Japanese space agency, JAXA, has postponed the scheduled Aug. 16 launch of its
lunar orbiter mission on an H-2A rocket after discovering problems with spacecraft components that were improperly installed, JAXA said in a July 20 press release. No new launch date has been scheduled, the agency said.
JAXA specialists found a similar problem during preparations of the Wideband Internetworking Engineering Test and Demonstration Satellite, and this prompted a re-examination of Kaguya – a very large mission composed of a mothership orbiter and two subsatellites. The same problem was found on the two subsatellites, and the components in question, called condensers, will be replaced, Jaxa said.
, formerly known as Selene – for Selenological and Engineering Explorer – is billed by JAXA as the largest mission to the Moon since the Apollo era.
Northrop Grumman Buys Builder of SpaceShipOne
Northrop Grumman Corp. agreed
July 5 to increase its stake in Scaled Composites – the builder of the X-Prize-winning SpaceShipOne and a host of record-breaking aircraft – from 40 percent to 100 percent, Northrop Grumman spokesman Dan McClain confirmed July 20.
McClain, who declined to disclose the value of the deal, said the company expects it to close in August pending regulatory approval by
the U.S. Department of Justice.
Scaled Composites currently is working with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic venture on a vehicle designated for now as SpaceShipTwo, which would carry two pilots and six paying passengers into suborbital space for a few minutes of weightlessness. The company also is building a new carrier aircraft, dubbed WhiteKnight2, will
carry SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 15 kilometers
before releasing it
to soar to suborbital space
The two companies last year formed a joint venture called the Spaceship Company to build the new vehicles.
Alex Tai, chief operating officer of Virgin Galactic, declined to comment when asked July 20 how the acquisition would affect his company’s dealings with Scaled Composites.
Scaled Composites, with the backing of Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 when SpaceShipOne was piloted to an altitude just above the internationally recognized border o
f space twice in a two-week period.
Martian Dust Storms Imperil NASA Rovers
NASA warned July 20 that severe dust storms that have obscured the surface of Mars could damage or even cripple the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that have been traversing the red planet’s surface since 2004.
The dust is blocking out the sunlight that the rovers use to recharge their batteries. In a press release July 20, NASA said the power output from Opportunity’s solar panels began dropping in June, forcing operators to scale back its operations. If the sun’s rays are blocked out for an extended period, the rovers will be unable to keep themselves warm enough to operate, NASA said.
“We’re rooting for our rovers to survive these storms, but they were never designed for conditions this intense,” Alan Stern, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a prepared statement.
Steve Squyres of Cornell University, who is the lead scientist of the Mars Exploration Rover Project, said earlier in the week of July 16 that the dust levels are some of the worst the rover team has seen.
“To give you a sense of the thickness of the dust, the brightness of the sun as viewed from the surface is now down to less than 5 percent of what it would be with a perfectly transparent atmosphere,” Squyres said.
A possible saving grace for the rovers is that the dust creates a glow of indirect sunlight. The effect is similar to Earth’s cloudy weather, which blocks the sun but does not completely prevent light from reaching the ground.
Chief Invites Space Venture Pitches
President Thomas Boone Pickens
, son of the famous Texas oil tycoon, is looking for new space ventures to fund.
Speaking July 20 at the Space Frontier Foundation’s conference in Washington, Pickens extended an open invitation to space entrepreneurs to come to Spacehab to pitch their ideas.
“I encourage you to come to Spacehab. It’s a place you can feel comfortable sitting down and I will give you my honest opinion about how you should maybe change your pitch,” Pickens said. “If I found the right pitches coming up I would be interested in becoming financially enthusiastic about them.”
Pickens said in an interview that his Houston-based company is establishing a “technology incubator” called SpaceTech to serve as a venture capital fund for promising new space businesses.
Ball Unveils Team for Ares 1 Avionics Contract
With final bids due July 30 on a $400 million contract to provide the avionics suite for NASA’s planned Ares 1 crew launch vehicle,
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. announced that it is teaming with Hamilton Sundstrand and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to compete for the job.
In addition to Ball, NASA anticipates bids from four other teams led by BAE Systems, Boeing, Honeywell and Raytheon. NASA is expected to select the supplier of the Ares 1 instrument and control unit by early December.
AEB Suborbital Mission Goes Awry at the End
The Brazilian Space Agency, or AEB, launched a suborbital
rocket carrying nine scientific experiments
July 19, but was scrambling to recover the payload, which went off course during its descent, the agency said on its Web site
The VSB-30 rocket, which made its initial flight Dec. 1, 2005, in Sweden, was launched 242 kilometers high from the Alcantra Launch Center in the state of Maranho. The rocket spent approximately 19 minutes aloft, including about six in space.
