EchoStar, Ergen Become Loral’s 3rd Largest Investor

Satellite-builder Space Systems/Loral has always maintained it is lucky to have a satellite-fleet operator — namely, Loral Skynet — among its owners. Now it has a second operator among its owners.

Direct-broadcast satellite television provider EchoStar Communications and its chairman and major shareholder, Charlie Ergen, have collectively become Loral Space and Communications’ third-largest individual shareholder, with a 7-percent stake in the company, according to EchoStar and Loral submissions to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. EchoStar and Ergen each held Loral bonds, which converted to stock following Loral’s exit from bankruptcy and its listing on the Nasdaq exchange.

The EchoStar/Ergen ownership is exceeded only by MHR Fund Management LLC, with a 35.9-percent stake; and MacKay Shields LLC, a New York investment company, with a 7.5-percent share.

NASA Updates Policy on Interviews With Media

NASA rolled out a new public affairs policy March 30 designed to ensure open communications between its employees, scientists and the public. The eight-page policy, the first update since 1991, is meant to clarify the agency’s commitment to scientific and technical openness.

NASA decided to update its public affairs policy after the New York Times reported earlier this year that political appointees in the agency’s press office attempted to muzzle climatologist James Hansen, who heads the Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York City.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said during an all hands meeting broadcast on NASA Television March 30 that employees are free to grant interviews without a member of the agency’s public affairs staff present. But he stressed the importance of coordination with public affairs because of the risk of being misquoted or blind-sided by reporters.

“It’s not an absolute requirement ” to have public affairs staff present during interviews, Griffin said. “I would just do what you want, but my advice would be that if you’re not a media professional, stepping into an interview without a media professional present is courting trouble. I won’t do it.”

African Civil Aviation Network To Use Intelsat

Intelsat of Bermuda has signed a long-term, multimillion-dollar deal with the Agency for the Safety of Aerial Navigation in Africa and Madagascar to provide satellite capacity for Africa’s civil aviation network, Intelsat announced in a March 29 press release.

The company is not releasing specifics on the duration or dollar amount of the contract, Intelsat spokeswoman Jodie Katz said March 29.

The African air-navigation agency currently provides services in 17 member countries. The capacity on Intelsat’s 10-02 satellite will be used to transmit position-location, weather, technical and air-traffic information between aircraft and airports , the release said.

The added capacity also will help the African agency to connect with other air safety and navigation organizations, the release said.

Exec Still Sees HDTV as Driver of Satellite Demand

High-definition television (HDTV) broadcasts will require three times the bandwidth of conventional digital television transmissions even with state-of-the-art compression technology, the chief commercial officer of satellite-fleet operator SES Astra of Luxembourg said.

Alexander Oudendijk said only two or three HDTV channels will fit on today’s typical satellite transponder, compared to between eight and 12 standard-definition channels. In the coming years, new compression techniques may allow five HDTV channels to share the same transponder, Oudendijk said in a March 27 presentation prepared for the 2nd IPTV Conference in London.

SES Astra, a subsidiary of SES Global, expects to carry about 20 HDTV channels by the end of 2006 for European broadcasters including Britain’s BBC and BSkyB, Canal+ of France and Germany’s Pro7 and Premiere networks.

Satellite operators view HDTV introduction in North America, Europe and Asia as a driver of revenue growth in the coming years. Another potential growth market is providing satellite links to telecommunications operators moving to offer Internet television, or IPTV, to their customers.

Oudendijk said telecommunications companies will be forced to begin offering IPTV to prevent their current customer bases from being raided by competitive DSL or cable providers. “For telcos, IPTV is a subset of the broadband access market,” Oudendijk said.

U.S. Okays SES Global Purchase of New Skies

SES Global’s purchase of New Skies Satellites became effective March 30 following final U.S. government approval of the $1.15 billion deal and the suspension of New Skies share trading on the New York Stock Exchange as of March 29, Luxembourg-based SES Global announced March 30.

New Skies, based in The Hague, Netherlands, operates five telecommunications satellites and has a sixth on order. Of its current business, 41 percent comes from North America, with 24 percent from India, the Middle East and Africa. New Skies’ access to the largely closed Indian direct-broadcast television market, as well as the company’s hefty order book with the U.S. government, were key selling points in the SES Global purchase.

