Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 28 April 2008
11:32 am ET





ATV Raises Station Orbit In 1st of Four Maneuvers

 

Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) cargo supply ship successfully raised the international space station into a higher orbit April 25 in the first of four re-boost maneuvers scheduled between now and August, according to the European Space Agency (ESA) and ATV builder Astrium Space Transportation.

 

Using two of its four main engines, the ATV pushed the 280,000-kilogram orbital complex for a period of 12.5 minutes, increasing its speed by 2.65 meters per second and raising its altitude by 4.6 kilometers. The ATV consumed 244 kilograms of its fuel in performing the task.

 

The station’s orbit of around 340 kilometers regularly degrades from the effects of residual atmosphere at that altitude. ATV is scheduled to raise the station’s orbit on three more occasions in June, July and August. Russia’s Progress supply vessel also is capable of boosting the station’s orbit, as is the U.S. space shuttle.

 

The 19,000-kilogram ATV docked to the station April 3 loaded with food, fuel, water and other supplies for the station’s crew. Once its mission is completed in August, it will be loaded with garbage, separated from the station and burned up over the South Pacific Ocean as it re-enters the atmosphere.

 

At least four other ATV vehicles will be launched aboard European Ariane 5 rockets at regular intervals in the next seven years as part of a barter arrangement with NASA in return for European use of the station’s resources. Europe’s Columbus laboratory was attached to the space station in February following its launch aboard a U.S. space shuttle.

 

 

Boeing Hesitates Before Fully Insuring Launch of Satellite

 

Boeing Co. said it is seeking insurance for an unnamed satellite launch this year and may not be able to secure full coverage at acceptable rates.

 

In an April 23 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Chicago-based Boeing said it may face a gap of $350 million between what it ultimately insures and what it is seeking in coverage
.

 

“The current insurance market reflects high premium rates and also suffers from a lack of capacity to handle all insurance requirements,” Boeing said in its SEC filing. “There is one contractual launch scheduled in 2008 for which full insurance may not be available or, if available, could be prohibitively expensive. The potential uninsured amount for the launch could approach $350 million.”

 

Boeing spokesman Todd H. Blecher said April 25 that Boeing would not disclose the name of the satellite whose launch will be difficult to insure. ”While we have third-party insurance for the majority of the risk associated with this particular launch, the premiums we’re seeing that we’d now have to pay to get full third-party coverage are higher than we want to pay,” Blecher said. “So we’ll likely self insure a small portion of the risk associated with this.”

 

Boeing is under contract to design, build and launch the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-O meteorological satellite. The launch is scheduled this summer aboard a Boeing Delta 4 rocket.

 

The satellite and launch insurance market is currently at rates that are not considered high in historical terms, according to insurance underwriters who regularly issue satellite and rocket insurance policies. But the higher the sum sought to cover a single launch, the more expensive and difficult it is to secure coverage.

 

The Delta 4 rocket also may be a contributing factor. Mainly used for government launches, the vehicle is not often the subject of insurance coverage. In addition, it has launched just eight times since 2002, meaning it has yet to establish the kind of track record that leads to lower rates.

 

 

U.S. Battles Misconceptions About Management of GPS

 

U.S. government officials traveling in Europe continue to stress, against widely held public opinion, that the U.S. GPS navigation satellite system is a dual-use infrastructure under U.S. policy and is managed by a civil-military management structure. But 12 years after the joint civil-military management team was installed to oversee GPS, the network still is viewed as fully controlled by the U.S. Defense Department, which finances GPS maintenance and modernization.

 

GPS’s military heritage and DoD funding was used to help rally support for Europe’s future Galileo navigation satellite system, which is financed by European transport ministers with little European military contribution.

 

In an April 23 address to the Toulouse Space Show in Toulouse, France, Anthony Russo, deputy director of the U.S. National Coordination Office for Space-based Positioning, Navigation and Timing, made a fresh attempt at casting GPS as controlled by civil as well as military authorities.

“Don’t confuse the bus driver with the [chief executive officer] of the bus company,” Russo said, referring to the fact that the steering committee for GPS is co-chaired by the U.S. defense and transportation departments, and reports to the White House. “There is no way the military would be able to turn the signal off.”

 

Whether several-hundred delegates to the conference were persuaded could not be determined. In the conference bag that each attendee received was a pamphlet produced by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy that provides a measure of Russo’s task.

