Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 14 September 2007
03:16 pm ET







Boeing to Become More Commercially Active in 2008










Boeing Satellite Systems International, which has been on the sidelines of most commercial satellite competitions in the past three years, expects to be more active in this arena




starting in 2008, according to




Howard Chambers, the company’s chief executive




.

In a Sept. 5 presentation and a Sept. 6 interview, Chambers said Boeing for the past year has been too busy preparing bids on




U.S. government satellite programs – which are usually larger and more profitable – and has been unable to train its resources on as many commercial projects




as it might have otherwise.

With the coming decisions on the U.S. Air Force’s GPS 3 satellite navigation




program and




Transformational Satellite, or T-Sat, secure




communications system, Boeing will be able to free up resources to the commercial-satellite sector, Chambers said. Other U.S. government bids in which Boeing is active include the GOES-R meteorological satellite program, NASA’s




next-generation tracking and data-relay satellite system




and several classified




systems, he said.

“Next year will be a little different,” Chambers said. “We won’t see the same amount of government activity, and we are putting some things into place to enable us




to be in a better competitive position on the commercial side.”

Chambers said Boeing will remain selective, concentrating on those commercial programs that play to Boeing’s technology strengths. In the past 12 months, he said, Boeing has reviewed around 15 commercial satellite procurement bid requests. The company made a full-fledged effort on




only one: The two-satellite, commercial/military Yahsat system for Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. of Abu Dhabi.

The competition, in which Boeing invested heavily, led to a $1.66 billion turnkey contract won by Astrium and ThalesAlenia Space of Europe.

Chambers also said anti-jamming technology




, long used on military satellites




, is likely to become a must-have for commercial satellite-fleet operators as the U.S. Defense Department – the world’s biggest consumer of commercial satellite capacity – and even some commercial customers demand that their transmissions be protected. “This is just around the corner,” he said.







DHS Sat Imagery Office Has Lawmakers Concerned




Members of the House Homeland Security Committee are still not satisfied with the amount of information they have been given as control of classified satellite imagery for domestic civilian use is moved to an office within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) next month.





DHS officials were summoned to testify before the committee Sept. 6 to answer questions about the National Applications Office (NAO), which will replace the U.S. Geological Survey’s Civil Applications Committee




Oct. 1 as the point of contact for civilian agencies seeking




geospatial imagery from classified systems.



Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chided DHS officials for not providing the committee with documents describing




NAO








operations and




procedures. “I do not think [the NAO] should proceed until we have that framework,” said Harman, a former ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence




.

Charles Allen, chief intelligence officer of DHS, said the concept of operations documents were distributed to members of Congress in late August and standard operating procedure documents will be finalized shortly. But Homeland Security Committee




Chairman




Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said he had not been given concept of operations documents, and other members of the panel




reiterated that statement.

Thompson also said DHS was not taking privacy and civil liberties issues seriously, with the department’s privacy officer and civil rights and civil liberties officer only being brought into the NAO development process this spring when plans to create




the office were hatched




a year and a half ago.

“This is unacceptable,” Thompson said. “Rigorous privacy and civil liberties protections must be ‘baked in’ from the beginning, and your department’s experts on these topics were shut out.”

Classified geospatial imagery has been routinely used for a variety of civil applications over the years




, including environmental monitoring, storm damage assessment and major-event security planning.




Allen said the NAO will provide a more structured and efficient use of geospatial imagery than the Civil Applications Committee currently does.

The civilian users of this imagery will be expanded to include homeland security officials conducting operations such as border and port security




. When asked if law enforcement agencies would be able to use classified satellite imagery on a more regular basis




, Allen responded that DHS and the U.S. Director of National Intelligence are only now discussing that possibility and will continue to do so over the next year.

Some committee members sought Allen’s




assurance




that the office would not be granting access to infrared satellite imaging, a technology committee members said








may be capable of penetrating roofs and other line-of-sight barriers that could possibly be used to look into peoples’ homes. Allen said the use of that type of imagery would not be granted.

Allen also said




the process for approving requests for




classified




imagery will remain rigorous. As is the case today




, validated requests will be forwarded to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, where policy staff and attorneys determine legal propriety




before imagery collection begins.






Panel Sets Priorities for NASA Einstein Program



A U.S. National Research Council panel has recommended that the




Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) be the first of NASA’s Beyond Einstein cosmology missions to be built and launched.

The council’s




Beyond Einstein Program Assessment Committee evaluated five candidate missions before endorsing JDEM, a mission jointly supported by NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy. Among the other candidates were two large flagship




-class missions – Constellation-X and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, or LISA – and two smaller missions, the Inflation Probe and the Black Hole Finder Probe.

While giving the nod to JDEM, the Beyond Einstein Program Assessment Committee has left it to NASA and the Department of Energy to decide between three competing approaches to the mission, which is aimed at studying the mysterious force scientists believe is responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe. The three competing concepts for JDEM are the SuperNova/Acceleration Probe, the Dark Energy Space Telescope




, and the Advanced Dark Energy Physics Telescope




.

