NASA Completes Test On Solid Rocket Motor

NASA’s space shuttle program successfully test fired its first Production Rate Motor Aug. 16, testing material and design changes made to the reusable solid rocket motor that included sensor and insulation material upgrades.

The two-minute test was performed by ATK Thiokol Inc., an Alliant Techsystems company based in Promontory, Utah, where the stationary firing of the motor took place. The test was conducted by the Reusable Solid Rocket Motor Project Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The motor firing allowed engineers to evaluate the performance of new motor sensors, transducers that help determine the time of separation of the solid rocket boosters from the shuttle, new environment-friendly insulation material and other equipment.

Swift Satellite Collects Data On Newborn Black Holes

Scientists using NASA’s Swift satellite say they have detected several newborn black holes that are giving them new insight into star death and the resulting explosions that form black holes, NASA announced Aug. 18.

Scientists used to think there was a single explosion once a star died and a black hole began to form as a result, but the new data from the Swift spacecraft shows multiple explosions within the first few minutes after the initial one occurs. The scientists said Swift has documented nearly one dozen cases of several explosions, which most likely indicate the formation of new black holes.

The Swift spacecraft, launched in November 2004, carries the Burst Alert Telescope, the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope and the X-ray Telescope, which collected most of the data on the newborn black holes.

Milestone Reached in JWST Mirror Assembly

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) team has completed one step in the development of the primary mirrors for the spacecraft. JWST, the intended replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope, will collect data at infrared wavelengths to give scientists insight into the beginnings of the universe.

Northrop Grumman of Redondo Beach, Calif., the prime contractor on the Webb telescope project, announced Aug. 22 that the team had completed compressing molten beryllium, a lightweight metal, into 18 hexagonal units called blanks. In the next step, the blanks will be precision machined to reduce the weight of the mirrors.

The entire mirror manufacturing process is expected to take about 53 months, with Brush Wellman of Cleveland, Axsys Technologies Inc. of Cullman, Ala., and Tinsley Laboratories Inc. of Richmond, Calif., all contributing to that effort.

Planetary Society Awards Grants in Search for NEOs

The Planetary Society awarded grants to five researchers located around the world to search for potentially dangerous Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that could collide with Earth and cause devastating damage, the society announced Aug. 17.

The Gene Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grants help support researchers and programs to scan the sky for objects that cross Earth’s orbit, track their positions and course, and determine whether they will hit the planet. The society estimates nearly 70 percent of one-kilometer or larger objects that cross Earth’s orbit have been discovered thus far.

Since 1980, the Planetary Society has donated over one-quarter of a million dollars to asteroid research, half of which has gone to 22 Shoemaker grant recipients. The most recent recipients include researchers James W. Ashley of the United States, Peter Birtwhistle of England, David J. Higgins of Australia, Gianluca Masi of Italy and Erich Meyer of Austria.

Orbital Sciences Launches Second MDA Target Vehicle

Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., announced Aug. 23 it has successfully launched the second medium-range target vehicle in support of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA)’s Critical Measurements and Countermeasures Program, Campaign 1, which analyzes solutions to ballistic missile threats.

The medium-range Castor 4 BR target vehicle was launched Aug. 18 from the Kauai Test Facility at the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii. Orbital’s Launch Systems Group in Chandler, Ariz., conducted the test, as well as the successful launch of the first target vehicle Aug. 4 from Kauai.

Orbital was responsible for conducting launch operations, supplying the boost vehicle and integrating payload deployment and re-entry systems.

Sypris Opens New Fla.-Based Space Manufacturing Facility

Sypris Electronics, a subsidiary of Sypris Solutions Inc., held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 24 to mark the grand opening of its space manufacturing facility in Tampa, Fla. The 3,000-square meter facility is part of the company’s engineering and manufacturing operation in Tampa.

Suzuki To Offer XM-Ready Radio for 2006 Model Year

Japanese automaker Suzuki will begin offering XM-ready radio for the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara and XL-7 sports utility vehicles, which will arrive at U.S. dealerships in mid-September, XM Radio of Washington announced Aug. 23. The XM hardware will be available as a dealer-installed option for these vehicles.

