Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 22 May 2006
11:46 am ET


DSP Launch On Heavy-Lift Delta 4 Delayed to 2007

The first operational launch of the heavy-lift variant of Boeing’s Delta 4 rocket has been pushed into early 2007, according to the U.S. Air Force. The payload is the last in the Defense Support Program (DSP) line of missile warning satellites.

The DSP spacecraft, built by Northrop Grumman Corp., originally was scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in February 2005, but now is not scheduled to launch before Jan. 31, according to a written response to questions provided by Candrea Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles.

The rocket had last been scheduled to launch the DSP satellite in October 2005, the written response said.

Thomas did not respond by press time to follow-up questions about why the launch was delayed.

The heavy-lift variant of the Delta 4 failed to put a test payload into a sustainable orbit in a December 2004 demonstration flight and has not launched since.

PRIVATE puncspace:p ESA Funds Development of Re-entry Demo Vehicle

The European Space Agency (ESA) has agreed to finance development of a flight demonstration vehicle that would be launched aboard the agency’s Vega rocket in 2010 and then either be guided to a direct landing or permitted to orbit the Earth before testing atmospheric re-entry technologies.

The Intermediate Experimental Vehicle, or IXV, will test thermal protection, flight control and other systems thought to be needed for a next-generation rocket that would be fully or partially reusable.

ESA has agreed to spend up to 55 million euros ($71 million) on the IXV through 2008, after which further funds would be needed to finance the Vega launch, according to Juergen Ackermann, head of the agency’s Future Launcher Preparatory Program (FLPP).

Ackermann said ESA also is considering the advantages of having the IXV touch down on solid ground rather than in the ocean. Several landing areas are being considered, he said.

The FLPP program has been given a budget of nearly 300 million euros by ESA governments, and the agency hopes to increase that amount if the German government ultimately decides to play a big role in the project.

The program continues to suffer from the multiplication of next-generation launcher efforts in France, Germany and Italy. It is ultimately expected to feature close cooperation with Russia, but Ackermann said none of the current work is being held up awaiting a formal ESA-Russia agreement on such a program.

Antonio Fabrizi, head of ESA’s launcher directorate, which administers FLPP, said ESA is attempting to merge, at least partially, different national efforts as a way of avoiding duplication and to assure IXV’s launch.

The FLPP work is separate from ESA’s negotiations on a possible collaboration involving Russia’s planned Clipper crew-transport vehicle. ESA officials expect to receive approval from member governments later this year to spend two years studying a Clipper collaboration with Russia, which would occur only if European industry is responsible for a key Clipper technology.

NASA Lunar Recon Orbiter Clears Confirmation Review

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter passed its confirmation review May 17, clearing the effort to proceed into the implementation phase, NASA said. The project, led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., was deemed to be within its $546 million budget and on schedule to launch in October 2008. The project’s next major milestone, the critical design review leading to the detailed design and production of the spacecraft, is slated for later this year.

Ariane 5 Chosen To Loft Eutelsat‘s W2M Satellite

Eutelsat’s W2M telecommunications satellite, a relatively light spacecraft being built by a Euro-Indian industrial joint venture, will be launched by a European Ariane 5 rocket in the second quarter of 2008 under a contract announced May 18 by Paris-based Eutelsat.

The W2M, expected to weigh about 3,000 kilograms at launch and to generate 4 kilowatts of power, is under construction by a joint venture of Astrium Satellites, which is providing the payload, and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Antrix Corp. Ltd. commercial arm, which is responsible for the satellite platform.

The satellite will carry between 26 and 32 Ku-band transponders and will provide in-orbit backup for Eutelsat’s existing fleet.

Weather Satellite Launch Scheduled for May 24

Launch of a U.S. government weather satellite that has been on hold for more than a year is now scheduled for May 24, according to a May 18 NASA news release.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) N, which was built by Boeing Satellite Systems, previously was scheduled to launch in May 2005 aboard a Boeing Delta 4. But a string of issues, including technical concerns with the Delta 4 and a labor dispute involving Boeing’s rocket work force, resulted in several delays.

Acquisition, MDA Work Boost SpaceDev Sales

The acquisition of space robotics firm Starsys Research Corp. and an ongoing contract to build three microsatellites for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) were major factors in a jump in 2006 first quarter revenues for SpaceDev.

SpaceDev of Poway, Calif., reported sales of $7.2 million for the quarter — its first full reporting period since acquiring Starsys — compared to $1.8 million in the first quarter of 2005.

