News of August 2001

Dates are those of the events (in UT) when available.
!!! This page is currently being updated !!!

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

Latest News | News of July 2001 | Visit our Archives

  Commercial Launchers

Boeing Claims More Delta 4 Launch Commitments
August 31

Boeing Delta Launch Services claims to have collected some "60 commercial launch agreements and contracts" for its new Delta  4 series of launch vehicles but cannot disclose who its customers are. The customer for the inaugural launch, currently planned on April  30, 2002, will be disclosed soon. Boeing has secured an insurance coverage package for 15 launches of its new vehicle, excluding the first two flights. Although most of the Delta 4 have not flown yet, this contract was reportedly signed at conditions similar to what is proposed for vehicles with a well-established reliability record.
Editor’s note: According to unofficial sources, the maiden flight of Delta 4 could loft Eutelsat‘s Atlantic Bird 1, on behalf of the satellite’s manufacturer, Alenia Spazio. The satellite was initially planned to fly a China Great Wall Industry Corp. CZ-3A "Long March" vehicle but failed to receive its necessary U.S. export license to China for its U.S.-built components. Although Alenia Spazio earlier claimed that it had contingency plans to replace the satellite’s U.S.-built elements by similar European equipement, it could have been proposed very competitive conditions by Boeing. Alenia Spazio signed a cooperation agreement with Boeing in March, regarding the production of Delta 2 propellant tanks and special pricing conditions on Delta launches.

Eutelsat’s Atlantic Bird in Kourou
August 28

Eutelsat announces that its next satellite, Atlantic Bird 2, has arrived in Kourou to be prepared for launch atop an Arianespace Ariane 4 vehicle on September 25.
Editor’s note: Atlantic Bird 2, built by Alcatel Space, was initially planned to fly on the last flight of Ariane 5, in July but could not meet the deadline and was replaced by ESA‘s Artemis. It was then manifested on the following Ariane 5, with India’s Insat 3C, on September 25. The flight had to be postponed after the Ariane 5 upper stage mishap on July 13, and Atlantic Bird 2 was moved to an Ariane 4. Atlantic Bird 1 was planned for launch atop a China Great Wall Industry Corp. CZ-3A "Long March" vehicle in May but the flight was delayed to November and then to early 2002.

New CZ-3Payload Fairing
August 23

China Great Wall Industry Corp. will conduct a final static test of its a new 4.2-m-diameter payload fairing for itts CZ-3B launch vehicle in October. The new fairing, wider than the current 4-m-diameter model, successfully performed a separation test in April and should be available for commercial launches in 2002.

CZ-3C Flight Qualified
August 23

China Aerospace Science & Technology Corp. has completed the qualification review for the new CZ-3C "Long March" vehicle. A derivative of the CZ-3B with only two LB-40 liquid strap-on boosters instead of four, the CZ-3C is able to loft 3,800 kg of payload to geostationary transfer orbit. Actuial development of this version was inititade in 1995 but was delayed after the failure of the first CZ-3B in February 1996.

Delta 4 CBC on Pad
August 23

Boeing Expendable Launch Systems has erected its first Delta 4 Common Booster Core stage on the new launch pad at Cape Canaveral‘s SLC-37 for fit checks. The 47-m-tall stage was transferred horizontally from the Horizontal Integration Facility, and erected vertically on the pad. Compatibility tests will continue through September with the mating of an inert Alliant TechSystems GEM-60 solid strap-on booster.

Intelsat Postpones Launch
August 23

The next launch of an Arianespace Ariane 4 was postponed from August 24 to August 30 on request by Intelsat, in order to allow Space Systems/Loral to conduct checks on the Intelsat 902 satellite. The postponement was decided after an anomaly was detected on a solar array on another satellite manufactured by Loral.

Honeywell Delivers Atlas 5 Navigation Unit
August 21

Honeywell Space Systems has delivered to Lockheed Martin the first development model of its Fault Tolerant Inertial Navigation Unit for the new Atlas 5 series of launchers. The first flight model is planned for delivery in December 2003. Honeywell will deliver the units under a seven-year, US$52-million contract awarded by Lockheed Martin in November 2000. This contract includes options for an additional US$72-million of orders.

