Atlas 5 Makes First Launch from Vandenberg

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office classified payload lifted off early March 13 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

It was the first Atlas 5 launch from Vandenberg, according to a ULA press release. The 12 previous Atlas 5 rockets launched since 2002 all took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

This launch followed a 22-month effort to modify Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex-3 East facility to accommodate Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launches. ULA now has six facilities from which it can launch: three at Vandenberg and three at Cape Canaveral. ULA next plans to launch the GPS 2R-19 navigation satellite for the U.S. Air Force March 15. It will be launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Delta 2 launch vehicle.

Raytheon Demonstrates Infrared AIRSS Sensor

Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif., demonstrated March 7 a fully integrated infrared sensor the company built under a risk reduction contract for the Alternative Infrared Satellite System (AIRSS) program.

The AIRSS program was originally conceived as a stop-gap missile warning option that was being developed concurrently with the Space-Based Infrared System. AIRSS has now been redesignated as a follow-on system and renamed the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance System.

Raytheon began work on the sensor in September 2006 after being awarded a 18-month, $54 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. The sensor will now undergo environmental testing, according to a March 13 Raytheon press release.

O’Keefe Returning as Washington Lobbyist

Former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe is returning to Washington to head GE Aviation’s lobbying operation.

O’Keefe served as NASA administrator from 2001 to 2005 before stepping down to become chancellor of Louisiana State University (LSU). O’Keefe resigned from that $450,000-a-year-position in January under pressure from

LSU’s board of governors.

O’Keefe is due to take the helm of GE Aviation’s Washington operations in June. The Cincinnati-based company stands to gain $5 billion worth of orders as a result of the Pentagon’s late February decision to buy in-flight refueling tankers for the Air Force from a team led by Northrop Grumman and Europe’s EADS.

Boeing has protested the award, which also has been criticized by U.S. lawmakers loathe to see any of the tanker work done abroad.

Team Wins RSCC Satellite Deal

Russia’s biggest commercial satellite-fleet operator, Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), has selected a joint Khrunichev-Astrium Satellites bid over a competing offer from the Euro-Russian team of NPO-PM and ThalesAlenia Space to build the large Express-AM4 satellite to be launched in late 2010, RSCC announced March 14.

RSCC said its selection of Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow and Europe’s Astrium Satellites will “promote conditions for increasing competitiveness of national producers in the international communications satellite market.”

Express-AM4 will be based on Astrium’sEurostar E3000 platform. It will carry 63 transponders in C-, Ku-, L- and Ka-bands and deliver 14 kilowatts of power to the payload. The satellite is expected to be placed into RSCC’s 80 degrees west orbital position.

Alenia Space of France and Italy had hoped to use the Express-AM4 competition as the first application of a new partnership with NPO-PM of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, which is Russia’s biggest manufacturer of telecommunications spacecraft.

Alenia Space and NPO-PM jointly are designing a new satellite platform, called Express 4000, which will include Russian and European components. The team also will integrate Russian components on ThalesAlenia’sSpacebus product line for non-Russian commercial customers.

Launch of 29 EO Satellites Expected in Next 10 Years

Commercial Earth observation satellite operators are expected to launch 29 satellites over the next 10 years, compared to just five in the previous decade, according to a market assessment by Euroconsult of Paris.

The private-sector involvement in Earth observation is part of a broader boom in the construction of Earth observing satellites expected between now and 2016 as more governments launch their own systems, Euroconsult says in the survey, “Satellite-Based Earth Observation, Prospects to 2017.”

The next 10 years are expected to see 199 Earth observation satellites placed into orbit, including 48 spacecraft dedicated to meteorology and located in both geostationary and polar low Earth orbit, according to the survey – nearly double the number of Earth observation satellites launched in the decade ending in 2006.

Fifty-four of the non-meteorological satellites will be launched by governments that are well-established in the sector, including the United States, Russia, France, India, Israel and China.

Joining these veteran government Earth observation agencies will be 52 satellites to be financed by governments that, until recently, had no independent Earth observation capacity. Among these nations are Algeria, Chile, Iran, Nigeria, Turkey and South Africa.

classes 16 satellites to be launched in the next decade as dual use, meaning for both military and commercial customers. In this category are Italy’s four Cosmo-Skymed radar satellites, and the two French Pleiades spacecraft.

Adam Keith, a senior analyst at Euroconsult and the principal author of the survey, conceded that it is often difficult to determine whether a satellite should be classed as a private-sector or government initiative, especially since some future systems will be built as part of government-industry partnerships.

