Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 02 June 2008
12:58 pm ET





Astrium To Build ESA Environmental Satellite

 

Astrium Satellites’ German division will build the European Space Agency’s (ESA) EarthCARE cloud- and aerosol-monitoring satellite under a contract signed May 27 at the Berlin air show, ILA 2008, in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

Under the contract, valued at 263 million euros ($415 million), Astrium GmbH will design and manufacture the 1,700-kilogram satellite in time for a launch in 2013. Launcher selection will be made later under a separate contract. EarthCARE, which will
�operate from a 400-kilometer circular orbit inclined 97 degrees relative to the equator, will carry four instruments,
�including a cloud-profile radar to be provided by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.

The other instruments on EarthCARE will be an atmospheric lidar, a broadband radiometer and a multispectral imager, all developed by the 17-nation ESA.

 

EarthCARE is the sixth of ESA’s Earth Explorer series, a class of satellite designed to perform research-oriented Earth observation missions that are not yet deemed ready for routine use by meteorological or environmental agencies.

The first of the six Earth Explorers, the Goce gravity-wave measurement spacecraft, is scheduled for launch Sept. 10 aboard a Russian Rockot vehicle commercialized by the Euro-Russian Eurockot Launch Services GmbH of Bremen, Germany.

 

 

Taiwanese Satellite Aids China Disaster Relief Effort

 

Chinese authorities’
�post-earthquake emergency response are making use of a Taiwanese satellite that, when it was ordered
and launched, provoked protests from China and the threat of sanctions against France, whose industry built it, according to European government officials and an international organization providing disaster response imagery.

 

To track the damage caused by the May 12 earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province, Chinese authorities have openly placed orders for imagery from Taiwan’s Formosat-2, formerly known as Rocsat-2, whose unusual orbit provides a daily revisit of part of its coverage area, including the Chinese mainland.

 

Rocsat-2, launched in May 2004, has an optical imager capable of detecting objects as small as 2 meters in diameter in black-and-white mode, and 8 meters across in color. The satellite’s orbit, 891 kilometers in altitude and inclined at 99.1 degrees relative to the equator, combined with its ability to swivel 45 degrees off nadir in either direction, gives it a daily revisit capacity that is rare among high-resolution satellites.

Rocsat-2’s ability to inspect Chinese territory is exactly what the Chinese government objected to when Taiwan’s National Space Program Organization ordered the spacecraft from Astrium Satellites of France. A German manufacturer, which since has been merged into Astrium, was barred from making the bid when the German government, responding to Chinese protests, declined to approve an export license.

France resisted similar pressure and it now would appear that Formosat-2 is of demonstrable value to China.

 

Chinese authorities activated the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters soon after the magnitude of the earthquake became clear. The charter’s member nations and organizations have access to Earth observation satellite data and agree to make data quickly available in an emergency.

 

The data that was ordered included Formosat-2 imagery, according to the charter’s Web site and officials familiar with the service. In one image cited by the charter, Formosat-2 imagery was combined with data from Canada’s Radarsat-1 radar satellite to monitor the status of the barrier lake on the Qianjiang River, which had been created by a landslide and threatened to cause flooding.

 

While Taiwanese authorities have always said Formosat-2’s mission is to monitor the environment, industry officials say privately that its technical specifications suggest a clear reconnaissance function as well.

 

 

Bigelow Taps Aerojet for Sundancer
�Aft-End Thruster

 

Sacramento, Calif.-based GenCorp Aerojet concluded a $23 million deal in early May to supply Bigelow Aerospace with a monopropellant hydrazine thruster system for the aft end of the Sundancer inflatable space habitat the Las Vegas-based company intends to launch early next decade.

 

The thruster
will be used for rendezvous and docking, reboost maneuvers as well as the module’s end of life controlled deorbit, according to a
May 28 press release from Bigelow.

 

Aerojet’s system is intended to complement the novel attitude control system Huntsville, Ala.-based Orion Propulsion is providing under a separate $4.8 million contract signed earlier this year. Orion’s station-keeping thruster system, to be installed on Sundancer’s forward end, will be fueled by byproducts from the module’s environmental control and life support system.

