Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 19 February 2008
01:02 pm ET












Commission Approves Financing Terms for GMES








Europe’s planned $2 billion, multi-satellite




system for environmental and security-related Earth observation locked in a large chunk of its budget




Feb. 15 with a European Space Agency (ESA) approval of financing terms, according to ESA officials.

Meeting at the agency’s Paris headquarters, ESA governments agreed on rules that will govern ESA’s management of 420 million euros ($609




million) in funding from the European Commission. The program




, called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, or GMES, is two-thirds funded by ESA, with the remaining one-third coming from the European Union’s executive commission.

“With this approval from our member states, we now have a green light for this phase of GMES after many months of negotiations,” said Volker Liebig, ESA’s director of Earth observation. “We expect the formal contract with the European Commission to be signed on Feb. 28.”

GMES includes four satellites and payloads on two other spacecraft, plus funds to ensure access to satellites owned by France, Germany, Italy and other nations.



The first satellite, a C-band radar observation spacecraft called Sentinel-1, is scheduled for launch in 2012.

The so-called Segment 1 of GMES is budgeted at 1.32 billion euros. ESA governments have agreed to commit most of their two-thirds share, but a final 140 million euros will need to be approved




in November at a meeting of ESA governments.
















Universal Space Network Buys Honeywell’s Datalynx




Universal Space Network Inc. (USN) has purchased the satellite tracking and control assets of Honeywell Technology Solutions Inc.’s Datalynx division in a deal that includes a contract to provide tracking services for more than 20 NASA satellites currently in orbit, USN officials said.



The Newport Beach, Calif.-based company financed the acquisition by raising $13 million in new equity from its existing shareholders and an additional $5 million in a debt facility. The equity financing was led by Warburg Pincus, a private-equity investor and longtime USN shareholder. Near Earth LLC was the financial advisor for the financing and the Datalynx purchase.

The Datalynx assets included in the acquisition are tracking and control antennas in Poker Flat, Alaska, and a control center in Columbia, Md. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The purchase “demonstrates our credibility and gives customers more confidence that we are going to be there for the long haul,” USN President Joseph H. Rothenberg said Feb. 14. USN provides satellite tracking and control services for NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense and for commercial customers.



USN Chief Executive Thomas R. Ingersoll said the Datalynx business should enable USN to increase its revenue




to more than $20 million in 2008. He declined to disclose 2007 revenue




but said the company has been profitable for the past two years.

Ingersoll
said one measure of USN’s growth is the number of contacts it makes with customers’ satellites each year. For polar-orbiting satellites, this could mean a contact every 90 minutes. Other USN customers hire the company for short-term contracts, to assist in raising commercial satellites from their parking orbit to their final destination in geostationary orbit.

Ingersoll
said that in 2005, USN reported 5,000 satellite contacts. The business increased to 17,000 contacts in 2006 and 27,000 in 2007. With the Datalynx purchase, the number of contacts in 2008 should reach 40,000, he said.



The NASA satellites to be tracked by USN are part of a contract that formerly was managed by Datalynx and now will be USN’s responsibility. The contract is for one year only, with the assumption that it is renewed if the service is performed satisfactorily.

USN and its partner, the Swedish Space Corp., operate the worldwide PrioraNet network of ground stations that include satellite tracking and control sites owned by the two companies and others that are available to the PrioraNet partners on lease.






MDA Extends ABL Laser Work for Three Firms





The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) in December awarded one-year, $1 million development contracts to three companies




vying to build the next-generation tracking laser for the agency’s Airborne Laser program.





Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems completed four-month study contracts for the Advanced Track Illuminator Laser (ATILL), and all three were selected in December to continue to further development.




The ATILL




eventually will replace the Raytheon-built Track Illuminator Laser that provides targeting assistance for




the Airborne Laser, a modified Boeing 747-400 that is being developed to shoot down ICBMs




with an onboard chemical laser. Northrop announced its award in a release Feb. 15.

