ESA Picks AstriumTo Be Prime for BepiColombo

The European Space Agency (ESA)

signed a contract Jan. 18

with Asrium GmbH for the construction of the BepiColombo Mercury-orbiting satellite, one of two spacecraft that ESA and Japan are designing for a dual launch in 2013. The contract is valued at 350.9 million euros ($514.5


ESA program managers said the NASA Messenger mission to Mercury, which produced its first crop of images earlier this week as it performed a Mercury flyby, will whet the appetites of scientists and make them more enthusiastic, not less, for BepiColombo.

ESA has budgeted some 665 million euros for BepiColombo, a figure that includes the construction of the ESA Mercury Planet Orbiter satellite, launch and operations costs, and

reserve funds

to cover possible cost overruns or technology roadblocks. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, has budgeted about 100 million euros for its smaller Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, which will ride to Mercury attached to the ESA spacecraft before separation into its own

orbit around Mercury.


the 11 instruments being built and financed by European laboratories, the total BepiColombo investment reaches 965 million euros.

Dudok, chief executive of Astrium Satellites, said Astrium’s 900-person operation in Friedrichshafen, Germany,

has not signed such a large contract in over a decade. The Astrium facility expects to retain about 60 million of the 350 million euro contract. ThalesAlenia Space Italy is one of the principal subcontractors, as is Astrium Ltd. of Britain.

Mission Accomplished, TacSat-2 Operations End

The U.S. Air Force has stopped operating a small satellite launched in December 2006 that served as the inaugural payload in the Pentagon’s

operationally responsive space (ORS) demonstration effort, according to a Jan.

17 Air Force news release.

The TacSat-2 spacecraft ceased operations

Dec. 21, according to the news release.

“What the TacSat-2 team accomplished is far beyond what anyone envisioned when a group of researchers met to discuss the concepts of a viable, low-cost, operationally responsive space demonstrator in the summer of 2003,” said Neal Peck, TacSat-2 program manager at the Air Force Research Laboratory. “TacSat-2 proved that the concept can be achieved.”

The spacecraft, which featured a color imaging sensor and a signals intelligence payload, demonstrated that

deployed troops could

task a

satellite and receive data within 90 minutes, according to the news release.

The imager was built from commercial components and could help pave the way for future low-cost payloads for operational use,


release said.

South Korea Outlines 2008 Space Budget Plan

The South Korean government will spend 316.4 billion won ($338

million) in 2008 on its space program, with the key milestone

to be the scheduled December launch of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 from the new Naro Space Center now nearing completion, the Korean Ministry of Science and Technology announced Jan. 16.

The vehicle is expected to place a 100-kilogram Korean technology demonstration satellite into low Earth orbit.

The South Korean government continues to place a high priority on space investment. The ministry said that in the past two years, more than 3 percent of the nation’s total government research and development budget has been spent on the space program.

In a measure of the acceleration of the spending effort, the government said it spent 1.7 trillion won on its space projects between 1996 and 2007, but would more than double that amount – to 3.6 trillion won – over the next 10 years.

The ministry said it has budgeted 126.6 billion won, or more than a third of its 2008 space budget, to continue work on three multipurpose Earth observation satellites. An additional 70.7 billion won will be invested in telecommunications and meteorological spacecraft.

South Korea’s first astronaut, Ko San, is scheduled to launch in April aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for a “taxi” mission to the international space station. Ko will remain in orbit for eight days.

“After having entered the space race later than most other countries, Korea has made a concerted effort to catch up,” the ministry said in its statement, adding that it plans to send

a pro

be to the

Moon in 2020 if not earlier.

SOFIA Aircraft Completes 1st Round of Flight Tests

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, recently completed its first phase of flight tests, flying five times with its external door closed to prove the structural integrity of the modified 747SP airplane.

Equipped with a German-built 2.5-meter telescope located

behind a retractable 4.8-meter-high door cut into the side of the aircraft, SOFIA is designed to fly at

altitudes approaching 14,000 meters to make infrared observations unobtainable by the largest ground-based telescopes.