Test Shows Missile Warning Swap Between U.S., Australia

The U.S. Air Force’s Space Based Infrared Program Office and the Australian Department of Defense sponsored a demonstration in which critical missile warning information was exchanged between the two countries, showcasing Australia’s ability to process and release missile warning messages from other nations, according to an Aug. 19 news release issued by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

In the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration Interoperability Trial held June 21-23, data from U.S. Defense Support Program satellites was transmitted to the Defense Science & Technology Organization in Adelaide, Australia. There, organization officials processed data and released missile warning messages to the demonstration’s operation center in Dahlgren, Va.

Australian Navy Cmdr. Chris Stephens said in the news release this demonstration is important because Australia has no military space assets of its own, and proves the country can receive and process data to issue missile warnings in a timely fashion.

Northrop Grumman To Supply GINS for the F/A-22

Northrop Grumman has won a contract from Lockheed Martin to supply up to 108 additional global position inertial navigation systems (GINS) for the U.S. Air Force’s F/A-22 Raptor aircraft, Northrop Grumman announced Aug. 24.

The avionics system will provide pilots with aircraft attitude, heading velocity and precise position. The GINS, which are part of Northrop Grumman’s LN-100 inertial navigation system product line, use standard embedded global positioning system modules.

The two-year contract is valued at $9 million. Assembly and testing of the GINS will be performed at Northrop Grumman’s Salt Lake City facility.

Vexcel Sells Aerial Camera To Turkish Mapping Service

Vexcel Corp. of Boulder, Colo., announced Aug. 19 the sale of a new large format digital aerial camera to Himtas, a provider of photogrammetric mapping services in Turkey.

Vexcel’s UltraCam-D large-format digital camera can provide over 200,000 uncompressed aerial images and can support pixels smaller than three centimeters on the ground. The sale also included Vexcel’s UltraMap Server to catalog and archive digital images.

Northrop Grumman IT Gets $19 Million Task Order

Northrop Grumman Information Technology of McLean, Va., announced Aug. 18 that it has received a new task order under the Network Centric Solutions (Netcents) program to provide the U.S. Air Force with telecommunications management systems that will integrate telephone and network operations.

Under the task order, valued at $19 million through December 2006, Northrop Grumman will provide hardware and software to establish a telecommunications management system for more than 100 Air Force locations worldwide. The system will consolidate multiple voice-network systems as well as direct data into one centralized management system.

The company also will provide training on the management system for Air Force personnel.

Rep. Weldon Urges U.S.-Russia Missile Defense Work

U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, criticized the Pentagon for failing to find a new avenue of cooperative missile defense work with Russia during an Aug. 18 speech at the 2005 Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Ala.

Weldon had been a vocal supporter of the Russian American Observation Satellite (Ramos) program, a joint effort to develop an experimental missile warning spacecraft. Ramos was started by the U.S. Defense Department in 1993 with the intention of easing tensions between the two countries on missile defense.

The Pentagon announced in February 2004 that it was ending its participation in the program because it had failed to reach an agreement with Russia on how to finish the work.

Since then, Weldon has pressed the Pentagon to find a new collaborative project, and has gone public with his disappointment that the Defense Department did not agree to a proposed deal for shared use of Russian early warning radar systems and U.S. use of Russian missile targets during intercept tests.

Failing to find a new cooperative arrangement encourages Russia to foster stronger ties with countries like India and China, rather than the United States, and could lead to increased proliferation of Russian military technology around the world, Weldon said during his speech at the conference, which was sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association, the Army Space and Missile Defense Association and the Air Defense Artillery Association.

NASA To Study Pentagon Missile Automation Work

NASA plans to study the Pentagon’s work with ballistic missiles and missile interceptors to improve the reliability of its manned spacecraft, according to Charles Chitwood, deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

The agency is planning a working group with representatives from the military services and the Missile Defense Agency in hopes of learning lessons on how to automate vehicle health functions to improve safety and reliability while at the same time bringing down costs, Chitwood said during an Aug. 18 speech at the 2005 Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville.

U.S. Army Officials Want A Role in Near Space

The U.S. Army should not take a backseat to the Air Force as the military pursues the development of near space vehicles, according to Army Lt. Col. Greg Palka, operational manager of the High Altitude Airship and Joint Blue Force Situational Awareness programs.

The Army should not contest the Air Force’s role as the Pentagon’s executive agent for space programs, Palka said during an Aug. 18 speech at the 2005 Space and Missile Defense Conference. However, Army Space and Missile Defense Command has sufficient expertise to develop near space platforms, which are envisioned as helium-powered vehicles that can loiter for long periods of time at altitudes of about 20,000 kilometers, he said.

