2007: The Year In Review

by












  Space News Business

2007: The Year In Review

posted: 31 December 2007
10:20 am ET











JANUARY











T


elesat Canada orders its Nimiq 5 satellite from Space Systems/Loral, just weeks after Loral agrees to purchase a majority economic stake in the satellite operator




. It is the first time Telesat has bought a




satellite from Loral.





ProtoStar
agrees to purchase the ChinaSat 8 satellite, which had been in storage for eight years at Space Systems/Loral.







NASA selects two candidates for a 2011 Mars Scout mission opportunity:




Maven and Great Escape,




aeronomy
missions proposed by Boulder, Colo.-based teams.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft uses radar to detect liquid methane-filled lakes on Saturn’s moon, Titan.







Chinese military authorities use a mobile land-based missile




to destroy a retired Chinese weather satellite in low Earth orbit, creating what experts say is the most serious single orbital-debris incident ever. The test




draws worldwide condemnation and sparks debates about China’s motives.





Hubble Space Telescope data is used for the first time to map all of the universe’s dark matter in three dimensions.






The first of five identical SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites, which had been launched in December 2006 for the German armed forces, is declared operational.




A National Academy of Sciences report warns that




reinvestment




is needed to prevent a drop in the number of U.S. Earth-monitoring satellites




from 29 to seven by 2017.







A Sea Launch Zenit 3 SL rocket fails




seconds after ignition, destroying the NSS-8 telecommunications satellite,




causing extensive damage to Sea Launch’s mid-ocean mobile launch platform.





The European Space Agency approves spending 329 million euros ($426 million at the time) for the BepiColombo Mercury orbiter




, part of a 665 million euro mission. The Japanese space agency will take part in the mission with its own satellite.






Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), one of the most vocal advocates for military space on Capitol Hill, announces that he will honor a term limits pledge and




not run for re-election




in 2008.









FEBRUARY











Globalstar




announces that its satellite constellation’s ability to deliver two-way voice communications is degrading faster than expected and may stop altogether in 2008.





GE Capital, now named SAT-GE, sells its 19.5 percent stake in satellite-fleet operator SES in return for cash and for assets including SES’ AsiaSat, Star One and Orbcomm minority ownership shares and a little-used SES satellite over the Pacific Ocean, for 1.238 billion euros ($1.6 billion at then-prevailing exchange rates).





Congress enacts spending legislation holding NASA and most other domestic agencies to their 2006 budget levels. For NASA, this means getting by on $16.2 billion, about $500 million less than it requested for the year.





The Defense Department’s spending plan for the years 2008-2012 includes $410 million for operationally responsive space programs, including $87 million for 2008. It is the first time the Air Force has budgeted money for ORS.

Space Systems/Loral completes its work on




five satellites




for NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program.







EchoStar
Communications Corp. confirms it has ordered an S-band satellite to provide mobile video services in China in time for the Bejing Olympics in 2008, and




also is investing in TU Media, which is providing a similar service in South Korea.





Retired U.S. Air Force Col. David Garner, one of the architects of the current restrictions on the export of U.S satellite technology, says the rules have been applied in ways never imagined by those who wrote them, concluding: “We didn’t get it right.”



NASA launches five Themis




probes to study geomagnetic substorms in Earth’s magnetic field aboard a Delta 2 launch vehicle.







The first space shuttle mission of 2007 is delayed when a hail storm forces Atlantis to roll back for tank repairs. The mission, the first of three in the year, finally gets off in June.






India approves a 29 percent increase in space spending for the year beginning April 1, with a crew-carrying vehicle and a satellite-navigation system high among the government’s space-spending priorities.









Pluto-bound New Horizons probe makes its closest pass of Jupiter.





NASA Administrator Mike Griffin tells Congress development of the Orion crew spacecraft and the Ares launch vehicle will be delayed four to six months, pushing the first operational flight of the new system into 2015. Griffin said the slip is unavoidable in the face of the




flat 2007 budget that denies NASA’s exploration program about half of the more than $900 million increase it was seeking.




MARCH











Nobel prize winner John Mather is named chief scientist




of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate




.

A task force chartered by NASA to examine threats to space station safety urges the State Department to exempt some NASA contractors from the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

The European Space Agency orders a second navigation satellite, Giove-2A, from Surrey Satellite Technology.





GeoEye




‘s
OrbView-3 satellite fails in orbit, forcing the company to rely on its aging Ikonos spacecraft to meet its commitments to customers.





The Skynet 5A military communications satellite, the first in a new generation of satellites for the British Defence Ministry, is successfully launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. Paradigm Secure Communications, an Astrium Services subsidiary, is providing British and NATO forces with Skynet 5 capacity under a long-term services contract.





