Cloudsat-Calypso Launch Delayed Until February

U.S. and French Earth observation satellites whose launch aboard a Delta 2 rocket has been blocked by a Boeing machinists’ strike will not be orbited until mid-February at the earliest because of the continuing strike and planned annual maintenance at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., the French space agency, CNES, announced.

The U.S. Cloudsat and French-built Calipso satellites will be stored at the Vandenberg site to await a launch date, CNES said Nov. 24.

The Boeing machinists’ strike began Nov. 2 over healthcare benefits and has affected several satellite launches.

Vandenberg’s scheduled maintenance period starts Dec. 19 and runs to Feb. 10. CNES and NASA officials had hoped that an early end to the strike would permit the integration of Cloudsat and Calipso onto the Delta 2 rocket in time for a launch just before the base’s maintenance shutdown.

But with no end of the labor dispute in sight, the two sides agreed the launch could not occur before the base closes for maintenance.

Kirari Laser Link Test To Go Forward Despite Glitch

Japanese space authorities will proceed in early December with a planned test of laser optical intersatellite links with Europe’s Artemis data-relay satellite despite the loss of one of four reaction wheels aboard Japan’s Kirari spacecraft, also known as OICETS, or Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite, the Japanese space agency, JAXA, announced Nov. 25.

Kirari ground controllers discovered Nov. 24 that one of the reaction wheels, which stabilize a satellite in orbit, was disconnected from the Kirari attitude-control system. The satellite is flying normally using its backup reaction wheels.

Kirari, launched into low Earth orbit in August, carries a laser optical terminal that will communicate with Europe’s geostationary-orbiting Artemis satellite, which is equipped with similar gear. The experiment will be run from Europe’s Optical Ground Station in Spain’s Canary Islands.

Bush Signs Two NASA Bills; Agency OK To Buy Soyuz

U.S. President George W. Bush signed the 2006 NASA budget bill and S. 1713, the Iran Nonproliferation Amendments Act of 2005, Nov. 22 clearing the way for NASA to buy the Soyuz and Progress vehicles it needs from Russia for the international space station starting next year.

Bush also put his signature on H.R. 2862, the Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006, which fully funds his $16.5 billion budget request for NASA but would require the space agency to spend several hundred million dollars on programs and projects important to lawmakers.

The original Iran Nonproliferation Act, enacted in 2000, barred NASA from buying space station-related goods and services from Russia so long as the former Soviet republic continued to aid Iranian efforts to acquire missiles and other advanced weaponry.

Supporters of amending the Iran Nonproliferation Act, including one of the original act’s sponsors Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), argued that the law jeopardized NASA’s continued use of the international space station without furthering U.S. nonproliferation goals.

A Russian agreement that permits U.S. astronauts to travel to and from the space station in Soyuz capsules expires in April. NASA intends to buy Soyuz rides and Progress resupply flights to support continued space station operations until either the U.S. Crew Exploration Vehicle or domestic commercial alternatives are in service.

Austria To Build Data System for Pleiades

The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) will supply hardware for the French high-resolution Pleiades optical Earth observation satellites under a bilateral agreement with the French space agency, CNES.

Under the agreement, FFG will contract with Austrian Aerospace of Vienna to build the on-board data-handling system for Pleiades.

Austrian Aerospace said the contract is likely to have a value of about 2 million euros ($2.4 million). In return, Austria will have access to Pleiades imagery products.

The two Pleiades satellites, to be launched in 2008 and 2009, are designed as a dual civil-military system with a ground resolution of about 70 centimeters.

The bilateral FFG-CNES accord was signed Nov. 22 in Vienna by FFG directors Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner, and CNES President Yannick d’Escatha.

EADS Astrium Wins Deal For TerreStar-1 Payload

EADS Astrium’s British division will provide payload electronics for the TerreStar-1 mobile communications satellite under a contract with prime contractor Space Systems/Loral, EADS Astrium announced.

Under the contract, EADS Astrium’s Portsmouth, England, plant will provide eight sets of switching and signal-mixing assemblies to Space Systems/Loral for the TerreStar-1 satellite, owned by TerreStar Networks Inc. of Reston, Va. TerreStar plans to use its large satellite, in geostationary orbit, to provide mobile voice and data links in North America using the 2-gigahertz broadcast frequency. The satellite is scheduled for launch by November 2007.

Terry Coxall, payload equipment director at EADS Astrium U.K., said the contract from Loral “is a direct result of the major investments made over recent years by EADS Astrium with the support of the British National Space Centre and the European Space Agency.”

Orbital Wins NASA Contract For 175-Kilogram Satellite

Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. snagged a $27 million NASA contract to build a 175-kilogram satellite to host four experimental payloads for the U.S. space agency’s New Millennium technology validation program, NASA announced Nov. 23.