 

Written in the form of a comic strip, the pamphlet features this dialogue: “Just imagine if the GPS signal was damaged or discontinued, by accident … or even intentionally? You’re right. Because it’s a military system, it could be suspended at any time.”

 

 

NASA: Cosmic Ray Detector Won’t Make Shuttle Manifest

 

There is no room on any upcoming space shuttle flights for the cosmic ray detector Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), and the addition of two shuttle flights will not help, a top NASA official said April 24.

NASA scrubbed the AMS mission after the shuttle fleet was grounded for two and half years
following the loss of the Space Shuttle
Columbia, which was destroyed during
re-entry in 2003. Completion of the space station by 2010 became a priority, squeezing out science missions such as AMS.

 

NASA’s efforts to win approval for two “contingency flights” after the eight remaining on the schedule do not open the door for AMS, said William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations. The contingency flights are needed to fly spare parts to the space station that will be too large for cargo launchers after the space shuttle is retired in 2010.

 

“Right now we don’t see a spot on the manifest for those remaining 10 flights,” Gerstenmaier told U.S. Rep. Nicholas Lampson (D-Texas) during an April 24 House Science and Technology space and aeronautics subcommittee hearing. “It would hurt the basic infrastructure needed to support AMS if we flew AMS instead of spares. If we don’t supply the spares, AMS might not be supported with the power, data and cooling” it needs.

 

NASA partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy in 1995 on AMS. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was responsible for development of the science experiment and the 16 countries participated in the development, including China and Taiwan.

 

Lampson said not flying the AMS harms the United States’ reputation. “If we said we’re going to do something, we ought to keep our word,” he said.

 

 

MDA Weighs Options for Replacing Nozzle Material

 

The director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said the agency and its industry partners are running out of a critical material used in many of the agency’s interceptors, and options for its replacement are being considered.

 

An aerospace-qualified version of the polymer rayon is used as an ablative coating on many rocket and missile nozzles to protect metal, but the last U.S. manufacturer of the fiber no longer produces it. The MDA, the U.S. Navy and NASA each purchased stockpiles of the fiber and are using them on current missile and rocket production contracts.

 

The MDA started experimenting with another material called Pan several years ago, but it had an issue with delaminating from the metal after a firing,
said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, MDA director. The MDA has not decided whether it will seek out a replacement material or attempt to qualify another rayon manufacturer.

 

“Rayon has always been the material of choice, but we are running out of the supplies of Rayon across the defense and space industry,” Obering said.

 

Alliant Techsystems (ATK), which manufactures motors for the MDA’s Ground-Based Interceptor and Kinetic Energy Interceptor programs, has found a replacement material that it will begin using for its U.S. Navy and NASA programs. The new material is called Enka and is
produced by American Enka Corp. of North Carolina.

 

ATK has qualified Enka for the space shuttle’s solid-rocket boosters, the Ares 1 first stage motor, and the Trident 2 D5 missile, but has not qualified it for the company’s MDA programs, ATK spokesman George Torres said. ATK also acquired a stockpile of rayon and will use it up before producing motors with Enka
.

 

 

General Dynamics to Build Landsat Data Continuity Mission Satellite Platform

 

NASA has selected General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems of Gilbert, Ariz., to supply the spacecraft platform for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2011, the space agency announced April 22.

 

General Dynamics beat out Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., for the contract, valued by NASA at $116.3 million. In addition to providing the satellite platform, General Dynamics will integrate it with its main sensor and provide testing and on-orbit checkout, NASA said.

 

The contract award was made via NASA’s Rapid 2 contracting vehicle, which is designed to expedite the spacecraft procurement process by offering a selection of platforms that have been prequalified for NASA missions.

 

Ball Aerospace is building the main land imaging sensor for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission spacecraft under a contract awarded by NASA last year.

The Landsat Data Continuity Mission is the latest in a series of U.S. land imaging spacecraft that have been flying since the 1970s; it is the first since Landsat 7, which was launched in 1999 but has a faulty main sensor. The new spacecraft, with a five-year design life, will be operated by the U.S. Geological Survey.

 

Arianespace Reports Lower Revenue for 2007

 

Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium reported a 6.4 percent decline in revenue
�and a 68 percent drop in profit in 2007 compared to 2006 and continued to be buffeted by the weak dollar despite
signing contracts designed to hedge against the dollar’s continued decline versus the euro
, the company said in its annual report.