The Army’s urgent communications and intelligence needs on the battlefield, coupled with expected delays on new generations of satellite systems, should cause the service to maintain control of the development of near space systems that satisfy its requirements in order to field them as soon as possible, rather than wait for another service to do it for them, Palka said.

TVI Wins Army Contract For Infrared Patches

TVI Corp. of Glenn Dale, Md., received a five-year contract from the U.S. Army to provide near-infrared reflective uniform patches to help soldiers avoid friendly fire incidents , according to a company news release issued on Aug. 25.

The patches reflect infrared signals that can be picked up by equipment carried by U.S. forces to help troops differentiate between their fellow soldiers on the field and the enemy, according to the news release.

TVI, which has used this same material to design landing zone markers for military aircraft, plans to have the patches available to all troops by 2007.

The news release did not state the value of the deal. Richard Priddy, TVI president and chief executive officer, did not return a request for comment.

Satellite Data Improves Weather Forecasting

NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists said new research will help them improve traditional weather forecasts by up to 4 percent. The research was based on data collected by the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), one of six science instruments onboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, launched in 2002. AIRS is a high-resolution instrument which takes three-dimensional pictures of atmospheric temperatures, water vapor and trace gases, which are all integral components to forecasting weather.

Scientists incorporated data into numerical weather prediction models, which has improved weather forecasts by up to six hours, NASA said.

NOAA has incorporated the data from the instrument into its National Weather Service operational weather forecasts.

John LeMarshall, director of the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, said in a news release that improvements of this degree normally take several years to achieve.

“This is a major advancement, and it is only the start of what we may see as much more data from this instrument is incorporated into operational forecast models,” LeMarshall said.

Integral Systems Wins $1.2 Million GPS Contract

Integral Systems of Lanham, Md., announced Aug. 25 it has won a $1.2 million study contract from the U.S. Air Force to investigate and develop hardware and software for the Air Force’s next generation GPS ground segment. Under the six-month contract, Integral also will perform technology demonstrations to show the architecture’s compatibility with Air Force GPS mission requirements.

Glowlink Wins Contract To Support 1st Space Battalion

Glowlink Communications Technology has won a contract from the U.S. Army Space and Missile Command/Army Strategic Command to provide additional software and training to the 1st Space Battalion to operate the company’s satellite monitoring and interference detection system.

Glowlink of Los Altos, Calif., will deliver more software licenses for the MS100 monitoring station and extend operation and maintenance training. The MS100 includes a fly away antenna and the company’s Model 1000 Satellite Monitoring System.

Glowlink spokeswoman Valerie Low-Abbasi would not disclose the value of the contract.

Harris Corp. Receives NSA Tactical Radio Certification

Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., has received U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) certification for its new Falcon 3 hand-held tactical radio, which can protect top-secret voice and data traffic for military users.

The tactical radio, labeled by the U.S. government as AN/PRC-152, uses the Joint Tactical Radio System software architecture to ensure the protection of classified data between military officials.

The unit also can be embedded with a global positioning system receiver, which is a rare option for tactical handheld radios, according to an Aug. 24 news release issued by Harris Corp.

Asiasat‘s Earnings Drop 7% In ‘Difficult Market’

Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd. had to contend with a “difficult market” and “price pressure,” earning 27 percent less profit so far this year than during the same time period in 2004, representatives said.

The company’s revenue was 185 million Hong Kong dollars for the first six months of 2005, compared to 254 million Hong Kong dollars for that time period in 2004.

Company officials said in a press release that comparing financial results between 2004 and 2005 were distorted by the inclusion of a one-time receipt in 2004 for the early termination of a transponder utilization agreement.

Revenue for the first half of 2005 came to 445 million Hong Kong dollars, 106 million Hong Kong dollars less than the first six months of 2005.

Officials did not have high hopes that things would pick up in the remainder of 2005.

“The outlook for the rest of 2005 remains unpromising and it will be difficult to maintain the results for the full year at the level achieved in 2004,” Asiasat chairman Romain Bausch said in a statement.

ViaSat To Supply Simulation System to Lockheed for F-35

ViaSat Inc. has won a $19.8 million contract from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics of Forth Worth, Texas, to supply a Communication, Navigation and Identification Function Simulator for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a supersonic stealth aircraft, San Diego-based ViaSat announced Aug. 24.