The report also recommended making LISA the first flagship mission of the Beyond Einstein program. The committee said NASA should start funneling more money toward LISA but await the results of the LISA Pathfinder mission slated to launch




in 2009 to test key technologies before embarking on the full-scale mission.






Apax

Finalizes Purchase of Telenor Satellite Services



Apax Partners has completed the purchase of Telenor Satellite Services, a major distributor of fixed and mobile satellite services from Inmarsat, Iridium, Intelsat and others, and is merging it into its Vizadacompany, Apax announced Sept. 6.



Paris-based Vizada is the former France Telecom mobile satellite services business. With the addition of Telenor Satellite Services, Vizada has pro forma revenues of some $586 million, Apax said.

Vizada
and Stratos Global together represent more than 75 percent of the annual sales by Inmarsat of London, the world’s biggest mobile satellite services distributor.

Inmarsat
earlier this year agreed to finance the purchase of Stratos by CIP Canada, with an option to purchase Stratos directly starting in 2009.






ISRO Spokesman Dies of Injuries Suffered in Crash






Sitaramaiah Krishnamurthy, the chief




spokesman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) died Sept. 1 of injuries suffered during a car accident Aug. 24, according to




B.R. Guruprasad, an ISRO press relations officer




. He was 57.

The accident occurred as Krishnamurthy




and ISRO Scientific Secretary Rajeev Lochan were making




their way to the ISRO launch facility




at Sriharikota to watch the preparations for the Sept. 2 Insat-4CR satellite launch.








Lochan
and the




driver of the car died at the scene, while




Krishnamurthy was rushed to a hospital.

A mechanical engineer by training,




Krishnamurthy joined ISRO in 1989 as director of public relations and publications. He is survived by his wife




and a daughter.

Protostar

1 Satellite Already Half Booked




Protostar Ltd. of Bermuda, a start-up company planning to provide direct-broadcast satellite television to South Asia, has




booked nearly 50 percent of the capacity aboard its first satellite some eight months before its scheduled launch, according to Richard Davis, a principal in Protostar investor VantagePoint Venture Partners.



Davis,




a Protostar director, said VantagePoint remains committed to Protostar, whose business model calls for three high-powered Ku-band satellites in orbit serving




Asia.

“The Protostar management team told us they had a satellite and an orbital slot and that they needed a lot of money, and that in three years they would have a business,” Davis said Sept. 5 in describing VantagePoint’s initial decision to invest in Protostar. “They pre-sold 40 percent of the satellite’s capacity prior to our putting any money in. By the time we put in serious money, the satellite was about 50 percent sold. We feel pretty good about the company and the prospects for Protostars 2, 3 and 4




.”

Protostar
, which raised $250 million in 2006, has purchased the former Chinasat 8 satellite from Space Systems/Loral and financed the satellite’s refurbishment and a change of antenna configurations to match Protostar’s initial customer base.

The satellite, carrying 22 Ku-band and 38 C-band transponders, is scheduled for launch in May 2008 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket. Chinasat 8




originally was built for a Chinese customer, but the U.S. State Department refused to grant a license permitting the satellite to be exported to China for launch.




Space Telescopes Provide Insight Into Neutron Stars









Two groups of scientists using different space-based astronomical observatories have come up with a new technique for measuring the size of neutron stars,




an Aug. 27




press release from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., said.

Although they are only about the size of a city, neutron stars are the collapsed remnants of large stars and just as massive: They are the densest visible objects in the universe.




Predicting their size and mass is necessary to determine their other properties, NASA said.

The studies pioneering the technique for measuring their size were conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor




using the NASA-built, Japanese-managed Suzaku X-ray observatory, and by scientists at Goddard




using the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.

Both teams used the X-ray




telescopes to observe rings formed by extremely hot iron-atom gases, which swirl around




several different neutron stars at great speeds. The velocity of the gases, accelerated by the neutron stars’ extreme density,




creates a distortion in space-time, causing the




rings to stretch and smear. This effect




was postulated by




Albert Einstein in two of his theories: the general theory of relativity and the special theory of relativity.

These gases have been observed before, but not to the level of detail as the measurements taken by Suzaku and XMM-Newton, NASA said. Assuming that a neutron star’s extreme gravity holds iron-atom gases very close to its surface – and since the gases cannot be beneath the surface – scientists used the observations of the rings to determine the stars’ maximum possible diameter.

Both Suzaku and XMM-Newton




made corroborating observations of the gases around the neutron star in the binary system dubbed Serpens X-1. Suzaku also observed neutron stars in two other binary systems. Based on these observations, the scientists estimate that neutron stars ranged in diameter from 28.8 kilometers to 32.8 kilometers.



“We’ve seen these asymmetric lines from many black holes, but this is the first confirmation that neutron stars can produce them as well,” Tod




Strohmayer, a researcher at Goddard, said in a prepared statement. “It shows that the way neutron stars accrete matter is not very different from that of black holes, and it gives us a new tool to probe Einstein’s theory.”







GSLV Returns to Flight With Launch of Insat-4CR



India successfully launched its Insat-4CR telecommunications satellite Sept. 2 in the return-to-flight mission of the country’s Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a press release.