“SOFIA is already a technological marvel, and will soon be a powerful tool for studying the birth and evolution of planets, stars and galaxies,” Alan Stern, NASA associate administrator for science, said in a Jan. 16 statement. “The completion of its closed door testing phase is a major milestone on the way to SOFIA’s inaugural science flights next year.”

NASA plans to spend the bulk of 2008 installing the remaining elements of the observatory before conducting the first open door test flights toward the end of the year. If all goes well, NASA expects to begin limited science observation flights in 2009 and regular science flights in 2011. Full operational capability is expected in 2014.

Google Chief to NASA: Adopt Open Architecture

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt implored NASA to take a cue from the

Internet search engine giant and embrace the “open architecture” approach as it designs spacecraft and plans future space missions.

Speaking in Washington at a Lockheed Martin-sponsored luncheon series to commemorate NASA’s 50th anniversary, Schmidt praised NASA as a font of innovation and said the agency

and Google are kindred spirits.

“In many ways Google and NASA are similar

in that they’re based in optimism,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt used the bulk of his 40-minute speech to show off Google Earth, which relies in part upon NASA

satellite imagery to give users a detailed look at their world.

Schmidt’s lecture was attended by NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, White House Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Clay Johnson, several other White House officials and a variety of U.S. government and private-sector space officials.

ViaSat Nabs Contract for UHF Satellite Equipment

The U.S. Navy awarded ViaSat Inc.

a $20 million


Jan. 15

for Ultra High Frequency satellite communications equipment for the U.S. and allied navies, the Pentagon announced. The equipment includes UHF modems and terminals. The Navy portion of the contract is 80 percent. Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain will split the remaining 20 percent evenly

. The work on the sole source contract should be done by January 2013.

FAA, U.S. Space Agency Fill Senior Positions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Office of Commercial Space Transportation will be led on an acting basis

by George Nield

following the Feb. 3 retirement of Patricia Grace Smith. Nield currently is deputy associate administrator

for the office, which regulates

the commercial space transportation industry. Before joining the FAA he was

senior scientist for the

advanced programs group at Orbital Sciences Corp.

Meanwhile, NASA

named Jaiwon Shin as the new associate administrator for the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. He replaces Lisa Porter, who is leaving to take over the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. Shin was

deputy associate administrator for aeronautics. Before coming to Washington in 2004, Shin was chief of the aeronautics projects office at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

LCROSS Instruments Shipped to Northrop

NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffet Field, Calif., has completed validation testing of the cameras

and sensors for the agency’s

Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) and shipped the hardware to

Northrop Grumman Space Technology in Redondo Beach, Calif., for integration with the spacecraft, NASA announced Jan. 14.

Due to launch toward the end of 2008 along with NASA’s

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, the Ames


mission will send the rocket’s

spent upper stage hurtling into the lunar surface. The instrumented LCROSS satellite will then scan the ejected material for signs of water ice before crashing into the Moon itself, creating a second impact event that will be viewed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and

telescopes on Earth.

Shin Bars Broadcasts by Hizballah-Owned Network

Thai satellite-fleet operator Shin Satellite Public Co. Ltd. has barred

further access to its Thaicom satellites by Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV after three days of broadcasts, Shin announced Jan. 16.

It is the latest decision by an international satellite operator to expel Al-Manar from its

airways. Paris-based Eutelsat

dropped Al-Manar in December 2004 on orders from the French government after protests that Al-Manar broadcasts spread racial hatred.

Al-Manar continues to have access to other satellite systems including Nilesat and Arabsat.

The U.S. State Department in December 2004 added Al-Manar to the U.S. Terrorist Exclusion List. Al-Manar is owned by Lebanon’s Hizballah organization, which the U.S. government has labeled a terrorist organization.

Shin said it had given Al-Manar access to Thaicom Jan. 9 to permit broadcast of a test signal. On Jan. 11, Shin said, it informed the network that it would no longer have access to Shin’s satellite fleet.

Satellite operators say the continued proliferation of specialized television channels, aided by lower-cost production and broadcasting technology, will make it increasingly difficult to monitor broadcasts.

