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Archive for 1999


19-Apr-99 | Delta flight 268 – Landsat-7

Landsat-7 lifted off aboard its Delta 7920 at the very opening of its first launch window on Thursday, 15 April, at 18:32:00.288 UTC. The spacecraft was placed successfully into its proper orbit and is in excellent health. The next few weeks will be spent on systems checkout and calibration. The Landsat program, frequently referred to as “the central pillar of the national remote sensing capability,” has been continuously providing Earth images in visible and infrared wavelengths since 1972.


23-Mar-99 | Web site news

My web provider has moved to new facilities with more reliability and vastly improved bandwidth (though in the process they reverted all files to a version over two weeks out-of-date). History of the Delta Launch Vehicle should now be easier to reach and faster to download. Thanks to those users of my mirror site who informed me of difficulties connecting to kevin.forsyth.net.


02-Mar-99 | SIRTF and Radarsat updates

Two flights tentatively scheduled for 2001 may be going through some changes. SIRTF, a NASA infrared telescope, is now listed in the Boeing Launch Manifest as flying on a Delta III, making it the first NASA payload to use the new vehicle. Until now NASA has been using the designation 7920-H in SIRTF press releases, implying the use of higher-powered booster motors on a Delta II.

Also, the Canadian Space Agency’s Radarsat II might not fly on a Delta, and might not be launched from the United States at all. It turns out that the radar mapper’s ground resolution of 3 metres exceeds the clarity allowed by the U.S. government for non-military satellites by 2 metres. Unless Radarsat’s vision can be blurred somewhat, the CSA will likely have to find another launch provider.


02-Mar-99 | Next launch

The next Delta II launch will be Landsat-7, to fly from Vandenberg in April. Landsat, frequently referred to as “the central pillar of the national remote sensing capability,” has been continuously providing Earth images in visible and infrared wavelengths since 1972. All of the program’s spacecraft, except for the failed launch of Landsat 6 on a Titan II, were successfully orbited by Delta rockets. The newest Landsat, now in final prep at Vandenberg, will take the reins from Landsat 5 — which was still providing pictures as of yesterday, the 15th anniversary of its launch.


02-Mar-99 | Delta III stacking

Now stacking at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-17B is the return to flight of the Delta III. The first stage is mounted and all 9 solid boosters have been installed. The second stage will be hoisted into place later this week. Operations seem to be going smoothly, considering that the launch date recently moved up by almost a month. The second Delta III will carry the Orion F-3 comsat to geosynchronous orbit. Boeing is providing some nice photos at their Delta III site.


23-Feb-99 | Delta flight 267 – Argos P-91

Finally! After months of delays due to spacecraft hardware problems, and weeks due to vehicle hardware and the weather, Argos P-91, the largest experimental satellite ever flown by the Air Force, launched from Vandenberg AFB at 02:29 PST on 23 February.

Two hitchhiker payloads, Ørsted from Denmark and Sunsat from South Africa, were also successfully deployed. Argos is carrying an array of 9 high technology experiments to demonstrate next-generation satellite technology.

Delta 267, thanks to the numerous delays in the development of Argos, spent at least one year (possibly close to two) in storage at Vandenberg, yet it needed only to be dusted off to be ready to fly. That, and the fact that the Aerojet second stage spent over a month loaded with highly corrosive hypergolic propellants without leaking, are testaments to the robustness of the Delta design. This flight set a record for Delta II launch attempts, 11, though most of the scrubs were not caused by the vehicle:


11-Feb-99 | NEAR to try again in 2000

Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) will orbit asteroid 433 Eros in February 2000. During its unanticipated fly-by in December, it acquired a large quantity of data on its future parent, as described in this 08-Feb-99 NASA Press Release. NEAR was launched by Delta 232 in February 1996.


10-Feb-99 | Delta flight 266 – Stardust

Stardust lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-17A at 16:04:15.238 EST on Sunday, 7 February, the second day of available instantaneous launch windows. Stardust, the fourth mission* in the NASA Discovery Program, will fly close to comet Wild-2 and will be the first spacecraft to return cometary material to Earth for analysis. The Delta 7426 provided yet another highly precise trajectory, according to launch commentators, and its second stage “videoroc” provided the most spectacular launch footage to date, transmitting stage and fairing separations with only minor static during staging events.


23-Jan-99 | Delta flight 265 – Mars Polar Lander / Deep Space 2

Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 successfully launched aboard a Delta 7425 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral on 3 January, 1999. They are on course for arrival at Mars in less than 0 days.

MPL will soft-land at the Martian south pole to study climate history and composition of the polar ice cap. DS-2 consists of two micro-probes which will impact Mars and penetrate to a depth of up to one metre in order to analyse sub-surface soil. The Delta 7425 was extremely accurate, such that MPL’s first TCM burn on 21 January changed its velocity by about 16 m/s, mostly in order to remove a launch bias used to prevent the Star 48 third stage from impacting Mars.


20-Jan-99 | Web site news

History of the Delta Launch Vehicle is undergoing a slight expansion and reorganisation. The Schedule has been divided from the rest of the Flight Log for faster downloading. Meanwhile, the Flight Log is receiving the addition of spacecraft weights and orbital parameters for all flights. Corrections and comments are, as always, welcome.


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