Stratos
Global, one of the principal distributors of Inmarsat mobile satellite services, announces an agreement to be sold to a Canadian company that in turn is being financed by Inmarsat. Inmarsat has the option of purchasing the company in 2009.



GeoEye buys remote sensing firm M.J. Harden Associates Inc. of Kansas from General Electric Co.



ESA‘s
Mars Express orbiter uses radar to detect water ice below the planet’s South Pole.










A Japanese radar reconnaissance satellite fails in orbit. Launched in 2003, it is one of the




satellites that form Japan’s Information Gathering System.




The Air Force acknowledges that a policy dispute has kept it from turning on the main sensors of TacSat-2, the first satellite launched under the Operationally Responsive Space effort, which had been in orbit since December 2006.

Space Exploration Technology’s Falcon 1 rocket fails to put its demonstration payload in orbit, almost a year to the day after the inaugural Falcon 1 failed shortly after takeoff.




APRIL








The two-satellite Orbital Express mission successfully demonstrates autonomous in-orbit refueling and battery transfer as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Project-1 mission.








Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, takes the helm of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, replacing Mary Cleave who had retired earlier in the year.





Three senior Democratic lawmakers ask




President George W. Bush to fire NASA Inspector General Robert Cobb after a White House-ordered investigation found Cobb had been verbally abusive to employees and too chummy with NASA Administrator Mike Griffin’s predecessor to be an effective internal watchdog.





Malaysian direct-to-home satellite television provider Astro All Asia Networks announces it will invest up to $166 million in Sun Direct TV Private Ltd. of India, a startup satellite-television broadcaster.

Charles Simonyi, the fifth person to book a commercial flight into space, arrives at the international space station as a passenger aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Libya is identified as the source of satellite jamming that interrupted mobile communications services of Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications of Abu Dhabi. Libyan authorities agreed to stop the interference after diplomatic intervention. The pinpointing of Libya comes as a surprise because Libya is a Thuraya shareholder.

Intelsat moves to end the hijacking of a Ku-band satellite signal by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, a rebel group that, unknown to Intelsat, has been using a vacant transponder on the Intelsat 12 satellite to beam its own message.



NOAA officials announce the first and possibly second GOES-R weather satellite will not have a sensor for taking vertical atmospheric temperature readings key for hurricane prediction.







The U.S. State Department bars a plan by GE Capital and China’s government-owned CITIC Group to become 50-50 owners of AsiaSat of Hong Kong. The two companies together already own 69 percent of AsiaSat, but need U.S. government approval to take over the satellite operator because AsiaSat operates U.S.-built satellites. The State Department declines to explain its decision.

NOAA’s
N-Prime weather satellite is damaged for the second time in an accident at the Lockheed Martin factory in Sunnyvale, Calif.



NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesophere launches aboard a Pegasus XL rocket on a mission to study mysterious ice clouds dotting the edge of space in Earth’s polar regions.

GeoEye
files a $40 million insurance claim following the on-orbit failure of its OrbView-3 imaging satellite in March.









MAY








U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) calls for NASA’s top attorney, Mike Wholley, to resign because of Wholley’s




decision to destroy recordings of an April 10 video teleconference NASA Administrator Mike Griffin used to address the staff of the U.S. space agency’s embattled inspector general, Robert Cobb.



The Pentagon establishes an Operationally Responsive Space program office at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Alan Stern, NASA’s new science chief, vows to make more effective use of the agency’s science budget and to hold program managers more accountable.

After three years of debate, the European Union and the European Space Agency agree on a European Space Policy that accepts the dual-use nature of space programs and the military utility of the Galileo satellite navigation project.

A team of students from Newark Memorial High School near San Francisco wins the Aerospace Industries Association’s Student Rocketry Contest with a near perfect flight.









JUNE











Mexican




satellite-fleet operator Satmex




rejects the only two bids it




received from potential buyers, saying they were




too low. Satmex decides to




ask




its existing shareholders for financial backing.



Fourteen of the world’s largest space agencies agree to the broad outlines of an




exploration strategy, including common technical standards for communications, docking systems and life support for future lunar and Mars missions.





The first of Italy’s planned four Cosmo-Skymed radar reconnaissance satellites is launched successfully aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket. Italy and France have agreed to share data from their respective radar and optical military observation satellites.





STS-117, NASA’s first shuttle mission of 2007, finally launches.





Israel’s Ofeq-7 optical reconnaissance satellite is successfully launched aboard Israel’s Shavit rocket, replenishing




capability lost following a September 2005 Shavit failure that destroyed the Ofeq-6 spacecraft.





The Canadian government grants




licenses for 12 orbital slots, with the provision the winners meet deadlines for using those slots. Seven will go to startup




Ciel
Satellite;




five others are allocated




to Telesat Canada.







