Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos provided a glimpse of his Blue Origin rocket development venture during a rare television appearance Nov. 19, saying the first test vehicle has made several flights and construction of a second is under way.
In an appearance on “The Charlie Rose Show” a late-night U.S. television program, Bezos said the
first development vehicle – the Goddard – has made several low-altitude flights from the company’s
launch complex in western Texas. The tight-lipped Blue Origin group had only publicized the Nov. 13, 2006, first flight of that vehicle.
“We are now working on a second development vehicle,” Bezos said. “There will be at least one more development vehicle after that … at least – I don’t know, maybe it’ll be more.”
in honor of
the 1961 suborbital flight of Mercury astronaut
one step at a time, Bezos said. “We’re not in any hurry … because we’re trying to build a very safe, well-engineered vehicle. [I] don’t see any reason to rush on this,” Bezos told Rose.
Obama Would Cut NASA To Fund Education Effort
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. BarackObama of Illinois has
proposed delaying NASA’s Constellation program by five
years in order to help pay for a
$18 billion education initiative he unveiled in a Nov. 20 speech at a high school in New Hampshire.
did not mention NASA or Constellation during his speech, but a background paper presented to reporters identified the U.S. space agency’s program to build the rockets and spacecraft it needs to return to the Moon as one of the spending offsets he would make in order to put more money into schools.
While most of the money would come from reducing U.S. expenditures on Iraq, the early child education portion of the plan, according to the background paper, would be paid for “by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years.”
About two-thirds of the $23 billion NASA expects to spend on Constellation during the next president’s four-year term would be devoted to fielding a successor to the space shuttle, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares 1 rocket. The remaining third is budgeted for early work on the heavy-lift rocket, lunar lander and other systems needed to return to the Moon by 2020.
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee criticized Obama’s proposal
“It is ironic that BarackObama’s plan to help our children reach for the stars is financed in part by slashing a program that helps us learn about those very same stars,” spokesman Danny Diaz wrote in an e-mail.
rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York
, has come out in support of a balanced NASA portfolio that includes replacing the space shuttle and returning to the Moon. Clinton co-sponsored an amendment proposed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to give NASA an additional $1 billion in 2008 to help it financially recover from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident.
Clinton does not support delaying the Constellation program and intends to maintain American leadership in space exploration,” said Isaac Baker, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign.
China Aims To Increase Longevity of Satellites
China is on track to increase the in-orbit service life of its future domestic Earth observation and telecommunications satellites, bringing them closer to U.S. and European standards by 2010, China’s top civilian space authority said Nov. 18, according to China’s state-owned Xinhua news service.
Addressing a civilian space conference, China National Space Administration Director Sun Laiyan said domestically built Earth observation satellites launched into sun-synchronous low Earth orbit would have an average service life of four to five
years by 2010, compared to two to three
China’s domestic geostationary telecommunications satellites
would have a service life of 15 years by 2010, compared to eight years currently, Sun said.
China has long imported Western
expertise in the manufacturing of telecommunications satellites but now has begun developing made-in-China platforms, with two such satellites sold to Nigeria and Venezuela.
and India Ink 3rd Party Capacity Lease
Startup satellite operator ProtoStar Ltd., whose first satellite is scheduled for launch in mid-2008, has leased capacity from an unnamed company and
resold the equivalent of five transponders
Corp., the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, ProtoStar announced Nov. 19.
India, which continues to maintain a highly restrictive policy on giving foreign
satellite operators access to its
booming direct-broadcast television market, has been forced to seek outside
sources to meet demand that exceeds the capacity of India’s domestic Insat satellite system.
already has agreed to lease eight transponders on the Measat-3 satellite owned by the Malaysian
, headquartered in Bermuda with its principal offices in San Francisco, said it will supply Antrix with 216 megahertz
of capacity starting in February. The lease will be transferred to the ProtoStar-1 satellite following that satellite’s launch, now planned for May 2008.
said it has a second satellite to be placed into service
in early 2009 but
announced a satellite manufacturing contract nor plans to purchase
an existing in-orbit satellite.
Study Finds Growing Demand for C- and Ku-Band Services
Demand for commercial C- and Ku-band telecommunications satellite transponders will grow by 3.1 percent annually to 2012, with that modest figure hiding a more-rapid growth in the
demand for direct-to-home television capacity, the consultancy NSR concludes.
In a new report, “Global Assessment of Satellite Demand,” Cambridge, Mass.-based NSR says
an average of 75-80 transponders per year, assuming 36 MHz per transponder, will be added to the worldwide in-orbit commercial fleet during the period. The rate of growth in demand for television capacity is expected to be 6.6 percent per year, according to the report.