Japan Satellites on Soyuz
August 14

Starsem is reportedly discussing with a Japanese potential customer for the launch of two satellites into Sun-synchronous orbit on Soyuz-Fregat vehicles. The first launch is tentatively planned in 2003.
Editor’s note: The reported designation for the satellites is "Urisef", according to Russian press agencies, but the name may have been garbled. No further data has been made available on their purpose.

Inmarsat Confirms Ariane and Atlas Contracts
August 13

Inmarsat Ventures plc has announced the official award of two launch contracts to Arianespace and International Launch Services to loft its newest Inmarsat 4 satellites. Once critical development milestones are met for the Ariane 5ECA and Atlas 5 vehicles, each contractor will be confirmed for one firm launch with an option for a second one.
Editor’s note: Three 6,100-kg Inmarsat 4 satellites have been ordered from Astrium. The first two are tentatively due for launch in late 2003 and early 2004 while the third will be kept as a ground spare.

Ariane 5 to Resume Flights in November
August 7
Arianespace announces that the investigation board on the launch mishap of an Ariane 5G vehicle on July 12 has released its report on August 1st, as planned, and that a roadmap has been defined to allow flight resumption of Europe’s new workhorse launcher by late November. According to the report, the lower composite of the Ariane 5 vehicle performed nominally but a malfunction occurred at ignition of the EPS storable propellant upper stage. A pressure peak was detected during the ignition of the Astrium Aestus engine and led to combustion instability resulting in lower thrust and early depletion of one of the propellants. The pressure peak was caused by an hydraulic interaction between the combustion chamber and the propellant lines. The consequence was an early shutdown of the engine and the release of the payloads on a lower than intended orbit. The board issued ten recommendations including the development of a mathematical model of the Aestus ignition phase and the development and qualification of a smoother and more progressive ignition sequence. Several hot firing tests of the Aestus are also planned.
According to Arianespace, the Ariane 5 launch schedule will be delayed by a little more than 2 months.
Editor’s note: Next Ariane 5 flights were planned in September and October, to loft Eutelsat‘s Atlantic Bird 2 and India’s Insat 3C to geostationary orbit, and European Space Agency‘s 8,100-kg Envisat platform to Sun-synchronous orbit. As Arianespace is revamping its schedule, it is likely that the 3,060-kg Atlantic Bird 2 will fly alone on an Ariane 4 in September or October.

Top of this page

  Government Launchers

H-2A Maiden Flight Success
August 29

National Space Development Agency of Japan‘s first H-2A launch vehicle eventually lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center and successfully injected its upper stage and a dummy payload into geostationary transfer orbit. The US$77-million launch was delayed 3 hours in a 5-hour-long window due to a minor technical glitch in a ground-based sensor. A second qualification flight, with a live payload, is tentatively scheduled in January or February 2002.
Editor’s note: This long-awaited flight success comes after three consecutive failures of Japanese launch vehicles, including two of the H-2A’s predecessor, the H-2, in February 1998 and November 1999, and one of the smaller, all-solid, M-5, in February 2000. This string of failures and difficulties encountered in the qualification of the LE-7A engine forced NASDA to postpone the maiden flight of the H-2A and to cancel the last mission of the H-2. The H-2A is actually a derivative of the H-2 with similar payload capability but a launch cost halved in order to meet commercial requirements. Once flight-proven, the H-2A will be available commercially through Rocket System Corp., a consortium of industrials in charge of producing the vehicle for NASDA. The H-2A is already scheduled to loft at least seven major science and remote sensing payloads through 2004 for NASDA.

New Valve Mounted on H-2A
August 25

Preparation for the maiden flight of National Space Development Agency of Japan‘s H-2A vehicle is proceeding toward the new targeted launch date on August 29. The faulty pressure controlling valve on the second stage’s liquid oxygen tank was replaced. The malfunction was due to silicon particles generated by a filter in the valve.

