Briefs

by












  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 19 May 2008
10:09 am ET



House Panel Gives T-Sat Full Request; Senate Exceeds It

 

The House Armed Services Committee recommended fully funding the Air Force’s Transformational Satellite (T-Sat) communications system for 2009, several weeks after its Senate counterpart recommended adding $350 million to the president’s budget request for the program.

 

In its mark-up of the 2009 defense authorization bill, the House committee fully funded each of the major Air Force space programs at the levels requested by U.S. President George W. Bush, including $843 million for T-Sat.

 

The House committee slashed money from several major U.S. Missile Defense Agency programs, including $42.6 million from the Airborne Laser, $36 million from Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, $182 million from the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, $55 million from the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and $99 million from sensors. The Senate committee recommended adding money to several operational missile defense programs at the expense of developmental programs.

 

Ala. Firm To Build Attitude Controls for Bigelow Craft

 

Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace, LLC has awarded Orion Propulsion
�Inc. of Madison, Ala., a $4.8 million contract to design and build an attitude control system for the Sundancer commercial space habitat Bigelow hopes to deploy in 2010.

 

Bigelow announced the contract May 15, but it was awarded earlier this year
�following the completion of a preliminary design review for the propulsion system, which is designed to use the hydrogen and oxygen b
y
products from Sundancer’s environmental control and life support system to generate propellant for the thrusters.

 

According to Bigelow’s press release, Orion Propulsion has completed multiple rounds of hot-fire testing and full-duration burn tests.

 

Tim Pickens, the founder and chief executive officer of Orion Propulsion, said in a statement that his company and Bigelow Aerospace share “a common desire” to lower the cost of getting to and working in space.

 

“I am very impressed that Bigelow Aerospace has chosen this innovative propulsion system solution utilizing the waste byproducts of the environmental control system for the world’s first commercial manned space destination,” Pickens said.

 

Aerojet Tests Prototype of Orion Propulsion System

 

Aerojet recently completed prototype engine hardware tests for NASA’s planned Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle demonstrating its ability to withstand stresses in space and as it reenters the atmosphere for landing, the company said in a May 13 press release.

 

The sea-level test program by the Sacramento, Calif.-based company included thermal cycle testing to allay concerns that the MR-104G engine’s performance would degrade as the crew capsule
returns
to Earth, the press release said. The current Orion program calls for 12
engines operating at 120 pounds of thrust.

 

Thales Alenia Space Picked To Manufacture Nilesat 201

 

Telecommunications satellite operator Nilesat Co. of Egypt has selected Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy to build the Nilesat 201 satellite, which is scheduled to be launched in early 2010 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket, industry officials said.

 

The decision
�puts an end to a nearly two-year competition that included two rounds
of bid requests by the satellite operator, which was unhappy with the first-round offers
�and forced prospective contractors to start from scratch in 2007.

 

In the first round of bids, Thales Alenia Space had joined forces with Astrium Satellites, a teaming arrangement that the two European companies have used successfully
to win previous satellite contracts from Middle Eastern
satellite operators Arabsat and Yahsat. They subsequently decided to make separate bids.

 

The Nilesat 201 satellite, to be launched into Nilesat’s 7 degrees west slot, will be a Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000B2 platform and is expected to weigh 3,200 kilograms at launch and
�deliver 5.7 kilowatts of power to the payload. It will carry 28 Ku-band transponders and four transponders in Ka
-band for direct-to-home television, radio and data-transmissions in the Middle East and North Africa.

Thales Alenia Space and Arianespace officials declined to comment on their Nilesat bids. Nilesat operates two satellites that are nearly full and
also has leased capacity, in the form of the former Hot Bird 4 satellite, from Eutelsat of Paris.

 

Globalstar Hires Colby To Serve as New COO

 

Struggling mobile satellite-services operator Globalstar Inc. has hired a chief operating officer (COO) to round out its management team and given the new recruit multiple incentives to stick with the company.

