Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 29 January 2008
04:10 pm ET










Jena-Optronik










, Mitsubishi Ink Docking Sensor Deal









Jena-Optronik GmbH of Germany has contracted with Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan to provide rendezvous and docking sensors for Japan’s HTV cargo-supply vessel, which is being designed to visit the international space station on several occasions following




launches aboard Japan’s H-2A rocket, Jena-Optronik announced.



Under the Authorization to Proceed (ATP) agreement, which is normally a prelude to a firm hardware-delivery contract, Jena-Optronik’s Jenoptik division will provide 12 RVS rendezvous and docking sensors to Mitsubishi, with deliveries to be completed by 2012. Each HTV vehicle carries two of these sensors.



Jenoptik also will provide Mitsubishi with guidance, navigation and control sensors that will be fitted onto numerous Mitsubishi-built satellites.

Jenoptik said the ATP is valued at more than 10 million euros ($14.6 million) and will permit work to begin on the hardware before the final delivery contract is signed. The final contract, Jenoptik said, is likely to be the biggest space-technology award in the company’s history.






U.S. Air Force Orders Three Delta 4 Rockets



The U.S. Air Force




has awarded a $505 million contract that will go to United Launch Alliance (ULA) for




three Delta 4 launches – two of the rocket’s heavy-lift variant – for classified intelligence payloads,




according to a contract announcement posted Jan. 24 on a Pentagon Web site.

While the announcement specifically said




the contract would go to Boeing Co., it will automatically be transferred to




ULA




, the




Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture created in late 2006 to sell launch services to U.S. government customers, ULA spokesman Mike Rein said in a Jan. 25 telephone interview.

The contract announcement said




the




deal covers




“the purchase of launch services using Delta [4]




heavy and medium launch vehicles under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program for launch of the National Reconnaissance Office mission’s 32, 27 and 49 missions.”





ULA spokeswoman Julie Andrews said the deal




calls for two Delta 4 Heavy launches and one medium Delta 4 launch. She said




the




contract




covers only




the vehicles and associated launch services – not overhead costs.






Andrews




noted that what is referred to




as Buy 3 under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program is divided into two types of contracts. The contract announced Jan. 24




is an EELV Launch Services contract, a firm, fixed-price contract that includes the mission hardware and associated launch services such as payload processing.

ULA also receives what are known as EELV Launch Capability contracts, a combination of fixed-price and




cost-plus-award-fee deals




that are used to compensate the company for maintaining “workforce and facility readiness for mission success and provides the ability to deal with contingencies,” Andrews wrote in an e-mail.





CNES Expects To Sell Spot Stake This Year



The French space agency, CNES, will sell its 41 percent equity stake in the Spot Image Earth-observation services company this year but the French government will retain




its 32.5 percent ownership of the Arianespace launch consortium, CNES President Yannick d’Escatha said Jan. 24.

The Spot Image ownership stake is likely to be ceded all or in part to Astrium Services, which already runs Astrium’s Infoterra radar Earth observation business, according to industry officials. Astrium currently owns 40 percent of Spot Image.



Toulouse, France-based Spot Image is expected to receive shareholder approval this year to order a new medium-resolution optical Earth observation satellite, mainly with private funds. It remains unclear what role CNES will take in financing this satellite, which will cost an estimated 200 million euros ($292.5 million) to build, launch and insure.

In a press briefing here, d’Escatha said CNES




increasingly is looking to public-private partnerships as a model when it decides where to spend its money. In these cases, he said, the agency will seek assurances that end users for the satellites or other hardware have been identified and are ready to take over from the public sector at some point.

D’Escatha has said for more than two years that CNES would be willing to sell its Arianespace ownership if a buyer – presumably one or more of Arianespace’s industrial shareholders – agrees with CNES on a fair price.

But despite the current success of the Ariane 5 rocket now that its design has been stabilized, CNES and industry have concluded that neither side wants to change the situation, at least for the moment.

He said that a new French law governing space activities may oblige CNES to transfer its Arianespace stake to another government organization such as the specialized agency that holds government shares in enterprises. The move would be needed, he said, to avoid any conflict of interest between the government as shareholder and CNES as Arianespace technical advisor.