Following the one-year contract, the MDA will select one company to develop and deliver the laser for integration in 2012. The MDA projects the total cost of the program to be $45 million.






Israeli Firm Buys U.S. Teleport FromSkynet




RRSat Global Communications Network Inc. has made a long-promised first U.S. acquisition, agreeing to purchase the Hawley Teleport in Pike County, Pa., from Skynet Satellite Corp. for about $4.25 million, RRSat announced Feb. 14.

The Omer, Israel-based seller of satellite and cable capacity for television programmers worldwide said the 200-acre Hawley site includes a three-floor communications building covering




3,600 square meters, in addition to antennas. Formerly it was owned by Loral Space and Communications of New York.

“This acquisition is the first step in our strategic plan to build a strong local presence in the North America region and further expand the footprint of our proprietary RRSat Global Network,” RRSat Chief Executive David Rivel said in an statement


.







L-3 Electronics Division Sold To ComDev for $12.2 million



Com Dev USA, a division of Com Dev International of Canada, has agreed to purchase a satellite-electronics division of L-3 Communications for $12.2 million –




the latest move by the company to position itself to win more U.S. government satellite work, Com Dev announced Feb. 12.

The purchase of the Passive Microwave Devices product portfolio of L-3’s Electron Technologies Inc. includes 65 employees, who along with their production equipment will be moved from the current Torrance, Calif., facility to Com Dev’s new El Segundo, Calif., satellite component production plant.



Com Dev said the acquisition




means it will not need to proceed with a planned $5.5 million investment in its El Segundo site.



“The acquisition of a business with an established revenue stream accelerates our entry into the U.S. government space market and vaults Com Dev into a leadership position among U.S. suppliers of passive microwave equipment for space,” Com Dev International Chief Executive John Keating said in a Feb. 12 statement.










Navy Eyes System To Protect Aegis BMD-Equipped Ships



The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will issue a request for proposals this month for a




system designed to protect U.S. Navy ships equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system from long-range missile attacks, the agency’s top official said Feb. 12.

The capability, known as the Far-Term Sea Based Terminal program, builds on the Near-Term Sea Based Terminal program that is designed to counter short- and medium-range missiles in the terminal phase of flight. Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, director of the MDA, said both programs are meant to address “increasing threats to our ships,” when he spoke at the National Press Club in Washington.

The short-range system was meant to be an interim solution to these growing threats, the MDA said. The long-range system will be deployed on all 18 Navy ships that will be outfitted with the Aegis BMD system by the end of the year. It will use Raytheon-built Standard Missile (SM)-2 Block 4 interceptors that fire from the same launch systems the Aegis BMD system uses to fire its SM-3 interceptors. $59.1 million has been appropriated for the program this year, and U.S. President George W. Bush has requested $19.8 million for the program in 2009.

The long-range system is still in the program definition phase, with $13 million appropriated for the program this year and $38.9 million in the




president’s budget request for 2009. It is projected to be fielded in 2014 and will provide a more robust capability, the MDA said.









Proton Rocket Launches Thor 5 Broadcast Satellite






Telenor
Satellite Broadcasting’s Thor 5 satellite, which was launched successfully Feb. 11 aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton M rocket, will replace the aging Thor 2 satellite at 1 degree west longitude while expanding the company’s reach in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The 2,450-kilogram satellite, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., will provide Oslo-based Telenor with 24 Ku-band transponders and help the company keep up with surging demand for high-definition television in the Nordic region. It is designed to operate for 15 years. Thor 5 has triple the power of the satellite it is replacing, according to Telenor.

Telenor
estimated that the construction, launch and insurance of Thor 5 cost about 1.2 billion Norwegian kroner ($217 million). It is part of a 2.5 billion-kroner investment program that includes the Thor 6 satellite, under construction by ThalesAlenia Space of France and Italy and scheduled for launch in 2009.

