Briefs

by












  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 09 June 2008
11:22 am ET





Phoenix Images Are Most Detailed Yet of Another Planet

 

The Optical Microscope aboard NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander has captured images of tiny dust and sand particles as small as one-tenth the diameter of a human hair – the best resolution ever returned from another planet,
according to a June 6 NASA press release.

 

The particles are of varying shapes and colors and one translucent particle resembles a grain of salt,
Tom Pike, Phoenix science team member from Imperial College
London, said in the press release.

 

The images were taken June 3 of
�a
�sticky area on Mars’ surface exposed
�by the May 25 landing of Phoenix. Some of the particles might have come from inside the spacecraft during the landing, but many match expectations for
martian particles, the press release said.

 

Meanwhile, commands to Phoenix were relayed through NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter while scientists investigated what caused NASA’s older Mars Odyssey probe to go into a safe
�mode. Commands sent to Odyssey June 4 were not transmitted to Phoenix as they should have been, prompting a temporary switch to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
,
�the press release said.

Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001, and diverted to safe mode two or three times earlier in its mission, the press release said, adding that scientists believe a single event that affected computer memory caused it to lapse into standby mode this time.

 

 

Thales Alenia Negotiating Purchase of Saab Space

 

Saab AB of Sweden is in exclusive negotiations with Thales Alenia Space over the purchase of Saab Space, industry officials said. While they said a deal could be concluded by July, they also said negotiations
already had dragged on longer than expected.

Saab AB had announced in late 2007 that it was putting its space division up for sale to focus on its core businesses and had expected to find a buyer by April. Saab
�cautioned at the time that it would hold out for a deal “at the right price, [with] the right buyer” and might end up keeping the division if it could not secure satisfactory terms.

 

Saab Space is Sweden’s largest space contractor, specializing in satellite payload electronics and in systems used to release satellites from launch vehicles. The company reported sales of 702 million Swedish krona ($117
�million) in 2006 and
added 895 million krona in new orders that year
.

 

Saab Space’s biggest customer is the European Space Agency. Industry officials said that, as was the case when Astrium Satellites purchased British small-satellite builder Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. earlier this year, negotiations between Saab and Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy hinge in part on whether the Swedish government’s future space spending will be affected once the country’s largest space manufacturer is sold to a non-Swedish company.

 

ICO Global Stock Sale Raises $23.5 Million

 

Mobile satellite services provider ICO Global Communications has raised $23.5 million by selling stock to institutional investors including Highland Capital Management L.P., an existing ICO shareholder, Reston, Va.-based ICO announced June 6.

 

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, ICO said it sold some 6.51 million shares of common stock in a transaction scheduled to close June 9. After the sale, Highland Capital will have an 18.97 percent economic ownership of ICO and a 5.85 percent voting interest.

 

ICO plans to begin trials this summer of its mobile interactive media service, which uses signals from the recently launched ICO G1 satellite to provide television and data services to automobiles. The company has said it will need to secure new financing in 2009 to continue the roll-out of its mobile service.

 

Griffin: U.S. Station Role Will Continue Past 2016

 

The United States is likely to continue to use the international space station well beyond 2016 even as it focuses on its lunar
�and Mars
�exploration project, NASA Administrator Michael
Griffin said in Paris June 5. Griffin said it is “inconceivable to me” that the U.S. government would end its participation in the station in 2015 or at any other arbitrary date.

In an address to a conference organized by the French National Assembly, or parliament, Griffin sought to reassure NASA’s space station partners that NASA, which is the space station’s prime contractor, will not walk away from the orbital outpost.

 

“For those who have heard that the U.S. will soon abandon the ISS [international space station], let me be clear: We are committed to building and utilizing the space station well into the next decade. In fact … the ISS is the primary focus of our near-term effort. Human research on the space station will directly benefit … our future activities on the Moon, and later voyages to Mars,” Griffin said.

 

“Further, the U.S. Congress has designated the U.S. segment of the ISS as a national laboratory and directed NASA to develop a plan to ‘increase the utilization of the ISS by other federal entities and the private sector.’ Congress does not create or eliminate national laboratories lightly. Thus, it is inconceivable to me that the U.S. would abandon a perfectly functional space station because we have arrived at an arbitrary date on the calendar. So while I cannot speak for a future U.S. administration or Congress, I do believe that the ISS will be around for a long time beyond 2016, and that the U.S. will remain part of it.”

