Sea Launch’s Odyssey Platform Returns Home

Sea Launch Co.’s floating rocket-launch platform, Odyssey, has completed two months of repairs at Vancouver’s Victoria Shipyard and returned to its

Long Beach, Calif., home port for a final series of preparations before a

scheduled October launch of the 6,000-kilogram Thuraya-3 mobile communications satellite, Sea Launch President Rob Peckham said.

In an Aug. 8 interview, Peckham said

most of the necessary recertification of the platform’s seaworthiness was completed as repairs were being done, and as the platform was heading south toward California. It arrived at Sea Launch’s home port

Aug. 9.

“There are no recertification or regulatory hurdles that I can see now that would compromise our planned October launch date,” Peckham said.

The Odyssey platform was damaged during the January on-pad failure and subsequent explosion of the Sea Launch Zenit 3 SL vehicle, which was carrying the Boeing-owned NSS-8 telecommunications satellite.

But despite a spectacular video showing the entire platform disappearing into a fireball, the structure itself was not compromised. It was recertified as seaworthy and made ready travel to the Vancouver repair site.

One major piece of

platform hardware, the 280,000-kilogram flame deflector, was destroyed. Located directly beneath the launch pad, it sustained the brunt of the explosion as the rocket collapsed onto the pad


A replacement flame deflector has been manufactured by the Design Bureau for Transport Machinery of Moscow and is expected to be fitted onto the Odyssey platform by late August.

said Sea Launch plans to give a series of detailed briefings to customers and insurers about the failure – blamed on a foreign object that compromised the first-stage engine immediately after ignition – in August. “We have been talking to them all along but we have not given them the ‘deep-dive’ briefings,” Peckham said.

Delayed Globalstar Launch Now Expected in October

Russia’s Soyuz-Fregat commercial launch vehicle

now is expected to return to flight in late October to place four Globalstar mobile-telephone satellites into low Earth orbit following modifications to its

upper stage, according to industry officials.

That would be followed by a November or December launch of Canada’s Radarsat 2 Earth observation satellite aboard a Soyuz-Fregat vehicle, with a possible launch of Europe’s Giove-B navigation test satellite – if it’s ready – late in the year or early in 2008.

The successful May launch of four Globalstar satellites aboard a Soyuz turned up anomalies in the behavior of the Fregat upper stage and forced a grounding of the vehicle, which had been scheduled to launch the second and final batch of first-generation Globalstar spacecraft in July.

Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar Inc. is counting on these last eight first-generation satellites to help stem the decline in performance of its

40-satellite constellation as it prepares a second-generation system of 48 satellites, which are tentatively scheduled for launch starting in late 2009.

The Soyuz vehicle is marketed commercially

by the French-Russian Starsem S.A. company.

ICO Global Seeks Second Launch Deadline Extension

ICO Global Communications is asking U.S. regulators to approve a second extension of its

deadline to launch a

large two-way communications and broadcasting satellite, this time because of schedule slips associated with the

Atlas 5 rocket, ICO Global officials said Aug. 7.

In a conference call, ICO Chief Executive Tim Bryan said Lockheed Martin has informed ICO that the launch, which had been scheduled to occur by Nov. 30, will not occur before mid


Bryan said Reston, Va.-based ICO has filed a request for a deadline extension with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and does not expect the FCC to refuse it given that the cause is outside of ICO’s control. ICO is asking that the launch deadline be moved to January 15, and the in-service deadline for the full ICO system be moved from Dec. 31 to Feb. 15.

launch contract is with Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services Inc. That company’s business director, Jack Zivik, informed

ICO in writing Aug. 3 of the schedule slip, and ICO included that letter with its FCC deadline-extension request.

In late 2006 ICO had requested that the satellite’s June 30, 2007, launch date be moved to November following delays in satellite-component development at prime contractor Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., and several of Loral’s subcontractors.

The FCC granted that extension over the protests of ICO competitor Inmarsat of London.

ICO and Lockheed Martin say the Atlas launch manifest for 2007 has slipped for two reasons. The first is the June 15 underperformance of the vehicle’s Centaur upper stage in a launch of two classified U.S. military satellites.

The U.S.

Air Force

Space and Missile Systems Center said June 28 that the Centaur’s problem

has been traced to a slow leak of its liquid hydrogen fuel during the coast phase between the first and second ignitions caused by a stuck

valve. The result was that the stage shut down four seconds short of its planned 900-second burn.

