2005: The Year in Review Timeline

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JANUARY

Disaster response officials dealing with the aftermath of the Dec. 26, 2004 , Indian Ocean tsunami called on satellite remote sensing and communications companies worldwide to provide products and services to the devastated regions in South and Southeast Asia.

Air Force Secretary James Roche and acquisition chief Marvin Sambur retire, leaving their duties to be handled by the already overburdened Peter B. Teets, the service’s undersecretary and director of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Then-acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Linton Wells signs a new policy instructing DoD to begin making commercial satellite services a formal part of its military communications network.

Europe’s Huygens descent probe successfully gathers information about the surface and atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

Europe and Russia sign a broad launch-cooperation agreement allowing European use of Russia’s Soyuz rocket and a long-term agreement to jointly develop future launch vehicles.

A Boeing Delta 2 launches NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft to comet Tempel 1.

White House releases U.S. Space Transportation Strategy directing the Department of Defense to support the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) programs of Boeing and Lockheed Martin at least until 2010.

The government of Nigeria orders a communications satellite from China in what will be China’s first large commercial satellite export.

The Stafford Covey Task Group concludes there are no major hurdles to NASA’s effort to return the shuttle fleet to flight status but expresses concern that astronauts still do not have the ability to make some repairs in orbit.

FEBRUARY

An International Launch Services (ILS) Proton M successfully launches SES Americom’s AMC-12 satellite.

NASA requests no money for a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission and cancels the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter mission.

The White House asks Congress to give NASA a 2006 budget of $16.45 billion, a 2.4-percent increase over the agency’s 2005 budget but about $500 million less than what had been forecast for 2006 in the 2005 budget.

Sean O’Keefe steps down as NASA Administrator to become chancellor of Louisiana State University. His deputy, Fred Gregory, takes over as acting administrator.

A Sea Launch Zenit orbits XM Satellite Radio’s XM-3 satellite.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Ground Based Midcourse Defense System suffers a second consecutive test failure when the interceptor fails to take off.

Japan’s H-2A rocket returns to flight following a November 2003 failure. The payload on the successful mission is the MTSat-1R, which is designed to provide weather and air traffic management services.

In response to problems caused by U.S. technology-export restrictions, the European Space Agency agrees to provide 15 million euros to the European Component Initiative, an effort to reduce European dependence on U.S. satellite components.

In what is partly a response to the Dec. 26 tsunami, nearly 60 nations at the Third Earth Observation Summit sign a 10-year accord to coordinate investment and operations of Earth observation satellites.

A Government Accountability Office report says the DoD’s space acquisition programs contain too much development work that is better suited for the department’s science and technology laboratories.

Budget justification materials included with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s 2006 budget request outline plans to deploy an experimental constellation of space-based missile interceptors starting in 2012, with competition for the systems slated to begin in 2008.

Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket carrying the U.S.-Spanish Xtar-Eur commercial X-band communications satellite successfully returns to flight more than two years after failing during its inaugural launch.

MARCH

The European Investment Bank approves a low-interest loan of 121 million euros to the Arianespace launch consortium to finance the import and operation of Russia’s Soyuz rocket at Europe’s French Guiana space port.

The Pentagon lifts its suspension of Boeing Co. from competing for military launch contracts. Boeing was suspended in July 2003 after the Pentagon concluded that the company had used improperly obtained pricing data from Lockheed Martin.

An ILS Atlas 5 launches the Inmarsat 4-F1 satellite.

India announces its intent to spend 31.48 billion rupees on space activities during the 2005-2006 fiscal year, a 24-percent increase from the previous year.

The Air Force notifies Congress that the cost of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellites, originally pegged at around $2 billion, is now expected to reach $10 billion, triggering a third review of the program in as many years as required by the Nunn-McCurdy legislation.

Teets announces his retirement, leaving Michael Dominguez, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, in charge of the service. Later in the month, with the Air Force so shorthanded at the top, Michael Wynne, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, takes over responsibility for milestone decisions on major Air Force acquisition programs.

President Bush selects Mike Griffin, the head of the space department at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, to replace Sean O’Keefe as NASA administrator.

Cablevision Systems shuts down its Voom satellite-television service after agreeing to sell its Rainbow-1 satellite to competitor EchoStar.

Gen. Lance Lord, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, tells a dinner audience at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., that the Pentagon’s space acquisition programs are not broken, and that those who think otherwise should ” get over it.”

Mike Griffin is sworn in as NASA administrator and says he will ensure a safe return-to-flight effort and accelerate work to develop a shuttle replacement.

An Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL launches NASA’s Demonstration for Autonomous Rendezvous (DART) spacecraft.

Russia’s space agency Roskosmos drafts a 206 billion-ruble, 10-year plan to replenish the country’s satellite fleet and honor its space station obligations.

The Hubble Space Telescope marks 15 years in space.

U.S. Air Force officials discuss plans to establish a program office to acquire both small satellites that can be launched on short notice as well as high altitude vehicles that operate in the “near space” realm around 20 kilometers above the Earth.

