Sea Launch Positions Inmarsat To Roll Out BGAN Service

The successful Nov. 8 launch of the second Inmarsat 4 satellite by a Sea Launch Co. Zenit-3SL rocket will permit London-based Inmarsat to begin rolling out its new-generation two-way Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) terminals starting in December, according to Inmarsat and its service providers.

Inmarsat 4 F2, which will operate from a geostationary orbit at 53 degrees west longitude over the Americas, joins the twin Inmarsat 4 F1, which is in position over the Indian Ocean at 64 degrees east.

The two EADS Astrium-built satellites together cover 86 percent of the Earth’s land mass. Inmarsat has a third satellite under construction at EADS Astrium and a 2006 launch reservation aboard an International Launch Services Atlas 5 rocket. Inmarsat Chief Operating Officer Michael Butler said it is all but certain that the third satellite — originally intended as a ground spare — will be launched.

“My picture will hang in Inmarsat’s hall of shame if we can’t find a way to launch that satellite,” Butler said Nov. 9 during the SMi Global Milsatcom conference in London. He said the first BGAN terminals are likely to be priced at between $2,500 and $3,500 each. Inmarsat has begun testing the use of the equipment on moving vehicles, as well as for so-called “netted” communications that permit group conversations among users and a push-to-talk function.

Butler said Inmarsat expects the terminal costs to drop as volume production gets under way. In addition, he said, using the gear for voice-only service will be less expensive than many cellular-roaming price rates. “No longer will Inmarsat be communications of the last resort,” Butler said. Some 40 percent of Inmarsat’s annual revenue is from government, especially military customers, Butler said.

Two PAC-3 Missiles Miss Target During Nov. 11 Test

Two U.S. military Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) rockets fired simultaneously during testing Nov. 11 were unsuccessful at intercepting a short-range missile target, according to a U.S. Army news release.

The test, which was conducted at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, was intended to demonstrate new software in the missile and its ground system, according to the news release.

The Nov. 11 miss brings the PAC-3’s record to 17-3 in intercept tests, according to the news release.

NASA To Get Budget Request But with Significant Changes

The U.S. Congress is close to giving final approval to NASA’s 2006 budget. The House of Representatives approved Nov. 16 a compromise measure negotiated with the Senate that would fund NASA at $16.5 billion for the year ahead, about the same amount the White House had requested and about $400 million more than Congress approved for NASA for 2005.

But every dollar of that increase and then some will have to be spent by NASA to pay for 185 pet projects totaling more than $275 million that lawmakers tacked onto the bill and $260 million in targeted increases that lawmakers made to existing NASA programs. These include an additional $60 million for aeronautics research and an extra $50 million to prepare for a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission NASA still intends to attempt provided that its next space shuttle mission goes well.

While the congressionally mandated budget earmarks will force NASA to make more than $535 million in cuts to projects it considers priorities, the space agency did receive full funding for its most important new effort, the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle and Crew Launch Vehicle it needs to return to the Moon by 2018.

The Senate must still approve the compromise measure, formally known as the Conference Report on H.R. 2862 The Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006, before the spending legislation can be signed into law by U.S. President George W. Bush.

SkyTerra Buys Remaining HNS Shares from DirecTV

Seven months after taking a 50-percent stake in satellite broadband service and equipment provider Hughes Network Systems (HNS), SkyTerra Communications Inc. has reached agreement with DirecTV Group to purchase the rest of the company for $100 million in cash, DirecTV and SkyTerra announced Nov. 10.

Once the deal closes, HNS will pay an additional $10 million to DirecTV as part of an adjustment to the terms of the first sale, the companies said.

New York-based SkyTerra, an affiliate of private-equity investor Apollo Management, purchased its initial 50-percent stake in HNS from DirecTV in April for $50 million in cash and 300,000 shares of SkyTerra stock, which trades on the over-the-counter market. As part of this initial agreement, El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV also received about $196 million in cash from HNS while retaining its 50-percent ownership share.

HNS of Germantown, Md., took full ownership of the Spaceway 3 Ka-band satellite as part of the April transaction. Spaceway 3 is designed to provide high-speed broadband Internet links to businesses. HNS is expected to gradually migrate its DirecWay and other satellite-broadband customers to the Spaceway 3 satellite, tentatively scheduled to launch in late 2006. Currently HNS pays PanAmSat and other satellite-fleet operators for satellite capacity.