 

Aerojet’s propulsion contributions, meanwhile, draw
heavily upon heritage company hardware, including the system used
�May 25 to help NASA’s Mars Phoenix spacecraft become the first
in more than 30 years to land on Mars without the use of airbags.

 

Harris Corp. To Replace Carrier-based Terminals

 

Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., has received
a $15.1 million order
from the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems
Center (Spawar) to provide satellite communications terminals for U.S. aircraft carriers, according to a May 28 Harris press release.

 

The order was placed under an indefinite-delivery
, indefinite
-quantity contract that could be worth as much as $85 million over five years.
�Harris will supply 2.7-meter terminals with C-
�and Ku-band capabilities for high-speed
Internet access under the Navy’s Commercial Broadband Satellite Communications program. They will replace the current C-band terminals made by Harris that have been on Navy ships for more than 10 years, the company said.

 

Sensor Expert To Run ISRO Satellite Centre

 

T.K. Alex, an electronics specialist who helped develop and build the entire range of cameras and optical sensors used aboard
Indian satellites over the years, has been
named
director of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Satellite Centre in Bangalore,
ISRO announced May 30. Alex will take over
from K.N. Shankara, who was slated to retire May 31.

 

The satellite center
is where all of ISRO’s satellites are designed, built and tested.
Alex previously headed
ISRO’s Laboratory for Electro Optics Systems

in Bangalore – a position he had held since the lab’s
inception in 1993.

 

ISRO said that
the laboratory “was responsible for the development of electro optic sensors for Indian satellites as well as high-resolution camera optics for Indian remote sensing satellites including the recently launched Cartosat-2.”
Cartosat-2 collects imagery at resolutions sharper than 1 meter.

U.S. Spawar Contract is Milestone for ND Satcom

 

ND Satcom Inc. of Plano, Texas,
estimates that a U.S. Navy contract for satellite telecommunications terminals could generate revenue
�of $51 million for the company in the coming year and up to $289 million over five years if options are exercised
, the company announced May 30.

 

The U.S. subsidiary of ND Satcom of Friedrichshafen, Germany, a division of SES of Luxembourg, is one of seven companies selected by the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (Spawar) to provide different types of terminals under an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. Spawar estimated that the total contract value for all the bidders will be $76.8 million for the first year, and some $491.2 million over five years.

 

For ND Satcom, the contract is a breakthrough in its efforts to become a regular supplier to the U.S. Defense Department. “For the first time in our history, we now have the status of being a recognized defense contractor in the U.S.,” ND Satcom Inc. Chief Executive Christopher Morris said in a May 30 statement.

 

Germany’s Space Chief Hits ESA Voting System

 

The chairman of Germany’s space agency, DLR, said the European Space Agency (ESA) should scrap its one-nation, one-vote policy in favor of a more elaborate procedure that takes into account each nation’s financial weight within the agency.

 

In May 28 remarks at the Berlin air show, ILA 2008, Johann-Dietrich Woerner also said Germany is adamant about wanting ESA’s geographic-return rules to be applied to the Galileo satellite-navigation project, even though Galileo is funded by the European Commission, which awards contracts on a value-for-money basis.

 

ESA rules on geographic return, or juste retour, mean each nation’s industrial base is guaranteed contracts in proportion to its government’s financial contribution to a given program.

 

ESA currently has 17 nations, and ESA officials expect the agency’s ranks to grow substantially in the coming years as more of the European Union’s 27 members apply for ESA membership.

 

The idea that a nation contributing only a fraction of what ESA’s biggest member states pay could block agency decisions and is what has Woerner concerned.

 

 

Space Systems/Loral Ships ProtoStar-1 and EchoStar 11

 

Satellite manufacturer Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., has shipped the ProtoStar 1 and EchoStar 11 satellites to their respective launch services providers in preparation for upcoming deployment missions, the company said in separate press releases.

