Shows Similar Hot Spots at Saturn’s Poles

Data gathered by NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn recently showed that Saturn’s dark north pole has an unexpected hot spot like the previously discovered hot spot on the planet’s sunny south pole, a Jan. 3 NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release said.

Using the spacecraft’s infrared data, scientists have found the north pole has a hot cyclonic vortex like the one at the south pole. Both vortices appear to be intrinsic features of the planet that are unrelated to sunlight. During the planet’s 15-year winter, which began in 1995, Saturn’s north pole has been shrouded in darkness.

“The hot spots are the result of air moving polewards, being compressed and heated up as it descends over the poles into the depths of Saturn,” Leigh Fletcher, lead author of study’s paper, which appears in the Jan. 4 issue of Science, said in the release.

But the cause of the hot spots remains unknown. “The driving forces behind the motion, and indeed the global motion of Saturn’s atmosphere, still need to be understood,” Fletcher said.

While both vortices have similar structures and temperatures, the vortex at the north pole is enclosed by Saturn’s distinctive polar hexagon, originally discovered in the 1980s by both Voyager spacecraft.

The Cassini researchers also discovered that Saturn’s hexagon reaches the top of its troposphere, higher than previous studies had shown.


Failure Sends Insurers into the Red

The likely failure of the Rascom-QAF1 satellite following a leak in its helium-pressurization tank (see related story, page 1) will tip the 2007 financial ledgers of the world’s space insurance underwriters into the red, according to insurance officials.

While Rascom, launched Dec. 21, has not yet been declared a total loss, officials said there is little doubt that it will be soon, and that its owner will demand payment of the full insurance coverage of $365 million.

When added to claims paid for three other satellite losses in 2007 – the NSS-8 telecommunications satellite destroyed in January Sea Launch rocket failure, the JCSAT-11 telecommunications satellite lost in a September Proton rocket failure and the in-orbit loss of the GeoEye OrbView-3 Earth observation satellite – total claims in 2007 are expected to be around $750 million. Total premiums paid for the year are estimated at between $550 million and $625 million.

Space insurance underwriters have had several years of healthy profitability, but the 2007 results will put upward pressure on insurance premiums, which have dropped substantially in the past five years. One official said the near-term evolution of insurance rates will depend on the early months of 2008, when a large number of insured telecommunications satellites are scheduled for launch.

After 38% Growth in ’07 Sirius Closes in on XM

Sirius Satellite Radio of New York increased its subscriber base by 38 percent in 2007 to more than 8.3 million subscribers at year’s end, the company announced Jan. 3. The gains moved Sirius to within striking distance of its

Washington-based competitor XM Satellite Radio, which at one time had more than triple the number of subscribers as Sirius.

XM reported in a Jan. 3 press release that it ended the year with a

subscriber base of more than 8.5 million.

Sirius in February 2007 agreed to acquire XM, but U.S. regulators have yet to approve the merger.


Chief Executive Officer Mel Karmazin said in a press release that the growth represents the largest single-year gross increase in the history of satellite radio. He also said the company

likely would report in February significantly higher positive free cash flow in the fourth quarter of 2007 than in that same period in 2006.

Iridium Gets Approval For Air Safety Services

Iridium Satellite of Bethesda, Md., has


permission from international aviation regulators to provide air traffic safety services to commercial aircraft on trans-A

tlantic flights, a Jan. 3 Iridium press release said.

The International Civil Aviation Organization Council approved a policy

allowing pilots to use Iridium’s constellation of low

Earth-orbiting satellites as a back-up for the high-frequency radios airlines use to communicate verbally with air traffic controllers. Iridium’s service

also now is allowed to be airlines’ primary method for data transmission. Iridium joins Inmarsat as the only two companies licensed to provide these capabilities, said Mike Meza, Iridium’s director of aviation services.

The service will be sold through Iridium’s commercial partners, and company spokeswoman Liz DeCastro confirmed negotiations with multiple commercial airlines are under way. A host of commercial airlines already use Iridium satellite terminals for cockpit communications.