North America will add the most new transponders, but sub-Saharan Africa will see the biggest growth rate, the report says.
Commercial use of Ka-band, a less-crowded portion of the radio spectrum that is being used to provide two-way Internet services as well as direct-broadcast television, will increase nearly fivefold over North America by 2012 – to 68.3 gigabits per second of throughput capacity from an estimated 13.7 gigabits in 2006.
Revenue from Ka-band services in North America, which were about $32.9 million in 2006, should witness a tenfold increase, to $369.4 million, in 2012, the report says.
Putin OKs Construction Of New Launch Facility
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree authorizing construction of
a new launch facility
territory to reduce
the nation’s dependency on the BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan
, First Deputy Premier SergeiIvanov told reporters
will be built in the Amur region in Russia’s Far East and will serve the nation’s human
and robotic space exploration programs
, according to Ivanov.
said the cosmodrome will be named Vostochny, or Eastern, and that a feasibility study will be completed by 2010 to pinpoint the
exact location. The cosmodrome
will be built from 2010 to 2018 with the first launch scheduled to take place in 2018.
At the same time, Ivanov said Russia has no plans immediately to abandon the BaikonurCosmodrome, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan. Baikonur is used for all Russian launches of crews and cargo to the international space station and most of its launches of geostationary-orbiting satellites.
Anatoly Perminov, director of
the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), has said
has no plans to abandon
“We will build the new cosmodrome, but initially it will be used along with Baikonur,” Perminov said in remarks posted
on the Roskosmos Web site
Russia’s other primary launch site is the PlesetskCosmodrome in the northern part of the country.
Northrop, Raytheon Nab GPS OCX Design Contracts
The U.S. Air Force awarded contracts worth $160 million each
to Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co. Nov. 21 to continue design work on the ground control segment
for the next generation of GPS navigation and positioning satellites
Lockheed Martin Corp. also had
been in the running for the GPS 3 Operational Control Segment (GPS OCX). Northrop Grumman and Raytheon will study the requirements for the new hardware and develop engineering prototypes, the
Pentagon said in a contract announcement.
Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, said in a Nov. 20 interview that the Air Force will pick a single contractor to build the GPS OCX system
in about 18 months.
Brazil, Argentina Agree To Build Hyperspectral Satellite
Brazil and Argentina have agreed in principle to collaborate on the construction and launch of a hyperspectral Earth observation
satellite for environmental monitoring and oceanography, the Brazilian space agency, INPE, announced Nov. 21.
The announcement followed a meeting of the two nations’ heads of state Nov. 20 in Brasilia
. It said the satellite would carry a payload of about 800 kilograms, with about 700 watts of power. The sensor will include between 15 and 25 bands in the visible and infrared spectrum. Final technical specifications are to be decided early in 2008.
INPE said the joint work would further the two nations’ goal of becoming more independent in space-based sensors and less reliant on foreign suppliers whose products are often subject to export restrictions. INPE said the two nations would make the satellite the first in a series.
Brazil also has partnered with the Chinese government to produce a series of Earth observation satellites, called CBERS.
Senate Confirms Young ForDoD Acquisition Job
John Young officially took over as the Pentagon’s acquisition chief
Nov. 21, according to a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Young has been serving in that position in an acting capacity since Kenneth Krieg retired from the post in June. The U.S. Senate confirmed Young to serve as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics
Horowitz Returns to NASA in Technical Advisory Capacity
Scott Horowitz, the space shuttle astronaut who stepped down as NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems to return to Park City, Utah, is back serving the U.S. space agency “in a very limited capacity as a special government employee,” according to NASA spokeswoman Beth Dickey.
“On occasion, he is called in as a technical advisor reporting to Ralph Roe, who manages the NASA Engineering and Safety Center” at the agency’s Hampton, Va.-based Langley Research Center, Dickey said. “From time to time, Horowitz will be asked to review projects and milestones that may or may not be part of NASA’s Constellation Program.”
Dickey said Horowitz has not taken an office at Langley and continues to live and work in Utah.
NSSO Director Declares Space Acquisition
The U.S. military has resolved the acquisition
problems that have led to
frequent cost overruns and
delays on satellite programs, and this
will become increasingly apparent in the years ahead, according to Joseph Rouge, director of the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office (NSSO).
“We have fixed space acquisition…
” Rouge told reporters Nov. 20 at a briefing sponsored by the Space Foundation
. “The reason is we won’t let them go to the next phase if the technology isn’t mature enough. That was not the case five years ago.”