New Skies management in December selected SES Global’s offer over a competing bid by Loral Space and Communications. SES Global Chairman Romain Bausch said in a March 30 statement that the acquisition “will be accretive to earnings in 2006.”

SES Global will integrate New Skies into the company as a third operating division after SES Astra in Europe and SES Americom in the United States, with New Skies concentrating on the Middle East and South Asia.

Finmeccanica Space Sales Dip 5 Percent in 2005

Italy’s Finmeccanica reported that revenues from its space business — a 33-percent ownership stake in Alcatel Alenia Space and 67 percent of Telespazio — dropped by 5 percent in 2005, to 736 million euros ($886 million).

Presenting its 2005 financial results March 28, Finmeccanica said backlog at the space business dropped by 18 percent, to 1.15 billion euros.

Satellite services managed by Telespazio accounted for 41 percent of backlog. Satellite manufacturing at Alcatel Alenia Space accounted for 43 percent of backlog, with the rest being orders for orbital infrastructure and related equipment.

New orders booked in 2005 were down 57 percent from 2004, to 451 million euros. But the company said the 2004 figures were distorted by the 585 million-euro contract for Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed radar satellite constellation booked that year.

Finmeccanica and Alcatel report space-related earnings in proportion to their respective ownership stakes in Alcatel Alenia Space and Telespazio.

Pascale Sourisse, president of Alcatel Alenia Space, has said the company’s 2005 sales totaled 1.5 billion euros, a decline from 2004. But Sourisse said accounting methods that came with the July 1, 2005, merger of the Alcatel and Finmeccanica space divisions make it difficult to compare 2004 and 2005 results.

Finmeccanica did not separate the Telespazio and Alcatel Alenia Space figures. The company said combined space-division earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) were 26 million euros, a 13-percent increase over 2004. The space business posted an EBIT margin of 3.5 percent in 2005, compared to 3 percent in 2004, Finmeccanica said.

Finmeccanica said its space division had 3,194 employees at the end of 2005, a 2-percent decrease compared to 2004.

Lockheed Martin To Design Aeroshell for Mars Rover

Lockheed Martin will design a blunt-nosed shield to protect NASA’s 2009 Mars Science Laboratory rover from intense heat during its entry into the martian atmosphere under a contract with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the company announced.

The value of the contract is being negotiated, Lockheed Martin said. With a diameter of 4.5 meters, the aeroshell will be the largest ablative heat shield ever built, the company said.

SpaceDev Wins AFRL Nanosatellite Contract

SpaceDev of Poway, Calif., landed a $1.25 million contract with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate to design a nanosatellite that would keep tabs on a host satellite’s surroundings, the company said in a March 29 press release.

The Autonomous NanoSatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space (ANGELS) is expected to be ready for flight experimentation by early 2009, the release said. The contract covers preliminary design only, but includes an option to extend the process further, the release said.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin won similar contracts worth $1.5 million and $815,000, respectively, according to announcements on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

Australian University Test Flies Scramjet

An experiment in harnessing scramjet technology for possible use in future space transportation systems was flown March 25 by the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

The March 25 test shot was part of the HyShot program intended to gather extensive scramjet pressure and temperature measurements.

Supersonic combustion ramjets — called scramjets — are being touted as the next generation of rocket travel, a technology that could lower the cost of hurling satellites into orbit or to permit point-to-point passenger travel around the planet.

Scramjets inhale oxygen from the atmosphere to burn their fuel, rather than carrying oxidizers in their tanks.

The HyShot flight departed a launch site in Woomera, some 500 kilometers north of Adelaide, and flew a 10-minute trajectory. The scramjet was attached to a Terrier-Orion rocket combination with the scramjet payload mounted atop the second stage of the rocket configuration.

The University of Queensland’s Center for Hypersonics is studying the speed regime of Mach 5 and above, and has been developing scramjets for the past 25 years with funding help from Australian, United States, Japanese and German sources.

Researchers now are analyzing data from the latest test, focused on the last six seconds of flight prior to impact when the scramjet may have reached Mach 8 — eight times the speed of sound, or nearly 8,000 kilometers per hour. That is about 10 times faster than a conventional jet.

The HyShot experiment used a scramjet engine developed by QinetiQ of Farnborough, United Kingdom.

The flight experiment was conducted under an arrangement between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the University of Queensland. JAXA has donated $2 million in advanced launcher hardware to the university to help further the peaceful applications of scramjet technology.

