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Archive for 2000


28-Apr-00 | NAVSTAR scrub

Second scrub in two days at Pad 17A. This time, concerns were raised about the spacecraft’s solar panel deployment mechanisms. Last night’s attempt was scrubbed due to a problem with ground support equipment for payload power.

Next Delta launch will be the fourth replacement satellite for the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation, also known as NAVSTAR 2R-4. This satellite will replace NAVSTAR 2-1, the original member of the operational GPS constellation, which was launched aboard the very first Delta II on 14 February, 1989. NAVSTAR 2-1, having exceeded its 7-year design lifetime, suffered shutdown of its reaction wheels last month and was decommissioned on 14 April.


29-Mar-00 | Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander cancelled

Following the release of the Mars Program Independent Assessment Team’s report, NASA has announced the indefinite postponement (i.e. cancellation) of the Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander mission. This 28-Mar-00 NASA Press Release highlights the MPIAT’s findings.


29-Mar-00 | Delta flight 277 – IMAGE

NASA’s IMAGE mission (Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration) was launched on schedule from Vandenberg’s SLC-2W on Saturday, 25 March. The Delta launch team had a flawless countdown, obviously having gathered no moss since the last flight from the west coast back in April 1999. The spacecraft was placed into a highly elliptical orbit with perigee of 540 nm and apogee of 24,796 nm. IMAGE, the first of NASA’s MIDEX (Medium-Class Explorer) series, will spend two years observing the response of the Earth’s magnetosphere to changes in the solar wind.


20-Mar-00 | Iridium declares bankruptcy

Iridium is kaput. The beleaguered company, in the throes of reorganisation following a declaration of bankruptcy in August 1999, has been unable to secure financing to remain afloat. Customer service was terminated at 23:59EST on 17 March, and the process of deorbiting a total of 88 satellites will begin soon.

Eleven Delta II vehicles launched the majority of Iridium’s satellites over an 18-month period. The demise of Iridium has made industry analysts nervous about the futures of other satellite telephony companies such as Globalstar, which just completed its primary constellation (on their seventh Delta flight), and ICO, which despite its own bankruptcy reorg is beginning to build its constellation. (The first ICO spacecraft was lost in a Sea Launch/Zenit vehicle failure on 12 March. As many as five satellites are intended to launch on Delta III vehicles in the next year.)


20-Mar-00 | NEAR operations

Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) has completed its first month of unprecedented observations of asteroid 433 Eros. The spacecraft has been renamed NEAR Shoemaker in honour of Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, the late geologist perhaps most famous for his co-discovery of Shoemaker-Levy 9, the comet that slammed into Jupiter in 1994. NEAR Shoemaker is the first spacecraft to orbit any small body, and will spend a year in orbit making detailed observations and gentle burns to move ever closer to Eros. It was launched aboard Delta II flight 232 on 17 February, 1996.


20-Mar-00 | Videoroc images

Spaceflight Now has captured some beautiful still images and movies from Boeing’s Globalstar-7 “videoroc,” showing the satellites being deployed over a gorgeous, sun-lit Earth.


27-Feb-00 | Old news…

During May 10-12, 1999, the solar wind that blows constantly from the Sun virtually disappeared in the most drastic and longest-lasting decrease ever observed. Four Delta-launched NASA spacecraft — Advanced Composition Explorer, WIND, Polar, and the venerable IMP-8 (launched in 1973) — observed the lull and its dramatic effect on the Earth. This NASA Press Release (13-Dec-99) details their contributions.


27-Feb-00 | Stardust deploys collector

Stardust (Delta 266) successfully deployed its interstellar dust collector on Tuesday, 22 February. This first of two collection phases will last until May. A gravity assist fly-by of Earth will occur in January 2001, followed by a 3 year cruise to Stardust’s encounter with comet Wild-2.


21-Feb-00 | Wanted: one payload

According to a recent Aviation Week article (18-Feb-00), Boeing is looking for a payload to replace ICO-D1, which is stranded in bankruptcy reorganisation limbo. The company may be forced to fly a dummy payload in its desire to prove the Delta III sound before mid-year.


15-Feb-00 | Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) has successfully entered orbit around asteroid 433 Eros!

At 15:33UTC on 14 February, NEAR fired its hydrazine thrusters for 57 seconds, slowing its trajectory enough to be captured by Eros’ weak gravity. About fifteen minutes later word reached Earth that the burn had completed as planned. Although scientists have only the vaguest idea of the mass of Eros, a fact that helped to make the rendezvous extraordinarily tricky, the resulting orbit wound up being roughly circular and very close to expectations. NEAR is the first spacecraft to orbit any small body, and will now settle in for a year of detailed observations and delicate orbit adjustments. It was launched aboard Delta II flight 232 on 17 February, 1996.


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