Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 20 June 2007
04:06 pm ET















Atlas 5 Rocket Launches Spy Satellite for the NRO











A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket successfully launched a classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) June 15 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the agency announced. It was the first Atlas 5 launch of an NRO payload, the agency said.







Telesat, Ciel Win Rights to Canadian Orbital Positions



The Canadian Ministry of Industry on June 13 announced that it had granted provisional licenses for seven new satellite orbital slots to Ciel Satellite LP and five others to Telesat Canada following a licensing procedure that originated with an offer of 29 orbital locations.

Seven of the 12 slots that were allocated - four to Telesat Canada, three to Ciel – are for the 17-gigahertz section of the radio spectrum, which has been set aside for broadcast satellite services including video and broadband Internet access.

Three orbital positions were allocated for Ka-band services, which up to now have focused on two-way Internet traffic. Ciel received two of the three, with Telesat getting one.

Ciel
also was granted the two remaining orbital positions, one in extended Ku-band and the other in the 12-gigahertz bands.

Both companies still must prepare specific operational and ownership plans for each of the allocated positions before being granted an operating license. The licenses are expected to include milestone obligations for




satellite contracts and launches




, and the business plans must guarantee Canadian control.

The Canadian Ministry of Industry said in a statement that the two companies have “indicated their intention to invest several billion dollars” in developing the orbital slots. “The first satellites are expected to provide services as early as 2010.”

Ciel
is a start-up company that is 70 percent owned by satellite-fleet operator SES of Luxembourg. Its Ciel-2 satellite is scheduled for launch in late 2008. Telesat Canada, following a change in ownership to take effect this summer, is majority-owned by Loral Space and Communications of New York, with a Canadian pension fund retaining majority voting rights.

Rocketplane

Kistler Misses COTS Milestone



NASA says it intends to continue subsidizing development of RocketplaneKistler’s




K-1 reusable rocket despite the company’s




failure to meet a May financial milestone.

Rocketplane
Kistler (RpK) of Oklahoma City, Okla., was one of two companies selected by NASA last August to share $500 million to develop international space station resupply vehicles under the Commercial Orbital




Transportation Services, or COTS, program.



El Segundo, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies is the other COTS contender.

Both companies are required to show NASA that they are making steady progress toward planned 2009 flight demonstrations.

RpK did not meet the milestone that called for completion of a second round of private financing by the end of May,” NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey confirmed June 13 in a statement. “RpK has made progress in developing its capability and NASA is hopeful the company can complete this milestone with some schedule adjustments.




NASA is fully committed to encouraging a robust commercial crew and cargo space transportation capability and is working with RpK on a plan that would provide the company additional time to meet its goal while also meeting NASA’s needs.”





Will Trafton, executive vice president for business development at RpK, said June 13 that the company completed an initial $40 million financing round in October and is pushing ahead with NASA’s concurrence on a plan to achieve full funding for the K-1 earlier than previously planned.

He acknowledged missing the




last financial milestone, but said the company is nonetheless making progress towards full funding. In the meantime, he said, RpK has




met all of its K-1 technical and programmatic milestones to date.


Orbital Reaping Profit on Small Telecom Satellites



Global demand for small commercial telecommunications satellites this year is stronger than expected and Orbital Sciences Corp. is the company reaping the biggest benefits,




David W. Thompson, Orbital’s chairman, said.

With new plant capacity capable of handling more satellites




, the Dulles, Va.-based company is seeing “strongly increasing [profit] margins – in the 7-plus




percent range in 2007 and moving to 8-9 percent as we move toward the end of the decade,” Thompson said June 12 in remarks to an investors




conference organized by Morgan Stanley.

Orbital Sciences specializes in relatively small telecommunications satellites with payload power of 5




kilowatts or less. The company has booked five firm orders and options for four more of these satellites so far in 2007, an order intake that testifies to the health of this end of the market.

“We have never seen market demand as strong as it has been over the past year or so in this area,” Thompson said. The company is forecasting that its Satellites and Advanced Systems division, which includes the commercial satellite line, will grow by up to 10 percent per year for the next three years.