The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin successfully launch the second-to-last Titan 4 April 29 from Florida, carrying a National Reconnaissance Office payload.

A Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket launches DirecTV’s Spaceway F1 direct-to-home TV satellite.

U.S. Air Force discloses that it will forego competition in the EELV program and divide the next round of launch contracts evenly between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

NASA officials tell Congress they will accelerate development of a shuttle replacement vehicle.

Griffin tells members of Congress he has directed the agency — contingent on a successful return to flight of the shuttle — to begin making plans for a shuttle mission to refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope, a mission that his predecessor had canceled.

MAY

Boeing and Lockheed Martin agree to merge their EELV production programs. Both file documents with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announcing their intent to form a joint venture called United Launch Alliance to launch most military payloads.

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle orbits Cartosat-1, the nation’s highest-resolution imaging satellite to date, from a new launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota.

New Skies Satellites successfully concludes an initial offering of stock on the New York Stock Exchange.

Germany’s Defense Ministry tentatively selects a combined bid by EADS Space Services and ND Satcom to build and operate the SatcomBw military communications satellite system.

Two-way Ka-band satellite broadband service starts in North America with the introduction of service using Telesat Canada’s Anik F2 satellite.

The Herschel/Planck Program Investigation Group sends a 21-page report to Europe’s Science Program Committee stating the science mission is now estimated to cost 1.6 billion euros, more than 20 percent over budget and months behind schedule. The planned February 2007 launch of the satellites was pushed back to August 2007.

NASA sends Congress a revised spending plan that cuts funding for a space nuclear power and propulsion development program, some space science missions and a host of international space station experiments to pay for the space shuttle’s return to flight and preparations for a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission.

Teams led by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman submit their Crew Exploration Vehicle proposals even as NASA voices its intent to restructure the program and speed up the timetable for fielding the shuttle replacement.

NASA announces its intent to award a sole-source contract to Zero-Gravity Corp. for two parabolic flights aboard the G-Force One airplane.

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit finds evidence of past volcanic activity or a massive impact near the planet’s Gusev Crater.

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft reaches the edge of the solar system.

JUNE

Mobile satellite-services operator Inmarsat successfully conducts an initial stock offering on the London Stock Exchange.

OHB System of Germany and Apollo Capital Partners jointly purchase rocket-parts manufacturer MAN Technologie of Germany.

President Bush nominates Ronald Sega to be undersecretary of the Air Force.

Bernard Schriever, the retired U.S. Air Force general credited with shepherding the development of the Pentagon’s first ICBMs, space launch vehicles, and reconnaissance and communications satellites, dies at 94 .

Israel’s Ministry of Defense grants Israel Aircraft Industries permission to market clones of the TechSAR radar imaging satellite.

Reacting to budget pressures on the Galileo satellite constellation, ESA and the European Commission decide to contract out technologies not deemed militarily or strategically sensitive to lower-cost companies in nations outside of Europe.

House Appropriations Committee approves NASA’s $16.4 billion 2006 budget.

NASA selects Lockheed Martin and the team of Northrop Grumman and Boeing to work on competing designs for the Crew Exploration Vehicle.

NASA extends the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, waiving safety guidelines that call for a controlled deorbit of the aging spacecraft.

NASA creates the Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, led by Scott Pace, to independently analyze and evaluate the agency’s array of programs.

NASA officials declare the risk that Space Shuttle Discovery will suffer damage from debris during launch is minimal.

Sea Launch Zenit 3SL launches Intelsat’s Americas-8 satellite.

JULY

Alcatel Alenia Space is formed following the merger of the satellite and space-hardware branches of Alcatel of France and Finmeccanica of Italy. The two companies also merge their satellite-services businesses into Telespazio.

A Japanese M-5 rocket launches the Astro-E2 X-ray observation spacecraft.

PanAmSat buys EuropeStar from Alcatel, extending the U.S. company’s reach into the Middle East and Africa.

Satmex of Mexico files for bankruptcy protection in Mexico after an attempt by some creditors to place the filing under a U.S. bankruptcy court’s jurisdiction.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announces the choice of Don Kerr to run the National Reconnaissance Office, undoing a key 2001 space management decision to combine the jobs of undersecretary of the Air Force and NRO director. The move pleases some members of Congress and angers others.

NASA rolls out lunar exploration study, results of which calls for building an Apollo-like astronaut capsule and conducting up to six lunar sorties per year using hardware derived from the space shuttle.

The White House requests relief from the Iran Nonproliferation Act to permit NASA to buy rides on Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles for space station missions.

JSAT and PanAmSat form a joint venture to launch a Ku-band telecommunications satellite.

NASA’s Deep Impact probe successfully slams into the Tempel 1 comet, while the Flyby spacecraft records the event.

Germany announces that it will join Europe’s space exploration program with a 3 million euro investment in ESA’s Aurora effort, which now focuses on ExoMars.

NASA scraps plans for the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter.

