Jonathan's Space Report No. 494 2003 Feb 23

Status Report From: Jonathan's Space Report
Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Shuttle and Station

Astronauts Bowersox, Pettit and Budarin remain aboard the International Space Station. The Progress M-47 cargo craft is docked to the aft Zvezda port and the Soyuz TMA-1 transport ship is docked to the Pirs module.

The STS-107 investigation continues. It is still not clear what the root cause of the accident is, although investigation continues into the foam impacts and the possibility that minor damage to the wing could trigger early boundary layer transition and higher than normal heating. As usual in such accidents, it is likely that several problems were missed and contributed to the disaster. It's also likely that each problem was recognized, worried about, but ultimately dismissed by management. I confidently expect the usual rush to crucify those who made guesses that turned out to be wrong, and urge everyone to remember that hindsight is easy.

Analysis so far supports the idea of a breach somewhere in the left wing, allowing hot gas to reach the landing gear area and parts of the left fuselage, and changing the aerodynamics of the wing. New data indicates a lot of RCS thruster activity just before loss of contact, suggesting to me that loss of vehicle control may have been the proximate cause of the destruction. Loss of voice communications and interruption of telemetry was at 1359:32 UTC; a final 2 second telemetry fragment shows that most of Columbia was intact up to 1400:04 UTC. Ground video shows multiple contrails at 1400:30 UTC.

Last week I praised JSC's Ron Dittemore. Now I have to chide a different part of NASA. In a fit of apparent bureaucratic insanity, GSFC's OIG (Orbital Information Group) web site that makes orbital data available to the public has removed the orbital data for STS-107, stating:

"The OIG has secured access to all STS-107 data for the duration of the investigation and review period. The OIG Web site will reinstate access to the data following official release of support by JSC. 02/03/2003"

What possible reason can there be for this? The data had *already* been made public; it doesn't interfere with the investigators' access to the data to keep it available for everyone else. It seems totally at variance with the openness of the rest of the investigation, and just begs for conspiracy theorists and UFO nuts to start thinking NASA has something to hide. I completely understand wanting not to release preliminary engineering analysis from the investigation, but this is data that was made available in a standard way while the mission was still up, and was circulated as it came out on several internet lists. Anyway, I already archived the data I have at if anyone wants it.

Recent Launches

The MAP satellite, part of NASA's MIDEX Explorer program, has been renamed the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) after David T. Wilkinson (1935-2002), one of the leaders of the COBE and MAP satellite projects.

The WMAP team announced their preliminary results on Feb 11. For those familiar with cosmology, the answers are:

  • H0 = 71 +/- 3 km/s/Mpc (if Lambda is z-independent)
  • Omega-total = 1.02 +/- 0.02
  • Omega-baryon = 0.047, Omega-CDM = 0.23, Omega-Lambda = 0.73 +/- 0.04
  • t0 (age of Universe) = 13.7 +/- 0.2 Gyr
  • t(reionization) = 0.2 Gyr (from polarization) z(reion)= 17+/-5
  • t(last scattering) = 0.38 Myr z(last scat) = 1088 +/-2
  • w < -0.78
  • No evidence for non-gaussian structure.

We've been wanting to know these numbers for a long time. For those of you to whom the above is gibberish, just understand that it makes us very happy. There are still a number of model-dependent assumptions in some of the WMAP results though, and I anticipate spirited attempts to knock a few holes in the above values over the next few years.

The final Ariane 4 was launched on Feb 15. Flight V159, an Ariane 44L model, took off from the South American launch site and placed the third stage and the Intelsat 907 communications satellite in geostationary transfer orbit. There were 144 launches of the Ariane 1/2/3/4 series rockets from pads ELA1 and ELA2 at Kourou; this includes 7 launch failures. Ariane 5 is a completely new design and launches from pad ELA3; it is expected to return to flight in March.

Mass of the Loral-built Intelsat 907 is 1473 kg dry; it carries 1947 kg of propellant. 907 will provide international telephone and TV transmission links for the Americas, Europe and Africa.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has renamed the METSAT-1 weather satellite. It will now be known as KALPANA-1, after astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla (1961-2003).

The European Space Agency's Artemis satellite reached its geostationary position at 21.0E on 2003 Feb 5, after a year of ion engine burns to raise its orbit. Artemis was launched on 2001 Jul 12 but the Ariane 5 upper stage cut off early and left it in a low 592 x 17548 km x 3.0 deg transfer orbit. It used its bipropellant engine to reach a 30902 x 30964 km x 0.8 deg intermediate orbit by the end of Jul 2001 and then began using the ion engine in Feb 2002.


Reports indicate that the XSS-10 propulsion system is a bipropellant engine derived from the LEAP missile interceptor.

The Taurus Lite suborbital launch probably did not use the full-up Orion 50SLXG motor planned for the ballistic missile interceptor, just the current Taurus stage Orion 50SG.

Table of Recent Launches

Date UT       Name            Launch Vehicle  Site            Mission    INTL.

Jan 6 1419 Coriolis Titan II Vandenberg SLC4W Environment 01A Jan 13 0045 ICESAT ) Delta 7320-10 Vandenberg SLC2W Environment 02A CHIPSat ) Astronomy 02B Jan 16 1539 Columbia ) Shuttle Kennedy LC39 Spaceship 03A Spacehab ) Lab Jan 25 2013 SORCE Pegasus XL Canaveral RW30/12 Solar obs 04A Jan 29 1806 GPS SVN 56 ) Delta 7925 Canaveral SLC17 Navigation 05A XSS-10 ) Technology 05B Feb 2 1259 Progress M-47 Soyuz-U Baykonur Cargo 06A Feb 15 0700 Intelsat 907 Ariane 44L Kourou ELA2 Comms 07A

Current Shuttle Processing Status

Orbiters               Location   Mission    Launch Due   

OV-103 Discovery OPF Maintenance OV-104 Atlantis VAB STS-114 Unknown ISS ULF1 OV-105 Endeavour OPF STS-115 Unknown ISS 12A

|  Jonathan McDowell                 |  phone : (617) 495-7176            |
|  Harvard-Smithsonian Center for    |                                    |
|   Astrophysics                     |                                    |
|  60 Garden St, MS6                 |                                    |
|  Cambridge MA 02138                |  inter :       |
|  USA                               | |
|                                                                         |
| JSR:                 |
| Back issues:            |
| Subscribe/unsub: mail, (un)subscribe jsr |   

// end //

More status reports and news releases or top stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.