Orbital Sciences estimates that the global market for small commercial telecommunications satellites totaled $500 million in 2006 and that it captured half of it. The company




faces occasional competition from Lockheed Martin and Space Systems/Loral, but its major competitors are ThalesAlenia Space and Astrium Satellites, both of Europe.

For 2007, Thompson said, Orbital likely will show an increased market share. The company recently won a multi-satellite order from SES Americom, the U.S. subsidiary of SES of Luxembourg, adding the world’s second-largest satellite-fleet operator to its customer base. Intelsat of Washington, the largest fleet operator, is already an Orbital Sciences customer.

Thompson said small satellites now account for 35-40 percent of the total commercial telecommunications satellite market when measured by units sold.









U.S. Air Force Requests Bids for T-Sat Contract



The prime contract for the U.S. Air Force’s Transformational Satellite Communications (T-Sat) system space segment covers up to five satellites, plus one ground spare, and could be worth as much as $15 billion, the Air Force said June 14.

In a press release marking the release of the long-awaited formal request for proposals for T-Sat, the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) said the work also will include the system’s command, control and communications infrastructure. The contract is slated for award by the end of this year, with the first satellite expected to launch during the fourth quarter of calendar year 2015.





Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which have designed competing T-Sat systems under Air Force study contracts, reiterated their intent to vie for the prime contract in separate statements issued June 14.





Lockheed Martin Space Systems will leverage its




past experience in designing secure communications satellites for the military, as well as newly developed technology, in its proposal, company spokesman Steve Tatum said in a written response to questions.

Howard Chambers, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, said in a news release that the company’s work on the commercial Spaceway




communications satellites has helped to reduce risk on its T-Sat proposal.




Roskosmos Employee Suspected of Espionage



Austrian authorities have detained on suspicion of spying a Russian space agency (Roskosmos) employee who was in Vienna attending a United Nations-sponsored space conference, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement released June 15.

The unidentified man was a member of the official Russian delegation to the 50th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space




, said TatyanaKupalova, a spokeswoman for the Russian embassy in




Austria.




In a June 14 interview, she




said




the embassy




has sent an official protest to the Austrian Foreign Ministry “over detention of an official member of the official Russian delegation.”







Vyacheslav
Mikhailichenko, spokesman for Roskosmos




, refused to comment when reached by phone on June 15.




Israeli Rocket Launches Nation’s Newest Spy Sat









A planned expansion of Israeli military space capabilities got off to a successful start June 11 with the launch of the Ofeq-7 photoreconnaissance satellite aboard a Shavit rocket from a military base along the nation’s central Mediterranean coast.

The launch of Ofeq-7 aboard the indigenously built rocket marked a much-needed success after the September 2004 loss of Ofeq-6 due to a Shavit failure. The newest spacecraft, with its high-resolution optical imaging payload, will replace the five-year-old Ofeq-5, which is nearing the end of its operational lifespan.

In interviews in Tel Aviv, defense and industry officials said the satellite was launched to an elliptical orbit of 300 kilometers by 600 kilometers and appears to be functioning properly. Following separation from the launcher, Ofeq-7 performed a series of autonomous activities, including deployment of its solar panels.

The satellite will undergo several tests in the coming days “to validate its serviceability and satisfactory performance,” Israel’s Ministry of Defense said in a June 11 statement.

Ofeq-7, like its predecessors in the Ofeq series, as well as the Shavit launcher, are produced by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. Elop, a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd., produces the imaging payload.







Spanish Conglomerate Weighs Bid for Hispasat 



The Spanish industrial conglomerate abertis said June 11 it is weighing a possible bid for satellite-fleet operator Hispasat following Hispasat’s disclosure that its shareholders are considering a public stock offering.

Barcelona-based abertis, whose abertis telecom subsidiary already owns 32 percent of satellite-fleet operator Eutelsat Communications of Paris, said a possible play for Hispasat would depend on whether and how Hispasat proceeds with a stock-market listing.

Eutelsat
currently owns 27.7 percent of Hispasat. Eutelsat’s interest in increasing its stake to a majority share has been opposed by the Spanish government.