U.S. To Oppose Treaty Barring Space Weapons



As it has in past years, the U.S. government




plans to oppose a draft treaty, written by









China and Russia, for the “Prevention of Placement of Weapons in Outer Space” when it is introduced Feb. 12 at the international Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Donald A. Mahley, U.S. acting deputy assistant secretary of




state for threat reduction, export controls and negotiations, told a conference organized by the George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute Jan. 24 that the “existence of opaque Chinese counter-space programs and activities complicates any discussion of a Chinese-Russian treaty proposal and reinforces U.S. opposition to such negotiations.” He said China’s anti-satellite test last year contradicts




Beijing’s professed opposition to weapons in space.








He




reiterated longstanding White House




arguments against a treaty barring weapons in space,




saying




it would be difficult to define what “constitutes a




space weapon




for arms control purposes.”










Space-Division Profits Soar at Lockheed Martin



Lockheed Martin reported a substantial increase in operating profit in its Space Systems division for 2007. Sales of




commercial satellites and strategic missile systems helped increase revenue




by 3.5 percent, to $8.2 billion, but profit grew by 15.4 percent compared to the previous year, to $856 million, the company announced Jan. 24.

The Space Systems division operating profit margin was 10.4 percent in 2007, up from 9.4 percent in 2006.



Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. said it expects that Space Systems revenue




in 2008 will be slightly lower, in part because of a slower year in commercial satellites.

Lockheed Martin books satellite revenue




when the spacecraft is




delivered to the customer. In 2007, four commercial satellites were delivered. Only two deliveries are expected in 2008, company Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said in a Jan. 24 conference call with investors.



Tanner said space transportation revenue




in 2008, led by Lockheed Martin’s work on the NASA Orion Crew Exploration




Vehicle, should increase and offset the decline in the satellite business expected for the year. Revenue from strategic




and other missile systems, also included in the Space Systems division, is expected to be flat




in 2008.

As is the case with Chicago-based Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin is competing for an unusually large volume of U.S. government satellite contracts whose awards are expected in 2008. Lockheed Martin Chairman Bob Stevens said the GPS 3 satellite navigation program, additional Advanced EHF satellites, the Transformational Satellite Communications program and the




GOES-R civilian weather satellites




all are likely to be put under contract




in 2008.





Radyne Shareholder Says Company Should Pursue Sale



A private-equity investor in Radyne Corp. is urging the builder of satellites and satellite ground hardware to seek to sell the company – the second such shareholder move made public in less than six months.

In a letter dated Jan. 24, Monarch Activist Partners is highly critical of the management of Phoenix-based Radyne, saying its




August purchase of small-satellite builder AeroAstro reflects a haphazard strategy of purchasing assets that have no relation to the company’s other businesses.

Radyne is not General Electric and cannot presume to be able to manage divisions whose businesses have little to do with one another, Monarch Managing Partner Sohail Malad says in the letter. Monarch is owned by Chadwick Capital Management LLC of San Diego.

“We strongly urge the [Radyne] board to hire an investment banker to explore strategic alternatives, including the potential sale of the company,” the letter says. “While the attention of management should be focused on restoring the foundational business, instead it has carried out the acquisition of AeroAstro, a company that is entirely unrelated to the ground communication value chain.”

Radyne Chief Executive Myron Wagner has said the purchase of AeroAstro, a builder of small satellites mainly for the U.S. government, positions Radyne to profit from the expected growth in this market and also will help Radyne’s modem, and other, businesses to increase sales.

Radyne faced a similar protest in July from Discovery Group LLC, a private investment company that had said Radyne was worth more as an acquisition target than as a stand-alone business. Wagner said the company’s board had sought an independent assessment of sales prospects and concluded that Discovery had overestimated the likely price of a Radyne sale.

The Monarch letter questions whether Radyne has made a good-faith effort to solicit bids. “A process such as this cannot be done in a vacuum of silence,” the letter says. “It would be no different than selling a house without a ‘For Sale’ sign or any form of advertising.”




Sensor Problem To Delay NPOESS Precursor Mission









A senior U.S. government official lashed out publicly Jan. 22 at the contractor involved in the troubled effort to develop a key sensor for a new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites and said the continuing problems likely will delay a precursor mission slated for launch in 2010.





In an unusual move, Conrad Lautenbacher, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral and administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, issued a press release to express his frustration with




the




Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) development effort




.