HyShot program leader, Allan Paull, said in a statement that another scramjet experiment is slated for a March 29 liftoff.

“We have one launch down and one to go,” Paull said. “We have a job to finish.”

Measat Orders Rocket From Land Launch Firm

Malaysian satellite operator Measat Global will launch its Measat 1R telecommunications satellite aboard a Land Launch vehicle provided by Sea Launch LLC under a $44.225 million contract negotiated through PanAmSat Corp., Measat announced.

In a submission to the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange, Measat said it will use an existing Land Launch option held by PanAmSat for a launch in the fourth quarter of 2007. Measat 1R, under construction by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., will replace the Measat 1 satellite and expand Measat’s coverage.

The launch will occur between November 2007 and January 2008 from Land Launch’s facility at the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Measat has a larger satellite, Measat 3, being built by Boeing Satellite Systems International of El Segundo, Calif. That satellite is scheduled for launch by an International Launch Services Proton rocket late this year.

ATK Joins Boeing-IAI Team For Missile Defense Program

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of Edina, Minn., has joined the Boeing Co.-Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) team competing to build Israel’s planned Short Range Missile Defense system, Boeing of Chicago announced March 27.

ATK would manufacture rocket-motor components for the interceptor system, Boeing said.

Boeing and IAI co-produce the Arrow 2 interceptor, which is part of the Arrow missile defense system for Israel that was jointly developed by the United States and Israel. Currently, ATK provides Boeing with rocket-motor components for the Arrow 2, which is designed to protect against longer-range missiles.

The Israeli Missile Defense Organization will select an Israeli-U.S. team for the risk-reduction phase of the Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense program later this spring. Full-scale development on the project will follow as a cooperative initiative between Israel and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, according to Boeing press release. The program is contingent on U.S. funding.

Also competing for the contract is a team of Israel’s Rafael an d Raytheon of the United States.

Ball Aerospace Corp. Opens Detector Technology Center

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. has opened its new Detector Technology Center at the company’s Colorado facilities, where it will double production of focal planes and other optical assemblies for space-based imaging applications, the company announced March 24.

These space-based detectors are extremely sensitive and can image objects up to a billion times fainter than that which can be seen by the naked eye, according to the release. Similar detectors currently are on the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The new center is part of a multiyear, $65 million capital expansion of Ball’s Colorado facilities. The expansion also includes the nearly completed Universal Collimator Assembly building, which will facilitate vacuum testing for large aperture telescopes and optical systems.

NASA Education Program Recognized for Innovation

NASA’s Explorer Schools program has been selected as one of the Top 50 Government Innovations for 2006 by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation, NASA announced March 27. The program, now in its fourth year, establishes three-year partnerships between the agency and school teams to improve teaching and learning in science, math and technology.

New Model Explains How Oxygen Forms on Icy Worlds

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., have developed a new model explaining how oxygen may form on icy worlds in the absence of sufficient heat, according to a March 27 Pacific Northwest news release.

Planetary scientists have struggled to determine how oxygen forms on such moons as Jupiter’s Europa without the necessary heat to produce oxygen from the permafrost surfaces. The standard explanation is that high-energy particles from space break the molecular bonds that link oxygen to hydrogen, but researchers at Pacific Northwest say it is not that simple.

Researchers there grew a microscopically thin ice film on a platinum surface under a vacuum, then bombarded it with high-energy electrons. The bursts lasted 30 to 60 seconds at temperatures comparable to that on the surface of icy moons — about 30 to 130 degrees Kelvin. The scientists then measured the oxygen isotopes, and found that intermediate hydrogen-oxygen molecules existed in the film.

“We found that [the standard explanation] could not account for our results,” Greg Kimmel, a scientist at Pacific Northwest, said in the news release. Kimmel said that oxygen generation likely is a more complex, four-step process.

First, energetic particles produce a “reactive oxygen species” called hydroxyl radical. Then, two hydroxyl radicals react to produce hydrogen peroxide. Next, another hydroxyl radical reacts with the hydrogen peroxide to form a molecule consisting of a hydrogen atom coupled with two oxygen atoms (HO2) plus a water molecule. And lastly, the energetic particles split an oxygen molecule away from the HO2.

