Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 24 October 2005
11:35 am ET


Cassini Performs Close Flyby of Icy Saturn Moon

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its closest flyby of Saturn’s Moon Dione Oct. 11, passing within 500 kilometers to reveal an icy landscape with no atmosphere and a streaking terrain indicative of tectonic activity.

NASA announced Oct. 17 that close-up images of the pale Dione show a heavily cratered surface with streaky terrains dominating one whole side of the moon. Scientists believe these latitudinal streaks to be the youngest feature on the surface, with the crosscutting fractures caused by tectonic activity.

“We think that the cracked features of Dione may be the older version of the tiger stripes on [the Saturn moon] Enceladus,” Bonnie Buratti, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a prepared statement. “Enceladus is the up-and-coming moon, complete with a recently active history, while Dione is the older, more mature moon.”

Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph detected water-ice on Dione’s surface along with striking brightness variations that could be the result of fractures in the ice.

Cassini is next scheduled to perform a flyby Oct. 28 of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

SI International To Aid Air Force Space Command

SI International of Reston, Va., an information technology (IT) company, will provide support to satellite communications networks operated by the U.S. Air Force Space Command.

SI International will provide IT systems engineering and integration, systems analyses and architectures for a range of Air Force programs, including the Advanced EHF, Global Broadcast Service, the Wideband Gapfiller System, Milstar and the Enhanced Polar System.

The company will perform the work under a competitive task order that has a one-year base period with four one-year options. The contract’s value is $20 million over five years if all options are exercised.

Working with Space Command, SI International will apply object-oriented modeling to define the highly complex, globally networked communications systems of the future. These techniques will help ensure the new systems will be interoperable, agile and responsive, according to an SI International statement.

Three Firms Interested in GOES R Lightning Mapper

Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center of Palo Alto, Calif., Goodrich Optical and Space Systems of Danbury, Conn., and ITT Industries Space Systems of Rochester, N.Y., recently submitted proposals to NASA to build a lightning mapper for the next generation of U.S. geostationary weather satellites, according to industry officials.

The contract to build the Geo Lightning Mapper, which is slated to be included on the first of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) R series of satellites, is expected to be awarded in late 2005. The GOES R satellites are expected to launch beginning in 2012.

Meanwhile, industry officials expect that the government will award up to three design contracts for the GOES R satellites in the next several weeks. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, Boeing Satellite Development Center of El Segundo, Calif., and Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., are competing for the spacecraft design contracts.

Church of Sweden To Use Satellite Internet Service

PRIVATE tabstops:<*t(180.0000,0,” “)> The Church of Sweden will equip many of its parishes with two-way satellite Internet service under a contract with Macab, the Swedish subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Satlynx. Satlynx, majority-owned by SES Global of Luxembourg, will equip an undetermined number of church sites with a modified version of its Satlynx 360E terminal. The service will provide Internet access at speeds of between 512 kilobits and 1 megabit per second, according to Satlynx. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Hakan Normann, manager of the Church of Sweden’s information technology department, said about half of the 850 church parishes in Sweden do not have broadband links now and will not have access in the near future without a satellite solution.

“The speed is sufficient for our administrative needs, the monthly cost is reasonable, but the real benefit comes from being ‘always on,'” Normann said in an Oct. 14 statement.

French Spirale Craft To Launch Aboard Ariane 5

PRIVATE tabstops:<*t(180.0000,0,” “)> The French Defense Ministry’s two Spirale infrared missile-warning demonstrator satellites will be launched together in 2008 as piggyback passengers aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket, Arianespace and Spirale prime contractor EADS Astrium announced.

The two 130-kilogram Spirale satellites will be based on the Myriade satellite platform developed by the French space agency, CNES. The satellites are designed to demonstrate an initial capability to distinguish missiles during their boost phase from the surrounding environment and the Earth’s background. They will operate in geostationary transfer orbit.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Spirale is being financed by France’s arms procurement agency, DGA. The program’s total budget — satellite production, launch and operations — is 124 million euros ($149 million).

As was the case with its Ariane 4 predecessor, the heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket has space for mini-satellites aboard a specially designed platform called ASAP — Ariane Structure for Auxiliary Payloads.

Stennis To Resume Testing IPD Experimental Engine

A test program for a next-generation liquid-fuel rocket engine being jointly developed by the U.S. Air Force, NASA and two contractors is scheduled to resume soon after being temporarily suspended due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The engine, known as the Integrated Powerhead Demonstrator (IPD), was being tested at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss. The program was suspended after the hurricanes caused damage to the center and left many workers homeless.