In a conference call with analysts May 17, SpaceDev Chief Executive Mark Sirangelo said the MDA microsatellite contract brought in $2.4 million during the three-month period ending March 31.

Net income for the quarter was $7,000, compared to $101,000 in the first quarter of 2005, reflecting higher expenses related to two contract bid proposals, said Richard Slansky, SpaceDev’s chief financial officer. One was a successful bid to build a nanosatellite for the U.S. Air Force Research Lab, and the other was to participate in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, for which SpaceDev was selected as one of six finalists.

Sirangelo said his main goal as SpaceDev’s chief executive officer, a position he assumed in December, is a smooth integration with Starsys . He also said during the call that SpaceDev plans to leverage several current contract efforts, including the COTS work, on future projects.

SpaceDev currently is listed on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board, which is for small companies that do not meet the requirements for trading on a major exchange such as NASDAQ. Sirangelo said the company eventually plans to move its stock to a major exchange.

Ontario Signs Deal for QuickBird Satellite Data

MDA Geospatial Services of Canada will provide 120,000 square kilometers of imagery from the DigitalGlobe‘s QuickBird satellite to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Financial details of the arrangement were not disclosed.

The imagery will be used to support the Land Information Ontario project, which is designed to help the public and government agencies access geographical information about the province, according to a May 17 press release from DigitalGlobe.

Raytheon To Study Air-Launched Interceptor

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a $7 million contract to Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., to study an air-launched missile interceptor for protecting U.S. territory and deployed troops from short-range missiles, according to a company official.

Michael Booen, Raytheon vice president of advanced missile defense and directed energy weapons, told reporters May 19 that the Network Centric Airborne Defense Element (NCADE) could be launched from unmanned aerial vehicles like General Atomics’ Predator, as well as Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk if that vehicle was weaponized.

Raytheon will spend the next 12 months studying propulsion and seeker technologies for the NCADE interceptor. The NCADE could be used to strike enemy ballistic or cruise missiles shortly after takeoff, Booen said.

Kompsat-2 Scheduled For July Rockot Launch

Eurockot Launch Services GmbH has scheduled a July launch for Korea’s Kompsat-2 optical Earth observation satellite. It will be the company’s first launch since an October 2005 failure and one that has recently won a fresh vote of confidence from the European Space Agency (ESA), whose satellite was destroyed in the October failure.

Bremen, Germany-based Eurockot is a German-Russian joint venture that operates the Rockot launch vehicle that is built by Khrunichev Enterprises of Moscow and operated from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. A Rockot vehicle will launch ESA’s Cryosat-2 satellite in 2009, Eurockot Sales Director Peter Freeborn said. Cryosat-2 will be virtually identical to the Cryosat polar ice-monitoring satellite lost in the October failure, which was blamed on a programming error.

A Cryosat-2 launch contract has not been signed, but Antonio Fabrizi, ESA’s director of launchers, confirmed May 17 that Eurockot had been selected for the launch despite the presumed entry into service of ESA’s Vega rocket.

Vega is designed to launch small science and Earth observation satellites into low Earth orbit, and Fabrizi said Vega is still on track for an inaugural launch in late 2007. However, several development milestones need to be cleared this year, Fabrizi said, including completion of ground facilities at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.

The launch facilities used for early versions of Europe’s Ariane rocket and since taken out of service are being renovated and adapted for Vega launches.

Vega and Eurockot will be in direct competition. In the meantime, Eurockot is continuing to seek ESA contracts. The three-satellite Swarm science satellites to be launched in 2009 are expected to generate a competition between Eurockot and Vega for the launch contract, depending on Vega’s development status.

Europe Debating Use of U.S. Parts for Galileo

The European government and industry team building the Galileo navigation satellites remains uncertain about whether the Galileo spacecraft will be ITAR-free, according to government and industry officials.

ITAR-free, a reference to the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, means the satellites would have no components that would fall under the ITAR restrictions and thus require a U.S. State Department export license.

Including ITAR-regulated components would mean, for example, that the U.S. government could deny permission for any of the satellites in the 30-satellite Galileo constellation to be launched aboard a Chinese rocket.

Giuseppe Viriglio, head of European Union and industrial affairs at the European Space Agency (ESA), said May 16 that the goal for Galileo is that “we will not have to have an export license from anyone.” In an interview, Viriglio said this goal remains within reach.

Four initial Galileo satellites are being built by the Galileo Industries consortium and are scheduled for launch in 2008. A private-sector consortium will subsequently select the manufacturer of the full Galileo constellation, but Galileo Industries, which includes Europe’s major satellite manufacturers as shareholders, is the likely builder of the full Galileo fleet.