Hill Promoted, Added to Boeing Executive Council

Shephard W. Hill will become Boeing’s first senior vice president for business development and strategy. In his new job, Hill will analyze and develop plans to drive the company’s growth, including mergers and acquisition, as well as joint ventures and equity investments. He will report to Boeing chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney and also join the company’s executive council.

Hill joined Boeing when the company bought Rockwell’s Aerospace and Defense business in 1996. He was Rockwell’s vice president for aerospace government affairs and marketing. Before that, Hill was chief of staff and legislative director for Rep. Bill Chappell, a Florida Democrat, from 1980 to 1987.

Christopher Raymond replaces Hill as vice president, Air Force business development, at Boeing Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). Raymond, who was vice president, business development for Air Force Systems, will report to IDS Chief Executive Officer Jim Albaugh and be responsible for development, integration and implementation of customer and business strategies.

XCOR Completes Testing of Fireproof Tank Material

XCOR Aerospace has completed testing of a new type of composite material for liquid-oxygen tanks that someday could replace metal-lined composites like the one used today on NASA’s space shuttle, the company said.

The tests, conducted at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, N.M., demonstrated that the material is nonflammable in a 100-percent oxygen environment, the company said.

XCOR has been working on the thermoplastic flouropolymer composite since 2004, and development is continuing under a contract from NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate awarded in April 2005 that is worth $1 million the first year and up to $7 million if all options are exercised . The material offers all the advantages of conventional composites, but incorporates a new fiber to make it nonflammable, eliminating the need of a metal lining for tank applications, Rich Pournelle, XCOR’s director of business development, said in a telephone interview March 29.

A composite consists of a resin , or plastic, with fiber added to prevent stretching or breaking. Composites are used for liquid-oxygen tanks because they are much lighter than metals, but they are flammable and thus need metal liners to prevent any chance of ignition, Pournelle said.

In addition to adding weight to the tank, the metal liner shrinks at a different rate than the composite material when exposed to cold temperatures. When tanks are filled with liquid oxygen, the composite and liner can separate, and so an extra support structure must be added to compensate, Pournelle said.

XCOR’s thermoplastic flouropolymer composite is infused with a Teflon-based fiber that makes it nonflammable and eliminates the need for the metal lining.

In addition, “This material we developed has a low coefficient for thermal expansion, which means when it’s cold, it doesn’t shrink all that much so there’s no microcracking,” Pournelle said.

XCOR currently has cylinders of the new composite material, and the company will soon be ready to incorporate it into future space vehicle designs, Pournelle added. He said it eventually could be incorporated into NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle program.

Undersea Laboratory To Serve as Lunar Test Bed

NASA will send a crew of three astronauts and a doctor to the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory in the Florida Keys to test a variety of space-medicine concepts and practice Moon- walking techniques, the space agency announced March 28.

In one space medicine experiment, doctors located thousands of kilometers away will remotely control robotic instruments to perform surgeries on a simulated patient aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s underwater lab. NASA hopes these procedures might one day be used to respond to medical emergencies on the international space station, the Moon or beyond.

NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations project also will feature undersea “Moon walks” to evaluate concepts for future lunar missions. Among the tasks to be performed during these simulated Moon walks is building an underwater structure with a remotely operated vehicle, similar to what astronauts might do on the lunar surface.

A mission control center will be established at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston during the project, which also will simulate challenges such as a two-second communications delay between the Earth and Moon.

Canadian astronaut Dave Williams will lead the project April 3-20. He will be joined by NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Ron Garan, as well as Dr. Tim Broderick, of the University of Cincinnati.

U.S. Government Extends Contract With Globecomm

Satellite communications solutions provider Globecomm Systems Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y., has received a $3.8 million extension on a contract with an unidentified U.S. government customer, the company said.

The original contract was announced as a $7 million deal in December 2005. The contract extension requires Globecomm to provide satellite infrastructure at multiple locations and will take approximately one year to fulfill , according to a March 28 press release from Globecomm.

Globecomm is not permitted to specify its government customer , said Fred Dugourd, the company’s marketing manager . The company hopes to receive a multi year contract next quarter for operating and maintaining the equipment, the release said.

Aerospace Corp. Wins NASA Support Contract

The Aerospace Corp. of El Segundo, Calif., will provide independent assessment of NASA spaceflight operations, systems and processes under a five-year contract valued at $9.4 million, NASA announced March 28.

