ESA Signs Contracts for Two Observation Satellites


The European Space Agency (ESA) signed two contracts with a combined value of 500 million euros ($790
million) for Earth observation satellites as part of a broad partnership with the European Commission called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES).


A 305
million-euro contract signed April 14 with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy calls for the construction of the Sentinel-3 oceanography and land-monitoring satellite. The 1,200-kilogram Sentinel-3 is scheduled for launch in 2012.


A second contract, for a Sentinel-2 optical imaging satellite for land-surface monitoring,
was signed April 17 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, by ESA
and Astrium Satellites. The Sentinel-2 contract is valued at 195 million euros. Sentinel-2, featuring a broader swath width than the U.S. Landsat and French Spot satellites, is scheduled for launch in 2012.


ESA and Thales Alenia Space signed a 229
million-euro contract for a Sentinel-1 radar satellite in June 2007. That
satellite is scheduled for launch in 2011.


ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain, in an address at the Sentinel-3 contract signing ceremony at ESA headquarters in Paris, said the three Sentinel satellites are moving forward on the assumption that ESA member states and the European Commission will agree to fund three identical satellites later this year.

ESA’s 17 member nations are scheduled to meet in November to approve the agency’s multi
year spending proposal. Thales Alenia Space, Astrium Satellites and their subcontractors have agreed to build second copies of each of the three Sentinels for about 50 percent of the cost of the first satellite – assuming contracts for the second models are signed
in 2009.


Prospective GMES users have established a set of system-design requirements calling for satellite data to be refreshed at intervals that can only be met if two spacecraft are in orbit. ESA officials hope that after the agency fund
s a large share of the first set of six Sentinel satellites, user organizations coordinated by the European Commission and its GMES Bureau will be prepared to finance future generations of satellites.


“GMES is not a space program, it is an assembly of services to use operational data for civil protection and monitoring climate change,” Dordain said.


Long better known as the funding agency for Europe’s Ariane rockets, ESA has made Earth observation its biggest area of concentration over the next decade in terms of funding volume.


World Bank To Use ALOS Imagery of Latin America


The World Bank will use Japan’s Advanced Land Observation Satellite (ALOS) to help Latin American and Caribbean countries detect climate change threats, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency press release announced April 17.


The satellite, developed and operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will allow Colombia, Mexico, the Andes region of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, and the West Indies to monitor the evolution of land cover and landforms, including the extent of tropical glaciers, change in mountains and coastal wetlands, and the status of coral reefs, Walter Vergara, World Bank lead chemical engineer, said in a prepared statement.


ALOS has three detectors that capture high-resolution photos of land cover and natural resources, and images taken by ALOS of the tropical glaciers in the Andes already are being used for the assessment of glacier dynamics under an adaptation project in the region, the press release said. Total investment in the Latin America and Caribbean adaptation project, including the World Bank, is $90 million.



Tourist Trips to ISS Likely To End in 2010


Russia might discontinue flights of space tourists to the international space station in 2010 to accommodate the planned expansion of professional crews aboard the orbital outpost from three to six or more, according to Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos.


Perminov told reporters April 11 that the planned doubling of space station crew sizes would leave no room aboard Russia’s three-seat Soyuz-TMA capsules for space tourists. Until 2010, however, Russia will continue offering tourists flights to the space station, he said.


“We will continue flying tourists to the international space station in accordance with the existing programs, but we may have problems with it starting from 2010 because of the planned increase of the …
crew to six to
nine people,” Perminov told national news agencies. Reached by phone
April 18, Roskosmos
spokesman Alexander Vorobyov confirmed Perminov’s statement.

Vorobyov said the suspension of tourist flights is contingent on the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle in 2010 and continued purchases by the U.S. space agency of Soyuz flights to the space station at a rate of two per year.


“The talks are under way and if the U.S. side does discontinue flights and start financing Soyuz craft then there will be enough seats on these craft for professionals only,” Vorobyov said.


