Europe Selects Nine To Vie for Two Missions

After a seven-month evaluation period European scientists selected nine missions to compete for the two slots made available for science satellites that will be launched in 2017 and 2018 as part of Europe’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Oct. 19.

The nine candidates include a satellite to study whether Jupiter’s moon Europa might be habitable; a sample-return mission to an asteroid; an orbiter and lander combination to explore two of Saturn’s moons; and a large X-ray satellite observatory that would include

two satellites flying in formation.

ESA received a record 50 mission proposals when it called for ideas in March. By adjusting its current commitments, the agency had found just enough room in its budget to approve one medium-class and one large science mission starting in 2011. A medium-class mission is budgeted at a maximum 300 million euros ($425.5

million). Large missions have a budget ceiling of 650 million euros ($926.3 million).

“It really was an embarrassment of riches,” said Fabio Favata, ESA’s coordinator for astronomy and fundamental physics missions. “I am sure those backing some of the missions not proposed will be disappointed, but our budgetary limits are well-known and our selection process was transparent.”

The selection was made by the Space Science Advisory Committee, which recommends science missions within ESA’s budget constraints.

Meeting Oct. 18 at ESA headquarters here, the committee selected four astrophysics missions and four satellites intended to explore the solar system. In the astrophysics category, two proposals to investigate dark matter and dark energy will be combined into a single proposal to compete with the seven other candidates.

The ninth mission to be considered is the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission to detect gravity waves and black holes. LISA, which presents several technological challenges, already had been approved by European scientists but was returned to the pool of candidates and

now will compete again.

The nine missions will be studied for technical and financial feasibility over the next two years. A proposed collaboration with the U.S., Japanese, Chinese or Russian space agencies on several of the missions also must be confirmed.

In October 2011, two medium-class and two large missions will be short-listed. One of each will be given final approval in late 2011.

ITT To Build Imaging Camera for GeoEye-2

Commercial Imaging

satellite operator GeoEye of Dulles, Va., has ordered the camera for a satellite that would launch in 2011 and take the most detailed pictures available from a commercially operated spacecraft, the company announced Oct. 18.

GeoEye contracted with ITT Space Systems of Rochester, N.Y., to build the GeoEye-2 imaging camera, which will be capable of producing color and black-and-white imagery at quarter-meter resolution – sharp enough to discern ground objects of that size and larger, GeoEye spokesman Mark Brender said. GeoEye aims to contract with a GeoEye-2 satellite platform builder in 2008 and launch the satellite approximately three years after work on that contract begins, he said.

GeoEye currently operates two active imaging

satellites. Ikonos produces 1-meter-resolution

black-and-white imagery and 4

-meter color imagery;

OrbView-2 produces 1

-kilometer resolution ocean-color data


Next year the company will launch GeoEye-1, which will collect .41-meter resolution black-and-white imagery and 1.65-meter color imagery.

ITT built the cameras for Ikonos and GeoEye-1. General Dynamics C4 Systems of Gilbert, Ariz., built the satellite platform for GeoEye-1, which is being financed in part by the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

sells imagery both to commercial and government customers. Current U.S. regulations allow GeoEye’s non-government customers to purchase imagery with resolution no better than a half meter, the company said.

Everett Pushes NRO, Air Force Space Consolidation

The top Republican on the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee plans to ask for White House support to once again consolidate coordination of classified and unclassified space efforts under one leader.

U.S. Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.) said in an Oct. 18 interview

he expects to ask

U.S. President George W. Bush shortly

for the president’s

help in bringing the positions of undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) together, with both jobs made the responsibility of

a single official.

Everett said combining those positions, which previously had been done between late 2001 and 2005, would improve coordination of military and intelligence community space work on issues including protecting satellites. The Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization, headed by Donald Rumsfeld from 1998 to 2000, the year before his selection as U.S. Defense Secretary, strongly had recommended combining the two jobs.

Everett had protested the decision to split them in a July 2005 letter sent to officials, including Stephen Hadley, White House national security advisor.

Opponents of combining the two roles have argued that the two jobs combined are too much responsibility for a single official. As evidence that the combination did not work, critics have pointed to the cost overruns and schedule delays on space programs that took place when those tasks were handled by former Under Secretary of the Air Force Peter B. Teets.

Everett, though, said he believes the problems Teets encountered should be attributed to a wide range of factors. Just as members of Congress are able to address a broad range of issues, a single official should be able to handle black and white space with the help of their staff, Everett said.

Scott Large, principle deputy director at the NRO, is expected to take over shortly as the agency’s newest director, according to an intelligence community source. When asked whether Large would be capable of handling the duties of Air Force undersecretary as well, Everett said he believed he would.

