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SpaceNews 2012 | The Year in Review: February

NASA's ExoMars rover. Credit: ESA artist's concept

The European Space Agency (ESA) says it will work with Russia to replace elements of its ExoMars mission that were to be supplied by NASA, including two Atlas 5 rocket launches.

Satellite broadband provider ViaSat Inc. sues its former satellite contractor, Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), for patent infringement, saying SS/L used ViaSat’s intellectual property to build a satellite for its main competitor, Hughes. SS/L countersues.

Europe’s Italian-led Vega small-satellite launcher debuts successfully, giving Europe’s Arianespace a third rocket to market.

ESA contracts with OHB AG of Germany for eight Galileo navigation satellites, bringing to 22 the number of satellites under contract with the company. A separate ESA contract covers at least one, and as many as three, Galileo launches aboard Ariane 5 rockets, each carrying four spacecraft.

The Turkish government announces plans to have 17 satellites in orbit by 2020 and to create a national space agency.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency requests $297 million in 2013 for development work on a space-based missile tracking system, a huge increase from the $81 million appropriated in 2012.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seeks a funding increase of nearly 9 percent for weather satellites and related activities. NOAA later says the Joint Polar Satellite System will cost $12.9 billion through 2028.

Australia’s NBN Co. announces that Space Systems/Loral will build two large Ka-band broadband satellites as part of Australia’s government-sponsored program to provide terrestrial, wireless or satellite broadband to every Australian citizen.

AsiaSat of Hong Kong contracts for two launches aboard Falcon 9 rockets built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the latest example of SpaceX’s growing manifest for commercial geostationary satellite launches.

Regulators at the World Radiocommunication Conference wrap up four weeks of work by firming up rules on how long satellites must remain at a given position before that position is declared “in use,” and to extend to three years from two years the time an operator has to launch a replacement for a satellite lost in a launch or in-orbit failure.

ESA signs a $1.8 billion contract with Thales Alenia Space to build a third generation of Meteosat weather satellites. The six-satellite program is expected to provide continuous service for 20 years beginning in 2018.

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blasts the U.S. Air Force for relying on Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle prime contractor United Launch Alliance (ULA) for data as it works to justify purchasing up to 50 rocket booster cores over five years as a way to reduce costs on the overbudget program.

The U.S. Navy’s first Mobile User Objective System communications satellite is launched successfully after delays as the service scrambles to field terminals that can utilize the program’s most advanced capabilities.

The Japanese government asks industry to help finance a pair of military communications satellites to be launched in 2015 and 2016.

The U.S. Air Force unveils a 2013 budget request that defers major development work on a next-generation weather satellite system and scales back plans to upgrade its constellation of highly secure military communications satellites. The budget proposes a 22 percent reduction in spending on unclassified space activities.

Boeing offers to convert its contract with the U.S. Air Force on the Family of Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) program to a fixed-price arrangement in a bid to retain the work. The Air Force had threatened to terminate Boeing’s contract on the troubled program.

Prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems completes on-orbit testing of the U.S. Air Force’s first Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communications satellite, more than a year and a half after it was launched.

The White House requests a $17.7 billion budget for NASA in 2013 — the lowest request since 2008.

NASA astronaut Janice Voss dies of cancer at age 55.

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