The work will be carried out at the company’s facilities and at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Aerospace Corp., which operates a federally funded research and development center that supports U.S. Air Force space programs, will remain independent from government groups and contractors associated with the programs it will evaluate under the NASA contract.

JCPenney Taps Helius for Satellite-Based Network

Helius Inc. of Lindon, Utah, will facilitate corporate training via satellite for more than 150,000 employees of Frisco, Texas-based JCPenney, Helius announced in a March 27 press release.

Helius will provide JCPenney with a router and solutions package so the retail chain can develop its training programs at a central location and distribute them to 1,019 locations via satellite, the release said.

JCPenney formerly used a DVD- and CD-based training delivery model, the release said.

Helius could not disclose the dollar amount of the contract by press time, according to Jackie Blum of the Snapp Norris Group, which does public relations for Helius.

U.S. Military Approves Boeing Rescue Device

A Boeing-designed personal communications and locator device equipped with a GPS receiver and compatible with existing search-and-rescue systems has been approved for use by U.S. military forces in Iraq , Boeing Co. of Chicago announced March 28.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Persian Gulf region, approved the Boeing Combat Survivor Evader Locator (CSEL) communications system after testing it in search-and-rescue operations to help locate missing or isolated personnel.

The system provides secure digital-message communications and works with a network of 14 fixed and six portable search-and-rescue centers around the globe, according to the release.

“The radio supports all legacy international and maritime rescue beacon waveforms. Thus a survivor downed in friendly territory, or under no immediate threat of capture by the enemy, can use the standard radio beacons to elicit help from other agencies such as the Coast Guard,” Mike Bates, Boeing’s CSEL program manger in Anaheim, Calif., said in a company press release.

JWST Team Recognized for Mirror Testing Technique

A Northrop Grumman-NASA team received an Exceptional Achievement Award from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for developing a new method for testing the primary mirror optics on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) , according to a March 28 news release issued by prime contractor Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif.

The new method significantly cuts the time and costs associated with the traditional mirror-testing approach, which required the primary mirror to be suspended face down in a thermal vacuum chamber from a complex metal tower weighing nearly 272,000 kilograms. The new approach puts the primary mirror in a face up position atop a cushioned support structure on the chamber floor, eliminating the time and cost of building a tower.

“The new approach saved over $100 million to the JWST program,” Lee Feinberg, the telescope’s program manger at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in the news release.

Honeywell Tests Generator For Future Space Vehicles

Honeywell Aerospace of Phoenix has successfully completed tests on a new electric power-generation system designed to power thrust vectoring and flight-control actuation during liftoff and re-entry of future NASA vehicles, the company announced March 29.

The system, called the Turbine Power Unit (TPU), will be reusable and require no between-flight maintenance, according to a company news release. The turbine uses nontoxic hydrogen and oxygen fuels and can generate peak electrical power levels of 140 kilowatts and continuous power levels of 80 kilowatts within one second of startup.

“Honeywell has designed this TPU in response to the requests for a safe, low-cost electric power generation system for launch vehicle applications by NASA and Lockheed Martin,” said Mike Koerner, Turbine Power Unit Program Manager for Honeywell Aerospace’s Advanced Technology Group.

Testing of the system was conducted at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland in association with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, which hopes to build new exploration vehicles for the space agency.

European Space Agency Tests ATV-Space Station Link

A communications link between the international space station and Europe’s future Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) unmanned cargo carrier has been successfully simulated, with ground stations in Spain playing the role of the ATV, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced March 27.

In three passes over the Spanish stations, the station was tilted 90 degrees so that its ATV communications antennas, installed on the Russian Zvezda module, were pointing directly toward Earth. In normal ATV operations the antennas would be looking laterally at the approaching ATV.

The gear being tested, called the Proximity Communications Equipment (PCE), is a 55-kilogram box that has been at the station for more than a year. Once hooked up — it takes an astronaut a full day to do the job — the PCE hardware transmits and receives ATV location data through two antennas on the station’s exterior. It is designed to track the ATV at a distance of 100 kilometers from the station, and as close as 30 meters.

An initial test in June 2005 left questions about the PCE’s performance. The most recent test, conducted in early March, settled those issues, providing a total of 40 minutes of communications during the three overflights. A third test is being planned in 2007 to validate a software upgrade, ESA said. Tilting the station to permit the communications link used about 40 kilograms of fuel.

