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Archive for October, 2002

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.

18-Oct-02 | Stardust nears an asteroid

Early on 2 November (04:50 UTC), Stardust will pass within about 3,000 kilometers of the asteroid 5535 Annefrank. The fly-by, while not close enough to provide any significant science return, will enable controllers to test out camera tracking and other procedures that will be key to a successful encounter at comet Wild-2 in 2004.

06-Oct-02 | 30,000 site hits

Today History of the Delta Launch Vehicle received its 30,000th hit since going online in December 1997. The most recent 10,000 hits took 14 months to accumulate, a significant increase in this site’s traffic over previous years. One can only hope that most of those visits were actual humans interested in spaceflight, and not spambots.

04-Oct-02 | NAVSTAR delays

Over the past year or more, NAVSTAR launches have been continually pushed into the future, primarily because the GPS constellation is healthy and not in need of any more spares, but also due to safety-related upgrades to the Delta II self-destruct system. If NAVSTAR IIR-8 and NASA’s ICESAT/CHIPSat both manage to launch this year, it will bring the grand total of 2002 Delta II launches to 5, the slowest year since 1994-1995, a two-year drought of only 3 launches per year. It may be mere coincidence, but the quiet schedule has proved convenient for Boeing, which has conscripted much of the Delta team into preparations for the first flight of the new Delta IV.



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