Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 461 2001 Sep 16-17 New York, NY and Cambridge, MA

By SpaceRef Editor
September 18, 2001
Filed under ,

Editorial – Off topic (but what other topic is there this week?)


Best wishes to all those in NYC and Washington affected by the terrorist
attacks. I just returned from two days in New York visiting a friend,
and write some of these words as the Acela train speeds me back to
Boston; it was incredible and harrowing, but actually being there helped
me to absorb the reality. Nevertheless, only a few blocks from the WTC,
things are surprisingly normal now – they’re already selling tasteless
commemorative t-shirts, and the cafes and restaurants and shops were
quite busy only a day after the evacuation zone was moved from 14th to
Canal St (I strenuously obeyed the mayor’s command to help revitalize
the NYC economy by spending lots of money). We stood by the checkpoint
at the end of Canal St and cheered the recovery workers coming off
shift, and walked round to Gold St which is a few blocks from Liberty
Plaza. I was surprised that although there was still a lot of smoke
rising in the air from the smoldering fires, there was no problem with
dust or smell from where we were. It’s grim, but it could have been
orders of magnitude worse – all kudos to the structural engineers who
built WTC well enough to let all those thousands escape.

Shuttle and Station


The Station has a new Russian docking and airlock module. The
Stikovochniy Otsek No. 1 (SO1, Docking Module 1), article 240GK No. 1L,
was built by Energiya and derived from Soyuz hardware. It has a mass of
around 3900 kg and is a 4.1m long, 2.6m dia ellipsoid. The SO1 was
named Pirs (Russian for “pier”). It was launched attached to the GKM
(cargo ship-module) Progress-M No. 301, named Progress M-SO1 after
launch. Progress M-SO1 is the service module section of a Progress M;
Pirs replaces the normal cargo and fuel sections. Mass of the GKM is
probably around 3000 kg.

Pirs and Progress M-SO1 were launched from Baykonur at 2335 UTC on Sep
14 aboard a Soyuz-U launch vehicle into around a 180 km circular orbit.
By Sep 16 the combination had manuevered into a 238 x 264 km orbit; at
0038 UTC on Sep 17, now in a 385 x 395 km x 51.6 deg orbit,
Pirs/Progress began a flyaround of the ISS and lined up with the nadir
port on Zvezda. Docking of Pirs with Zvezda came at 0105 UTC on Sep 17.
The Progress M-SO1 will later undock from the Pirs nadir port to leave
it free for further dockings. Pirs gives extra clearance from the
Station for ships docking underneath Zvezda, and will be used as an
airlock for spacewalks using the Russian Orlan EVA suits.

Recent Launches


A Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS was launched from Space Launch Complex
3-East at Vandenberg AFB on Sep 8. The payload was for the National
Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and is believed to be the first of a new
series of naval electronic intelligence satellites. The first burn of
Centaur AC-160 put the vehicle in a transfer orbit. The phrasing of the
launch commentary implied that the the second burn left the payload in
‘transfer orbit’, but Ted Molczan reports visual observations from
several observers indicating the bright Centaur is in the final
deployment orbit of the NOSS satellites. I therefore conclude that the
first burn was to a transfer orbit of around 180 x 1100 km x 63 deg. The
second burn at 1629 UTC put Centaur and payload in an 1100 x 1100 km x
63 deg orbit. The payload then began dispensing the NOSS subsatellites
(only one object, however, has so far been reported, so it is possible
the satellite design is different).

The only problem with this reconstruction is that the commentary
confirmed the payload separated from Centaur shortly after the second
burn. If it’s like the old NOSS and the payload is basically just a
dispenser for the main satellites, it’s not obvious why it would
separate at all. Perhaps like the Titan dispenser it uses small
thrusters for precise positioning of the deployed satellites, although
they are also believed to have some onboard propulsion so I don’t see
why that would really be needed. I remain somewhat open to the
possibility that the observations of a bright Centaur-like object in the
final orbit are actually of the dispenser and that the Centaur was
deorbited from elliptical transfer orbit.

Following experiments with small satellites by NRL in the 1960s, the
PARCAE system was launched beginning in 1976 using Atlas F (and later
Atlas H) launch vehicles with Star 20 kick motors. Each PARCAE launch
comprised three satellites which flew in formation and used
interferometry to locate surface vessels. The PARCAE system, developed
by NRL and then built in production by Martin Marietta/Denver, was
superseded by an improved generation of triplets, four sets of which
were launched between 1990 and 1996. Both generations flew in 1100 km,
63 deg orbits. The second generation used the Titan 4 launch vehicle; it
is believed that the excess capacity on these vehicles was used to carry
SLDCOM communications satellite payloads. The new generation uses an
intermediate Atlas-Centaur vehicle, so there is probably no extra
payload this time. Prime contractor for the new satellites is again
believed to be the same Denver group, now called Lockheed Martin
Astronautics, and I speculate that NRL probably continues to have a
management and technical role in the program under overall NRO auspices.

The two Aerospace Corp. tethered Picosats, Picosat 7/Picosat 8, were
ejected from the Mightysat II.1 satellite on Sep 7 at 1939 UTC into a
511 x 539 km x 97.8 deg orbit. The 0.25 kg satellites are connected by a
small tether (probably 30m long like the previous picosat pair) and are
cataloged as a single object. Mightysat II.1 (Sindri) was launched in
Jul 2000, and the deployment of the picosats was planned for a year
after launch. The Picosat 21/23 pair was launched from the Opal
satellite in Feb 2000.

A TsSKB-Progress Blok-E final stage from a Vostok 8A92M launch vehicle
launched on 1975 Aug 22 reentered on Sep 6. The reentry was seen by many
people along the eastern seaboard of the USA. The 8A92M rocket placed a
Tselina-D electronic intelligence satellite, codenamed Kosmos-756, in
orbit; that satellite reentered in 1992.

Table of Recent Launches


Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.
Aug 6 0728 DSP 21 Titan 4B/IUS Canaveral SLC40 Early Warn 33A
Aug 8 1613 Genesis Delta 7326 Canaveral SLC17A Space probe 34A
Aug 10 2110 Discovery ) Shuttle Kennedy LC39 Spaceship 35A
Leonardo )
Aug 20 1830 Simplesat – Discovery, LEO Astronomy 35B
Aug 21 0924 Progress M-45 Soyuz-U Baykonur LC1 Cargo 36A
Aug 24 2034 Kosmos-2379 Proton-K/DM2M? Baykonur LC81R Early Warn? 37A
Aug 29 0700 VEP-2 ) H-2A Tanegashima Technology 38B
LRE ) Geodesy 38A
Aug 30 0646 Intelsat 902 Ariane 44L Kourou ELA2 C/Ku telecom 39A
Sep 7 1939 Picosat 7/8 – Sindri, LEO Technology 00-42C
Sep 8 1525 USA 160 Atlas IIAS Vandenberg SLC3E Sigint 40A
Sep 14 2335 Pirs ) Soyuz-U Baykonur LC1 Station module
Progress M-SO1 ) Cargo 41A

Current Shuttle Processing Status


Orbiters               Location   Mission    Launch Due   

OV-102 Columbia OPF Bay 3 STS-109 2002 Jan 17 HST SM-3B
OV-103 Discovery OPF Bay 2 Maintenance
OV-104 Atlantis VAB STS-110 2002 Feb 28 ISS 8A
OV-105 Endeavour OPF Bay 1 STS-108 2001 Nov 29 ISS UF-1

| Jonathan McDowell | phone : (617) 495-7176 |
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SpaceRef staff editor.