Ball Aerospace Wins Contract To Build Kepler Instrument

Ball Aerospace & Techologies Corp. won a contract from NASA Ames Research Center to design, built and test a scientific instrument for the Kepler planet-finding mission, the company said.

The initial $13.4 million award for Kepler’s photometer is in addition to a separate contract previously given to Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colo., to provide the Kepler spacecraft platform and flight software.

The Kepler mission, slated for launch in October 1997, was selected by NASA as part of the agency’s Discovery program of cost-capped planetary missions.

The four-year mission is designed to detect Earth-sized planets around sun-like stars.

El Al Airlines to Install Connexion Equipment

El Al Israel Airlines will install the Connexion by Boeing Internet service on its long-haul aircraft fleet, Connexion announced Feb. 17.

El Al, based in Tel Aviv, will begin installing the hardware needed to provide the satellite service aboard its four Boeing 747-400 aircraft and four 777 aircraft in the second half of 2005. The installations are expected to be completed by 2007, Connexion said.

Details of the agreement between El Al and Connexion were not released.

Boeing Wins Contract for ICBM Engineering Work

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis won a $46.5 million U.S. Air Force contract extension for sustaining engineering services on the service’s Minuteman ICBM fleet, according to a company news release dated Feb. 17.

The Boeing work is part of a wider effort led by Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, the news release said

The Air Force also extended a similar contract that Boeing has for the Peacekeeper missile at a cost of $9.3 million.

The Northrop Grumman team that includes Boeing won the original contracts to sustain the 500 Minuteman and 50 Peacekeeper missiles in 1998.

Lockheed Unit to Supply Sensor for Ibex Mission

Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center will develop one of the two main sensors for NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (Ibex ) mission, Lockheed Martin announced Feb. 17.

The mission, part of NASA’s Small Explorer program, is designed to map the boundary between the solar system and interstellar space starting in 2008.

Avanced Technology Center, based in Palo Alto, Calif., will provide the Ibex -Lo sensor, which will measure neutral atoms created by the interaction of solar wind and the interstellar medium.

The second sensor, Ibex -Hi, will be built by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the San Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute , which also is overseeing the mission.

Details of Lockheed Martin’s contract, awarded by the Southwest Research Institute, were not released. NASA is providing $134 million for the project, with $60 million of that going to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., for the satellite platform and the Pegasus launch vehicle.

Support Arms Suspected in Missile Shield Test Failure

The investigation into the second consecutive failed test of the U.S. national missile shield Feb. 13 is focusing on the lateral support hardware that keep the interceptor stable in its silo, according to Missile Defense Agency (MDA) spokesman Rick Lehner.

During the test, a target missile carrying a mock warhead took off from Kodiak Island in Alaska Feb. 13 at 9:22 p.m. local time, the MDA said in a press release Feb. 14. However, the interceptor subsequently failed to launch from the Ronald Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, MDA said.

The cause of the failure is under investigation and a problem with ground support equipment — as opposed to the interceptor missile itself — is suspected, the MDA said. Lehner said Feb. 18 that the interceptor’s lateral support hardware might not have retracted prior to the planned launch, but cautioned that the investigation was ongoing.

The test of the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system was a retry of a Dec. 15 test that also failed because the interceptor did not take off after the target missile was launched. In that instance, an onboard computer detected a loss of data transmissions to the interceptor and halted the launch sequence. MDA officials said the vehicle could have lost much more data and still worked properly and adjusted the shutdown mechanism accordingly.

NASA and Texas School Create Research Center

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center will study how exposure to space radiation affects the risk of cancer in humans under a $9.8 million NASA research grant, the space agency announced Feb. 15.

The Dallas-based center will set up a NASA Specialized Center of Research to carry out the project. Under an investigation entitled “Lung Cancer Pathogenesis and HZE Particle Exposure,” researchers will study irradiated animal tissues at the cellular and molecular level and try to extrapolate how the data could be applied to humans.

A NASA Specialized Center of Research incorporates a number of complementary research projects under a single grant, and this adds a second center to NASA’s space radiation program. In November 2003, the agency established a center at Colorado State University in Fort Collins under a five-year , $9.7 million grant.

Indonesia Now Bullish on Space-Based Technology

The Dec. 26 tsunami disaster has made Indonesia’s government a firm believer in the value of space technology for disaster prevention and monitoring, emergency response and post-crisis remediation, Indonesian Research and Technology Minister Kusmayanto Kadiman said.

He said Indonesia will be pushing for quick adoption of a satellite-linked tsunami early warning system, versions of which exist in the Atlantic and Pacific regions but not in the Indian Ocean, where the tsunami hit. The death-toll estimate has climbed above 240,000, including more than 174,000 killed in Indonesia’s Aceh and North Sumatra regions.

Kadiman said the quick global reaction to the disaster, including the “Tsunami Summit” in Jakarta just 12 days after the tidal wave struck, “could only happen because of space technology. Indonesia is setting up a regional center for disaster mitigation, part of a global early-warning system.

“Indonesia and other countries affected by the disaster have benefited from the [current] system of space-data acquisition and delivery,” Kadiman said. “Various governments and agencies have provided us with satellite imagery that helped Indonesia understand the extent of the destruction…. The acquisition time [was short]. Without space technology, it would take years to assess, calculate and measure the damage caused by this disaster.”