Meanwhile, space tourist-to-be Richard Garriott is taking requests for what may be the ultimate in orbital postcards from the international space station (ISS). Garriott, an American computer game developer training for an October launch, will take custom photographs of Earth for about 200 paying subscribers under a partnership with the “Earth Portraits” program of the Association of Space Explorers and the space history and memorabilia Web site


“The Association of Space Explorers’ Earth Portraits allows me a way to share the excitement of seeing the Earth from orbit with enthusiasts from around the world,” Garriott, 46, said in a statement. “I look forward to taking their pictures from space.”

Based in Austin, Texas, Garriott, the son of Apollo astronaut Owen Garriott, is paying about $30 million for his planned Oct. 12 launch to the ISS with two professional astronauts under a deal brokered with Russia’s Federal Space Agency by the Virginia-based firm Space Adventures. In addition to the Earth Portraits program, he plans to perform a series of experiments and educational outreach projects during his flight.



BAE Introduces New Jam Resistant GPS Receiver


BAE Systems has developed a GPS receiver for air, land and sea platforms that can operate in the presence of radio frequency jamming, according to a company news release dated April 17.


The system, which
now is available as a complete system or as an add-on to any existing GPS device, successfully overcame electronic jamming in various scenarios during testing, including jamming from multiple sources, according to the news release.
Karen Spiller, a BAE spokeswoman, said the company is not permitted to name the
customer the new receivers were built for or disclose any
further details about their work on it.


USAF Takes First WGS Satellite Operational


The U.S. Air Force has declared the first Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) spacecraft operational, according to an April 17 Air Force
news release.


The satellite, built by Boeing Co., is expected to provide more bandwidth to U.S. forces than the entire nine-satellite Defense Satellite Communications System constellation that is on orbit today.


The U.S. Air Force launched the first WGS satellite in October, and plans to have a constellation of six satellites in place by some point in 2012, according to the news release.



Boeing Delta 2 To Loft WorldView-2 in 2009


Boeing Launch Services of Huntington Beach, Calif., won a contract to
launch the WorldView-2 commercial imaging satellite aboard a Delta 2 rocket for DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colo., according to an April 16 Boeing press release.


in September successfully launched DigitalGlobe’s
WorldView-1 satellite, built as part of a services contract with the U.S. Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,
aboard a Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. DigitalGlobe is building WorldView-2 solely with internal financing.

When it is launched from Vandenberg in mid-2009, WorldView-2 will provide higher collection capacity, more frequent refresh and revisit rates, and more spectral information than WorldView-1, the press release said.


USAF Taps Orbital for Three Minotaur Rockets


Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., has been awarded a $40 million contract by
the U.S. Air Force to provide three launches aboard Minotaur rockets in 2010 and 2011 for the Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space office, according to an April 15 Orbital press release.


The three launches, two aboard Minotaur 4 vehicles and one aboard a Minotaur 1, will be the first procured specifically for the Operationally Responsive Space office, the release said. The Air Force has now purchased 24 Minotaur launches from Orbital, the company said.

The four-stage Minotaur 1 uses decommissioned Minuteman 2 motors acquired from the U.S. government for its first and second stages and boosters from Orbital’s
Pegasus XL vehicle for the third and fourth stages. The Minotaur 1 has been successful in all seven of its launches to date and is capable of launching 580 kilograms to low
Earth orbit.


The larger Minotaur 4 is still under development
. Its first three stages are
decommissioned Peacekeeper missile
, and the
fourth stage is based on a
commercial Orion 38 motor. The Minotaur 4 is designed
to launch payloads as heavy as 1,750 kilograms to low Earth orbit. It is scheduled to debut this December launching the
Air Force’s Space-Based Space Surveillance System satellite.


Sovereignty at Issue in U.S. Firm’s Bid for MDA


A board member of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Richmond, British Columbia, expressed pessimism that Canadian government authorities will permit Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of Edina, Minn., to go through with its planned purchase of the Canadian space hardware builder.


Brian Gibson was quoted in Canada’s Financial Post newspaper April 14 as saying meetings between ATK and Canadian-government officials are unlikely to salvage the deal. The meetings were arranged after Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice wrote ATK April 8
to say he did not find the acquisition, announced in January, to be of “net benefit” to Canada.


has 30 days from the date of the letter to try to persuade Prentice and other Canadian government officials to reconsider.