 

Astrium Space Plane Fails To Draw Interest

 

The head of Europe’s Astrium space-hardware manufacturer said the company’s proposal to design a space plane to carry tourists to 100 kilometers in altitude has received almost no support in Europe’s established aerospace sector.

 

Speaking nearly a year after Astrium unveiled its space plane design, Astrium Chief Executive Francois Auque said the project is an example of risk-taking that is unusual among European aerospace companies.

 

In a June 5 address to a conference on space policy at France’s National Assembly, or parliament, Auque said Astrium has spent more than 10 million euros ($15.5 million) of its own money on the space plane project.

 

Astrium had said when the project was announced that it would need to raise about 1 billion euros to complete the vehicle’s development
and order the first models. The company said it would continue the project internally until early 2008 and would abandon the effort if the search for financial partners was not successful.

 

Industry officials said the company had focused on the Middle East as a potential source of financing, but no announcements of partners or investors have been made.

 

Beyond the apparent lack of success in getting financial backing, Auque voiced exasperation at the fact that this kind of out-of-the-box thinking by a large aerospace concern has not received a favorable echo elsewhere in Europe’s aerospace establishment.

The Astrium space plane design resembles a business jet with two conventional jet engines and a central rocket engine powered by liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The company said that commercial service could begin in 2012-2013, with passengers paying around 200,000 euros each for the 90-minute flight to the edge of the atmosphere.

 

“I was even told that this project was morally blameworthy because it targets an audience of rich people,” Auque said, referring to public remarks made about the Astrium project by European Commission Vice President Guenter Verheugen, who is European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry. “Well, let me say I would prefer to earn money from the rich and to give it to the poor – starting with my own shareholders.”

GOP Lawmakers Test INKSNA Waiver Principle

 

NASA’s request for continued relief from a 2000 law restricting its purchase of Russian Soyuz vehicles has run afoul of House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans, who wrote U.S. President George W. Bush to argue that a waiver should be unnecessary if the White House is correct that Russia is no longer helping Iran acquire nuclear know-how.

 

“We are writing to request that you withdraw from consideration the agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia that was recently submitted to Congress, particularly in light of the request for an extension of your waiver of authority in the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) that would allow NASA to continue to purchase spacecraft from the Russian space agency,” 14
Republicans wrote in the June 5 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Space News.

 

INKSNA prohibits NASA from buying international space station-related goods and services from Russia so long as the president is unable to certify that Russia has stopped helping Iran acquire missiles and other advanced weaponry. NASA, however, has continued to buy Soyuz and Progress vehicles under a congressional
�waiver that expires in 2011. The White House asked Congress in April to allow NASA to keep buying Soyuz vehicles through 2016 in order to ensure continued
U.S.
�access to the space station after the space shuttle retires.

 

The GOP lawmakers told Bush that if, as his administration has argued, Russia’s record on Iran proliferation is improving enough to move
forward with a nuclear cooperation agreement, then he should have no problem issuing the certification needed for NASA to move ahead with a Soyuz deal.

“Either Russia is continuing to assist Iran or it is not,” they wrote. “For these reasons, we believe the Administration has a clear choice to make: either withdraw from consideration … the nuclear cooperation agreement … or issue a certification to Congress … that Russia has suspended all nuclear assistance to Iran …

 

 

Jason-2, GLAST Launches Each Delayed Four Days

 

The launch of the U.S.-European ocean-topography satellite, Jason-2, has been delayed by at least four days, to June 19, due to
high winds at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and a delay in the launch of NASA’s GLAST science satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

 

Both satellites will be launched by Delta 2 rockets, whose flights are managed by the same team. GLAST, or Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope,
currently is scheduled for launch June 11.

 

High winds at Vandenberg for the last several days have made it impossible to mate the Jason-2 satellite on the Delta 2 rocket, NASA spokesman George H. Diller said June 5. Forecasts are that the winds may subside starting June 6.

 

Jason-2 and GLAST
have been moving independently toward launch. But because both depend on the same Delta 2 launch-management team, there needs to be several days separating the two launches.

 

GLAST had been set for a June 7 launch but was delayed
following the discovery of a defective battery on its
Delta 2 vehicle. The battery is being replaced, Diller said.