The simulator produces an environment in which communication, navigation, identification and weapon system devices can all be properly tested.

The new simulator also is more modular in design to accommodate a larger array of simulation requirements, as well as able to perform faster operations and support a much denser signal environment, according to ViaSat.

EchoStar Offers Free TV To Any Town Renamed ‘Dish’

A municipality has the chance to earn free satellite TV service for all of its residents for a 10-year period — provided officials agree to change the town’s name to “Dish”.

Direct-to-home satellite television provider EchoStar Communications is behind the unconventional marketing approach.

Under the agreement, every household in the city or town that agrees to change its name would receive a complete satellite TV system and programming for 10 years.

Englewood, Calif.-based EchoStar gave an example of the offer’s value by saying a town of 1,000 households would receive approximately $4 million worth of programming, equipment and installation.

The town which accepts the tradeoff must permit government buildings, post offices, official letterheads and other buildings and signage to reflect the new name, and document the change with the state and federal government.

German, Russian Aerospace Executives Strengthen Ties

German aerospace industry executives who want to improve relations with Russian companies signed a trade show agreement to jumpstart the effort Aug. 17.

Representatives from the German Aerospace Industries Association and the Russian Federal Agency for Industry inked the memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the MAKS 2005 International Aviation & Space Salon in Moscow.

The move is aimed to foster cooperation for Germany’s biannual Internationale Luftfahrtausstellung (ILA) air show and Russia’s MAKS air show, which ran Aug. 16-21.

Hans-Joachim Gante, chairman of the Berlin-based Aerospace Industries Association, or BDLI, said the MoU should improve industry relations.

The agreement calls for organizers of both shows to grant a “special status” to each other during the events, said BDLI spokesman Jens Kr�ger. The German Association has invited the Russian aerospace industry and government to become an official partner of the ILA 2006 in Berlin, Kr�ger said.

“We see Russia and the Russian aerospace industry as a brilliant partner. Already, there are a number of cooperation projects in the realm of space and civil aviation that are lucrative for both sides,” Gante said.

Axel Krein, Airbus senior vice president for industrial affairs in Russia, said, “If you look at global cooperation now, no manufacturer is working by itself. [The] ILA and MAKS agreement will help break down the barriers between companies and countries.”

A spokesman with EADS Deutschland agreed: “We are seeking ways to expand our strategic partnerships with Russia and this agreement helps the German industry,” said Alexander Reinhardt, head of communications with EADS Defense and Security Systems division.

Inmarsat Posts Higher Half-Year Revenue

After a busy first half of 2005, featuring an initial public offering and a successful satellite launch, mobile satellite communications service provider Inmarsat posted revenues of $253.6 million for the past six months, $10.1 million higher than the first half of 2004.

Profits for Inmarsat were up, as the company brought in $42.8 million for the half-year, up from first-half 2004’s $19.3 million.

Maritime services performed strongly for Inmarsat, garnering $134 million in revenue, up from $125 million for the same time period a year ago.

The first Inmarsat-4 satellite, built by EADS Astrium of Europe, launched March 11 to support digital communications traffic in the Indian Ocean region.

Inmarsat officially was listed as a public company on the London Stock Exchange June 22.

BRAC Commission Votes To Move NGA to Virginia

The Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) voted Aug. 24 to consolidate 3,000 Washington-area employees of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) at a military base in Northern Virginia and to close a U.S. Army’s facility in Fort Monmouth, N.J., that is home to much of that service’s space and network development and acquisition activity.

The commission, which includes former cabinet officers , former lawmakers and retired military officers, has until Sept. 8 to submit its changes to President George W. Bush. If the president accepts its recommendations the list then goes to Congress, which has 45 legislative days to reject or accept the entire package.

NGA’s Washington area employees will move to Fort Belvoir, Va. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) asked the commission to consider moving the intelligence agency’s personnel to Fort Meade, Md., home to the National Security Agency.

The move of NGA employees from commercial and residential areas to a military base is needed, the NGA said in May, because “consolidating NGA facilities in the east will solve critical security and force protection issues for the agency.”

The decision to close Fort Monmouth, home to the Army’s Communications and Electronics Command, was not absolute. The Army can only move personnel and operations from the fort if it can demonstrate this will not harm U.S. military operations, the commission said. Fort Monmouth is home to a wide array of space-related Army program executive offices and project and program managers. While it does not provide a breakout of space spending, the Communications and Electronics Command’s acquisition center committed to spending $8.04 billion dollars in 2004.