Stephen Hannah, IPD program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory, said testing on the engine will get back under way shortly.

“The program is out of hibernation and we’re waiting on personnel to return,” Hannah said. “We expect to be testing before the holidays, maybe even before the end of the month.”

The IPD engine uses what are referred to as full-flow preburners to provide more thrust than traditional, comparably sized rocket engines while operating at cooler temperatures.

In the space shuttle main engine, liquid-hydrogen fuel and liquid-oxygen oxidizer are both fed into a combustion chamber and ignited. The reaction produces a hot high-pressure gas that is pushed through a nozzle to create thrust.

The fuel and oxidizer are fed into the combustion chamber by a turbopump. This device is powered by a small amount of the fuel that is preburned, and the rest is siphoned i nto the combustion chamber.

The IPD works differently. Instead of only sending small amounts of fuel and oxidizer to the preburners, the IPD engine sends all of the fuel and all of the oxidizer. This causes the turbopump’s turbines to spin more quickly, producing more thrust.

A major advantage of this type of full-flow engine is that it runs cooler than traditional engines, which can reach temperatures of more than 1,650 degrees Celesius. The IPD engine, in contrast, runs several-hundred degrees cooler, said Gary Genge, the IPD deputy project manager.

Reducing operating temperatures could dramatically extend the life of reusable rocket engines.

“We’re hoping for better fuel efficiency, higher thrusts-to-weight ratio, improved reliability — all at lower cost,” Genge said.

In addition to the full-flow preburners, the IPD engine features hydrostatic bearings rather than traditional ball bearings in support of the turbopump’s rotors. The hydrostatic bearings will float on a layer of liquid during operation, thereby reducing their overall wear and extending their lifetimes .

When completed, the IPD will be capable of generating 250,000 pounds of thrust. During its last test Aug. 17, the IPD engine reached 90 percent of this target, Hannah said.

The Air Force and NASA are working with aerospace contractors Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Chatsworth, Calif., and Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., to develop the IPD engine. The IPD is part of the Air Force-led Integrated High-Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technologies effort.

PRIVATE tabstops:<*t(0.0000,0,” “)> PRIVATE colorchange:<c”Black”>

Space Tourist May Decide One Trip is Not Enough

Maybe once is not enough.

The U.S. scientist and entrepreneur who paid $20 million to visit the international space station says not only was the trip worth the hefty price, but he’s more than willing to go again after taking some time to reflect on the experience.

“Now would be the greatest time because I’m in the right shape for it,” Gregory Olsen, 60, said in an Oct. 17 interview. He added, however, that he needs a little time to absorb his recent experience before making such a big decision.

“I want to digest this and see what my next move in life is,” Olsen said, adding that he shook off the effects of spaceflight about 24 hours after landing. “The first day I came back I was a little wobbly.”

ESA, Planetary Society Solicit Visions of Venus

To celebrate the Venus Express mission , the European Space Agency (ESA) and Planetary Society are calling on youth and adults worldwide to submit their visions of Venus’s surface. The contest winner will have a seat at the Venus Express control center in Darmstadt, Germany, when the probe makes its expected arrival at Earth’s sister planet in April 2006.

Venus Express will be the first spacecraft to visit the planet in 10 years. Venus, which is comparable to Earth in size and mass, is shrouded under a dense haze that traps the Sun’s heat and results in hot surface temperatures. The spacecraft will study the planet’s atmosphere and high-speed winds, as well as capture images of the surface through openings in the haze.

The art contest, called Postcards from Venus, invites entrants to imagine a bird’s eye view of the planet’s surface and create a two-dimensional representation of that vision on a postcard measuring 10 by 15 centimeters. Any two-dimensional artistic medium, including computer-generated art, is accepted. Each contestant will enter in either the youth (17 and younger) or adult (18 and over) category.

For complete contest rules and an entry form, visit http://planetary.org/postcards_from_venus/.

Larger-Than-Life Telescope Wins International Award

A team of 15 scientists and engineers from around the world took home the International Academy of Astronautics’ Laurels for Team Achievement award Oct. 16 for simulating a radio telescope three times the diameter of Earth.

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which had one of its scientists on the team, announced the victory Oct. 13. The organization offers science-based solutions for industry and environment.

The project used a technique called Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), where small telescopes are linked to mimic the power of a much larger telescope to take highly detailed images.