Thor 5 was the first commercial satellite to be placed directly into geostationary orbit by a Proton vehicle. Most commercial satellites are too large to be carried into final orbit and instead are dropped off in a parking orbit and use their own power to climb into geostationary position.

ILS is unlikely to be asked to perform the same maneuver anytime soon. The McLean, Va.-based U.S.-Russian joint venture in the past two years has refocused its business strategy on larger satellites, leaving smaller satellites such as those built by Orbital Sciences to other commercial launch-services providers.

The average weight of the satellites that ILS has been signing up for launches in the past year is some 5,500 kilograms – more than double Thor 5’s weight.

For this launch, Telenor and Orbital Sciences agreed to an in-orbit delivery contract, meaning Orbital was responsible for both the satellite’s construction and launch.







India’s 1st Lunar Orbiter Faces Brief Launch Delay



The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has postponed the launch of the nation’s first planetary mission, the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, which had been scheduled for April 9, for at least two weeks.

The delay was ordered to give engineers more time to integrate the scientific instruments aboard the spacecraft, ISRO spokesman S. Satish said Feb. 13. He did not elaborate but said there were no hardware problems with the probe.

The 525-kilogram lunar orbiter is to be launched by a modified Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from the Sriharikota launch pad on India’s east coast. It will carry 11 scientific payloads, including six provided by other nations: two from the United States, and one each from Britain, Sweden, Germany and Bulgaria.

Satish
said the launch could take place after a delay of only two weeks, but added that if more time is needed the next opportunity will be “after two or three months.”

He said the new launch date will be decided at a meeting of ISRO officials during the week of Feb. 18.




Lehman Brothers Int’l Reinvesting in Inmarsat

Lehman Brothers International (Europe), which in mid January reduced its shareholdings in mobile satellite services provider Inmarsat by 50 percent, has been buying large quantities of the stock and now has a 15 percent stake in the London-based company, Inmarsat said Feb. 13.



In a submission to the London Stock Exchange, Inmarsat said Lehman Brothers on Feb. 11 raised its stake to 68.6 million shares, or 15 percent of Inmarsat’s equity. Lehman Brothers had sold off half its Inmarsat stake in mid January, reducing its ownership to 4.8 percent from 9.6 percent.



In the four weeks between Lehman’s two maneuvers, Inmarsat’s share price has risen by about 7 percent.

The mobile satellite services sector in recent months has been a magnet for Wall Street interest as big investors position themselves among the half-dozen companies planning to provide next-generation services in North America. These services could include television to automobiles, broadband access for consumers or a service for emergency-response agencies.



ICO Global, SkyTerra’s MSV, Globalstar, TerreStar Corp. and Inmarsat are among those seeking to use a special feature in U.S. regulations to provide a nationwide service without having to pay for their radio-spectrum licenses at auction. To roll out services, however, these companies all have said they will need partners to help finance the ground-based network permitting uninterrupted coverage as users move in and out of the satellites’ reach.



One industry official said investment banks often purchase shares on behalf of shareholders who either do not wish to disclose their strategy to competitors, or want to increase their ownership positions without triggering automatic takeover provisions required by some stock markets. In Inmarsat’s case, the London Stock Exchange requires investors whose ownership exceeds 29 percent to make a bid for the entire company.




Launcher Issue Delays JAXA’sKizuna Mission

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Feb. 13 delayed the launch of its Kizuna experimental communications satellite due to an issue with the H-2A launch vehicle.

Kizuna
had been slated to lift off Feb. 15 from the Tanegashima launch center in southern Japan. No new launch date has been set, JAXA and H-2A builder Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Tokyo said in a Feb. 13 press release.

The press release described the problem as an “incompatibility” in a gas jet thruster used for attitude control of the launcher’s second stage. The problem was discovered during a propellant loading operation, the press release said.

Kizuna
is an experimental high-speed data communications satellite designed to send information at rates up to 1.2 gigabytes per second, JAXA says on its Web site. The satellite will be placed in geostationary orbit at 143 degrees east longitude, according to the Web site.