 

Thomas M. Colby, a former vice president of Trimble Navigation Ltd., will receive a $300,000 base salary plus $1.6 million in Globalstar stock that vests in 2011, 2012 and 2013, on condition that he is still with the company on those dates, Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar said in a May 14 filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

Colby also will receive a one-time, $500,000 bonus, to be paid in cash or in stock – as the company chooses – once 24 of Globalstar’s second-generation satellites are
in orbit and operational. The satellites are under construction and scheduled for launch starting in late 2009.

Globalstar
also has granted Colby options to buy 1.26 million shares of company stock at exercise prices of $5, $10, $15 and $20 per share. Globalstar’s stock was trading at between $8 and $10 per share before slipping to around $3 in recent weeks.

 

House Bill Would Authorize Additional Shuttle Flights

 

House lawmakers introduced legislation
May 15
authorizing three additional space shuttle flights before the fleet’s
scheduled 2010 retirement, including the launch of a
�science
�probe removed from the
manifest after the 2003 Columbia accident.

The proposed NASA
Authorization Act of 2008 designates $150 million for a space shuttle flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the international space station in 2010. Two other flights that NASA already has budgeted for and placed on its manifest as contingencies while awaiting White House
approval would become part of the official
manifest under the bill introduced by Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), chairman of the House Science and Technology space and aeronautics subcommittee, ranking minority member Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), and Reps. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.).

 

The Senate Commerce Committee has not yet introduced its version of the bill, and Congress still must appropriate the money needed to add the shuttle mission to deliver the AMS.

 

The AMS is a U.S. Department of Energy-led experiment, with 16 international partners, to measure charged particles outside Earth’s atmosphere. NASA agreed in 1995 to launch AMS aboard a space shuttle to the space station, but
constraints resulting from the Columbia accident, including a two-and-a-half
year
suspension of
flights,
�pushed AMS off the manifest.

 

The experiment has
wide support from members of Congress, who
frequently have asked NASA to try and find a way
to fit AMS in. In the bill that funded
NASA for this year, Congress directed the agency to
study the matter
.

NASA
�responded in a February report to the House and Senate appropriations committees that the two contingency flights are fully loaded with large spare parts that only the shuttle can transport to the space station. Adding a space shuttle flight in 2010 would cost between $300 million and $400 million, the report said, and keeping the space shuttle flying in 2011 would cost between $2.7 billion and $4 billion.

“In summary, the existing space shuttle flight schedule, and potentially up to two contingency logistics flights, may be achievable before the [space shuttle’s September] 2010 retirement. However, the program does not have a significant amount of margin to accommodate an additional flight for AMS without significant impacts to future exploration goals, cost, and possibly safety,” the report said.

 

The authorization bill sets a $19.2 billion NASA budget for 2009, a $1.9 million increase over
2008
.
In addition to that figure, the bill seeks
�$1 billion to accelerate NASA’s space shuttle replacement vehicles: the
Orion crew capsule
and Ares 1 rocket. NASA officials have said they could speed development of those vehicles
by about two years – to 2013 – with an additional $2 billion.

 

The bill also extends the possibility of U.S. participation in the international space station for four additional years by directing NASA to “take no steps” that would prevent the United States from utilizing the space station after 2016.

 

 

Thales Alenia-Orbital Team Picked To Build Koreasat 6




Korea Telecom has selected Thales Alenia Space to build the Koreasat 6 telecommunications satellite for launch in late 2010, the Franco-Italian manufacturer announced May 14.

 

Koreasat 6 will include a skeletal structure, or platform, provided by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va. Thales Alenia Space and Orbital have combined
efforts previously to build the AMC-21 telecommunications satellite for fleet operator SES of Luxembourg. AMC-21 is scheduled for launch later this year aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket.

 

Koreasat 6 is expected to weigh 2,750 kilograms at launch and
�provide 3.4 kilowatts of power to its telecommunications payload. It will be operated at
116 degrees east longitude to provide telecommunications services in Korea.