TIMED/Jason Launch Delayed
August 24

The long-delayed launch of NASA‘s TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics, Dynamics) atmospheric probe with the joint CNES/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Jason 1 oceanography satellite atop a Boeing Delta 2 has been postponed again, this time from September 15 to December 7, in order to ship back the Jason 1 satellite to France to check its solar array deployment system after a problem was detected on a similar system during ground testing. In addition, a new radiation protection will be added to the star sensor.
Editor’s note: Jason 1 is the very first prototype/flight model of the new CNES/Alcatel Space Proteus modular platform for small science satellites.

Military Atlas Launch Delayed
August 21

The second launch ever of a Lockheed Martin Atlas Centaur vehicle from Vandenberg AFB, California, has been postponed to September 8 in order to increase the RP-1 propellant reserve margins on the Atlas booster stage and revise the flight plan accordingly. The Atlas 2AS vehicle (AC-160) will launch a heavy classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, known only under its cover name of MLV-10, which may actually exceed the vehicle’s lift capability with a standard propellant load and flight trajectory.
Editor’s note: The MLV-10 payload is reportedly the heaviest ever launched by an Atlas vehicle. The previous Atlas 2AS launch from Vandenberg lofted NASA‘s 4,856-kg Terra spacecraft in December 1999. According to the Atlas 2 user’s guide, the Atlas 2AS version can loft a maximum payload of 6,150 kg to a 400-km Sun-synchronous circular orbit, or up to 7,700 kg to a 185-km-high orbit with a 63.4 degrees inclination.

NASA Cancels NGLS Solicitation
August 21

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center has cancelled a request for preliminary information regarding the possibility to procure Next Generation Launch Services (NGLS) from private launch providers, including those who are developing unproven launch concepts. The initial solicitation was issued in March 2000 and a formal RfP was expected in October 2000 but not issued.

Defective Valve May Delay H-2A Maiden Flight
August 20

Japan’s National Space Development Agency is considering postponing the launch of its first H-2A vehicle, currently planned on August 25, in order to replace a faulty pressure controlling valve on the second stage’s liquid oxygen tank. Weather conditions due to the incoming Pabuk typhoon could also affect the schedule.
Editor’s note: The Pabuk typhoon may affect the schedule in two ways, first with high wind conditions on the launch site but also by preventing air-shipment of a replacement valve from manufacturing plant in Nagoya.

NASA Exercises 13th Med-Lite Launch Option
August 20

NASA has exercised an option on its Medium-Light Launch Service contract with Boeing Expendable Launch Services to book a Delta 2/7420 flight to loft two Earth observation satellites. The launch, currently scheduled on April 30, 2004, from Vandenberg AFB, will carry to orbit the joint NASA/CNES Earth System Science Pathfinder 3 spacecraft (previously known as Picasso-CENA) and the NASA/Canadian Space Agency CloudSat. The value of the order was not disclosed but NASA’s launch budget for the mission is reportedly worth about US$60 million.
Editor’s note: ESSP-3 is a temporary name for the mission which merged NASA’s Pathfinder Instrument for Cloud & Aerosol Spaceborne Observation (Picasso) and CNES’ Climatologie Etendue des Nuages et des Aérosols (CENA) projects after the family of the famous painter Pablo Picasso opposed the use of his name. NASA’s “Med-Lite” contract was awarded on February 27, 1996 to McDonnell-Douglas and Orbital Sciences Corp. for a combination of Delta 2 and Taurus launches while NASA’s goal at that time was reportedly to have launch opportunities at half the Delta 2’s capacity for half its price. Actually, all launches eventually went to the Delta 2 series at a price of about US$34 million each for the initial five. Seven options had already been exercised before this one. One option remains available through February 2003. Ten “Med-Lite” flights have already been performed since 1998 (Deep Space 1, Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, Stardust, FUSE, IMAGE, EO-1/SAC-C, Mars Odyssey, MAP and Genesis) and three more are still due (Icesat, NOAA-N and ESSP-3/CloudSat).

Top of this page

  Small Launchers

Iridium Satellite Delivery Rehearsal in Plesetsk
August 28

To prepare for the launch of a pair of Iridium satellites by a Eurockot Rokot KM vehicle from Plesetsk in June 2002, Motorola has sent a dummy mass to the Northern Russian launch site. The dummy Iridium model was shipped to Arkhangelsk onboard a FedEx MD-10 carrier aircraft and will be transported to Plesetsk by train.
Editor’s note: On its maiden flight in May 2000, the Rokot KM lofted a pair of dummy Iridium models.