The satellite, dubbed Space Technology 8, is slated to launch in 2009 aboard an air-launched Pegasus rocket provided by Orbital Sciences under separate contract. The satellite’s four experimental payloads consist of a large, flexible solar array, a 40-meter deployable boom, high radiation environment electronics and a spacecraft thermal control device.

Thermal Vacuum Testing Set To Begin on SBIRS Payload

An industry team led by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., has completed preparations that clear the way for thermal vacuum testing to begin on the payload for the first dedicated Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High missile warning satellite, according to a company news release issued on Nov. 23.

The SBIRS High system includes two infrared payloads hosted by intelligence spacecraft in highly elliptical orbits, four dedicated satellites in geosynchronous orbits, one spare spacecraft and ground equipment. The first of the geosynchronous satellites is expected to launch in 2008.

The thermal vacuum testing is intended to demonstrate that the payload can operate in an environment even more stressful to that of space, according to the news release. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems of Azusa, Calif., builds the SBIRS High payloads.

Sea-Based Missile Defense Program Director Retires

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Kathleen Paige, program director for the Pentagon’s sea-based missile defense effort, retired from the military Nov. 22 after 34 years of service, according to a U.S. Missile Defense Agency news release.

Rear Adm. Alan Hicks, who last served as deputy director for combat systems and weapons in the surface warfare directorate of the office of the chief of naval operations, has replaced Paige as program director of Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense.

SES Global to Market Hellas Sat-2 Capacity

SES Global’s SES Astra subsidiary will begin marketing capacity on the Hellas Sat-2 satellite at 39 degrees east longitude under an agreement with Greek operator Hellas Sat, Luxembourg-based SES Global announced.

The agreement will boost SES Global’s offerings in the Middle East.

Christodoulos Protopapas, chief executive of Athens-based Hellas Sat, said in prepared statement that the agreement “allows both companies to develop new market opportunities in the broadcasting field, especially in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.”

SES Global’s Satlynx satellite-broadband subsidiary already is a customer of Hellas Sat and SES in the past has performed satellite operations services for the Greek company through the SES Astra TechCom satellite-service division.

Hellas Sat-2, owned by Greek and Cypriot companies, was launched in May 2003. It carries 30 Ku-band transponders.

Iridium Touts Growth in Aeronautical Services

Iridium Satellite more than doubled its aeronautical satellite communications business in the past year, according to a Nov. 9 company press release. The number of aircraft fitted with Iridium satellite equipment recently surpassed 5,000, according to the press release.

Iridium spokeswoman Liz DeCastro said Nov. 14 the company measures its business by aircraft rather than in sales dollars because its services are sold through partners that Iridium does not track directly.

Some of the company’s selling partners brought in accounts with NetJets, Caribbean Sun and Caribbean Star, and a variety of medical helicopter fleets.

Iridium Executive Vice President Don Thoma said in the release that the number of aeronautical data transmissions via the Iridium network is increasing twice as fast as the number of voice calls, though voice calls still comprise the majority of the traffic .

Telenor Satellite Offering Holiday Discount Rates

Telenor Satellite Services will offer holiday-season discount call rates for sailors at sea from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2 , the company announced Nov. 18.

Telenor of Oslo, Norway, is extending its Super Quiet Time low-cost call rates beginning 20:00 Greenwich Mean Time Dec. 23 through 6:00 GMT Jan. 2. Prepaid voice calls over the network will cost less than a dollar a minute. The Telenor service is carried via Inmarsat‘s global fleet of maritime communications satellites.

GlobeCast Establishes Tech Operations Center

GlobeCast, a subsidiary of France Telecom that provides video transmissions and other multimedia services, has opened a Technical Operations Center in Miami to support the company’s retransmission of hundreds of television signals.

The company announced Nov. 16 that the new center will play a key role in offering fully managed content-delivery services via satellite for IP-based video and other media across North America. The center is located at GlobeCast’s existing digital broadcast complex in Miami.

Shadow UAV Wins Award For Performance in Iraq

The U.S. Army’s Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program won an achievement award from the Defense Department Nov. 8 for its performance in Operation Iraqi Freedom over the past two years.

Representatives of Shadow prime contractor AAI Corp. and the Army’s UAV System Program Office accepted the Performance-Based Logistics in the Global War on Terrorism award at a conference in Hilton Head, S.C., the company announced Nov. 21. AAI of Hunt Valley, Md., is a wholly owned subsidiary of United Industrial Corp.

Since its deployment at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in early 2003, the Shadow has met all operational standards and has successfully completed mission requirements, according to the award statement. Shadow UAVs have flown more than 50,000 hours during operations in Iraq.