Harris Corp. Nabs Large Space Operations Contract

Harris Corp. will provide technical and logistical support to U.S. Air Force Space Command’s 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., under a contract potentially worth more than $400 million, the company said in a Jan. 15 press release.

Harris beat out Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass.,

for the Network and Space Operations and Maintenance (NSOM) contract.

The base contract is for six months and valued at just under $31 million, according to Sleighton Meyer, a spokesman for Melbourne, Fla.-based Harris. The contract includes six one-year options that push its total potential value to $410 million, he said.

The NSOM program consolidates two contracts previously held by Harris: the Mission Communications and Operations Maintenance and the Operational Space Services and Support programs. The services include support to the Air Force Satellite Control Network at locations around the world including Schriever, Onizuka Air Force Station in Sunnyvale, Calif., and remote tracking stations on Diego Garcia

in the Indian Ocean and Greenland. Satellite programs supported by the work include the Defense Satellite Communications System, Milstar and GPS, the Pentagon said in a Jan. 10 contract announcement.

Harris said its teammates on the program include Lockheed Martin Information Technology; L-3 Communications’ Titan Group; Faith Enterprises Inc.; ASRC Aerospace; Arctic Slope World Services; Nortel Government Solutions; and Gunther Douglas.

Yahsat 1A To Launch Aboard Ariane 5 Rocket

The Yahsat 1A civil and military telecommunications satellite owned by Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. will be launched in late 2010 by a European Ariane 5 rocket, Abu Dhabi-based Yahsat announced Jan. 15.

The announcement was made after a letter of intent was signed in Abu Dhabi by Yahsat Chief Executive Jassem Mohamed Al Zaabi and Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall. The agreement was concluded during a state visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

is a two-satellite system under construction by Astrium Services, with the satellites being built jointly by Astrium Satellites and ThalesAlenia Space. The other Yahsat satellite is scheduled for launch aboard a Russian Proton-M rocket in 2010 or 2011 following a contract signed in late 2007 between Yahsat and International Launch Services of McLean, Va.

The entire Yahsat system – two satellites, launches, insurance and an elaborate ground network – is valued at $1.66 billion, according to Astrium and ThalesAlenia Space. The satellites will carry a payload featuring substantial Ka-band transmissions capacity for military links in the Middle East.

Ondas-Nissan Deal Spurs Sales of Satellite Radios

Ondas Media of Spain has pre-sold more than 1 million factory-installed satellite radios in Europe following an agreement with Nissan and Nissan’s Infiniti division to install Ondas radios, Ondas and Nissan announced Jan. 15.

is designing a

system that uses three spacecraft in highly elliptical orbit to provide

radio coverage throughout Europe, a project similar to Sirius Satellite Radio in the United States.

has signed a preliminary agreement with Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., for construction of the satellites, but a final contract is pending receipt of the financial commitments Ondas needs to

build its system.

Ondas Chief Operating Officer Dave Krueger said the Madrid-based company and its partners are “

already in the development phase for the radios and a significant amount of work has been completed.”

Ondas is one of several companies competing for a license to use S-band spectrum in Europe for mobile communications.

Swisscom Picks ToowayFor Swiss Internet Links

Switzerland’s Swisscom telecommunications provider has selected Eutelsat’sTooway satellite-broadband service to make high-speed data links available to all Swiss residents, Paris-based Eutelsat announced Jan. 15.

Bluewin Internet service provider will be providing the Tooway service to Swiss subscribers. Tooway is a collaboration between Eutelsat and Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat Inc. that uses Eutelsat Ka-band satellite capacity and ViaSat’sSurfBeam ground hardware for consumer-broadband links.

recently ordered a large, all-Ka-band satellite, called Ka-Sat, to be launched in 2010. Until then, it is inaugurating the Tooway service with

the small Ka-band payload aboard Eutelsat’s Hot Bird 6 satellite, located at Eutelsat’s core 13 degrees east orbital slot for direct-to-home television services. Ka-Sat also will be located there.