 

Evry, France-based Arianespace said net profit in 2007 was 1.9 million euros ($2.8 million at the Dec. 31, 2007, exchange rate) on revenue
�of 919.7 million euros. Net profit in 2006 was 6 million euros on revenue
�of 983 million euros.

 

Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall, in presenting preliminary financial results in January, blamed the revenue decrease on the fact that while the company launched six
�Ariane 5 rockets in 2007 compared to
five the year before
, all
�of the 2006 launches were of the top-of-the-line ECA version of the vehicle
. In 2007, two of the six
�launches used the less-expensive Ariane 5 GS variant.

 

In its annual report, released April 21, Arianespace said that despite signing hedge contracts to protect
�against the dollar’s decline, “the highly unfavorable trend with the euro-dollar exchange rate has not made it possible to achieve the anticipated benefits.”

 

The company said it is introducing cost-control measures. Almost all of Arianespace’s costs are in euros, while most commercial launch-services contracts are written in U.S. dollars.

 

The 17-nation European Space Agency in 2007 agreed to extend, by one year, its five-year European Guaranteed Access to Space (EGAS) program to offset
�certain fixed costs of Ariane operations. EGAS began in 2004 with a five-year budget of 960 million euros. The one-year extension provides additional
financing of 175 million euros in 2005 economic conditions, meaning the actual figure will be higher once it is adjusted for inflation.

Arianespace has launched twice so far in 2008 and expects to launch seven Ariane 5 vehicles this year, which would break the annual record set in 2007. The company in 2007 agreed with its suppliers, led by Astrium Space Transportation, to order seven launchers per year for at least three years in return for
contractor
�investments that would permit the higher production rate.

 

 

Space Systems/Loral Nabs Contract for EchoStar-15

 

Dish
Network Corp. of Englewood, Colo., has selected Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., to provide a new direct broadcast satellite to support expansion of Dish
Network’s programming and services, according to an April 22 press release from the satellite manufacturer.

Loral did not disclose the value of the contract.

 

The satellite, EchoStar 15, is planned for launch in 2010, and will be the eighth Space Systems/Loral satellite built for the Dish Network and parent company Echostar Corp.
,
the press release said.

 

EchoStar 15 is based on the Space Systems/Loral 1300 satellite bus, which provides the flexibility for a broad range of applications, the press release said.

 

Space Systems/Loral is a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications of New York.

 

 

U.S., Turkish Firms Extend Missile Defense Agreement

 

Boeing Co. has signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate with Turkish software and systems company Havelsan on regional and global missile defense efforts, according to an April 22 Boeing press release.

 

This
is an extension of an
�agreement between the two companies signed in 2003. Chicago-based Boeing and Havelsan have previously collaborated to study integrating missile defense efforts that would protect Turkey, the United States and other NATO allies, the release said. They
�also have worked together on NATO’s Active Layered Theatre Missile Defence program.

 

 

DataPath Gets Work on WGS Terminal Program

 

DataPath of Duluth,
Ga., has been selected by ITT Corp. of White Plains, N.Y., to provide the management system for the
Ka-band Satellite Transmit and Receive Systems ITT
is building for the U.S. Army, an April 22 DataPath press release said.

 

ITT’s terminals will be used with the military’s new Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite constellation
. The first WGS satellite became operational in April
. DataPath’s MaxView Network Management System will provide management and automation for the terminals, according to the press release.

 

 

Ball Aerospace To Support Air and Space Intel Center

 

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., has been awarded two contracts totaling $21 million from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) to continue its geospatial-intelligence processing work for the U.S. Defense Department, an April 22 Ball press release said.

 

�One contract, valued at $11 million, extends Ball’s work on the Integrated Overhead Non-Imaging program, for which the company has been performing tasking, processing, exploitation and dissemination services for information obtained from space-based
�sensors since 2005.

Another $10.8 million was awarded under the Spectral Exploitation Center/Cell and Thermal Infrared Operational Support contract for data processing and analysis, Ball said.

 

 

Boeing, Ball Set To Begin SBSS Payload Integration

 

Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., and Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., have completed several steps needed to begin payload integration and testing of the long-delayed Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) system pathfinder satellite, according to an April 21 Boeing press release
.

