Stephenson To Head New Northrop Exploration Unit

Northrop Grumman has tapped former NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Director Art Stephenson to manage the Los Angeles-based contractor’s newly established Space Exploration Systems organization.

Stephenson, who retired from NASA in 2003, already had already been working for Northrop Grumman as vice president of directed energy systems in the company’s Space Technology sector. In his new capacity, Stephenson will oversee all of Northrop Grumman’s space exploration work, including the company’s joint bid with Boeing to be the prime contractor for NASA’s beat out Lockheed Martin to become NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). prime contractor. NASA is expected to select the CEV P prime C contractor in the summer of 2006.

Stephenson will report directly to the president of Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector, Scott Seymour.

EADS To Purchase Dutch Space for Undisclosed Sum

Dutch Space’s long search for a strategic partner has ended now that the company has agreed to be purchased by EADS Space Transportation.

EADS Space Transportation will purchase solar-array and space-robotics supplier Dutch Space for an undisclosed price, ending a several-year stretch years during which the Dutch company has sought a strategic partner, the two companies announced Dec. 1.

Leiden-based Dutch Space, a supplier of solar arrays and space robotics technology and formerly a part of the Fokker Group, has spent a decade on its own and at one point was about to be purchased by Sweden’s Saab Ericsson Space. That deal fell through when Saab Ericsson became concerned about the potential of a future solar-array-related liability problem for Dutch Space that never materialized.

Dutch Space, which has 300 employees, in 2004 reported $85 million in revenues in 2004. The company provides solar arrays mainly for mainly European government satellites and recently won a contract to perform that role for at least part of Europe’s 30-satellite Galileo satellite navigation constellation. Dutch Space also built the European Robotic Arm for the European Space Agency, which is scheduled to operate at the international space station. Dutch Space also provides components for Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket, for which EADS Space Transportation is prime contractor.

NASA Offers 2 New $250K Centennial Challenge Prizes

NASA’s Centennial Challenges program announced Dec. 2 two new robotic competitions worth $250,000 each in prize money.

The Telerobotic Construction Challenge, getting under way in August, will pit remote-controlled robots against each other in an arena-style head-to-head building competition. The Planetary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Challenge, commencing in October 2007, will award the prize money to the team that designs and builds an autonomously operating aerial vehicle capable of flying a roller-coaster flight path using only visual navigation systems.

NASA is partnering with the Mountain View, Calif.-based Spaceward Foundation for the telerobotic construction competition and with the California Space Education and Workforce Institute in Santa Maria, Calif., for the unmanned aerial vehicle competition.

The goal of the Centennial Challenges program is seeks to foster the development of innovative technologies and approaches through the use of prize competitions.

, China’s APT To Share Satellite Capacity

Here is a news digest.

Satellite-fleet operators APT Satellite Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong and Intelsat of Bermuda and Washington have concluded a capacity-sharing and cross-marketing marking agreement. They also agreed to “explore additional growth initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region,” the companies announced Dec. 2.

APT President Ni Yifeng said the two companies in particular will explore potential cooperation in satellite digital multimedia broadcasting. APT operates five satellites over the Asia-Pacific and will use the Intelsat deal to provide customers with a global reach. Intelsat, which operates 28 satellites, will leverage the APT connection to expand its Asia-Pacific presence, Intelsat Chief Executive David McGlade said in a statement.

Japan To Launch ALOS On an H-2A in January

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has scheduled the launch of its newest Earth observation satellite aboard an H-2A rocket for Jan. 19, 2006, from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The launch window for the Advanced Land Observing Satellite, a large platform carrying a mix of optical and radar sensors, runs through Feb. 28, JAXA said in a Nov. 30 press release. It will be the eighth flight of the H-2A overall, and the second since a failure in November 2003. JAXA successfully launched the MTSat-1R weather and air traffic management satellite on an H-2A in February.
Hayabusa Lands on Asteroid But May Never Get Home

Time is beginning to run out for Japan’s Hayabusa (Falcon) asteroid probe and the spacecraft’s chances of being able to return to Earth after landing on an asteroid and collecting samples were growing dim at press time as Unless Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) engineers were trying to can resolve glitches with the probe’s thruster system.

JAXA spokesman Kiyotaka Yashiro said Friday Dec. 2 that the agency was JAXA is in contact with Hayabusa, which is floating about 4 kilometers km from the asteroid Itokawa some 288.4 kilometers from the Earth. At press time agency engineers were still troubleshooting to understand the condition of the Hayabusa’s thrusters, as well as checking out the probe’s other systems, trying to get the probe to set a trajectory home before the end of the first week in December. After that , after which the probe’s orbital dynamics will make a return will be impossible, Yashiro said.