 

ProtoStar 1 was shipped to Kourou, French Guiana, where it is scheduled to launch June 24 aboard an Ariane 5 launch vehicle, Space Systems/Loral announced in a May 27 press release.

 

Space Systems/Loral built the satellite for Bermuda-based ProtoStar to meet the needs of emerging and existing direct-to-home TV operators in the Asian market as well as other broadband communications needs in the region.

 

ProtoStar 1 is the first in a fleet of satellites ProtoStar plans to launch that will enable its partners to offer advanced satellite television services and powerful two-way broadband Internet access, the press release said.

 

EchoStar 11, meanwhile, was shipped to Sea Launch’s home port in Long Beach, Calif., May 27, Loral said in a May 28 press release. The satellite will be launched from Sea Launch’s ocean going platform aboard a Zenit 3SL rocket this summer, Loral said.

 

EchoStar 11, a Loral 1300-model platform featuring 20 kilowatts of power, will be used by satellite TV provider Dish Network to expand its programming. It is the fifth satellite Space Systems/Loral has built for Dish Network of Englewood, Colo., the press release said.

 

 

Fierce Winds Prevail in Jupiter’s Little Red Spot

 

Scientists using data from two NASA spacecraft and a ground-based observatory have determined that wind speeds in Jupiter’s so-called Little Red Spot are some of the highest ever recorded on any planet, according to a May 21 press release from the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md.

The Little Red Spot, one of the solar system’s largest and newest storms, is an anti-cyclone; unlike cyclones here on Earth, its winds rotate in a counterclockwise direction. Formed the last decade through the merger of three smaller storms, it has maximum wind speeds of about 614 kilometers per hour, compared to the 250-kilometer-per-hour threshold for Category 5 storms on Earth.

 

The scientists made their observations using NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope atop an Atacama Desert mountain in Chile. Observations by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager aboard New Horizons, made from a distance 2.4 million kilometers, confirmed that the Little Red Spot’s wind speeds are faster than those in its precursor storms, which were observed
years ago by NASA’s Voyager and Galileo spacecraft.

 

“This storm is still developing, and some of the changes remain mysterious,” APL scientist and study team leader Andrew Cheng said in a prepared statement. ”This unique set of observations is giving us hints about the storm’s structure and makeup; from this, we expect to learn much more about how these large atmospheric disturbances form on worlds across the solar system.”

 

Orbital Will Not Face U.S. Criminal Charges

 

The U.S. Department of Justice has notified Orbital Sciences Corp. that no criminal charges will be filed against the company as the result of an investigation into alleged violations of government contracting laws, according to a May 27 Orbital filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

 

Orbital became aware of the criminal investigation related to its U.S. government launch vehicle programs in 2005 and recently was advised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona that the investigation concluded with no charges.

 

The criminal investigation was related to a pending civil suit filed against the company in 2005 with a U.S. District Court in Arizona, the SEC filing states. A former Orbital employee, W. Austin Sallade, alleges the company’s Chandler, Ariz.-based Launch Systems Group submitted false and fraudulent claims to the U.S. government and engaged in “defective pricing,” according to an April 25 SEC filing by Orbital. The Justice Department’s civil division has not been a part of that lawsuit, but in the future it could intervene with the permission of the court, according to the May 27 SEC filing.

 

As a result of the civil suit, Orbital could be liable to the United States for three times the amount of the alleged damages plus civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each false claim as well as punitive damages, the May 27 filing states.

 

Barron Beneski, a spokesman for Dulles, Va.-based Orbital, said the company could not comment further on the criminal investigation because of the ongoing civil suit.

 

 

A-Train Satellites Link Rainfall and Pollution

 

The Afternoon Constellation of five Earth observation satellites, more commonly known as A-Train, has offered NASA scientists a view deep inside cloud formations, shedding new light on the link between clouds, pollution and rainfall, according to a May 27 NASA press release.

 

The five satellites – NASA’s Aqua, Aura, CloudSat and Calipso and the French Space Agency’s Parasol satellites – orbit eight minutes apart, providing near simultaneous measurements from multiple satellites.

