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SpaceNews 2012 | The Year in Review: September

A PSLV launching Spot 6. Credit: ISRO photo

India’s PSLV rocket successfully launches the Spot 6 optical Earth observation satellite for Astrium Services of Europe, which is financing the Spot 6 and Spot 7 programs without government support.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries assumes responsibility for H-2A launch operations from the Japanese government.

International frequency regulators reject an Iranian appeal and remove Iran’s rights to 34 degrees east after Iran failed to place a satellite there within an already extended deadline.

The U.S. Air Force selects Raytheon as a competing supplier on the FAB-T program as a hedge against continued struggles by the current prime contractor, Boeing Co.

A ULA Atlas 5 rocket launches the classified NROL-36 satellite for the NRO in a mission that had been delayed by issues with data monitoring systems at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The rocket also carried 11 experimental cubesats to orbit.

Luxembourg, on behalf of SES, protests a decision by an International Telecommunication Union body granting satellite fleet operator Avanti access to an orbital slot that will conflict with a Ka-band SES satellite scheduled for launch in 2013.

Lockheed Martin wins a U.S. Air Force contract to begin engineering work and to order long lead components for the fifth and sixth satellites in the Space Based Infrared System missile warning constellation.

European Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain, breaking his silence on a German-French dispute over launcher policy, says Europe needs to start work right away on an Ariane 6 rocket to succeed Ariane 5 in a decade.

SES orders three more launches aboard Falcon 9 rockets operated by SpaceX, bringing SpaceX’s backlog of commercial orders to more than $1 billion.

Europe’s Metop-B polar-orbiting weather satellite is launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan after a four-month delay caused by a Russian-Kazakh dispute over where rocket stages should be allowed to fall.

NOAA’s GOES-14 geostationary weather satellite is pressed into service after a glitch interrupts operations of the GOES-13 craft.

SES moves one of its satellites to 50.5 degrees east to permit the Thai government and operator Thaicom to maintain regulatory rights to the slot. SES says it hopes to broaden its partnership with Thaicom.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden urges NASA’s international partners not to take too literally an advisory panel’s conclusions about solo U.S. missions to Mars. Bolden says Mars exploration is too big for any nation to go it alone and reminds a European audience that NASA has not “abandoned” Europe’s ExoMars program and remains on board with a key telecom relay.

Eutelsat completes the $228 million cash purchase of the GE-23 satellite, now renamed Eutelsat 172A, over Asia.

SpaceX performs the first test flight of its Grasshopper vehicle, a testbed for a reusable Falcon 9 first stage the company hopes to develop.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank says it expects to provide a record $1.4 billion by the end of 2012 in loans and other financial support for satellite projects in which U.S. contractors have a major role.

The European Defense Agency signs a three-year contract with Astrium Services to pool demand from European defense ministries for Ku-, Ka- and C-band satellite bandwidth.

The U.S. National Research Council issues a report saying boost-phase missile interceptors are impractical and that the U.S. territorial shield would be improved by installing high-speed interceptors at an East Coast site.

A report calling for scaling back the next-generation U.S. polar-orbiting weather satellite system and streamlining its management is publicly released.

Raytheon wins a contract worth nearly $1 billion to finalize the design and begin testing of the Standard Missile 3 Block 2A interceptor being built with Japan.

European defense giants BAE and EADS announce plans to merge. They later abandon the effort amid European opposition.

U.S. Air Force Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, says the service will not seek funds in 2014 for a next-generation weather satellite system.

The White House releases a report saying NASA would lose $1.5 billion of its $17.8 billion budget under sequestration, the across-the-board spending cut set to take effect in January barring a deficit reduction deal with Congress.

U.S. House Republicans introduce legislation that calls for radically restructuring NASA.

An independent panel led by former NASA Mars czar Orlando Figueroa says the agency’s next robotic Mars mission should support sample return.

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