On November 26 Hayabusa performed spaceflight’s first asteroid landing Nov. 26 and began collecting samples after edging collection when it edged down to the surface. and fired bullets into the a Itokawa,

However soon after the successful landing, JAXA discovered that one of Hayabusa’s thrusters was leaking. Another thruster system was then affected hit by what mission manager Junichiro Kawaguchi believes to have may been caused by a frozen fuel line.

Yashiro declined to speculate on the chances of Hayabusa returning home but did say that if the thruster issues were not resolved by Dec. 5 Monday or 6 Tuesday the probe would be in effect stranded.

Israel’s Block 3 Arrow Missile Intercepts Target

Israel’s new Block 3 model of the Arrow-2 interceptor successfully destroyed a simulated ballistic missile target in a Dec. 2 test over the Mediterranean Sea.

The launch marked the eighth test of the Arrow Weapon System — seven of which resulted in successful intercepts — since the Israel Air Force declared the network operational in 2000.

Arieh Herzog, director of the Israeli Missile Defense Organization, said the test aimed to validate the system’s performance against “the type of increasingly sophisticated threats we’re likely to face in future.” He was referring primarily to various versions of the Shihab-3 ballistic missile developed by Iran.

The Arrow-2 interceptor is jointly developed and funded by the United States and Israel, while other components of the network, including fire control radar, battle management center and the air-launched Black Sparrow target missile are indigenous Israeli developments.

Shana Dale Sworn In as NASA Deputy Administrator

Shana Dale was sworn in as NASA’s deputy administrator Nov. 29 by John H. Marburger, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Before joining NASA, Dale was deputy director for Homeland and National Security for the OSTP, where she also served as the chief of staff and general counsel. She also was staff director of the House Science space and aeronautics subcommittee from 1995 to 2000.

SOHO Solar Observatory Marks 10 Years in Space

The European-U.S. Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) on Dec. 2 marked 10 years in orbit, a time during which the spacecraft has provided a wealth of new information about solar storms and other phenomena that can affect systems on Earth .

SOHO , a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency, has a number of scientific accomplishments to its credit, including providing data for space weather forecasters to develop an early warning system for solar disturbances , collecting subsurface Sun measurements and capturing images that have led to the discovery of more than 1,000 comets, according to a Nov. 29 NASA news release.

“It’s impossible to overstate the importance of SOHO to the worldwide solar science community,” Joe Gurman, a SOHO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a prepared statement. “In the last 10 years, SOHO has revolutionized our ideas about the solar interior and atmosphere and the acceleration of the solar wind.”

PanAmSat, CNBC Pakistan Ink Transponder Contract

Satellite operator PanAmSat Corp. of Wilton, Conn., has signed a multi year, multi transponder agreement to deliver content for CNBC Pakistan, a newly created news network, PanAmSat announced Nov. 29 .

The terms of the contract, such as dollar value and performance period, were not disclosed . PanAmSat will use its PAS-10, PAS-7 and PAS-12 satellites to distribute CNBC Pakistan’s content, according to the press release .

The news network will be owned and operated by the Pakistani company Vision Network Television Ltd. It is supported by NBC/Universal’s CNBC and will have access to CNBC’s full programming network, according to the release.

EMS Completes Sale of Space & Technology Unit

EMS Technologies has completed the sale of its Montreal-based Space & Technology division to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. of Richmond, British Columbia, EMS announced Nov. 29.

Atlanta-based EMS announced Oct. 31 that it had reached an agreement to sell the division. The Nov. 29 press release said the final terms of the sale would not be disclosed, but EMS Chief Financial Officer Don Scartz said in a previous interview that EMS will reap $21.3 million from the deal .

In a related transaction, Com Dev of Cambridge, Ontario, will purchase a unit of the former EMS Space & Technology division from its new owner. Com Dev announced Nov. 23 it will purchase the division’s Ottawa-based Space Science and Optical Instruments operation, as well as its search and rescue product line, from MacDonald Dettwiler for 5 million Canadian dollars ($4. 3 million).

Newly Created Fund Tracks Space and Defense Stocks

Powershares Capital Management of Wheaton, Ill., has created an exchange-traded fund (ETF) focused on the space and defense industry that will be traded on the American Stock Exchange.

