Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 27 May 2008
01:15 pm ET





Land Launch Was Slightly Off the Mark in its Debut

 

The April 28 inaugural flight of the Land Launch vehicle placed Israel’s Amos-3 telecommunications satellite into an orbit whose apogee was slightly more than 1,000 kilometers above its intended position because of a software-programming error in the rocket’s Block-DM upper stage, according to Amos-3’s operator and the future operator of the Land Launch system.

 

While the error forced Amos-3 to use more of its onboard fuel than planned to reach its final position, the satellite still is expected to have 17 years of full in-orbit operations, according to Omri Arnon, vice president of development and strategy at satellite-fleet operator Spacecom of Tel Aviv.

 

“The injection of the satellite was off-nominal in the apogee by just over 1,000 kilometers and the satellite needed a maneuver to be returned to the nominal course,” Arnon said in a May 22 written response to Space News inquiries. “There will be no insurance claim.”

The Land Launch Zenit-3SLB vehicle is virtually the same rocket that Sea Launch Co. of Long Beach, Calif., uses to place heavy telecommunications satellites into orbit from its floating platform on the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Sea Launch is the commercial marketing arm for Land Launch as well but was not involved in the inaugural flight. The Amos-3 contract was between Spacecom, satellite manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries and Space International Services Ltd. of Moscow, a company owned by the rocket’s manufacturers.

 

Sea Launch President Rob Peckham said
his company
made inquiries about the Land Launch performance because the rocket is essentially the same one used by Sea Launch, and because Sea Launch has negotiated six commercial Land Launch flights to occur by the end of 2009.

 

In a May 22 interview, Peckham agreed with Arnon’s assessment of the launch and said a post-launch analysis has determined that the Block-DM upper stage was
programmed erroneously, resulting in the higher-than-expected apogee.

 

Peckham said
once Sea Launch determined
the Land Launch glitch was unrelated to the flight sequence of Sea Launch’s next mission, the company proceeded with its planned May 21 launch of Intelsat‘s large Galaxy 18 telecommunications satellite. He said Land Launch managers fully understand the programming error that occurred during the Amos-3 flight and have taken steps to assure it will not recur.

The Amos-3 launch was designed to place the satellite directly into geostationary orbit. All Sea Launch missions, and most future Land Launch missions, feature satellites that are too heavy to be carried directly into geostationary position. Instead, they are placed into a highly elliptical transfer orbit and then use their onboard motors to climb into final position.

 

 

Iridium Weighing a Dozen Hosted Payload Proposals

 

Iridium Satellite LLC
�is considering about a dozen different proposals for secondary payloads on its next-generation satellite constellation and could end up hosting a payload of up to 50 kilograms on each of the 66 satellites it plans to begin launching around 2013, Iridium Chief Executive Matt Desch said in May 23 interview.

 

Each satellite in Iridium’s new communications
constellation, called Iridium Next, will weigh between 700 kilograms and 1,000 kilograms, and the company plans to have enough
weight margin, power and data handling capacity to accommodate
a secondary
payload on each one. Lockheed Martin, Space Systems/Loral and Thales Alenia Space are all competing to build the $2.7 billion constellation, with a winner to be
selected in July 2009.

 

Iridium’s potential secondary payload partners represent a wide range of interests, both
�government and commercial, and U.S. and international, Desch said. The Iridium constellation is an attractive option because of the broad-area coverage provided by the
low-
orbiting satellites, he said.

“In every one o

f those opportunities, I can tell you it works out to between half and one-tenth the cost of any other means to get those payloads on orbit,” Desch said. “The commercial satellite sector has proven to be a reliable partner to government agencies, and cost effectiveness is always going to be a pressure.”

 

U.S. Air Force Extends T-Sat Study Contracts

 

The U.S. Air Force has extended competing design studies by Boeing
and Lockheed Martin
of the proposed

Transformational Satellite Communications (T-Sat) system
by six months at a cost of up to
$75 million each, the service
said.

 

The contract extensions are due to the time required for the Office of the Secretary of Defense to complete a reassessment of the program’s direction, the Air Force
said in a May 22 e-mail response to questions. That study is expected to be completed in June.

 

Boeing and Lockheed Martin had
been working on $500 million T-Sat risk reduction contracts that
were extended by six months, also at a cost of
$75 million apiece, in January. The latest
extension will enable work to continue until January 2009.

 

Yahsat Seeks Financing For Two-Satellite System

 

Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. (Yahsat) of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), is seeking to raise nearly $1.2 billion in non-recourse financing from a consortium of banks coordinated by BNP Paribas to pay for its two-satellite civil-military telecommunications system, Yahsat announced May 20.