 

Testing of the spacecraft’s visible sensor, payload electronics and high-speed gimbal now are
�complete, the release said. Eighty-five
percent of the hardware
is complete and technicians can now begin mating the payload
�with the spacecraft. Boeing is
prime contractor on the U.S. Air Force system;
Ball Aerospace is building the spacecraft platform.

The SBSS pathfinder
could be the first of
an entire constellation of satellites if the
�Air Force chooses to continue the program. It is designed to detect and track objects in space and is expected to be 10 times as sensitive
as the current Midcourse Space Experiment spacecraft and deliver data to the ground twice as fast. The Midcourse Space Experiment was launched in 1996 as a missile tracking demonstration but has remained in service as a space-surveillance system.

 

The SBSS program has a history of cost overruns and delays; it was restructured in 2006. As of mid-2007, its cost had grown from an initial estimate of $350 million, including launch, to $675 million. The satellite is currently projected to launch in June 2009.

 

Meanwhile, Boeing announced April 24 it has completed installation of the hardware for the command and control system for the SBSS
. Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., is under subcontract to
Boeing to build the SBSS ground system.

 

 

SpaceX Vehicles Join NASA Stable of Launchers

 

NASA has awarded Space Exploration Technologies (
SpaceX)
�an indefinite-delivery,
indefinite-quantity contract for launch services on the company’s Falcon 1 and planned Falcon 9 launch vehicles, according to an April 22 NASA press release.

 

The contract identifies SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., as a potential
provider of launches
to be ordered through June 30, 2010, and which would occur
by Dec. 31, 2012. The
contract value ranges from
$20,000 to
$1 billion, depending on the number of missions awarded, the press release said.

 

The contract covers
�launches of payloads
weighing 250 kilograms or more
into a circular orbit at
200 kilometers in altitude and
an orbital inclination of 28.5 degrees. Payloads would be launched to support NASA’s Science, Space Operations and Exploration Systems directorates.

 

SpaceX is the latest company to be awarded
this type of contract from NASA. The original request for proposals was issued in 1999, and twice per year existing and emerging domestic launch service providers can submit proposals if their vehicles meet the minimum NASA
requirements, the press release said.

 

SpaceX’s Falcon 1 small launcher has failed in two launches to date and is expected to make a third attempt this year. The larger Falcon 9, still under development, would launch payloads including SpaceX’s planned Dragon space station cargo-delivery capsule. SpaceX is one of two companies developing space station logistics systems under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program.

 

Vinasat-1, Star One C2 Launched by Ariane 5

 

Arianespace’s Ariane 5 ECA rocket successfully launched telecommunications satellites for Brazil and Vietnam April 18 in the second of
�seven planned
�launches in 2008.

 

Brazil’s Star One C2 satellite, built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy, was the second of two nearly identical spacecraft to be deployed
by Star One in less than six months, following the Star One C1 spacecraft.

 

Lincoln Oliveira, chief technical officer of Star One, said the C2 satellite will be used to extend the company’s reach from its 70 degrees west orbital slot. The mainly C-band service
already has attracted more than 20 million households
.

In remarks after the launch from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport, Oliveira said Star One C2, which weighed 4,100 kilograms at launch and is designed to last for 15 years, will add Ku-band television broadcast capacity at the same orbital position. The new satellite carries 28 C-band and 16 Ku-band transponders and will
�extend Star One’s reach to Mexico, the Los Angeles region and northern California in addition to
Latin America, Central America and Florida.

 

Oliveira said the satellite will help position
Star One
�to be “the leading satellite operator in Latin America.” The company has been able to take advantage of the financial difficulties of one of its prime competitors, Satmex of Mexico. Telmex of Mexico is a principal Star One backer.

 

The launch of Vinasat-1 for the Vietnamese postal and telecommunications agency, VNPT, meanwhile, adds a new operator in the already crowded market of telecommunications satellite providers in Southeast Asia
.

 

Doan Hop Le, Vietnamese minister of information and communications, witnessed the launch
�and said Vietnam is the sixth Southeast Asian nation to possess its own national telecommunications satellite system after Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

 

Vinasat-1 was built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems of Newtown, Pa., which also secured the Ariane 5 launch as part of a contract that called for both the satellite’s construction and launch. Vinasat-1 is one of the smaller versions of Lockheed Martin’s A2100 satellite platform. The satellite has 12 Ku-band and eight C-band transponders. It weighed 2,637 kilograms at launch and is designed to operate for 15 years at
Vietnam’s 132 degrees east orbital slot.