Jason-2 is a collaboration between NASA; the French space agency, CNES; Europe’s Eumetsat meteorological satellite organization; and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

 

Harris Denies Reports That the Firm Is for Sale

 

Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., issued a statement June 2 denying recent media reports that the company is pursuing a merger or sale, sending its stock tumbling 15 percent in one day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

 

The Wall Street Journal initially reported the company was considering a sale
�May 9, and on
May 30 detailed several offers the company
supposedly had received. Harris’ stock gained steadily through the month of May, closing at $65.78
May 30. The stock had dropped to $55.60 by the close of the market on June 2 and rebounded slightly to close at $57.18 on June 5.

 

Iridium To Study Hosting Space Awareness Sensors

 

Iridium Satellite LLC
�of Bethesda, Md., will soon receive
a one-year
�contract worth about $500,000 from the U.S. Air Force
to study the possibility of hosting secondary payloads for the service on its second-generation satellite constellation, according to an official with the
Space Superiority Systems Wing at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles
.

 

Iridium plans to begin launching
66 satellites planned for its next-generation constellation, dubbed Iridium Next, in 2013.
The study will consider the size, weight and power issues associated with placing
secondary payloads on these satellites for space-surveillance
�purposes, the official said. The sole-source contract will be awarded by the end of July.

 

 

Boeing Will Not Protest GPS 3 Contract Decision

 

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis will not protest the U.S. Air Force’s May 15 decision to go with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., to build the first block of
GPS 3 navigation satellites, Boeing
spokesman Lewis Brinson said June 3.

 

The Air Force
briefed Boeing on its
decision May 22 and the company will not disclose the service’s reasons for choosing Lockheed Martin
, Brinson said. Lockheed Martin was awarded
�a $1.5 billion contract for the first two
GPS Block 3A satellites in a deal
that could be worth as much as $3.58 billion for 12 satellites. The Air Force currently plans on purchasing eight satellites in this block.

 

 

Northrop Gets Contract To Modify CERES Instrument

 

Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., has received a contract worth at least $6 million from NASA Langley Research Center to make modifications to a sensor that was recently added to the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project, a June 3 Northrop Grumman press release said.

Northrop Grumman’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES)
originally was slated to fly on the NPOESS Preparatory Project before being moved to the civil-military NPOESS weather satellite system.
�Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in February the CERES sensor would be moved
to
the NPOESS Preparatory Project, a precursor mission now scheduled to launch in 2010.

The CERES sensor is one of six identical sensors Northrop Grumman began producing in 1991. Four of the sensors are flying on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, and one is on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite.

 

 

Lord Accepts Position as Astrotech Chief Executive

 

Spacehab Inc. of Webster, Texas, has named
retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Lance Lord as
chief executive of the company’s Astrotech Space Operations subsidiary, which specializes in pre-launch satellite processing, according to a June 4 Spacehab press release.

 

Lord will oversee the company’s expansion of services that will include end-to-end mission assurance offerings, the release said. He will be based out of the company’s newly established Colorado Springs, Colo., facilities.

 

Lord’s Air Force career spanned
almost 40 years and included a stint
as commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

 

 

GeoEye To Provide More Imagery, Services to NGA

 

GeoEye of Dulles, Va., has been awarded a $22 million contract from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to provide geospatial intelligence products and imagery processing, according to a June 4 GeoEye press release.

 

The contract covers imagery from GeoEye’s existing Ikonos satellite as well as processing work to be done at the company’s St. Louis and Thornton, Colo., facilities. It is separate from GeoEye’s NextView contract with the NGA, under which the company built and will provide imagery from a more capable satellite dubbed GeoEye-1.

 

Astronauts Fix Balky Space Station Toilet

 

Astronauts aboard the international space station (ISS) appeared to have solved the orbiting lab’s toilet troubles June 4. Space station flight engineer Oleg Kononenko replaced a failed pump in the station’s Russian-built commode in a fix that restored the space toilet’s ability to collect liquid waste.

 

“I see airflow right away,” Kononenko said after activating the system, which uses flowing air in place of gravity to collect waste in weightlessness. Three initial tests of the system appeared to be successful, with Russian engineers giving the station crew the go ahead to use the repaired toilet and report on its status. “Okay, let’s start using it,” Russian flight controllers told Kononenko after two and a half hours of work.