One industry official said some U.S. components might be included in the early Galileo satellites but that an ITAR-related export license should not be problematic.

A European government official working on Galileo said not all the contracts for the first four Galileo satellites have been signed, but that “some radiation-hardened components may be purchased from the United States,” and that these would require an export license.

Making Galileo ITAR-free would probably mean spending more money on components that otherwise could be purchased inexpensively in the United States. It would add to the program’s existing financial pressures.

The 1.05-billion-euro ($1.3 billion) contract with Galileo Industries for the four initial satellites, plus the full Galileo ground network is already 400 million euros shy of what it will cost to complete the work, including the launch of the satellites.

Viriglio said ESA governments are expected to confirm their willingness to pay for half the shortfall, or 200 million euros, by late May. The European Union’s executive commission, which is dividing the costs of Galileo’s early development with ESA, already has approved the release of 130 million euros in additional funds, with the remaining 70 million expected in 2007, Viriglio said.

New Missions To Need Nuclear Heater Units

European space science managers are beginning the delicate task of preparing the introduction of nuclear heaters on board future satellites whose missions make conventional power unfeasible.

Gerhard Schwehm, head of the European Space Agency’s solar system science operations division, said numerous missions now being considered in Europe, including satellites bound for Jupiter and perhaps even Mars rovers, could profit from the introduction of radioisotope heater units, or RHUs.

RHUs would keep instruments from freezing during deep-space missions far from the sun, or during Martian nights.

ESA had considered putting an RHU on the Philae lander now on its way to a comet landing aboard the Rosetta comet-chaser satellite. Schwehm said the idea was abandoned in part because of the sensitivities in some European nations to launching any nuclear power source, and the fact that doing so would require a revised set of range-safety procedures at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana.

Europe’s Science Program Committee, which sets long-term space-science priorities based on ESA’s science budget, is expected this year to issue a call for proposals for new missions to be launched after 2015. These missions may include one or more that would not be possible without RHUs, Schwehm said.

“We want to be able to baseline an RHU into a mission if necessary, and to do that we need a coherent set of regulations involving launch range safety and other issues well in advance,” Schwehm said.

Europe’s Huygens descent probe, which successfully completed its descent through the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s moon, carried an RHU. Huygens was brought to the Saturn orbital neighborhood by NASA’s Cassini satellite, which carried a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or RTG, a more powerful nuclear heating source.

Hylas To Have Flexible Power, Bandwidth Features

Tesat Spacecom GmbH & Co. KG is counting on a satellite recently ordered by a British broadband communications company to provide in-orbit validation of a new generation of tube amplifiers designed to provide new operational flexibility to satellite operators.

Backnang, Germany-based Tesat, also known as a company banking on laser intersatellite communications as a future market, is providing flexible traveling wave tube amplifiers for the Hylas broadband satellite recently ordered by Avanti Screenmedia Group plc of Britain.

Avanti, using financial assistance from the British and European space agencies, ordered a satellite from Astrium Satellites that will provide Ka- and Ku-band links from a British orbital slot starting in late 2008.

The project, called Hylas, benefits from European government-financed research and development of flexible payloads that, among other features, permit operators to assign power and bandwidth to different regions as demand develops.

Tesat is providing flexible microwave power modules for the Hylas satellite, which expected to weigh about 2,300 kilograms at launch and will feature a satellite platform provided by the India’s Antrix Corp. Ltd., the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organis ation.

Tesat Chief Executive Berry Smutny said the company believes that its microwave power modules, designed with German government research backing, will find a broad market among commercial telecommunications satellites.

“Once it is verified in orbit, it will be a popular product,” Smutny said. “I think you will find that designers of phased-array antennas continue to find phased-array technology challenging to develop.”

Phased-array antennas also permit on board beam-forming and power management to afford flexibility to satellite owners facing customer demand profiles that cannot be predicted 15-20 years in advance — the length of time between a satellite’s design and the end of its operational life.

Lockheed Completes SBIRS Data Processing Software

Lockheed Martin has completed development of ground component software for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) to help process data from the missile warning system’s Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO) payload, the Bethesda, Md.-based company announced May 16.

“HEO payload data processing will afford greater access to time-sensitive infrared data and is an important step on our path to deliver capabilities for surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance missions,” John Mengucci, vice president of Lockheed’s Department of Defense Systems unit, said in a company press release. Lockheed is developing two HEO payloads, two dedicated geosynchronous SBIRS satellites and ground-segment components for the U.S. Department of Defense’s SBIRS missile-detection system.