Comtech Gets 6-

Month $17.7 Million Army Deal

Comtech Mobile Datacom Corp. of Germantown, Md., has received multiple six-month U.S. Army contracts totaling $17.7 million to provide satellite bandwidth and support services for the Communications Electronics Command, according to a Jan. 3 Comtech

press release.

The contracts will help fulfill the global needs of the Army’s Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below – Blue Force Tracking program, and work is expected to be completed June 30. Comtech Mobile Datacom is a subsidiary of Comtech Telecommunications Corp of Melville, N.Y.

NASA Finishes Installing SDO Instrument Module

Spacecraft technicians at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., installed the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s instrument module Dec. 29, keeping the $700 million sun-observing satellite on track to begin environmental testing in March. Once technicians complete the electrical interconnections and verify the three instruments remain in working order, the spacecraft’s solar arrays will be installed and tested, program officials said.

Designed to help scientists understand the

sun’s influence on Earth and its surrounding space environment, the Solar Dynamics Observatory will employ its three instruments to study the sun’s atmosphere in unprecedented detail. The 3,200-kilogram spacecraft is scheduled

to be launched in December out of Florida aboard an Atlas 5 rocket.

Russia Launches Three More Glonass Satellites

Three Russian Glonass navigation satellites were launched from

BaikonurCosmodrome in Kazakhstan Dec. 25 aboard a Proton M rocket built by the Khrunichev Space Center.

When complete, Glonass will be a global satellite navigation system that serves the Russian Ministry of Defense and civilian users. The launch was conducted by a Russian Space Forces launch crew and was the first Glonass launch to use a

Block DM upper stage with a Proton-M rocket. The Block DM is manufactured by RSC Energia.

A Proton launch vehicle has boosted all of the Glonass satellites into orbit and will launch more of them this year, according to a Dec. 26 press release from Khrunichev.

MDA Nabs

Contract for Robotics on Shuttle, Station

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Richmond, British Columbia

, received a NASA contract worth 39.5 million Canadian dollars ($40.3 million) to continue support for robotic systems aboard the space shuttle and international space station

, a Jan. 3 MDA press release said.

If all options are exercised the contract is worth up to 75.8 million Canadian dollars.

The Canadian Commercial Corp. of Ottawa, a procurement agency for the Canadian government, received the contract from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and

delivered it to MDA to implement, the MDA release said.

The work will support the

space shuttle’s Canadarm, its inspection boom and the robotic work station on the international space station, the MDA release said.

The contract has a base period from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2010, with options for two one-year extensions, a Dec. 28 NASA press release said.


Scientists Downgrade Blast of Siberian Asteroid Impact

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories have uncovered evidence suggesting that the asteroid that devastated Siberia’s Tunguska region nearly 100 years ago is smaller than previously believed, a Dec. 17 Sandia press release said.

Based on recent supercomputer simulations, the scientists have downgraded the June 30, 1908, asteroid impact from a 10- to 20-megaton explosion to a 3- to 5-megaton explosion.

simulation shows the center of the asteroid exploding above ground and then hurtling to the Earth as a fireball, unlike previous models. The resulting impact would have created stronger blast waves and thermal radiation pulses than impacts without the downward force from the fireball, Sandia said.

“We no longer have to make the same simplifying assumptions, because present-day supercomputers allow us to do things with high resolution in 3-D,” Sandia principal investigator Mark Boslough said in a prepared statement. “We should be making more efforts at detecting the smaller ones than we have [until] now.”

Lockheed To Install Aegis on Third Japanese Navy Vessel

Lockheed Martin Maritime Sensors and Systems of Moorestown, N.J., has been awarded a $40.4 million contract modification from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) to install the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system on a third Japanese navy ship, a Dec. 28 U.S. Defense Department press release said.

Lockheed Martin will outfit Japan’s JS Myoko with the Aegis system under the latest award, which modifies a 2007 contract under which the company is equipping the JS Chokai.

The total value of the contract is $73.4 million, and work is expected to be completed by November 2009, Lockheed Martin

spokesman Kenneth Ross said.

The company

installed the Aegis system on the JS Kongo destroyer under a $124 million contract awarded in 2005.

It was the first non-American ship to receive the capability and recently completed its first intercept test.