 

 




Emerging Markets Drive Sales Growth at Eutelsat

 

Satellite-fleet operator Eutelsat recorded
an 8.9 percent increase in revenue
�for the three months ending March 31 compared to the same period a year ago, with growth particularly strong in the satellite-television markets in Russia, Africa, Turkey and the Middle East, the company reported May 15.

 

Paris-based Eutelsat – the world’s third-largest commercial satellite operator in terms of revenue
�- also said it
�doubled the number of high-definition television channels it is carrying, to 35, in the past year.

 

Eutelsat’s sale of short-term capacity to governments, including the U.S. Defense Department, dropped by nearly 6 percent from a year ago, to 14.2 million euros ($22 million), but would have increased by 9.5 percent if the dollar-euro exchange rate had remained constant, the company said
.

 

With its core television-broadcast markets continuing to demonstrate robust health, Eutelsat raised its forecast of revenue
�for its 2007-2008
fiscal year, which ends June 30, by 10 million euros, to 860 million-870 million euros.

 

For the three months ending March 31, Eutelsat reported revenue
�of 223.9 million euros. Video applications accounted for 74 percent of sales. Since March 2007, Eutelsat has added 472
�television channels to its satellite fleet, for a total of 2,977 channels as of March 31, 2008.

 

Sixty percent of the new television channels were for the developing markets of Russia, Africa, Turkey and the Middle East.

 

Eutelsat sells capacity on 24 in-orbit satellites and has seven spacecraft on order. During the quarter, the company
contracted with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy for
the large W3B telecommunications satellite, to be delivered in 2010. The contract is valued at 130 million euros.

 

Eutelsat
also is rolling out a consumer satellite-broadband service, called Tooway, starting with the limited Ka-band capacity on its Hot Bird 6 satellite located at the company’s
prime 13 degrees east orbital slot for European television broadcasting.

 

In an order announced in January but formally booked in December, Eutelsat contracted with Astrium Satellites to manufacture the all-Ka-band Ka-Sat satellite for launch in 2010.

Astrium Services Division Boosts EADS Space Sales

 

The Astrium space division of Europe’s EADS aerospace giant tripled its pretax profit in the three months ending March 31 and posted a 19 percent increase in revenue
�on the strength of its satellite telecommunications services contract with the British Defence Ministry, EADS reported May 14.

 

The ramp-up in production of the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, for which Astrium is prime contractor, also boosted revenue
, the company said.

 

EADS managers have long said Astrium is the weak link in the company’s profitability. But with the multi
year contract to provide telecommunications services to the British Defence Ministry as its core business, the Astrium Services unit
has become the space division’s profitability engine and helped it
post better margins.

 

EADS said that for the three months ending March 31, Astrium posted revenue
�of 751 million euros ($1.16 billion), up 19 percent from the same period a year ago. Pretax profit was 33 million euros, more than triple the 10 million euros of a year earlier.

 

As a percentage of revenue
, pretax profit remains modest, at 4.4 percent. EADS management believes a 5 percent margin is within reach.

 

Astrium’s contract backlog stood at 12.7 billion euros on March 31, a 1.3 percent increase over a year earlier. The Astrium Satellites division during the quarter booked an order for the AM4 telecommunications satellite to be built for the Russian Satellite Communications Co.

 

Of Astrium’s current revenue,
49 percent is from the Space Transportation division, which includes Astrium’s work building international space station elements; 32 percent is from Astrium Satellites and 19 percent is from Astrium Services.

 

Large GeoEye Shareholder Slams Firm’s Management

 

GeoEye Inc. Chief Executive Matthew O’Connell absorbed sharp blows from an unexpected quarter May 9 as a self-described major shareholder in
the satellite imagery products provider accused
management of doing “an absolutely horrific job” of managing relations with Wall Street.

 

In a conference call on the Dulles, Va.-based company’s financial results – sharply down mainly because of lower revenue
�from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) –
Thomas U. Barton, co-founder of White Rock Capital Management L.P., said GeoEye has made itself vulnerable to a hostile takeover because of the decline of its stock price.

