USA History -1: The first foreign instrument on a Russian satellite

posted in: US History | 1

Solved a very important engineering problem for NASA :

  1. Design of a non-Sun synchronous satellite (Russian) carrying a Nimbus-7 (US)  Sun synchronous weather package  which large companies had failed.
  2. Defining the Launch window ( August 15, 1991 from the Plesetsk, Russia, facility near the White Sea).
  3. The visibility at the White house level directed  program.
  4. All simulations were done using a laptop (Zeus) and porting the FORTRAN codes from NASA and Air Force never done before. Surprisingly the accuracy (required .5 degree in space look) matched that of the IBM main frame. NOTE: Zeus is a Greek mythological God. Also read about “Nothing nebulous about noms de space (“The bizarre and brilliant rules for naming new discoveries have their own celestial reasonings“).
  5. These achievements led Software Corporation of America (SCA) to lead a Real-time program which made it possible for the world scientists getting the valuable real-time Ozone mapping data in 30 minutes instead of 2 hours (this will be narrated in another Post (USA History – 3: Real-time Ozone data in 30 minutes ).

My NASA Program Manager for the program was a prominent Physicist, Dr. Arlin Krueger.

Details of SCA’s undertaking of the Meteor-3 program:

During the presidency of Ronald Reagan the Berlin Wall fell. The wall was raised at the end of World War II between East Germany and the West Germany East being allied with Russia  and West with the USA.

The Berlin Wall: The Fall of the Wall. On November 9, 1989, as the Cold War began to thaw across Eastern Europe, the spokesman for East Berlin’s Communist Party announced a change in his city’s relations with the West. Starting at midnight that day, he said, citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) were free to cross the country’s borders.

The 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush (1989 – 1993 presidency) wanted to reach out to Russians to demonstrate that there could be a trust worthiness relationship between our countries.  He directed NASA to develop a relationship with Russian space agency.  NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC)  being the earth observation instruments design center was therefore picked up by the NASA Headquarters to pick up the project directly reaching out to the corresponding Russian instrument directorate.

The project was first contracted to the Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), a Prime contractor at NASA /GSFC) at Greenbelt, Maryland. At that time (1989) the IBM mainframe computers 395/375 series (very few Univac) were the only once used for space program. Desk Top  computers were on the design block only.

In late 1989, after some of my lucky successes in solving some difficult problems on the  NASA NIMBUS-7 weather satellite, I was approached by NASA to consider starting my own company, Software Corporation of America (SCA). I had developed some incredible NASA Science and Engineering capabilities on several satellites while working for CSC and later a small business, Systems and Applied Sciences Corporation (SASC) which was acquired by the Raytheon Company a large business.  I left Raytheon  and reached out to  NASA/GSFC for marketing.  For 3 months or so I did not have any great response because all important programs, including the USA/Russian joint program, were awarded to large companies and there were probably 100 small businesses sharing a small pot of money because of the laws sake.

In those days (1989) if you had registered a business with the Federal Government  you could obtain a company  pass to enter the NASA/GSFC premises as a marketer.  So I was everyday trying to meet technical managers for a small work hoping to get may be a half time paid support to begin with.

CSC, the prime contractor for the NASA/Russian  joint program  crunching numbers on the IBM mainframe for 6 months but was not able to determine whether the  joint program will work. For the joint program, Russia had made it clear that they could not put money for the program, except they could allow a satellite out of several rotting in their warehouse because of short cash. NASA had a Total Ozone Monitoring Spectrometer (TOMS),  Nimbus-7 spare in the warehouse. Because Nimbus-7 was performing much beyond its  life expectancy  the spare TOMS would never have been used again.

The NASA contract  to CSC was to determine the concept feasibility of the joint program using TOMS on the Meteor -3 to answer:

  1. Is TOMS on Meter-3 (not sun synchronous) is feasible to deliver any science? That’s a  feasibility study through real simulation on the IBM mainframe computer of understand
  2. On August 15, 1991 to allow a quick calibration what should be the launch time window?

Meteor-3 series of satellites started flying in 1984 and continued being launched during the 1990s. The 1.4-meters by 4.2-meter satellite was equipped with a tree-axis attitude control system enabling the orientation with the accuracy up to 0.5 degrees. The power-supply system was capable of providing 500 Watts to the payload. Along with its main weather-forecasting payloads, the satellites were routinely equipped by multiple remote-sensing instruments. In 1991, Meteor-3 No. 5 satellite for the first time carried a foreign scientific payload – a US-built TOMS spectrometer designed to map ozone layer.

We (SCA) answered all the answers, 1&2. We determined that on August 15, 1991 the launch window is going to be 9 am to noon launch site in Russia. Our NASA Program Manager, Dr. Arlin Krueger was extremely pleased with the result of the data and that it was for the first time on a laptop.  To Russians that was a fantasy. And Russians were so suspicious of his quick lap top calculations that they demanded that he should answer the source of his calculation even if he did not have access to Russian main frame computer. Finally they requested a copy of the SCA software and Dr. Kruger complied with their request.

History of Zeos laptop/note book

The Zeos company sold its first PC in November 1987 with its first ad in Computer Shopper. Rapid sales and growth led ZEOS to become Fortune’s fastest growing public company in America in 1991. ZEOS marketed its products primarily through mail order, but also partnered with and distributed PCs to Sam’s Club stores. ZEOS also had two retail outlet stores, located in Arden Hills and Golden Valley, Minnesota, where refurbished and customer-returned hardware was resold, often at substantial discounts.

ZEOS also was successful in the laptop category, introducing three 486SX based laptops before rival Dell came out with their first.[3] The company also marketed subnotebooks branded Contenda (both 386SL-, 486SL-based) and ZEOS Pocket PC (8086-compatible palmtop, using the NEC V30 processor).

SCA obtained a copy of the Air Force Space Track real-time program and successfully ported the package on a Zeos Lap Top computer. That was the history too. We were given an Achievement Award for the Nimbus-7 (including Meteor-3) success.

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