News of December 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
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  Commercial Launchers

Ariane 5ECA Failure Investigation Board
December 16

Arianespace, ESA and CNES have appointed a five-member independent investigation board to identify the cause of the maiden launch failure of Ariane 5ECA on December 11, and provide recommendations for corrective actions. The board, headed by DLR‘s Wolfgang Koschel, will issue its final report on January 6. Among its main missions, the investigation board will have to find out whether the cause of the failure can affect the launch operations of standard Ariane 5Gs.
Editor’s note: If the board confirms that the cause of the failure is specific to the Ariane 5ECA configuration, the Ariane 5G could return to flight as soon as January 13 (January 12, Kourou time), to loft ESA’s Rosetta probe.

US$1 Billion Subsidies Planned for EELVs
December 13

Atlas 5 (LMA)
Boeing and Lockheed Martin, respectively prime contractors for the Delta 4 and Atlas 5 series of launchers, should receive US$1 billion of U.S. government subsidies through 2009 to support the two vehicle lines while the commercial market cannot sustand profitable operations, according to top U.S. Air Force officials. The U.S. Air Force is reportedly asking for a US$200-million budget to initiate this support in FY2004.
Delta 4 (Boeing)
Some US$60-70 million would be repaid annually to the two companies to reimburse the lease of government-owned lands, while the remainder would pay for the engineering, quality assurance and design reviews conducted before and after every launch.
Editor’s note: The EELV program was initially intended to provide launch capabilities
for the U.S. government that would gain financial support from the internatiobal commercial launch market.
Standard Ariane 5 to Return to Flight Shortly
December 13
The standard version of Ariane 5, the Ariane 5G, should be cleared for flight resumption shortly as the cause of the maiden flight failure of the new Ariane 5ECA seems to be specific to the new design, according to comments by Arianespace top officials in various French medias. The first task of the failure investigation board will be to confirm that the Ariane 5G version could not be affected by a similar anomaly. Despite the December 11 failure, the launch campaign for the next Ariane 5 flight (V158) is proceeding on schedule at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. The 15th vehicle in the Ariane 5 series is due to launch ESA‘s Rosetta cometary probe between January 13 and 31 for 12-year mission toward asteroids Ottawara and Siva and the comet P47/Wirtanen.
Ariane 5G
Ariane Failure Triggers Minimal Insurance Claims
December 13

The maiden flight failure of Europe’s new Ariane 5ECA launch vehicle caused the loss of two satellites valued at a total of about €640 million but the resulting claims will be limited to only €13.4 million on the space insurance market, according to insurance sources. As a highly experimental payload, the €388-million Stentor satellite was not insured by CNES. Eutelsat‘s Hot Bird 7 was reportedly covered by three insurance policies. A €250-million coverage was contracted for post-launch failure. In addition, a joint launch policy was contracted for both Hot Bird 6 and Hot Bird 7 and would have resulted in a claim only if both satellites had been destroyed. A complementary launch coverage, worth €13.4 million was actually contracted shortly before launch and should be the only one to be repaid by the space insurance sector. In parallel, Arianespace had reportedly insured its launch for €133 million outside the traditional space insurance market in order to support its re-launch policy.
Editor’s note: Hot Bird 6 was successfully launched on the maiden flight of Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5.

Ariane 5ECA Fails on Maiden Flight
December 11
Europe’s Ariane 5ECA failed on its maiden flight, destroying its 2-satellite payload before it could reach orbit. According to the early analysis of the vehicle’s telemetry, the liftoff was nominal but a first anomaly occurred at 96 sec. (24 sec. after maximum dynamic pressure), with a loss of pressure in the cooling system of the Snecma Vulcain 2 engine powering the EPC core stage. Then, at 178 sec., 41 seconds after the EAP solid rocket boosters were jettisoned, the Vulcain 2 engine experienced "serious perturbations," resulting in a disturbance in the overall launcher’s flight control. At 187 sec., the payload fairing was jettisoned, at an altitude of 150 km, while the launcher was not fully stabilized. This resulted in a total loss of control of the vehicle, which veered off course. Self destruction was commanded by the range safety officer at 455 sec., while at an altitude of 69 km. The debris fell into the Atlantic Ocean, some 800-1,000 km downrange.
Ariane 5ECA

Vulcain 2
An independent failure investigation board will be appointed on December 13 with two main missions: to clear the standard version of Ariane 5, the Ariane 5G, for the launch of ESA‘s Rosetta cometary probe, due on between January 13 and 31, and to enable the Ariane 5ECA’s safe return to flight as soon as possible.
The Ariane 5ECA is designed to loft up to 10 metric tons of payload to geostationary transfer orbit and will become Arianespace‘s workhorse for dual launches in the coming years. Arianespace had planned three Ariane 5ECA flights in 2003 out of six Ariane 5 missions. However, the European launch provider still has six Ariane 5Gs in production to ensure the overlap while the new version is being introduced.