Faulty Gyro Doomed Maxus 4
August 24

A faulty gyroscope in the vehicle’s navigation unit caused the loss of the payload of the Maxus 4 vehicle on April 29, according to a European Space Agency investigation board. The payload landed out of the recovery area and was destroyed after premature parachute deployment.
Editor’s note: The Maxus is a single-stage suborbital launcher based on Thiokol‘s Castor 4B solid rocket motor. The next Maxus flight is currently planned in October 2002.

Strela’s Maiden Flight in 2002
August 19

NPO Mashinostroeniya plans to conduct the first launch of its Strela vehicle from a silo in Baykonur, Kazakhstan, during the third quarter of 2002. All subsequent operational flights, to begin later that year, will be conducted from Svobodniy.
Editor’s note: The Strela, a conversion of GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s UR-100N/RS-18 ballistic missile (also used for the first and second stages of the Rokot vehicle) is planned to launch two Ruslan-MM communication satellites for Intersputnik in 2003 and 2004.

Orbimage Problems Delay Taurus Launch
August 17

Orbital Sciences Corp. has decided to postpone again the long-delayed launch of its next Taurus vehicle unless its Orbimage subsidiary, which will take delivery of one of the payloads in orbit, can solve its financial difficulties, according to Associated Press. Orbimage, which is 50% owned by OSC, has defaulted in the payment of US$225-million senior notes in March and is expected to file for Chapter  11 bankruptcy protection shortly after the launch. The Taurus vehicle is carrying OrbView 4, Orbimage’s first high-resolution remote sensing satellite, as well as NASA‘s QuikTOMS ozone monitoring spacecraft. The launch, delayed 9 times since March, is now tentatively scheduled for mid September.
Editor’s note: OSC has announced that it will invest an additional US$10 million in Orbimage which, in return, claims that OSC already owes it a debt of US$20 million.

RoCSat 3 on Minotaur?
August 13


Taiwan’s National Space Policy Office is reportedly discussing with the U.S. Air Force for a flight opportunity on an Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur vehicle to loft its RoCSat 3 microsatellites to orbit in 2005.
Editor’s note: Since the Minotaur is using the first and second stages of decommissioned Minuteman 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles, its marketing for commercial launches is supposedly forbidden to preclude unfair competition with commercial launch services. According to NSPO’s website, the launch of the 8-microsatellite RoCSat 3 constellation is still scheduled for late 2003.

Top of this page

  Missile Systems

NMD Ground-Based Interceptor Test Flight
August 31
Boeing Missile Systems & Tactical Weapons and U.S. Air Force’s 30th Space Wing have successfully test flown the first prototype of the Ground-Based Interceptor under development to boost the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle as part of the U.S. National Missile Defense system. The three-stage vehicle, based on an Alliant TechSystems GEM-40 solid rocket motor as first stage with two Pratt&Wittney Chemical Systems Division Orbus 2 motors as second and third stages, is intended to replace the Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Payload Launch Vehicle as the primary booster for the EKV interception test flights as well as for the operational system.

GBI prototype in integration


For this 1st Booster Verification Test (BVT-2) flight, the prototype GBI was launched from Vandenberg AFB, California, and carried a mock EKV. The second test flight (BVT-1?) is planned in December, also from Vandenberg. The first interception test with a live EKV is due in 2003 from the Kwajalein Missile Range.
Editor’s note: The maiden test flight of the GBI was initially due in April 2000 but has been delayed for more than 16 months due to integration problems. On August 2, Orbital Sciences Corp. was awarded a US$11-million, 7-month contract to study an Alternate Boost Vehicle for the EKV. Lockheed Martin is also considering improved three-stage versions of its PLV in order to be able to replace Boeing as GBI prime if the current design cannot be developed in time.

