Briefs

by












  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 27 December 2007
03:08 pm ET











Lawmakers Make Push for Launch of Station Payload









U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Dec. 14




he is ready to join Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) to introduce legislation that would require NASA to fly an additional space shuttle mission in order to keep a $1.5 billion space station science payload from being left on the ground.

NASA dropped the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS)




from the launch manifest after the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin told Nelson and Hutchison




during a mid-November space shuttle hearing




that there is simply no room on the manifest to launch AMS. He said




flying the shuttle past 2010 would cost well over $1 billion and further delay the introduction of its replacement, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Griffin




said the AMS payload could be modified to launch on an expendable rocket, but that, too, would cost more than NASA can afford.



Around the same time as Griffin’s testimony before the Senate Commerce space and aeronautics subcommittee,




32 members of the Texas congressional delegation, led by Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson,




wrote President George W. Bush




asking him to direct NASA to launch the




AMS




to the international space station (ISS) even if that requires postponing the




shuttle’s




planned




retirement


date.







Thruster Glitch Takes GOES-12 Out of Action






A U.S. geostationary-orbiting satellite responsible for monitoring weather conditions in the eastern part of the country and Atlantic Ocean is out of service after malfunctioning Dec. 4, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which operates the satellite.



The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-12 (GOES-12), launched in July 2001, lost attitude control after a station-keeping maneuver, according to NOAA’s satellite operations Web site. The satellite is in safe mode while engineers troubleshoot the problem, which NOAA spokesman John Leslie attributed to a leaky thruster.

In an e-mailed response to questions, Leslie said NOAA hoped to restore GOES-12 to its “normal on-orbit mode in the next few days” and that a decision on restoring it to full operations is not expected before the week of Dec. 10.





GOES-12 is located at 75 degrees west longitude. With the satellite out of action, the older GOES-10 satellite has taken over its East Coast weather monitoring duties, NOAA said. GOES-10, launched in April 1997, was moved from 135 degrees west longitude to 60 degrees west last year to provide coverage for South America. GOES-10 measurements are being relayed to the ground directly and via GOES-12, Leslie said.





GOES-11, launched in May 2000, covers the West Coast of the United States from its




135 degrees west orbital slot




. NOAA also has an in-orbit backup,




GOES-13, which was launched in May 2006.







U.S. Lawmakers Finalize Defense Authorization Bill




U.S. House and Senate armed services conferees have finalized a 2007 defense authorization bill that directs the Pentagon to compare and contrast the Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptor and Aegis sea-based interceptor options for boost-phase missile defense.





The bill




, which was awaiting votes on the House and Senate floors as of Dec. 7, also directs the




Pentagon to place a higher priority on the Aegis effort.



The measure




also directs the Pentagon to develop a new strategy for ensuring continuity in space-based missile-warning coverage




, and voiced the authors’ support for a gap-filler satellite hosting a sensor designed for the elliptical-orbit component of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).





Like the payloads aboard the Defense Support Program missile warning satellites




, the




elliptical-orbit SBIRS sensors scan




the Earth




for missile launches. The planned geosynchronous SBIRS satellites will




feature




a




scanning sensor and a so-called staring sensor that can




focus on specific areas for extended




periods.








Canada’s MDA to Acquire U.S. Space Robotics Firm




MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Canada has agreed to









acquire




Pasadena, Calif.-based Alliance Spacesystems, which specializes in robotic and mechanical structures for space and terrestrial applications, a Dec. 5 MDA release said.

Alliance Spacesystems and its




70 technical employees will




become part of MDA Federal, which




includes all U.S. businesses in MDA’s




Information Systems Group.







NASA Prepares To Award Lightning Sensor Contract




NASA is expected to award a contract as soon as Dec. 14 for a lightning-detection instrument to be hosted




aboard an upcoming




series of geostationary-orbiting weather satellites, the first of which is expected to launch no earlier than 2014. Lockheed Martin Advanced Technologies and Ball Aerospace and Technologies are vying for the Geostationary Lightning Mapper contract.

NASA, which is procuring the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) space segment




on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has yet to pick a prime contractor for the satellites themselves. Boeing Satellite Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems




and Northrop Grumman Space Technology are competing for the contract, which NASA is expected to award in 2008.







ORS Program Office Nears TacSat-5 Mission Selection




The Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program office expects to settle on a mission for the TacSat-5 spacecraft within the next several weeks, according to John Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center




.

The Air Force had expected to pick a mission for TacSat-5 over the summer, but the decision was delayed due to the work involved with establishing the ORS office, which was created in May, Ryan




said.