In a




June 11 statement to Spanish stock-market authorities, abertis said it has been holding discussions with Hispasat shareholders in recent weeks “on a possible acquisition” but that no decision has been made.



The abertis announcement comes a week after Hispasat announced it had ordered an Amazonas-2 telecommunications satellite to cover Brazil, adding to capacity the company already has over the region. It also follows Eutelsat’s announcement that Eutelsat had joined with Mexican partners to make a bid to purchase Mexican satellite-fleet operator Satmex, which is being sold at auction.






























Iridium To Be Installed






On Australian Rail Network



Beam Communications Pty Ltd. of Australia will add Iridium satellite capabilities to a nationwide railroad communications network for Australian Rail Track Corp. Ltd. under a contract awarded by Australia’s Telstra Corp. telecommunications carrier, Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium Satellite LLC announced June 11.



Under the contract, valued at between $3 million and $3.5 million, Telstra will add an Iridium-based satellite backup data and voice communications capability to




existing terrestrial links that enable locomotives operating across a 10,000-kilometer rail network to communicate with station managers.



The contract covers eight years of service and follows a $4.2 million contract that Telstra announced with Beam earlier this year to provide fixed and car-mounted Iridium phones as part of Telstra’s Universal Service Obligation program in Australia.




Northrop, Zero-G Expand Teacher Flight Program






Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles is expanding its sponsorship of educational flights aboard the microgravity-simulating aircraft operated commercially by Zero Gravity Corp. (Zero-G), Zero-G said in a June 12 press release.

Zero-G hopes to fly a total of about 400 teachers and college students this year aboard its G-Force One aircraft, up from last year’s total of 250.

The expanded Weightless Flights of Discovery program plan calls for sixteen flights to depart this year from eight locations: Washington; Baltimore; Los Angeles; New Orleans; Newport News, Va.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Dallas; and Bethpage, N.Y.

Before flights, the participants will attend a workshop to learn how to maneuver in microgravity. They also will receive lessons on ways they can incorporate the experience into their teaching curricula.

In a related development, Lucy Hawking, daughter of world-renowned astrophysicist Stephen W. Hawking, flew aboard G-Force One in a June 9 Father’s Day flight originating from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. She was following in her father’s footsteps: The elder Hawking flew aboard G-Force One April 26.

In a June 8 press release previewing Lucy Hawking’s flight, Zero-G of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., said the experience would provide material for an upcoming book on space that she is writing with her father.

The flights of both Hawkings were sponsored by novelty retailer the Sharper Image and Space Florida, a state-funded organization that promotes aerospace activities in that state.

G-Force One flies a pattern of parabolas that provide brief periods of near weightlessness to its passengers. Typically, flights aboard G-Force One cost $3,500.

MDA, Orbit Logic Ink Contract for Software



Orbit Logic of Greenbelt, Md., signed an agreement to develop and provide satellite collection-planning software for ground stations built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) of Richmond, British Columbia, Orbit Logic said in a June 6 press release.

MDA will install the software in ground stations it is supplying to third-party customers operating high-resolution satellite imaging systems, Orbit Logic spokesman Alex Herz said June 14.

The collection-planning software is based on code originally developed by Orbit Logic for imaging satellite operators including GeoEye of Dulles, Va. It uses multiple planning algorithms to provide optimized collection schedules for satellite operators. The software is slated for delivery to MDA in late 2007.




Northrop To Develop EHF System for B-2 Bomber



Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles will develop an extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communications system for installation aboard the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Stealth bomber fleet, a June 11 company news release said.

The new EHF system will be up to 100 times faster than the ultra-high frequency satellite communications system currently used aboard B-2 aircraft, the release said.

The program will consist of three phases. The first phase, worth $171 million, began in February, and includes system development and demonstration. It is expected to take about 62 months to complete, the release said.

The costs and timetable for the second and third phases, which involve installation and integration, are unavailable, Northrop Grumman spokesman Brooks McKinney said in a June 13 e-mail response to questions.




WISE Telescope Passes Critical Design Review



The spacecraft platform for NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has passed its critical design review, Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. said in a June 12 press release.

The review




confirmed the design of the satellite platform, or bus,




validated cost and schedule documentation, and verified test requirements, according to the release.

Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colo., is building the




560-kilogram WISE bus




based on the design of the




NextSat
spacecraft that the company supplied for




the Pentagon’s




Orbital Express satellite servicing experiment.





NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory of




Pasadena, Calif., is managing the WISE mission. The spacecraft’s primary instrument, a super-cooled infrared telescope, is being built by the




Space Dynamics Laboratory of Logan, Utah




.

The WISE mission is scheduled for launch in 2013.




Dwarf Planet Proves To be More Massive than Pluto





Scientists




studying data collected by space- and ground-based telescopes have confirmed that a




dwarf planet discovered in 2005




at the edge of the solar system




is more massive than Pluto, a June 12 press release from the American Astronomical Society said.

Eris
, which already had been shown to have a larger diameter than Pluto, also weighs more- even though its mass is only about one fifth that of the




Moon




.

And with Eris located nearby in the




Kuiper
belt, Pluto, which recently lost its status as a planet, can no longer even be recognized as




the largest body in its neighborhood.





Mike Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at California Institute of Technology in




Pasadena,




and




graduate student Emily Schaller




determined Eris‘ dimensions based on observations by the




Hubble Space Tele




scope and




the Keck Observatory




in Kamuela, Hawaii.








Their findings were reported in the June 15 issue of the journal Science.




TGV Rockets Completes Initial Round of Testing on New Engine










TGV Rockets Inc. of Norman, Okla., has successfully finished a round of test firings of a new adjustable-thrust rocket




engine being developed under a U.S. Navy contract, the company said in a June 9 press release.

The Phase I tests




took place in April and May at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The 30,000-pound-thrust-class




engine, which uses military jet fuel, showed stable combustion throughout its operating range and consistent ignition even at




20 percent of full power, according to the release.





Phase 2 testing is now under way, the press release said.



The




development




project is




funded under




a contract originally awarded




by the Washington-based U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in 2003, TGV Chief Executive Officer Pat Bahn said in a June 12 telephone interview. He said the




contract




has been extended a couple of times.



As of press time, Naval Research Laboratory spokesman Dick Thompson had yet to provide details, including the value, of the TGV Rockets contract.



“Our ultimate goal is a transportable spacecraft that can be launched and landed in remote locations to provide quick-look low-cost imagery for both military and commercial applications,” Bahn said in a prepared statement.











Debut of European ATV Delayed to Mid January





The launch of Europe’s unmanned cargo-transfer vehicle to the international space station has slipped again, to mid




January at the earliest.




The European Space Agency (ESA) council agreed to the delay June 14 after deciding that neither the vehicle nor the orbital complex would be fully ready for the vehicle’s arrival before then.



Meeting in Dresden, Germany, the council accepted the recommendation of Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) program managers that a




planned November launch aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket be scrapped in favor of the later date.



The first ATV nonetheless remains on track to be shipped in mid




July from ESA’sEstec facility in Noordwijk, Netherlands, to Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana




.




The ATV will be part of a 300,000-kilogram shipment, including 50 large crates, all to be loaded onto a transport ship for the 12-day voyage




.

ESA officials said the volume of traffic currently expected around the space station in November would have made it difficult to perform the long approach and docking maneuver of the 19,400-kilogram ATV




. Adding




to this difficulty is the fact that the ATV will be launched aboard




an Ariane 5 variant using a restartable upper-stage engine that will not be tested in orbit until September.

Finally, officials said a series of final ATV system verifications will need to be completed between now and the July transport date. Delaying the launch will insert leeway into the tight schedule, they said.





TCS Lands Army Order For Satellite Equipment






TeleCommunications
Systems Inc. (TCS) nabbed




a $1.1 million contract to provide satellite ground-system components to the U.S. Army, the company said in a June 13 press release.

The contract covers hardware for C- and Ku-band satellite terminals and other platforms. The








customer is the Project Manager, Defense Communications and Army Transmission System (PM DCATS), which is located at Fort Monmouth, N.J., TCS said.







The PM DCATS team provides




bandwidth for the Department of Defense’s Global Information Grid, Annapolis, Md.-based TCS said.