AAE Systems Opens New Office in India

AAE Systems Inc., a satellite communications equipment and solutions provider, will open an office in India, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company announced in a Feb. 11 press release.

The new office will provide regional sales, engineering and customer support services.




Ames, Korean Institute To Study Collaboration



NASA’s Ames Research Center and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) signed a “memorandum for the record” Jan. 26 that is intended to lead to collaboration on space projects, according to a Jan. 28 Ames press release.

Ames and the South Korean institute will consider collaborating on satellite communications, navigation systems, planetary exploration, lunar science rovers, small satellites and related technologies, the release said.




Texus-44 Sounding Rocket Makes Microgravity Flight

The European Space Agency successfully launched a sounding rocket carrying multiple biological and physics experiments Feb. 7 from the Esrange launch site in northern Sweden, according to a Feb. 7 press release from the German contractor Kayser-Threde.



The EADS-Astrium-built Texus-44 provided 6 minutes and 19 seconds of microgravity for the experiments. The rocket reached a maximum altitude of 264 kilometers.

Munich




-based Kayser-Threde is a subcontractor to




EADS-Astrium on the Texus program.

After landing, the rocket was recovered successfully. “First evaluations of the systems and experiment data confirm complete mission success,” the release said.




USGIF Accredits University Geospatial-Intel Programs

The United States Geospatial-Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) has accredited the geospatial-intelligence programs of three universities, the foundation said in a Feb. 5 press release.

The three schools – Pennsylvania State University of State College; George Mason University of Fairfax, Va.; and the University of Missouri at Columbia – are the first ever to be accredited in the discipline, according to the release.

Students completing the program at their respective schools receive a completion certificate from the USGIF’s accreditation and certificate program.

“The USGIF’s accreditation efforts are an important and concrete indication of the emergence of [geospatial intelligence] as a profession,” Todd Bacastow, professor of practice for geospatial intelligence at Pennsylvania State University, said in a prepared statement.

The schools received accreditation after a review process by the USGIF. The Virginia-based organization will review new applications at the end of April and October for fall and spring 2009 accreditations, respectively.




Measat Lands Customer For Relocated Satellite



Measat Global has signed its first customer for its recently relocated Africasat-1 satellite, booking a multi-transponder contract with telecommunications services provider SkyVision Global Networks of Britain and New York, Measat and SkyVision announced Feb. 14.

Africasat-1, the former Measat-1 satellite launched in 1996, was moved to its new slot at 46 degrees east longitude in January for better coverage of Africa.

SkyVision
will be leasing C-band capacity to provide Internet and other telecommunications transmissions between Europe and Africa and throughout Africa. The company already uses Intelsat and SES spacecraft for the region.

“This is a powerful satellite and we think we can make good use of it for perhaps two or three years,” said ItaiGalmor, a spokesman for SkyVision. “There is a huge shortage of bandwidth over Africa and this will add to our existing capacity on other satellites.”









Space Dynamics Laboratory Opens Albuquerque Office




Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory, a non-profit research corporation that builds sensors for civilian and military U.S. government customers, announced the opening of a new Albuquerque, N.M., office in a Feb. 11 press release.

The new office was established to pursue




business opportunities and continue support for existing customers in the region including the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratories.




John Santacroce was named manager of the office.

The Space Dynamics Laboratory is headquartered in North Logan, Utah, and operates other facilities in Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Bedford, Mass.








Raytheon Co. To Supply AEHF Gear to Air Force



Raytheon Network Centric Systems of Marlborough, Mass., was awarded




a $75 million U.S. Air Force contract Jan. 15 to design and deliver 48 Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite communications terminals, a Feb. 11 company press release said.

The contract is to upgrade the Raytheon-developed Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network to be compatible with the AEHF system, the U.S. military’s next-generation secure satellite communications constellation. Those satellites are slated to




begin launching this year.

The Air Force plans to begin testing prototype terminals in 2009. Raytheon will complete delivery of the terminals by 2012.