Lockheed has delivered both HEO payloads, and the first geosynchronous satellite is set to be delivered in 2008, according to the release.

NASA Seeks Ideas for Addressing NEO Threat

NASA issued a call for papers May 15 on possible alternatives to divert space objects found to be on a collision course with Earth.

The call for papers is tied to the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 passed by Congress in December 2005, and subsequently signed by the President George W. Bush.

“The U.S. Congress has declared that the general welfare and security of the United States require that the unique competence of NASA be directed to detecting, tracking, cataloguing, and characterizing near-Earth asteroids and comets in order to provide warning and mitigation of the potential hazard of such near-Earth objects to the Earth,” reads a passage from the law .

The legislation directs NASA to plan, develop and implement a Near-Earth Object Survey program to detect, track, catalog , and characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs) equal to or greater than 140 meters in diameter and assess their possible threat to the Earth.

NASA’s call for papers and selection of best ideas will lead to an NEO Detection, Characterization and Threat Mitigation workshop, organized in support of NASA’s Office of Program Analysis & Evaluation study in response to the congressional direction .

NASA’s call for ideas in abstract form is open until May 26. Selected respondents will be required to submit a full white paper by June 25. The workshop location and dates are yet to be determined, but NASA anticipates it will occur in late June or July.

Eurimage Inks Deal With European Commission

Eurimage S.p.A. of Rome will provide the European Commission’s Joint Research Center with imagery from several Earth observation satellites over four years under a contract announced May 10.

Under the contract, valued at up to 7 million euros ($9 million) Eurimage will supply satellite-based Earth observation data mainly to the European Commission’s agricultural authorities.

Eurimage develops products based on data collected by a variety of satellites. For this contract, the company will provide mainly imagery from the QuickBird satellite operated by Longmont, Colo.-based DigitalGlobe, and from DigitalGlobe’s future Worldview 1 satellite. Imagery from Japan’s Aster instrument, which flies on the NASA Terra satellite launched in 1999, also is included in the deal.

Eurimage Managing Director Marcello Maranesi said the contract “confirms Eurimage’s primary role as a partner of the European Commission in the provision of satellite data for their operational products.” Eurimage is owned by Telespazio of Rome and Astrium Satellites of Germany.

ESA Suborbital Mission Scores Two Out of Three

The Texus 43 suborbital sounding rocket was successfully launched from Sweden’s Esrange launch site May 11, providing 5 minutes and 47 seconds of microgravity conditions for several European Space Agency (ESA) experiments, according to the Swedish Space Corp. of Solna, Sweden. The rocket reached an altitude of 237 kilometers.

“From a safety point of view we are very pleased,” Esrange sounding rocket head Stig Kemi said in a statement after the launch. It was the second launch of a modified Texus rocket.

Wolfgang Herfs, ESA project manager for the launch, said two of the three experiments worked as planned and were recovered undamaged. An experiment in combustion failed to operate. “Overall we have a 60 percent success as regards the science,” Herfs said.

The Texus program is managed by Astrium Space Transportation, the former EADS Space Transportation, the Swedish Space Center and the German Aerospace Center, DLR, with Kayser-Threde of Munich responsible for redesigning the rocket’s service module.

NASA Finalizes Crews for Pair of Shuttle Missions

NASA has finalized the crew rosters for two upcoming space shuttle missions that will continue assembly of the international space station, NASA announced May 17.

Astronaut John D. Olivas has joined the STS-117 shuttle mission, which will deliver the second starboard truss segment to the station and a third set of U.S.-built solar arrays, batteries and other equipment sometime in 2007. Joining Olivas on his first spaceflight will be crew commander Frederick W. Sturckow, a lieutenant colonel in the Marines; mission pilot Lee J. Archambault, an Air Force colonel; and mission specialists James Reilly, retired Army Col. Patrick G Forrester, Joan E. Higginbotham and Steven Swanson.

Astronaut Tracy Caldwell will make her first spaceflight aboard the STS-118 shuttle mission, which will deliver the third starboard truss segment, an external stowage platform and other supplies in a Spacehab cargo module. She will join astronaut Richard A. Mastracchio, who previously was assigned to STS-117, along with Navy Cmdr. Scott J. Kelly, pilot Charles O. Hobaugh, and mission specialists Dafydd R. Williams of the Canadian Space Agency and astronaut Barbara R. Morgan.

Shuttle pilot Scott Parazynski, who was assigned to STS-118, left the crew to prepare for another assignment on a future mission, according to the NASA press release.