In his
letter, Prentice did not explain his position.
But in an April 11 speech at the Canadian Space Agency, Prentice outlined the criteria he will use to judge foreign purchases of Canadian space companies.

“[W]e need to foster the development of successful firms that develop technology and expertise right here in Canada,” Prentice said. “And to develop this expertise, we need to own our technology and the intellectual property that comes with it. If we do not do this, we will not reap the benefits of our work and our investments; we will not build for the future in a way that keeps us at the forefront of innovation in a knowledge economy.


“Ladies and gentlemen, fostering successful firms and keeping the technology and intellectual property in Canada are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other. The government will continue to foster a vibrant high-tech space industry right here in Canada. And to do it, we will retain the ownership of the technology and the know-how that goes with it.


“When it comes to decisions on whether foreign purchases represent a net benefit to Canada, my bottom line is this: Canada must retain jurisdiction and control of technologies that are vital to the future of our industry and the pursuit of our public policy objectives. We will not accept loss of jurisdictional control to another party. We must retain the jurisdiction over Canadian assets in space.”


Shares of MDA on the Toronto Stock Exchange fell sharply April 15 but had largely recovered by the following day.



Lockheed Awarded More D5 Support Work for U.K.


Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., has been awarded a one-year, $15.5 million contract by the U.S. Navy to continue providing engineering and support services for the United Kingdom’s Trident 2 D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile program, an April 15 Lockheed Martin press release said.


The Lockheed Martin-built Trident 2 D5 missiles are deployed on the British Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class submarines. The company is the U.S. Navy’s prime contractor for the Fleet Ballistic Missile program and has been providing support to the United Kingdom for that program since 1982.


The work under the latest contract began April 1 and is expected to be completed March 31, 2009. It will be conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom. Lockheed Martin is providing support for the re-entry systems, missiles and associated systems, and providing spare parts as well, the release said.



New Chief of ORS Office Familiar with the Territory


The Pentagon’s joint Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., has a new civilian director. Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne, acting as the military’s executive agent for space, named Peter Wegner to the post April 16.


“We look forward to continued success as Dr. Wegner nurtures the ORS framework to deliver timely, highly responsive, space capability to meet the future urgent operational needs of the combatant commanders,” Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, said in an Air Force press release.


Wegner, who already played a key role in ORS-related matters while at the Air Force Research Lab at Kirtland, replaces Air Force Col. Kevin McLaughlin, who leaves to become vice commander of the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Wegner’s appointment is effective May 1. He will report directly to Wynne.



Honeywell Introduces Faster Space Processor


Honeywell Aerospace of Phoenix
has begun manufacturing two new radiation-hardened static memory circuits with faster processing speeds and lower power consumption than previous models, according to an April 8 Honeywell press release.

Based on the company’s line of 150-nanometer radiation-hardened circuits for commercial and military space use, the new chip is offered in 4-megabyte and 16-megabyte options. The new chips will be manufactured at Honeywell’s Plymouth, Minn., facility, which is certified by the U.S. National Security Agency as a trusted foundry for government microelectronics manufacturing, the release said.


Honeywell now has more than 100 radiation-hardened products, including memory chips, processors and analog-to-digital converters, the company said.



ATK to Continue Work on ICBM Overhaul Program


Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of Edina, Minn., received a $134 million contract from Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp. to continue overhaul work on the first-, second- and third-stage rocket motors in the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of Minuteman 3 ICBMs, according to an April 15 ATK press release.


The contract now is extended to August 2009 and covers the component refurbishment and propellant replacement of 50 Minuteman 3 motor sets. Work will be performed at various ATK facilities in Utah. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the Minuteman 3 Propulsion Replacement Program.


To date, ATK has delivered 551 stage-one motors and 492 stage-two and stage-three motors, ATK spokesman George Torres said. The total value of ATK’s work on the program including the latest contract option, is $1.2 billion, he said.