"Ending ABM Treaty Will Further U.S./Russian Ties"
August 28

The "new relationship" between the U.S. and Russia will be "furthered" by the elimination of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, according to U.S. Department of Defense’s assistant defense secretary for international policy, J.D. Crouch. The DoD official claims that the withdrawal of both Russia and the U.S. from the treaty would confirm that the two countries are no longer considering each other as a potential enemy. "The United States is not averse to arms control pacts, but will use them where appropriate and act unilaterally where appropriate" said Crouch.

Environmentalist Sue DoD About NMD Testing Sites
August 28

Eight U.S. environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense, asking for a more comprehensive environmental impact assessment of the proposed test site for the U.S. National Missile Defense system in Fort Greely, Alaska. According the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace USA, Physicians for Social Responsibility and five Alaska groups, the previous environmental impact study for the site, completed in 1994, did not include new features such as airborne lasers, sea-based interceptor missiles and space-based heat-sensing satellites.

Last Minuteman 3 Silo Destroyed
August 24

The last of the 149 Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile silos to be destroyed under the 1st Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start 1) was blown up with about 400 kg of explosives in Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota. The first silo was destroyed on October 6, 1999.
Editor’s note: Grand Forks’ 150th and last silo to be deactivated will be turned into an historical static display. The U.S. ballistic missile force still has 301 operational Minuteman 3 silos.

U.S. Want ABM Treaty Revised by November
August 22

The U.S. Undersecretary of State has told the Russian government that the U.S. administration would like the revision of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed with the Soviet Union in 1972 to be completed by November, when U.S. and Russian presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin are planned to meet. The given deadline is not to be considered as "artificial", according to the Undersecretary.

Alaskan NMD Test Site Contract
August 17

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded a US$9-million contract to a local company to clear land and prepare the site for the future testing station for the U.S. National Missile Defense system in Fort Greely, Alaska. According to the DoD’s legal department, the site will comply with current provisions of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed with the Soviet Union in 1972.

Russia Keeps Linking ABM Treaty to Start 1 & 2
August 13

In a new diplomatic confrontation with the U.S., Russian government officials reiterate its claim that any agreement on missile defense systems must be “unconditionally linked” to offensive weapons cuts currently covered by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (Start 1 & 2).

Russia Clears the U.S. for NMD Testing
August 9

Russia agrees to let the United States proceed with in-flight testing of the highly controversial U.S. National Missile Defense system provided that the it receives early notification of the tests.

Minuteman 3 Reconfiguration Complete
August 6

U.S. Air Force‘s 90th Space Wing has completed the modification of 150 Minuteman 3 ballistic missiles, in Warren AFB, Wyoming, from a three-warhead to a single-warhead configuration in order to comply with the 1st Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start 1).
Editor’s note: Under Start 1 provisions, the reconfiguration had to be completed before December 5. The reconfiguration process began on November 23, 1998.

Top of this page

  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

Composite LOx Tank Tested
August 30

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center and Lockheed Martin Michoud Operations have successfully tested a suscale composite liquid oxygen tank through an initial series of cryogenic cycles on behalf of the Space Launch Initiative program. The 2.7-m long, 1.2-m diameter cylindrical tank weighs less than 225 kg and represents a 18% mass saving compared to a traditional metal tank of similar construction. The pathfinder tank will now undergo life cycle testing.

X-37 Assembly to Begin
August 19

Boeing Phantom Works is about to begin the final assembly of the NASA/U.S. Air Force X-37 demonstrator in its facilities in Palmdale, California. The assembly is planned to continue well into next year in order to be ready for drop test flights from NASA’s NB-52 carrier aircraft by late 2002.
Editor’s note: Based on the same design as the smaller X-40A, the X-37 is ultimately designed to perform several orbital flights beginning in 2003 – likely onboard Space Shuttle Columbia‘s payload bay – as a demonstrator for U.S. Air Force’s Space Maneuvering Vehicle design and NASA’s Future-X technology development program for future launch systems, now part of the Space Launch Initiative.

Hypersonic Testbed to Fly on Rokot
August 19

Russia’s LII (Gromov Flight Testing Institute) plans to develop an hypersonic test vehicle, the HFL-VK, which could be launched onto a suborbital trajectory atop a GKNPTs Khrunichev Rokot vehicle. The 2,200-kg scramjet-powered vehicle would reach velocities of Mach 8 to 14 at an altitude of about 100 km before landing in the Russian Far East. The program, supported by Rosaviakosmos, is currently lacking funds for completion.
Editor’s note: LII developed the BOR reentry demonstrators for the Buran program.

