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Archive for 2002

20-Dec-02 | ICESAT/CHIPSAT delay

At Vanderberg Air Force Base, the flight of ICESAT and its co-payload CHIPSAT has been postponed. According to a NASA Launch Advisory, “During a review of test data, a problem within an ordnance box was found. The difficulty is associated with the signal this unit provides for launch vehicle devices to unlatch and separate the payload fairing. The removal and replacement of this unit and the associated retest will take approximately two weeks.” The launch of the two-stage Delta Med-Lite 7320 will occur no earlier than the evening of 11 January 2003.

20-Dec-02 | CONTOUR mission failure

NASA’s Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) has come to a disappointing end. Communication with CONTOUR was lost on 15 August during its Earth-orbit departure burn in what may have been a catastrophic failure. On 17 and 20 December, the largest antennae of the Deep Space Network were used to send commands instructing CONTOUR to transmit through its omnidirectional antenna in the hope that it might bleat out a response. None was heard, and mission operators will recommend to NASA that further attempts not be made, and the project formally closed down. The investigative board led by NASA Chief Engineer Theron Bradley is expected to release its preliminary findings in January.

07-Dec-02 | New NASA/Boeing launch contract

NASA and Boeing Launch Services have inked a contract for 19 Delta II vehicles to launch NASA and NASA-sponsored medium-class scientific payloads. The contract, with a potential total value of $1.2 billion, calls for 12 firm launches and 7 options, to launch in 2006 (7), 2007 (6), 2008 (2), and 2009 (4). (NASA Contract Release, 06-Dec-02)

02-Dec-02 | StarLight grounded

According to this JPL web site, the StarLight interferometry mission has been reduced to ground demonstrator status, thus cancelling a spacecraft launch aboard a Delta II in 2005-06. The project will instead work toward developing “technologies that support formation flying interferometry for TPF [Terrestrial Planet Finder],” due to launch aboard an EELV around 2012. Thanks to Gunter Krebs for the update.

02-Dec-02 | Contest: Name the Mars rovers

NASA/JPL has joined with The LEGO Company and The Planetary Society to conduct a contest to name the pair of Mars Exploration Rovers that will launch aboard separate Delta II rockets in 2003. (Unfortunately for we older spaceheads the contest is open only to K-12 students; this LEGOmaniac hopes as consolation that a scale LEGO model of the rovers is in the works.)

27-Nov-02 | New: FAQ page

A brief and not-yet-finished page of Frequently Asked Questions has been posted.

11-Nov-02 | Stardust zooms past asteroid

Early on 2 November, Stardust passed within about 3,000 kilometers of the asteroid 5535 Annefrank. The fly-by was a highly successful test of the camera tracking system, with more than 60 images taken with the asteroid neatly centered in nearly every frame. Scientists were surprised to find that Annefrank is considerably larger, and dimmer in albedo, than previous observations had led them to surmise.

30-Oct-02 | Mishap at the pad

The next east coast Delta launch has been postponed to a date TBD. On Friday, 25 October, a mishap at SLC-17B resulted in some damage to flight hardware. The GPS IIR-8 satellite and the attached Delta third stage have been returned to their processing facility for assessment. No one was injured in the incident, and Air Force and Boeing officials have begun an investigation to assess the extent of the damage and to determine the cause of the error.

During typical payload mounting operations, the spacecraft and its third stage are assembled together in a clean room environment and spin balanced. They are then enclosed in a tall cylindrical container in order to maintain the clean space during transport to the pad. The entire package is hoisted to Level 9 of the Mobile Service Tower, where the container is then bolted to the Delta second stage. Once Level 9 is properly sealed, the container is disassembled and raised clear of the payload.

Apparently, on Friday the pad’s lifting crane pulled the container upward after it was bolted to the Delta vehicle but before detachment of its bottom panels, resulting in unspecified “damage to flight hardware,” likely part of the third stage or its lower attach fittings. The mishap is expected to delay the launch of GPS IIR-8 by at least a month.

This delay could impact other flights from Cape Canaveral. The next east coast Delta launch is scheduled to be SIRTF in early January. SIRTF will fly aboard a new configuration of Delta II — 7920H (heavy) — which uses the larger GEM-46 booster motors of Delta III. At Canaveral, only pad 17B has been reconfigured to support these more powerful motors. GPS IIR-8, which currently occupies pad B, will have to get turned around quickly and launch so as not to impact SIRTF’s primary launch window, which extends through 9 March. (Typically, Delta II stacking operations at the pad commence some six to seven weeks before launch.) Another option that has been mentioned would be to destack the vehicle for GPS and move it to pad A, thus clearing pad B for SIRTF. A decision on that is likely on hold pending results of the damage investigation. (Spaceflight Now, 29-Oct-02)

28-Oct-02 | Ball Aerospace to build Kepler instruments

NASA has awarded a contract potentially worth $28.4 million to Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp. of Boulder, Colo., for development of the optics and detectors for a high-tech camera for the Kepler spacecraft. Kepler, scheduled for launch aboard a Delta II rocket in 2007, will be dedicated to the search for extrasolar terrestrial (Earth-sized) planets. (NASA contract announcement, 28-Oct-02)

28-Oct-02 | Next launch

The next Delta launch from Cape Canaveral will be another Air Force launch of a NAVSTAR GPS replenishment satellite. A secondary payload on this flight will be an Air Force experimental microsatellite, known as XSS-10, that is part of a program intended to evaluate the use of microsatellites for rendezvous, inspection, and maintenance of on-orbit satellites. After ejecting from the Delta second stage, XSS-10 will perform an autonomous inspection sequence around the booster.

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