ESA’s 20,000-kilogram ATV is scheduled to make its first flight to the station in May 2007. It is designed to approach the station, back off automatically if there is a problem, dock with the complex for up to six months and deliver fuel, water and other supplies. It also is able to raise the station’s orbit as needed.

NASA Extends Contracts For CEV Until Late August

The Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman-Boeing teams competing to build NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) have had their Phase 1 design contracts extended by five months, to Aug. 31, the U.S. space agency announced March 27.

The estimated value of each contract is approximately $60 million including extension options. The most recent extension, from late March to Aug. 31, is valued at $17.5 million for each contractor. Each contract also has another pair of two-month extension options worth about $7 million apiece , which if exercised could extend Phase 1 work as far as December.

Despite these extension options, NASA expects to select a single contractor to build the space shuttle replacement by August, according to the news release . The space shuttle is slated for retirement in 2010.

The Crew Exploration Vehicle is expected to carry up to six astronauts to and from the international space station by 2014 and ferry a crew to and from the Moon by 2018.

Andrews Wins More Funding For Rocket Oxidizer System

Andrews Space Inc. will demonstrate its already-developed Alchemist Air Collection and Enrichment System — which is intended to allow future launch vehicles to take off and land horizontally — under a contract worth $350,000 from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Air Force Research Laboratory, Andrews announced March 27.

The in-flight propellant-generation system could lead to a future alternative for deploying satellites and for global strike missions. Andrews was awarded a contract valued at $653,000 last year to conduct system testing on the Alchemist and demonstrate basic system technologies.

“Development and demonstration of these technologies offers a new hybrid approach to rocket propulsion, which can significantly reduce takeoff gross weight and offers interesting new capabilities for the nation’s national security and space exploration programs,” Michael Wolfert, a retired Air Force colonel and Andrews’ director of military and homeland security programs, said in the news release.

Satellite Services Drive British Space Economy

Britain’s space-hardware industry rep orted a modest increase in sales but no increase in employment in the latest survey of the sector performed for the British National Space Centre (BNSC).

The third biennial survey, covering the years 2004 and 2005, shows robust growth in Britain’s downstream space sector, mainly related to sales of satellite television programming and other telecommunications services.

Total space-related sales for 2004 and 2005 were 4.8 billion British pounds ($8.4 billion), a 17-percent increase over the previous period. It was this headline figure that was cited by Britain’s space minister, Lord Sainsbury, in a March 23 statement.

“This is very positive news for our space industry,” Lord Sainsbury said of the overall figures. “This survey highlights the important role our industry plays — at the forefront of some of the most exciting and significant space missions and programmes.”

But stripping away the success of Britain’s BSkyB satellite-television service and satellite telecommunications services to corporate customers leaves a less rosy picture of Britain’s upstream sector, the companies that build satellite hardware and ground installations for space programs.

Sales among these companies were 725 million pounds for the two years under study, an increase of 4 percent over the previous period. Employment among these companies — including satellite builders, component makers and antenna manufacturers — decreased slightly, to 5,600 people.

EADS Astrium U.K., the British branch of one of Europe’s two main satellite prime contractors, by itself accounts for 2,300 of these employees at its Stevenage, Portsmouth and Poynton facilities.

The study says companies complained that they are having trouble finding recruits with the engineering and physics qualifications they need.

In-house research and development spending among the hardware manufacturers was 2.5 percent of sales, and 14 percent when externally funded research and development is included, the study says.

Raytheon, Lockheed Martin Nab Ocean Survey Contracts

Raytheon Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. will develop conceptual designs, cost estimates and viability analyses for an Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) under six-month competitive contracts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), both companies announced in news releases.

The IOOS — a network of buoys, ships, satellites, underwater vehicles and other platforms that collect data on Earth’s oceans — will provide NOAA with information to better predict climate change and weather, mitigate natural hazards, oversee costal resources and assist in homeland security. It is the U.S. contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems, a project to better understand how the Earth works and improve the environment. Over 60 countries agreed to participate in the 10-year project at the third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels in 2005.

Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., along with the Southeastern University Research Association, Itri Corp. and Metier Ltd., began work on the contract March 1, according to a March 27 company news release.

Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems unit in Aurora, Colo., also began work in March, with additional work being performed at the company’s facilities in Pasadena, Calif., and Reston, Va.