 

Jonathan Jiang of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and his colleagues used the A-Train sensors to find that clouds over South America infused with airborne pollution tended to produce less rain than cleaner clouds during the region’s dry season, the press release said.

 

Jiang’s team used the Microwave Limb Sounder on the Aura satellite to measure the level of carbon monoxide in clouds. The presence of carbon monoxide implies the presence of smoke and other aerosols, which usually come from the same emission source, such as a power plant or agricultural fire, the press release said.

 

With the ability to distinguish between polluted and clean clouds, the team next used Aqua’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer to study how ice particle sizes change when aerosol pollution is present in the clouds. The team also used NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite to measure the amount of precipitation falling from the polluted and clean clouds. All three measurements together show the relationship between pollution, clouds and precipitation.

 

The team found that polluted clouds suppressed rainfall during the June-to-October dry season in South America, which is also a period of increased agricultural burning. During that period it was more difficult for the measurably smaller ice particles in aerosol polluted clouds to grow large enough to fall as rain.

 

The trend turned up seasonal and regional differences, however, and aerosol pollution was found, on average, to be less of a factor during the wet monsoon seasons in South America and in South Asia. Other physical effects, such as large-scale dynamics and rainy conditions that clear the air of aerosol particles, also might be at play, the press release said.

 

 

Coastal Security Wins Large NASA Contract

 

NASA has awarded an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum potential value of $1.56 billion to Coastal International Security
�Inc. of Lorton, Va., for consolidated protective services at agency facilities, according to a May 21 NASA press release.

 

Coastal International Security will provide fire, security and emergency management services, as well as export control, technology security and protective services training throughout the agency.

 

NASA will issue
fixed-priced task orders
to authorize work at 14 NASA locations throughout the United States, the press release said. The ordering period of the base contract is five years and cannot exceed $650 million. Five one-year ordering options not to exceed $130 million per year also are available under the contract. The contract contains an option to increase the maximum value by 20 percent, the press release said.
Coastal Security is a wholly owned subsidiary of Akal Security of Espanola, N.M.

 

 

ESA Seeks Funding for New Data-Relay Satellite System

 

European Space Agency (ESA) governments will be asked in November to approve a five-year investment in a data-relay satellite system that would include small data-relay payloads placed on two
�satellites owned by commercial operators, and a dedicated data-relay spacecraft as well, according to Magali Vaissiere, ESA’s director of telecommunications.

 

ESA is proposing that its governments invest 300 million euros ($473 million) in the E-DRS project, which would be designed as a public-private partnership in which a commercial services company would handle the delivery of services to ESA and other customers using Earth observation data.

 

Most modern Earth observation satellites have sufficient onboard memory to
store imagery taken over one part of the globe and then deliver it during regular passes over European territory. But some applications require near-instantaneous delivery of data and it is these users who are targeted for the E-DRS, Vaissiere said.

 

ESA’s Artemis satellite continues to provide data-relay services, notably for ESA’s large Envisat multi-payload Earth observation satellite. But Artemis is nearing retirement and in the meantime
governments in Germany, Italy, France and Spain are planning or already operating new radar and optical Earth observation satellites. ESA already has agreed with the European Commission to fund a series of environment-monitoring satellites as part of a broad program called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security.

 

These systems will need to guarantee users that data will be delivered to them within hours of its being taken anywhere in the world.

 

In an interview here May 27 during the Berlin air show, ILA 2008, Vaissiere said ESA is still in discussions with industry
on how E-DRS would be structured.
�But she said the agency is determined to produce a public-private partnership in which one or two commercial satellite-fleet operators would agree to host two small ESA data-relay payloads. A services operator would then be hired to assure the functioning of the system, which would include a dedicated satellite.

 

“ESA is not an operator and does not intend to become an operator,” Vaissiere said.

 

Ideally, ESA would like to find two satellites spaced sufficiently far apart so that, when combined with the dedicated data-relay spacecraft, a near-global coverage is assured. The agency has begun preliminary talks with Europe’s two biggest satellite-fleet operators, SES of Luxembourg and Eutelsat of Paris.

