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SpaceNews 2012 | The Year in Review: April

Bruce Carlson. Credit: U.S. Strategic Command photo

The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) confirms that its director, Bruce Carlson, will step down in July as planned. Carlson oversaw a busy launch campaign that he says helped restore the nation’s spy satellite capabilities.

The European Space Agency solicits help from government operators of space surveillance networks, including the U.S. Air Force, in an attempt to determine the status of the large Envisat Earth observing satellite, which had stopped communicating without warning.

Lockheed Martin denies assertions from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that the third and fourth satellites planned for the Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System of missile warning satellites are behind schedule and over budget.

A U.S. Air Force official says the service is planning a follow-on to the successful Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload, or CHIRP, an experimental missile warning sensor that was launched the previous September aboard a telecommunications satellite owned and operated by SES of Europe.

A North Korean three-stage rocket breaks up and falls into the Yellow Sea shortly after liftoff. The North Korean government acknowledges failure and says the intent was to launch a remote sensing satellite.

The U.S. Air Force allows Boeing to continue work on the troubled FAB-T satellite terminal program under a restructured contract, even as the service seeks bids from potential alternate suppliers.

Lockheed Martin Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Stevens announces plans to retire at the end of the year.

Satellite fleet operators doing business in India protest a retroactive 10 percent royalty fee on foreign satellite communications services that would cover revenue over the last 36 years, saying the measure is “against the basic international rules and principles of fair play.”

Europe’s large Envisat radar Earth observation satellite fails in orbit after 10 years of operations and ground teams are unable to get it to respond despite a multinational effort. The 8-meter-long Envisat now becomes one of the most dangerous pieces of debris in low Earth orbit.

The U.S. Air Force solicits bids from launch providers other than United Launch Alliance to loft a pair of experimental satellites in 2014 and 2015.

India launches the indigenously built Risat-1 radar imaging satellite aboard a PSLV rocket.

NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission sustains some electrical damage during tests at the Goddard.

Europe’s Arianespace commercial launch consortium reports revenue of 1.013 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for 2011, higher than expected, and a profit of 1.6 million euros. The revenue includes 145 million euros in support payments from the European Space Agency to help cover Ariane 5 operations.

Honeywell signs a contract to provide terminal and antenna hardware for Inmarsat’s Global Xpress Ka-band program and says it expects the business to generate $2.8 billion in revenue over 20 years.

Germany’s RapidEye AG says Chinese buyers interested in the company, which was for sale by its owners as part of a bankruptcy reorganization, were scared off by the possible complications with U.S. export rules.

Satellite operator Measat of Malaysia sues Intelsat for breach of contract, alleging Intelsat mishandled the management of the launch of the Measat-3a satellite.

The U.S. State and Defense departments issue a report calling for relaxing restrictions governing exports of U.S. satellite technology.

A House panel recommends keeping the Operationally Responsive Space Office open in 2013, contrary to Air Force plans.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) asks NASA Administrator Charles Bolden to brief the Senate Judiciary Committee about allegations that foreign nationals obtained NASA secrets while visiting the Ames Research Center.

Billionaire-backed Planetary Resources introduces itself to the public. The startup intends to extract resources from asteroids.

A Senate appropriations panel votes to transfer NOAA’s civilian weather satellite procurement responsibility to NASA.

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