Reports Higher Sales and Profit for 2007

Satellite-fleet operator AsiaSat reported higher revenue

and profit for 2007 despite the loss of Chinese direct-broadcast television customers who moved to Chinese satellites.

The Hong Kong-based company said it is cautiously optimistic that the market for leasing satellite transponders is improving in Asia despite new satellites both in orbit and planned.

Presenting its 2007 financial results March 12, the company also said its AsiaSat 5 satellite, whose launch aboard a

Land Launch rocket

originally was slated for

late 2008 and then rescheduled

to late 2009, may be reassigned


a Sea Launch slot in early 2009.

5, under construction by

Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, Calif., will replace the AsiaSat 2 satellite at 100.5 degrees east longitude. AsiaSat 2 is scheduled for retirement in 2011, which will allow the


to replace

AsiaSat 5 in the event of a launch failure and still be in orbit with the new capacity in time to ensure continued service


When one-time cash receipts are removed from its 2007 and 2006 results, AsiaSat reported a 5.5 percent revenue increase

in 2007, to 928 million Hong Kong dollars ($119.2


. Shareholder profit – also excluding the one-time events for the two years –

increased by 21.7 percent, to 491.7 million Hong Kong dollars.

Video customers from China in 2007 moved to two new Chinese satellites, Sinosat 3 and Chinasat 6B, as part of a Chinese government policy to consolidate satellite television on Chinese spacecraft that include anti-jamming technologies. The moves are the main reason why AsiaSat reported a 14 percent decrease in the number of transponders under lease as of

Dec. 31 compared to a year earlier.

5 will include an anti-jamming feature. AsiaSat signals in


in the past have been pirated by what appear to be messages from the Falun Gong dissident religious movement.

operates three satellites and in November took 100 percent ownership of SpeedCast, an operator of networks of two-way satellite terminals for corporate communications and broadband access.

also owns 80 percent of Skywave TV, a regional direct-broadcast television provider operating in Hong Kong, southern China and Taiwan.

OHB Sales Boosted By Recent Acquisition

Satellite and rocket-component manufacturer OHB Technology expects to increase its revenue

by 30 percent this year as it profits from increased production of Ariane 5 rockets and the first full year of revenue

from Kayser-Threde, the

satellite builder it recently ac

quired, OHB said March 13.

Bremen, Germany-based OHB said revenue

for 2007 were 223 million euros ($34

5 million), an increase of 20 percent over 2006. But the figures included 23.1 million euros from Munich, Germany-based Kayser-Threde, which OHB purchased at mid


After removing the Kayser-Threde effect, OHB’s 2007 revenue

represented an increase of 7.5 percent over 2006. The company said that for 2008, it expects revenue

of 280 million euros.

OHB owns a majority stake in MT Aerospace, a builder of Ariane 5 rocket components whose business is robust as the Arianespace commercial-launch consortium throttles up its launch activity to meet surging demand. For Ariane 5 hardware builders, this means increasing production to be able to produce eight vehicles per year in the coming years, compared to six.

OHB said its net income for 2007 grew by 4 percent, to nearly 12.5 million euros. Contract backlog as of Dec. 31 was 447 million euros, unchanged from a year earlier.

OHB is prime contractor for a new commercial satellite platform, called Small GEO, that is being financed by the European Space Agency. The company is partnering with small-satellite specialist Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

of Britain to compete for contracts to build part of Europe’s future Galileo satellite navigation constellation, for which winners are expected to be announced in late 2008.

Satellite Launch Delayed Until Late April

Satellite two-way messaging service provider Orbcomm Inc. is negotiating with the U.S. Coast Guard to permit yet

another delay in the launch of an Orbcomm satellite equipped with a Coast Guard payload,

Orbcomm officials said March 11.

The launch

now is expected in late April.

The satellite, equipped with an Automatic Identification Service payload for ships approaching U.S. territorial waters,

originally was to be launched in July 2007 under Orbcomm’s Coast Guard contract. That deadline was moved to December 2007 and then April 14 of this year.

Jerome B. Eisenberg, outgoing chief executive of Ft. Lee, N.J.-based Orbcomm, said in a March 11 conference call with investors that Orbcomm likely will miss the April 14 date but is confident that the launch, aboard a Russian Cosmos rocket from the Russian Kapustin Yar spaceport, will occur by late April.

The satellite, to be launched with several replacement Orbcomm spacecraft, was delayed most recently because of a defect in the satellites’ solar arrays. The hardware has been replaced, and the new arrays have been installed and tested, Eisenberg said.