All systems aboard Insat-4CR were functioning normally following a 27-minute orbit-raising maneuver the following day, which put the satellite in an orbit with a perigee of 2,983 kilometers and apogee of 31,702 kilometers, ISRO said Sept. 3. The satellite’s orbital inclination was reduced to 11.1 degrees with respect to the equator.

Insat-4RC, to be used primarily for television broadcasting, is a replacement for the Insat-4C satellite, which was lost in the July 10, 2006, failure of the GSLV. That mishap was blamed on a faulty fuel regulator on one of the rocket’s strap-on boosters.



At 2,130 kilograms, Insat-4CR is the heaviest to date of the Insat-series satellites. It carries 12 Ku-band transponders and is designed to operate for 10 years at the 74 degrees east longitude orbital location.

The launch took place at 6:20 p.m. local time from ISRO’sSatishDhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. Liftoff occurred two hours behind schedule due to what ISRO described as a technical snag.

It was the fourth success in five launches of the GSLV, according to ISRO. In a televised press conference following the launch, ISRO Chairman




G. Madhavan Nair said “the successful launch has proved the rocket is a dependable one.”




L





eica

Provides GPS-Based Bridge Monitoring System





Leica
Geosystems, which provides solutions to model and analyze geospatial data, supplied a GPS-enabled monitoring system for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to survey the structural health of one of its bridge systems, the Atlanta-based company said in an Aug. 28 press release.

The customized Leica system uses more than 20 different sensors to check the Mercer Slough bridge interchange, Gerard Manley, Leica’s vice president of engineered solutions, said in a Sept. 7 phone interview.

Some of the support structures for the bridge system, which spans a peat-filled wetland in Bellevue, Wash., have been overstressed and either need to be repaired or replaced, according to the release. WSDOT will use




the monitoring system to analyze structural weaknesses and overstressed areas in order to determine the best way to repair current bridges and to assist in the building of future bridges.



Leica’s automated system detects structural deformations to within millimeters.

Leica
has a renewable one-year contract to provide system support to WSDOT, Manley said.

Manley said the contract was not competitive but he refused to share its financial terms.





Lockheed Begins Work on Demo Payload for GPS 2R



Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver




has started reconfiguring a modernized U.S. Air Force GPS 2R navigation satellite to demonstrate on-orbit capability of a third civil signal, a company press release announced Sept. 4.

The




Air Force awarded Lockheed and its navigation payload supplier, ITT of Clifton, N.J., a $6 million contract in April to develop and integrate the payload. The satellite is scheduled to launch next year.

A




planned next-generation satellite navigation




constellation, dubbed GPS 3 and




scheduled to begin launching in 2013, will transmit a third signal for civil uses that will provide increased accuracy and performance




.




NastarTo Train Initial 100 Virgin Galactic Customers



Virgin Galactic has contracted with the




National Aerospace Training and Research (Nastar) Center




to train the suborbital space tourism company’s first 100




passengers, Nastar said in an Aug. 30




press release




.

The Nastar Center, a wholly owned subsidiary of Environmental Tectonics Corp., offers space-simulation training for government and industry organizations




in Southampton, Pa. Virgin Galactic of London and New Mexico




is building a fleet of suborbital rocket ships that will carry paying customers to the edge of space for a microgravity experience.

The two-day training sessions, to be conducted over the next three




months




, are being provided to help Virgin Galactic customers endure the stresses of spaceflight.



“Virgin Galactic chose the [Nastar] Center after a comprehensive review of other facilities across the United States and Europe,” Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said in a prepared statement.





Alex Howerton, a Nastar spokesman, declined in a Sept. 4 e-mail message to say whether Virgin Galactic employees also would take part in the training.




He also declined to disclose the financial terms of the contract.





Colorado School Launches Space Business Incubator



A new effort to integrate space business into the global economy has been launched by




the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines,




a state engineering university




in Golden




specializing in the geosciences.



Called the Eighth Continent Project, the initiative aims




to connect




government, industry and academia with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to promote development of




space technologies with profit-making potential.



The Eighth Continent is intended to spark and incubate promising space business ventures with




entrepreneurial and financial backing




,




Burke Fort, Eighth Continent




project director, said in an Aug.




28 press statement




.



“Eighth Continent is, by definition, inclusive – which ideally means that anyone interested in entrepreneurial space commerce will find something of value within the initiative,” Fort told Space News.

The




Center for Space Resources delves into a variety of space-resource utilization studies, from planetary soil excavation and extraction concepts to dust management and mitigation strategies. The center also conducts




economic feasibility analyses of space technology.

Initial founding partners and sponsors of the Eighth Continent Project include: imaging satellite operator DigitalGlobe, the Keiretsu Forum, CTEK, Broadreach, the state




governor’s Office of Economic Development




, Townsend & Townsend & Crew, the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business




.

Fort said




a number of activities are under way and in the pipeline “to increase the number of investors, entrepreneurs, support professionals and technologists with a deep, accurate and active understanding of the potential of space technology and resources in the global economy.”