Everett, who has served as the top Republican on the strategic forces subcommittee since its inception in 2003, also announced Sept. 26 that he does not plan to seek re-election in 2008.

Senate Adds $1 Billion to NASA Budget Request

NASA could find itself about $2 billion better off next year if the U.S. House of Representatives goes along with the Senate decision to give the space agency $18.5 billion for 2008, a sum that includes an extra $1 billion meant to help NASA financially recover from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident.

NASA’s 2007 budget was $16.5 billion, the same as the year before.

The House initially was more generous toward NASA than the Senate, approving a Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) spending bill this summer that would give the agency $17.8 billion in 2008, about $500 million more than the White House requested. The Senate bill, meanwhile, contained just $17.5 billion for NASA when it emerged from committee in July.

But by the time the Senate voted Oct. 16 on the $54 billion CJS spending bill, NASA’s budget had been increased by $1 billion thanks to an amendment championed for more than a year by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and ultimately co-sponsored by nine of their colleagues, including Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). The amendment, which was approved during initial consideration of the bill Oct. 4, gives NASA a one-time $1 billion infusion to help the agency recoup $2.7 billion required to return the space shuttle to service and keep it flying until 2010

Mikulski also led a floor fight against Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) proposal to trim $150 million from NASA to help states pay for incarcerating illegal immigrants. The Senate voted 70-20 to reject Ensign’s amendment.

Double Star Satellite Re-enters Atmosphere

One of the two Sino-European

Double Star satellites built to study

the Earth’s magnetic field and its interaction with the sun was retired

Oct. 14 and sent into a destructive atmospheric re-entry, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced.

The TC-1 satellite, launched in December 2003 into a highly elliptical equatorial Earth orbit, had far exceeded its planned one-year service life. TC-2, the other half of the Double Star mission, was launched in July 2004 into an elliptical polar orbit.

ESA provided eight of the 16 experiments on board the two Double Star satellites, with the Chinese National Space Administration supplying the remaining payload, the satellites

‘ platforms and launch aboard Long March vehicles.

Double Star

was the first joint satellite program between ESA and China. ESA invested around 9 million euros ($12.7

million) in the mission

, which was designed to operate in concert with

Europe’s four Cluster satellites and featured many of the same instruments as those flown on Cluster. In addition to operating its instruments, ESA was responsible for receiving four hours per day of Double Star data from the agency’s Villafranca, Spain, satellite receiving station.

Network Teleport Italia Leases Gascom Capacity

Satellite-fleet operator Gascom of Moscow, booking its first customer in Italy, has signed a multi-year contract with Network Teleport Italia of Venice to provide capacity aboard Gascom’s Yamal-202 satellite at 49 degrees east, the two companies announced Oct. 11.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Network Teleport Italia will use the Gascom satellite to provide government communications links for mobile VSATs, or very small aperture terminals,

in Europe and Asia.

China’s 1st Lunar Orbiter Being Readied for Launch

China is making final preparations to launch its first lunar orbiter, Chang’e I, at the end of October, the country’s Xinhua news agency reported Oct. 16.

“The appropriate time for the launch is in April and October. We finally choose October with the consideration of weather and celestial conditions,” Zhang Qinqwei, minister in charge of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

According to the state-run news agency, Zhang said the rocket and orbiter have been transported to the launch site and are finishing pre-launch tests.

I, which is named after a goddess who flew to the Moon in Chinese mythology, is equipped with advanced cameras and X-ray spectrometers that will be used to make a 3-D map of the lunar surface, measure the thickness of the lunar crust, and study the space environment between the Moon and Earth, Xinhua said.

Lockheed Martin Ships PAC-3s to Dutch Military

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas has delivered the first in a series of shipments of PAC-3 interceptor missiles to

the Netherlands, an Oct. 9 company press release said.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force became the first international customer for the PAC-3 missile through a Foreign Military Sales contract signed in 2005. Japan also purchased PAC-3s in 2005, Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Heather Kelly said. Other countries now using the Raytheon-built Patriot missile system – including Germany, Israel, Kuwait, Taiwan, Greece, Saudi Arabia and Spain –

also are

eligible to upgrade to the PAC-3 variant

, the release said.

Delta 2 Rocket Launches Modernized GPS Satellite

A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket successfully launched the fourth of eight U.S. Air Force GPS 2R-M navigation satellites Oct. 17 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the satellite, designated GPS 2R-17M, features improvements in signal accuracy and reliability over the standard-version GPS 2R satellites. The upgrades include two additional military signals, better encryption, more power and a second civilian signal, the company said in a press release.

ITT Space Systems Division of Rochester, N.Y., supplied the satellite’s navigation payload.

The satellite joins 15 GPS 2R satellites already on orbit, including three of the modernized GPS 2R-M versions, Lockheed Martin of Sunnyvale, Calif., said. It will undergo an on orbit checkout period before joining the constellation, which consists of 28 operational spacecraft, the company said.