Lockheed Martin’s contract includes an

option to install the system on a fourth ship, Ross said.

NASA Eyes Collaborative Missions to Outer Planets

While there is no funding yet, NASA planetary scientists are studying the feasibility of new

flagship-class missions to the solar system’s outer planets.

James Green, director of the Planetary Sciences Division at NASA headquarters in Washington, said the agency plans to conduct what it calls phase-2 studies of proposed


s such as a Europa Explorer, a Jupiter System Orbiter

and a Titan Explorer.

Those studies will be carried out in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

NASA officials acknowledge that deciding where to send an expensive outer planet flagship mission is a challenge. For now it appears the U.S. space agency will have

roughly $2 billion for such a mission


Collaborating with other nations on an outer planet flagship mission also brings up timetable issues, multi

national processes and sticky International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) complications on the U.S. side.

Fran Bagenal, who chairs

NASA’s Outer Planets Assessment Group (OPAG) steering committee, said

international collaboration

always has been understood to be part of the process, but how it is to work remains unclear


NASA’s Green has informed the space science community that the

agency is

developing new ground rules, plus the

programmatic changes, that will be needed to include international collaborators

on a new outer planet mission.

The plan is to start working with ESA and JAXA as soon as possible in 2008, Green said.

Silicon Space Technology Wins Large Jury Award

Semiconductor manufacturer Silicon Space Technology (SST) of Austin, Texas, won an $18 million jury verdict in a lawsuit claiming that

LSI Logic Corp. of Milpitas, Calif., had broken a nondisclosure agreement and stolen trade secrets, SST announced Dec. 19.

SST produces radiation-hardened semiconductors for military and aerospace applications. At the conclusion of the three-week trial in Texas, the 12-member jury found LSI had violated a state trade secrets law following a meeting of the two companies in 2004.

LSI Logic spokeswoman Kristen Hyland said the company would not comment on the lawsuit.

Spitzer Confirms Origins of Planet-Forming Particles

Scientists working with NASA’s Spitzer Telescope have found long-sought definitive evidence that explosions of massive stars, also known as supernovae, are the source of the cosmic dust from which future generations of stars and planets formed, according to

a Dec. 20 press release from NASA’s

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Using Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph, the scientists found dust equal to the mass of 10,000 Earths

in the remnants of the massive exploded star Cassiopeia A. The scientists created high resolution maps showing the distribution of various elements and compounds in the cloud. The chemical composition matched that of co-located gases, or ejecta, known to have been created by the supernova.

When the ejecta cools it coalesces into dust particles, the scientists determined. “Dust forms a few to several hundred days after these energetic explosions, when the temperature of gas in the ejecta cools down,” study co-author Takashi Kozasa said in a prepared statement.

“Since we know the gas was produced in the explosion, we can now say the dust must have been too,” JPL spokeswoman Whitney Clavin said in a Jan. 2 e-mail response to questions.

Lockheed Martin To Continue Work on Trident 2 D5 Missiles

Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., won

a one-year, $849 million contract from the U.S. Navy to continue its work on the Trident 2

D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile program, a Dec. 20 company press release said.

The contract includes continued production of D5

missiles and support for

systems deployed on Ohio-class submarines and for on-shore facilities. Lockheed Martin delivered 425 of the

missiles from 1989 to 2007 and will deliver a minimum of 108 missiles between 2011 and 2017 if the program remains fully funded.

The Trident 2

D5 is a three-stage, solid-propellant ballistic missile that has been deployed on U.S. submarines since 1990. It has a range of 7,400 kilometers

and carries multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles.

Conflict of Interest To Delay Mars Scout Launch to 2013

Launch of the next Mars Scout mission will be delayed by two years to 2013 due to an

undisclosed conflict of interest with one of two finalists


Doug McCuistion, NASA’s Mars Exploration program director,

said in a Dec. 21 teleconference with reporters.

Upon discovering the conflict

, the evaluation panel was disbanded, and an entirely new

panel has been


, McCuistion said. New

proposals for the next Mars Scout mission will be due in August, and the selection

will occur in December 2008, he said.