“I am extremely disappointed with the pace of the contractor in analyzing and closing potential quality, workmanship, and testing issues in the VIIRS program,” Lautenbacher said. “The contractor’s lack of progress on fixing several technical issues is unacceptable and has resulted in significant delays to the original VIIRS planned delivery.”

VIIRS, which is intended to monitor cloud formations and other atmospheric and ocean-surface phenomena as part of




the civil-military National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), is being built by Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif. Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for NPOESS, which is funded jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Air Force. NASA is a junior partner in the effort.





John Leslie, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said




Lautenbacher’s comments were addressed at the performance of both Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.



Previous problems with VIIRS received much of the blame for the




NPOESS cost growth that led to the program’s restructuring




in 2006.





The latest problems









likely will delay




the NPOESS Preparatory Project, a NASA-led precursor mission planned for launch in 2010, according to the news release. That spacecraft will test the main NPOESS sensors in space while gathering data for NASA’s climate research effort.



Lautenbacher, Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne and NASA Administrator Mike Griffin sit on the NPOESS Executive Committee, which directed the NPOESS contractors to boost management oversight at the VIIRS facility in response to the latest problems. The committee also directed Dan Stockton, a recently retired Air Force colonel who serves as the NPOESS program executive officer, to perform bi-weekly reviews with the contractor’s senior-level executives.





John Barksdale, a Raytheon spokesman, declined to comment on Lautenbacher’s statements. Sally Koris, a Northrop Grumman spokeswoman, said




the company is working closely with the government on the NPOESS effort, and had placed officials at Raytheon’s facilities on a full-time basis to oversee work on









VIIRS.











15th Moonbuggy Race Set for April 4-5






Teams of high school and college students will design, build and race two-person vehicles modeled after the Apollo lunar rovers




during the 15th annual Great Moonbuggy Race, now scheduled for April 4-5 in Huntsville, Ala., NASA said in a Jan. 15 press release.

The race is a time trial on




an obstacle course meant to simulate the Moon’s surface. It will be held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, NASA said.

Registrations are




due Feb. 1;




more than 40 students from 18 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, India and Canada already have




registered.

Awards will be given to the teams




with the




three fastest times in the high school and college divisions




. Other award categories include the best design, the most unique design, the most improved team, the best new team and the most spirited team, NASA said.





Sponsors of




the 2008 race are NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, as well as the Huntsville-based components of Northrop Grumman Corp., Jacobs Engineering Science Technical Service Group and




Boeing Co.











Gilat To Supply VSATs to Indian Telecom Operator



Gilat Satellite Networks of Petah Tikva, Israel, won a




contract




to deliver more than 13,000 Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) that will provide broadband Internet service for Indian telecommunications operator Bharti Airtel, a Jan. 21 Gilat press release said.

Bharti Airtel will use Gilat’s SkyEdge IP VSATs to station Internet kiosks in India’s westernmost state of Gujarat. The SkyEdge satellite communications network provides broadband voice, data and video services.



Gilat spokesman Stan Schneider declined to disclose the value of the contract.

Bharti Airtel has been a Gilat customer since 2001, using the company’s technology to provide services for corporations and




automated teller machines




across India.









U.S., Chinese Students Study Mars Together



Sixteen Chinese and eight U.S. high school students will collaborate to solve problems in martian geology during the China Youth Space Academy, to be held Jan. 27 for nine days




at Mars Space Flight facility at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe




, ASU said in a Jan. 22 press release.

The U.S. and Chinese students will be intermingled and divided into two groups. Each will select a question concerning Mars geology and attempt to answer it using images and other data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, the press release said.





The Chinese students were chosen from more than 12,000 candidates who registered to take an online test on their knowledge of the solar system and space exploration. Forty finalists




were selected to compete in designing a human outpost on Mars. Both tests were developed by staff at




ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration




.



The U.S. students hail from Nogales High School in Arizona.




“The Nogales students … have helped teach other students throughout the area about space exploration and science,” Brian Grigsby, director of ASU’s Mars Education Program, said in a prepared statement.







U.S. Air Force Assumes Control of WGS Satellite



The U.S. Air Force has taken control of its




first Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) communications spacecraft, which the service said Jan. 24 is




nearly




ready for




military operations




.



