News of August 2002

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


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

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  Commercial Launchers

ILS Breaks Record
August 22

International Launch Services broke its own record by conducting two launches 7h 10min apart two loft two directbroadcasting satellites to geostationary transfer orbits. A GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton K vehicle successfully lifted off to loft the Echostar 8 to orbit at 05:15Z on August 22, from Baykonur, Kazakhstan. At 22:05Z on the day before, the first Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 was launched from Cape Canaveral, carrying Eutelsat‘s Hot Bird 6 satellite. The previous record was 9 hours between two launches, in June 2000.

Atlas 5 Maiden Flight Success
August 22

Lockheed Martin Astronautics‘ first Atlas 5 vehicle (AV-001) was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station‘s SLC-41 and delivered Eutelsat‘s Hot Bird 6 satellite onto a very accurate supersynchronous transfer orbit (314.9 x 45,863 km, inclined 17.82° for a targeted orbit at 314.8 x 45,850 km, inclined 17.57°). The new 32.46-m-tall Common Core Booster stage, powered by a Russian RD-180 engine, performed as planned, as well as the stretched single engine Centaur cryogenic upper stage, already flown in February atop the Atlas 3B.
Editor’s note: The 334.5-t AV-001 vehicle was flown in a 401 configuration, one of the least powerful versions of the new Atlas 5 design. However, with a payload capacity of 4,950 kg onto geostationary transfer orbit and a 4-m diameter fairing, this version is already 10% more powerful than the most powerful of the previous generation, the Atlas 3B (4,500 kg). Thrust augmented versions of the Atlas 5, featuring one to five 1,361-kN solid strap-on boosters developed by GenCorp Aerojet, as well as with a 5-m diameter fairing, developed by Contraves Space, of Switzerland, will be introduced on the third flight, due in March 2003. Next flight, due on December 17, will use the 401 configuration again. The customer for these two upcoming flights is Lockheed Martin, the parent company of International Launch Services. The Atlas 5 is the first Atlas vehicle with no direct technical legacy from the Atlas ballistic missile.

First ESC-A Delivered
August 21

The first flight model of Ariane 5‘s new ESC-A cryogenic upper stage was delieverd by Astrium GmbH. The stage, which incorporates the propulsion system of Ariane 4‘s H10-3 third stage, will be shipped to the Guiana Space Center, in Kourou, French Guiana. It will fly on the first Ariane 5ECA vehicle in October.
Editor’s note: The introduction of the Ariane 5ECA version will increase the launcher’s payload capacity to up to 10 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit. This capacity will enable dual launches of 4 to 5-ton class satellites.

Proton Launch Scrubbed Twice
August 20

The launch of a GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton K vehicle carrying the Echostar 8 direct broadcasting satellite was scrubbed about 20 minutes before liftoff due to high winds over the launch sites. The launch was postponed to August 21 and then delayed again to August 22, again due to winds over Baykonur. A first launch attempt was already scrubbed on June 22 due to a faulty command receiver.

Vintage Atlas Phased Out in 2005
August 15

International Launch Services reports that the 14 remaining Atlas 2 and Atlas 3 series vehicles will be launched through 2005. Meanwhile, 11 to 15 Atlas 5 launches are already booked, including 7 by the U.S. Air Force.
Editor’s note: The 14 flights should breakdown in seven Atlas 2s (all booked) and seven Atlas 3s (six identified contracts). The four commercial launches reportedly booked on Atlas 5 vehicles so far were contracted by Eutelsat (maiden flight), Inmarsat (one flight under condition of reaching technical milestones) and Lockheed Martin (two flights for Télésat Canada and Cablevision). The additional four are assumed to be backup flight options for launches contracted on Proton vehicles.

Uprated Zenit 3SL to Fly in January 2003
August 6

Sea Launch is due to fly an uprated version of its Zenit 3SL launch vehicle in January 2003 with an increased payload capacity of 6,000 kg to geostationary transfer orbit intead of 5,250 kg for the current version. The major modifications will be an increase of the thrust of the second stage’s RD-120 engine, from 845 to 910 kN, and the introduction of lighter avionics.
Editor’s note: The expected payload for the January 2003 flight is the Thuraya 2 geomobile communication satellite for Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications under a launch contract with Boeing Satellite Systems.

First Delta 4 Loading Test
August 1st

Boeing‘s Delta 4 vehicle was successfully loaded with liquid oxygen at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-37. Three more loading tests are planned, including liquid hydrogen and then dual propellant loading, prior to two "Wet Dress Rehearsals", with propellant loading of both stages and simulated countdowns through late August, when the final reahearsal will end with a 1-sec. static firing of the first stage’s Boeing Rocketdyne RS-68 engine.