“It has taken a little longer than expected,” Eisenberg said, noting that

Orbcomm has begun a fresh round of negotiations with the Coast Guard to fix a new deadline of April 30.

Chief Operating Officer Marc Eisenberg, who on April 1 will become chief executive, said once the Coast Guard satellite is launched, Orbcomm will receive about $100,000 per month in Coast Guard revenue and between $200,000 and $600,000 in Coast Guard fees for Orbcomm air time in the first year.

Orbcomm operates a fleet of 29 low-orbiting satellites and the company expects to order 18 second-generation satellites this year, with launches to occur in 2010 and 2011.

Orbcomm reported that as of Dec. 31, it had 351,000 subscriber communicators installed on mobile assets such as trucks

, a 56 percent increase over the subscriber count of 225,000 reported a year earlier.

Chief Financial Officer Robert Costantini said the company anticipates adding between 170,000 and 190,000 new subscribers in 2008 – 80 percent of them using the satellite service only, and the remaining 20 percent using dual-mode devices that have both satellite and cellular-telephone connectivity.

conceded that subscribers to the terrestrial service, offered via

AT&T and T-Mobile, generate lower revenue

per month than the satellite-only customers, a problem that Orbcomm will need to address in the coming months.

The company said service-related revenue

for the 12 months ending Dec. 31 totaled $17.7 million, a 53.2 percent increase over 2006. Orbcomm also generates revenue

from sales of subscriber gear built by its

subsidiary, Stellar Satellite Communications of Dulles, Va.

Marc Eisenberg said Orbcomm ultimately does not need to own a hardware manufacturing company given the proliferation of builders now entering the market to provide Orbcomm-compatible hardware.

Satellite Data Suggest Mine Fires Deplete Ozone

Data from NASA Earth observing

satellites has revealed a decrease in ozone levels of as much as 20 percent

over the Jharia coal field in northern India, and Indian researchers believe the decline may be related to


underground fires that have been raging there for decades


This is the first account of a possible link between coal-mine fires and ozone depletion, according to a report in the February issue of the Journal of Earth System Sciences, which is published by the Indian Academy of Sciences.


in the stratosphere – a region between 12 and 50 kilometers high in the atmosphere – is a natural shield against the sun’s ultraviolet radiation

. Destruction of this protective layer by natural and human

activities is a

global environmental concern because exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause cancer.

The Jharia coal field, consisting of

23 large underground mines and nine large open pit

mines, is about

1,150 kilometers southeast of New Delhi. The report said

more than 70 mine fires are raging in this region, fed by oxygen that gets in through large cracks

in the underground seams


The report said

smoke plumes from these fires contain gases such as methane, oxides, and dioxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur, all of which take part in a complex series of reactions leading to stratospheric ozone depletion.

Indian scientists analyzed stratospheric ozone profiles obtained from NASA’s now-retired Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, launched in




the Aura satellite launched in


According to the report, authored by NanditaGanguly of St. Xavier’s college in Ahmedabad,

ozone levels in the 28- to 36-kilometer altitude range near Jharia and places

to its north were found to be “consistently lower” by 4-20 percent

than areas

south of Jharia.

The report said that while the satellite data suggests a “relationship between pollution from coal fires and stratospheric ozone depletion,” ground-based measurements of

ozone levels above

Jharia and other

places are required to reach

a definite conclusion.

Third SBIRS Satellite Ordered From Lockheed

Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., will


the third geosynchronous satellite for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) and order long-lead items for the third highly elliptical-orbit SBIRS payload under a U.S. Air Force contract worth $350 million, a March 10 Defense Department press release said.

Lockheed Martin had

been under contract for two geosynchronous satellites and two sensors hosted by

classified satellites in highly elliptical orbits as part of the Air Force’s

missile warning system constellation. The Defense Department last year approved the acquisition of two more geosynchronous satellites and two more

elliptical-orbiting payloads.


first geosynchronous SBIRS satellite is now in the integration and test phase, and the second is being mated with its propulsion system, Lockheed Martin spokesman Steve Tatum said via e-mail. Both highly elliptical orbiting payloads have been delivered, and one is on orbit.

Only $175 million of the contract has been obligated, according to the Defense Department release. The purpose of the contract award is to ensure continuity of resources until the final

contract is awarded later this year, Tatum said.