EADS Space and its Astrium division announce they are prepared to build a suborbital vehicle for space tourism if they find partners in what is expected to be a capital investment of more than $1 billion.





Germany’s TerraSAR-X satellite, the product of a partnership between the German space agency, DLR, and Infoterra GmbH, a subsidiary of Astrium Services, is launched successfully aboard a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket.





Satellite-fleet operator SES contracts with Arianespace and International Launch Services for the launch of 10 satellites in an unusual agreement that includes a large dose of backup. For each satellite, SES gets




two launch slots from each company.





BC Partners of Europe agrees to buy




a majority stake in




Intelsat,




a deal that
values Intelsat’s equity at just over $5 billion.

June 28 Bigelow Aerospace successfully launches its Genesis 2 module aboard a Russian Dnepr rocket from the ISC KosmotrasYasnyCosmodrome in the Orenburg region of Russia. Genesis 2 is the company’s – and the world’s – second privately funded space station.





OHB Technology of Germany purchases Kayser-Threde in what OHB officials say is an attempt to prevent Kayser-Threde from growing into a competitive threat to OHB for German government funds.

JULY













Shareholders of ImageSat International file suit in a U.S. district court alleging that company management buckled under Israeli government pressure to refuse to sell satellite imagery to Venezuela.





The second of




Germany’s SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites is launched successfully by a Russian Cosmos 3M vehicle from Russia’s PlesetskCosmodrome.





NASA signs a $1.2 billion sole-source contract with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for development of the J-2X engines that will power the upper stage of the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle and Ares 5, its heavy-lift follow-on.








The president of Russia’s RSC Energia, a major space contractor, is fired under pressure from the Russian government. Government authorities criticized Nikolai Sevastyanov for promoting policies not approved by the government.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finds evidence of hydrocarbons, the chemical components necessary for life, on Saturn’s Moon, Hyperion.



Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. is awarded a $127.9 million NASA contract to build the instrument for the next Landsat land imaging satellite.



NASA’s Spitzer space telescope finds for the first time evidence of water vapor on a planet outside the solar system.







Three employees of Scaled Composites are killed and three injured following an accident at the company’s Mojave Air and Space Port, Calif., test stand, where Scaled Composites is testing components for its suborbital space-tourism vehicle.





U.S. and European negotiators agree that the future GPS 3A and Galileo Open Service satellite-navigation signals will employ a common structure.











AUGUST











In an Aug. 2 memo, Marine Corps Gen.




James Cartwright, still commander of Strategic Command, directs USAF Col. Kevin McLaughlin, director of the Operationally Responsive Space program office, to provide a plan to “identify existing on-orbit and ground processing systems that can be rapidly leveraged to meet near-term” joint force operational requirements.





Radyne
Corp. completes its acquisition of AeroAstro




, saying the deal should help Radyne take advantage of growing U.S. government interest in small satellites.

The shuttle Endeavour launches with a crew that includes astronaut Barbara Morgan, who had been teacher-in-space Christa McAuliffe’s backup for the ill-fated Challenger, which was destroyed in an explosion shortly after launch Jan. 28, 1986.





Astrium
Services and ThalesAlenia Space win a $1.66 billion, two-satellite contract from Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. of Abu Dhabi. The Yahsat system features two large spacecraft with substantial Ka-band capacity for both military and commercial users in the Middle East.





STS-118, NASA’s second shuttle mission of 2007, launches.





Hughes Network Systems’ Spaceway 3, a large Ka-band satellite for




two-way broadband service in North America, is successfully launched aboard an Ariane 5.







A U.S. Army official says a ground-based system that denies U.S. adversaries the use of commercial satellite systems has been deployed and is viewed as successful. Details of the system are not disclosed.





Boeing beats a team led by ATK Launch Systems




to win a nearly $515 million contract to produce the upper stage of the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle. It is Boeing’s first major piece of the new launch system.



Air Force Undersecretary Ronald Sega leaves the service to take a position in academia. While Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne took on Sega’s responsibilities in regards to space, the service has yet to fill the vacant position of undersecretary.









SEPTEMBER









NOAA deactivates the United States’ longest operating weather satellite, NOAA-12, after more than 15 years of service.







Two months after global dust storms nearly killed the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity are awake and back to work, some 43 months into missions originally planned to last three months.








Apax
Partners, a private equity firm, completes the purchase of Telenor Satellite Services. Now operating as Vizada, the company is a major distributor of Inmarsat mobile satellite services.



Japan successfully launches its Kaguya/Selene lunar observation satellite aboard an H-2A rocket.



An International Launch Services Proton-M rocket carrying the JCSAT-11 telecommunications satellite fails shortly after launch. Coming eight months after the failure of a Sea Launch rocket, the incident puts further pressure on the commercial satellite industry.