The Defense Department, the Aerospace Industries Association and the Defense Acquisition University created the award program this year.

Segovia Taps SAT Corp. For Spectrum Analyzer

Satellite services provider Segovia Inc. of Herndon, Va., has selected SAT Corp. of Sunnyvale, Calif., to provide a digital spectrum analyzer to monitor and secure commercial satellite communications signals for the U.S. Department of Defense, Segovia’s primary customer.

SAT Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of Integral Systems Inc. of Lanham, Md., announced Nov. 22 that the SAT-DSA spectrum analyzer is tailored to automatically monitor multiple uplink and downlink signals in a fraction of the time of analog spectrum analyzers. It also can detect interfering signals as well as access historical spectral data and signal characteristics. No financial details about the contract were disclosed.

Europe, China Conclude Space Cooperation Pact

The European and Chinese space agencies have signed their first framework agreement, a broad accord to encourage cooperation in space science, Earth observation, telecommunications and navigation, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced.

The agreement was signed Nov. 18 in Beijing by Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s director-general, and Sun Laiyan, administrator of the China National Space Administration .

China and ESA already have cooperated on the Double Star science satellite program, in which Chinese satellites were launched with ESA-provided instruments. The two sides also have agreed to permit ESA’s ERS-2 and Envisat radar Earth observation satellites to be used for disaster management and environmental monitoring in China.

NASA Declares Intent To Give Booster Work to ATK

NASA gave formal notice Nov.18 that it intends to forgo a competition and award a sole-source contract to ATK Thiokol Propulsion to develop the first stage of the agency’s planned Crew Launch Vehicle .

The contract would include design, development and testing of the Crew Launch Vehicle’s solid-rocket booster-based first stage and procurement of any long lead materials needed to produce the hardware . However, NASA intends to handle first-stage production under a separate procurement.

NASA decided over the summer to launch the Crew Exploration Vehicle — its next human space transportation system — atop a space shuttle solid-rocket booster outfitted with a new upper stage. ATK Thiokol of Brigham City, Utah, has manufactured and refurbished the solid-rocket boosters for the life of the space shuttle program.

NASA is giving companies that think they should be allowed to compete for the booster contract until Dec. 2 to submit statements of their relevant capabilities and qualifications. Development of the Crew Launch Vehicle is being managed by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Meteosat Data Centers Placed in African Nations

Alcatel Alenia Space has completed installation of 51 meteorological satellite data-reception centers in 47 African nations. The centers will permit local forecasters to access Europe’s second-generation Meteosat weather satellites with modern image-processing systems, Alcatel Alenia Space announced.

The installation is part of a program begun by the 18-nation Eumetsat meteorological satellite agency, Darmstadt, Germany, with 11 million euros ($13 million) provided by the European Commission for hardware installation and African personnel training.

The project is being managed by the Meteorological Department of Kenya.

The newly installed data-reception centers will be receiving raw weather data from the second-generation Meteosat satellites, the first of which — Meteosat 8 — has been operating in geostationary orbit at zero degrees longitude since January 2004.

An identical satellite, to be named Meteosat 9, is scheduled for launch Dec. 21 aboard an Ariane 5 GS rocket together with India’s Insat 4A telecommunications satellite.

Alcatel Alenia of France and Italy said the new data stations in Africa will permit local forecasters to quit their current practice of faxing weather data and producing weather maps manually, and to adopt modern image-processing tools to speed the distribution of up-to-date weather data.

Boeing To Scrutinize Wideband Gapfiller Parts

The U.S. Air Force awarded a $7.6 million contract modification to Boeing Satellite Systems of El Segundo, Calif., to increase the level of oversight on the Wideband Gapfiller communications satellites that the company is developing for a planned first launch in 2007.

The so-called Pedigree Reviews will audit all critical Wideband Gapfiller components to reduce the chance of on-orbit failures , according to a Pentagon contract announcement released Nov. 18.

Erik Simonsen, a Boeing spokesman, declined to divulge the latest cost estimates for the Wideband Gapfiller satellites. The Air Force awarded Boeing a $160 million contract in 2001 to begin work on three satellites, and service officials at the time estimated it would cost $700 million to finish those spacecraft.

Boeing has run into technical difficulty that has delayed the first Wideband Gapfiller launch by about three years past earlier projections. The cost associated with those problems is primarily borne by Boeing as its contract on the program is fixed price.

THAAD Interceptor Makes First Flight Since 1999

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted the first flight test in five years on the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system Nov. 22.

The test was intended to examine the flight characteristics of the THAAD interceptor and did not involve a target missile, according to Tom McGrath, vice president and program manager for THAAD at Lockheed Martin , the prime contractor on the effort.

