China’s first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, settled into working orbit
Nov. 7, some 200 kilometers above the Moon’s surface, according to Chinese state media reports.
“It has been a very complicated journey,” Li Xiaojin, director of the aerospace department of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
, told China Daily. “Before this mission, we have never tried to control and monitor a satellite as far as 380,000 kilometers from Earth. The farthest distance a satellite has gone before is 80,000 kilometers.”
China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.
built Chang’e-1 and its carrier rocket.
The China Daily report, which was published Nov. 9 as part of an advertising supplement to the Washington Post, reported the cost of the mission as 1.4 billion yuan
million). The spacecraft lifted off Oct. 24 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center aboard a Long March 3A rocket.
Chang’e-1 is expected to orbit the Moon for a
year using stereo cameras and
X-ray spectrometers to make a 3-D
map of the lunar surface and study the
Moon’s dust. China plans to follow Chang’e-1 by landing a rover on the Moon in 2012 and conduct an unmanned sample return mission in 2017, China Daily reports.
Luan Enjie, chief commander of the lunar satellite project, is quoted in the China Daily report saying China does not intend to compete “in any form with any country” and will “share the results of its Moon exploration with the whole world.”
China’s vice minister of science and technology, Li Xueyong, is quoted in the report saying China hopes to become the 17th nation to join the international space station.
Northrop Grumman Discloses
$100 Million in Acquisitions
Northrop Grumman spent a combined $100 million this year on its acquisition of optics maker Xinetics and the remaining 60 percent of Scaled Composites that it did not already own.
Xinetics, a Massachusetts-based company, designs and builds what are known as motion control products, a category that includes lightweight, adaptive optical devices. Scaled Composites, of Mo
jave, Calif., built the suborbital space vehicle that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize and currently is building SpaceShipTwo, a planned suborbital space plane.
Northrop Grumman spokesman Dan McClain confirmed the $100 million figure in a Nov. 8 e-mail, adding that the company still has not disclosed the specific amount it paid for each company.
McClain said the company’s Oct. 24 filing of its 3rd quarter financials with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission inadvertently left out the appropriate reference to Xinetics in the paragraph that read: “During the third quarter of 2007, the company acquired the remaining 60 percent of Scaled Composites, LLC for approximately $100 million in the aggregate.” McClain said that sentence was intended to describe the Scaled Composites and Xinetics transactions combined, but that “in the editing process for the 10Q report the reference to Xinetics was dropped from the sentence. We regret the error.”
Germany Proposes Its Own Moon Exploration Mission
The German government, in a move certain to raise eyebrows among the country’s
European partners, is proposing to build its own lunar orbiter with all-German technology at a cost of up to 350 million euros ($508
million), the chairman of the German space agency said Nov. 8.
Johann-Dietrich Woerner said the mission, called Lunar Exploration Orbiter, or LEO, would showcase German technological expertise in radar and other high-resolution imaging, gravity measurement and laser communications. It could be launched in 2012 and would orbit at an altitude of about 50 kilometers over the lunar surface.
Addressing a press briefing in Berlin during an international conference on space exploration, Woerner said that while the LEO project has the backing of German Deputy Economics Minister Peter Hintze, who is also the country’s
aerospace coordinator, it has not yet been approved by German authorities.
also addressed the Berlin conference and endorsed the LEO project.
Germany is the second-largest contributor to the European Space Agency (ESA), behind France and ahead of Italy. ESA is assembling its own mid- and long-term exploration policy, with Mars as the
focus and possibly including a secondary
role in a NASA-led return to the Moon
with astronauts. ESA’s Smart-1 lunar orbiter completed its mission in September 2006, and the agency has no plans for a follow-up orbiter.
With Europe’s own exploration package still struggling for funds, some ESA and European government officials have questioned the wisdom of Germany’s solo lunar orbiter and a similar idea being considered by the British government.
These officials said ESA
already is investing in lunar orbiters launched or planned by Japan, China and India – in addition to Europe’s Smart-1 mission.
said the LEO lunar orbiter should not be viewed as a project that is competing for funds that might otherwise be used in ESA. “The budget sources are different,” he said, adding that Germany already contributes a higher percentage of its total space budget to ESA than its major European partners do.
L-3 Picked To Provide First Stage Avionics for Ares 1
Techsystems (ATK) Launch Systems Group announced Nov. 7 that it has selected L-3 Communications to provide key components of the avionics subsystem for the first stage of NASA’s Ares 1 crew launch vehicle.
ATK is the prime contractor for the Ares 1 first stage, working with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to design and test the five-segment solid-rocket booster under a contract worth $1.8 billion.
“L-3 won a hard-fought competitive procurement,” Mike Kahn, ATK Launch Systems Group vice president of space launch systems, said in a statement. “They showed their innovation and ability to perform this critical role and we’re pleased to have them on the Ares I First Stage team.”
Clinton Endorses Swift Shift From Shuttle to New Rocket
Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) has pledged to pursue “a successful and speedy transition” from the soon-to-be retired U.S. space shuttle fleet to “a next-generation space transportation system that can take us back to the Moon and beyond.”