WGS prime contractor Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis




recently completed testing on the satellite, which was launched Oct. 10,




according to an Air Force




news release. The Air Force will conduct final checkout of the satellite before putting it into service.



Each WGS spacecraft is expected to provide more bandwidth than the entire constellation of existing Defense Satellite Communications satellites.




The Air Force plans to buy at least six WGS satellites




and




share capacity on the constellation with the Australian military.




Radar Data Show Higher Antarctic Ice Loss Rates



An international team of




NASA and university-based researchers




studying




satellite radar data found that ice loss in Antarctica increased by




75 percent from 1996 to 2006




, a Jan. 23 press release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,




said. The ice loss increased the rise in average global sea




levels from 0.3 millimeters per year in 1996 to 0.5 millimeters per year in 2006, the release said.





The study, conducted




on a glacier-by-glacier basis




, concluded Antarctica’s ice loss to be 20 percent higher than the results of a study covering a comparable time period using the U.S.-German




Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites, the release said. The difference is within the margin of error for both techniques, each of which has its own advantages, the press release said.



The data used in the latest study was collected by




Canada’s Radarsat-1, Japan’s Advanced Land Observing




and Europe’s ERS




-1 and -2 satellites. That information




was




compared with




estimates of snowfall buildup in the continent’s interior.



The scientists attributed the higher rate of




ice loss to an




increase in the speed of glacier flow into the sea brought about by warming




ocean waters,




the release said.



The study will be published in the February issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.















NASA Langley Awards Test Support Contracts



NASA’s




Langley Research Center of Hampton, Va., has awarded contracts to four companies to provide modeling




systems and developmental hardware to test space systems, a Jan. 23 space agency press release said.

The maximum value for the




indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts is $30 million for a period of five




years.



The




selected vendors are:




Advanced Technologies Inc. and Triumph Aerospace Systems, both of




Newport News, Va.;




ATK Micro Craft of Tullahoma, Tenn.; and Tri Models Inc. of Huntington Beach, Calif.




Ariane Tracking Station Installed on Santa Maria



The European Space Agency (ESA) has completed installation of a launcher-tracking station on the Portuguese island of Santa Maria, which will be used to monitor




Ariane 5 rockets on their northeast trajectory following launch from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, ESA announced Jan. 18.



Its first operational use will be during the scheduled late-February launch of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo vessel to the international space station. The 5.5-meter-diameter S-band antenna




also is expected to be used to track launches of the Soyuz and Vega rockets, which are scheduled to be in operation from the European spaceport in 2009.

In addition, an X-band capability will be added to the Santa Maria facility to enable it to receive data from Earth observation satellites, joining ESA’s global network of 13 terminals located at nine facilities in six nations.

Santa Maria joins five existing fixed and mobile ESA Ariane 5 tracking facilities located along the vehicle’s flight path. The first is in Kourou, near the Guiana Space Center launch site. A second tracking facility is installed aboard a French naval vessel stationed between Kourou and the Azores Islands in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. Two stations are located in Australia – one in Adelaide and the other, a mobile facility, operated from Dongara. A mobile station




also is operated from Awarua, New Zealand.







Ulysses Starts Polar Flyby as Solar Cycle Begins








The U.S.-European Ulysses




solar-observation spacecraft




recently began




another flyby of the sun’s north pole near the start




of a new solar cycle, a Jan. 14 NASA press release said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to examine the sun’s north pole within a transition of cycles,” Arik Posner, Ulysses program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a prepared statement. “We’ve never done this before.”

Solar activity ebbs and flows on 11-year centers in what is known as the solar cycle. Scientists rate the intensity of solar cycles via observable phenomena such as sunspots – large areas of intense magnetic activity on the sun’s surface. During the cycle, the sunspots break up and the remnants flow toward the sun’s poles before sinking some 200,000 kilometers below the surface, only to reappear again near the equator.



It is this migration of the sunspots that leads scientists to believe the solar cycle is heavily influenced by the sun’s poles. The latest solar cycle began Jan. 4.





“Just as Earth’s poles are crucial to studies of terrestrial climate change, the sun’s poles may be crucial to studies of the solar cycle,” Ed Smith, Ulysses project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a prepared statement.