XM Satellite Radio invests $25 million in WorldSpace.

U.S. court approves Loral’s exit from bankruptcy.

Discovery is successfully launched, but NASA is surprised when cameras record large pieces of foam breaking away from the shuttle’s external tank, the same problem that led to the destruction of the shuttle Columbia.

AUGUST

WorldSpace of Washington successfully completes an initial stock offering on the U.S. Nasdaq market to prepare for expansion into India and China.

Stratos Global agrees to purchase competitor Xantic BV in a consolidation of Inmarsat mobile satellite services distributors.

An ILS Atlas 5 launches NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

John Cunningham, program director for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), resigns from his government post. Shortly thereafter, details emerge about the need to restructure the program due to cost growth and schedule delays .

NASA announces grounding of the shuttle until at least March 2006 to allow time to fix the foam-shedding problem.

The first official meeting of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority is held to begin establishment of the Southwest Regional Spaceport and in preparation for the X Prize Cup.

On the mission’s third spacewalk, Discovery’s crew successfully removes loose material sticking up between some of the orbiter’s heat-resistant tiles.

Discovery lands at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., after inclement weather prevents a landing in Florida a second straight day.

Intelsat announces plan to purchase PanAmSat for $3.2 billion, creating the biggest commercial satellite-fleet operator.

Hurricane Katrina batters the U.S. Gulf Coast, devastating New Orleans and coastal areas of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., suffer some damage.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency purchases imagery through its ClearView contracts and distributes it to various government agencies participating in the hurricane cleanup effort.

SEPTEMBER

Orbimage announces it will purchase rival Space Imaging for $58.5 million, narrowing the field of U.S. commercial imagery providers from three to two.

Griffin unveils NASA’s $104 billion plan for landing four astronauts on the Moon by 2018.

The NRO issues a partial stop work order to Boeing Co. on the troubled Future Imagery Architecture spy satellite program. Additional work is awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Pentagon notifies Congress that NPOESS will cost at least 15 percent more than DoD’s estimate of $6.8 billion.

OCTOBER

CryoSat ice monitoring satellite crashes into the Arctic Ocean after a Eurockot Rockot second stage fails to separate.

A Long March 2F launches China’s second manned mission, Shenzhou 6, with two crew members aboard.

Federal Trade Commission requests more information on the proposed EELV merger.

Kistler Aerospace Corp.’s major funding source withdraws his support, expressing frustration with how long it is taking NASA to deliver on its promise to buy space station resupply services from the private sector.

Final Lockheed Martin Titan 4 rocket launches a classified satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Multiple defects in hardware and software push back the launch of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle until May 2007.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. founder Elon Musk files an anti trust complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in opposition to the proposed creation of United Launch Alliance by Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

EMS Technologies reaches an agreement to sell its Montreal-based Space & Technology division to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates of British Columbia, further consolidating Canada’s space industry.

NOVEMBER

The Venezuelan government announces it has signed a contract to purchase a large telecommunications satellite from China to reduce its dependence on U.S. providers.

Mitsubishi Electric of Japan wins the contract to build the Superbird-7 satellite for Space Communications Corp. of Tokyo in the first domestic commercial satellite win for a Japanese satellite builder.

Europe’s Venus Express satellite is successfully launched by a Russian Soyuz vehicle.

The second qualification flight of Europe’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket landers the DirecTV Group’s Spaceway 2 HDTV satellite and Indonesia’s Telkom-2 communications satellite.

Loral Space and Communications exits Chapter 11 bankruptcy after 28 months under a court’s protection and begins trading in December on the U.S. Nasdaq stock exchange.

DigitalGlobe announces that Herb Satterlee is being replaced as president and chief executive officer by Jill Smith, leading to speculation that the company is being positioned either for a public stock offering or a sale.

Boeing acknowledges that a machinists strike in three states will hold up launches of several U.S. government payloads slated to ride on the company’s Delta rocket fleet.

Japan’s Hayabusa lands on Asteroid Itokawa.

NASA’s plan to address cost growth on the James Webb Space Telescope delays launch by at least two years to 2013.

Congress approves $16.5 billion NASA budget.

The back-up solar array drive on the 21-year-old Landsat 5 satellite fails, intensifying concern about a lengthy gap in the 30-year Landsat data record.

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System scored its first intercept of a target featuring a warhead that separates from its booster rocket.

DECEMBER

Inmarsat’s high-speed mobile satellite service, BGAN, begins commercial operations using the Inmarsat-4 spacecraft.

Eutelsat Communications of Paris successfully concludes an initial stock offering on the Euronext stock exchange.

In the second biggest merger of satellite-fleet operators this year, SES Global announces its intent to purchase New Skies Satellites for $760 million in cash, plus the assumption of $400 million in debt.

The Pentagon informs Congress that it has restructured the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High missile warning program due to excessive cost growth, cutting at least two satellites.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency conducted its first successful flight test with the Ground Based Midcourse Defense System since January 2004.