Sen. Hutchison Departing NASA Oversight Panel Slot




Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who has championed NASA causes as




the top Republican on the Senate Commerce space and aeronautics subcommittee, is relinquishing that post to take her party’s top slot on the aviation operations, safety and security subcommittee.

Named to replace Hutchison as ranking Republican on the space and aeronautics subcommittee is Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana – a state with a significant NASA presence.

Hutchison’s move into the top Republican spot on the Senate Commerce aviation operations subcommittee is made possible by the imminent departure of Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who recently announced




his intention to leave




office by the end of the year.

The Senate Commerce Committee announced the changes Dec. 5.







Nobel Prize Money Will Endow Astronomy Center




Astrophysicist George Smoot, who shared the 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics with NASA’s John Mather for their groundbreaking discoveries




using the Cosmic Background Explorer spacecraft, has used his winnings to endow the newly established Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics.

The center was established with a $500,000 endowment from Smoot and additional gifts totaling $8.1 million. Smoot, who will serve as the center’s director, plans to work with the University of California,




Berkeley




, to raise at least an additional $4 million or $5 million




to ensure an ongoing center with resident postdoctoral fellows and scholars, a visitors program and educational outreach to K-12 science teachers.





U.S. Space Exports Dip Despite Weak Dollar




American space- and missile-related exports dipped slightly in 2007, from $2.19 billion to $2.09 billion, despite the continued weakness of the U.S. dollar, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), a trade group.

Meanwhile, U.S. imports of satellite, rocket and missile hardware rose by $62 million on the year, to $946 million, the AIA said in its annual state of the industry report.

Total U.S. space sector sales increased 1.6 percent, to $39.2 billion, during the year, AIA said. NASA, the Defense Department, other federal agencies and the private sector all contributed to that increase. Overall U.S. aerospace sales also grew




in 2007, a trend the AIA expects will continue in 2008.









Lawmaker Seeks Floor for Annual Pentagon Spending




Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by




Rep. Trent Franks




(R-Ariz.) Dec. 6 would




make it U.S. policy to spend at least




4




percent of the nation’s




gross domestic product on the military.

The Pentagon estimates that its budget today is about




4.2 percent of the gross domestic




, while the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, believes




the figure is 3.8 percent, according to a letter that Franks circulated in search of co-sponsors. Franks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said




he has seen Pentagon estimates that its budget could fall to 3.2 percent of the




gross domestic product by 2012.

Those figures include supplemental funding for the wars




in Afghanistan and Iraq, which would not be counted




in the 4




percent minimum Franks is seeking,




an




aide to the lawmaker said. While military spending




is slated to increase over the next five years




, it would not keep pace with U.S. spending in other areas, the aide said.

Franks said in a Dec. 6 news release that Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) will introduce a similar measure in the U.S. Senate.











Work on LCROSS Satellite Progresses at Northrop









Northrop Grumman Space Technology




of Redondo Beach, Calif., has begun integration work on a NASA




satellite that will smash into the Moon in 2009 in search of water, a Dec. 3 company press release said.

The Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will be a secondary payload on an Atlas 5 rocket whose




primary payload is NASA’s




Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, to scout possible astronaut landing sites on the Moon




.

The rocket’s upper-stage propulsion system will separate and smash into the Moon




, kicking up




a huge plume of lunar material from the surface. The LCROSS satellite will observe




the impact and study the plume’s elemental content before crashing




into the Moon itself. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, meanwhile,




will




study both impacts




.

Northrop Grumman was selected to build the LCROSS satellite in 2006 and having finished installing the




propulsion system,




has begun the installation of its electrical harnesses. The spacecraft




will be delivered to NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida in summer 2008 in preparation for a scheduled launch in early 2009




.











Vega 1st-Stage Motor Deemed Flight Ready


Europe’s Vega small-satellite launch vehicle passed a key milestone Dec. 4 with the second and final test firing of its large first-stage motor. The vehicle now faces three more tests of its second and third stages prior to a scheduled late-2008 inaugural launch, Vega program manager Stefano Bianchi said Dec. 5.

The test-firing of the P-80 solid-fuel first stage at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana appears to have met all design requirements, Bianchi said in an interview. Following a first successful test in November 2006, the stage is deemed ready for launch now.

“We have 600 measures we need to verify but all the indications are that the P-80 stage is ready for flight,” Bianchi said in an interview. “The performance of the stage was excellent.”