He cited the Transformational Satellite Communications System and Mobile User Objective System as examples of programs where the new approach has been applied.
, AstriumSatellitesInkAlphasat I-XL Contract
signed a contract Nov. 23 with Astrium Satellites for the construction of the Alphasat I-XL telecommunications satellite, which is being co-financed by European governments. The satellite is
scheduled for launch in 2012 or 2013, Inmarsat and Astrium announced.
I-XL, the inaugural version of the new Alphasat platform, will provide up to 14 MHz of L-band spectrum for London-based Inmarsat – 7 MHz in uplink, 7 MHz in downlink – over the company’s core coverage area of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The satellite is to be operated from 25 degrees east longitude and
also will provide in-orbit backup for Inmarsat’s existing Inmarsat-4 satellite in the region.
has estimated that it will spend about 260 million euros ($386
million) on Alphasat I-XL, a figure that includes the satellite’s construction and launch. Inmarsat officials said they would insure Alphasat as well, but the insurance cost is not included in the overall spending figure.
In addition to Inmarsat’s investment, the French and European space agencies together have agreed to spend some 220 million euros in developing Alphasat technologies to help Europe’s principal satellite builders – Astrium Satellites and ThalesAlenia Space – compete in the global commercial telecommunications satellite market.
Alphasat I-XL will carry three technology demonstration payloads financed by European governments – a laser-communications terminal for intersatellite links, an experimental payload to test communications in the Q-V bands of the radio spectrum, and an advanced star tracker.
officials said the Astrium contract does not include the launch of the 6,000-kilogram Alphasat I-XL. They said they would select a launcher using commercial criteria. They conceded, however, that a satellite with substantial backing of the French and European space agencies
probably would be launched aboard Europe’s Ariane 5 vehicle.
Inflatable Lunar Habitat Bound for Antarctic Trial
NASA officials inflated a prototype lunar habitat one last time Nov. 14 at the ILC Dover facility in Frederica, Del., where it was manufactured,
before shipping it to be tested in Antarctica, the U.S. space agency said in a Nov. 14 press release.
The upcoming 13-month field trial
, from January 2008 to February 2009, will take place at the National Science Foundation-managed McMurdo Station.
“Testing the inflatable habitat in one of the harshest, most remote sites on Earth gives us the opportunity to see what it would be like to use for lunar exploration,” Paul Lockhart, director of Constellation Systems at
NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a prepared statement.
The prototype is one of several possibilities being considered for
crew quarters when NASA makes its planned return of astronauts to the Moon, now scheduled for
contains insulation, heating and
power, NASA said.
an “inflatable backyard bounce house for children,” according to the release.
The habitat weighs about 408 kilograms, NASA spokeswoman Melissa Mathews said in a Nov. 15 e-mail. The relatively light weight and small stowed volume
will leave more room aboard the module’s carrier spacecraft for other equipment, NASA said.
“This prototype inflatable habitat can be taken down and redeployed multiple times, and it only takes four crew members a few hours to set up, permitting exploration beyond the initial landing area,” Lockhart said in his
Commercial Proton Lofts Sirius-4 in Return to Flight
The ( ) Proton-M rocket returned to commercial flight Nov. 18 with the successful launch of the Sirius-4 telecommunications satellite owned by Sirius of Sweden, ILS and SES Sirius announced Nov. 19.
was the first commercial Proton flight
since a Sept. 6 failure, but the second launch since then of the
vehicle. An Oct. 26 mission carrying three Glonass satellites for the Russian government also was successful, using a Proton rocket with a different upper stage.
Sirius-4 is a Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems A2100 sate
llite platform carrying 52 Ku-band and two Ka-band transponders. Most of the capacity will be used by SES Sirius for television and other telecommunications services in the Nordic and Baltic regions.
But the satellite, which weighed 4,600 kilograms at launch, also includes a separate beam to be used by SES Astra of Luxembourg to buttress its capacity over sub-Saharan Africa. This beam will have the use of six of the Ku-band transponders and one of the
Sirius-4 is expected to begin its planned 15 years of operations in January at
SES Sirius’ 5 degrees east orbital slot. It is expected to provide 11.3 kilowatts of power at the end of its service life.
SES Sirius is 75 percent owned by SES of Luxembourg, and 25 percent by the Swedish Space Corp. of Solna, Sweden.
NASA Clears Orion for Preliminary Design Stage
NASA has cleared the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, its space shuttle replacement, to proceed into the preliminary design stage, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said Nov. 16.