The companies said they expect the transaction, which must be approved by U.S. regulatory authorities, to close in the first quarter of 2006.

Industry Urged To Improve Management of Suppliers

Prime contractors for U.S. military satellite systems need to do a better job of managing their suppliers, according to Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

“Countless horror stories exist about needless contamination of parts, frequent rework of subcomponents, nonexistent communications between and among systems developers and the lack of manufacturing discipline,” Everett said during a Nov. 10 luncheon speech sponsored by the Washington Space Business Roundtable.

In one example, the prime contractor of a “current intelligence collection program” ran into four separate problems on the same part before it sought out a new supplier, Everett said.

For its part, the Pentagon should ensure that it is awarding satellite contracts to companies with a manageable number of subcontractors on their teams, and also play a greater role in overseeing the work being done in factories, Everett said.

EADS Space Posts 1.67 Billion Euro 3Q Profit

EADS Space, Europe’s biggest space-hardware company, reported improved gross profit for the nine months ending Sept. 30 and is on track to realize management’s goal of 6-percent operating-profit margins in the coming years, parent company European Aerospace Defense and Space (EADS) said.

EADS Space reported revenues of 1.67 billion euros ($2 billion) for the first nine months of the year, a 1.4-percent increase over the same period in 2004. Pretax profit improved to 10 million euros, compared to a loss of 6 million euros a year earlier. Some 48 percent of space division revenues comes from satellite builder EADS Astrium, 44 percent from strategic missile and Ariane 5 rocket builder EADS Space Transportation, and 8 percent from services provider EADS Space Services.

EADS Chief Financial Officer Hans Peter Ring said the successful Nov. 8 launch of the second Astrium-built Inmarsat 4 mobile communications satellite reduces the potential risk to EADS of this program. He said that EADS Space Services should begin providing EADS Space with healthy profit margins once the capital investment in the two or three British Skynet 5 military communications satellites is over.

Ring said EADS management has set a target of 6-percent operating-profit margin for EADS Space, a level the division should reach in several years — not in 2006.

Lockheed Martin Delivers Modernized GPS Craft

Lockheed Martin Corp. delivered the second modernized GPS 2RM navigation satellite to the U.S. Air Force in preparation for a planned January launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., according to a company news release dated Nov. 8.

The Air Force launched the first of the GPS 2RM series Sept. 25. That satellite is undergoing a four-month checkout period for its new signals and has performed as expected thus far, according to the news release.

The upgraded satellites will provide more accurate and robust navigation signals to the U.S. military and improve GPS services available to civilians.

Raytheon Gets Five-Year GBS Sustainment Award

The U.S. Air Force awarded a $49 million contract to Raytheon Co. for sustainment of the satellite-based Global Broadcast Service (GBS) over the next five years, according to a Pentagon announcement issued Nov. 2.

The GBS system uses payloads on the Pentagon’s UHF Follow-On satellites to broadcast maps, photos and other bandwidth-intensive information to troops on the battlefield.

Work under the recently awarded contract includes operation and maintenance of GBS hardware and software on the ground, according to the news release.

Tests Validate Chassis for 2nd Advanced EHF Craft

A recent series of tests has confirmed that the structural platform for the second U.S. Air Force Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) communications satellite will be able to withstand the stresses of manufacturing, launch and operations, prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., announced Nov. 7.

The Advanced EHF satellites are designed to provide secure, jam-proof command and control links for the U.S. military under all conditions. The satellites, featuring payloads supplied by Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., will weigh 5,900 kilograms at launch, Lockheed Martin said.

The satellite structure, or chassis, was built by a unit of ATK Alliant Techsystems in Corona, Calif. The next step for the platform, now in Sunnyvale, is a series of tests designed to demonstrate that vibration from subsystems such as reaction wheels and solar arrays does not disrupt the satellite’s communications payload during operation.

The structure of the first Advanced EHF satellite, meanwhile, has entered acceptance testing that will pave the way for its integration with the satellite’s propulsion system components, Lockheed Martin said. The first Advanced EHF satellite is slated to launch in 2008, with the second to follow in 2009.