Vega is an Italian-led project but P-80 was designed by the French space agency, CNES, as France’s principal contribution to the vehicle. In a Dec. 4 statement, CNES President Yannickd’Escatha said the credit for the two P-80 successes is shared by the French and Italian industrial team, including Avio of Italy and Snecma of France, which shared the financial risk in the development.

Bianchi said the next step for Vega is a planned January firing of the vehicle’s Zefiro-23 second stage. The solid-fueled stage will be fitted with a nozzle that was modified following the failure of a test ignition in March of Vega’s Zefiro-9 upper-stage motor, which used the same nozzle design.

Zefiro-23 already has been test-fired and the January ignition, if successful, will be enough to move that stage into flight preparations, Bianchi said.

Modifications to the Zefiro-9 motor, including the nozzle, following the March failure will require two more test firings. The first will be in April, with the second toward mid year.

Vega’s qualification flight is scheduled for around October. It is expected to carry a small Italian Space Agency laser reflector experiment and four 1-kilogram Cubesat satellites designed by European students. The vehicle also is expected to carry several payloads that will remain attached to its upper stage to measure the environment during flight.

Vega, being financed by the European Space Agency, is designed to carry 1,500-kilogram science and Earth observation satellites into low Earth orbit.

Italy is paying for about 65 percent of Vega’s development budget of 560 million euros ($821 million).










Orbcomm

Puts Cost of New System at $144 Million



Satellite two-way messaging service provider Orbcomm expects to pay about $6.3 million for each of the 18 satellites it expects to order in the coming weeks, and to launch them between 2010




and 2012




on three rockets costing $10 million apiece, Orbcomm officials said Dec. 4.

Ft. Lee, N.J.-based Orbcomm, whose current constellation of 29 low-orbiting satellites




launched in the mid-1990s




continues to function, is proceeding with the 18-satellite contract in the coming weeks mainly to reassure its retail distribution partners, Orbcomm Chief Financial Officer Robert Costantini told a UBS investors conference.

“We really don’t know how long the existing satellites will last,” Costantini said. “There is no serious degradation so far.” The move to begin a second-generation system, he said, is “more of a strategic decision to assure VARs [value-added resellers] that we will be around.”

Orbcomm
had $120 million in cash available as of Sept. 30, and its equity was valued at about $159 million. The company had less than $1 million in debt.

Seven first-generation Orbcomm satellites, including one with a new feature ordered by the U.S. Coast Guard, have been built and are being prepared for a launch in the coming weeks aboard a Russian Cosmos rocket from Russia’s Kapustin Yar spaceport.

Orbcomm
has been reviewing bids for a second-generation system for months and has told Wall Street that a contract would be signed by the end of this year. But the company does not view this deadline with any urgency given the current fleet’s continued health.

Costantini
said the bids so far suggest that the company will be paying around $8 million per satellite, including




launch costs, assuming that six second-generation spacecraft are carried on each rocket. He said each launch is expected to cost around $10 million, bringing the per-satellite manufacturing cost to about $6.3 million.

Marc Eisenberg, Orbcomm’s chief operating officer, told the conference that the second-generation satellites would have 12 times the communications capacity of




the current spacecraft.

As of Sept. 30, Orbcomm reported that its satellites were serving more than 317,000 subscriber terminals




on commercial truck fleets and for machine-to-machine communications with energy meters, in-transit cargo monitors and other remote assets.






Balloons To Help Monitor Navajo Diabetes Patients




Space Data Corp. has contracted with the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project to




use its SkySite constellation of




near space




balloons




to help




monitor the glucose levels of isolated Navajo diabetes patients




, the Chandler, Ariz.-based company said in a Nov. 20 press release.

Specially equipped communications packages mounted on the balloons will relay information – which has been uploaded by the participants




– on




the patients’ glucose levels directly to health professionals




.

The contract









is worth about $1.25 million for two years, Space Data Chief Executive Jerry Knoblach said in a Nov. 29 phone interview.

A




single SkySite balloon will be released each




morning




to maintain consistent 24-hour coverage




, Knoblach said.

After passing over the approximately 18,660-square-kilometer coverage area, the communications packages will parachute back to land for reuse on other balloons, according to the release.

Planning for the project should start in January, with implementation beginning in March,




Knoblach said.




Avanti

and STM Group Ink Hylas Capacity Deal



Startup satellite-broadband provider Avanti Communications Group of Britain has sold the equivalent of 7.3 transponders of capacity aboard its planned Hylas satellite to STM Group for 8.75 million British pounds ($18 million)




, Avanti announced Dec. 3. The deal covers the satellite’s full 15-year service life, Avanti said.