Discovery Upgrades Deferred
August 6

Due to budget limitations in FY2002, NASA‘s Johnson Space Center has delayed modifications work on Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery. The orbiter vehicle was previously planned to be shipped to U.S. Air Force Plant 42, in Palmdale, California, to be upgraded by Boeing Reusable Launch Systems on behalf of United Space Alliance. Instead, she will remain at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it will only undergo the mandatory structural inspections and test.
Editor’s note: The delay will reportedly allow to complete two phase of avionics and cockpit upgrades at the same time and at a lower cost. Discovery’s last major maintenance was in 1995/96. The following orbiter to be upgraded will be Endeavour in 2006. Meanwhile, a formal decision whether future shuttle upgrades will be performed in Palmdale or in Cape Canaveral is expected soon. The move is strongly opposed by California congressmen.

Top of this page

  Space Propulsion

NASA to Get Australian Hypersonic Flight Data
August 31

NASA‘s Langley Research Center plans to contract with the University of Queensland‘s Centre for Hypersonics for scramjet flight data to be collected at the velocity of Mach 7.6 during the HyShot flight tests in October. Under the AU$1.25-million project, an experimental scramjet is scheduled for launch atop a Terrier Orion suborbital rocket on October 23, from the Woomera Rocket Range, Southern Australia. After reentry from an apogee of 350 km, the scramjet will be operated between 35 km and 23 km of altitude. A second flight is planned for October 30. The HyShot launches were initially due in October 2000 and slipped to March, June and August before being set to the present date.
Editor’s note:
Also participating in the project are British Aerospace Australia, QinetiQ (the former British Defence Evaluation & Research Agency or DERA, 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

HyShot experiment in flight (University of Queensland)
Aerojet Tests Atlas 5 Booster
August 30

GenCorp Aerojet has completed the first of three horizontal hot-firing tests of a new solid rocket motor designed to serve as a strap-on booster for Lockheed Martin Astronautics new Atlas 5 series of launchers. The 18-m-tall motor, 155-cm in diameter, will weigh 40,825 kg at launch which makes it the largest monolithic solid rocket motor ever fired. During the firing test, it performed for 95 seconds at thrust levels ranging from 1,270 to 1,740 kN.
Editor’s note: The Atlas 5/400 will carry up to three such motors as strap-on boosters (5/431) while versions of the Atlas 5/500 have been designed with one to five boosters (5/511 to 5/551).

NASA Plans Research on Space Propulsion
August 29

NASA‘s Langley Research Center plans to issue a research announcement to select partners for its In-Space Propulsion Technologies Program in order to foster the development of innovative space propulsion concepts.

Second RD-191 Firing Test
August 28

NPO Energomash has successfully completed the second hot-firing test of its new RD-191 engine, designed to power the modular core stage of GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s Angara family of launchers. This second friring lasted 10 seconds.
Editor’s note: The first firing test was performed on August 14.

Nanosatellite Propulsion Components
August 24

NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center plans to procure some nanosatellite propulsion equipment for its Space Technology 5 mission, also known as the Nanosatellite Constellation Trailblazer. Vacco Industries will provide propellant filters while Carleton Technologies Inc. will supply a miniature composite propellant tank.
Editor’s note: The US$28.6-million ST5 mission will feature three 21.5-kg nanosatellites launched piggyback on a Boeing Delta 4M in late 2003 to demonstrate formation flying of a constellation.

Cosmos 1 Solar Sail to Fly Next Year
August 22

The Planetary Society will proceed with its plan to fly its Cosmos 1 experimental solar sail atop a converted Russian Volna sea-launched ballistic missile in early 2002 despite the launch failure of a preliminary deployment demonstrator on July 20. The suborbital demonstration payload, with two unfurlable petals instead of eight, failed to separate from the Volna’s third stage after a low engine thrust resulted in the flight software not commanding the separation. A second demonstrator flight has been ruled out but the insurance collected after the failure will be spent to build a backup to the actual Cosmos 1 spacecraft. The 40-kg Cosmos 1 will be flown to a 850-km-high initial orbit and will attempt to raise its altitude with the solar sail.
Editor’s note: GRTsKB Makeyev’s RSM-50 Volna missile had a reported record of 146 consecutive successes before the July 20 flight.

