A suspected defect in the Fregat upper stage of Russia’s Soyuz launch vehicle has grounded the hardware
at least until late September, according to industry officials. The scheduled launch of the last four first-generation Globalstar mobile telephone satellites, which had been scheduled for late July, remains next on the vehicle’s manifest.
One official said a post-launch review of the successful May 30 launch of four Globalstar satellites discovered abnormal readings that have forced Fregat prime contractor NPO Lavochkin of Khimki, Russia, to suspend delivery of the stage to Russia’s BaikonurCosmodrome
in Kazakhstan until engineers can resolve the issue.
The exact nature of the Fregat problem is unclear. The French-Russian Starsem joint venture, which markets
Soyuz launches, said it expects the September Globalstar launch to be followed by the launch of Canada’s Radarsat-2 Earth observation satellite later next fall
The Globalstar launch had been scheduled for June, but was delayed because of a last-minute holdup in the delivery of the four spacecraft from ThalesAlenia Space’s assembly plant in Rome. ThalesAlenia Space officials said the four satellites now are ready to ship to Baikonur once the Fregat issues are resolved.
Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar Inc. is struggling to mitigate the effects of a decline in performance of its current generation of 48 low-orbiting satellites and had counted on the earliest possible arrival of eight fresh spacecraft this year. The first four of these satellites were
Globalstar has a second generation of Globalstar satellites under construction at ThalesAlenia Space, with deliveries scheduled to start in mid-2009. Globalstar has not yet secured contracts for the launch of these satellites
House ’08 Spending Bill Gives NASA $17.6 Billion
The House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill July 12 that would fund NASA at $17.6 billion for 2008, about $1.3 billion more than this year’s budget and roughly $300 million more than the White House requested. The money was included in the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.
The bill includes the full $3.9 billion NASA requested for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, Ares 1 launcher and related exploration projects, but prohibits the agency from spending any money on efforts geared exclusively toward sending humans to Mars, something NASA intends to do only after returning to the Moon no sooner than 2020.
Appropriators provided $5.7 billion, or $180 million above
the White House request, for NASA science programs, a portfolio that includes space telescopes, planetary probes
and environmental satellites.
Aeronautics research and education programs also fared well in the bill, which provides
and $217.3 million, respectively, for these activities.
also would impose a moratorium on civil servant layoffs at NASA.
A separate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill that cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee
June 28 would provide NASA about $150 million less to work with next year and also differs from the House measure in some of the details. The House and Senate must iron out these differences before the proposed spending measure becomes law. The U.S. government’s new budget year begins Oct. 1.
NASA Exploration Chief, No. 3
Two senior NASA officials, including the man in charge of building the new space vehicles needed to return to the Moon, announced their resignations July 11. Scott “Doc” Horowitz, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems since late 2005, will step down around Oct. 1 to spend more time with his family, he told colleagues in an e-mail.
NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, the agency’s third highest-ranking official, is leaving at the end of July to become president of NASA contractor Teledyne Brown Engineering in Geveden’s longtime home of Huntsville, Ala. Chris Scolese, currently NASA’s chief engineer, will move up to replace Geveden.
A replacement for Horowitz has not been named. Horowitz told reporters July 13 he is moving his wife and three children back to Park City, Utah, this summer and plans to join them there in the fall. Although he has no plans to rejoin former employer AlliantTechSystems, the former space shuttle astronaut said he has not ruled it out either
U.S. Air Force Releases GPS 3 Bid Solicitation
The U.S. Air Force released its long-awaited request for proposals for a new generation of GPS navigation satellites
July 12, calling for an initial block of eight GPS 3A spacecraft featuring improved accuracy and jam resistance to be launched starting in 2012, the service said in a July 13 news release
The GPS 3A satellites will be followed by eight GPS 3B, and 16 GPS 3C satellites, according to the news release. Each successive block of satellites will have more capability than the previous one, the service said.
