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Archive for 2000

10-Dec-00 | Venerable deep space probe found still alive

On Friday, managers at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, successfully received a signal from Pioneer 6, NASA’s oldest surviving spacecraft. Next Saturday, 16 December, will mark the 35th anniversary of Pioneer 6’s launch from Cape Canaveral aboard Delta E flight 35. The lightweight, barrel-shaped craft, designed for a lifetime of a mere six months, continued to have two of its six instruments functional as recently as 1997, the last time an attempt at contact was made. (Florida Today, 9-Dec-00)

27-Nov-00 | SIRTF research teams selected

NASA has selected six teams to make observations using the new Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF). In general the research will include various studies of the birth and evolution of stars, black holes, planetary systems, and galaxies. SIRTF, the first mission of NASA’s Origins Program, is currently set for launch in July 2002 aboard the first Delta 7920H, a two-stage model utilizing GEM-46 booster motors from Delta III, which increase Delta II capacity by about 10% over the standard GEM-40 motors. (21-Nov-00 NASA Press Release)

26-Nov-00 | Delta flight 282 – EO-1 / SAC-C / Munin

Delta flight 282 successfully placed three satellites into orbit on Tuesday, 21 November, just in time to avoid a recurrence of Delta’s occasional reputation as a “holiday-seeking missile.” The two-stage 7320 model lifted off from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 2-West at an official range time of 18:24:25.103 UTC, heading nearly due south to enter a high-inclination polar orbit.

Boeing’s new Dual Payload Attach Fitting (DPAF) deployed the two primary payloads about 60 and 90 minutes after launch. First was NASA’s Earth Observing-1, a new technology demonstrator that should advance and economize Earth imaging systems for future versions of the Landsat satellites. It will fly in formation with Landsat 7 (launched April 1999 on a Delta II) to directly compare the results. (In much the same way, Landsat 7 was initially placed in a similar orbit to its predecessor, the venerable Landsat 5, for calibration purposes.)

EO-1 is the latest mission in the NASA New Millennium Program, which also includes the highly successful Deep Space 1, an advanced technology demonstrator that is currently pursuing an extended mission to fly by a comet, and the disappointing Deep Space 2, the microprobes that plunged to the Martian surface in 1999 without uttering a peep. (Both launched aboard Delta II rockets, DS-2 as a subpayload of Mars Polar Lander.)

Next to deploy was the Satelite de Aplicanciones Cientificas-C (SAC-C), a joint mission of the Argentine Commission on Space Activities and NASA. SAC-C will study Earth’s magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind, and among other objectives will track an endangered species of whale using GPS receivers attached to the whales’ backs.

Following a total of 4 second stage burns (demonstrating the Aerojet AJ-10’s high reliability and nearly unlimited restart capability), the second stage jettisoned Munin, a small secondary payload for the Swedish Institute of Space Physics. The 13-pound cube will collect data on space weather and auroral activity while assessing autonomous operation of small satellites. (Another payload, Colorado Space Grant Consortium’s Citizen Explorer-1, was not ready in time and was bumped from the flight.)

The launch was delayed by several days due to an issue with the processing records of the RIFCA, and by minor contamination on the EO-1 payload that required one half of the payload fairing to be removed for cleaning operations.

17-Nov-00 | EUVE mission to end

NASA announced that operations support for EUVE, the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, will end in December. (17-Nov-00 NASA Press Release) Also known as Explorer 67, EUVE was launched on Delta flight 210 on 7 June 1992, and opened a never-before-seen range of the electromagnetic spectrum to scientific observation. Though the decision will save NASA up to $1 million a year, the agency claims it was based on the limited science return. EUVE completed its primary mission in 1996 and has been a platform for guest observations ever since. No missions are currently planned to replace the lost spectrum, and EUVE will likely perform an uncontrolled reentry about one year from now. (First reported in SpaceViews, 19-Sep-00)

16-Nov-00 | Iridium satellites get new use?

The Iridium constellation, of which 55 satellites were launched on Delta vehicles, has been given a possible new lease on life. (Press release from Iridium Satellite LLC at Spaceflight Now, 15-Nov-00) (Note that SpaceViews later announced that this release had been recalled for unspecified reasons.)

13-Nov-00 | MSX’s new mission

Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX), a $1 billion satellite used by the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense Organization to monitor missile warheads in flight, has been given a new purpose: space surveillance. Since MSX’s primary infrared sensor shut down in February 1997, Air Force Space Command has been using a secondary instrument, the Space-Based Visible Sensor, to scan deep space. In the past three years, MSX has catalogued nearly 150 orbiting objects — debris, spent rocket stages, and many defunct satellites — that were previously unknown or lost. MSX was launched aboard Delta 235 from Vandenberg on 24 April 1996. (SpaceViews, 07-Nov-00)

10-Nov-00 | Delta flight 281 – NAVSTAR IIR-6

The 33rd GPS satellite to successfully fly aboard a Boeing Delta II was placed into orbit today during a 25-minute flight.  In honour of Veteran’s Day, the three-stage Delta 7925 wore a POW-MIA banner on its flank. Delta flight 281 departed Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 17-A at 12:14:02.219 EST and rapidly vanished into a low-lying cloud deck. All systems and stages aboard the vehicle performed well. A synchronization problem with the Antigua tracking station prevented realtime data acquisition during the two second stage burns, but this did not hamper the flight. NAVSTAR 2R-6 was released into a 101 x 10998 nautical mile orbit, from which it will propel itself to a circular orbit within a few days. The launch was delayed by one day so the launch team could confirm the proper installation of a locking nut on a vernier engine fuel line.

28-Sep-00 | News round-up

In the past month:

23-Aug-00 | Delta flight 280 – DM-F3


The Boeing Delta team is celebrating this morning as Delta III had a glorious morning launch from Cape Canaveral’s Pad 17B. The terminal countdown went smoothly with no major problems reported. The launch time was pushed back from the opening of the window by five minutes as engineers wanted the second stage hydrogen tank housing to have a bit more time to chill down to a desired temperature range. Liftoff occurred at 07:05:00.050 EDT, with every flight event occurring exactly at its expected time. Spacecraft separation came at T+36 minutes, 30 seconds.

Boeing is hopeful that this success will restore customer confidence in Delta III, which suffered unrelated failures in its first two launch attempts, both of which lost operational communications satellites. This mission, DM-F3, was paid for entirely by Boeing and carried a dummy payload to geostationary transfer orbit that simulates “the mass and frequency characteristics of common commercial communication payloads sized for Delta III.” The University of Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research, in partnership with USAF, will utilize the payload for a variety of missions and studies.

14-Aug-00 | Aerojet and Pratt & Whitney to merge

Aerojet, builder of Delta II’s AJ10-118K second stage, and Pratt & Whitney, builder of Delta III’s RL10B-2 second stage, have announced plans to form a new space propulsion company that would consolidate most of Aerojet’s propulsion programs under P&W aegis. Most of Aerojet’s engine manufacturing would be relocated from the company’s Sacramento facility, allowing GenCorp (Aerojet’s parent company) to focus on other market segments, such as space electronics. A definitive agreement is expected by the end of 2000. (Aerojet press release, 17-Jul-00)

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