SpaceNews 2012 | The Year in Review: November

by

Space Shuttle Atlantis, which flew the last shuttle mission in July 2011, is delivered to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex in Florida for museum display.

Britain, on the eve of a meeting of ESA governments, announces that its spending at ESA will rise 25 percent starting in 2013 and extending to 2017, with the focus on commercially promising technologies. ESA agrees to move most of its telecommunications directorate from the Netherlands to Britain.

U.S. President Barack Obama is elected to a second term.

Advertisement

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, says commercial communications satellites are not ideal hosting platforms for military communications payloads, clouding the picture for at least one opportunity being pursued by industry.

Telesat and Boeing end their six-year dispute over Boeing’s alleged “gross negligence” in providing a Telesat satellite with a defective solar array design. One industry official says the settlement includes no substantial payment to Telesat.

MTN Satellite Communications announces a multimillion-dollar investment in Intelsat’s Epic broadband service as part of MTN’s Nexus service for cruise ships and leisure boats.

A payload launched aboard the SES-5 satellite in July and designed to provide navigation services to complement the U.S. GPS system is not meeting expected performance criteria. As a result, the European Commission is withholding payment to SES, at least for now.

The 20 governments of ESA agree to back continued work on an Ariane 5 upgrade while starting designs of a successor Ariane 6 rocket. ESA governments involved in the space station program also agree to reimburse the 455 million euros ($592 million) owed NASA between 2018 and 2020 with an investment in the propulsion module for NASA’s Orion crew transport vehicle.

Canada’s air navigation agency agrees to invest up to $150 million in Iridium’s Aireon air traffic management service.

The British government will assume control of the Skynet 5 military communications satellites in 2022 when its contract with Astrium Services comes to an end. British officials say taking title to the satellites levels the playing field for companies wishing to compete with Astrium for post-2022 work.

The U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency estimates that use of commercial satellite bandwidth leased by the Pentagon is no more than 3-5 percent at any given time.

Sri Lanka claims it has a satellite in orbit thanks to the launch of SupremeSat 1 aboard a Chinese rocket. In fact, Sri Lanka has leased a portion of the payload on the satellite, more broadly known as Chinasat 12.

International Launch Services is suing its former chief technical officer, who was fired in August, for setting up shell companies that fed money from ILS contracts to the officer and an accomplice. ILS also announces the departure of its chief executive, Frank McKenna, in what it says is an unrelated development.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk says the company will likely launch no more than four or five Falcon 9 missions in 2013, including the last of the first version of Falcon 9 and three or four of the new model.

U.S. Air Force Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, says the service will decide in 2015 whether to break up the payload sets that currently fly on large satellites like the AEHF communications system.

The Pentagon announces an agreement to place ground-based U.S. space surveillance assets in Australia.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon submit final proposals for an upgraded Space Fence network of space surveillance radars.

Satellite images show that North Korea is preparing to launch a rocket in the coming weeks.

The Japanese government selects an industrial consortium to build and launch a military communications satellite system.

The U.S. Navy commissions the first Mobile User Objective System communications satellite.

Pentagon acquisition czar Frank Kendall signs off on a dual-track launcher acquisition strategy that features a 36-rocket block buy from incumbent ULA but sets aside 14 missions for new market entrants.

SpaceX and Stratolaunch, which is building the world’s largest air-launch-to-orbit system, announce they have parted ways.

Orbital acknowledges that its Antares rocket is not likely to debut until early 2013, pushing the vehicle’s first space station cargo delivery for NASA into the spring.

U.S. House Republican leaders appoint Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee for the 113th Congress, which will convene Jan. 3.

NASA announces that Mike Coats, director of the Johnson Space Center, will retire at the end of 2012 and be replaced by his deputy, Ellen Ochoa. Ramon Lugo, director of the Glenn Research Center, will also retire at the end of the year and be replaced by his deputy, James Free.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne lays off 100 employees, mostly in California, ahead of its pending sale to competitor Aerojet.

The first Orion capsule slated to fly in space develops cracks during pressure-proof testing at Kennedy. NASA says the capsule will be repaired in time to launch in late 2014, as scheduled.