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  Government Launchers

Boeing/LMA Could Be Subsidized
August 18

Boeing and Lockheed Martin are each asking for about US$100-million of government aid to keep their launch business affloat according to The New York Times. This financial aid will likely be approved according to unidentified U.S. Department of Defense sources cited by the U.S. newspaper.
Editor’s note: Boeing and Lockheed Martin developed their Delta 4 and Atlas 5 families of launchers to address U.S. government needs through 2020. Their business plans were built on the assumption that commercial launches added to government missions would allow an economy of scale enabling to reduce launch costs. Unfortunately, most of the announced government launches have been delayed by several years or cancelled and the commercial launch market has collapsed.

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  Small Launchers

Third Dnepr to Fly in December
August 13

After more than one year of delay, MKK Kosmotras eventually set its third Dnepr vehicle for launch in December. Its payload will be a cluster of five microsatellites: LatinSat 1 and 2 for Aprize Satellite Argentina, Rubin 2 for Germany’s DLR, UniSat 2 for Italy’s Rome University "La Sapienza" and SaudiSat 2 for the Riyadh Space Research Institute.
Editor’s note: This flight was initially planned in September 2001. The LatinSat microsatellites are part of the messaging network developed by SpaceQuest Ltd. Unisat 1 and SaudiSat 1a and 1b have already been launched on the second Dnepr flight in September 2000. Rubin 2 is likely a follow-on to Bird-Rubin launched piggyback on a Kosmos 3M in June 2000.

Dnepr 1

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  Missile Systems

Russia to Modernize Existing ICBM Fleet
August 22

Russia will modernize 144 intercontinental ballistic missiles of its fleet which were due for retirement under the 2nd Strategic Armament reduction Treaty (Start 2). The missiles, more than 100 RS-20 (SS-18 "Satan") and about 30 RS-22 (SS-24 "Scalpel") are deployed on various sites in Siberia. Under the provision of the Start 2 treaty, they had to be scrapped before 2007. Since Russia considers that the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 cancelled all obligations on the following disarmament treaties, the missiles will be maintained in operations through 2014.
Editor’s note: The RS-20 and the RS-22 missiles were both built by Ukraine’s NPO Yuzhnoye. The RS-20 is the basis of MKK KosmotrasDnepr launch vehicles. All plans to develop commercial launch systems from the RS-22 (NPO Yuzhnoye’s Space Clipper, Dassault Aviation‘s Talisman) have been scrapped.

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  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

Atlantis Launch Slips
August 22

NASA has decided to postpone the return to flight of its Space Shuttle fleet from September 28 to October 2 in order to complete repairs on the damaged crawler vehicles that move the shuttle stacks and their mobile launch platforms from the Kennedy Space Center‘s Vertical Assembly Building to the SLC-36 pads. The first shuttle to go will be Atlantis, on the STS-112 mission to the International Space Station.

Shenzhou 4 Due in December
August 15

China reportedly plans to launch its fourth prototype Shenzhou man-rated spacecraft in December. A series of five drop-tests of the Shenzhou descent module was completed in late July in the Gobi Desert by the Beijing Institute of Space Macine & Electricity (Research Institute No.508 of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology). The mock module was dropped from an altitude of 11 km to demonstrate the 1,200-sq.m. parachute landing system.
Editor’s note: According to analysts, Shenzhou 4 could be the last unmanned test flight of the Shenzhou vehicle with a first manned launch attempt planned on Shenzhou 5 in 2003. Other sources suggest that additional unmanned test flights might delay the first manned flight to 2005. The parachute landing system is suspected to have failed on Shenzhou 2, resulting in a hard landing for the module. No picture of it were ever released after landing.

Shuttle Repairs Begin
August 9

Welding of the cracks found in the metallic liner of NASA space shuttle orbiters‘ liquid hydrogen lines has begun. The first orbiter to be processed is Atlantis, due to return to flight in late September.

NASA to Repair Its Shuttles
August 1st

NASA eventually decided to repair the damaged metallic liner in the liquid hydrogen lines of its space shuttle orbiter vehicles. The eleven cracks spotted on the four vehicles will be welded. Repairs are due to begin within 10 days in order to enable a flight resumption by late September. The origin of the cracks is still unknown.

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  Space Propulsion

MB-XX Chamber Assembly Completes Tests
August 12

Boeing Rocketdyne and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have successfully completed a preliminary series of tests on the full-scale combustion chamber/injector assembly of their jointly-developped MB-XX cryogenic engine. The assembly has been tested at MHI’s Tashiro Test Facility, in Japan, at full operating pressure and temperatures for two years. Development of the MB-XX engine is scheduled to be completed in 2004.
Editor’s note: The MB-XX, in its 267-kN MB-60 version, is a competitor to Pratt&Whitney‘s RL60 for the propulsion of future improved versions of Boeing‘s Delta 4 and Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 under U.S. Air Force‘s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles program.