Long Delayed C/NOFS Launched by Pegasus


An Orbital Sciences Corp. Pegasus rocket on April 17
successfully launched the U.S. Air Force’s Communications/Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellite into low Earth orbit, according to an April 16
press release from the Dulles, Va., company.

The C/NOFS satellite is a joint project between the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space and Missile Systems Center that was built by General Dynamics Information Systems of Gilbert, Ariz. It is intended to detect scintillations in the ionosphere that lead to fluctuations in communications signals. The satellite was at one time expected to be launched in 2003


The launch took place from the Reagan Test Center on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. Earlier plans called for launching the satellite from Brazil’s Alcantara launch site, but that arrangement was scrapped after the U.S. and Brazilian governments were unable to conclude the necessary technology safeguards accord.



NASA’s Cassini Saturn Orbiter Gets 2-Year Mission Extension


NASA’s flagship-class Cassini spacecraft will orbit Saturn 60 more times during a two-year extension of the mission, which had been scheduled to end in July, according to an April 15 NASA press release.


The extension will include flybys of Saturn’s moons – 26 of its largest moon, Titan, which scientists believe has lakes, rivers, channels, dunes, rain, snow, clouds, mountains and possibly volcanoes; seven of Enceladus, on which scientists discovered water-ice jetting from the surface; and one each of Dione, Rhea and Helene, the press release said.


Other activities for Cassini scientists will include monitoring seasons on Titan and Saturn, observing unique ring events, such as the 2009 equinox when the sun will be in the plane of the rings, and exploring new places within Saturn’s magnetosphere.


Cassini has returned nearly 140,000 images gathered during 62 revolutions around Saturn, 43 flybys of Titan and 12 close flybys of the icy moons during the past four years, the press release said. The spacecraft along with its European-built Huygens Titan probe was launched in October 1997 and took seven years to reach the Saturn system.



UAE Armed Forces Signs Long-Term Yahsat Lease


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces has leased capacity on the two-satellite Yahsat system for the satellites’ 15-year service lives, Yahsat operator Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. announced April 14.


Abu Dhabi-based Yahsat also will provide ground terminals and gateway Earth stations as part of the contract, whose financial terms were not disclosed.


“We are proud to work closely with Yahsat to … develop the UAE military communications and thus reinforce the capabilities and efficiency of our armed forces, as well as our operational capabilities,” UAE Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hamad Mohammed Thani Al Rumaithi said in a statement.


The two large Yahsat satellites, scheduled for launch in 2010 and 2011, will provide Ka-, Ku- and C-band transmissions in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Central and South Asia.



B-Sat Orders Lockheed Satellite, Ariane Launch


Japan’s Broadcasting Satellite System Corp. (B-Sat) has contracted with Lockheed Martin to build the BSat-3b high-definition television broadcast satellite, to be launched in the third quarter of 2010 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket, Lockheed Martin announced April 15.


Financial terms were not disclosed for the contract, which was signed April 14. The Arianespace launch consortium of Evry, France, announced its launch contract with B-Sat April 11 without naming the satellite manufacturer.


BSat-3b will be one of the lighter versions of Newtown, Pa.-based Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems’ A2100 satellite frame. The satellite, designed to operate for 15 years at B-Sat’s 110 degrees east longitude orbital slot, will carry 12 130-watt Ku-band transponders, eight of which can be operated at a given time.


The contract is the second consecutive B-Sat win for Lockheed Martin. The Tokyo-based company’s BSat-3a satellite, also an A2100 model, was launched in August 2007. “We have been very pleased with the performance of the B-Sat-3a spacecraft,” B-Sat Chief Executive Kazuo Takenaka said in an April 15 statement.



SUNY-SES Americom Deal Extended by Three Years


The State University of New York (SUNY) will continue to deliver its New York Network and distance learning service to 300 sites via SES Americom’s
AMC-5 satellite, according to an April 14 press release from the Princeton, N.J.-based company.