To manage the system, ESA has made preliminary contact with companies that have related experience, including Astrium Services and Telespazio. One possibility, Vaissiere said, is that ESA would guarantee an annual revenue base to the services operator, who then would be free to seek business elsewhere to close the business case.

 

Infoterra Chief Says Firm Will be Profitable in 2008

 

Germany’s Infoterra GmbH, a company created to sell
products based on Germany’s TerraSAR-X radar satellite and its successors, reported revenue of 16 million euros ($25.2 million)
in 2007 despite only getting
its satellite into orbit
late that year, and expects
�revenu
e
�to be around 25 million euros this year, Infoterra Managing Director Joerg Herrmann said.

 

“We will be profitable this year,” Herrmann said in a May 27 interview at the Berlin air show, ILA 2008. “I am determined that 2007 will be our last year of not being in the black.”

 

Herrmann said TerraSAR-X, which will be joined in 2009 by the twin TanDEM-X satellite, is delivering 1.1-meter-resolution data, which is less than
the 1-meter-resolution advertised before the satellite’s
launch but sufficient to capture the business Infoterra is after.

 

TerraSAR-X was launched in June 2007 and declared operational in December. The satellite is the result of a co-financing agreement between the German Aerospace Center, DLR, and Astrium Services, which owns Infoterra.

 

Infoterra ultimately will be part of an integrated Astrium Services-managed Earth observation services network that will include Spot Image of Toulouse, France, once Astrium purchases the Spot Image shares owned by the French space agency, CNES. Spot Image commercializes optical data.

 

Herrmann said Infoterra was able to generate revenue
�in 2007 despite the lack of TerraSAR-X data because it also sells satellite reception stations and other hardware to Infoterra partners, including Pasco Corp. of Tokyo, an early Infoterra regional partner that signed a contract valued at 10 million euros with Infoterra for hardware and satellite access. Infoterra has built two TerraSAR-X access stations in Japan. For 2008, data sales will account for the vast majority of revenue, he said.

 

Herrmann said Infoterra has more than 60 partners worldwide, and also can rely on the global network established by Spot Image over the past 20 years, including Beijing Spot Image for sales in China.

 

With radar imagery as precise as 1.1 meters in resolution – and depending on the image, even sharper focus may be obtained on some objects – Infoterra must seek permission on a case-by-case basis from the German government before it concludes a sale. Herrmann said the German data policy does not permit Infoterra partners to send orders to the satellite
directly. To assure that the orders are processed quickly nonetheless, the company has a 24/7 operation that can filter orders and, when necessary, seek government approval.

 

Images with a ground resolution of 1.2 meters or sharper require government approval before being released. “Up to now, we have not seen a problem with this,” Herrmann said. “The policy is clear, and I would say this has been an issue in less than 1 percent of our orders in our first few months of operating the satellite.”

 

For the moment, Herrmann said Infoterra is faced with the challenge of getting customers used to dealing with radar. “People aren’t used to it, and it is very different from optical data,” Herrmann said. “One of our priorities now is training our partners to help them get acquainted with what the satellite can do.”

 

Canada’s Radarsat-2 satellite, with less-sharp images but a similar business model, is more of a complement than a competitor in the global market for radar data, Herrmann said.

 

 

Suborbital Flight Awaits Top Space Ambassador

 

The National Space Society is creating
a public outreach
program that for one person could lead to a free flight aboard Virgin Galactic’s planned SpaceShipTwo suborbital space tourism vehicle.

 

George Whitesides, the National Space Society’s executive director and a senior advisor to Virgin Galactic, announced the Space Ambassadors Program May 29 at the advocacy organization’s 27th annual International Space Development Conference in Washington.

 

Whitesides said the program is “open to anyone in the world with a passion for space and a talent for sharing that passion with the public.”
Space Ambassadors, Whitesides said, will be trained to deliver an “eye-popping multimedia presentation” designed to educate the public about the value of space exploration and research.

One space ambassador will be chosen to fly aboard SpaceShipTwo, Whitesides said.

