Barf: I know we need the money, but…
Lone Starr: Listen! We’re not just doing this for money… We’re doing it for a SHIT LOAD of money!
A massive new Boeing rocket, the Delta IV (see DailyWireless Space Balls), lumbered from its Florida pad Tuesday (videos) on a mission to prove the vehicle is capable of lofting super-sized military satellites into orbit but a problem with the vehicle’s first stage has apparently kept the vehicle from deploying its payload in the proper orbit.
The launch was a critical milestone for the Delta 4 Heavy, which features three of the company’s common core boosters joined side-by-side. Fired simultaneously, each of the three hydrogen-powered Rocketdyne-built RS-68 main engines generates 17 million horsepower, roughly the equivalent of 11 Hoover Dams.
Unlike the shuttle Delta IV payloads can also reach geosynch orbits. By adding six solid-fuel boosters, Boeing hopes to double the payload so the rocket can carry 50 tons to low-earth orbit.
After the three main boosters fell away, a Pratt & Whitney-built RL10 liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen-powered second stage kicked in to boost the payloads into orbit. But the Boeing Delta 4-Heavy rocket appears to have experienced lower-than-expected performance during its initial ascent today, forcing its upper stage engine to compensate and raising doubts about the mission’s chances for success, reports SpaceFlight Now. Satellite News Digest tracks ’em all.
SpaceFlight now reports the Demosat payload was delivered into an elliptical egg-shaped orbit with a high point of 36,406 km, low point of 19,027 km and inclination of 13.5 degrees to the equator. That is 22,623 by 11,823 miles. It was “supposed” to inject the payload into a circular geosynchronous orbit.
Perhaps what that really means is that ground controllers will fire an “explosion” on the spacecraft in a few days as a deception. That might be a ploy to deploy the “stealth” balloon. When the shuttle placed the stealth satellite MISTY into orbit a few years ago, four civilian space observers — Russell Eberst, Daniel Karcher, and Pierre Neirinck in Europe and Ted Molczan in Canada — were able to determine that the satellite was in a 494-by-503-mile, 65-degree orbit.
Air Force Col. Mark Owen said the launch was a milestone in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, funded by the Air Force to create a new generation of rockets to lift heavy military payloads into orbit. The Air Force paid Boeing $140 million for the demonstration flight. The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program has been heavily subsidized by taxpayers. It enabled both Boeing’s Delta IV and Lockheed’s Atlas V to deliver largely redundant heavy lift rockets. Neither compare to the old Saturn V or the huge Russian Energia rocket which can loft over 100,000 lbs into LEO.
The DemoSat payload emulates as closely as possible the typical mass, center of gravity, frequency and stiffness characteristics of an operational spacecraft. It was built for Boeing by Process Fab, Inc., of Santa Fe Springs, CA. Two, six-sided nanosatellites, nicknamed Ralphie and Sparky, were built in collaboration between Arizona State University, New Mexico State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder. They will conduct imaging, micropropulsion and intersatellite communications experiments over the next one-to-two days before re-entering the atmosphere.
The Delta 4 Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, is expected to launch geosynchronous SigInt satellites with antennas reportedly up to 100 meters, as well as advanced radar, missile monitoring and Star Wars platforms.
Congressional leaders are asking how the government’s contribution to the EELV rocket project grew from $17 billion to almost $32 billion in a few years. The military’s new rocket program is $14.44 billion over budget and counting, raising questions about how long taxpayers can subsidize two of America’s biggest aerospace companies to keep them in the launch business, reports Florida Today.
Boeing is more than a year behind schedule and billions over budget on their NRO spy satellite contract, forcing the government to shift an estimated $4 billion from other spy programs.
The Pentagon s Defense Science Board says the FIA program, is technically flawed and not executable. The Pentagon plans to spend at least $9.6 billion on nextgen NRO telecom satellites. They’ll use EHF in both Ka and X bands. The Advanced Polar Satellite will handles IP and circuit-switched data, with an RF cross-link to the Advanced EHF satellite.
Meanwhile, Russia successfully test-fired a heavy intercontinental ballistic missile, the SS-18 Satan, from its combat positions, the first since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
The heaviest weapon in Russia’s inventory, the SS-18 and another multi-warhead missile, the SS-19, have formed the core of the Russian strategic forces since Soviet times. Military officials now say Russia will extend its arsenal of about 150 SS-18s for another 10 to 15 years. The heavy missile is capable of slamming 10 individually guided nuclear warheads at targets more than 6,800 miles away.
Also this week, WildBlue, the satellite broadband provider that will be utilizing Canada’s F-2 spot beam satellite, has grounded its new dedicated satellite. WildBlue plans to provide 25 million rural households Internet access beginning in 2005.
The company, backed by Telesat Canada and the National Rural Telecom Cooperative, told the FCC Monday that despite completion of its first satellite and attainment of a launch contract with Arianespace, its bird must stay grounded for now.
“Remaining uncertainty” has precluded WildBlue from securing a launch date that would meet an FCC milestone, justifying a request for an 18-month extension, officials said.
Final testing of WildBlue-1 revealed defects that manufacturer Space Systems/Loral is expected to fix before the March 2005 deadline. However, the spacecraft has a design similar to Intelsat’s Americas-7 that recently suffered a malfunction in orbit and was almost lost entirely. (see: DailyWireless Intelsat-7 Goes Dark)
WildBlue said SS/L is reviewing the IA-7 case to determine what, if any, design changes should be made to satellites under construction to reduce the chance of similar problems. SS/L’s review is in its “most preliminary stage,” and there’s no way to know when the review will be completed, WB said. The company asked the FCC for a milestone extension to December 25, 2006.
Last year, the US media group led by Rupert Murdoch, agreed to acquire controlling interest in DirecTV, the nation’s largest home satellite television service, for $6.6 billion in a cash-and-stock transaction. Two years ago, Murdoch was outbid for DirecTV by satellite television giant EchoStar. But federal regulators opposed the merger on antitrust grounds.
In related news, Cablevision Systems, a Long Island-based cable TV provider, said Tuesday it is suspending plans for a spinoff of its money-losing satellite broadcasting business and will consider other alternatives for the unit. Their high-definition satellite venture, marketed under the brand name VOOM, has had a tough start since being launched more than a year ago and has been a source of major concern among Cablevision’s investors. Voom specializes in high-definition TV programming, but has far fewer customers than the two major satellite TV providers in the US, DirecTV and EchoStar.
The spinoff of VOOM would have been bundled with other Cablevision businesses, including three profitable cable networks — AMC, The Independent Film Channel and Women’s Entertainment — as well as the Clearview Cinemas chain of movie theaters.
Could a Voom/AT&T/Clearwire/T-Mobile do it four-ways? Lord knows. Anything goes.
Related DailyWireless stories include; Stealth Satellites, Spot Beam Satellite Launches, Space Balls, Intelsat-7 Goes Dark, Rocket Welfare, WildBlue Launches, Spaceway Retrogrades, Rainbow1 + 802.16a?.
The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today,
And black’s white today,
And day’s night today,
But now, God knows,