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Crawlers Have Cracks Too
August 13

Cracks have been found on NASA‘s two gigantic crawler transporters, used to move the space shuttles and their mobile launch platforms from the Kennedy Space Center‘s Vertical Assembly Building to the pads, and may require repairs. The cracks are located on bearings in the hydraulic leveling system that keeps the shuttle launch platform steady. Each crawler has 32 such bearings. An initial inspection showed 15 bearings with cracks on crawler no.2, including two with extensive damage, and at least 13 on crawler no.1. Only eight spare bearings are reportedly available. Inspections and repairs may cause additionnal delays in the shuttle launch schedule.
Editor’s note: The 2,700-t crawlers were developed by Marion Power Shovel Co. to move Saturn vehicles to the pads under the Apollo program. Since their introduction in January 1966, they have been the largest ground vehicles in the world.

Starsem’s Clean Rooms Under Repair
August 6

Minor damage to the clean rooms owned and operated by Starsem inside the MIK-112 integration building will be repaired by year end and the facility will be fully operational to process ESA‘s Mars Express probe in early 2003. The clean room suffered minor damage following the collapse of the roof covering three out of five high bays in the MIK-112 integration building on May 12. Mars Express will be launched atop a Starsem Soyuz-Fregat vehicle on June 1, 2003.

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U.S. Air Force to Test European Rayon
August 14

The U.S. Air Force has contracted with Snecma Moteurs of France, Acordis of Germany and Lenzing of Austria to procure ands test rayon material for heatshield and rocket motor nozzles under the Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) program.

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  Launch Market

TRW Wins NPOESS Contract
August 26

TRW Space & Electronics was awarded a US$2.9-billion contract to develop and build the new generation of U.S. polar weather satellites under the National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) program. The NPOESS is due to be jointly operated by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and to replace their existing systems. The contract covers the procurement of an initial two satellites through 2012 and includes options for an additional four spacecraft through 2019 that would bring the contract value to US$4.5 billion.
Editor’s note: TRW’s selection is a blow to Lockheed Martin Space Systems which built all previous generations of U.S. polar orbiting weather satellites, both civilian and military, since the early 1960s. The NPOESS satellites will likely be launched atop Boeing Delta 4 vehicles from Vandenberg AFB, California.

OSC Builds PanAmSat Ka Satellite
August 18

Orbital Sciences Corp. is manufacturing a Ka-band communication satellite under a "non-contingent agreement" with PanAmSat Corp., according to the operator’s recent filing to the U.S. Security Exchange Commission. The spacceraft will be ready for launch circa 2005. This satellite will help PanAmSat to meet manufacturing deadlines required by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to keep its operating licenses for Ka-band services. However, PanAmSat may not proceed with full satellite integration if the expected market does not materialize.

TRW Gets SBIRS-Low Contract
August 16

TRW Space & Electronics was awarded a US$868.7-million contract by U.S. Air Force‘s Space & Missile Systems Center to develop and build two demonstrator missile tracking satellites for the Space-Based InfraRed System’s low-Earth orbit segment (SBIRS-Low). The contract includes an option for eight more satellites. These demonstrators are tentatively planned for launch in 2006 and 2007 and will be part of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency‘s Ballistic Missile Defense System Test Bed.
Editor’s note: TRW’s industrial team includes Spectrum Astro (satellite bus), Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. SBIRS-Low launches will be presumably atop Boeing Delta 4 vehicles from Vandenberg AFB, California.

Contact Lost With Contour
August 16

NASA has lost contact with its Comet Nucleus Tour (Contour) probe at the time it was supposed to ignite its Thiokol Star 30BM kick motor to leave its Earth parking orbit and begin a 4-year journey to fly by comets P/Encke in November 2003 and P/Schwassmann Wachmann-3 in June 2006. Observations by several astronomical observatories suggest that the spacecraft has split in two main elements.
Editor’s note: The US$158-million probe was built by John Hopkins University‘s Applied Physics Laboratory. It was launched on July 3 by a Boeing Delta 2/7425 vehicle.

India Proceeds With Moon Probe Plans
August 14

The Indian Space Resarch Organisation will proceed with its plans to launch a probe to the Moon circa 2007 after a report issued in July by a panel of experts concluded that it has the technical expertise to conduct the US$125-million mission. The probe will be launched atop an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

Eutelsat Buys Stellat
August 1st

Eutelsat will acquire Stellat for €180 million. Stellat launched its first satellite, Stellat 5, on July 5.
Editor’s note: Stellat’s sale is part of France Télécom‘s new policy to disengage from satellite operations in order restructure its activities and debts. To complete the sale, France Telecom will first buy the 30% of Stellat’s capital owned by Europe*Star for €3 million in order to own 100% of the operator. Initiated in June 2000, the Stellat project was then expected to represent a €250-million investment over 2 years.

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  Agencies and Governments

Italian Space Budget
August 6

Italy has issued its new space budget plan for 2003-2005, with an increased cooperation between ASI, the national space agency, and the Ministry of Defense. Total budget for next year will amount to €2.776 billion, 89.5% of which will be provided by the Ministry of Education, University & Research. Some 37.5% of this budget will be spent through ESA programs and financing. Among national programs included in this spending plan are the Vega launcher, developed jointly with ESA, the Cosmo-Skymed radar remote sensing constellation and the Prima and Mita small and mini satellite buses.

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