 

Built into the station’s Russian Zvezda service module, the space toilet began having trouble
in late May.
Station astronauts were able to make partial repairs, though the fix required extra flush water and time-consuming overhauls every three uses, mission managers said.

 

“It’s unfortunate that we’re talking about toilets, but that really is the life and the future of human exploration in space,” said
Kirk Shireman, NASA’s deputy space station program manager
. Even in space, the same mundane maintenance jobs found on Earth are required, he added.

Star One Selects GMV To Upgrade Ground Facility

 

Brazilian satellite operator
Star One has selected GMV Space Systems of Rockville, Md., to upgrade the Brasilsat Satellite Control facility, according to a June 4 GMV press release.

 

Theresa Beech, managing director and vice president of business development for GMV, said the contract value is approximately $3.5 million.

 

GMV will employ its focusGEO and hiflyR satellite control software and hardware to upgrade the Brazilian facility for the Brasilsat B-1, B-2, B-3 and B-4 satellites. The facility will be equipped with a GMV satellite telemetry and
command system and flight dynamics system. GMV will install and integrate the new system in July 2009, the press release said.

 

 

Google To Lease Land at NASA Ames for Campus

 

Internet search engine giant Google Inc. will lease 17 hectares
of land at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., to build a campus of research facilities, offices, a conference area and amenities such as fitness and child care facilities, according to a June 4 NASA press release.

 

Mountain View-based Google will pay NASA $3.66 million per year for the 40-year lease, with the option to extend the lease for up to 50
years, the press release said. Under the terms of the lease, NASA may adjust the rent during the lease period. NASA will use profits for capital improvements at Ames, the press release said.

The first phase of the 108,000 square-meter
project is scheduled to begin by late September 2013.

 

 

University of Colorado To Manage NASA Data Center

 

The University of Colorado at Boulder will manage NASA’s archives of snow and ice data collected by Earth observation satellites, according to a May 29 NASA press release.

Under the $32 million, five-year contract, the university
will manage and operate the Earth Observing System Data and Information System Snow and Ice Distributed Active Archive Center, which receives, archives and distributes digital and analog images and maintains information on topics such as snow cover, avalanches and glaciers, the press release said.

 

 

Clauss To Decontaminate NASA Plumb Brook Facility

 

Clauss Construction of Lakeside, Calif., will conduct decontamination and radiation protection services at a decommissioned NASA nuclear reactor facility in Sandusky, Ohio, according to
�a May 29 NASA press release.

Clauss will package, ship and dispose of all radioactive waste and contaminated soil detected at the Plum Brook Reactor Facility during the 30-month contract, valued at more than $33.5 million, the press release said.

The nuclear reactor facility – which operated from 1962 to 1973 – is managed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

 

Intelsat Chief Executive Filling in as Interim CFO

 

Intelsat Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jeffrey P. Freimark has resigned his position to pursue other opportunities and the satellite-fleet operator has begun an external search for a replacement, Bermuda-headquartered, Washington-based Intelsat announced June 2.

 

Intelsat Chief Executive David McGlade will be acting chief financial officer during the search for a permanent replacement.

Freimark joined Intelsat in April 2006. In addition to his Intelsat job, Freimark is listed as “non-executive chairman and corporate governance luminary” at Inventurus, an outsourcing company based in Mumbai, India.

 

NASA Narrows Field of S
mall Explorer Concepts

 

Six teams will refine their candidate concepts for two NASA Small Explorer (SMEX)
missions slated to launch by 2015 under NASA study contracts worth $750,000 apiece, the U.S. space agency announced May 29.

 

The SMEX program focuses on providing access to space for
astrophysics and heliophysics experiments
aboard small or midsized spacecraft. The six candidates were selected from 32 proposals submitted in January. Over the next six months, they will further explain the feasibility of their proposals, which include exploration of Earth’s thermosphere and ionosphere, the sun, black holes and Earthlike planets around nearby stars.

 

NASA will whittle the proposals to two by spring of 2009, with the first mission expected to launch by 2012 and the second by 2015, the agency said in a
press release
. NASA will pay a maximum of $105 million for each of the two selected missions, excluding the launch vehicle.