House Panel Launches Investigation of FCC

The House

Energy and Commerce Committee has launched a formal investigation into the fairness, transparency and efficiency of

the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulatory procedures.

In a Jan. 8 letter, Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.)


Joe Barton (R-Texas), the panel’s chairman and ranking member, respectively, directed

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin

to inform all FCC employees and contractors


their rights as possible whistleblowers and noted that

“it is against the law to deny or interfere with their rights to furnish information to Congress.” They also ordered immediate preservation of all commission records.

In a Dec. 3 letter to Martin, Dingell said

he was losing confidence in the FCC.

Dingell detailed areas – mostly procedural – where he worried the FCC,

under Martin,

was erring, including publishing

proposed regulations far enough in advance to give the

public time to

read them and react, publishing advance notice of meetings, and giving fellow commissioners

the data and analysis upon which a rule or order is based.

Kaguya’s Laser Altimeter Performing as Expected

After conducting initial observations with the laser altimeter on its Kaguya lunar orbiter, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is moving forward with its analysis of

the Moon’s topography.

Scans of the Moon’s Mare Oriental region by Kaguya’s laser altimeter taken Nov. 26 confirmed the instrument is able to obtain highly accurate topographic lunar data as expected, according to a posting on the JAXA Web site.

JAXA plans to combine the laser altimeter

data with images

captured by

Kaguya’s terrain camera to obtain a complete high-resolution lunar topographic map, the agency

said in a Jan. 10 press release. The Japanese space agency said the map will be the first of its kind.

Retired Measat Satellite Moved to Cover Africa

Satellite Systems of Malaysia has moved its recently retired Measat-1 telecommunications satellite into a new orbital slot closer to Africa, renamed it Africasat-1 and now is marketing it to African customers willing to utilize an inclined-orbit satellite, Measat announced Jan. 14.

Measat-1, a Boeing 376 spin-stabilized model launched in 1996, was retired in late October from its operating slot at 91.5 degrees east following the arrival of the new Measat-3 satellite there.

Starting in November, Measat guided the satellite westward to its new location at 46 degrees east, where it arrived in early January. From this location, it can capture business throughout Africa. From its earlier slot, it could serve customers only in eastern Africa, Measat Chief Operating Officer Paul Brown-Kenyon said in a statement. “We are seeing robust demand for the capacity and expect to announce the first lease agreement soon,” he said.

Africasat-1 remains in inclined orbit, which operators of aging satellites often use to help conserve fuel. Satellites in inclined orbit do not use their onboard motors to maintain stability on the north-south axis.

said Africasat-1 has 12 high-powered C-band transponders and up to four high-powered Ku-band transponders and will be operated from Measat’s facility outside Kuala Lumpur.

Infoterra Says Interest in TerraSar-X Data Is High

Infoterra GmbH, which is marketing data from

Germany’s TerraSAR-X high-resolution radar Earth observation satellite, has booked orders from 1,500 customers for 3,000 scenes to be delivered starting in February, Infoterra announced Jan. 16.

Many of the scenes ordered were taken during the satellite’s commissioning phase, which ended this month. TerraSAR-X was launched in June and has completed a series of in-orbit tests overseen by the German Aerospace Center, DLR, which financed 80 percent of the satellite’s

development. Infoterra financed the remaining 20 percent.

Scenes taken during the

commissioning phase are being distributed free of charge to permit users to get accustomed to TerraSAR-X products. The satellite delivers imagery with

ground resolutions as sharp as 1 meter, meaning it can detect objects of that size or larger.

-based Infoterra, a division of Astrium Services, expects that commercial sales of TerraSAR-X will be sufficient to enable the company to finance a TerraSAR-X-2 satellite in 2012, Infoterra GmbH Managing Director Joerg Herrmann said in a statement.