 

Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn said he hopes that offering the free flight will encourage people to join the Space Ambassadors Program.

 

Full details on the selection process and criteria will be released later in 2008, according to Whitesides. Initial details are available at www.spaceambassadors.com.

 

GMV Selected To Provide Ground Software for Glory

 

Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., prime contractor on NASA’s Glory satellite, has selected GMV of Rockville, Md., to provide
�ground system software for the mission
, according to a May 23 GMV press release.

 

Glory will monitor atmospheric
aerosols and collect
solar irradiance data for purposes of understanding climate change
. Under the
contract, GMV’s focusLEO software will be adapted to support the Glory satellite
. The system performs functions that include position location
,
maneuver planning, implementation and calibration
, the press release said.

 

The contract “is in the range worth several hundred thousand dollars,” said GMV spokeswoman Jennifer Strom, who declined to be more specific citing the company’s wishes.

 

 

MSV Satellites To Support First Responder Networks

 

Mobile Satellite Ventures (MSV) of Reston, Va., signed a three-year contract May 15 with Sprint Nextel Corp. of Overland Park, Kan., to provide mobile satellite communications links
for a U.S. government emergency response service, a May 20 MSV press release said.

 

MSV is a subcontractor to Sprint Nextel on the Satellite Priority Service, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security program designed to provide emergency communications to federal, state and local emergency responders. Sprint Nextel is a subcontractor to prime contractor Computer Sciences Corp. of Falls Church, Va.

 

MSV will provide the service via
�two L-band geostationary satellites covering
North America, and related
ground hardware and terminals
.
�Installation of the service has now begun in 65 locations around the United States. MSV spokesman Tom Surface declined to disclose
the value of the contract.

 

Northrop Grumman Clears GPS OCX Baseline Review

 

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems of Reston, Va., has completed a key
review that is part of its study contract from the U.S. Air Force for the
ground segment of the GPS 3 satellite navigation system
, a May 27 Northrop Grumman press release said.

 

The integrated baseline review, conducted by the Air Force to identify key schedule milestones and verify the availability of resources, is one of several requirements outlined in the 18-month, $160 million GPS OCX study contract the company won in November 2007. Northrop Grumman is partnered with Harris Corp., Integral Systems, Infinity Systems Engineering and Lockheed Martin Information Systems on the effort.

 

Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems of Aurora, Colo., is leading the other team competing to win the GPS OCX production contract and holds
an identical study contract. Raytheon will complete its integrated baseline review
�June 26, as scheduled by its Air Force customer, Raytheon spokesman Keith Little said.

Both companies say they have met each program milestone on schedule. Each is working toward a system design review in 2009, which will be followed by prime contract award that year, Air Force documents show.

Converted Russian ICBM Launches Four Satellites

 

A Russian Rockot launch vehicle placed four payloads, including three unidentified military satellites, into orbit May 23 after lifting off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome
�in northern Russia, the rocket’s manufacturer, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, said in a statement.

 

On its Web site, Moscow-based Khrunichev identified the nonmilitary satellite lofted by the converted ICBM as Yubilenyi, which was built by a group of Russian companies and whose main mission is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sputnik. The satellite is designed to broadcast messages every four minutes and imitate the beeps made by
Sputnik, according to Khrunichev’s May 26 press release.

 

Reached by phone

May 29, Khrunichev spokesman Alexander Bobrenev declined to comment on the military payloads,
referring all questions to the Defense Ministry
. A Defense Ministry spokesman declined to either comment or identify himself before hanging up when reached by phone
May 29.

 

Chinese Rocket Lofts Meteorological Satellite

 

A Chinese Long March 4C rocket launched a domestic weather satellite into a polar orbit May 27 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the northern Shanxi Province, China’s government-run Xinhua news agency reported.

 

The 2,295-kilogram Fengyun-3 satellite will monitor temperatures and take images of clouds and land at resolutions as sharp as 250 meters, Gao Huoshan, general director of the Fengyun-3 research team, was quoted in the article as saying. The sharpest resolution available from existing Chinese weather satellites is 1.1 kilometers, he said.