Lockheed to Add GPS to Laser-Guided Munitions

The U.S. Navy awarded a $65.5 million contract to a division of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Archbald, Penn., to retrofit 5,100 laser-guided bombs with GPS guidance systems, according to a Pentagon news release issued Nov. 4.

The Dual Mode Laser Guided Bombs are based on the Paveway bombs built by Lockheed Martin.

While the GPS capability is excellent for hitting fixed targets, retaining the laser guidance system is more effective against moving vehicles, according to a Lockheed Martin official. It also provides backup guidance in GPS-denied areas, the official said.

Northrop to Evaluate Technologies for DTRA

The U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) awarded Northrop Grumman a four-year contract worth up to $375 million to help counter the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, according to a company news release issued Nov. 8.

Under the contract, Northrop Grumman Information Technology of McLean, Va., will provide advisory services to DTRA in support of evaluating emerging and mature technologies to reduce the threat from weapons of mass destruction. This may include analysts evaluating new aerial and ground-based sensors that can detect weapons of mass destruction as well as technology that can help destroy stockpiles without harming people in the surrounding area, according to Juli Ballesteros, a Northrop Grumman spokeswoman.

To fulfill the contract, the company plans to increase staffing by approximately 50 positions.

Canada’s Radarsat 1 Craft Marks 10 Years in Space

Canada marked the 10th year in space Nov. 4 for its Radarsat 1 satellite , which provides time-critical services such as tracking the movement of icebergs in northern shipping lanes, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), which operates the satellite, announced Nov. 4.

Radarsat 1 also has been used in disaster management efforts, pollution monitoring and ship surveillance, taking over 58 billion square kilometers of images. It was launched in November 1995 as part of the Canadian government’s Long-Term Space Plan and supports both commercial and scientific users.

MDA of Richmond, British Columbia, said the Radarsat 2 satellite is slated to launch sometime in 2006. The company also will operate this satellite, which will be capable of taking higher-resolution images than its predecessor.

NASA Opens Project Office For Space Station Services

As part of an effort to stimulate commercial services for delivering cargo and possibly people to the international space station, NASA has established the Commercial Crew/Cargo Project Office at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The new office will manage demonstration projects that might lead to commercial transportation services to the space station and elsewhere in low Earth orbit, NASA announced Nov. 7.

NASA said the office is part of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate and will be managed by Alan J. Lindenmoyer, who has worked as an engineer for NASA since joining the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in 1982.

“There are many in the private sector who are eager to develop commercially viable space transportation systems,” Scott Horowitz, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, said in the news release. “In the future, the commercial sector will provide cost-effective access to space for both crew and cargo.”

Loral Skynet To Support Distance Learning in Brazil

Brazil’s Universidade de Santo Amaro (Unisa ) has selected Loral Skynet’s Brazilian affiliate to support the school’s digital distance-learning initiative using the Ku-band Estrela do Sul-1 satellite, Loral Skynet of Bedminster, N.J., announced Nov. 7.

The distance-learning initiative will make available a range of general and technical courses to over 100 communities throughout Brazil by February 2006. The courses will originate at Unisa’s main campus in So Paulo and will be transmitted to thousands of students via the Estrela do Sul-1 satellite. Users will be able to receive the transmissions using Unisa’s interactive, e-learning application. The university has mini-colleges, called Poles, which manage academics in each community. These Poles have the equipment necessary to connect to the Unisa system.

Loral Skynet do Brasil provides fixed satellite services in South America. It is the first private Brazilian satellite company to offer Ku-band services, which are becoming increasingly popular in the South American country , according to Loral. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Mike Coats Named as Johnson Center Director

Michael L. Coats, a former astronaut, has been named the new director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA announced Nov. 7. He replaces Jefferson D. Howell, who will be a visiting professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Coats joined NASA in 1978 as a member of the first astronaut class to fly the space shuttle. He flew three shuttle missions; first in 1984 when he piloted Space Shuttle Discovery’s maiden voyage. He has logged a total of 463 hours in space. Before joining NASA, Coats was a U.S. Navy aviator. He retired from both the Navy and NASA in August 1991.