The VLBI Space Observatory Programme made over 780 observations during its operation. It was led by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Project team members linked the Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy (HALCA) radio telescope in orbit with 25 radio telescopes on the ground in 14 countries, an integration task which involved five ground stations for receiving data, three centers for data processing and two teams of people handling the orbiting telescope.

The International Academy of Astronautics in Stockholm, Sweden, began awarding the Laurels achievement prize in 2001 to recognize extraordinary performance by scientific teams in the field.

Web Site Offers Discount Coupon for Space Travel

The Web site BradsDeals.com, which offers online coupons for a wide array of retailers, announced Oct. 13 it is offering a 10-percent discount to members of the general public who wish to be the next space tourist.

With this coupon, any qualified non-space professional who wants to lift off into space can receive $10,000 or 10 percent — which ever is less — off any spaceflight offered by private companies such as Space Adventures and Virgin Galactic.

The Web site, which was renamed to BradsDeals from DealsDuJour.com, was launched in 2001 and has over 600 partnerships with retailers such as Office Depot, Target, Sharper Image, Dell and Apple Computer.

Data Shows Evidence of Tectonic Plates on Mars

Data from the Mars Global Surveyor indicates the red planet once underwent plate tectonics movement that shaped its surface in much the same way as here on Earth, according to an Oct. 17 NASA news release.

Scientists reached that conclusion based on analysis of a new high-resolution map of Mars’ magnetic field covering the planet’s entire surface. The map comprises more than four years of data taken by the Surveyor as it circled the planet in a constant orbit.

“The new map shows evidence of features, transform faults, that are a tell-tale of plate tectonics on Earth,” Norman Ness, a scientist at the Bartol Research Institute at the University of Delaware, Newark, said in a prepared statement.

The map shows stripes that represent a magnetic field pointing either positive or negative. The pattern of alternating stripes indicates a flipping in the direction of the magnetic field from one stripe to another, much like what is seen on Earth.

Scientists first found evidence of plate tectonic activity on Mars in 1999, but the data available at the time only covered the southern hemisphere of the planet.

DataPath Inc. To Expand U.S. Army Network in Iraq

DataPath Inc. won a contract from the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command of Fort Monmouth, N.J., to expand the Army’s Joint Network Node (JNN) initiative by providing 157 trailer-based satellite terminals to support network-centric operations , the company announced Oct. 17.

The contract, valued at $96 million, also requires DataPath of Duluth, Ga., to provide engineering design and certification services as well as associated technical support, training and spares.

The JNN initiative, which is focused primarily in Iraq, provides mobile communications services to the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division, 4th Infantry Division and 10th Mountain Division. DataPath’s additional terminals will expand the network to the 1st Cavalry Division, 25th Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne Division and multiple Army National Guard units. Further information regarding the contract, as well as delivery date, were not available.

The terminals are based on the company’s DataPath ET Model 3000 Portable technology for battlefield communications. The technology provides mobile satellite telecommunications in Ku-band frequencies.

Consortium To Support NASA Postdoctoral Program

Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a consortium that generates partnerships to advance science and education, has been awarded a contract to support NASA’s Postdoctoral Program, which offers unique research opportunities at agency facilities to talented individuals to help advance the Vision for Space Exploration and other NASA goals.

Under the five-year, $100 million contract, which includes an option for another five years that would up the value to $200 million, Oak Ridge of Oak Ridge, Tenn., will provide the infrastructure for building meaningful experiences for program participants. The consortium will recruit, screen, evaluate, recommend and place postdoctoral associates at NASA.

Cellular Service Gets Trial Aboard Connexion Aircraft

Connexion by Boeing and networking services provider UTStarcom Inc. concluded a week of demonstrations in which aircraft passengers not only sampled Connexion’s Internet service but also were able to use roaming-enabled mobile telephones to make and receive phone calls over international waters.

Boeing announced Oct. 17 that mobile telephone use aboard Connexion One, a demonstration aircraft, was made possible using Alameda, Calif.-based UTStarcom’s MovingMedia 2000 mobile network infrastructure equipment.

“UTStarcom’s MovingMedia 2000 network solution is compact, uses IP transport technology and is capable of working over satellite transmission medium , making it an ideal solution to offer cellular service for passengers on commercial airlines,” Jack Mar, a division president at UTStarcom, said in a prepared statement.