These changes to the evaluation panel have

pushed the next Mars Scout mission out of the planned 2011 launch window, McCuistion said. Planetary alignment between the Earth and Mars occurs every 26 months.

The “

serious conflict that required resolution,” was found in an evaluation proposal from one of the two Boulder, Colo.-based finalists, McCuistion said. Though he


to disclose the details, McCuistion said

the conflict, which was announced Nov. 28, was related to procurement.

NASA established the Mars Scout program to fund relatively inexpensive missions to the

red planet. The first such mission, Mars Phoenix, launched

Aug. 4.

Japanese Lunar Spacecraft Finishes Initial Checkout

Japan’s Kaguya spacecraft

completed initial verification checks Dec. 21 and now is in its operational phase, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in a

press release the same day.

All the lunar-observation satellite’s onboard systems checked out

except the X-ray Spectrometer and Charged Particle Spectrometer, which are operational but

experiencing glitches. Attempts to identify the causes of the malfunctions and correct them will continue, JAXA said.

launched Sept. 14 on a Japanese H-2A rocket from Yoshinobu Launch Complex in Tanegashima, southern Japan.

Houston Firm Awarded $90 Million NASA Contract

NASA has awarded Barrios Technology Ltd.

a contract, potentially worth $49 million, to provide integration services for the Constellation Program’s Orion project,

the U.S. space agency said in a Dec. 18 press release.

Barrios of Houston will provide support for project logistics, business management, and engineering and technical services. Houston-based Science Applications International Corp. will act as a major subcontractor for the work, the release said.

The three-year base cost-plus-award-fee contract is worth as much as $29 million with two one-year options. The contract was set aside exclusively for small businesses, the release said.

NASA Awards CSC $113 Million Contract

Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) of El Segundo, Calif., won a five-year, $113 million NASA contract, the company said in a Dec. 27 press release.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based company will provide supercomputing support services to the NASA Center for Computational Sciences based at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Russian Comsat Set for Jan. 28 Proton Launch

The AM-33 commercial telecommunications satellite owned by Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) has been cleared for launch

Jan. 28 aboard a Russian Proton-M rocket from Russia’s BaikonurCosmodrome spaceport, the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, announced.

AM-33 was built by NPO-PM of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, with payload electronics supplied by ThalesAlenia Space of France and Italy. RSCC had criticized ThalesAlenia Space for late delivery of the payload, which RSCC said resulted in a launch delay of several months. ThalesAlenia Space officials insisted they had respected the delivery deadlines stipulated in the contract, which was signed with RSCC, not NPO-PM.

The AM-33 launch also sparked complaints by Telenor Satellite Broadcast of Norway that Telenor’s Thor 2R communications satellite’s launch aboard a Proton-M rocket was delayed until

February to make room for AM-33. The Thor 2R satellite’s launch is being handled by International Launch Services, the U.S. company that handles commercial Proton missions. While AM-33 is a commercial satellite, its launch is considered part of Russia’s federal program and was not arranged by International Launch Services.

Alcatel-Lucent To Test Mobile TV Service in Italy

Alcatel-Lucent is teaming with an Italian cellular-network operator and with Italy’s RAI public-television broadcaster for a two-part trial to provide television broadcasts to mobile handsets using a transmission standard designed for satellite-delivered mobile television.

The trials will begin in Turin, Italy, and last until March. In the first phase, only terrestrial signals will be sent. For indoor coverage, celluar network operator 3 Italia will provide the use of its cellular towers. Outdoor and vehicular coverage will be assured by the use of RAI’s broadcast towers.

Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent’s Unlimited M

obile TV project aims to use the Digital Video Broadcasting-Satellite services to Handhelds, or DVB-SH, technical transmission standard for the trials. Alcatel-Lucent

also is working with satellite-fleet operators Eutelsat of Paris and SES of Luxembourg to adapt the DVB-SH standard for an S-band antenna being built aboard a satellite set for launch in 2009.

Following the initial terrestrial-only trials, Alcatel-Lucent and its Italian partners will proceed with a second series of tests using a transmitter affixed to a high-altitude helicopter to simulate a satellite signal.

Alcatel-Lucent said it also plans to conduct tests using operational satellites

, at a later date.