Teams led by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, each of which has built previous generations of GPS satellites, are competing for the GPS 3 contract. The Air Force press release did not specify a contract award date, and Tonya Racasner, a spokeswoman for the services Space and Missile Systems Center, which is managing the procurement, did not respond to queries by press time.
Air Force officials anticipated a September award date back in May, but at the time the bid solicitation was expected in late May.
SES Astra Satellite Arrival Triggers Fleet Reshuffling
Satellite-fleet operator SES Astra’sAstra 1L direct-broadcast satellite, launched May 5, has entered service at 19.2 degrees east longitude, triggering a series of maneuvers by
other SES Astra spacecraft, Luxembourg-based SES Astra announced July 11.
With the Lockheed Martin-built Astra 1L now in place at the 19.2-degree slot, SES Astra will move the Astra 1C from that location to 28.2 degrees east, where it will bolster Astra’s capacity for the British and Irish markets.
1C is scheduled to move to its new position by September. Once there, the satellite will add 16 transponders to that
location, where the Astra 2A, 2B and 2D satellites
also are stationed.
SES Astra said the Astra 2B satellite’s steerable beam over West Africa, which now uses eight transponders, will be increased to 16 transponders with the arrival of Astra 2C.
The addition of Astra 1L
also will permit SES Astra to move its Astra 1E satellite, now at the 19.2 degrees east slot, to 23.5 degrees east for direct-broadcast television services in Europe.
U.S. Air Force To Evaluate Radarsat-2’s Military Value
MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. of Canada will work with the U.S. Air Force to evaluate
the capabilities of the company’s planned Radarsat
-2 spacecraft for U.S. national security requirements, according to a company news release dated July
The nine-month, $9.5 million
contract was awarded by the Canadian Commercial Corp.
, which is acting as an intermediary
between the company and the Air Force, according to the news release.
Daniel Friedmann, president and chief executive
, said in the news release that the work
will position the company for growth in the U.S. surveillance and intelligence market. Under the contract, the company
will demonstrate the value of
maritime surveillance and intelligence gathering
, according to the news release. The company also will
tandem mission involving
-2 and a clone spacecraft, the
news release said.
Jacobs Technology Nabs Stennis Support Contract
NASA announced July 12 that it has awarded Tullahoma, Tenn.-based Jacobs Technology
a 10-year contract worth up to $561 million to provide facility operations support to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
is NASA’s primary facility for testing and
certifying rocket propulsion systems.
Under the contract, Jacobs
will provide a variety of facility support services to NASA and some of the other 30 state and federal agencies share the center and
its facilities and services.
NSSO Chief Gen. Armor Expected To Retire Jan. 1
U.S. Air Maj. Gen. James Armor, the director of the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office (NSSO), is expected to retire
Maj. Regina Winchester, an Air Force spokeswoman.
Prior to serving as NSSO director, Armor had served in space positions including GPS program manager and director of signals intelligence programs at the National Reconnaissance Office. Earlier in his career, Armor trained to fly into space as a payload mission specialist in 1986, but never flew because
the White House elected to stop putting military payloads on the space shuttle after the
Iranian Missile Threat Prompts Policy Measure
The U.S. Senate voted July 12 to adopt an amendment to its version of the 2008 defense authorization bill that declares it U.S. policy to deploy systems as soon as possible to defend the United States and Europe against nuclear-armed missiles launched by Iran.
was offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. It passed by a 90-5 vote, according to a press release issued by Sessions.
Raytheon Co. To Upgrade Radar System for MDA
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has awarded Raytheon Co. a $304 million contract to develop advanced tracking and discrimination capabilities for the company’s forward-based AN/TPY-2 radar, according to a Raytheon news release dated July 11.
Raytheon will develop and test new software, as well as conduct engineering tasks, maintenance and support, infrastructure upgrades and deployment mission planning under the contract, according to the news release. The AN/TPY-2 is a transportable X-band radar
designed to provide detection, tracking and discrimination data to U.S.