STM Group, an Irvine, Calif., supplier of satellite communications services and products, is leasing 54 megahertz




of Hylas capacity starting when the satellite is launched in 2009, Avanti said.

Avanti
said Hylas, which will carry a mixed Ka- and Ku-band payload, has the equivalent of 40 transponders. The STM Group contract values a Hylas transponder lease at about $1.2 million per year, “which demonstrates that the market values Hylas capacity at a higher level than expectations at the beginning of the project,” Avanti said.

The Hylas satellite, whose development benefited from British government research funding, is being built




by a joint venture of Astrium Satellites of Britain, which is building the electronics payload; and Antrix of India, which is providing the platform. Hylas is expected to operate at




the 33.5 degrees west longitude orbital slot.

Germany Declares SAR-Lupe System Operational














Germany’s SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance system has been declared operational now that two satellites are in service, a milestone that automatically triggers the start of the 10-year image-availability




contract for prime contractor OHB System AG, the company




announced Dec. 3.

Under the SAR-Lupe development and operations contract, valued at around 350 million euros ($512




million), Bremen, Germany-based OHB must guarantee that radar images meeting a minimum quality threshold can be collected within 24 hours of being




ordered.

With two SAR-Lupe satellites now operational, and the third – launched Nov. 1 – expected to begin producing data in mid




December, OHB has met that requirement, permitting the contract to move to its operational phase. OHB must maintain the same minimum system output for 10 years.

OHB is building five SAR-Lupe satellites, with the final two expected to




launch in March and July. But the contract requirement that images be available within 24 hours of an order can be met with just two satellites.

In its Dec. 3 statement, OHB said the German Federal Office of Defense Technology and Procurement has confirmed that the two operating SAR-Lupe spacecraft are able to meet the contract’s image output and quality requirements. OHB handed over control of the SAR-Lupe system to German defense authorities




Dec. 1, OHB said.

OHB has begun early design work on a second-generation SAR-Lupe system and is inviting allied nations to order their own SAR-Lupe spacecraft. The company




also is developing the ground infrastructure necessary for the French and German armed forces to exchange images from their respective satellite reconnaissance systems starting in 2009. The French Helios 2A satellite, which was launched in December 2004, carries a high-resolution optical sensor. A nearly identical Helios 2B has been built and is scheduled for launch in 2009.











ATK Lands $35 Million Order for Orion Motors









Alliant
Techsystems (ATK) received a $35 million contract from Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., to continue providing the Orion solid-rocket motors Orbital uses for launch vehicles and missile defense applications, a Dec. 5 ATK press release said.

ATK’s
Launch Systems Group of Brigham City, Utah, will provide the motors to support Orbital’s U.S. Air Force and U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) programs through 2010. Orbital uses the motors in its Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur-1 launch vehicles and in its Orbital Boost Vehicle, part of the MDA’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense system.












ICO Has High Expectations For Lawsuit Against Boeing




The lawsuit by startup




mobile satellite communications company ICO Global




against satellite maker Boeing could result in a cash windfall equivalent to $10 per share of ICO stock, ICO Chief Executive J. Timothy Bryan said Dec. 3.



Bryan, who in the past has used the Boeing litigation – set to go to trial in April – as a marketing tool to investors, said ICO’s recent difficulty in securing access to radio spectrum in Europe will only add to the company’s




determination to pursue Boeing in court.

ICO and Boeing disagree over




responsibility for a now-cancel




ed
contract to build a dozen




satellites for ICO’s




proposed mobile communications constellation. Because that constellation was never built, European government authorities are considering whether to make Reston, Va.-based ICO compete for S-band spectrum along with other companies interested in serving the European market.



ICO continues to argue that the single satellite it launched, which




still is functioning, should be considered an operational service under European regulations, giving ICO a priority over others wishing to use the same S-band spectrum.

Bryan said ICO holds Boeing responsible for the collapse of the contract, which has resulted in 10 partially built ICO satellites being placed in




storage.

“Bottom line: If we had gotten our satellites up, we would be even more operational” and would not be facing European regulatory resistance, Bryan said Dec. 3 at a UBS investor conference in New York.



Boeing Satellite Systems International of El Segundo, Calif.,




repeatedly has rejected ICO’s allegations and has counter-sued its former customer. Boeing has said ICO is seeking up to $2 billion in the litigation




– the approximate value of the contract Boeing had with ICO.