Elements of the Program Executive Office (PEO) for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical and PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors; and the Joint Network Management System Program Office are among Monmouth facilities slated to relocate to Aberdeen Proving Ground or to Fort Meade, both in Maryland.

Pakistan Plans To Build Remote Sensing Satellite

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has approved construction of a remote sensing satellite, according to the Aug. 22 issue of Dawn, one of Pakistan’s largest newspapers.

The Remote Sensing Satellite System (RSSS) will cost 19.3 billion rupees ($323.8 million) and is designed “to ensure strategic and unconditional supply of satellite remote sensing data,” the newspaper said.

The article said the high-resolution satellite “will be available for national defense and security” and also will be used by universities and non profit organizations. It will be built by the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco) over six years.

Pakistan’s first satellite, Badr-1, was launched in 1990. Badr-2, launched in 2001, carried an experimental Earth imaging payload.

Com Dev Revises Projections As 3Q Revenue, Profit Drop

Citing staff shifts and delivery delays, Ontario-based Com Dev International posted lower third quarter profit and revenue compared to the same quarter in 2004.

“I have to say we’ve missed our objectives in a couple of areas,” Chief Executive Officer John Keating said in a conference call with analysts Aug. 24.

Net income for the Canadian designer and manufacturer of space hardware subsystems came in at 1.6 million Canadian dollars for third quarter of 2005, compared to 1.8 million Canadian dollars in the same period last year.

Com Dev took in 31.2 million Canadian dollars in revenue during the third quarter of 2005, a 4 percent decrease from the third quarter of 2004, when the company took in 32.4 million Canadian dollars.

“This result is disappointing to us,” Keating said, citing a delay in order booking rate, with 40 percent of the third-quarter orders booked in the last week of the quarter.

The delays have caused the company to change its revenue projection for 2005. Keating said while the company previously had projected a 10 percent increase in revenue for the calendar year, the company now expects that increase to be 6 percent.

“We don’t expect to get back to our normal situation until early next year,” Keating said.

To help ease some of its financial constraints, Com Dev decided to relocate some of the activities in its European facility to its Cambridge, Ontario headquarters, a move which cut 30 employees and cost 531,000 Canadian dollars.

Com Dev recorded 43.6 million Canadian dollars in new orders for the quarter, more than 50 percent higher than the previous quarter, Keating said. Com Dev made strides in increasing its success in booking military and civil space orders, Keating said. Com Dev expects to increase its new orders even further, because projections show that while 11 commercial communications satellites have been produced so far this year industry-wide, the number of satellites produced in 2005 could be as high as 20, Keating said.

Raytheon Delivers DCGS To Langley Air Force Base

Raytheon Company delivered an experimental Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) to Langley Air Force Base, Va., where the company will conduct testing and accreditation of the equipment with the U.S. Air Force.

The DCGS is an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data-sharing network that will work across the U.S. military services and defense intelligence agencies. The system is designed to give users worldwide access through the network to all of the latest intelligence on an area of interest.

Wayne Tibbit, program manager for DCGS, acknowledged that delivery of the experimental model took longer than the company’s “extraordinarily aggressive schedule,” which had promised delivery by March. However, Raytheon accomplished a job that normally takes four to five years in a span of 19 months, Tibbit said.

The biggest challenge on the project, Tibbit said, was integrating off-the-shelf and government technology into the system as a whole, so that the Air Force could save money by using commercial and some of its existing technology to keep things affordable.

The experimental model has “all the functionality of a fully operational system,” Tibbit said. The Air Force will run the system through its own series of tests and then use it to perform demonstrations beginning in November, said Raytheon spokesman Keith Little. The DCGS delivery schedule for Raytheon extends to 2008, and the company will deliver 30 systems by that time. The contract has the potential to be worth around $500 million to the Waltham, Mass.-based company, Little said.

Northrop Grumman To Build 5 Global Hawks at $60 Million

The Pentagon awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. a $60 million contract for the purchase of five Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles, according to a Defense Department contract announcement issued Aug. 25.

The contract also covers the purchase of related ground control and aircraft recovery equipment. Four of those aircraft, which have been lauded by the military for their performance in Iraq, will include improved sensor packages, according to the contract announcement.