Space Telescope Sensor Arrives at Lab for Testing

The primary instrument for a NASA telescope designed to track gamma-ray emissions and provide scientists with information on the evolution and physical properties of the universe has been completed and shipped to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington for testing, NASA announced May 17.

The Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, slated to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in late 2007, will detect light billions of times more energetic than what can be detected by the human eye or optical telescopes currently on orbit. The primary instrument, the Large Area Telescope, is the key to this capability: The instrument uses detectors to convert gamma rays into electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons, in a process called pair conversion. This conversion will allow scientists to track and measure gamma rays, according to the release.

The instrument, which was built at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Stanford University, arrived at the Naval Research Laboratory May 14 to undergo three months of vibration and noise testing to make sure it can withstand the rigors of launch. The mission is led by NASA along with the U.S. Department of Energy and international partners, according to the release.

U.S. Air Force Modifies Integral’s CCS-C Contract

The U.S. Air Force awarded Integral Systems of Lanham, Md., a $21.5 million contract modification under its Command and Control System-Consolidated (CCS-C) program , Integral announced May 10.

Under the contract, Integral will consolidate operations of the Air Force’s three planned Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) military communications satellites. The CCS-C program provides a more integrated capability to command the Air Force’s communications satellites, including the Defense Satellite Communication System, Milstar, Advanced EHF and Wideband Gapfiller satellites.

Lockheed Nabs Award for ICBM Re-entry Hardware

Lockheed Martin will provide hardware components for the Minuteman 3 ICBM Safety Enhanced Re-entry Vehicle program under a $28 million contract modification awarded by Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, the ICBM prime integration contractor for the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., announced May 17.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will provide Northrop with the Electronic Command Signal Generator, which acts as an interface between the Minuteman’s guidance and control system and the re-entry vehicles. Lockheed also will provide the flight hardware for the attachment of the re-entry vehicles to the missile. The company produces this hardware at its Valley Forge, Pa., facilities, according to the release.

If all options are exercised, the total contract modification would be worth about $104 million over six years. The entire Minuteman 3 arsenal is scheduled to be upgraded with the enhanced re-entry vehicles by 2011, Lockheed said.

ESA Struggles To Attract German Aerospace Engineers

German aerospace engineers do not seek work at the European Space Agency (ESA) in sufficient numbers, and the result is that ESA has a surplus of Italian and Spanish employees and a deficit of German nationals, ESA and German government officials agree.

Sigmar Wittig, chairman of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, said Germany pays 23 percent of ESA’s bills, but German citizens account for only 19 percent of ESA’s 1,900-strong work force.

Wittig said this is a point of contention with the agency, which he said should do better at attracting Germans to ESA posts. ESA officials said that to hire Germans, there must be German applicants for ESA posts as they become available. In recent years, they said, German candidates have been lacking.

National identity is a key metric in ESA hiring. Just as it tries to distribute contracts to companies in proportion to the financial contribution of the companies’ national governments, ESA is under pressure from its member states to make sure its work force matches the national government contribution levels.

Space News asked four Germans — two working for ESA and two in the space industry — to explain the relative lack of German interest in ESA jobs.

“German engineers do not like to leave their home regions,” one of the ESA officials said. “Moving the family to a place like Noordwijk [the Dutch town in which ESA’s Estec technology center, employing more than half of all ESA’s work force, is located] is not considered attractive.”

The other ESA official went further. “At ESA, you have a four-year contract and at the end you could be sent home. It’s not as stable as a contract with, say, DLR [the German space agency], and this instability is taken into account and set against the advantages of ESA employment. Also, many German engineers are simply not excited by the idea of a truly international environment. Many do not speak English as well as their older brothers and sisters.”

One German space-industry official said employment counseling and other assistance for engineers returning to Germany after ESA employment is almost non-existent.

“You spend four years or eight years at ESA, and then you return and the reaction is: Who are you?,” this industry official said. “You find yourself out of the loop and certainly not on a career fast track. You are not considered to bring added value for having worked in an international environment.”

The other German industry official, who works at an international company, said he could not explain the lack of German interest in ESA jobs.

“I don’t know why, and frankly I do not understand the debate,” this industry official said. “If I want to hire someone I do not look at his passport, but at his competence and attitude. But I don’t think the problem is a lack of fluency in English compared to the Italians or Spanish or French.”

