International Space Station first launch report

by Dale M. Gray (Frontier Historical Consultants)


This week revealed the first fruits of the new space age. From a launch pad in Kazakstan the first element of the International Space Station was successfully launched into orbit. Japan launched a sub- orbital rocket and a Delta rocket with an American-made television satellite for Russia was scrubbed 4 minutes from launch. Australia introduced a commercial space bill and several cases of space fraud have been exposed.

ISS - A new age of space exploration began at 1:40 am EST November 19 with the launch of the Zarya Control Module on a Russian Proton rocket. The launch of the three stage SL-13 version of the Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome proceeded without incident. The rocket placed the module into a 220 x 115 statute mile orbit inclined 51.6 degrees. Both solar arrays deployed 16 minutes after launch. Three hours after launch a command was sent to the spacecraft which began a 0.2 degree per second multiaxis rotation for thermal control. The two 35 foot solar panels were tested and confirmed to be tracking the sun. During the next week the main engines will be fired to circularize the orbit in preparation for next month's docking with the Unity Node launched on the Shuttle Discovery (Flatoday).

The 44,100 pound module is 41 feet long and 13.5 feet in diameter. The module has 16 exterior propellant tanks covered with 2,640 pounds of shielding. Through its life, the Zarya Service Module will serve as the station's fuel depot. While launched with 5 tons of fuel, the 16 external tanks are capable of holding 6.1 metric tons of hydrazine fuel and nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer. The tanks were launched only partially filled to keep the module within the capabilities of the Proton rocket. The module has 42 rocket engines to maneuver the station in its early stages of construction. Of these two are the 917 pound thrust orbital adjust engines; 14 are the 88 pound thrust maneuvering jets and 16 are 3 pound Vernier engines used for attitude control. The FGB can survive in orbit without being refueled for 430 days. In December, the Shuttle Endeavor will dock the Unity node to the forward port of the module (AW&ST; AP; Flatoday).

The Proton launch was the first use of the new ISS Flight Control Room at the Johnson Space center and a similar room at the TsUP Russian flight control center. The centers will continuously monitor ISS operations (AW&ST).

Even as the final preparations for launch were being made in Russia, The US Laboratory module was making its first flight. The module, constructed by Boeing at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was transported by NASA;s "Super Guppy" aircraft to the Kennedy Shuttle runway on November 17. The Laboratory is 28 feet long, 14 feet in diameter and weighs 32,000 pounds. It is made up of three cylindrical sections and two end cones. The Laboratory will provide a shirtsleeve environment for research in life sciences, microgravity, Earth science and space science. The module contains four "stand-off" structures to provide space for the lines necessary for the power, water, vacuum, air and data links for the 24 experimental racks. Thirteen of the racks will be dedicated to various science experiments while the remaining 11 will provide support for the experiments. The module also features a 20 inch round window made out of highest-quality optical glass. The module is slated for launch on the Shuttle on the 5A assembly flight (NASA).

SHUTTLE - Shuttle Endeavor is on Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A being prepared for its December 3 launch. The Endeavor contains the first US launched element of the International Space Station. During the flight, the Unity connecting node will be connected with the now orbiting Zarya module. During the past week hypergolic propellant loading operations were completed and the payload bay doors were reopened for final inspection of the Unity module. Preparations are underway for purging the external fuel tank. Upcoming milestones include ordinance installation (November 23), flight crew equipment stow (November 24), crew arrival for launch (November 30), and initiation of launch countdown (November 30) (NASA). Because no cause has been determined for the loss of the drag chute door on Discovery's mission, the door and mortar that deploys the chute will be removed for Endeavor's mission. The Shuttle Endeavor will land December 14 and be allowed to coast to a stop without using the drag chute (NASA).

[extract from Frontier Status 11/20/98]

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