Air Force authorities have said the payloads nonetheless will be able to perform their mission.

Bob Day, ICO senior vice president for the space segment, said that even if the same problem occurred on the ICO launch it would not seriously affect the ICO satellite’s health or service life, in part because the

satellite is being placed into a conventional geostationary transfer orbit. To reach this orbit, the Centaur stage needs only a short coast period between the first and second burns, so the amount of Centaur fuel lost would be that much less.

The second reason for the six-week Atlas launch delay is

“unforeseen spacecraft processing issues that caused delays to the Atlas launches” scheduled this year before ICO, according to the Zivik letter.

Day said that while Space Systems/Loral would have been hard-pressed to make the November launch schedule, progress on the ICO satellite is proceeding swiftly now that the earlier component issues have been resolved. He said Loral will use the six additional weeks to perform more-extensive testing on the satellite.

He said ICO is taking advantage of a general decline in satellite-insurance rates to negotiate its final insurance package, which he said would be under contract

late this year.

Neither Bryan nor Day gave any updates during the call on their plans to purchase a second ICO satellite, which the company must do to meet its FCC commitments.

Integral Systems Reports Rise in Classified Sales

Satellite ground-control system provider Integral Systems Inc. posted a company-record $35.9 million in revenue for the third quarter of 2007 on the continued strength of its U.S. Air Force business and a sharp increase in sales to classified programs.

In an Aug. 9 conference call, Integral Chief Executive

Alan Baldwin

attributed the company’s growth – revenue was up 24 percent over the same period last year-


Air Force contracts, including an extension to the Command and Control-System Consolidated

program. During the

three-month period ending

June 30, Integral’s net income rose 28 percent,

to $3.8 million, the company said in an Aug. 7 press release


Like the third quarter of 2006, the Air Force accounted for 55 percent of Integral’s sales during the 2007 third quarter, Integral said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. However, sales attributed to national – or classified – programs jumped from 1 to 9 percent during the 2007 third quarter, the filing said.

Sales to the

Navy remained steady at 8-9 percent of total revenue

, while the share

of revenue attributed to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declined

from 5 and 8 percent, respectively, to 3 percent each.

Japan to Outfit 2nd Ship With Aegis BMD System

Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors, of Moorestown, N.J., has been awarded a $33 million contract to provide the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability for a second Japanese destroyer, the company

said in

an Aug. 7 news release.

Through a Foreign Military Sale,

the JDS Chokai will join JDS Kongo as the only non-American ships to be outfitted with the Aegis BMD system. It currently is being installed on the JDS Kongo, which will conduct its first intercept test later this year.

Four Japanese destroyers eventually will be Aegis BMD-capable. Raytheon Missile Systems

of Tucson, Ariz., has agreed to provide the Japanese with SM-3 interceptors for the system and will

begin delivering them later this year, a spokesman for Raytheon confirmed.

The Aegis Weapon System, the foundation for Aegis BMD, is deployed on 83 ships from six nations. Aegis BMD is installed on 16 of those ships and in testing has recorded nine ballistic missile intercepts in 11 tries.

NASA Awards Ares-1 Work; Names Exploration Chief

NASA named Richard Gilbrech to replace Scott “Doc” Horowitz as the agency’s associate administrator for exploration systems beginning in October. Gilbrech, currently director of NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, will take over a portfolio that includes development of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Meanwhile, NASA announced it had signed a $1.8 billion contract with AlliantTechsystems to build the main stage of Orion’s Ares 1 launcher, which will be based on the space shuttle solid-rocket boosters. The contract, which continues work Alliant began begun last year, runs through 2014.

Lockheed To Upgrade B-2 Fleet for EHF Satcom

Lockheed Martin Corp., of Bethesda, Md., signed a $23 million with Northrop Grumman Corp. to upgrade the satellite communications systems of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of B-2 stealth bombers, Lockheed announced in an Aug. 7 news release.

Lockheed will replace the current flight management computers with a new subsystem that incorporates

legacy B-2 avionics but will also be

compatible with the Air Force’s planned Advanced

Extremely High Frequency (EHF) satellite communications system.

Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the B-2 and a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin on the Advanced EHF program.


Satellite Deal Valued at $1.66 Billion

Abu Dhabi’s new Yahsat venture has signed a contract valued at $1.66 billion with Astrium and ThalesAlenia Space of Europe to build a two-satellite telecommunications system for military and civilian users, the two satellite contractors announced Aug. 8.