 

Doan Hop Le said the launch “confirms Vietnam’s
sovereignty and its entry into the world economy.”

 

Vinasat-1 will be able to provide television and telecommunications services in an area including all of Southeast Asia, eastern China and Japan, in addition to Australia and Hawaii in the east and west as far as India.

 

 

Gilat Begins Deploying VSAT Network for Axesat

 

Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. of Petah Tikva, Israel, has begun deploying a 1,500-site SkyEdge 2 broadband satellite network for Latin American satellite service provider Axesat, according to an April 22 Gilat press release.

 

Axesat of Bogota, Colombia, will use the Gilat SkyEdge 2 very small aperture terminal (VSAT) network to provide Latin America with private networking services including interactive data, broadband Internet access, and voice-over Internet protocol. Axesat is a longtime customer of Gilat’s 360e and SkyEdge networks, the press release said.

 

 

Online Gaming Could Be Training Ground for NASA

 

NASA wants to tap into the popularity of computer games by creating a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) educational game that stimulates learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to an April 21 NASA press release.

 

The U.S. space agency held a workshop for potential development partners April 21. The
purpose was to
determine the viability of using an interactive game to help middle and high school students develop and exercise a skill set that mirrors the thinking, planning, learning
�and technical skills increasingly in demand by employers, the press release said. Those skills include strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building and collaboration, and adaptation to rapid change, the press release said.

 

The goal is to create an online game that will capture student interest in
space missions and science, Joyce Winterton, NASA assistant administrator for education, said in a prepared statement. Virtual worlds with scientifically accurate simulations could permit students
to experiment with chemical reactions in living cells, practice operating and repairing expensive equipment, and experience microgravity, the press release said, adding that such games can make it easier to grasp complex concepts and apply
that understanding quickly to solve practical problems.

 

Dish Network HD Service Extended to New Markets

 

Englewood, Colo.-based Echostar announced April 14 that its Dish
Network satellite television provider
has added
�high-definition (HD) programming in four markets, expanding the service to 43 markets that reach 58 percent of U.S. households, according to an Echostar press release.

Dish
Network added Cleveland and Akron, Ohio; Milwaukee;
Richmond and Petersburg, Va.; and Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., the press release said. Customers
must upgrade their equipment to
view DISH Network high-definition programming, the company said.

 

Dish
Network provides service to more than 13.78 million subscribers
, the press release said.

 

 

U.S. Army’s Sky Warrior Deployed to Iraq Theater

 

The U.S. Army deployed the Sky Warrior unmanned aerial vehicle to Iraq for the first time in mid-April, according to a spokeswoman for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which builds the aircraft.

 

The vehicles deployed to Iraq lack the full weapons and sensing capability envisioned under the Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) program, but will give the Army a chance to begin using the aircraft, according to Kimberly Kasitz, a General Atomics spokeswoman. The full capability is expected to be deployed to Iraq in July, she said in a written response to questions
�April 18.

 

The Army awarded General Atomics of San Diego
a $214 million contract in August 2005 for 17 Sky Warrior vehicles and seven ground control stations. The service awarded the company a $38.5 million contract
�April 16 to build eight more vehicles and related support hardware, according to a Pentagon contract announcement.

 

 

QinetiQ North America To Support Goddard Programs

 

NASA has awarded QinetiQ North America a five-year, $190 million contract for environmental test and integration support services, an April 22 QinetiQ press release said.

 

Under the contract, QinetiQ’s Mission Solutions Group of Fairfax, Va., will provide environmental test and integration services to support projects at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the press release said.

 

 

Moldavian TV Provider Broadcasting Via Thor 3

 

Moldalvia’s
�first direct-to-home TV provider
, Focus-Sat SRL, has begun transmitting programming to customers via the Thor 3 satellite owned by Telenor Satellite Broadcasting of Oslo, Norway, Telenor said in an April 22 press release.

 

The transmissions began April 21
, Telenor said.

Focus-Sat SRL is broadcasting seven channels with a mixture of local Moldavian and Russian content, and the number of channels is expected to increase in the coming months, the press release said.

 

Telenor Satellite Broadcasting is providing an end-to-end
service, which includes the transfer of content via the company’s terrestrial video fiber network to Sofia, Bulgaria.

 

The content is then

uplinked through Telenor’s Bulgarian teleport and distributed using Thor 3
, positioned at 1 degree west, the press release said
.