Ulysses, which was deployed




in October 1990 by




NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery, performed a flyby of the sun’s south pole in February 2007; other flybys of the sun’s poles occurred in 1994-1995 and 2000-01.







EDA Chief Puts Priority on Earth Observing Satellites



The new head of the European Defense Agency (EDA)




said space-based observation is one of his high priorities as the agency attempts to coordinate today’s separate national efforts into a single European program in the next decade.



In Jan. 10 remarks to the European Parliament Security and Defense Subcommittee, EDA Chief Executive Alexander Weis




said space, and especially space-based observation, is one of the areas he wants “to bring under the wing of EDA.”

“A limited number of European countries have observation satellites for military users,” Weis




said, according to a transcript of his remarks provided by EDA. “The current generation of military observation satellites will come to its end of life in the 2015-2020 time frame. So now is the time to look at the next generation and to make an attempt to harmonize requirements. Six European nations are cooperating.

“I have suggested bringing the effort under the umbrella of … EDA, with the potential to broaden the club. First reactions of the [participating] countries are positive, and I am looking forward to the next steps.”



Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain in December 2006 signed an agreement to work together to harmonize their next-generation military or dual-use Earth observation programs. Their cooperative effort is called MUSIS, or Multinational Space-Based Imaging System.






Integral Wins Work on GPS 3 Control Segment



Integral Systems of Lanham, Md., has been awarded a $20.6 million contract from Northrop Grumman Corp. to begin development of a




satellite command and control system for the U.S. Air Force’s GPS 3 Operational Control Segment (OCX), according to a Jan. 17 Integral press release.



OCX is the ground segment for the planned next-generation GPS 3 satellite navigation system. The




Air Force narrowed the field of competitors for




the OCX prime contract in November when it awarded $160 million contracts to




Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman




and Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., to continue design work. The Air Force has indicated it will select a prime contractor for the system around May 2009.

Integral Systems’ work on this Phase A contract is expected to be completed in March 2009. If Northrop Grumman wins the OCX prime




contract, Integral




will be awarded a




Phase B contract to deliver




a




system that will




control and sustain the entire GPS constellation




through 2023, the release said.




Satellite Rescue Network Proved its Worth in 2007



Satellite




-relayed signals from




personal locator beacons assisted in the emergency rescues of 353 people in the United States and its surrounding waters in 2007, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said




in a Jan. 17 press release.



The




total is the highest since personal locator beacons came into service across the country in 2003, the release said.

Relay payloads aboard NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary weather satellites along with Russia’s Cospas spacecraft comprise the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System (Cospas-Sarsat).




The system




tracks and locates distress signals from emergency beacons aboard boats, aircraft and carried by individuals.








“Anyone with plans to hike, or camp, in a remote area, where cell phone service is not reliable, or sail a boat far from shore should not leave home without an emergency locator beacon, registered with NOAA,”




Chris O’Conners, NOAA’s acting Sarsat program manager, said in a prepared statement.

In the United States, distress signals are relayed from satellites




to Sarsat Mission Control, based at NOAA’s Satellite Operations Center in Suitland, Md., which forwards them




to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Center:




the U.S. Coast Guard for water rescues or the U.S. Air Force for land rescues.

After




early 2009, emergency signals




using the 121.5- and 243-megahertz frequencies will no longer be processed; only those




using the 406-megahertz band




will be accepted.






Surrey, BNSC Sponsoring Student Payload Contest



Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.




and the British National Space Centre (BNSC) are co-sponsoring a competition for British students, ages 14-18, to design and eventually launch a scientific experiment into space, a Jan. 17 press release from both organizations said.



Finalists for the Space Experiment Competition will be chosen based on




five-page




mission proposals due Feb. 28. Launch is slated for 2010 on an unspecified mission.

The experiment




must weigh 1 kilogram or less, measure 10 cubic centimeters or less in volume and average




1 Watt or less of power consumption




per orbit




.



The finalists will be announced in March at the U.K. Space Conference at Charterhouse School in Godalming, the contest Web site said. The six finalists then will submit more detailed proposals – with the help of the judges, the release said.





The winner, to




be announced in September at the International Astronautical Federation Congress in Glasgow in September, will receive a development budget of 100,000 British pounds ($195,000)




and work directly




with Surrey engineers to build the experiment.