 

Yahsat said it expected to close the financing in August. The company, a subsidiary of the UAE’s
Mubadala Development Co., is procuring
two large telecommunications satellites, both featuring a Ka-band payload for military users. The satellites are scheduled for launch in 2010 and 2011.

 

“We are confident the financial markets will embrace our call for financing, particularly considering the robust growth and demand for satellite services in the region,” Yahsat Chief Executive Jassem Mohamed Al Zaabi said in a statement.

Yahsat
already has sold capacity on its satellites to the UAE Armed Forces and to teleport operator Emerging Markets Communications Inc.

 

 

Sears to Take Reins of Intelsat General Corp.

 

Kay Sears was named president of Intelsat General Corp. effective June 30 following the resignation of current President and Chief Executive William Shernit, a May 23 Intelsat press release said.

 

Sears most recently served as the company’s
senior
vice
president of
sales and
business
development
�and has
more than 20 years’ experience in the satellite industry
.

 

Intelsat General is a subsidiary of geostationary satellite fleet operator Intelsat of Bermuda that deals with U.S. federal, state and local governments and NATO members.

 

 

French Lawmakers Codify Procedures at Spaceport

 

The French parliament on May 22 adopted a law governing space operations that officials said codifies most of the current practice surrounding launches at Europe’s Guiana Space Center, which is on French territory. It also makes more formal – but not more strict, officials said – the licensing regime for satellite operators in France or those launching their spacecraft from Europe’s spaceport, located near Kourou, French Guiana.

 

“This law gives us a formal legal framework for space operations, which we needed. But the goal was to do this while having no negative effect on launch service suppliers or satellite operators,” said Philippe Clerc, head of the legal service at the French space agency, CNES. “I think this was achieved.”

 

Sen. Henri Revol, who coordinated debate on the law in the French Senate, said a legal regime was needed in part because Europe’s spaceport is about to add new vehicles – Russia’s Soyuz and the Italian-led Vega vehicle – to its stable of launchers
.

Like the current Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, Soyuz and Vega will need to be insured for 60 million euros ($93 million) for third-party liability. For damages above that amount, the French government takes responsibility. In the case of Russia’s Soyuz, France shares legal responsibility with the Russian government. For Vega, France assumes one-third of the liability, with the remaining two-thirds divided among the European Space Agency governments participating in Vega’s development.

 

 

Rocketry Challenge Prize Goes to Raleigh Students

 

A 10-member team of Raleigh, N.C., high school students captured the Team America Rocketry Challenge title May 17 in The Plains, Va., besting 99 other middle and high school teams from across the country.

 

The contest, sponsored by Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the National Association of Rocketry, capped months of preparation and regional competitions that included 7,000 middle and high school students on 643 teams, according to a Team America Rocketry Challenge press release dated May 17
. The 100 finalists attempted to launch their rockets, each carrying two raw eggs, to an altitude of
228 meters
�and return the cargo unbroken, all in a span of 45 seconds.
�The judges scored the teams on their deviation from the altitude and time aloft targets.

 

The winning team from Enloe High School in Raleigh earned the best
score for the smallest deviation from the target time and altitude. The team will travel to the Farnborough International Airshow in June to compete against the winners of a similar
contest in Britain. Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., is sponsoring the winning team’s trip for the third year, according to the press release.

 

Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md.,
�provided $5,000 scholarships
�to each of the top three teams, who also will receive invitations from NASA to participate in the Student Launch Initiative. Other cash prizes were awarded to the top 10 teams, including $1,000 to each school. Sponsors included the U.S. Defense Department, the American Association of Physics Teachers and 34 AIA member companies.

 

AIA created the rocketry challenge in 2003 to celebrate the centennial of flight and generate interest in aerospace careers among students. Competition results are available at www.rocketcontest.org.

 

Boeing Announces Layoffs Affecting Satellite Plants

 

Boeing is laying off 750 workers at two satellite production plants in Southern California between now and late August in response to continued slow demand for its commercial satellites, delays in contract decisions on two government programs and the loss of the competition to build the next generation of U.S. Air Force GPS navigation satellites, Chicago-based Boeing announced May 21.

 

Boeing said 100 employees at its Seal Beach and El Segundo plants would be given 60-day notices starting this week, with another 650 to be notified in June, also with 60-day notices.

 

The layoffs will reduce Boeing’s Space and Intelligence Systems headcount by 10.4 percent, to 6,450, compared to 7,200 now. The Space and Intelligence Systems division counts 5,000 employees currently at the El Segundo plant, according to Boeing.