MDA Plans Upgrade to Defenses for Aegis Ships



The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) will issue a request for proposals before the end of February




for a new system designed to protect U.S. Navy ships equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system from long-range missile attacks, the agency’s top official said Feb. 12.




The capability, known as the Far-Term Sea Based Terminal program, builds on the Near-Term Sea Based Terminal program that is designed to counter short- and medium-range missiles in the terminal phase of flight. Speaking during an event at the National Press Club in Washington, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry (Trey) Obering, director of the MDA, said both programs are meant to address “increasing threats to our ships.












The short-range system was intended as




an interim solution to these growing threats, the MDA said. It




will be deployed on all 18 Navy ships that by the end of the year will be outfitted with the Aegis BMD system




. It will use Raytheon-built Standard Missile (SM)-2 Block 4 interceptors that fire from the same launch systems the Aegis BMD system uses to fire its SM-3 interceptors. Congress appropriated $59.1 million




for the program this year, and U.S. President George W. Bush has requested $19.8 million for the program in 2009.

The long-range system is still in the




definition phase, with $13 million appropriated




this year and $38.9 million in the




president’s budget request for 2009. It is projected to be fielded in 2014 and will provide a more robust capability, the MDA said.





U.S. Air Force Extends EELV Sustainment Deals



The U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing and Lockheed Martin sustainment-contract extensions under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program that have a combined value of nearly $500 million and cover a four-month period, according to a Feb. 12 announcement by the U.S. Defense Department.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin launch U.S. government satellites on EELV rockets as part of a joint venture, United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver. The so-called Launch Capability contracts do not cover work or hardware associated with specific missions; rather they fund the overhead costs associated with ULA’s launch and manufacturing facilities, according to Julie Andrews, a company spokeswoman.





The modifications increase the combined value of the Boeing and Lockheed Martin Launch Capability contracts to $1 billion




. The contracts began in October 2007 and now extend through July. Boeing’s extension is worth $288 million; Lockheed Martin’s is valued at $210.4 million, according to the Pentagon announcement.







This contract comes on the heels of two EELV Launch Services contracts with a combined value of $505 million awarded to Boeing and Lockheed Martin Jan. 24. These contracts, to be transferred to ULA, are for launches of three classified satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office aboard Delta 4 rockets, two on the vehicle’s heavy-lift variant.



Congress appropriated about $1 billion for the EELV program for 2008, and the Air Force is seeking $1.24 billion for 2009, which is about $172 million more than the service anticipated it would need at this time last year. From 2009 through 2013, the Air Force anticipates spending $6.578 billion on the EELV program, nearly $725 million more than it did last February.



The Air Force attributed the cost growth in part to three additions to the launch manifest; two classified satellites and a fourth military communications satellite in the Advanced Extremely High Frequency series.








Saab Lands Component Contract with Orbital



Saab Space, in what it described as a breakthrough contract, will provide Ku-band receivers and frequency converters to Orbital Sciences Corp. for the Orbital-built Intelsat 16 satellite, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based company announced Feb. 14.



The contract, whose value was not disclosed, is Saab’s first with the Dulles, Va.-based satellite prime contractor and means Saab now lists all four U.S. commercial satellite builders as customers. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Space Systems/Loral already are using Saab-built satellite electronics.



“This order represents a breakthrough,” Saab Space Marketing Director BengtSundh said in a Feb. 14 statement. “We have been talking [with Orbital] for years.”

For this first Orbital Sciences contract, Saab will provide four Ku-band receivers and two Ku-band frequency converters for the Intelsat 16 satellite, with deliveries to be completed by November. Saab said the hardware is a new, more-compact design that is already on order for the NSS-12 satellite, under construction by Space Systems/Loral for SES New Skies; and for the Amazonas 2 satellite being built by Astrium Satellites of Europe for Hispasat.

“The possibility of delivering similar products to several customers gives economy of scale,” Saab Space said.