ATK Wins Contract To Build Orion Launch Abort Motor
Techsystems (ATK) will build the main rocket motor for the abort system on NASA’s Orion crew exploration
vehicle under a $62.5 million subcontract with Orbital Sciences Corp., ATK announced in a July 10 press release.
Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences is responsible for Orion’s launch abort system under a subcontract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, the prime contractor on NASA’s next-generation astronaut transport. The launch abort system is designed to carry Orion and its crew to safety should a problem occur during launch.
Launch Systems Group of Magna, Utah, will be responsible for the largest of three motors on the launch abort system, which sits atop the Orion capsule. The ATK motor generates over half of a million pounds of thrust and features a reverse-thrust design whose four nozzles are at its forward end, enabling it to lift and carry Orion away from its Ares 1 launch vehicle without subjecting the capsule to its exhaust plumes, ATK said.
subcontract calls for the company to produce 12 full-scale motors:
four for static test firings,
and eight that will be delivered to Orbital for integration analysis, test flights and program support, ATK said. ATK already has conducted three subscale test firings of the motor, the company said.
Life’s Building Blocks Found on Saturn Moon
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has detected
chemical components necessary for life as we know
in craters on Saturn’s moon Hyperion, according to a July 4 Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) press release
Hydrocarbons, combinations of hydrogen and carbon atoms, were discovered
during a Cassini flyby of Hyperion in September 2005.
also found frozen forms of water and carbon dioxide
mapped the moon’s surface for the first time.
The observations, detailed in the July 5 issue of the science journal Nature, were made with Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph and visual and infrared mapping spectrometer.
“It doesn’t mean that we have found life, but it is a further indication that the basic chemistry needed for life is widespread in the universe,” Dale Cruikshank, the paper’s lead author, said in a statement.
The Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint effort between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The main spacecraft was built
by JPL in Pasadena, Calif.
Galileo Work a Boon to GMV’s 2006 Revenues
Contracts related to Europe’s planned Galileo satellite navigation system contributed to strong growth in GMV’s space and defense business in 2006.
The Madrid-based company booked $55.7 million in space- and defense-related sales during the year, a 15.5 percent increase over 2005, GMV said in a press release July 10. GMV’s primary space-related business is providing ground-based satellite control software.
Overall, GMV, which also provides a variety of engineering systems and services for aerospace and other applications, recorded $90.6 million in revenues in 2006, an 18 percent increase over the previous year. All of the growth was organic – the company made no acquisitions during 2006.
Galileo was a big factor in the GMV’s business, as the company reported signing $54 million in contracts on that program during 2006. GMV also credited its opening of a U.S. office in 2004.
“GMV can attribute a good portion of our strong growth rate to the Galileo program and the opportunities the U.S. division has brought to the table,” Theresa Beech, vice president of Rockville, Md.-based GMV North America, said in a prepared statement.
Enhanced Proton-M Debuts With Launch of DirecTV 10
Commercial launch-services provider International Launch Services (ILS)
successfully demonstrated an enhanced version of the
Proton-M rocket July 7 with the launch of the DirecTV 10 Ka-band television-broadcast satellite, ILS and satellite owner DirecTV Inc. said.
The launch, from Russia’s BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan, is the result of a two-year Proton-M upgrade by prime contractor Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow to enable Proton-M to place telecommunications satellites weighing up to 6,300 kilograms into geostationary orbit.
DirecTV 10, built by Boeing Satellite Systems International of El Segundo, Calif., weighed 5,893 kilograms at launch. El Segundo-based DirecTV said the satellite is expected to begin operations at 102.8 degrees west longitude in September.
The satellite will permit DirecTV to expand its high-definition television broadcasts to 75 U.S. markets by the end of the year. The nearly identical DirecTV 11 satellite, to be launched aboard a Sea Launch Co. rocket late this year or early in 2008, will further expand the high-definition program offering.
DirecTV 10 is a Boeing 702 model carrying 44 Ka-band transponders for national television broadcasts and 70 spot-beam transponders. The satellite is designed to provide 16 kilowatts of power at the end of its 15-year service life.