“It is an unfortunate action that has to be taken, but we are doing what we can to assist the affected employees
�to get them redeployed elsewhere in Boeing,” Boeing spokesman Joe Tedino said May 21. He said it was unclear how many of the laid-off workers would find new work at Boeing.

Boeing recently lost the competition to build the first batch
of GPS 3 satellites, but Tedino said that is only one factor
that went into the decision. An
�Air Force contract for the Transformational Satellite Communications System (T-Sat) program for which Boeing is competing has been delayed repeatedly, as has a contract for the next series of geostationary-orbiting meteorological satellites, dubbed GOES-R.

“We have not brought in as much new business as we have in prior years,” Tedino said, adding that Boeing also has not won many new contracts for large, high-powered commercial telecommunications satellites. The GPS 3 loss “further complicates matters” but is not the full explanation for the company’s decision, he said.

 

Craig Cooning, general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, said in a statement that the division already has cut costs and improved operating efficiency, but that the program delays and other market conditions made the job cuts necessary.

 

Sea Launch Rocket Lofts Intelsat’s Galaxy 18 Craft

 

A Sea Launch Co. Zenit-3SL rocket successfully placed Intelsat’s Galaxy 18 telecommunications satellite into orbit May 21 in the third of a planned six launches this year for Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch from its floating launch platform in the Pacific Ocean.

 

The 4,642-kilogram Galaxy 18 will replace Intelsat’s Galaxy 10R satellite at 123 degrees west longitude. Built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., Galaxy 18 carries 24 Ku-band and 24 C-band transponders and will provide television and data transmission services to the United States, Canada and Mexico.

 

The satellite is designed to last for 15 years, but Intelsat’s vice president for space systems, Kenneth Lee, said after the launch that the satellite likely will be able to function for more than 20 years.

Galaxy 18 will bring Bermuda-headquartered Intelsat’s fleet to 54 in-orbit satellites.

 

 

SES Gets Two-Year Loan From Group of 20 Banks

 

Satellite-fleet operator SES of Luxembourg has secured 550 million euros ($857
�million) in a two-year syndicated loan from 20 banks in what
company Chief Financial Officer Mark Rigolle said “underlines our ability to secure financing on attractive terms, even in the current credit environment.”

 

The loan, announced May 20,
�was arranged by ABN Amro Bank N.V., The Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd., BNP Paribas and Fortis Bank SA/N.V.

 

SES said it originally had sought a 350 million euro facility for general corporate uses, but increased the amount when the original loan was oversubscribed. The loan is a multicurrency revolving credit facility that may be extended by one year at the discretion of the banks.

 

AIAA Study To Recommend Easing Export Restrictions

 

A study nearing completion by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
will recommend the removal of
certain spacecraft components from
the U.S.
International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which govern exports of military technology.

The study, expected to be completed this summer,
�is analyzing roughly 30 types of spacecraft components, including solar cells, batteries, visual imagers, integrated circuits, focal plane arrays
�and optical coatings, Craig Weston, an AIAA fellow and retired Air Force major general, said at a May 12 media briefing
.

 

An
AIAA working group is surveying
satellite industry experts to determine if such
components now are manufactured outside the United States at a technology
level at or above the level produced by U.S. companies. If a component is made as good or better by a foreign company, the study will recommend its
removal from
ITAR restrictions.

 

Weston said
second- and third-tier satellite component manufacturers
�historically have been the most innovative and suffer the most from the export restrictions
.

“The smaller companies aren’t making as many sales, and thus their [research and development] money is diminished, and they cannot advance the state of the art as rapidly,” Weston said. “U.S. companies are losing out on the ability to sell overseas, and some [satellite makers] are now even designing satellites without U.S. components so they have ITAR-free satellites.”

 

Weston said the current climate within Congress, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush
�and the satellite industry makes this the right time to push through changes to these regulations. The AIAA will present the findings of the study to the Pentagon’s National Security Space Office.

 

Thuraya Phones Support China Quake Relief Effort

 

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has deployed 100 Thuraya satellite telephones to China in support of efforts to aid victims of the earthquake that rocked the central part of the country May 12, the Geneva-based United Nations affiliate announced May 22.

 

The
massive quake, the worst natural disaster to hit China in three decades, knocked out telecommunications infrastructure in the Sichuan province in addition to killing more than 40,000, injuring hundreds of thousands more and leaving some 5 million homeless.

 

The GPS-equipped Thuraya phones, which can operate over satellite and terrestrial networks, will help rescue and relief authorities coordinate operations. Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, donated the phones and Fed
Ex
�Switzerland transported the equipment free of charge, the ITU said in a press release. The ITU said it will cover other costs associated with the deployment.