GPS satellites orbit at an altitude of roughly 20,000 kilometers to provide precise position-location, timing and velocity information to military and civilian users around the world.


Wins Contract To Build Orion Test Facilities

Companies LLC of Oklahoma City, Okla., won

a $51.4 million NASA contract to construct two testing facilities for the agency’s planned Orion crew exploration vehicle, Behham’s

parent company, Science Applications International Corp., said in an Oct. 16 press release.

The cost-plus-incentive-fee contract has an 18-month construction phase and a six-month technical support period.

The work, which includes acoustic, mechanical vibration, electromagnetic and thermal-vacuum tests, will be done at the Space Power Facility at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station just outside of Cleveland.

NASA Grants Mars Rovers Another New Lease on Life

NASA has extended the lives of


Mars Exploration Rovers, now more than halfway through the fourth year of what were supposed to be 90-day missions, for a fifth time, the agency said in an Oct. 15 press release.

The Spirit and Opportunity rovers recently

weathered a

series of martian dust storms that partially obscured their solar arrays from the sun’s life-giving energy. The extension would keep the rovers active possibly through 2009, NASA said


“After more than three-and-a-half years, Spirit and Opportunity are showing some signs of aging, but they are in good health and capable of conducting great science,”

John Callas, rover project manager at NASA’s Pasadena, Calif.-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory

said in a prepared statement.

WildBlue Introduces More-Robust Antenna


will make a larger

dish available in late October to businesses subscribing to its Ka-band satellite broadband service,

the Denver-based company

said in an Oct. 10 press release.

The new dish has a 0.98-meter diameter compared to the older 0.67-meter-diameter dish, making it less susceptible to interference, said

Joanne Dant, a spokeswoman with October Strategies, which is representing WildBlue.

“This new dish has tested extremely well for WildBlue, and we are eager to begin offering it to our value-added resellers

and business customers,” WildBlue Chief Executive David Leonard said in a prepared statement.

offers very small aperture terminal, or VSAT, solutions to businesses

under the name WildBlue Enterprise Solutions. The price of the new dish, which also will be available to government customers

, will be set by WildBlue’s service


but should be around $500, Dant said.

FancherTo Lead Boeing Missile Defense Systems

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems

of St. Louis has appointed Scott Fancher as vice president and general manager of its Missile Defense Systems division, the company announced in an Oct. 17 press release.

took over the position Oct. 16 and now oversees the division’s 3,900 employees. He reports directly to Boeing Network and Space Systems President Roger Krone. Fancher replaces Patrick Shanahan, who now heads the 787 Dreamliner program for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Ball Completes Review of Standardized Bus Design

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., completed the critical design review of the Space Test Program Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) for the U.S. Air Force, clearing the way for satellite construction, the company said in an Oct. 17 press release.

The Air Force signed a $26 million contract with Ball in 2006 for

delivery of one STP-SIV platform, with

options for as many as five more


The STP-SIV program uses a standard satellite platform, or bus,

and a standard payload interface

to increase flexibility and reduce the cost of launching experiments into orbit

. The critical design review demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to perform under a wide variety of orbital conditions and payload parameters.

Fabrication of the first STP-SIV vehicle has begun, and Ball will deliver the platform to the Air Force in 2009. The platform will host two experimental Pentagon payloads, the Space Phenomenology Experiment and the Ocean Data Telemetry Microsat Link, according to Ball STP-SIV program manager Dave Kaufman.

Apophis Asteroid Gets Close Scrutiny by MIT

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have characterized the composition of an asteroid that they say could collide with the Earth within the next 30 years, according to

an Oct. 12 press release from the

Cambridge institution.

There is a minute chance that the asteroid, named Apophis after an ancient Egyptian god of destruction, will enter a specific area

in April 2029 that will set it on a collision course with Earth in 2036. If that happens, the 270-meter long asteroid could devastate a region the size of France by the explosive force of its impact or

via tsunamis if it hits the ocean, according to the release.

The scientists reasoned that if Apophis does become

a threat, understanding its composition

will help spark ideas on how to prevent it from hitting the Earth. “We’ve got to know the enemy,” MIT professor of planetary sciences Richard Binzel said in a prepared statement.

and his graduate students used the

Magellan telescopes in Chile

and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii to make visible and infrared

observations of Apophis. They then used

spectral analysis, which measures how objects reflect different wavelengths of light, to compare Apophis


meteorites that have been recovered on Earth. The asteroid was determined to be composed of a material called LL chrondite, which is found in about 7 percent of meteorites

, according to the release.

presented his team’s findings at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences


week of Oct. 7 in Orlando, Fla.