RapidEye AG Triples Staff As 2007 Launch Date Nears

PRIVATE para:<*p(,12.000,,10.000,,,G,)> PRIVATE hnjset:<*h”Great H&J’s”> PRIVATE colorchange:<c”Black”> RapidEye AG of Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany, whose five-satellite Earth observation constellation is scheduled for launch on a single rocket in 2007, has tripled its staff, to 30 people, and expects to have a 130-strong work force within about a year, RapidEye Sales and Marketing Manager Michael Prechtel said.

The company’s fully funded system, which is expected to cost about 150 million euros ($180 million) including the satellites’ construction and launch and early operations, is being built by a contracting team led by Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler & Associates, with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of Britain building the spacecraft.

The five 175-kilogram optical Earth observation satellites will be launched together aboard a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket marketed by ISC Kosmotras.

Dnepr, a converted ballistic missile, is silo-launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Kayser-Threde Eyeing Bigger Contracting Jobs

Kayser-Threde GmbH, a small space-hardware company that has recently been branching out to non-space businesses to diversify its revenue base, is counting on a major role in Germany’s EnMap hyperspectral Earth observation satellite, which the German government is likely to contract in 2007.

Munich-based Kayser-Threde is determined to retain its place in Germany’s space business despite the death of company founder and major shareholder Reiner Klett earlier this year of cancer, company officials said.

Kayser-Threde Chief Executive Juergen Breitkopf said the company is trying to move up the chain of contract authority to be a system or at least a subsystem prime contractor rather than a provider of individual components.

EnMap, which the German Aerospace Center, DLR, has indicated will be financed as part of Germany’s national space program starting in 2007, is an example of the kind of role Kayser-Threde is seeking.

“Kayser-Threde will go after the prime contractor’s role for this,” said Wolfgang Griethe, Kayser-Threde’s director for space utilization. The company expects to receive a DLR contract this summer for the continuation of preparatory work on EnMap. The company is weighing the use of a satellite platform provided by OHB-System of Bremen, Germany, or Astrium Satellites’ German division.

The cost of building and launching the 650-kilogram EnMap is expected to be about 90 million euros ($115 million), according to preliminary DLR estimates.

Kayser-Threde also is playing a role in the ConeXpress Orbital Life Extension Vehicle, designed to perform in-orbit refueling of aging telecommunications satellites. Kayser-Threde is both a shareholder in the ConeXpress consortium and a manufacturer of the ConeXpress docking gear — the component that attaches to the target satellite to permit in-orbit refueling.

The European Space Agency is expected to decide this year whether to help finance ConeXpress in preparation for a first mission. Australia’s satellite operator Optus has expressed interest in the technology pending resolution of financing and insurance issues, according to industry officials.

Breitkopf said Kayser-Threde, which does not publish detailed financial results, increased its order intake in 2005 by about 12 percent, to 45 million euros. The company has broadened its product base to include providing automotive crash-test services and railroad power distribution services to the German rail authority, Deutsche Bahn.

As New Nations Join, ESA Faces Challenges

European Space Agency (ESA) governments will be asked in June to consider whether the agency’s operating methods should be modified to prepare for the arrival of new nations, European Space Agency (ESA) Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said.

Dordain declined to say whether the agency’s current one-nation, one-vote principle should be modified. But he conceded that ESA, which once had 12 members, now has 17 and is likely to grow to at least 22 in the coming years as nations joining the European Union seek ESA membership, might need to adapt its procedures as a consequence.

Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovenia already have expressed interest in joining ESA.

“I would like our member states not to think about an 18th nation arriving, but rather about having at least 22 members,” Dordain said during a May 15 press briefing. “Maybe our decision-making processes will have to be revised. Maybe our industrial policy will need to be revised. Our guiding principles — having a competitive industry, giving a preference for European products, and geographic return — we have to debate how these will be affected.”

As new nations have joined ESA in recent years, the balance of voting power has shifted from the larger nations — France, Germany, Italy — to the smaller countries, some of which have little in the way of a domestic space industry. That trend will continue with the addition of the new nations from Central and Eastern Europe.

Dordain said he will put these questions on the table to current ESA members during a June meeting of the agency’s ruling council. Dordain also said the council’s meeting in October will review the findings of an ESA-ordered evaluation regarding the effects of consolidation among satellite manufacturers.

Helius’ Satellite Digital Signage Finalist for Award

Helius Inc. was named a finalist in the 2006 American Business Award’s “Best New Product or Service” category for its digital signage networks solutions. Lindon, Utah-based Helius uses a satellite system that broadcasts advertising messages from one single location to multiple points at the same time.

The winners of the awards will be announced June 12 at a ceremony in New York City.