South Korean Cosmonaut Breaks Rule, Is Replaced

South Korea

replaced its candidate for a scheduled

April Soyuz flight to the



station after Russia complained that he

broke the

rules governing

cosmonaut behavior, according to Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian space agency, Roskosmos.

Cosmonaut trainee Ko San has violated the Code of the Cosmonauts Behavior and South Korea

has decided to replace him with Yo So-yeon,


said in

a March 10 Roskosmos press release

. Perminov did not specify


Ko San, who was to

become South Korea’s first citizen in space, did wrong. However, a

Russian space industry source said he

had taken some of the training manuals out of

Star City – home of

the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center

– in violation of “the existing regulations.”

said Yo So-yeon, a female

bioengineer, has received “training which is identical” to that of Ko San,

an artificial intelligence expert

, according to the press release

. The statement said there was sufficient time left before the upcoming


to ensure that the reshuffle

“causes no complication.”

to Install VSATs for Brazilian Oil Company

Satellite Networks of PetahTikva, Israel, will

provide Brazilian oil company Petrobras with 500 Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs)

under a contract of unspecified value, a March 10 Gilat press release said.

will use Gilat’sSkyEdge broadband network platform for various Web, video and telephony applications. It will allow the company’s headquarters in Rio de Janeiro to connect with its offshore oil platforms, vessels, exploration sites and remote offices throughout Brazil.

General Dynamics Nabs Aegis Services Contract

General Dynamics Information Technology of Fairfax, Va., won a

contract worth as much as $191 million over five years to provide support services for the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system, a March 10 General Dynamics press release said.

The contract was awarded by Naval Sea Systems Command, the company said.

General Dynamics will provide systems engineering and program management assistance for the Aegis BMD system, which will be

installed on 18 U.S. ships by the end of the year. Three

Japanese ships also are slated to be outfitted with the system


The company has provided similar services for the Aegis BMD program since its inception

, the release said.

Raytheon Co. To Support NASA Astronaut Training

Raytheon Technical Services Co. of Webster, Texas,

received a contract extension to continue providing support for facilities and operations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Sonny Carter Training Facility, both in Houston, a March 11 NASA press release said.

The base period of the extension runs from April 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2010, and is valued at

$56.99 million, NASA said

. There is also a one-year option valued at $21.27 million.

The extension brings the total value of the contract, originally awarded in February 2003, to $111.53 million, NASA said.


contract supports underwater training facilities at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at Carter. The work

includes maintaining and upgrading hydraulic, fluid, mechanical and electrical systems, and building spacecraft mockups.

Seven Firms To Provide Terminals for Spawar

Seven companies will

compete for up to $491.2 million available from U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (Spawar) over the next five years for

portable multi

band satellite communications terminals

, a Feb. 19 U.S. Defense Department press release said.

The companies selected for the indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contracts are: CVG Inc. of Chantilly, Va.; RSI Maryland Inc. of Duluth, Ga.; Globecomm Systems Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y.; L-3 Communications Corp. Communications Systems West of Salt Lake City; L-3 Communications Corp. Narda Microwave-East of Hauppauge

; ND Satcom Inc. of Richardson, Texas; and Swe-Dish Satellite Systems Inc. of Reston, Va.

Each company will receive

a one-year base contract with options for each of the following four years.

Com Dev Ship ID System Tested Aboard Aircraft

Com Dev International has completed airborne validation tests of

a ship identification system that ultimately will be installed aboard satellites,

the Cambridge, Ontario-based company said in a March 5 press release.

The first space-based validation test of

the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is slated for this spring aboard

a nanosatellite built by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Laboratory, the release said.

The AIS is designed to identify approaching ships for coastal authorities.

Finds Evidence of Ring Around Saturn Moon

NASA’s Cassini Saturn

probe has found evidence that the gas giant’s

moon Rhea is surrounded

by a ring, something that has never been observed before, the U.S. space agency said in a March 6 press release.

“Until now only planets were known to have rings, but now Rhea seems to have some family ti


to its ringed parent Saturn,” Cassini scientist Geraint Jones said in the release. He is also lead author of a

research paper on the finding

in the March 7 issue of the journal Science.

Data collected during a flyby of


in November 2005

provided evidence that the ring existed. Electrons fall onto the moon’s surface with regularity. During the flyby two Cassini instruments noted a gradual decline in the amount

of electrons falling onto the moon’s near and far side.

“Seeing almost the same signatures on either side of Rhea was the clincher,” Jones said. “After ruling out many other possibilities, we said these are most likely rings.”