Meanwhile, the parachute recovery of the EAP boosters was successful and the two stages will be shipped back to French Guiana for expertise. This failure will not affect the schedule for the next Ariane 4 flight announced on December 17.
Editor’s note: It is important to note that at this point, it has not been determined if the root cause of the failure was located in the Vulcain 2 engine or in its environment. The anomaly occurred before the ignition of the new ESC-A cryogenic upper stage, planned some 9 minutes into flight. The reported value of the two satellites lost, Eutelsat‘s Hot Bird 7 broadcasting satellite and the Stentor technological satellite owned by CNES, is about €600 million. However, Stentor was apparently not insured while Hot Bird 7 was only insured for US$13.4 million.

Ariane 5ECA Launch Rescheduled
December 7
The maiden launch of Europe’s Ariane 5ECA (V157), the uprated version of Arianespace‘s Ariane 5, is now set for December 11, from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. A previous launch attempt, on November 28, was scrubbed 3 seconds before main engine ignition because of a ground sensor glitch. The ground-based software did not get confirmation of the correct firing of two chilldown igniters (AMEFs) and refused to hand over operations to the launcher’s onboard computer. An investigation pinpointed a sensor glitch in the igniters. Since the anomaly occured after the launcher’s cryogenic arms were disconnected, the new ESC-A upper stage had to be emptied using purge lines before the mobile launch table could be rolled back to the Final Assembly Building.
Sea Launch to Keep DM-SL Upper Stage
December 6

Sea Launch has denied rumors and speculations regarding the possible change of upper stage on its Zenit 3SL vehicle in the wake of a similar stage failure on a Proton vehicle on November 26. Sea Launch will keep its current DM-SL upper stage, provided by RKK Energiya, which is a derivative of the DM-2M stage used on GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s Proton K. Khrunichev is currently phasing out this version of the Proton vehicle in favor of a modernized Proton M with a Khrunichev-built Breeze M upper stage.
Editor’s note: RKK Energiya is a 25% shareholder of Sea Launch. On November 26, the DM-2M upper stage of a Proton K (commercial designation: DM3), failed to ignite for the second of its three planned burns and released the 5,250-kg Astra 1K satellite onto a low-Earth parking orbit.

Zenit 3SL
(Sea Launch)
The next Zenit 3SL flight has been postponed since August and is currently planned by mid-January.

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  Government Launchers

NASA Contracts for 12 Delta 2 Launches
December 6

NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center has selected Boeing Launch Services to provide 12 firm Delta 2 launches to loft NASA and NASA-sponsored payloads with options for 7 more. The order, worth up to US$1.2 billion if all options are exercized, is part of the NASA Launch Service (NLS) procurement. Twelve launches would be conducted from Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida, and seven from Vandenberg AFB, California. Seven launches are currently planned in 2006, 6 in 2007, 2 in 2008 and 4 in 2009.
Editor’s note: Under the NLS procurement, two indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts were awarded on June 16, 2000 to Boeing and Lockheed Martin Astronautics for up to 70 missions.

Delta 2

Five options have already been exercised for medium-class launches to loft NASA’s Aura, Deep Impact, Mars Exploration Rover 2, Messenger and Swift spacecraft atop Boeing’s Delta 2 and Delta 2H vehicles. One intermediary-class launch was awarded to Lockheed Martin to launch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter atop an Atlas 3B.

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  Small Launchers

Vega Development Contracts to be Signed
December 5

The European Space Agency will sign two development contracts for the Vega launcher. In early 2003, a contract will be signed with ELV, the joint-venture of FiatAvio and the Italian Space Agency, for the overall launch system development. In December, another contract will be signed with FiatAvio to develop the P80FW solid rocket motor to be used as Vega’s first stage.
Editor’s note: These contracts were initially planned to be signed in September. Static firing tests of the P80FW motor are scheduled in late 2004, early 2005 and mid-2005. Maiden flight of the Vega launcher, from the refurbished ELA-1 launch pad in Kourou, is tentatively planned for late 2005 or early 2006.