TRW Thruster Upgrade Contract
August 21

NASA‘s Glenn Research Center has awarded a US$1.3-million contract to TRW Space & Electronics to develop technologies for storable propellant thrusters upgrades.

Boeing Taps SpaceDev on MAV Study
August 20

Boeing Space & Communications has awarded a subcontract to SpaceDev to participate in the study of a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) for future Mars sample return missions. According to SpaceDev, the company’s know-how in hybrid propulsion, bought from the former American Rocket Co. (AmRoC), could be applied to the MAV concept.
Editor’s note: Boeing is one of the three contractors selected by NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the MAV study. The other contracts went to Lockheed Martin and TRW.

First RD-191 Firing Test
August 14

NPO Energomash has successfully completed the first hot-firing test of its new RD-191 engine. A single-chamber derivative of the four-chamber RD-170/171 and the twin-chamber RD-180, the 1,900-kN RD-191 features a new turbopump unit driven by a single gas generator and a new mixture ratio control system. The new engine will power the modular core stage of GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s Angara family of launchers as well as its reusable version of the stage, the Baikal.
Editor’s note: The RD-170 was used to power the booster stages of the Energiya launcher in 1987/1988 and its RD-171 derivative is still on use on the first stage of the Zenit 2 and Zenit 3SL vehicles. The RD-180 has flown once on Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 3A in May 2000 and is planned to power the core booster stage of the new Atlas 5 family of launchers.

ERC to Study Shuttle Boosters Performance
August 13

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center plans to hire ERC Inc. for engineering design, analysis and evaluation of the Space Shuttle‘s Reusable Solid Rocket Motors performance regarding modifications induced by upgrades and material changes driven by obsolescence in production processes.

Top of this page


Lockheed Martin’s Contract at Stennis Extended
August 31

NASA‘s Stennis Space Center has awarded a US$77.8-million two-year extension to a contract with Lockheed Martin Space Operations to technical services to support propulsion testing at the center. The initial contract was awarded in 1994 and is now worth US$309.25 million. The new extension covers the period from September 1st, 2001, to August 31, 2003.

U.S./Brazil Agreement Opposed by Representative
August 21

The technology safeguard agreement signed by the United States and Brazil in April 2000 regarding the use of the Alcântara Launch Center by foreign launch systems is being opposed by Brazilian representative Waldir Pires. According to a report by Pires to the External Relations Commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives, the agreement harms Brazil’s sovereignty and technological development by giving U.S. authorities a large control on all launch and space-related activities.

Top of this page


U.S. Manufacturers to be Fined for Export Violations
August 31

U.S. satellite manufacturers Space Systems/Loral and Boeing Satellite Systems (formerly Hughes Space & Communications) might be allowed to resume exports to China soon according to the Wall Street Journal. Both companies have been under federal investigation since 1997 after allegedly transmitting to China technologies to improve their launch services which could also be applied to its ballistic missile forces. Loral and Boeing will have to pay a penalty, presumably about US$10 million, acknowledge "they made mistakes" and promise to improve their internal safeguards.
Editor’s note: The lift of the investigation could enable Loral to eventually ship its long-delayed Zhongxing 8 satellite which has been in storage in Palo Alto, California, since 1999, waiting for an export license. During investigations after the loss of Hughes-built Apstar 2 on a CZ-2E in January 1995 and Loral-built Intelsat 708 on the maiden flight of the CZ-3B in February 1996, Hughes reportedly provided Chinese space industry with couple load analysis and payload fairing technologies and Loral with guidance and testing techniques. These technologies have allowed to improve the CZ-3B vehicle and may have been applied too on the DF-31 and DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Read the Cox Report on alleged illegal technology transfers to China.