Several satellite operators are competing to receive regulatory authorization to use 30 MHz

of S-band radio spectrum available over Europe for mobile television and other services. A decision on who will be granted spectrum access is expected by 2009.


Gets $300 Million To Finance 4 Satellites

Satellite-fleet operator Arabsat has secured a $300 million credit facility from Saudi Hollandi Bank to finance the

company’s expansion, including the purchase and launch of four satellites between 2008 and 2011, the Riyahd, Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat consortium announced.

The credit will be furnished under terms compatible with Islamic banking principles and will be repaid over five years. “We are very pleased to support Arabsat’s growth across the region as well as globally,” said Abdulelah Al Shaikh, general manager for corporate banking at Saudi Hollandi Bank, also based in Riyahd. He said that under the credit facility, the bank will purchase specified goods from a third party, and then resell

them to its customer at cost plus a mutually agreed profit.


Gets Greater Financial Flexibility

Thermo Funding Co. LLC, whose principal owner, Jay Monroe, is also chief executive of mobile satellite services operator Globalstar Inc., has given Globalstar additional financial flexibility by taking over a Globalstar credit facility from Wachovia Investment Holdings LLC.

In assuming the $150 million credit facility, Thermo has considerably loosened the terms and conditions of the former Wachovia agreement, permitting Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar to incur higher debt levels without violating the terms of the credit agreement.

The Thermo-backed credit also removes the risk that the technical issues affecting

satellites now in orbit would block

access to the Wachovia-supplied funds. The Wachovia credit might have been threatened by Globalstar’s February 2007 announcement of an unexpected degradation in its current satellite constellation. The problem affects the satellites’ ability to continue to provide two-way communications.

That February 2007 announcement could have constituted a “material adverse event” as defined in the Wachovia credit facility, which was dated Dec. 31, 2005, making it difficult for Globalstar to draw on the promised funds. Under the new Thermo terms, Globalstar’s access to the financing is subject to review only if there are any materially significant adverse events after Sept.

20, 2007.

The Thermo credit specifically excludes “any existing and future first-generation satellite constellation degradation or failure issues and the effects of such events” on Globalstar, according to Globalstar.

Globalstar is planning a second-generation constellation of 48 low-orbiting satellites, with launches to begin in mid-2009.

Japan Successful in First Aegis BMD Test

Japan successfully completed its first intercept test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, launching a missile from the JS Kongo destroyer and intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced Dec. 17.

A test target was launched from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii, and JS Kongo launched a Raytheon-built Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block 1A missile that intercepted the target 160 kilometers above the ocean. This test marks the 12th successful intercept for the sea-based missile defense system in 14 attempts and the first attempt by a U.S. ally, the MDA said.

JS Kongo is the first of four Japanese destroyers that will be upgraded with Aegis BMD capability by 2010. They will be the only non-U.S.

ships with this capability.

JS Kongo participated in the most recent U.S.

test of the Aegis BMD system, providing long-range tracking and surveillance for the USS Lake Erie’s successful dual-intercept test in November.

ISRO Deep Space Antenna Ready

for Live Tests




Network antenna that will be used to


the Chandrayaan-1

Moon probe is ready for performance tests, the Indian Space Research Organis

(ISRO) announced here Dec. 15.


will be launched as scheduled

April 9,

mission director MylswamyAnnadurai told reporters on a guided tour of the

58.5-hectare antenna site in Byalalu, about 40 kilometers from Bangalore.

He told Space News that ISRO plans to validate the antenna’s transmitter and receiver by “live” tracking of Europe’s Mars Express and Japan’s lunar probe, Kaguya, after getting formal permissions from the respective agencies.

The 250-ton 32-meter

diameter parabolic dish antenna is the largest of its kind designed and built in India. Operating in the S- and X-bands this massive structure can be steered to track

the spacecraft to within

a few millionths of a degree, S.K. Shivakumar, director of ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network told the press party.

An 18-meter antenna imported from Germany had been installed last year to act as a backup. Together with the Indian manufactured 32-meter dish, ISRO’sByalalu station will be capable of handling not just Chandrayaan-1 but any future planetary missions as well, Annadurai told Space News.