Ex-Raytheon Chief Exec Settles Charges With SEC

Daniel Burnham, who served as Raytheon Co.’s chief executive officer from December 1998 to July 2003, has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum and return part of an $1.8 million bonus he received in 2000 in a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over accounting irregularities, according to a March 27 SEC filing by First Data Corp., where Burnham currently serves as a board member.

Burnham was charged in 2003 with improper disclosure and accounting in 2000 and 2001 in relation to a line of aircraft manufactured by a Raytheon subsidiary. Raytheon is based in Marlborough, Mass.

WildBlue Promo Offers Free Installation Until May 15

WildBlue Communications Inc. of Denver is offering free equipment installation for customers who sign up for its high-speed satellite Internet service between April 1 and May 15, the company announced March 27. The installation fee normally runs at $179.95. The equipment fee still stands at $299.

NASA, Honeywell Win Award For Education Program

NASA and Honeywell’s Hometown Solutions unit were recognized at the Promotional Marketing Association’s 2006 Reggie Awards for their joint education effort FMA Live!, which educates middle-school students on Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion and universal gravity laws, NASA announced March 20.

The education initiative was recognized as the top community outreach program in the United States. FMA Live!, named after Newton’s second law of motion that force equals mass times acceleration, is made up of three professional actors who travel from school to school and provide interactive demonstrations to educate students on Newton’s laws firsthand.

FMA Live! has traveled to 153 schools in 32 states since it was created in 2004.

Canadian Military Orders Enhanced Inmarsat Service

Stratos Global, a distributor of Inmarsat satellite capacity, will provide its Enhanced Leasing Service to Canada’s army and navy fleet under a contract worth 25 million Canadian dollars ($21.4 million), Inmarsat of London announced March 17.

The Enhanced Leasing Service offers twice the available bandwidth compared to a standard leasing channel, Inmarsat said.

Under the three-year award with Canada’s Department of National Defence, Stratos will deliver Inmarsat satellite capacity to Canada’s military to support voice, data, fax and e-mail communications services. The contract also includes two one-year extension options.

Aerojet To Design ICBM Post-Boost Propulsion

Aerojet-General Corp. will study , develop and demonstrate post-boost propulsion concepts for the U.S. Air Force’s Minuteman intercontinental missiles under option No. 1 of a Phase 2 contract valued at $11.4 million, according to a March 27 Air Force announcement.

The Air Force already has obligated nearly $3.5 million to the project, which Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., is set to complete in June 2008.

Telenor Signs Contracts With BP, Al Harbi Telecom

Telenor Satellite Services, a subsidiary of Telenor of Norway, will provide broadband communications services to British Petroleum (BP) and Al Harbi Telecom in Saudi Arabia under separate contracts, the company announced March 28.

Under the three-year agreement with BP, Telenor will provide broadband communications services and very small aperture terminals to BP’s land-based production facilities and tanker fleet. Telenor is slated to equip about 20 BP vessels and several offshore rigs with broadband capabilities by the end of the year, with the potential to outfit nearly all of the oil producer’s 80 deep-sea vessels over the duration of the agreement.

The agreement is part of BP’s modernization and fleet-expansion program. Telenor’s very small aperture terminals provide speeds of up to about 2 megabits per second.

Telenor also will provide IP satellite services to Al Harbi Telecom, a telecommunications company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Under the agreement, Telenor will deliver 300 megabits per second of IP backbone services via satellite to Saudi Arabia, and also provide Earth station services from its teleport facilities in central London. Telenor also will provide Al Harbi with 140 megahertz of satellite capacity the company is leasing on the Intelsat 10-02 satellite.

Telenor has been providing Al Harbi with IP satellite services to its markets throughout the Middle East for four years.

Financial details of both agreements were not disclosed.

XM Satellite Radio Adds Music, Talk Channels

XM Satellite Radio of Washington will expand its channel lineup this year to over 170 stations, adding 10 commercial-free music channels as well as seven regional news and talk channels this spring and summer, the company announced March 27.

Among the new additions are the Oprah & Friends channel, which will debut in September. XM Satellite Radio has more than 6 million subscribers and expects to have nearly 9 million subscribers by the end of 2006.

Scientists Study Nuts and Bolts of Shuttle Launches

A team of researchers is studying the timing of NASA space shuttle launches in hopes of improving flight performance.