 

GeoEye shares on the U.S. Nasdaq market fell right from the opening bell May 9 on the financial results, dropping by nearly 26 percent before recovering slightly and closing with a 16 percent decline.

 

Barton said GeoEye is trading at not much more than the carrying value of its assets with a market capitalization of little more than $300 million.

 

“You should contact an investment banker to figure out how to manage this,” Barton said. “If you don’t get this thing fixed, I think we ought to be looking to find some new management.”

 

O’Connell, who spent part of his career on Wall Street and was sent to GeoEye by investment banks in 2001 to make the business more attractive to investors, said he too was upset at the stock-price decline. “I share your pain quite literally,” he said.

 

Barton was having none of it. “No you don’t. You don’t share my pain ‘quite literally.’ I don’t think you and I share it on a one-to-one basis because I bet I own a lot more stock than you do.”

 

Whether Barton owns more GeoEye stock than O’Connell could not be immediately determined. O’Connell conceded that but added: “I left a lot of paper in New York and came down here to restructure this company and made a big bet on it. I have most of my net worth tied up here.”

 

Quoting Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, O’Connell said he would rather be criticized for the stock price than for the company’s relations to its customers. “We’re doing a good job serving our customers. We have a lot of initiatives that should help us grow the business.”

 

Barton said he had no complaints with the way GeoEye managers ran the business, but
�repeated his assertion that management has done “a horrible job on Wall Street. You did a horrible job of setting up expectations of what would happen when your satellite launch was delayed. You come out today with [financial results] that quite frankly didn’t surprise me at all, and the market cuts your stock again by 25 percent. You’ve got to get that corrected. Otherwise, some company is going to say, ‘It’s a lot cheaper for us to buy GeoEye … than to put a new satellite into the air.'”

 

GeoEye’s GeoEye-1 high-resolution optical satellite is several months behind schedule and now is set for launch Aug. 22 aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket. The satellite is expected to enter service in October.

 

 

Rayermann Headed to Pentagon Space Office

 

U.S. Army Col. Patrick Rayermann, chief of the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Division, will be taking a position July 1 at the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office where he will be in charge of developing long-term satellite communications plans.

 

Rayermann will replace U.S. Navy Capt. Douglas Schroeder as director of the Communications Functional Integration Office. The office’s biannually updated Transformational Communications Architecture informs U.S. military and civil-agency decision makers on the nation’s future satellite communications framework.

 

Army Col. Rick Schantz will take
Rayermann’s position at the Army Space and Missile Defense Division effective July 1.

 

2007 was Banner Year for Spanish Satellite Operator

 

Spanish satellite-fleet operator Hispasat reported a 6.5 percent increase in revenue
�and a 78.7 percent gross profit margin for 2007, with its satellite covering
Brazil making a major contribution, Madrid-based Hispasat announced May 13.

 

Net profit was up 45.8 percent and net debt was down despite a loan of 200 million euros ($309.7
�million) taken out during the year to finance
�construction of the large Amazonas 2 satellite, which is scheduled for launch in late 2009 into Hispasat’s 61 degrees west orbital position overlooking South America.

 

Hispasat has said in the past that it expects its profit to grow at double-digit rates until 2013 at least.

 

For 2007, Hispasat revenue
�was
128.3 million euros. EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was 101 million euros, or 78.7 percent of revenue
, making Hispasat one of the more profitable commercial satellite fleet operators in the world.

 

Net profit was 35.7 million euros. Net debt stood at 105.3 million euros as of
Dec. 31, a drop of 24 percent compared to a year earlier.

 

“This is the best result obtained by Hispasat in nearly 20 years of operating as a company dedicated to the acquisition, provision and marketing of space capacity,” Hispasat Chairwoman Petra Mateos-Aparicio said in a statement.

 

Hispasat operates three
telecommunications satellites – two at 30 degrees west and the Amazonas satellite at 61 degrees west. The company said in a May 13 statement that 68.1 percent of its 2007 revenue
�came
from customers in Europe and North Africa, with
the Americas accounting for the rest.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com