ISRO has spent $25 million (almost one-fourth the cost of the

Moon mission) to establish

the station that also houses the data center to store data gathered from deep mission probes. Annadurai said the Chandrayaan-2 mission, to be launched in collaboration with Russia, is slated for 2011-2012, while ISRO’s mission to Mars is still in the discussion stage.

said ISRO

also is looking at its



Network as a potential revenue earner since its services can be offered

to agencies launching missions to the

Moon and the


Weldon Unveils Plan To Delay Shuttle Retirement

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) unveiled legislation Dec. 17 aimed at keeping the U.S. space shuttle fleet flying beyond its planned 2010 retirement.

The plan calls for giving NASA $3.7 billion designed to make up for past funding shortfalls that he said jeopardize continued operation of the shuttle and timely development of its planned replacement, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares 1 rocket.

The new system currently is expected to make its debut in March 2015, some four



half years after NASA plans to fly the shuttle for the last time.

Weldon’s legislation, which he plans to introduce in Congress in coming days, would close the gap in U.S. human spaceflights by authorizing “such sums as may be necessary” to fly the space shuttle twice


year between 2010 and 2015.

“My bill plugs NASA’s human spaceflight gap and ensures a smoother landing for the Shuttle workforce and lift-off for Constellation,” Weldon said in a statement released following a Dec. 17 press conference at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Weldon’s office made no accommodations for media outside central Florida to cover the announcement. According to local media accounts of the event, Weldon estimated that conducting the post-2010 shuttle flights would cost $2 billion a year. NASA currently spends about twice that amount on shuttle operations.

Weldon’s announcement came as Congress was poised to take up an omnibus spending bill that includes the $17.3 billion the White House requested for NASA for 2008, but would increase the agency’s spending on science and aeronautics at the expense of Orion and Ares. Also stripped from the compromise measure was an extra $1 billion approved by the Senate to help NASA recover financially from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident.

Space Systems Group EVP Leaves Orbital for ATK

Carl Marchetto, executive vice president and general manager of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Space Systems Group, resigned Dec. 14, according to a filing the company made with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) the same day.

According the Form 8K

filed at the SEC, Marchetto resigned “to pursue another employment opportunity.”

Michael Larkin, senior vice president, finance and deputy general manager of the Space Systems Group, will replace Marchetto “on an acting basis,” according to the filing.

ATK spokesman Brian Cullin confirmed in an e-mail that Marchetto will join that company in February, but he declined to provide any additional details.

Lockheed Wins GOES Lightning Mapper Contract

NASA awarded a $96.7 million contract to Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Palo Alto, Calif., to build a lightning-detection instrument for an upcoming series of geostationary-orbiting weather satellites, according to a Dec. 19 company news release.

Lockheed Martin beat out Ball Aerospace and Technologies for the Geostationary Lightning Mapper contract, which will go on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) series of satellites.

The first of those satellites, which NASA is procuring on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is expected to launch no earlier than 2014.

Data from the lightning-mapping instrument will help protect communities by increasing severe storm and tornado warning times, according to the Lockheed Martin news release.

Boeing Satellite Systems Wins TDRS Competition

NASA has awarded Boeing Satellite Systems Inc.

a $695 million contract to

provide two new Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS)

, the U.S. space agency said in a Dec. 20 press release

. Boeing beat out Northrop Grumman Space Technology, Redondo Beach, Calif., for the TDRS contract.

TDRS spacecraft

provide communications links between the ground and spacecraft in low Earth orbit, such as

the space shuttle and the international space station.

Boeing Satellite Systems, El Segundo, Calif., will build, integrate and test

the TDRS-K and TDRS-L satellites, as well as provide launch support, in-orbit inspection and

engineering support once the satellites reach orbit.

Under the contract,

Boeing also will modify


space-ground link terminals at NASA’s White Sands Complex, N.M.,

to make them compatible with the new satellites, said Jeff Gramling, TDRS

project manager at NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Md.

The contract includes

an option to modify

a fifth space-ground link terminal, he said in a Dec. 21 phone interview.

The contract also includes an


to build two additional satellites, TDRS-M and TDRS-N, the release said. The maximum value of the contract is about

$1.22 billion, the release said.