Constellation program officials at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and of Denver spent most of this year nailing down the systems requirements for Orion, a 5-meter-diameter
capsule being built to ferry
astronaut crews to the international space station and eventually to the Moon. The space station flights are expected to begin in 2015.
“Today I have given them
permission to get out of the concept phase and proceed to preliminary design review,”
said during a question-and-answer session following a talk
to about 30 students and faculty at Georgetown University in Washington. That design review is
targeted for the second half of 2008.
In other Orion-related developments, NASA broke ground on a test pad for the vehicle’s launch-abort system at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and tested a parachute for the Ares
1 launcher at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz. The 45-meter diameter parachute will be used to recover the first stage of the Ares 1, which will launch Orion into space.
The Orion abort system, being built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., will whisk crews to safety in case something goes wrong during launch. In the first of five tests at the pad, slated to take place next fall, an abort motor will fire for two seconds to
mock-up of the Orion capsule
to an altitude of 1.6 kilometers, after which three 35.36-meter-diameter parachutes will deploy to soften
Ground Test Validates GSLV Upper Stage
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) declared the cryogenic upper stage
for its Geostationary Satellite Launch (GSLV) Vehicle “fully qualified” following a ground test Nov. 15 in which it was fired for its full-flight duration of 720 seconds.
The upper stage featuring the indigenously developed engine is expected to make its debut flight next year.
The test was conducted at ISRO’s
liquid propulsion test facility at Mahendragiri, in Tamil Nadu, ISRO said in a Nov.
15 press release.
test of the complete stage was conducted
“The successful ground test of the indigenous cryogenic upper stage for the full flight duration has validated the design robustness and performance adequacy for its use in GSLV,” ISRO said.
liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the upper-stage engine is
cooled and produces
69,500 newtons (15,618 pounds) of thrust in a vacuum. The turbopump rotates at 39,000 revolutions per minute to ensure high fuel-flow rates, ISRO said.
Previous versions of the GSLV, designed to launch communications and weather satellites to geostationary orbits, have utilized a Russian upper-stage engine design.
Shin Revenue Drops As Demand Sags
Satellite-fleet operator Shin Satellite PLC of Thailand reported lower revenue
from satellite-transponder leases for the three months ending Sept. 30, blaming reduced utilization of its Thaicom satellites and the appreciation of the Thai baht.
Shin also reported a reduction in
services revenue from its Ipstar satellite broadband system, which uses the Ipstar/Thaicom 4 satellite, despite the sale of
6,800 Ipstar user terminals during the period. As of Sept. 30, Shin reported having sold 93,153 Ipstar terminals in all.
In documents filed with the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Shin said it is continuing to negotiate with creditors a rescheduling of debt associated with the Ipstar and Thaicom 5 satellite programs.
Shin said that as of Sept. 30 it had an outstanding balance of $261.15 million owed to lenders.
Shin said revenue from satellite
leases and other satellite-related services
for the period totaled 865 million Thai baht ($27.7 million)
, down 14.7 percent from a year earlier and 18 percent from the previous quarter. Shin sells capacity on four Thaicom satellites, plus Ipstar.
Orbital Lands Fleet Management Work
Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Transportation Management Systems division won a $15 million contract with the public transportation authority in Rochester, N.Y., to equip more than 300 buses with communications gear and GPS-based tracking systems, the company said in a Nov. 13 press release.
The vehicles are operated by the
Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority and include buses that travel fixed routes as well as Lift Line services that serve persons with disabilities, Dulles, Va.-based Orbital said.
The fleet management system will help the transit authority respond to changes in traffic conditions and routes more quickly and help Lift Line drivers responding to pick up requests, according to the release.
Updated information also will be provided for customers on the transit authority’s Web site and at Orbital-provided electronic displays at bus stops and transit centers, according to the release.
U.S. Air Force Buoyed By
The successful launch of the
U.S. Air Force’s last Defense Support Program (DSP)
missile warning satellite
has boosted the service’s confidence that it will not face a gap in missile warning coverage before the next-generation system comes on line, according to Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command.
The Air Force is nearing a decision on steps that may be needed to ensure full global coverage even if there are further
delays to the
Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS)
satellites, Kehler said during a Nov. 16 press briefing
. Those measures could include truncating the SBIRS procurement and accelerating its replacement system or launching a gap-filler satellite
, according to Pentagon and industry officials.
pointed to the Nov. 10 launch and smooth on-orbit checkout thus far of the DSP 23
and said his confidence in missile-warning continuity is far higher than it had been just a week before