Globalstar
Inc.




agrees




to launch all 48 of its second-generation satellites aboard Russian Soyuz rockets operated by Europe’s Arianespace consortium, with a firm contract signed for the first 24 satellites to be launched in 2009 and 2010.

Google
and the X Prize Foundation announce a $30 million purse for private teams able to land a robotic rover on the Moon by 2012 and send back high-definition video.





DigitalGlobe‘s
WorldView-1 satellite, capable of detecting objects of 50 centimeters in diameter, is successfully launched aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket.





NASA’s Dawn spacecraft launches aboard a Delta 2 rocket on a 2.7 billion-kilometer journey to study a pair of asteroids.

Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee and vocal advocate for space and missile defense, announces that he will not seek re-election in 2008.

Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne notifies Pentagon acquisition chief John Young that the service has found flight software problems with the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellites that are expected to delay the first launch of those


satellites and drive up their cost.









OCTOBER











Stennis
Space Center Director Richard Gilbrech replaces Scott Horowitz as NASA associate administrator for exploration systems.

Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed radar satellite checks out and delivers first images.







The first of six U.S. Air Force Wideband Global Satcom communications satellites is launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. The government of Australia has agreed to fund the sixth flight model in return for access to the satellites’ telecommunications capacity.

The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, a NASA companion to the Hubble Space Telescope, ended its eight-year mission.







U.S. Senate approves an $18.45 billion budget for NASA for 2008, a sum that includes an extra $1 billion championed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) as a way to help NASA recover financially from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident. The House included no such additional funds for NASA and negotiations over a final bill bogged down late in the year over unrelated issues.





NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander is launched




from Cape Canaveral by a Delta 2 rocket.






NASA takes away RocketplaneKistler’s contract to develop a commercial space transportation vehicle.




The following week,




$175 million of that contract that had not been spent is made available to new bidders.




A new award is expected in February.



The Marino report, commissioned by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office and released in October, warns the intelligence community could be relying too much on imagery provided by commercial partners.







STS-120 launches.








Russia’s Proton rocket




returns to flight with the launch of three Glonass navigation satellites just seven weeks after the rocket’s failure.

China launches Chang’e-1, its first lunar mission.










Loral Space and Communications, in partnership with Canada’s PSP pension fund, completes the purchase of




Telesat
Canada.







Abertis
Telecom of Spain, which is already the biggest shareholder in satellite-fleet operator Eutelsat of Paris, agrees to purchase a 28.4 percent stake in Hispasat of Spain in a deal that values the Spanish satellite operator’s equity at $1 billion.

During the 2007 X Prize Cup, the Lunar Lander Challenge purse is again not awarded after Armadillo Aerospace spacecraft bursts into flames upon ignition.











NOVEMBER











NASA announces the roles its 10 regional field centers will play in developing the Ares 5 heavy-lift rocket, lunar lander and other hardware needed to return to the Moon. None of the new work is expected to begin in earnest until after the space shuttle is retired.




The Skynet 5B satellite is successfully launched, with Brazil’s Star One C1 spacecraft, aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.


Skynet 5B is the second of a planned three Skynet 5 satellites being operated by Paradigm Secure Communications under a long-term services contract with the British Defence Ministry and with NATO.





The World Radiocommunication Conference agrees




not to grant terrestrial broadband wireless technologies a global authorization in C-band, a victory for the satellite industry.





European Union transport ministers agree to proceed with the Galileo satellite navigation system following an accord on spending unused farm-support monies to complete the Galileo financing package. New competitive bids will be sought, with the system to be in service by late 2013.

The Air Force launches the last Defense Support Program spacecraft aboard the first operational mission of the heavy-lift variant of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4 rocket.

Germany launches




the




third of five SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites aboard a Russian Cosmos 3M rocket.

China’s first lunar probe, the Chang’e 1, reaches orbit.




DECEMBER











ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft confirms Venus is the fourth planet known to have lightning.





Fuel-sensor problems prompt NASA to postpone STS-122 to no earlier than Jan. 10 to permit additional trouble shooting.





An Inmarsat-financed Canadian company completes its purchase of Stratos Global Corp., one of Inmarsat’s biggest distributors in a deal worth $636 million.

NASA’s Discovery Program selects the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, mission for its 2011 launch opportunity. The $375 million mission will deploy a pair of identical satellites to map the Moon’s gravity field in unprecedented detail in order to reveal its interior structure.

Boeing Space Exploration beats out Ball Aerospace to win an $800 million NASA contract to build and outfit the avionics ring that will control the Ares 1 rocket.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket successfully launches a National Reconnaissance Office payload from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.






The second of Italy’s four planned high-resolution Cosmo-Skymed radar satellites is launched aboard a Delta 2 rocket.