TDRS-K is slated to launch by December 2012, and TDRS-L is slated for launch in 2013. Both satellites have expected service lives of 15 years.

Boeing Forms New Intel, Security Systems Division

The Boeing Co. of St Louis has formed a new Intelligence and Security Systems division that will provide ground-based and other integrated solutions for its U.S. government customers, the company announced in a Dec. 20 press release.

The new division,

based in Washington,

has a work force of approximately 2,000 people at nine U.S. locations and encompasses Boeing’s

Advanced Information Systems, Mission Systems and Security Solutions divisions.

Steve Oswald, a retired U.S. Naval Reserve rear admiral and former astronaut, was named vice president and general manager of the division. He had been vice president of Boeing’s Space Shuttle program since 2001. Oswald will report to Roger Krone, president of the Network and Space Systems business of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

Lockheed Gets Contract for 17 Shuttle External Tanks

Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver received a $465.7 million NASA contract modification to extend production of the space shuttle’s external tanks until the last scheduled flight in 2010, a Dec. 21 NASA press release said.

The contract calls for the production of 17 more external tanks.

The cost-plus-award-fee contract originally was awarded October 2000 and ends Sept. 30, 2010. The total value of the contract is worth $2.94 billion.

The external tank supplies liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to the shuttle’s three main engines during launch.

Fifth GPS

2RM Satellite Launched Aboard a Delta 2

The U.S. Air Force launched a

modernized GPS satellite

from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 20 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket.


2RM spacecraft, the fifth in a series of eight modernized GPS satellites built by Lockheed Martin,

is an upgraded version of Lockheed Martin’s GPS 2R series of navigation and timing satellites. The GPS

2RM features increased signal power, two new military signals, improved encryption and resistance to enemy jamming attempts, and a second civilian signal, according to a Dec. 17 Lockheed Martin news release.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin announced

Dec. 20 that ITT Corp., which builds the GPS payloads, delivered a demonstration payload that will be integrated with a GPS 2RM spacecraft that is expected to launch in 2008. The delivery took place two months ahead of schedule, according to the Lockheed Martin news release.

The demonstration payload features a civil signal, known as L5, that is part of the design for the next series of GPS satellites, known as GPS 2F. The first launch of the GPS 2F satellites, being built by Boeing Co., was initially expected in 2002 but

now is scheduled for 2009. The Air Force’s reservation with the International Telecommunication Union for L5 radio spectrum requires that the signal begin operating by August 2009, service officials said in a written statement in April 2007. Putting the signal on a GPS 2RM spacecraft will ensure that the service maintains its reservation until the GPS 2F satellites come on line, the service said.

USAF Plans Draft Solicitation For Space Sensor System

The U.S. Air Force plans to issue a draft solicitation early next month for an effort to develop sensors that can be placed on military satellites to warn of potential attacks, according to a Dec. 26 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) Web site.

The draft request for proposals for the Self Awareness Space Situational Awareness (SASSA) program will be issued “on or about” Jan.

8, according to the FBO posting.

The SASSA effort is intended to develop sensors that can “detect, characterize, attribute and geo-locate threats/attacks,” according to an Oct. 17 FBO posting.

The Air Force envisions developing the system with a common interface unit that would enable it to connect to a variety of the interfaces used on satellites today, according to the October notice. In addition to the sensors that it would host initially, the common interface unit could be used to host newly developed sensors over time, according to the notice.

Boeing Gets $282 Million For 2 More WGS Satellites

The U.S. Air Force exercised contract options with Boeing Co. worth a total of $282 million for work on the construction of a fifth and sixth Wideband Global Satcom system satellite

Dec. 21, according to a Pentagon contract announcement.

The options included $230 million for the construction of the fifth satellite, and $52 million for advance procurement of parts for the sixth satellite. The options follow an agreement signed in November between the U.S. and Australian governments to provide access to the Wideband Global Satcom constellation in exchange for funding for the sixth satellite.

The Air Force launched the first Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft in October. Each Wideband Global Satcom satellite is expected to provide more bandwidth than the entire existing Defense Satellite Communications System constellation.