With 200 million shares of ICO stock outstanding




, a $2 billion award would be equivalent to $10 per share.

ICO continues to study the feasibility of completing




the partially built Boeing satellites and insists it intends to serve Europe even as it focuses its resources on a single, large geostationary-orbiting satellite under construction to serve the United States. That satellite is scheduled for launch in March.

Bryan said ICO’s legal team is so confident of the outcome of the Boeing lawsuit that it is working on a contingency basis, meaning the lawyers’ payments will come mainly as a percentage of any court-ordered damages awarded to ICO.



“Our lawyers at this point for the most part are on complete contingency,” Bryan said. “When given the opportunity, they wanted more of this case, not less.”









SES Has Eyes on Some Telesat Canada Assets




Satellite-fleet operator SES of Luxembourg would be a candidate to purchase one or more of the Loral Skynet satellites now integrated into the Telesat Canada fleet if




Telesat
elects to sell them, SES Chief Financial Officer Mark Rigolle said Dec. 4.

Addressing a UBS investor conference in New York, Rigolle said the implementation of Loral’s recently completed Telesat acquisition




has surprised some in the industry.



“It leads some of us to wonder: Who actually acquired whom?” Rigolle said. “Most of the jobs that have been lost have been here in New York, while the management of the company is from Ottawa.”



In a deal that was completed Oct. 31, Loral Space and Communications and Canada’s PSP pension fund together purchased Telesat Canada. Loral has 64 percent economic ownership of Telesat, but only 33.3 percent voting rights, in keeping with Canadian legal restrictions relating to telecommunications carriers.



Loral has said staff reductions, mainly at its New York headquarters, will result in some $10 million in savings. Loral retains its Space Systems/Loral satellite manufacturing company in Palo Alto, Calif.

Loral’s payment for the Telesat purchase included five Loral Skynet telecommunications satellites, including one that is under construction.



Rigolle said SES, which competes with Telesat in North America, is watching to see whether Telesat will use the newly acquired Loral satellites to expand in Asia – a region that Rigolle said remains resistant to efforts to consolidate the 20-odd existing regional satellite operators.



“Our attempts to consolidate there have failed to date,” Rigolle said. SES sold its stake in AsiaSat of Hong Kong earlier this year. “But it may be that Telesat Loral




wants to see if it can grow there.”

Industry officials said Loral has made quiet inquiries in Asia in recent months about whether some form of cooperation among regional operators could be created, if not through outright consolidation into a single company, then by some other mechanism that would be coordinated by Loral and Telesat. Loral officials have declined to comment on the initiative.

Rigolle
said that should Telesat




decide to focus on its core markets in the Americas and sell its satellites located elsewhere to reduce its debt, this “could be an opportunity for us.”

Rigolle
said SES is scouting for small




purchases to fill holes in its global coverage. Such acquisitions, he said, would not be large and preferably would be of individual satellites, not of companies.

“Transactions like that would be appealing for us,” Rigolle said. “Flying an additional satellite carries very little incremental cost.”


GLAST Arrives at Naval Lab for Pre-Launch Testing




NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) arrived at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington Nov. 28 for thermal vacuum testing in preparation for a launch as early as next spring, NASA said in a Nov. 30 press release.

After completing the testing, the satellite, built by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems of Gilbert, Ariz., will be transported to Cape Canaveral, Fla., where its solar arrays and flight battery will be attached.

The GLAST spacecraft will study gamma-rays and their sources during its planned five-year mission. It is slated to launch as early as May 29 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket.






New Mexico Spaceport Gets New Exec. Director



New Mexico Spaceport Authority Board has selected Steven Landeene as the new




executive




director of the




Spaceport America near White Sands Missile Range, N.M., effective Jan.




7




.

Landeene
is a former




director of




aftermarket




services




marketing,




sales and




support at Honeywell International




Inc. More recently, he was




director of strategy and planning for sales and




marketing at




Landmark Aviation of









Phoenix




.





Landeene’s
early duties will focus on moving




the




spaceport




from planning to operations




and getting the facility licensed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. He also




will provide oversight of all spaceport operations, staffing, planning and development. Spaceport America is slated to open for business in mid-2010.







Landeene
replaces




Rick Homans, who left Spaceport America at the end of July.










Dartmouth To Study Leaks in Van Allen Belts



Dartmouth College of Hanover, N.H., won a $9.3 million NASA contract to use high-altitude balloons to study periodic leaks of radiation from the Van Allen Belts into Earth’s upper atmosphere, a Dec. 5 press release said.

The Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses, or BARREL, project is slated to start in 2013 or 2014 in Antarctica. A balloon will be released daily for approximately two weeks, enough to form a circle




around the South Pole,




according to the release. At their peak altitude of about 33.8 kilometers, the balloons will expand to the size of a large blimp.

Radiation leaking from the Van Allen Belts can harm space travelers, damage satellites and aircraft flying high-altitude polar routes. The BARREL mission is aimed at finding where the radiation is leaking from and why.



BARREL will compliment the measurements taken by




NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes satellites, slated for launch in 2011.






Northrop Wins AFRL Thermal Protection Systems Contract




Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems of El Segundo, Calif., has been awarded a four-year, $2.9 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to validate thermal protection systems for future reusable launch vehicles, the company announced Dec. 3.

The Advanced Development of Integrated Warm Structures (ADIWS) program seeks to demonstrate the relative weight and performance benefits of different composite materials used in thermal protection systems.



Northrop Grumman will design and produce hardware that incorporates both metallic and non-metallic materials as well as a newer composite material called polymide, which can hold up under greater thermal stresses




than more traditional graphite-epoxy composites. The contract builds on work Northrop Grumman




has previously done with NASA to develop thermal protection systems, the company said.






Northrop To Continue ICBM Fleet Modernization



Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, of Reston, Va.,




won




a $176 million U.S. Air Force contract in October to continue replacing solid rocket motors in the U.S. ICBM fleet




, a Nov. 30 company press release said.

The 23-month contract is the seventh and final option under the 10-year ICBM Propulsion Replacement Program started in 1999. The total value of the contract is $1.9 billion.

Northrop Grumman will continue to integrate new solid-fuel motors into all three stages of the Air Force’s Minuteman 3 ICBMs




, extending the fleet’s service life to 2030, the company said. Under the latest option, 56 new motors will be installed, bringing the total over the contract’s duration to 601.








NCADE System Successful In First Intercept Test



The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) successfully completed Dec. 3 the first intercept test of an aircraft-launched ballistic missile defense system, the MDA said in a press release that same day




.

In the test of




the Net-Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) system, a U.S.




National Guard F-16 aircraft took off from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, locked onto an









Orion sounding rocket as it lifted off from the facility, and destroyed it with a specially modified




AIM-9X missile.

The NCADE system is designed to intercept short- and medium-range ballistic missiles in the boost phase. The interceptors




could be carried by manned jet fighters or unmanned aerial vehicles.




L-3 Donates Satellite Software to Cornell Univ.



L-3 Communications’ Telemetry West division of San Diego licensed satellite-test and operations




software to Cornell University of Ithaca, N.Y., that will enable the school to launch its CUSat mission, L-3 said in a press release.

“With the InControl software that L-3 has given us, we have the last major component needed to launch our satellite, without needing to make any changes to existing systems,” Nate Persons, director of Cornell’s Satellite Control Center, said in a prepared statement.



The software was provided as a donation for educational purposes, L-3 spokeswoman Vivian Shelton said.

CUSat
consists of two identical satellites that will launch together and then separate once in orbit. One satellite will capture imagery of the other and then send that data to a ground station to construct a 3-D model to demonstrate the ability of a spacecraft to perform in-orbit diagnostics on another.

As the winner of the U.S. Air Force-sponsored University Nanosatellite 4 competition, the CUSat mission will receive a free launch from NASA. That launch is scheduled for October 2009.




Royalty Board Sets Satellite Radio Rates



The U.S.




Copyright Royalty Board issued a ruling Dec. 3 detailing the royalty rates satellite radio providers must pay to broadcast recorded music




through the end of 2012, according to a Dec. 4 XM Satellite Radio press release.

XM of Washington and Sirius Satellite Radio of New York, which are seeking regulatory approval to merge, will pay a performance license rate of 6 percent of their gross revenue




through 2008, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2007. The rate will jump to 6.5 percent in 2009, 7 percent in 2010, 7.5 percent in 2011 and 8 percent in 2012. XM spokesman Chance Patterson declined to disclose the royalty rates the companies previously had been paying.





The revenue subject to these fees includes that from subscriptions and advertisements, with the exclusion of advertisements on radio channels that only use music performances incidentally, such as those featuring sports or talk programming.



If there is no move for a new hearing on the matter by Dec. 18, the Librarian of Congress will publish the final determination in the Federal Register. Once that happens, a company has 30 days to appeal the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.