by Project Director Louis Friedman

This past month, the first two stages of the Volna launch vehicle passed
their re-qualification tests with our solar sail spacecraft. At the Makeev
Rocket Design Bureau in Miass, Russia, the Cosmos 1 engineering model
underwent vibration and other dynamical tests to simulate launch during
the firing of the first and second Volna stages.

The critical payload separation from the third stage will be tested in the
last week of July in Miass. It was at this point during our test flight in
July 2001 that the rocket failed. The payload prematurely separated from the
third stage, when the latter was separating from the second stage on two
sub-orbital missions in the past two years. The first was our solar sail
deployment test; the second carried a European payload designed to test an
inflatable re-entry and descent vehicle. This test of the reworked
separation sequence will be a critical milestone for launch vehicle

The test will be conducted from a 60-meter drop tower in a vacuum. The
separation test will simulate zero-g and vacuum space conditions. The
dropped spacecraft model will be caught before it hits the ground so that
it will not be damaged. Then it will be returned to the Babakin Space Center
in Moscow for final assembly and testing. The team will fit the spacecraft
with new solar sail blades and the solar power array will be modified before
the final flight model will be ready.

Electronics testing at the Space Research Institute also continues, but its
progress has been somewhat slower. Every step of the complex software
controlling spacecraft operations needs to be checked. The central computer
has passed nearly all tests involved in the "nominal" sequence, but it must
also be tested for many non-nominal situations. {"Nominal" is a very popular
word with space engineers meaning, "the way things are supposed to work if
nothing goes wrong." In space, not much happens nominally.)

The S-band radio system is still not complete, although an engineering model
was delivered and tested in the past couple of weeks. The software for some of
the sensors, including a GPS navigation system, is also not yet complete.

We could conduct the mission without completing every part of the software, and
even without the S-band receiver and GPS system. But at a recent meeting, the
Russian and American engineers unanimously affirmed the opinion that we should
allow the schedule to slip rather than increase mission risk. We will, as we
have repeatedly said, launch when ready.

Still, we would like to launch before the end of October. In November or
December, the Russian navy will be conducting other operations in the
Severomorsk launch area near Murmansk, and we will not be able to use that area
for our launch from a submarine. (This would not be a great sacrifice. I don’t
think anyone on our team actually wants to be north of the Arctic Circle
in that time of year.)

Despite the schedule slips, the Cosmos 1 spacecraft is coming along very well,
and our project goals remain firm. Our next big milestone will be the drop test
of the third stage separation at the end of July. After that, probably at the
end of August, we will hold a spacecraft readiness review. And then, perhaps, we
will set the date to launch Cosmos 1, the first solar sail.