The proposals selected for further study are:

– Coronal Physics Explorer
, led by Dennis G. Socker of the Naval Research Laboratory
, will study solar wind and coronal mass ejections
�that can impact
Earth.

 

– Gravity and Extreme Magnetism
, led by Jean H. Swank of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center,
�will use an X-ray telescope to track the flow of highly magnetized matter into supermassive black holes.

 

– Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph
, led by Alan M. Title of Lockheed Martin Space Systems
, will use a
telescope and spectrograph to study the solar chromosphere and transition region.

 

– Joint Astrophysics Nascent Universe Satellite
, led by Peter W.A. Roming of Pennsylvania State University
, will use a gamma-ray burst monitor to point its infrared telescope at the most distant galaxies to measure the star-formation history of the universe.

 

– Neutral Ion Coupling Explorer
, led by Stephen B. Mende of the University of California
, Berkeley, will study
how winds and the composition of the upper atmosphere drive the electrical fields and chemical reactions that control the Earth’s ionosphere.

 

– Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite,
led by George R. Ricker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
, will use six telescopes to observe the brightest 2.5 million stars and seek more than 1,000 Earth-to-Jupiter-sized planets around them.

 

EG&G To Continue Providing Support to NASA Marshall

 

EG&G Technical Services Inc. of Gaithersburg, Md., will continue providing facility operations and maintenance at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., under an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum value of $153 million, according to a May 29 NASA press release.

 

The
contract requires EG&G to provide management, personnel and equipment to support facility operations and maintenance at Marshall. The contract, which begins July 1, has a one-year base period followed by four one-year options, the press release said.

 

EG&G has been working at Marshall under a similar contract that began in 2003. That contract had a maximum value of $130 million, according to a press release issued in 2003.

 

 

Orbital Closes Sale of Transportation Division

 

Affiliated Computer Services of Dallas has completed its purchase of the
Transportation Management Systems (TMS) business previously owned by
Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. in a transaction valued at
$43 million, according to a June 2 Orbital
�press release.

 

TMS provides GPS-based fleet management solutions for public transit and commuter rail systems. It combines satellite navigation and satellite communications for services such as computer-aided dispatch and vehicle location.

 

TMS serves 60 customers in the United States and Canada, with units installed on or scheduled to be installed on more than 27,500 vehicles, the press release said.

 

Ares 1 Avionics Team Adds 3 Subcontractors

 

Boeing has selected three businesses classified as small and disadvantaged as subcontractors on the
avionics package for NASA’s planned Ares 1 launcher, according to a June 3 Boeing
press release.

 

Ed Memi, spokesman for Houston-based Boeing Space Exploration, prime contractor on the Ares 1 avionics, said the contracts are valued in the millions for minority-owned GeoLogics Corp. of Alexandria, Va., minority-owned Moseley Technical Services Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., and service-disabled, veteran-owned Mu�iz Engineering Inc. Technologies of Houston. The exact value of the one-year contracts with four one-year options is difficult to pin down due to the nature of the contracts, he said.

Ares 1 is part of NASA’s Constellation program, which includes the Orion crew capsule for sending astronauts
to the space station and eventually
to the Moon. Boeing and its subcontractors will produce the avionics ring – mounted between the Ares 1 upper stage and Orion – consisting of onboard computers, flight controls, communications equipment, power systems, navigation and control systems and other instruments.

 

Boeing plans to award more than 12 percent of its avionics work to small businesses, the press release said.

 

Iowa State U. Establishes Asteroid Deflection Center

 

Iowa State University in Ames
�has established an Asteroid Deflection Research Center to offer scientists
from around the world a place to develop asteroid deflection technology, according to a May 27 press release from the university.

 

Bong Wie, chair professor in aerospace engineering at Iowa State, will direct the center. Wie, who joined the university faculty in August, said in the press release that there is no consensus on how to reliably deflect Earth-bound asteroids in a timely manner, despite studies of the subject initiated in the 1990s
.

 

The technologies that will be developed at the center, including orbital guidance, and navigation and control, will have other applications that may include future advanced space vehicles that will carry astronauts to an asteroid or Mars, the press release said.

 

Scientists and engineers from NASA, the European Space Agency, academia and the aerospace industry will be invited to the Iowa State campus this fall to formulate a roadmap for developing asteroid deflection technologies during an International Symposium on Asteroid Deflection Technology.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com