Saab Space To Supply Antennas for LCROSS





Saab Space of Gothenburg, Sweden, will supply




telemetry antennas to Northrop Grumman Space Technology




for use aboard a NASA lunar impact probe, Saab said in a June 11




press release




.



Redondo Beach, Calif.-based Northrop Grumman Space Technology




will install




the S-band Patch Excited Cup antennas aboard




the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS). Similar hardware was




used aboard the




Small Mission for Advanced Research and Technology-1, the European Space Agency’s first lunar orbiter. That mission ended in September 2006 with a pre-planned impact into the lunar surface.

Terms of the LCROSS antenna contract were not disclosed but Lars Nordfeldt, a spokesman for Saab Space, said its value was in the “couple of hundred-thousand dollars” range.

LCROSS, whose main hardware elements are an upper-stage rocket engine and a secondary payload adapter ring outfitted with special instrumentation, is scheduled to launch to the Moon in late 2008 along with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The upper stage will slam into the Moon’s south pole, creating a debris cloud that will be observed by the instruments aboard the adapter ring, which then also will




crash into the lunar surface.




ESA Council Ponders Galileo Strategy Shift





The European Space Agency (ESA)




June 13-14 received a status report on the Galileo satellite-navigation system and the decision by European Union transport ministers to switch to an all-public-funding development model, but reserved comment until September at the earliest, according to ESA officials.

ESA’s
ruling council, meeting in Dresden, Germany, was briefed on the June 8 decision by EU transport ministers to abandon negotiations with a private-sector consortium on future Galileo financing and management.

ESA and EU transport ministers up to now have divided the costs of Galileo development. It had been the Brussels-based EU Commission’s job to bring the private sector into the picture with the promise of a 20-year concession to manage Galileo has a business.

But the private-sector consortium was unable to craft a business model that removed enough risk to permit private-sector investment while at the same time easing the financial burden on European taxpayers.

The transport ministers asked the commission to investigate alternate, all-public financing schemes and to report back by September.

One scenario being discussed in Brussels is




having ESA take on added financial responsibility for development of the Galileo satellite constellation. An ESA official said this idea was discussed informally at the June 13-14 meeting. “Some governments clearly said they did not like the idea,” this official said.




Continental Airlines Orders Iridium Gear from Avionica



Avionica Inc. won a contract to install




Iridium satellite communications equipment aboard




nine




Boeing 737-800 aircraft operated by Continental Airlines, Avionica announced June13




.

Miami-based Avionica, which supplies equipment for the handling, storage and analysis of cockpit flight data, introduced its satLINK Iridium system in 2006 to provide voice and data communications to cockpits via the 66-satellite Iridium system.





The satLINK system includes a control panel, antenna, wiring and structural elements.

Terms of the contract were not disclosed.





“The application of Iridium satcom services will eliminate the sole dependency on standard radio communication methods which are subject to range limitations over isolated areas,”




Jun Tsuruta, senior director of technical purchasing for Houston-based Continental Airlines, said in a prepared statement.







GeoEye Takes Stake in Geospatial Analysis Firm




Imaging satellite operator GeoEye has made a strategic investment in Spatial Data Analytics Corp. (Spadoc) as part of a partnership arrangement that will give each company access to the other’s capabilities, GeoEye said in a June 13 press release.





The deal was closed June 8, said GeoEye spokesman Mark Brender. He




declined to divulge the value of GeoEye’s investment.





Under the agreement,




Dennis Jones, GeoEye’s




vice




president of




business




development
and




government




affairs,




will take a seat on Spadac’s board of directors.



Spadoc of McLean, Va.,




uses a combination of imagery, software and experts to analyze past events in order to predict where future events of concern will occur. “Anything that allows you to predict a next event is worthwhile,”




Brender
said in a July 13 interview.

Meanwhile, Spadac will utilize Dulles, Va.-based GeoEye’s imagery and related expertise




to help improve its analytical processes, Spadac spokesman Alex Napoli said in a June 13 telephone interview.

“Through this partnership, both companies will explore business development opportunities for mutual and multiple vertical market applications,” Jones said in a prepared statement.