The statement, provided by
Clinton campaign staff
in response to a query from Space News, is the presidential candidate’s first specific mention of NASA’s planned human lunar expeditions.
Clinton was silent on NASA’s lunar ambitions when she delivered a science policy speech Oct. 4 that promised, among other things, “an ambitious 21st century space exploration program.”
Lori Garver, a former NASA associate administrator for policy and plans who is advising the Clinton campaign on space matters, said the revised statement was produced in response to media accounts that focused on Clinton’s Moon omission.
Howard McCurdy, an American University public policy professor, said Clinton “seemed to wander away from the Moon-Mars initiative” in her Oct. 4 speech. The revised statement, he said, “at least allows her to consider the initiative if and when she is elected.”
But, McCurdy added, “If elected, I would expect her to shift NASA a bit back toward science and Earth applications.”
Clinton’s statement also pledges more money for aeronautics research and development, better space program management, increased international cooperation and a robust Earth science agenda focused on climate change.
“She believes that these nearer-term goals not only strengthen NASA’s current missions, but also complement and advance the worthy ambition of sending human expeditions to Mars,” the statement reads. “We cannot effectively achieve our long-term goals – in space exploration or otherwise – without putting NASA on a sound footing today.”
Bush Nominates Shelton To Receive Third Star
U.S. President George W. Bush has nominated Air Force Maj. Gen. William L. Shelton, commander of the 14th Air Force and Joint Functional Component Command for Space, to receive his third star, according to a Pentagon news release dated Nov. 8. Shelton’s promotion, which requires Senate confirmation, will not involve a change in jobs, according to the news release.
XCOR Aerospace Tests Engine for Mars Aircraft
XCOR Aerospace successfully tested a reusable
rocket system powered by nontoxic fuel
that the Mojave, Calif.-based company is developing under contract to Aurora Flight Sciences for NASA’s proposed Mars airplane.
Working with NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.,
Aurora Flight Sciences of Manassas, Va., has built full- and half-scale prototypes of a rocket-powered unmanned aircraft designed to fly
high above the martian surface collecting geological and atmospheric data. NASA has no firm plans to fly such an airplane on Mars, but Langley continues to refine the mission concept, which it has dubbed the Aerial Regional-scale Environmental Survey of Mars, or ARES.
XCOR said in an Oct
. 3 press release that the nitrous oxide and ethane-
powered propulsion system it is developing will enable Aurora’s test plane to reach an altitude
as high as 30,000 meters, where the thin atmosphere and extreme cold are similar to conditions found on Mars.
Aurora, meanwhile, announced Oct. 29 that it had acquired Payload Systems
Inc., a 30-person Cambridge, Mass.-based science and engineering services firm that has been involved in
over 28 space missions since it was founded in 1984.
Aegis Anti-Missile System Destroys 2 Targets in Test
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and U.S. Navy successfully completed the first dual-intercept test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense
Nov. 6 off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, according to an MDA press release.
Two non-separating targets, with warheads meant to stay attached to their booster rockets, were launched in sequence from the MDA’s Pacific Missile Range Facility. The USS Lake Erie’s Aegis
system detected and tracked the targets, and two Raytheon-built Standard Missile-3 Block 1A interceptors were fired from the ship and destroyed the two targets 160 kilometers
above the ocean
The MDA called the test “operationally realistic.” The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system, built by Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of
Moorestown, N.J., recorded its 10th and 11th successful intercepts out of 13 tries since 2002, the release said.
The Japanese destroyer J.S. Kongo also participated in the test, using its Aegis
system to perform long-range tracking and surveillance. The Kongo used the test as a training exercise for the first ballistic missile intercept test by a Japanese ship scheduled for later this year, the MDA said. It was the fourth time a U.S. military ally participated in an Aegis
National, Commercial Data Contribute to Firefighting
The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has used a combination of classified and commercial satellite imagery to provide information on the recent California wildfires to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which
in turn passed that information along to state and local officials, NGA spokesman Dave Burpee said.
The law allows the NGA to provide assistance to
domestic federal agencies after a state has requested national assistance, the president has declared the area a major disaster and a lead federal agency has been assigned, Burpee said. The NGA may not legally give information or imagery directly to state and local officials, but may do so indirectly through the lead federal agency for the fires, FEMA.
The NGA did not provide classified imagery to FEMA; rather, it provide information gleaned from that data, Burpee said. In the case of commercial data, which is unclassified, the NGA provided both the imagery and the derived information, he said.
PT Telecom of Indonesia Leases Sat-GE Capacity
Sat-GE, a General Electric subsidiary created in June to market services for
the former AMC-23 satellite in the Pacific Ocean region
, will lease capacity to Indonesian telecommunications provider PT Telkom in a multi-transponder contract announced Nov. 2.
Financial terms were not disclosed. Bethesda, Md.-based Sat-GE operates what
now is called the GE-23 satellite, located at 172 degrees east longitude, which satellite-fleet operator SES of Luxembourg sold to GE as part of a package of assets that included SES’s Asiasat and Star One minority shareholdings.