Telenor Offers Free Airtime For New BGAN Customers

Telenor Satellite Services of Rockville, Md., is offering free airtime for new customers of its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN).

Those who activate their service in May and June will earn $1,000 free airtime, according to a May 15 press release from Telenor. The credit can be used within the first 30 days of activation.

The company previously announced that it is offering a $1,500 price break for customers who trade in their old satellite terminals for new BGAN equipment. The terminal program will go on through June of 2006 or while supplies last, the release said. Telenor also eliminated BGAN activation fees for an introductory period.

Northrop Picks Canada Firm For MilSatCom R&D Software

Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp. has selected Spectrum Signal Processing Inc. of Burnaby, British Columbia, to supply software for Northrop’s internal research and development for military satellite communications. The value of the contract was not disclosed.

Northrop Grumman selected Spectrum’s flexComm SDR-3000 software-defined radio platform for the work. The focus of the company’s planned research will be the interaction between hardware and software for the U.S. military’s Joint Tactical Radio System program, according to a May 16 press release from Northrop Grumman.

Iridium Reseller Debuts Secure Docking Station

An Iridium Satellite LLC reseller has launched the first secure docking station for Iridium military satellite phones.

World Communication Center (WCC) of Chandler, of Ariz. developed the docking station, which can be used with two of Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium’s satellite telephone models, according to a May 16 press release from WCC.

The docking station makes it easier to connect from indoor locations so the phone no longer has to be hooked up via cable to a building’s roof antenna.

Globecomm, Scientific Atlanta To Share New Lab

Globecomm Systems Inc. has signed an agreement with Scientific Atlanta of Lawrenceville, Ga., to develop new products and services for business networks.

Under the agreement, Globecomm will construct a laboratory at the company’s Hauppauge, N.Y. facility, which will be used by both companies to develop products and solutions, particularly applications related to Internet Protocol TV.

Spacenet Offering Backup Service for Government Users

Spacenet Inc. of McLean, Va., will now offer Connexstar On-Demand services for government and business customers. The Connexstar service is a wireless solution that is designed to be used as a backup for another network in case of an emergency.

Customers pay according to how much bandwidth they require, according to a May 15 press release from Spacenet. The services use the Gilat Satellite Networks SkyEdge Very Small Aperture Terminal platform. Customers also have the option of choosing from a number of backup service packages, which are based on a set number of hours of connectivity per month, the release said. Esrange Gearing up for NASA Balloon Launches

Technicians at the Swedish Space Corp.’s Esrange launch facility in northern Sweden are preparing to launch three NASA research balloons over the Atlantic Ocean to North America beginning in late May , the Swedish Space Corp. announced May 16.

The launches include two large astronomy experiments and a new balloon vehicle . The Transition Radiation Array for Cosmic Energetic Radiation will measure heavy cosmic ray nuclei and is planned to launch no earlier than June 15. The Anti-Electron Suborbital Payload will launch between May and July, as will the Ultra-Long Duration Balloon vehicle on an engineering test flight, according to the release.

The balloon campaign — sponsored by NASA and conducted by the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility along with the Swedish Space Corp. — also launched the Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope (BLAST) in 2005.

NGA To Broaden Use of Microsoft’s Virtual Earth

The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has signed an agreement to use Microsoft Corp.’s Virtual Earth image-archiving and display technology for humanitarian, peacekeeping and national-security applications, according to a May 11 press release from the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

The relationship will work as a technology collaboration of sorts, with each organization sharing its particular expertise , according to the release.

“We believe the combination of our experience delivering Web service with NGA’s unparalleled knowledge of the geospatial domain will significantly advance the creation of a truly virtual earth,” said Craig Mundie, chief technical officer of advanced strategies and policy for Microsoft.

NGA previously used the Virtual Earth platform to build a map database to support Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, according to the release.

NASA Tests Materials for Crew Capsule Heat Shield

Heat shield materials that could be utilized on NASA’s planned Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) have been getting a warm reception at the space agency’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Small heat-shield material samples have undergone arc jet evaluations using what NASA engineers describe as a “room-size blowtorch.”

The CEV Thermal Protection System, Advanced Development Project at Ames is set up to create and test the 5-meter-diameter, Frisbee-shaped heat shield that will be attached to the base of the cone-shaped CEV capsule.

CEV shield material must protect the capsule and its crew from the incredible heat generated as the craft plunges through Earth’s atmosphere in its return from space .

Northrop, ATK Test Fire Prototype ICBM Motor

Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of Edina, Minn., successfully demonstrated a new Minuteman 3 ICBM motor during a static test firing May 2 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Northrop Grumman said in a news release.