The university signed a three-year contract with SES Americom
, which has provided satellite links for
the university’s SUNYSAT network for more than a decade, said Monica J. Morgan, vice president of corporate communications for the company


The SUNYSAT network has connected SUNY’s 64 campuses since 1988. It transmits from an Albany teleport facility New York Network and other distance-learning programming to AMC-5 for distribution statewide and to news organizations and customers across the nation, the press release said.



Telenor’s Thor 5 Satellite Enters Commercial Service


Telenor Satellite Broadcasting’s Thor 5 satellite has reached its final orbital position and has begun commercial service, according to an April 11 press release from the company.


Oslo-based Telenor took ownership of the satellite following completion of in-orbit testing. Thor 5, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., was launched by an International Launch Services Proton rocket Feb. 11 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.


Thor 5 will deliver direct-to-home broadcasting services that had been delivered by Thor 2 and provides the potential for growth in the Nordic region and expansion into central and eastern Europe, the press release said. A 10-day transition period from Thor 2 to Thor 5 began April 15, the press release said.



Milky Way’s Black Hole Might Be Only Sleeping


Using NASA, Japanese and European X-ray satellites, a team of Japanese astronomers has discovered that the Milky Way’s central black hole let loose a powerful flare three centuries ago, according to an April 15 NASA press release.


The new study, which analyzes data from Japan’s Suzaku and ASCA X-ray satellites, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory, reveals that the black hole was far more active in the past and may be in a resting period, team leader Tatsuya Inui of Kyoto University in Japan said in a prepared statement.


The black hole, known as Sagittarius A* (pronounced “A-star”) is about 4 million times the mass of our sun, yet the energy radiated from its surroundings is billions of times weaker than the radiation emitted from central black holes in other galaxies. Scientists previously wondered why the black hole appeared to be a slumbering giant, the press release said.


The observations, collected between 1994 and 2005, revealed that clouds of gas near the central black hole brightened and faded quickly in response to X-ray pulses emanating from just outside the black hole. When gas spirals inward toward the black hole, it heats up to millions of degrees and emits X-rays. As more and more matter piles up near the black hole, the X-ray output increases.


These X-ray pulses take 300 years to traverse the distance between the central black hole and a large cloud known as Sagittarius B2. Scientists observed how the cloud lit up and faded over 10 years, which helped them trace
the black hole’s activity back to 300 years ago, the press release said.

This study builds upon research by several groups who pioneered the X-ray light-echo technique, according to the press release. One team used Chandra observations of X-ray light echoes last year to show that Sagittarius A* generated a powerful burst of X-rays about 50 years ago – about a dozen years before astronomers had satellites that could detect X-rays from outer space, the press release said.



Harris Corp. To Support U.S. Space Control Wing


Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., will supply depot support and engineering services to the U.S. Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Superiority Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base under a $40 million contract, according to an April 10 Harris Corp. press release.


The one-year contract contains nine option years, the press release said.


The Space Superiority Systems Wing is responsible for delivering and sustaining space control systems including offensive and defensive counterspace systems and space situational awareness capabilities.



NGA Awards Contract for Assistance with Relocation


Systems Research Planning Corp. will help the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) plan and execute the relocation of its headquarters from Bethesda, Md., to its New Campus East at Fort Belvoir, Va., under a four-year contract valued at $34 million, the NGA announced April 10.


“The planning and flexibility aspects of this contract are critical to ensure that national missions vital to the security of the United States are not lost or impaired during this operation,” the NGA said in a press release.


The move to the 216,000 square-meter facility is expected to begin in the fall of 2010 and take one year to complete. The move is part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, which mandated an extensive physical reorganization of the Defense Department.



USAF Official Endorses Short-Term Sat Leases


A senior U.S. Air Force official said the current arrangement under which the Defense Department procures commercial satellite capacity is working and that the long-term transponder leases advocated by satellite operators would limit the Pentagon’s flexibility.


Gary Payton, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, said the
Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which buys commercial satellite capacity for U.S. military users, has told him
already are getting good prices in
the market. He said he would not like to see DISA sign leases that would inhibit its ability to increase or decrease its bandwidth purchases according to the tempo of U.S. military operations


Comments: Warren Ferster,