The new ETF, which will trade under the ticker symbol PPA, for Powershares Aerospace and Defense Portfolio, will track the performance of the SPADE Defense Index. The SPADE Index consists of publicly traded companies and benchmarks the performance of those companies tied to defense, space and homeland security.

The index is up 4 percent this year to date, according to a Nov. 28 SPADE Index press release.

Rover Finds Obstacles to Life on the Red Planet

Geological data collected by NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars indicates that a history of harsh environmental conditions would have posed many challenges for the origination of any life on the red planet , NASA announced Nov. 29.

According to nine research papers appearing in the Nov. 30 issue of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, rover data shows that conditions in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars were sometimes wet, strongly acidic and oxidizing, posing many threats to any life in the area.

With Opportunity’s help, scientists analyzed sedimentary rock layers about 7 meters thick inside Mars’ Endurance Crater that formed some 3.5 billion to 4 billion years ago. The researchers studied how acidic water moved through the layers after they were in place and altered the composition of the rocks.

While researchers do not believe chemical reactions that have occurred in the Meridiani region could have spurred life , some cautioned that conditions might be different in other regions . “We’ve looked at only a very small parcel of martian real estate. The geological record Opportunity has examined comes from a relatively short period out of Mars’ long history,” Andrew Knoll, a paper co-author from Harvard University, said in a prepared statement.

ViaSat Inc. Agrees To Buy Satellite Broadband Firm

ViaSat Inc. has reached an agreement to acquire Efficient Channel Coding Inc. (ECC), a Brooklyn Heights, Ohio-based manufacturer of broadband and satellite communications systems for an initial cash price of $16.5 million, ViaSat announced Nov. 21.

Through the acquisition, ViaSat of Carlsbad, Calif., will be able to supply computer chips for broadband communications via the Thaicom 4/i PSTAR satellite system operated by Shin Satellite plc of Thailand . It also will acquire ECC’s DVB-RCS S2 technology, which enhances the efficiency of satellite transponders by up to 30 percent , ViaSat said in the news release.

Under terms of the agreement, ViaSat will assume certain stock options at a value to be determined at closing and could pay an additional sum of up to $9 million in cash or stock depending on whether ECC meets certain financial performance targets over the next two years.

Boston Micromachines Nabs Space Mirror Award

Boston Micromachines Corp. received a Phase 2 contract from NASA to develop a deformable mirror for space-based high-resolution astronomical imaging systems, the company announced Nov. 28.

The $600,000 contract comes from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program and follows a Phase 1 contract under which Micromachines successfully developed a model to demonstrate the viability of the concept.

The mirror will be manufactured using single-crystal silicon for its structural components. The mirror could eventually be used on future NASA spacecraft to study and detect planets in other solar systems, according to the news release.

Northrop Gift Aimed at Future Space Explorers

Northrop Grumman has donated $10,000 to the Astronauts Memorial Foundation to support the foundation’s educational activities, complementing nearly $2,500 worth of computer equipment donated by the company earlier this year, Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman announced Nov. 29.

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation, based at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, works to enhance science and technology education to encourage young people to pursue careers related to space exploration.

“Northrop Grumman salutes the bravery and spirit of discovery that inspired the nation’s astronaut heroes to push the boundaries of technology and human endurance in their quest to open space frontiers,” Scott Seymour, president of Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector, said in a prepared statement.

CH2M Wins NASA Contract For Environmental Support

NASA has selected CH2M Hill Inc. of Montgomery, Ala., to provide the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and other government facilities with support for environmental engineering services that include studies, permit applications and compliance activities, NASA announced Nov. 30.

The contract has a two-year base period that begins in December and three one-year options . It has a minimum order quantity value of $20,000 and a maximum of $25 million, if all options are exercised. The contract extends the environmental services that CH2M has been providing to NASA for the past five years.

Tech Support Firm Earns Perfect Score from NASA

ARES Corp. earned a perfect score from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in a recent evaluation of technical support work the company performs under its international space station (ISS) Program Integration and Control Contract, the company announced Nov. 29. The period of evaluation was April through September 2005.

ARES of Houston and subcontractors Booz Allen Hamilton and Spaceh ab Government Services were commended by NASA for their performance supporting the ISS Program Office in a variety of areas, including business management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. NASA’s contract award-fee evaluation praised ARES and its team for providing outstanding customer support while coming in 5 percent under budget.

ARES won the ISS Program Integration and Control contract in late 2003. The contract is expected to be worth as much as $120 million over its term of four years and nine months. Two one-year extensions could bring the total contract value to $178 million.

ARES was Johnson Space Center’s Small Contractor of the Year in 2004.