The prototype motor met thrust, insulator/nozzle erosion and thrust-vector-control test objectives, according to the May 15 news release. The test motor could pave the way for motors that improve Minuteman 3 performance, range and affordability, Northrop said.

ATK designed and built the stage-one demonstrator rocket motor at its facilities in Promontory, Utah. The motor was developed under the U.S. Air Force’s Propulsion Applications Program, which Northrop Grumman manages.

NASA Expands Inventory of Virtual Tour Destinations

NASA has expanded the list of planetary destinations available on its World Wind computer program — allowing Internet users to virtually visit Mars, Venus and Jupiter in 3-D color in addition to the Earth and the Moon, the space agency announced May 15.

The World Wind program, available for download free of charge at worldwind.arc.nasa.gov, allows users to virtually fly through Mars canyons and plunge into the depths of Earth’s oceans, for example, using just “a standard personal computer with a decent video card, and a decent Internet connection,” Chris Maxwell, a World Wind developer at NASA Ames Research Center in California, said in the news release. The program delivers terabytes of NASA satellite data that are used to generate the virtual tours.

NASA said it plans to release a Java version of the program for Macintosh and Linux operating systems users in September 2006. Since its release last year, the World Wind program has attracted nearly 10 million users, with approximately 100,000 people downloading the program each week, according to the release.

NASA Demonstrates New Flight Termination System

NASA has successfully demonstrated a prototype autonomous flight safety system that can detect when a rocket is veering off course and trigger it to self-destruct before it strays outside the launch range, NASA announced May 12.

“In an operational system, if the onboard computers had detected that the rocket was flying off course and there was the potential of it flying outside the launch range, the vehicle would self-destruct,” Barton Bull, a manager at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, which manages the project, said in the news release.

The onboard destruct system was tested April 5 on a suborbital rocket at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The test incorporated redundant GPS receivers and two onboard computer processors — one with a nominal trajectory and the other programmed so the flight would trigger safety violations and prompt the self-destruct. The processors were not connected to the flight-termination system, but reacted correctly, according to the release.

Swift Satellite Recording Comet’s Orbital Swan Song

NASA’s Swift satellite and other orbiting observatories are getting a close-up look at X-rays from a rapidly disintegrating comet that scientists believe is making its last orbit around the Sun, NASA announced May 12.

The comet, 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, is passing within 11.7 million kilometers of Earth in May and is visible to anyone equipped with a backyard telescope.

Scientists are hoping X-ray observations by Swift and other satellites will reveal more about the composition of both the comet and solar winds. The X-rays are believed to be a product of the interaction between the solar wind and the comet’s material.

“The Schwassmann-Wachmann comet is a comet like no other. During its 1996 passage it broke apart. Now we are tracking about three-dozen fragments. The X-rays being produced provide information never before revealed,” Scott Porter, a Swift observation team member at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in the release.

Scientists hope to complement Swift data with observations from NASA’s Chandra observatory and the Japanese Suzaku satellite.

JWST Sun Shield Holds Up in Simulated Environment

A sunlight shield designed to keep NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) operating at cryogenic temperatures has completed a series of tests proving it can work in a space environment, Northrop Grumman Space Technology, prime contractor on JWST, announced May 15.

The so-called sunshine membrane is a five-layer structure roughly the size of a tennis court, Northrop Grumman said in a news release. It will prevent solar light from warming or otherwise interfering with JWST’s infrared sensors, which will be used to observe distant galaxies, planetary systems and early stars.

In 26 tests performed from 1999 to late 2005, Northrop Grumman technicians measured the performance of the sunshine membrane in conditions designed to simulate the environment at the JWST’s planned position in space — roughly 1.6 million kilometers from Earth.

Each membrane layer is about as thick as a human hair and made of a polymer-based film produced by SRS Technologies of Newport Beach, Calif. The layers were integrated at Northrop Grumman’s Space Park facility in Redondo Beach, Calif.

THAAD Radar Meets Goals During Test at White Sands

The tracking radar for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system met all objectives in a recent test involving a simulated target at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the radar’s builder, Raytheon Co., announced May 11.

The THAAD radar, a phased-array system that can discriminate and track ballistic missiles at long ranges, was able to successfully work with the THAAD launcher, fire-control and missile-operations functions to engage and destroy a simulated target. Tracking reports were successfully transmitted between the THAAD radar and fire control system, with fire-control software meeting test objectives. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Tewksbury, Mass., along with THAAD prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., conducted the test.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com