Mathematical simulations by Cassini scientists have shown that Rhea, Saturn’s second largest moon, can support rings for “a very long time,” the release said. Scientists believe the ring is composed of debris resulting from an asteroid or comet collision


Increased Sales to NGA Help Boost GeoEye Profit

Inc. reported March 13 a 21.6 percent increase in revenue

for 2007 and a 57 percent increase in gross profit as it booked higher

sales with

the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which

accounted for 55 percent of the imaging satellite operator’s



Revenue for the year was

$183.7 million;

gross profit was

$107.1 million


In a conference call with investors, officials with Dulles, Va.-based GeoEye

said revenue

for the three months ending Dec. 31 was

down from the previous quarter, in part because of weather-related factors and in part because NGA orders, which were particularly strong in the third quarter, are not evenly spread throughout the year.

said its GeoEye-1 high-resolution optical satellite, which is expected to be the company’s chief revenue source for the coming years, is scheduled for launch aboard a Boeing

Delta 2 rocket

Aug. 22 after having been bumped from an April slot.

GeoEye Chief Operating Officer William Schuster said the satellite is in final testing at General Dynamics/Advanced Information Systems’ Gilbert, Ariz., plant. But he added

that test completion is running two weeks behind schedule

because of test-machinery issues unrelated to the health of the satellite.

Given the satellite’s test status, it is unclear whether it could have been made ready in time for a mid-April launch, even if that launch slot had not been reassigned to a U.S. government mission.

expects to select a contractor for its GeoEye-2 satellite in 2008. The company has about $79 million in unrestricted loans that it can use at its discretion, including early payments on GeoEye-2.

Gamma Ray Telescope Arrives at Launch Site


Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) arrived at its Florida

launch site

the week of March 3 after completing environmental testing at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory,

Robert Naeye, senior science writer with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said March 11.

GLAST will study the highest-energy electromagnetic waves, gamma-rays and their sources during its five-year

mission. It “works as a particle detector

” rather than as a true telescope, Naeye said during a presentation in Alexandria, Va.

The United States will shoulder approximately $600 million of the spacecraft’s funding, with the remaining $90 million coming from

international partners


Sweden, Italy, Japan and France, Naeye said.

The spacecraft is slated to launch May 16 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard

a heavy version of the

Delta 2 rocket fitted with nine solid-rocket boosters



said in a March 7 press release.

Millennium Engineering Wins NASA Support Work

Millennium Engineering and Integration Co.

won a multiyear contract to provide safety and mission assurance engineering support to

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., a March 7 NASA press release said.

The cost-plus-award-fee contract, valued at about $45.2 million if all options are exercised, consolidates several previous contracts

, the release said. The previous contracts were with

multiple companies, Millennium was not one of the companies previously contracted

, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said

March 12 via e-mail


The contract has a base period of two years and two, one-year options.

The work tentatively

is scheduled to start in April, Kenneth Baird, Millennium vice president of corporate integration, said

March 12 via e-mail


Millennium Engineering of Satellite Beach, Fla., will provide

third-party evaluations of NASA and contractor work, including

inspections, analyses and mishap investigations.

The contract is geared toward NASA’s

space shuttle

, international space station

and Constellation programs, as well as

management operations at Kennedy and NASA headquarters, the release said.

PSLV To Loft Smallsats for Four Different Countries

The Indian Space Research Organi

sation (ISRO) will launch microsatellites for four different countries together with its own satellites using

its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)

, a senior government official told the nation’s parliament March 12.

The foreign payloads include

Germany’s 7-kilogram Rubin-8

communications experiment and

three Dutch nanosatellites, or Cubesats, with a combined weight of 6 kilograms that will perform

scientific observations and technology experiments. For Canada’s University of Toronto, ISRO will launch NLS-4, a cluster of six satellites weighing a combined 25 kilograms


scientific research and technology demonstrations; and NLS-5, an experimental communications satellite weighing 14 kilograms.

The largest of the non-Indian payloads is the 120-kilogram X-Sat

technology demonstration, built by Singapore’s

Nanyang Technological University


Chavan, minister of state

for the Prime Minister’s Office, did not announce a schedule for the launches.

“The launch of these satellites by PSLV will not involve additional expenditure since they are launched along with Indian primary satellites and use very small spare capacity of the rocket,” Chavan

said in a written statement. “The micro-satellites are used for testing new technologies of miniaturization or for conducting applications experiments,” he said, adding that their launch “promotes international cooperation and also provides revenue as per prevailing international rates.”