Scientists with NASA and the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif., are studying how slight differences in timing during the release of an orbiter’s solid rocket booster moorings affect the shuttle’s launch.

Before launch, a shuttle’s two solid rocket boosters are moored to the Mobile Launch Platform with eight studs. Nuts securing the studs to the boosters are severed explosively almost simultaneously — but tiny timing differences can result in a booster rubbing against a stud and add to the already massive load of the shuttle’s launch stack, researchers said.

“We’re looking at times from one-half of a millisecond to 100 microseconds,” Don Shockey, director of the Stanford Research Institute’s Center for Fracture Physics, said. There are 1,000 microseconds in one millisecond. “We’re trying to determine the root cause.”

Shockey said the study will be complete in a few months .

There have been 23 stud hang-ups out of the 114 shuttle launches to date, Shockey added.

Jacobs Engineering To Support White Sands

Jacobs Engineering Group of Pasadena, Calif., will provide test and evaluation services at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M., under a contract that could be worth up to $271 million if all options are exercised, Jacobs announced March 28.

The contract has a three-year base period beginning in May 2006 with two one-year extension options. Jacobs will provide support with rocket-propulsion testing, materials and components testing, and maintenance and repair of test systems.

Jacobs, along with subcontractors Muniz Engineering, GeoControl Systems and ERC Inc., currently provide engineering support services at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston under a contract worth $1.15 billion. The company also provides services at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

QinetiQ Airborne Antenna Captures Images from UAVs

QinetiQ of Hampshire, England, has developed a lightweight antenna that can be mounted on a helicopter or other aircraft to receive images directly from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the company announced March 28. This system is especially useful for tracking enemy forces without risking personnel on reconnaissance missions.

The new antenna features a combination of high gain and wide beamwidth to receive images directly from a Boeing ScanEagle UAV, whose transmitters generally emit weak signals, according to the release. Normally high-gain and wide-beamwidth functions are considered mutually exclusive because high gain is achieved by narrowing and lowering the radiated beam, but QinetiQ was able to develop a balance based on the company’s designs for a smart commercial antenna, according to the news release.

In recent testing at the British Ministry of Defence’s Hebrides range, which QinetiQ operates, the antenna was mounted on a helicopter and received images from a Boeing ScanEagle UAV at “operationally useful ranges,” according to the news release. The technology was developed for the Ministry of Defence under a contract worth 3 million British pounds ($5.2 million).

Integral Systems Awarded Advanced EHF Control Work

Integral Systems of Lanham, Md., will modify a system to control the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) communications satellites under a contract worth approximately $21.5 million, according to a March 27 Air Force announcement.

Integral Systems will modify the Command and Control System-Consolidated program to operate the first through third Advanced EHF satellites . The system is used to control the Air Force’s Defense Satellite Communication System, Milstar and planned Wideband Gapfiller communications satellites.

So far, the Air Force has obligated about $3.9 million to the effort, which is set to be completed by June 2010, according to the announcement. The Air Force’s Space Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles awarded the contract.

Two Veteran Brokers Leave Aon for Willis

Two veteran space-insurance brokers have left Aon Explorer to join rival Willis Group in a move that could heighten the competition among the top brokerage houses in the specialized field of crafting insurance policies for satellite owners.

Philippe Montpert and Xavier Lacombe have left Aon’s French branch to create a Willis branch in France specializing in space insurance. Willis has existing offices in Britain, Malaysia, Spain and the United States.

Aon Explorer’s predecessor, Aon Space, was created in the mid-1990s following the Chicago-based insurer’s decision to enter what was then a fast-growing field. Aon subsequently joined market leader Marsh and International Space Brokers, as well as Willis, as one of the most active brokerages in the space business.

Montpert declined in an interview to say why he and Lacombe left Aon for Willis beyond saying that Willis is offering “a better chance of developing the business worldwide. Willis has been No. 3 behind Marsh and Aon, and it wants to grow the business, particularly in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.”

Montpert said Willis’ current customer base includes satellite operators Loral Skynet, XTAR, DirecTV Group and Sirius Satellite Radio in the United States; Measat in Malaysia; Space Communications Corp. and Broadcast Satellite System Corp. in Japan; and HellasSat of Greece. He said Willis and Aon both act as brokers for Hispasat and Hisdesat of Spain.

Aon spokeswoman Caroline Faure said Aon intends to maintain its presence in the space-insurance business.