The Al Yah Satellite Communications Co., known as Yahsat, is a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Co. The group announced in May that it had selected the Astrium-ThalesAlenia Space bid for the Yahsat system ahead of a competing offer by Boeing Satellite Systems International of El Segundo, Calif.

The two European companies on Aug. 8 valued the contract at 6 billion United Arab Emirate Dirhams, which they said was equivalent to $1.66 billion. In addition to the development and launch of two large telecommunications satellites, the contract includes the system’s ground infrastructure.

“Demand for satellite communications capacity is booming in the Middle East and North Africa and this demand is predicted to grow exponentially,” Waleed Al Mokarrab Al Muhairi, chief operating officer of Mubadala and Yahsat’s chairman, said in an Aug. 8 statement. “This is the first time that a government in the region has openly backed such a substantial venture in the satellite communications industry. It sends out a powerful message about Abu Dhabi’s emerging role as a global technology hot-spot.”

The United Arab Emirates also is home to Thuraya, a consortium that operates a mobile satellite communications system that is expanding from its Middle East base toward Asia with the launch of its third satellite, scheduled late this year.

ISRO Rocket Upper Stage Test Fired for 8 Minutes

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) fired the cryogenic upper stage being developed for its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) for eight minutes during an Aug. 4 test, ISRO said in a press release.

The test of the indigenously developed, liquid hydrogen-fueled upper stage was carried out at ISRO’s liquid propulsion test facility at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu. “All the parameters of the stage and the engine were normal,” the Aug. 4 release said.

The engine itself has completed 6,000 seconds of cumulative firing time including one test lasting 1,000 seconds – 300 seconds longer than will be required in actual flight – as part of its qualification program. The full upper stage, including the engine, tanks and plumbing, was tested for the first time Oct. 28 in a firing that lasted 50 seconds.

“Today’s long duration test has validated the design, robustness and performance adequacy of the engine and the stage for its use in [the] Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle,” ISRO said in the press release.

The first GSLV with

the Indian-made

cryogenic upper stage

is slated to launch

early next year. All GSLV missions to date have featured Russian-built cryogenic upper stages.

ISRO began developing its own version

in 1993 after Russia, under pressure from the United States, refused to transfer its engine

technology to India.

Northrop Grumman Ships Payload for SBIRS GEO-1

Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., has delivered the sensor payload for the first geosynchronous-orbit Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellite to prime contractor Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman announced in an Aug. 6 press release.

The SBIRS payload, consisting of a scanning sensor for broad-area coverage and a staring sensor for more-concentrated coverage, has completed extensive thermal vacuum testing at Northrop Grumman. It features a Lockheed Martin-designed pointing assembly so that operations of the scanning sensor, intended to detect ICBMs, do not affect the staring sensor, which can detect smaller missiles, Northrop Grumman said.

The sensor package will be integrated with the SBIRS GEO-1 satellite platform at Lockheed Martin Space Systems‘ Sunnyvale, Calif., facilities and then undergo full-system testing ahead of a scheduled 2009 launch.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin

announced Aug. 1 the successful completion of a test in which the SBIRS ground station communicated with a simulated GEO-1 satellite.

During the test,

the SBIRS Interim Mission Control Station in Boulder, Colo., sent


to and received telemetry from the so-called Functional Test Article, a surrogate SBIRS GEO-1 satellite located in Sunnyvale.

Lockheed Martin is under contract to build three geosynchronous-orbit SBIRS satellites as well two SBIRS payloads hosted by classified satellites operating in highly elliptical orbit. The latter two payloads have been delivered, with at least one in orbit. The U.S. Air Force recently announced its intention to procure a third and possibly a fourth geosynchronous-orbit SBIRS satellite from Lockheed Martin.

German Astronaut Joins DLR Exec Board

The German Aerospace Center, DLR, has appointed European astronaut Thomas Reiter as a member of its executive board with responsibility for space research and development, DLR announced Aug. 7.

Reiter, a German national, has worked for 15 years as a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut at ESA’s European Astronaut Corps in Cologne, Germany. Reiter is a veteran of two long-duration

missions, each lasting about six months, to Russia’s

Mir space station in 1995 and to the international space station in 2006. He was a flight engineer aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule for one of the two missions.

ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said ESA is pleased with the appointment. “What is good for Germany is good for ESA,” Dordain said.