The experiments on board, which ranged from biotechnology to physics, to nanotechnology, were selected by the AEB’s Microgravity Program.
launch and ascent followed the proper trajectory, the descent went off-course due to telemetry signal discrepancies. Teams from the Brazilian Air Force and Navy were sent to recover the payload but had yet to recover it as of press time.
MDA Cancels Plan To Buy Low-Cost Target Missiles
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has canceled an effort to field inexpensive missile targets, according to an announcement posted July 18
on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) Web site
The Low Cost Assessment Targets program was intended to field “low cost, quick turn-around missile systems that can be used for assessing and calibrating sensor system developments and modifications, payload developments, sounding rocket experiments, and limited intercept experiments,” the MDA said in
a draft request for proposals posted
Feb. 23 on the FBO site
However, industry’s responses, as well as further analysis by the MDA, led the agency to conclude that “potential requirements are insufficient to support continuation of the acquisition,” according to the July 18 posting.
Cancellation of the effort was first reported July 18 by the newsletter Inside Missile Defense.
PAC-3 Interceptor Hits Air Breather in Test
A Lockheed Martin-built Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3, missile engaged and destroyed a low-flying, air-breathing target during a July 19 test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., the company said in a press release.
The flight test was conducted by soldiers from the 5th Battalion of the 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, and showed improvements to PAC-3 hardware and software in a realistic battlefield environment. The PAC-3 interceptor is capable of destroying aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
Computer Sciences To Support NASA Centers
Computer Sciences Corp. of El Segundo, Calif., will provide support services for the Advanced Supercomputing division at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, Calif., under a contract that has a potential value of $600 million over 10 years, NASA said in a July 17 press release.
The cost-plus-award-fee contract has a two-year base period worth slightly more than $106 million,
with eight one-year options.
The contract also includes provisions for giving supercomputing support to the NASA Center for Computational Sciences at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and other NASA facilities that use supercomputing services, NASA said.
Europe’s ATV Begins Journey to Launch Site
Europe’s unmanned space tug on July 17 left Rotterdam harbor in the Netherlands for a voyage across the Atlantic that will bring it to the French Guiana launch site
July 29, according to the European Space Agency (Astrium Space Transportation. ) and prime contractor
Some 400,000 kilograms of Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) gear packed in 69 containers were loaded onto the MN Toucan cargo ship, a vessel frequently used to transport Ariane 5 rocket segments from Europe to the Guiana Space Center spaceport
on South America’s northeast coast.
The dual-hull Toucan features a below-deck cargo bay that is 96 meters long, 17 meters wide and 8 meters tall.
The ATV has spent about three years at ESA’sEstec technology center in Noordwijk, Netherlands
, which is not far from the Rotterdam port. The ATV is tentatively scheduled for a late-January maiden flight to the international space station following a series of in-orbit tests to assure safety
as the vehicle approaches the orbital complex. It will be launched by an Ariane 5 rocket equipped with a specially designed, restartable upper stage.
The ATV will
haul fuel, water and other supplies to the station, and
use its thrusters to raise the station’s orbit. It
is filled with station refuse
and destroyed on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere after each mission.
ESA is using ATV services to repay NASA and, to a lesser extent, the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, for Europe’s share of the station’s resources. To eliminate this debt, four additional
ATV vehicles are scheduled for launch in the coming years.
Airborne Laser Conducts Key Target-Tracking Test
Boeing and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency successfully completed a key flight test
of the Airborne Laser (ABL)
July 13, firing lasers used for tracking, detecting atmospheric turbulence and simulating a missile shoot down, according to a Boeing news release.
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis is prime contractor on the ABL.
During the test, the modified Boeing 747-400F took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and used infrared sensors and its
illuminating laser to find and track a target board on a U.S. Air Force test aircraft. The ABL also fired a surrogate high-energy laser, simulating the missile-killing high-power chemical laser built by Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif.,
which will eventually be installed before the first planned in-flight ballistic missile intercept test is attempted in 2009.
The test aircraft was fitted with
a beacon illuminator laser used to measure and compensate for laser beam distortion caused by the atmosphere. Future tests will use the ABL’s own beacon illuminator laser to measure atmospheric distortion.
The ABL will be the first combat aircraft relying entirely on a directed energy device as a weapon. It is designed to destroy a ballistic missile in its boost phase, shortly after it is launched.