ILS, in a July 7 statement following the launch, said the enhanced Proton is increasing its payload-carrying capacity by reducing the weight of the structure between each of the stages. Khrunichev also has
reduced, from six to two, the number of fuel tanks in the reaction control system of the Proton’s upper-stage Breeze M engine.
“While the primary purpose [of the upgrade] was to meet the requirements of ILS commercial customers and their larger satellites, the enhanced vehicle will ultimately be used for Russian [government] missions as well,” ILS said.
Qinetiq-SES Astra Team To Maintain ESA Ground Station
Space of Belgium, a subsidiary of Qinetiq of London, has teamed with Luxembourg-based SES Astra
to win a 10-year contract to provide maintenance and operations services at the European Space Agency
(ESA) Redu ground station in Belgium, ESA and the companies announced.
The contract is valued at more than 3 million euros ($4.09 million) per year, with the exact value to depend on options exercised by ESA and on commercial third-party contracts that Verhaert and SES Astra are able to win for the site. The two companies have formed a joint venture, called Redu Space Services, to perform the work.
Ian Reid, managing director of Qinetiq’s space division, said the Redu contract “represents the first significant coming together of the Qinetiq and SES groups. We look forward to developing that relationship further.”
Intelsat 709 To Continue Serving U.S. in Middle East
U.S. regulators have granted Intelsat’s request to continue using the Intelsat 709 telecommunications satellite to serve U.S. government customers in the Middle East on the condition that it causes no interference to fixed, broadcast or mobile satellites in the region.
In a July 6 ruling, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) agreed to permit Washington-based Intelsat to continue to operate the C- and Ku-band Intelsat 709 in the 11.7-11.95 gigahertz frequencies at
85.15 degrees east longitude. From that position over the Indian Ocean, the satellite can cover the Middle East.
Intelsat 709 was launched in 1996 and began its service life at 50 degrees west longitude before moving to 55.5 degrees west. Under a temporary license from the FCC, the satellite was moved to its current location in 2003.
In its opinion, the FCC said that in its current location, the satellite is unlikely to disturb the transmissions of spacecraft in the region that have specific licensing authority to operate there. So long as that is the case, the FCC said, the Intelsat 709 is permitted to continue to provide
capacity to the U.S. government for services in the Middle East. The agency said the authorization would not cover any new satellites that Intelsat might wish to place at the location.
AIM Satellite Observes Polar Mesospheric Clouds
NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite has begun making observations of the mysterious ice crystal-filled clouds that form high above the Earth’s polar regions during the summer and glow at night, the space agency said in a June 28 press release.
The $140 million satellite made its initial observations of polar mesospheric clouds May 25, NASA said. The cloud formation, located above 70 degrees north latitude at an altitude of about 80 kilometers, was observed from the ground in Northern Europe beginning June 5, NASA said.
The 195-kilogram AIM satellite, built by Orbital Sciences Corp., was launched April 25 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., aboard an air-launched Pegasus XL rocket. Orbital of Dulles, Va., also built the rocket.
Polar mesospheric clouds, also called
night-shining clouds, are
visible only from the ground at night. Typically
are seen over
the northern and southern polar regions during
. In recent years, however, they have been observed at lower latitudes, and AIM already has captured evidence of this migration as the summer progresses, NASA said.
“These observations suggest a connection with global change in the lower atmosphere and could represent an early warning that our Earth’s environment is being altered,”
, AIM principal investigator and a scientist at Hampton University of Hampton, Va., said in a prepared statement.
Senate Bill Would Create OSTP Earth Science Post
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will be creating a senior position for an Earth-observation expert if the Senate Appropriations Committee gets its way. A spending bill approved by the committee June 28 adds
$200,000 to OSTP’s $5.5 million budget to create the position of associate director for Earth science and applications.
“The position will coordinate all Federal assets directed at understanding the Earth’s oceans and climate,” said language in
the report accompanying the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Act of 2008. The bill must be
approved by the full Senate and reconciled with a similar spending bill introduced in the House of Representatives in early June.