ESA and Argentina Renew Cooperation Agreement

 

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the government of Argentina have renewed their cooperation agreement for five years, with ESA considering the installation of a 35-meter deep-space ground antenna
for future Mars programs, ESA announced May 20.

 

The agreement will be carried out on Argentina’s side by the National Space Activities Commission, or CONAE.

 

ESA said it has begun negotiations on the installation of a 35-meter antenna for future Mars missions, and the two agencies have cooperated on Earth observation. CONAE also is developing two L-band radar satellites to be operated in concert with Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed satellites.

 

 

NASA, Northrop To Share Use of two Global Hawks

 

NASA and Northrop Grumman Corp. will share the use of two Global Hawk unmanned aircraft for research and demonstration purposes under a Space Act Agreement signed April 30
, according to a May 15 NASA press release.

 

The pre-production aircraft, part of a batch of
seven built under a demonstration program sponsored by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, were transferred from the U.S. Air Force to NASA in 2007. They will be based at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

NASA
will use the aircraft for
airborne
environmental
�research, the press release said.

Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles will conduct flight demonstrations with the Global Hawks aimed at objectives
�including integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the U.S. national airspace.

 

Globalstar Taps HNS To Upgrade Ground Network

 

Hughes Network Systems (HNS) will provide software upgrades and chipsets for
Globalstar’s second-generation mobile satellite services system under a contract valued at $100.8 million, the
companies announced May 19.

 

Under the contract, Germantown, Md.-based HNS will develop a satellite air interface, which links handsets to signals,
and software upgrades to be installed at Globalstar gateway Earth stations worldwide. This portion of the contract, which HNS said could be expanded to additional locations, is valued at $75.1 million, according to Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar Inc.

 

In the second part of the contract, HNS will design chips to be installed in Globalstar’s next-generation satellite handsets, which will operate with a new, more powerful satellite constellation to be launched starting in late 2009. This work
, valued at $25.7 million, will allow Globalstar to offer Globalstar-compatible chips to handset manufacturers for “as little as $10 per chip,” Globalstar said.

 

Globalstar operates a fleet of satellites in low Earth orbit to provide voice and data communications. The company has said its second-generation constellation will permit data links at speeds of 1 megabit per second for downloads and 256 kilobits per second for uploads
.

 

Lockheed and Boeing Submit SASSA Proposals

 

Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. are among those who submitted bids to the U.S. Air Force in early May to build a prototype sensor that could help on-orbit military satellites watch for nearby threats, the companies said
.

 

The Self Awareness Space Situational Awareness (SASSA) contract is expected to be
�awarded in late 2008 and could be worth $30 million, according to a Lockheed Martin news release dated May 13. The SASSA system is expected to be the primary payload on the TacSat-5 spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch in 2010, according to Pentagon officials.

 

SP Systems Selected To Support Goddard Projects

 

NASA has selected SP Systems Inc. of Greenbelt, Md., to provide mission support services at Goddard Space Flight Center under an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a potential value of
up to $200 million, according to a May 16 NASA press release.

 

The Program Analysis and Control (PAAC
) 3 contract at NASA’s Greenbelt
�facility is a follow-on to the PAAC 2
contract. The PAAC 2 contract, valued at
up to $140 million, was awarded in 2003 to a
team of SGT Inc. of Greenbelt and Computer Sciences Corp. of Falls Church, Va.

 

The PAAC 3 contract runs from June 28 through June 27, 2013, and will
support Goddard-managed programs including the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope. SP Systems will provide planning and scheduling, configuration management, information technology, documentation and library services, and general business and
accounting services, the press release said.

 

Ipstar Service Drives Thaicom Revenue Growth

 

Thaicom PLC of Thailand reported a 13.7 percent increase in revenue
�for the three months ending March 31 compared to same period a year earlier on the strength of continued growth in the number of television channels carried on the Thaicom satellites and increased sales of its Ipstar satellite-broadband service, Thaicom announced May 16.

 

The company, which in April changed its name from Shin Satellite, also said it had reached agreements with its creditors to stretch out its loan-repayment schedule. Thaicom incurred debt to the French Coface and U.S. Export-Import export-credit agencies, and to commercial banks, for the construction and launch of the Thaicom 4/Ipstar and Thaicom 5 satellites.

 

Thaicom said total revenue
�for the three months ending March 31 was
2.4 billion baht ($75 million), up 13.7 percent from the same period a year ago. Sales from the lease of satellite transponder capacity and related services, including
the Ipstar broadband business, totaled 1.36 billion baht, up 45 percent from a year ago and 21 percent from the three months ending Dec. 31.