SES Reports Brisk Sales of Astra2Connect Terminals

Satellite-fleet operator SES Astra’s Astra2Connect satellite-broadband service has booked 165 million euros ($244

million) in orders in the nine months since it began operations in April, signing distribution agreements in seven nations in Europe covering more than 200,000 user terminals, Luxembourg-based SES announced Jan. 15. The terminals will be installed at subscriber premises in the next three to five

years, Astra said.


the early success of Astra2Connect has led to a contract with Newtec of Belgium for large-scale production of subscriber terminals.

Astra2Connect, unlike the competing Tooway Ka-band service offered by Astra competitor Eutelsat of Paris, uses Astra’s

Ku-band satellites at 23.5 degrees east longitude. Astra has no plans to transition Astra2Connect to Ka-band, saying it has sufficient bandwidth capacity in Ku-band to assure the service’s growth.

Globecomm’s NATO Deal Increased by $4.6 Million

Globecomm Systems Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y., won a $4.6 million contract modification from NATO to provide communications and on-site support services for a GPS-based force-tracking device the company designed for the treaty organization, Globecomm announced Jan. 14.

The contract modification brings the total value of Globecomm’s work on the program to $27.5 million, the company said. The system enables NATO to keep tabs on the location of friendly units and helps prevent fratricide incidents.

Northrop’s Missile Unit Folded Into Space Sector

Northrop Grumman Corp. will move its missiles business from its Mission Systems sector to its Space Technology division effective July 1 as part of a wider realignment that also affects the Los Angeles-based defense contractor’s ship business.

The $900 million missiles business includes the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Kinetic Energy Interceptor and the U.S. Air Force’s ICBM Prime Integration programs, and has operations in Alabama, California, Utah and Virginia, Northrop Grumman said in a Jan. 15 press release. Having the unit report to Northrop Grumman Space Technology will allow the company’s Reston, Va.-based Mission Systems sector to focus on command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs, the company said.

Meanwhile, Philip A. Teel, currently corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, will take over as corporate vice president and president of Mission Systems effective April 1, Northrop Grumman said. Teel will replace Jerry B. Agee, who will retire in August.

The missiles business will be headed by John Clay as vice president and general manager. He will report to Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif.

Northrop Grumman also will merge its two shipbuilding units, Newport News and Ship Systems, into a single sector called Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. That move is effective Jan. 28, the company said.

NASA Solicits Ideas for Astronaut Lunar Lander

NASA intends to award $1.5 million worth of study contracts before the end of March for the evaluation of human landing craft concepts for the Moon, the U.S. space agency announced Jan. 15.

NASA knows that it wants the lander it has dubbed Altair to be capable of delivering four astronauts to the surface of the Moon,

where they will help establish and operate an

outpost, around 2020. But before awarding

a prime contract for the craft’s

design and development, NASA

wants industry and academia to weigh in on the agency’s

current developmental concept and to suggest innovative safety improvements and

industry-government partnership arrangements.

The so-called broad agency announcement was issued Jan. 11, with study proposals due 30 days later.

“By soliciting ideas and suggestions from industry and the science community, NASA hopes to foster a collaborative environment during this early design effort,”

Jeff Hanley, NASA’s Constellation Program manager, said in a statement. “Such collaboration will support the development of a safe, reliable and technologically sound vehicle for our crews.”

The maximum individual award amount for each six-month study is $350,000.

SSC Assumes Control of New SES Sirius Satellite

The Swedish Space Corp. (SSC) announced Jan. 15 it officially has taken over operational control of the

Sirius-4 communications satellite owned by SES Sirius, a division of SES Astra formerly known as Nordic Satellite AB. Sirius-4 is a Lockheed Martin-built A2100 model that was launched Nov. 18 aboard an International Launch Services Proton rocket.

Lockheed Martin had been controlling the satellite since its launch. Sirius-4 becomes the 10th satellite and fifth communications satellite to be controlled by SSC, which is based in Solna, Sweden, but whose mission control center is located at the Esrange Space Center in the northern part of the country.

SES Sirius of Solna will use Sirius-4 mainly for television broadcasting in the Nordic and Baltic regions, but the satellite also will be used by SES of Luxembourg to boost its capacity in Africa. SES and SSC own 75 and 25 percent of SES Sirius, respectively.