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Archive for May, 1999


12-May-99 | Rain damages NAVSTAR on pad

At Cape Canaveral’s SLC-17A, the first Navstar IIR Global Positioning System satellite to fly since July 1997 has been postponed indefinitely. The spacecraft/third stage assembly were kept in storage during last week’s Delta III launch in case of a catastrophic failure at (or soon after) liftoff, and were transported to the pad on Thursday, 6 May. (Thanks to Florida Today‘s Justin Ray for sharing this information.) Unfortunately, rainwater intrusion into the Level 9 clean room during a heavy thunderstorm on 8 May has caused the Air Force to return the spacecraft to the payload processing facility for damage assessment. If there is little or no damage, payload integration and fairing installation will take a minimum of 9 days. If major repairs are needed, the spacecraft might have to be shipped back to Lockheed Martin in Valley Forge, Penna. In this case the launch vehicle would likely be destacked to clear the pad for the Delta II that will carry the FUSE spacecraft for NASA.

It is interesting to note that it is not possible for FUSE to be launched from Pad B. According to Justin Ray, who twice confirmed his information with Boeing’s Rich Murphy, FUSE must fly from Pad A because it is a 3-solid vehicle. Boeing has not done an engineering analysis on Pad B’s flame ducts, which were rebuilt to support Delta III launches, to determine the pulse effects at liftoff of a vehicle with only 3 solids. As there are few 7300 models on the docket, it is apparently more cost-effective to wait or destack than to perform the extensive engineering work. (Thanks again to Justin Ray.)


07-May-99 | Delta flight 269 – Orion F-3 (FAILURE)

Boeing has suffered a severe setback in the Delta III program, as the second mission has failed to achieve the proper orbit.

The spectacular night liftoff from SLC-17B, intending to carry the Orion F-3 comsat to geosynchronous orbit for Hughes and Loral, occurred at exactly 21:00 EDT on 4 May. The first stage with its nine booster motors (including 3 with thrust vector control) worked perfectly, vindicating Boeing’s confidence in the vehicle and the improvements made following last August’s guidance failure. Though a matter of some concern, the nozzle extension of the Pratt & Whitney RL10B-2 second stage deployed as expected, and the stage’s first burn was nominal.

However, the second stage shut down less than one second after beginning its second burn, which was intended to last for 151 seconds and raise apogee from about 750 to 14,000 nautical miles. This is the second failure of an RL10-based stage in a week, following the launch of a Titan 4 on Friday, though as yet the causes of these two mishaps are unknown and likely unrelated. Boeing has convened an investigation board, headed by Dr. Russell Reck, director of engineering technology for Expendable Launch Systems. Initial data point to the upper stage engine hardware, rather than the guidance software, so upcoming Delta II flights should not be affected.


05-May-99 | MGS begins full-time ops

Mars Global Surveyor (Delta 239) began full-time mapping operations on Tuesday, 9 March, in a sun-synchronous, 1.97-hour orbit. Controllers continue to diagnose a blocked azimuth gimbal on the high-gain antenna that is preventing full motion of the HGA. In the meantime, HGA mapping continues with the available range of motion, and will continue to be possible until February 2000. (Latest info)


     

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