Brazil Launches Sounding Rockets
December 1st
Brazil’s Aerospace Technical Center (CTA) launched two sounding rockets from the Alcântara Launch Center (CLA) within one week. Under "Operation Pirapema", a VS-30/Orion was first launched on November 23, carrying experiments developed by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Resarch (INPE) and Germany’s DLR and Institute for Physical Space Reseach to study the equatorial ionosphere. The VS-30/Orion V-02 rocket reached an altitude of 434.5 km. A single-stage VS-30 rocket was then launched on December 1st under "Operation Cumã" to conduct microgravity experiments. The VS-30 V-06 rocket carried 8 experiments from Brazilian and German universities on behalf of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB). The rocket reached an altitude of 120 km and fell into the South Atlantic Ocean some 80 km down range. No recovery was planned.

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  Missile Systems

PLV Fails on Missile Defense Interception Test
December 11
The 8th interception test conducted by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for the development of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) segment of the U.S. missile defense system ended in failure after the prototype Raytheon Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle failed to separate from its Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV) booster. Under the US$80-million Integrated Flight Target 10 (IFT-10) mission, a dummy warhead and a series of decoys had been launched atop an Orbital Sciences Corp. Target Launch Vehicle (TLV) from Vandenberg AFB, California, toward the Kwajalein Missile Range in the Marshall Islands, some 7,775 km downrange. The Lockheed Martin PLV itself was launched from Kwajalein some 20 minutes later to intercept the incoming warhead. The failure occurs after a string of four successful interceptions.

This was the last flight of the PLV, which will be replaced on future interception tests by the actual booster vehicles, currently under development by OSC and Lockheed Martin.
Editor’s note: The PLV is based on the second and third stages of decommissioned Minuteman 2 intercontinental ballistic missile. The PLV has suffered a similar payuload seperation failure in July 2000 for the IFT-5 mission.

North Korean Scud Shipment Intercepted
December 10

A cargo ship carrying 15 North Korean-built Scud B ballistic missiles with their conventional warheads, propellant tanks and associated hardware was intercepted by Spanish Navy in the Arabian Sea, near Socotra Island. The missiles were hidden under cement bags although they are claimed to have been "regularly" acquired by Yemen for ‘purely defensive’ purpose. The ‘So San‘ cargo ship was cruising without any flag and was intercepted by Spanish navy ships ‘Navarra‘ and ‘Patino‘, patrolling the area in support to the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom. Although the U.S. Department of Defense strongly criticized North Korea’s proliferation policy, the U.S. military authorities apparently cleared the ship to deliver the missiles in Yemen although legal issues regrading the attempt to conceal the shipment will have to be settled.
Editor’s note: North Korea is reportedly providing missile technology and assistance to Egypt, Iran, Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Sudan.

North Korea Denies Alleged Support to Pakistan
December 5

North Korea denies again that it might have provided technical support for the development of Pakistan’s ballistic missile systems and nuclear weapon program. On November 26, India asked for an international probe on the suspected technology transfers, suggesting that North Korea and Pakistan are not truly committed to non-proliferation. Pakistani carrier aircraft being loaded with missile components have been spotted in Pyongyang according to the New York Times.
Editor’s note: Despite numerous claims that its missile systems were developed indigenously, Pakistan obviously derived its missiles from North Korean and Chinese designs. The 1,500-km range Ghauri (Hatf 5) is a North Korean Nodong 1 while the 290-km range Ghaznavi (Hatf 3) is apparently a Chinese M-11 missile.


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  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

Cracks Found on Discovery Bearing
December 11
A crack was found in a liquid oxygen feed line bearing onboard Space Shuttle Discovery during a routine inspection as part of its Orbitar Maintenance Down Period. NASA engineers are currently reviewing whether this crack is a generic problem and could represent a safety issue for the whole fleet of space shuttle orbiters. The crack was detected on a 5.7-cm bearing part of a damping system that allows the 43-cm-diameter line to flex.
Editor’s note: NASA currently plans to fly its next shuttle mission on January 16, with 21-year-old orbiter Columbia for a science mission not linked to the International Space Station. This STS-107 mission was initially planned in July 2002 but had to be postponed after cracks were detected in liquid hydrogen lines onboard all four NASA orbiter vehicles as well as on a ground test article.
Additional Crew Return Capability Planned for ISS
December 6

The leaders of NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the National Space Development Agency of Japan and Rosaviakosmos have agreed to improve the crew return capability of the International Space Station in order to maximize the orbital outpost use for science purpose by 2006/2007. The station’s permanent crew will be increased to 6 astronauts with the support of additional Russian Soyuz crew return vehicles, to be eventually complemented by U.S. Orbital Space Planes. The participants also agreed upon a process for selecting an ISS configuration beyond the accommodation of the remaining elements, currently due to be completed by February 2004. This new plan will require further technical and programmatic assessments and cost estimations, as well as internal budgetary reviews by each of the partners. A configuration option recommendation is due for approval by March 2003 in order to select a revised configuration by June/July 2003 and to issue a final agreement by December 2003.
Editor’s note: Under the current ISS agreement, Russia provides a single Soyuz return vehicle for the permanent crew through April 2006. Since the OSP will not be available before 2008/2010, the expanded crew capability is likely to require 8 to 16 additional Soyuz vehicles to be provided by Russia. The X-38-derived CRV, cancelled earlier this year, was due to enable a 7-crew capability by 2005.