Lockheed Martin and the MDA recorded five successful THAAD flight tests in 11 attempts through 1999, but restructured the program at that point to increase system reliability and drive down costs, McGrath said during a conference call with reporters.

Another flight test, also without a target, will be attempted in late winter or early spring, McGrath said. The next test after that will take place in late spring or summer, and will include a target although an intercept is not the goal, he said. That test will be followed by an attempted intercept several months later, he said.

USC Engineering School Opens Remote Campus

The University of Southern California (USC) and the Aerospace Education Research and Operations Institute of Palmdale, Calif., have entered into a partnership to open a USC Viterbi School of Engineering remote campus for advanced engineering degrees, USC announced Nov. 22.

The campus, a part of Viterbi’s Distance Education Network, will be located at the Aerospace Education Research and Operations Institute to allow busy engineering professionals to more easily advance their education without going to the USC campus in Los Angeles.

The Distance Education Network offers degrees in several engineering disciplines, but the new campus will emphasize astronautical engineering. The distance-learning program enrolls more than 1,200 students, offering 28 Master of Science degrees, five graduate certificates and other short courses for professional development.

Lichens Survive Exposure To Harsh Space Environment

Kayser-Threde, a Munich, Germany-based manufacturer of research platforms for exobiology, has found that lichens are able to survive the harsh environment of open space including the high levels of ultraviolet radiation. The finding offers evidence that living organisms are capable of interplanetary travel, the company announced Nov. 23.

Kayser found that the lichens — symbiotic organisms made of microscopic green algae or cyanobacteria — resumed normal metabolism after returning to Earth after nearly 14 days in orbit last June. The samples were hosted aboard a multiuser platform called Biopan that piggy-backs on a Russian Foton spacecraft to expose biological samples to space.

The Biopan platform, designed by Kayser under a contract with the European Space Agency, is mounted externally onto a Foton capsule and is protected by a lid during liftoff and re-entry. Once in orbit, the Biopan lid opens to expose the organisms to an open space environment for an average of 14 days. The lid is then closed and hermetically sealed once again for its trip back to Earth.

Sensor Monitors Target in Missile Defense Test

A Nov. 17 test of the Pentagon’s sea-based missile defense system featured a sensor package mounted on the target that will help scientists better understand the characteristics of ballistic missiles, according to a Nov. 18 news release from the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, which built the sensor.

The sensor package is expected to be used in the next Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system test, which is scheduled for early 2006, according to the news release from the Laurel, Md.-based lab.

The sensor package collected imagery of the target’s flight , the separation of its re-entry vehicle, and the successful intercept . Sensors pointed towards the rear end of the target provided “departing Earth” video footage as well as pictures of debris released following the burnout of its solid-rocket motors, while those pointed forward observed the separation of the booster and re-entry vehicle as well as the interception, according to Kristi Marren, a spokeswoman for the lab.

Placing the sensor package on the target gave different viewing angles and helped avoid data losses associated with ground-based and aerial sensor systems, according to the news release.

Northrop Grumman To Build NPOESS Sensor Component

The U.S. Air Force added $12.3 million to Northrop Grumman Space Technology’s contract to build a new generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites to cover subsystem work previously assigned to Boeing Co., the Pentagon announced Nov. 18.

The cost of the civil-military National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) has risen significantly in recent months, primarily due to technical difficulty with its sensors. These sensors are being developed under individual contracts.

Boeing Satellite Systems of El Segundo, Calif., is building the Conical Scanning Microwave Imager Sounder (CMIS), which will measure atmospheric temperature and humidity, as well as monitor clouds and ocean-surface wind speed and direction. Boeing has experienced problems with a momentum wheel on the sensor, according to the Pentagon contract announcement.

The CMIS sensor uses a large spinning reflector that requires a momentum wheel to compensate for torque and momentum applied to the NPOESS satellite, the Pentagon said . Trade studies indicated that Northrop Grumman had subsystem hardware that could accomplish this task more reliably, the Pentagon said.

SpaceDev Makes Order for Falcon-1 Rocket Launch

SpaceDev of Poway, Calif., has made a down-payment for the launch of a small spacecraft on a Falcon-1 rocket in May 2008, according to a SpaceDev news release issued Nov. 22.

The Falcon-1 is a low cost launcher developed by Space Exploration Technologies of El Segundo, Calif.

The deal includes options for additional launches, according to the news release. Each launch will include a combination of several small satellites, the release said.

The press release did not identify the payload on the 2008 launch, and Jim Benson, SpaceDev’s founder and chief executive officer, did not return a phone call requesting comment by press time. The company has a contract to build microsatellites for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, its biggest customer.