Most recently, Coats was vice president of astronautics at Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver.

“Mike Coats brings a perfect blend of experience to his new role as the head of the nation’s primary center for human spaceflight development and operations,” NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said in the news release.

UND Research Center To Host Flying Laboratory

The University of North Dakota (UND) formally opened Nov. 7 the National Suborbital Education and Research Center at Grand Forks Air Force Base, where NASA and UND will manage the agency’s flying science laboratory under a partnership to study changes to the Earth’s environment.

The flying science laboratory is a highly modified DC-8 aircraft that can carry up to 13,600 kilograms of scientific equipment and fly at altitudes from 300 to 12,800 meters for nearly 12 hours. UND will handle aircraft maintenance and payload integration as part of the agreement, according to George Seielstad, the center’s director.

The National Suborbital Education and Research Center is part of UND’s Northern Great Plains Center, which was established in 2001 to build learning communities and create an integrated view on all Earth’s systems, according to a Nov. 3 UND news release released before the opening.

Va. Management Firm To Support Langley Program

The Center for Systems Management of Vienna, Va., won a five-year, $35 million NASA contract to provide consulting, training and support services to the agency’s Integrated Leadership Development Program at Langley Research Center in Virginia, the company announced Nov. 1.

The Integrated Leadership Development Program offers professional development support to employees through education.

The Center for Systems Management has worked with NASA for over 15 years, providing consulting services to the agency’s engineering training programs and to the NASA Academy of Program and Project Leadership.

Interstate Electronics To Study GPS Technologies

Interstate Electronics Corp. of Anaheim, Calif., will develop a GPS receiver incorporating the latest advances in anti-jamming and other relevant technologies under a contract with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the company announced Nov. 3.

The two-phase contract requires Interstate, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications Corp. of New York, to review GPS receiver and anti-jamming technologies over a one-year period. In the second phase, the company will design, build and test a GPS receiver that demonstrates these technologies.

“Successful anti-jamming systems require a sophisticated understanding of GPS technology and interference techniques,” Jim Grace, vice president of business development at Interstate, said in the news release. “This program will identify and demonstrate the superior effectiveness of the advanced systems and software [Interstate] has developed.”

The contract supports the Air Force’s Navigation Warfare Electronic Support Measures Terminal program. No financial details about the contract were disclosed.

Geospatial Group Makes Nine Scholarship Awards

The U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) awarded nine academic scholarships at a Nov. 1 dinner in San Antonio, more than doubling its scholarship allotment one year ago, USGIF announced in a Nov. 2 news release.

The 2005 University Scholarship Program grants awards to students who demonstrate excellence in a field related to geospatial intelligence. The Herndon, Va.-based foundation plans next year to extend the program to high school seniors who are bound for college programs related to geospatial intelligence.

This year’s recipients were Dan Goldberg of the University of Southern California; Miguel Roman of Boston University; Xuan Shi of West Virginia University; Anthony Robinson of Pennsylvania State University; Christopher Lippitt of Clark University; Nicholas Gazulis of the University of Southern California; Bradley DeBlois of the College of William and Mary; Dwight Lanier of Gainesville College; and Lisa Jane Musick of Texas A&M University.

NASA, SpaceWorld To Expand Ames Exhibit

NASA and the SpaceWorld Foundation have entered into a three-year partnership to enhance the Exploration Center located at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California, NASA announced Nov. 1.

Under the partnership, SpaceWorld will develop space-related themes, content and exhibits for the NASA Exploration Center, which opened in January 2004. Ames will continue to provide staffing and other in-house services, NASA said.

Current plans call for keeping the current exhibit open for another 18 months, when it will shut down for refurbishment and then reopen in mid-2007 as “SpaceWorld at NASA.”

Plans for the new facility also include converting Ames’ Hangar One to become part of the exhibit. The U.S. Navy currently is evaluating the hangar for environmental issues, but is expected soon to issue an announcement on the hangar’s future.

“I am confident that [SpaceWorld] will inspire young girls and boys, in particular, and give them a chance to experience first-hand fascinating, real-world applications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Sally Ride, former astronaut and member of the SpaceWorld Foundation board, said in the news release. “This is truly exciting.”

Comments: Warren Ferster,