ATV Undergoes Functional Tests
December 5

EADS Launch Vehicles reports that European Space Agency‘s Automated Transfer Vehicle is undergoing a series of electrical and functional tests in its Les Mureaux plant, near Paris. The Electrical Test Model, integrated into the Functional Simulation Facility (ISF) is currently tested under simulated extreme electrical conditions. This qualification campaign began in November and will continue through 2004 with final mission rehearsals in the months prior to the launch of the first flight model, christened "Jules Verne", in September 2004. EADS-LV is ESA’s prime contractor for ATV development.
Editor’s note: The ISF was initially developed to qualify Ariane 5’s avionics and flight software.
The ATV’s Structural & Thermal Model completed its own qualification campaign at ESA’s ESTEC technical center in August. EADS-LV is ESA’s prime contractor for ATV development. Operational ATVs were due to be produced by Astrium Space Infastructure but the two entities should have merged before the actual production begins. The "Jules Verne" ATV prototype is due for launch atop an Arianespace Ariane 5 in late 2004. It will carry 8 tons of propellant and cargo to the International Space Station and will be the second heaviest vehicle to dock with the orbital outpost.

ATV’s Outer Shield Reviewed
December 5

The Meteorids & Debris Protection System (MDPS), developed by OHB-System for European Space Agency‘s Automated Transfer Vehicle was successfully reviewed by EADS Launch Vehicles, prime contractor for the unmanned space tug development, and Contraves Space, its subcontractor for the avionics and propulsion modules’ structural parts. The MDPS consists in a metallic single bumper shield to protects the two modules. OHB and its own subcontractor, Apco Technologies, have already submitted their bid to produce MDPS for seven operational ATVs. A contract worth €3 million is expected in 2004.
Editor’s note: The ATV pressurized module, developped by Alenia Spazio, integrates its own orbital debris shield.

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  Space Propulsion

Atlas 5 SRB Completes Last Firing Test
December 11
Gencorp Aerojet has successfully completed the fourth and last static firing test of a 40,825-kg solid rocket motor it developed as a strap-on booster for the uprated versions of Lockheed Martin‘s new Atlas 5 launch vehicle. The 20.5-m long motor, presented as the largest monolitic solid propellant motor ever, delivered thrust from 1,270 to 1,740 kN for 95 seconds. Qualification of the booster will be completed in February, clearing it for operational service. A first development firing test was successfully conducted on August 30, 2001. The first qualification firing test, on March 15, 2002, failed due to a burnthrough in the motor’s lower end joint at 30 seconds. A second qualification test was successfully completed on October 30.
Editor’s note: Aerojet was awarded a US$500-million contract in February 1999 to develop and manufacture these boosters. The first flight of a thrust-augmented Atlas 5 vehicle, an Atlas 5/521 featuring two strap-on boosters, was planned in late March 2003 but has apparently slipped to April at the earliest. The payload should be Lockheed Martin‘s Rainbow 1 direct broadcasting satellite, on behalf of Cablevision. The boosters are the key to the Atlas 5’s performance which is currently limited to 4,950 kg into geostationary transfer orbit, roughly equivalent to that of an Ariane 44L. Fitted with one to five booster depending on the version, this performance will be increased up to 8,650 kg, i.e. almost twice the performance of the earlier Atlas 3B.
ABV Motor Test Fired
December 5
The first stage of the Alternate Boost Vehicle (ABV) developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency‘s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) was successfully test fired. The Orion 50SXLG solid rocket motor, developed by Alliant TechsystemsThiokol Propulsion, provided thrust for 70 seconds. It is a stretched version of the Orion 50SXL used as first stage of the Pegasus XL and second stage of the Taurus launchers. A new hydraulic thrust-vector control system, developed by Honeywell Engine Systems Division, was also tested. This was the only ground test firing planned in the program. The first flight of the ABV is currently planned in early 2003.

This new vehicle, developed under a contract by Boeing as prime contractor for the overall GMD system, will compete with Boeing’s own Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) booster vehicle to loft GMD’s Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicles. The ABV development contract could exceed US$900 million if all options are exercised.
Editor’s note: OSC’s ABV is mostly a wingless/ground-launched version of its Pegasus air-dropped launch vehicle with a stretched first stage. On Pegasus, the Orion 50XL motor has a fixed nozzle and uses aerodynamic surfaces for attitude control. Development of the COTS booster vehicle was handed over to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space in March.