GE-23, a ThalesAlenia Space-built satellite with an estimated 15-year service life, was launched in December 2005. It carries 18 C-band and 20 Ku-band transponders. Sat-GE said it is marketing
five Ku-band beams and one C-band beam in the Pacific Ocean region. SES originally
designed and deployed the satellite to provide trans-Pacific communications to aircraft as part of the Connexion by Boeing Internet service, which has been cancel
IndraWidjanarko, PT Telkom’s general manager for satellite systems, said the company will use the GE-23 capacity to extend mobile telephone service into eastern Indonesia. “With a subscriber base growing at double digits month on month, we need a combination of bandwidth, coverage and rapid deployment,” Widjanarko said.
Andrews Space Completes Acquisition of Avionics Firm
Seattle-based Andrews Space announced Nov. 1 it had completed its acquisition of Automated Control Environments Inc.
(ACEi), a Valencia, Calif.,
company that develops fault-tolerant aerospace avionics and advanced control systems.
currently is flying on Genesis 2
, an unmanned inflatable space module Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas launched earlier this year.
“By acquiring ACEi, we continue to make progress toward our corporate goal of being a mid-tier system integrator,” Andrews President Jason Andrews said in a statement. “ACEi’s fault-tolerant launch vehicle and satellite avionics and control systems, complemented by their work on spacecraft components and unmanned vehicles, directly address our current programs and customer base.
Andrews Space’s customers include NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense and aerospace prime contractors.
Newest GPS Satellite Declared Operational
The U.S. Air Force declared the
most recently launched GPS 2R-M navigation and positioning satellite
for military and civilian use Oct. 31, according to a Nov. 5 press release from Lockheed Martin, the satellite’s builder
Launched Oct. 17, the satellite is the fourth in a series of eight Block 2R-M satellites built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif. After Lockheed Martin completed a six-day checkout period, control was handed over to
Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., to activate
the navigation payload.
The next GPS Block 2RM satellite is scheduled to launch Dec. 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The satellites in this series
increased signal power to overcome interference, both accidental and deliberate.
Lockheed Martin is
competing with Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis for the contract to build the next-generation GPS 3 satellites, which will be even more capable. That contract is slated for award next year.
NPOESS Control System Handed Off to Customer
The contracting team of Northrop Grumman and Raytheon has handed off the ground control segment for the next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites to its U.S. government customer, according to a Raytheon press release.
Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., is prime contractor on the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, which is being managed and funded jointly by the U.S. Air Force and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems of Garland, Texas, is a major subcontractor responsible for the ground segment.
The NPOESS command, control and communications segment, called C3S and consisting of hardware and software elements, will first be used to control the NPOESS Preparatory Project, a NASA-led demonstration satellite slated to launch in late 2009. The NPOESS satellites are scheduled to begin launching in 2013.
The team also recently demonstrated for the first time the ground segment’s ability to control the NPOESS Preparatory Project satellite remotely. Satellite operators at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Suitland, Md., facility succeeded on their first attempt to control the spacecraft, which
currently is housed at satellite-builder Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp.’s Boulder, Colo., facility.
Orbital Outfitters Hires NASA
Peter Homer, an out-of-work aerospace engineer and one-time sailmaker from Maine who won $200,000 from NASA this May for an astronaut glove stitched together on his dining room table, has been hired by
start-up hoping to outfit private space explorers.
Los Angeles-based Orbital Outfitters intends to put Homer’s engineering and sewing skills to work on a pressurized space suit for suborbital space flyers. A prototype of that suit, dubbed the Industrial Suborbital Space Suit-Crew, was unveiled
at the X Prize Cup in New Mexico in late October.
“We’ve brought Peter Homer on as a consultant initially for glove design and hopefully other parts of the suit,” said Jeff Feige, Orbital Outfitter’s chief executive officer. He said Homer would continue to work out of his home in Southwest Harbor, Maine. “I think for the moment we will work where he is,” Feige said. “We’re a small company and we don’t need things right away,” he said, noting that there is not exactly a pressing demand right now
for the company’s wares.
Homer, a mechanical and aeronautical and astronautical engineer with degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Stanford University, took home $200,000 in NASA’s first-ever Astronaut Glove Challenge by demonstrating that a
glove he designed could perform at least as well as NASA’s current space glove –
built by Hamilton Sundstrand and ILC Dover – in a variety of dexterity, flexibility and durability tests held over a two-day period.
Orbital Outfitters landed its first contract last year to
the emergency pressure suits for a piloted suborbital vehicle being developed by XCOR Aerospace of
also is working with a sister company called Space Diver on a pressure suit it hopes will enable some individual to blow past the high-diving record Joe Kittinger set in 1960. Kittinger, then a
young military officer, jumped from a helium balloon hovering above 30 kilometers in altitude
as part of a U.S. Air Force research project on high-altitude bailouts.
said breaking that
longstanding record is a step toward the companies’ goal of
finding the right combination of space suit and suborbital vehicle that will allow thrill-seeking individuals to sky dive from the edge of space, an altitude some 70 kilometers above where Kittinger made his jump.