Status Report

Jonathan’s Space Report No. 532 – 2004 Aug 9

By SpaceRef Editor
August 10, 2004
Filed under ,

* Space Station

The Progress M-49 cargo ship, which has been docked to the Space Station
since May 27, undocked at 0605 UTC on Jul 30 and carried out a deorbit
burn at 1039 UTC leading to reentry over the Pacific starting at 1114
UTC. Progress M-50 is being prepared for launch to bring new supplies to
the stations. Astronauts Padalka and Fincke made a spacewalk on Aug 3,
in Orlan-M suits 25 and 26, during which they installed rendezvous and
docking hardware for the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV),
scheduled to launch next year. The Pirs airlock was depressurized by
0642 UTC, with the hatch opened at 0658 UTC. The astronauts reentered
the airlock at 1116-1120 UTC and closed the hatch at 1128 UTC. Pirs was
repressurized at 1129 UTC. During the spacewalk, the torques on the
station from the astronauts’ work (or, according to Jim Oberg,
outgassing from the spacesuit sublimators) were enough to exceed the
capacity of the CMG gyros in the Z1 module, and thrusters had to be used
to reorient the station. The spacewalk lasted 4h 48 min (depress to
repress at 50 mbar) or 4h 30min (hatch open/close). Thanks as usual to
Andrey Krasil’nikov for EVA details.

* Hubble

One of the Hubble Space Telescope’s premier science instruments failed
on August 3. A power converter has blown in the main electronics box for
the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), the only instrument on
HST that can take spectra, leaving the spectrograph permanently
unusable. This is a huge blow to astronomers, since spectra are needed
to study the chemical composition and physical state of the objects
Hubble studies, as well as measuring redshifts of galaxies and gas
velocities around black holes – all science goals that the imaging
instruments cannot help with. STIS’s ultraviolet capability is unique –
since ultraviolet light from space doesn’t reach ground-based telescopes
– leaving astronomers without any way to study the important ultraviolet
spectral fingerprints of ionized hydrogen and carbon crucial to studies
of quasars and of the atmospheres of hot stars. Hubble’s sharp imaging
also helped STIS, allowing spectra of very small regions – such as the
nuclei of galaxies – to be picked out from the middle of larger
sources, key in pinning down the presence of massive black holes in the
nuclei of galaxies. STIS was added to Hubble on the second servicing
mission in February 1997, replacing two earlier instruments, the Faint
Object Spectrograph and the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph. Its
successor, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), is ready for launch
but grounded indefinitely because of the ban on post-Columbia Shuttle
missions to Hubble.

* NASA Discovery Program

The MESSENGER probe to Mercury was launched on Aug 3. The Boeing Delta
7925H went into parking orbit from Cape Canaveral; the second stage’s
second burn raised the orbit, and then the PAM-D solid motor burn put
the probe on an escape trajectory. MESSENGER will pass lunar orbit at
0600 UTC on Aug 4 and leave the Earth’s sphere of influence at around
1800 UTC on Aug 5, entering a 0.92 x 1.08 AU x 6.4 deg heliocentric
orbit, with a perihelion about 0.0013 AU (200000 km) larger than
planned, due to a 15 m/s underspeed on the third stage burn. MESSENGER
(Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) will make
an Earth flyby on 2005 Aug 1, Venus flybys in 2006 and 2007, and Mercury
encounters in 2008 Jan, 2008 Oct, 2009 Sep and 2011 Mar. On the fourth
encounter the Aerojet 660N engine will fire to put Messenger in a 200 x
15193 km x 80 deg orbit around the innermost planet.

* Proton launch

International Launch Services and Krunichev launched Proton-M no. 53507
with upper stage Briz-M No. 88510 on Aug 4, carrying the Amazonas 1
communications satellite. Amazonas, a Eurostar 3000 model satellite built
by Astrium, is owned by the Spanish company Hispasat and will be
operated by its Brazilian Hispamar subsidiary. The Briz upper
stage put Amazonas in a 3142 x 35789 km x 9.1 deg transfer orbit.

* Assorted probes

The European ion-drive lunar probe, SMART-1, launched in Sep 2003 into
geostationary transfer orbit, had by Jul 12 reached a 22361 x 155133
km x 6.9 deg orbit, having used about 41 kg of xenon propellant.

The final stage of the Chinese/European Double Star 2 (Tan Ce 2) probe
has not yet been tracked. Tan Ce 2 is in a 654 x 38573 km x 90.0 deg
polar orbit with apogee over the Arctic Circle.

* Historical note: Astrofizika

The latest issue of the Russian magazine Novosti Kosmonavtiki (NK), in an
interesting article on the history of the Meteor weather satellite
system, provides the first details on the mysterious satellite
Kosmos-1066 launched in December 1978. Kosmos-1066 was identified by
Igor Lissov and Sergey Voevodin on the FPSPACE list in 1997 as being the
cover name for the article 11F653 spacecraft ‘Astrofizika’, but we
didn’t know what it was for. The Astrofizika name suggested a possible
astrophysics payload but no science results had been reported. The new
NK article quotes Yuriy Trifonov, director of VNII Elektromekhaniki, the
design organization for the Meteors, as saying that Kosmos-1066 was
based on Meteor-1 and carried special optical instruments for the
observation of artificially created `light sources’ on Earth; the craft
carried an SPD-50 electric thruster like those on Meteor-Priroda to
allow its orbit to be adjusted to pass over the experiment sites. The
Astrofizika satellite is believed to have operated for almost two years.

NK speculate the experiments may have been military in nature, and I
note that the main USSR organization for the development of directed
energy weapons was called NPO Astrofizika. Maybe the satellite was
measuring laser signal strength from an experimental laser at the
Terra-3 facility to study propagation energy losses, for future
application to beam weapons, or something of that kind – I emphasize,
for the benefit of those inclined to overhype, that I am not suggesting
an actual beam weapon delivering significant energy on target, just a
jumped-up satellite tracking laser.

Table of Recent Launches


Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.  

Jul 15 1002 Aura Delta 7920 Vandenberg SLC2W Science 26A Jul 18 0044 Anik F2 Ariane 5G+ Kourou ELA3 Comms 27A Jul 22 1746 Kosmos-2407 Kosmos-3M Plesetsk LC132 Navigation 28A Jul 25 0705 Tan Ce 2 CZ-2C/SM Taiyuan Science 29A Aug 3 0616 MESSENGER Delta 7925H Canaveral SLC17B Probe 30A Aug 4 2232 Amazonas Proton-M/Briz-M Baykonur LC200/39 Comms 31A

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SpaceRef staff editor.