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Russian Technicians in Kourou
December 3

A group of Russian technicians has arrived in French Guiana to finalize the preliminary project for the building of a Soyuz launch pad within the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. The team, presumably including representatives of TsSKB-Progress, which builds the Soyuz launchers, and KBTM, which builds the launch pads, was invited by Starsem and Arianespace.
Editor’s note: If the €300-million funding for the project can be found, the Soyuz pad would be built on the Malmanoury North site, some 10 km north-west from the Ariane launch pads.

Financing Hurdles for Soyuz in Kourou
December 1st
The regional council of French Guiana refuses to invest as much as €60 million to support 20% of the budget to build a launch pad for Russian Soyuz launch vehicles within the Guiana Space Center in Kourou. French Guiana was awarded a €1.14-billion budget to develop regional infrastructures in 2000-2006 while the council’s estimates it would need €3.2-billion.

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  Launch Market

NASA Selects Mars Scout Missions Concepts
December 6
NASA‘s Office of Space Science has selected four proposals for candidate Mars Scout missions one of which will be launched in 2007. Feasibility studies will be conducted on each concept through May 2003. The final selection is due on August 2, 2003. These Mars Scout missions are intended to complement the major missions of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and of other space agencies. The selected mission will have to cost less than US$325 million. All four missions concepts focus on the understanding of the chemistry of the Martian soil and atmosphere and the search for water and organic elements.
• The US$318.4-million Sample Collection for Investigation of Mars (SCIM) mission, proposed by the Arizona State University, would collect dust samples in the upper atmosphere of Mars (altitude: 37 km) and use a "free-return trajectory" to bring them back to Earth. Launch is set for August 2007, on a Boeing Delta 2/7925H vehicle, with a Mars encounter in April 2009, and return to Earth in January 2011. Lockheed Martin Astronautics would build the spacecraft.
• The Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey (Ares), proposed by NASA’s Langley Research Center, would feature an autonomous aircraft released in the martian atmosphere to provide in situ measurements of the near-surface atmospheric chemistry and high-resolution imagery of the surface. The aircraft would be powered by an hydrazine engine.
• The US$284-million Phoenix mission, proposed by the University of Arizona, would involve reuse of the mothballed Mars Surveyor 2001 lander, built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, to conduct in situ investigation of volatiles (especially water), organic molecules at a high-latitude site where Mars Odyssey has discovered evidence of large ice concentrations in the soil. Launch is planned in 2007, presumably on a Delta 2 vehicle, for a landing in June 2008.
• The Mars Volcanic Emission and Life Scout (Marvel) mission, proposed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, would consist in a Mars orbiter, built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics, carrying an infrared solar occultation spectrometer and a submillimeter spectrometer to conduct a global survey of the Martian atmosphere’s photochemistry and search for emissions that could be related to active volcanism or microbial activity. The Canadian Space Agency would provide a third instrument. Launch is tentatively scheduled in the third quarter of 2007, presumably on a Delta 2 vehicle.

Editor’s note: Twenty-five Mars Scout mission proposals were submitted in August 2002. NASA’s Langley Research Center had already proposed to launch a tiny Mars Airplane Package to be released in the martian atmosphere in December 2003. A piggyback launch on an Ariane 5 flight in November 2002 was planned but the whole project was cancelled in November 1999. The Mars Surveyor 2001 lander was mothballed in May 2000 following the back-to-back failures of Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter. It was initially planned for launch atop a Delta 2/7425 in April 2001, to conduct a parallel mission to that of the Mars Surveyor 2001 orbiter which eventually flew as Mars Odyssey.

NASA Awards JWST Contract
December 3

As previously announced, NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center has awarded a US$824.8-million contract to TRW Space & Electronics to develop and build the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). TRW will design and build the observatory’s primary mirror and spacecraft while some US$200-million worth of work will be subcontracted to Ball Aerospace & Technologies to develop the primary mirror system for the telescope itself. Formerly known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), the 5,400-kg JWST will be the successor of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). It will be launched in 2010 on a yet undefined vehicle to the Earth-Sun L2 Lagrange point, some 1.5 million km from Earth, in the opposite direction to the Sun.
Editor’s note: According to NASA’s website, the JWST could be launched either or on a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5, a Boeing Delta 4 or an Arianespace Ariane 5 launcher, the latter being considered as an ESA contribution to the mission.

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  Agencies and Governments

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