Connexion by Boeing, Seattle, is aiming to offer cellular in addition to Internet services on board commercial airplanes using existing broadband satellite links as early as 2006, pending regulatory approval.

Lockheed Martin Unit Tests New Antenna Technology

Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems has completed demonstration testing on an active phased array (APA) antenna payload for the AMC-14 telecommunications satellite the company is building for SES Americom of Princeton, N.J .

The APA payload, which took less than 20 months to design and build , is the foundation of a 10-year active phased array technology program in which Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems of Newtown , Pa., has invested more than $38 million . APA technology increases the mobility of a spacecraft’s signals, enabling them to reach both remote and urban areas with equal efficiency, the commercial satellite maker announced in its October issue of The Downlink newsletter.

The APA payload is now undergoing spacecraft integration and testing, according to the newsletter.

Hypersonic HyFly Craft Conducts 2nd Flight Test

Boeing Phantom Works conducted a successful boost-phase flight test Aug. 26 of a hypersonic vehicle it is developing for the U.S. Navy and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the company said in an Oct. 17 press release.

During the test, the HyFly vehicle was dropped from its F-15E carrier aircraft above the range at the Naval Air Weapons Center-Weapons Division at Point Mugu, Calif. After separation, the vehicle’s solid-rocket booster ignited and propelled it to a speed of greater than Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.

It was the second of five planned flight tests through 2007 of the hypersonic vehicle, the first of which was an unpowered drop test conducted Jan. 26. In the next three tests, the HyFly vehicle will be propelled by both the solid-rocket booster and a dual-combustion ramjet engine, Boeing said in the press release. It is expected to reach speeds of up to Mach 6 during these tests.

The HyFly program is intended to pave the way for dual combustion ramjet-powered, hypersonic missiles that can be launched from aircraft, ships and submarines, the press release said.

STARZ Testing UAV-Based Hardware Delivery System

STARA technologies of Mesa, Ariz., has begun a six-month series of demonstrations of a system that enables an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to drop communications relays, sensors and medical supplies, according to an Oct. 13 company news release.

The Mosquito system consists of a container outfitted with guided parachutes and can be mounted on the wing or chaff dispenser of a variety of UAVs, according to the news release. The system will be tested with six types of unmanned aerial vehicles at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving ground in Arizona, including the Predator built by General Atomics of San Diego, according to the news release.

Honeywell To Continue Work on Micro Air Vehicle

Citing technical progress, Boeing Co. has awarded Honeywell Corp. a $3 million contract to continue development work on a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as part of the U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems program, Boeing announced Oct. 18.

Boeing is the prime contractor for the Future Combat Systems, a new fleet of ground vehicles and UAVs equipped with the state-of-the-art information technology. The company said key technologies for the Micro Air Vehicle are sufficiently mature to proceed to the next phase of the program, which is expected to run through March 2006.

Honeywell has conducted more than 200 flight tests of the Micro Air Vehicle in an environment designed to replicate an urban battlefield, Boeing said in a news release. The vehicle is intended to provide reconnaissance, security and target-acquisition operations in a variety of terrain settings.

Small enough to be carried by dismounted soldiers, Micro Air Vehicles will use autonomous flight and navigation technology and will be equipped with vertical take-off and landing capability, according to the news release.

Lockheed Exec To Head Network-Centric Group

Lockheed Martin executive Lorraine Martin has been named chairman of the international Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium, according to an Oct. 17 news release from the not-for-profit group.

The consortium is dedicated to the creation of common standards for network-centric solutions and operations.

Martin, vice president for flight systems in Lockheed Martin’s simulation, training and support division, previously was vice chairman for the consortium. She succeeds Carl O’Berry, Boeing vice president for network-centric architectures, whose one-year term had concluded.

Russian Space Agency Criticizes Khrunichev

The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, has issued a rare public rebuke of one of the country’s showcase space-hardware manufacturers for back-to-back failures involving the company’s rocket and satellite products.

In taking aim at the Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow, Roskosmos also criticized the lack of forthrightness of Khrunichev managers in reporting on the state of the Monitor-E Earth observation satellite before and just after its launch.

The 780-kilogram satellite, built by Khrunichev, was launched aboard a Khrunichev-built Rockot launch vehicle Aug. 26 into a Sun-synchronous polar low Earth orbit. After an initial glitch in communications with the satellite, Khrunichev reported that the spacecraft’s health was fine. Company officials subsequently reported that Monitor-E was ready for its on orbit test period.