BAE Systems Awarded SBX-1 Maintenance Work
BAE Systems Inc. of Rockville, Md., has been awarded a second contract of an undisclosed amount from Boeing Co. to conduct maintenance and systems upgrades on the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX-1), according to a BAE Systems July 17 news release.
The work will include performing a deadweight survey;
upgrading the crane, galley and scullery;
installing a quick launch recovery boat and an antenna;
cleaning the fuel tank;
and repairing the tow bridal, catwalk and ladder. BAE Systems Ship Repair, which specializes in the repair, modernization and conversion of non-nuclear ships, previously performed maintenance work on the SBX-1 in 2006. The work will be done at BAE Systems Hawaii Shipyards in Pearl Harbor.
The SBX-1 is part of the U.S. missile defense shield
operated by the Missile Defense Agency. It is based at Adak Island, Alaska, and can cover the Pacific Ocean to detect incoming ballistic missiles.
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis is prime contractor Ground-based Midcourse Defense segment of the U.S. missile shield as well as on the SBX-1 radar.
New Lockheed Center Closes Door on Historic Facility
The formal dedication of Lockheed Martin’s new military satellite
software development, integration and test laboratory in Rockville, Md., July 10 opened one era and closed another. The $3 million,
1,800 square-meter facility, dubbed the Milsatcom Center of Excellence, will be used to develop software to run the U.S. Defense Department’s satellite communications and related ground networks.
consolidates Lockheed Martin ground-segment activities previously conducted at two other Maryland facilities: one in Gaithersburg and the other in Clarksburg at the former home of Comsat Laboratories, an early pioneer in the development of satellite communications terminals and networks.
now owned by
Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif., operates
from another facility in Clarksburg.
expects to hire up to 200 additional people to staff the new Milsatcom facility.
“Lockheed Martin’s move from Clarksburg to Rockville marks the end of the Comsat era where many of the innovations in satellite communication networks and operations took place,” Rockville city councilman Robert Dorsey said during the dedication
. “I expect future innovations to evolve at this new facility.”
ITT, CenTauri Demonstrate Low-Cost Recon Platform
ITT Space Systems of Rochester, N.Y.,
and Alexandria, Va.-based CenTauri Solutions
have demonstrated a paraglider-based, low-cost surveillance
system developed with internal funds that they hope to sell to the U.S. government and other customers.
The system, informally dubbed
is designed to be affordable, low maintenance and to provide persistent
surveillance coverage of selected areas,
Glen Beach, a managing partner of CenTauri Solutions, said in a July 17 telephone interview.
The validation demonstrations took place May 7-18 at Atair
Aerospace’s flight test facilities in Eloy, Ariz., using a piloted,
, a July 9 ITT press release said. A piloted
because of Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on unpiloted vehicles, said Gary Matthews, director of persistent surveillance for ITT Space Systems.
Plans to test the unpiloted version are in the works, Matthews said, although he declined to say when such flights might take place.
The Unblinking Eye system will be sold as a complete unit, including the unmanned
, or as separate components. The camera unit can be used on other aircraft, including helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, Beach said.
The system’s camera can collect imagery at
0.2-meter resolution for tracking individuals and 0.75-meter resolution for tracking vehicles, according to Bruce Wald, vice president and director of Image Information Solutions at
ITT Space Systems
. Both modes stream images at two frames per second to up to five users on the ground, he said.
The images can be displayed at a higher resolution for further analysis at later times.
The Unblinking Eye is a short-range unit meant for use up to about 32 kilometers away and at 3,600-4,500 meters in altitude. It can provide
straight hours of coverage, the companies said.
“The testing we did in Arizona was extremely successful,” Matthews said. “We think we’re ready to go into production mode at this point. We’re looking for a launch customer right now.”
ITT is marketing its product to several customers within the Defense Department and intelligence community. It also has
begun demonstration phases for several potential
foreign customers. Some customers are looking at the entire system, while others are looking only at the sensor
, Matthews said.
The Unblinking Eye uses commercially available products to keep costs down, but the ITT and CenTauri officials declined to be specific about the system’s price tag.
Wald did say that it is orders of magnitude cheaper to buy and maintain than the unmanned aerial vehicles currently operated by the U.S. military.
Spitzer Telescope Detects Water Vapor on Exoplanet
NASA’s Spitzer space telescope has found what scientists say is the best evidence so far of the existence of water on a world outside of our solar system.
Observations made using
show the likely presence of water vapor on the exoplanet HD 189733b, a July 11 American Astronomical Society press release said. The finding was
published in the July 11 edition of the science journal Nature.
