Venus in 2007. The launch will be performed on a M-5 vehicle from Kagoshima.
May 1st – Hispasat Plans Amazonas RfP in September
Hispasat SA plans to issue a RfP in September to select a prime contractor for its Amazonas 1 communication satellite for Brazil, according to Gazeta Mercantil. A selection is due late this year for a launch targeted in late 2003. Hispasat also plans to select a launch service for the satellite. The total investment on the project is reportedly about US$300 million.

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May 9 – U.S. Air Force Restructures Space Center
As part of an effort to restructure U.S. Air Force‘s space activities, the Space & Missile Systems Center (SMC), in Los Angeles AFB, will be transferred from the authority of the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command to the U.S. Air Force Space Command, effective on October 1st.
Editor’s note: SMC is in charge of procuring space assets, like launch services and satellite systems, for the U.S. air force and other related agencies. Among other programs, it is in charge of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle development and procurement.

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