But on Oct. 18 Russian ground controllers lost contact with Monitor-E. According to a Roskosmos statement issued Oct. 19, the in-orbit checkout of the satellite had never been conducted as announced because of continued problems in maintaining a communications link with it.

A source in Khrunichev who asked not to be identified told Space News Oct. 21 that the Monitor-E spacecraft “is under control.”

The Khrunichev source said ” specialists of Khrunichev are taking all possible measures” to restore the orientation of the spacecraft and “the dynamics of these efforts is positive.”

The Roskosmos statement on the agency’s Web site expressed “deep concern” that the Monitor-E problem, which may result in the total loss of the satellite, is the second failure of Khrunichev-built hardware in the past two months.

A Khrunichev Rockot vehicle carrying the European Space Agency’s CryoS at radar Earth observation satellite failed Oct. 8 when its second stage did not separate from its Breeze KM upper stage. The second-stage engine continued firing long after it should have switched off. The attached rocket stages and the $84 million Cryosat fell into the Lincoln Sea north of Greenland.

Khrunichev announced Oct. 14 that the CryoS at mission was lost when the Rockot’s control system, developed by NPO Khartron of Kharkov, Ukraine, malfunctioned. A board of inquiry has been established to determine the exact cause of the failure, Khrunichev said.

Roskosmos said in its statement that the CryoS at and Monitor-E failures are both “directly connected with the activity of the [Khrunichev] enterprise.” The statement said the root causes of the Monitor-E glitch “in all likelihood lie in the errors committed by the management of the enterprise.”

According to Roskosmos, it now appears likely that Monitor-E was not fully tested before launch despite Khrunichev management’s assurances to the contrary. The agency says the prospects of eventually being able to use the optical observation satellite are unclear.

New Intelsat Won’t Avoid Investing in New Satellites

Intelsat CEO David McGlade says the company can easily handle the $3.2 billion in debt it will inherit once its merger with PanAmS at is approved and will not be shy about new investments.

Intelsat is financially stable enough to absorb PanAmSat’s debt without major consequence, McGlade said Oct. 20 during a luncheon speech to the Washington Space Business Roundtable. “We don’t have to break apart this company to service our debt,” he said. “People ask, ‘ what are you going to do with this debt-ridden company?’ The answer is grow. We would not have done the deal if we didn’t think we could grow.”

Intelsat will not be shy about investing in new satellites, McGlade said. “I think we have a very bold set of investors,” he said. “We’ll do what it takes to build new satellites.”

A future concern for the integrated company will be developing common software which can be used across the combined fleet of satellites, McGlade said. He expects that such an endeavor will take two years or more to become a reality.

The merger must be approved by regulatory bodies at both the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice. McGlade said the company is waiting for a second request for information from the Department of Justice, and is currently in the 30-day public comment period for the FCC; comments on the deal are due Nov. 14.

“I feel pretty optimistic that we’re going to get through that in a good way,” McGlade said.

The company will continue to have its administrative headquarters in Washington and currently is running a full-time integration office with representatives from both companies. Eleven different working units are looking at optimizing their assets and checking for redundancy, he said.

“This is one company,” McGlade said. “We are not going to be two separate companies going forward. We have different operating divisions, but I want people to feel good and be proud of the new Intelsat.”

Suspected Contamination Delays Venus Express Launch

The planned Oct. 26 launch of Europe’s Venus Express satellite aboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket has been postponed following the discovery of suspected contamination inside the rocket’s fairing that might have spread to the satellite, officials with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the launch provider said Oct. 21.

Venus Express, which had been enclosed inside the fairing in preparation for launch from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will be removed from the vehicle, inspected and cleaned if needed. The French-Russian Starsem company, which markets Soyuz launches outside Russia, said Oct. 21 that the launch will be delayed “by several days.”

UAV Spending Projected To Hit $13 Billion by 2014

Cumulative worldwide spending on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is likely to pass $13 billion through 2014, according to an industry analyst.

U.S. firms already account for more than half of this market, and their share will grow by 5 to 10 percent between now and 2014, according to Larry Dickerson, a senior analyst for Forecast International, an analysis firm based in Newtown, Conn.

That figure does not include research and development spending, Dickerson said in an Oct. 21 news release.

“Thanks to their battlefield successes in Iraq and Afghanistan, money is being lavished on UAV programs as never before,” Dickerson said. “Still, UAVs receive only a fraction of the amounts spent on fighter aircraft and tactical missiles.”