Scientists characterize HD 189733b as a hot Jupiter – like the solar system’s largest planet, it is a gas giant, but is located next to a star and therefore is extremely hot. The planet, located in the Vulpecula constellation 63 light years away, has an average temperature of 727 degrees Celsius.
The evidence of water was provided by
Spitzer’s infrared-array camera as it watched the hot Jupiter crossing in front of its host star. Observations were made at three
different infrared wavelengths and each time,
the planet absorbed a
“Water is the only molecule that can explain that behavior,” Giovanna Tinetti, a European Space Agency fellow at the Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris, said in a prepared statement. “Observing primary eclipses in infrared light is the best way to search for this molecule in exoplanets.”
RAID Surveillance Coverage Extended to U.S. Marines
Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Tewksbury, Mass., will
with remote ground stations to provide protective surveillance for
U.S. Marine Corps forces operating in Iraq under a $22 million contract, according to a July 9 company news release
The Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) system, which uses infrared sensors attached to stationary platforms,
already has been used by U.S. Army soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the
“The introduction of RAID into U.S. Marine Corps operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom is a testament to the value these systems provide to the warfighter,”
Pete Franklin, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems vice president for national and theater security programs, said in the news release. “These additional systems will offer the U.S. Marine Corps the same lifesaving persistent surveillance support currently benefiting the U.S. Army.”
Inaugurates Handheld Phone Service
London-based Inmarsat on July 16 inaugurated its newly acquired hand-held satellite telephone service aboard the Inmarsat 4 F1 satellite, offering service immediately in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and backing up existing business offered by Asia Cellular Satellite, Aces, of Indonesia.
Aces, whose marketing is being taken over by Inmarsat, uses the Garuda-1 satellite that has been in geostationary orbit at 123 degrees east longitude since February 2000. Garuda-1 has suffered several in-orbit anomalies but continues to provide telephone service. Inmarsat 4 F1, launched in March 2005, operates at 64 degrees east longitude.
has renamed the service IsatPhone and plans to provide near-global coverage by the end of 2008, when the Inmarsat 4 F2 spacecraft is expected to provide service in the Americas.
has said that the IsatPhone, which at the outset will resemble the current Aces product, will retail for “around $500,” with voice communications billed at a rate of less than $1 per minute.
expects to add a maritime version of the service, to be called FleetPhone, by the end of 2007, Inmarsat announced July 16.
“We intend to shake up the mobile satellite phone market and win market share,” Inmarsat Chief Operating Officer Michael Butler said in a statement.
has signed IsatPhone distribution agreements with eight companies – Aces, Chinasat, Evosat, Fono, MCN, MVS, Satcom Global and Stratos Global.
Data Used To Make Infrared Map of Universe
A team of European and Japanese astronomers has completed the
first infrared map of the universe made in
more than 20
, according to a July 11 press release from the Royal Astronomical Society
The map is an assembly of high-resolution images taken by
the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency
Astro-F, or Akari, space telescope, which launched Feb. 21, 2006, aboard an M-5 rocket from the Uchioura Space Center.
The European Space Center in Darmstadt, Germany,
ground and data-processing support for the mission.
Ryschkewitsch Tapped as Chief Engineer at NASA HQ
Michael Ryschkewitsch, deputy director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is moving to the U.S. space agency’s Washington headquarters to replace Chris Scolese as chief engineer.
was selected July 11 to serve as NASA’s next associate administrator – the agency’s third highest-ranking official – replacing Rex Geveden, who is leaving to become president of Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Ala.
EMS Founder John Pippin Dies after Prolonged Illness
John E. Pippin,
satellite communications equipment and solutions provider EMS Technologies,
died July 13 at age 79 after a prolonged illness, the Atlanta-based company said in a July 16 press release.
The exact cause of death was not disclosed
Pippin started what was then known as Electromagnetic Sciences Inc. in 1968 and retired as its chairman in 1998. The company began with
eight employees and
now has around
$260 million in revenue in 2006
NASA Dedicates Site of New Facility at Goddard
dedicated the site for its new environmentally
science building July 16 at the
Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
five-story Exploration Sciences Building will facilitate the long-term makeover of Goddard
into a pedestrian-oriented campus, the U.S. space agency said in a July 16 press release.
The building was designed by the architectural firm EwingCole
sustainable processes for water and energy consumption, as well as for maintaining its internal environment
The approximately $56 million facility will be
Manhattan Construction Co.
of Fairfax, Va., under a contract awarded in April, Goddard spokesman Rob Gutro said in a July 18 phone interview. The building is slated for completion in August
2009, David Larsen, Exploration Sciences Building project manager, said in a July 19 phone interview.