 

The satellite and rocket were built by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, a division of the China Aerospace Corp. Fengyun-3 is expected to improve forecasts during the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing as well as contribute to disaster and climate change monitoring, Chinese officials said.

 

Musey Reaches Summit In Everest Charity Climb

 

Satellite and telecommunications securities analyst J. Armand Musey and his climbing team reached the 8,800-meter
summit of Mount Everest May 24 after a six-week expedition, according to a May 27 Longbottom Communications press release.

Musey and eight climbers reported by satellite phone that they reached the peak after a 10.5-hour ascent through darkness from 7,880 meters
. “We are almost too exhausted to be excited,” Musey said in the press release. “The main thing is that everyone is safe. I have some frostbitten toes but otherwise am doing very well.”

 

Musey set out to climb Mount Everest to fulfill a personal goal and to raise funds for the American Red Cross International Relief Fund. Musey has obtained more than $40,000 pledges to the Red Cross, the press release said.

 

 

Boeing Leads Test of ABL Laser-Plane Integration

 

Boeing Co. and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) recently began testing
the Airborne Laser (ABL)
to demonstrate that the laser system has been properly integrated aboard its aircraft and can generate enough power to destroy a ballistic missile, according to a May 28 Boeing news release.

Boeing and MDA
already have fired the chemical laser during testing on the ground, but have yet to do so with the weapon inside the modified 747 aircraft that will use the laser to shoot down missiles in the boost phase of their flight profile.
The system
also may be capable of destroying cruise, air-to-air
�and surface-to-air missiles as well, according to the news release.

 

Boeing’s team for the ABL program includes Northrop Grumman Corp., which designed and built the high energy laser, and Lockheed Martin Corp., which is responsible for the beam control and fire control system.

 

The recent ground testing
�at Edwards Air Force Base in California
�will be followed by
a flight test of the integrated system, according to the news release.

 

Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, said in a May 29 interview that the ABL program remains on track to conduct an airborne intercept of a ballistic missile in mid-2009.

 

The ABL program’s 2008 budget is $513.8 million. MDA requested $400.2 million for the ABL effort in 2009. The House Armed Services Committee reduced the request by $42.6 million in its version of the 2009 defense authorization legislation, while the Senate Armed Services Committee reduced the request by $45 million, and specifically stipulated that the funding not be taken from work planned for the 2009 flight test.

 

Fancher said
the test could be kept on track, even with a funding reduction, if the money is taken from planned work on a follow-on system.

 

 

U.S. Air Force Finishes Initial C/NOFS Checkout

 

Air Force Space Command has
completed the checkout of a spacecraft intended to detect scintillations in the ionosphere that can disrupt satellite signals, according to a
�May 28 Air Force news release.

The Communication Navigation Outage Forecasting System (C/NOFS) satellite, which was built by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems of Gilbert, Ariz., was launched April 16 on a Pegasus rocket built by Orbital Sciences C
orp.
�of Dulles, Va.

The C/NOFS spacecraft is intended to help troops forecast potential disruptions to GPS and Ultra High Frequency communications signals as they plan missions, according to the news release. Air Force Col. Stephen Hargis, director of the Department of Defense Space Test Program, said
work on the C/NOFS checkout period “was so effective that it now serves as a standard for all of our future missions.”

 

New GPS-Guided Rocket System Downs Its Targets

 

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas
�used an upgraded fire control system to launch GPS-guided rockets from a wheeled launcher to shoot down targets during a recent test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, according to a May 28 company news release.

The Universal Fire Control System on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher features upgrades intended to improve reliability, reduce sustainment costs
�and mitigate parts obsolescence, according to the news release.

The Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System,
which has
been used by U.S. forces in
Iraq and Afghanistan, features GPS guidance as part of an effort to reduce the number of rockets needed to destroy targets as well as limit collateral damage, according to the news release.

 

Lockheed Martin also used the upgraded fire control system on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher to fire an Army Tactical Missile Systems rocket in March. The launcher as well as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and the Army Tactical Missile Systems rockets are all built by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com