 

Conventional transponder sales on the Thaicom 1A, Thaicom 2 and Thaicom 5 satellites, at 556 million baht, dropped from a year earlier, mainly because of the appreciation of the Thai baht, Thaicom said. The Ipstar service more than made up for that. Revenue
of 803 million baht from Ipstar
�was
up 36 percent from the previous quarter and 133 percent from a year earlier. As of March 31, Thaicom had sold 125,024 Ipstar broadband terminals.

 

Contract backlog for the satellite business was $242 million as of
�March 31. Thaicom 5, the company’s
newest satellite
�launched in May 2006, had more than 240 television channels as
of March 31, including 11 that were
added during the three-month period. As of March 31,
66 percent of Thaicom 5’s Ku-band capacity and
65 percent if its
C-band capacity was full.

 

ARES Wins Extension of Space Station Contract

 

Applied Research and Engineering Sciences Corp. (ARES) of Houston received a one-year contract extension from NASA worth $25.7 million for international space station work, according to a May 16 NASA press release
.

 

The extension, beginning Oct. 1, brings the total value of the contract to $151.8 million for ARES, which has held the space station’s program integration and control contract since January 2004. The extension is the first of two options
�included in the original contract.

 

ARES provides management services including scheduling, information technology and cost estimating.

 

 

RS&H To Design Ares Launch Mount Hardware

 

Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc. (RS&H) of Jacksonville, Fla., won a contract
to
design the launch mount for NASA’s Ares
launch vehicle,
�the company announced in a May 15 press release.

 

The Ares 1 and Ares 5 launch vehicles are part of NASA’s Constellation program to replace the space shuttle and eventually carry astronauts to the Moon aboard the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle.

 

RS&H recently completed the design of the new mobile launcher for Ares 1 and also is designing Orion’s emergency escape system.

The 3-meter, 190-ton steel launch mount will provide the mounting and stacking base for the Ares 1 in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Company spokesman Mike Bernos would not disclose the value of the contract, citing company policy.

 

 

Italian Radar on MRO Maps Subsurface Layers

 

The Italian-built Shallow Radar
instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has identified interior layers of ice and dust that suggest the crust and upper mantel of Mars and are stiffer and colder than previously believed, a NASA press release announced May 15.

 

The findings suggest any liquid water that might exist below the planet’s surface and any possible organisms living in that water would be located deeper than scientists had suspected, the press release said.

 

The Italian Space Agency’s radar
has taken detailed pictures of finely spaced layers of
dust
�mixed with some ice and
thick layers of nearly pure ice on Mars’
north polar ice cap. Scientists think this pattern of thick dust-free
�layers represents cycles of climate change on Mars over roughly 1 million years. Such climate changes are caused by variations in the tilt of the planet’s rotational axis and its orbit around the sun. The observations support the theory
that the north polar ice cap is geologically active and relatively young at about 4 million years, the press release said.

 

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander is scheduled to touch down May 25 near the north polar ice cap. Phoenix will further investigate the history of water on Mars and is expected to get the first close look at ice on the planet.

 

Sheridan Takes Reins of Space Procurement Center

 

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John “Tom” Sheridan took command of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), which manages the service’s space and missile procurements, in a ceremony
�May 16 at Los Angeles Air Force Base.

 

Sheridan, who previously served as deputy director of the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office and program executive officer for the Space Radar development effort, replaces Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Hamel, who retired following a separate ceremony
�May 16.

 

 

U.S., Japan To Study Aircraft Sonic Booms

 

NASA will team with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to study sonic booms caused by supersonic aircraft with an eye toward finding ways to curtail them,
�according to a May 9 press release issued by the two space agencies.

 

The sonic boom modeling will contribute to development of next-generation
�aircraft that can fly at twice the speed of sound – enabling them to reach Tokyo from Los Angeles
in about five hours – without disturbing the public with massive booms, the press release said.

 

NASA and JAXA also will explore further collaboration in aeronautics research and development, including supersonic transport technology, and possibly
JAXA’s Silent Supersonic Technology Demonstration Project, the press release said.

 

Intelsat, Panasonic Unit Team on In-Flight Internet

 

Intelsat Ltd. of Washington and Bermuda and Panasonic Avionics Corp. of Lake Forest, Calif., have entered into
a multiyear service agreement to provide in-flight Internet access to airline passengers, the companies announced in a May 6 press release.

 

Intelsat’s GlobalConnexSM broadband platform will host Panasonic’s eXConnect.
�Tapping into Intelsat’s existing infrastructure of 53 satellites and teleport facilities will allow Panasonic to introduce eXConnect slowly and increase network capacity as demand grows, the press release said.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com