The building, which has both office and laboratory space, will be occupied by personnel from the Astrophysics Science and Solar System Exploration divisions of NASA’s Science Directorate, among others.
“The NASA team is looking forward to this first major step in the execution of the [Goddard]
Facilities Master Plan,”
said in a prepared statement. “The Exploration Sciences Building will serve as the primary tie in the overall effort of unifying the currently divided east and west campuses.”
Construction will begin later this year.
U.S. Air Force and DARPA Extend AirLaunch Contract
The U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have cleared AirLaunch LLC of Kirkland, Wash., to begin a new phase of work on a small satellite launcher that will
focus on the
The Air Force and DARPA are jointly funding Phase 2C of development work on the QuickReach launcher,
worth $7.6 million, under the Falcon Small Launch vehicle program, according to an AirLaunch news release dated July 16.
DARPA awarded a $17.8 million contract to AirLaunch for Phase 2B in 2005.
Debra FacktorLepore, AirLaunch president, said in a May interview that Phase 2C
initially was planned to take the company to a flight demonstration, but the military restructured the plans to reduce risk, while adding an additional phase, 2D, to cover the flight demonstration
concept uses an unmodified
cargo aircraft like an Air Force C-17 to carry aloft and drop a small rocket that then ignites to launch
a payload to orbit. The system is intended to deliver about 450 kilograms of payload to low Earth orbit with less than 24 hours call up time
at a price of $5 million per launch.
Milestones for Phase 2C include a series of engine test firings
to evaluate the
performance of the rocket’s second stage.
“FacktorLepore said in a July 17 interview that DARPA has asked the company to look at the utility of its system for other vehicle applications during Phase 2C. This could entail using the QuickReach propulsion system in engines used by other launchers, using its engine in other vehicles, or using the rocket’s second stage with another vehicle, she said.
While DARPA’s primary interest is likely in QuickReach’s ability to help lead to improved military launch vehicles, the ability to use the rocket’s technology in civil applications could help the company offer the Pentagon lower prices, she said.”
ND SatCom Delivers 50th Satellite-Equipped Vehicle
ND SatCom has delivered its 50th Satellite News Gathering (SNG) vehicle to Globecast, a July 9 ND SatC
press release said.
ND SatCom builds satellite ground systems. The company’s SNG
vehicles can be operated by journalists on assignment with no specialist support.
supplies ND SatCom’s compact SNG vehicles to broadcast companies in France and Italy for live news events.
XM Radio To Release Dashboard Converter
XM Satellite Radio soon will release a new radio converter for cars that, once professionally installed, looks like a part of the vehicle’s original dashboard, the Washington-based company said in a July 9 press release.
The Commander Mini Tuner (CommanderMT) is designed to be installed into the dashboard of any automobile. “It looks like it comes with your car, almost,” XM Radio spokeswoman Marie Farrar said in a July 9 phone interview.
The converter’s tuner enables standard AM/FM car radios to receive XM broadcasts.
After it is properly programmed, the device can alert
users when their
favorite song, artist or team is playing on another XM station.
The CommanderMT will sell
for nearly $180
, which does not include installation.
Pratt & Whitney Canada To Build WK2
Pratt & Whitney Canada will supply its turbofan PW308 turbofan engine to power the carrier aircraft for the fleet of commercial suborbital launch vehicles being developed by The Spaceship Co.
, a joint venture of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites.
The engines will power the White Knight 2 (WK2), a carrier aircraft that will serve as the first stage of SpaceShipTwo, the commercial launcher that will take tourists into suborbital space for brief periods of weightlessness.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic has ordered five SpaceShipTwo
spacecraft with options for another seven-plus White Knight 2 carrier aircraft. Both the White Knight 2 and SpaceShipTwo vehicles are being constructed by Scaled Composites of Mojave, Calif
The first flight of White Knight 2 is targeted for 2008.
“We are excited to be a part of this visionary commercial spaceship program that will open up new opportunities for people to fly into space,”
president of Pratt & Whitney Canada and
president, Pratt & Whitney Group Strategy & Development, said in a July 11 press statement issued by the engine manufacturer.
The Spaceship Co.
and Branson’s Virgin Fuels group also will work with the Longueuil, Quebec-based Pratt & Whitney engine supplier to evaluate the use of advanced biofuels in White Knight 2 that could help reduce engine emissions.