Snecma and SNPE Disagree on Joint Venture
August 21

France’s state-owned Snecma and Groupe SNPE are facing a strong disagreement regarding their project to merge their solid propulsion business into a joint-venture named Herakles. The initial project by the French government was a to share the capital of the new venture equally between the partners but, according to French trade press, Snecma has been requesting a majority stake for months and is now blocking the talks.
Editor’s note: The joint-venture, which will have a yearly turnover of about €460 million, was initially planned to be formed before the Paris Air Show in June.

New Chinese Satellite Manufacturer
August 18

China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) has incorporated a new company, Areospace Dongfanghong Satellite Ltd., to develop small satellites, mostly based on its CAST968 bus. The new venture will be in charge of the Hay Yang 1 (HY-1) oceanography satellite, to be launched in June 2002, and of the Asian Multitask Satellite. It will also develop the Disaster & Environment Monitoring Constellation and the satellite bus for the DoubleStar mission with the European Space Agency.

Top of this page

  Launch Market

MDA Plans Satellite-based FedEx
August 31

McDonald Detwiller & Associates (MDA) has almost completed financing for a US$70-million satellite-based store&forward satellite communication system designed to carry very large data packages from point to point all over the globe. The Cascade system would use a single Ka-band small satellite (with a second one as an in-orbit backup) in low-Earth polar orbit to pick up and deliver 50 to 500 Gbytes of data per day. MDA has already raised US$68 million and expects to be able to sign production contracts soon for its first satellite in order to launch it by 2003. The baseline Cascade design is based on Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd.‘s 250-kg MiniBus platform, with a launch provided by SSTL on a Russian vehicle.

Orbital Confirms BSAT-2b Loss
August 31

Orbital Sciences Corp.‘s president & COO, J.R. Thompson, has confirmed that all efforts to recover the BSAT-2b satellite, left stranded in a useless orbit by an Arianespace‘s Ariane 5G on July 13, have been stopped. The satellite, due to be delivered in orbit to Japan’s B-SAT, is now considered a total loss. In all, the faulty Ariane 5 flight will have cost about US$140 million to the space insurance sector, broken down in US$60 million for BSAT-2b, US$40 million for ESA‘s Artemis and US$40 million for Arianespace’s own re-launch guarantee coverage.
Editor’s note: Despite ESA’s request to do so, space insurers have not agreed yet to write off Artemis as a total loss (meaning that it has lost more than half of its operational lifetime). The satellite is currently performing well and on its way to its final orbit. Since OSC has not delivered BSAT-2b to B-SAT, it is likely that it will have to build a BSAT-2c as a replacement.

Israel Draw Plans for Amos 3
August 31

Israel’s Spacecom Satellite Communications Ltd. has begun studies to procure and launch an Amos 3 satellite to address the Mediterranean, European and Middle-East market by 2005.
Editor’s note: Spacecom’s new Amos 2 satellite is currently planned for launch on an Arianespace Ariane vehicle by late 2002.

DARS Satellites for Europe
August 30

Global Media, a Luxembourg-based start-up venture backed by Great-Britain’s NTL, plans to launch a constellation of three satellites into highly elliptical Toundra-type orbits (29,000 x 50,000 km, inclined 81 degrees) to provide digital audio radio services in Europe. Launches are due in 2004. The project is expected to cost €1.8 million. This system will have to compete with a geostationary system to be developed by Alcatel Space in partnership with WorldSpace.
Editor’s note: Toundra orbits allow a satellite to be almost geostationary over high-latitude regions for 8 hours per day. As high-perigee 24-hours orbits, they also keep the spacecraft out of the Van Allen radiation belts unlike the 12-hours Molniya-type orbits.

Brazil Plans Spy Satellite
August 29

AEB, the Brazilian Space Agency, is studying a partnership with Russia to develop a military observation satellite, according to Jornal do Brazil newspaper.
Editor’s note: Brazil’s INPE, the national space research institute, has already developped the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) with China. The spacecraft, known as Zi Yuan 1 in China, apprently led to the development of the all-Chinese Zi Yuan 2 military observation satellite. AEB is also involved in the developent of the SSR (national), Sabia (with Argentina) and Cesar (with Spain and Argentina) remote sensing satellite systems.

OHB-System Gets SAR-Lupe
August 29