Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 27 June 2005
01:51 pm ET


Sea Launch Rocket Lofts Intelsat IA-8 Satellite

A Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket successfully placed the Intelsat IA-8 telecommunications satellite into orbit June 23, according to Long Beach, Calif.-based Sea Launch LLC and Washington – based Intelsat.

The satellite, carrying C-, Ku- and Ka-band transponders, will bolster Intelsat’s voice, video and data-transmission capability in North and South America, a key goal for the company as its business moves toward broadcasting and away from classic fixed satellite services .

Built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., IA-8 will be Intelsat’s first Ka-band spacecraft for broadband communications. IA-8 is among the assets that Intelsat purchased from Loral Space and Communications of New York in 2003. With a scheduled 15-year service life, IA-8 will bring to five the number of Intelsat satellites serving the Americas.

The launch, which was the third of up to six Sea Launch missions scheduled for 2005, occurred from the company’s floating platform at the equator in the Pacific Ocean.

Sea Launch LLC President Jim Maser said preliminary indications are that the launch was among the most accurate ever conducted by Sea Launch. The higher the accuracy of placement of the satellite, the less fuel the spacecraft needs to use to move into its final orbital position. That fuel then can be used to extend the craft’s service life.

Value of Inmarsat Shares Rise 16 Percent After IPO

Mobile satellite services operator Inmarsat of London, which completed its initial stock offering (IPO) June 17 and was officially listed on the London Stock Exchange June 22, encountered smooth sailing in its first week of trading. Shares rose nearly 16 percent from their IPO price of 2.45 British pounds ($4.48 ) to close at 2.84 pounds June 23.

Including a second tranche of shares sold June 20, investors purchased some 404 million pounds in Inmarsat equity.

Inmarsat, which operates a global network of mobile-communications satellites, said it spent 20.5 million pounds, plus tax, in investment advisory and other expenses to conduct the IPO. Inmarsat is majority-owned by private-equity firms Apax Partners and Permira.

Falcon 1 Debut Launch Shifted to Kwajalein

The Falcon 1 small rocket developed by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will debut in autumn from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean rather than Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., as previously planned.

The switch was driven by a delay in the launch of a classified payload from Vandenberg in the final mission of the Titan 4 heavy-lift rocket. That launch has moved from July to no earlier than September — and perhaps not before October or November — and the Falcon cannot launch from Vandenberg while the Titan 4 and its payload remain on the pad there, according to information posted on SpaceX’s Web site.

SpaceX, which until recently had planned to launch this summer, now expects to launch from the U.S. Army-run Ronald Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein in late September, the company said. The payload on the Falcon 1’s debut mission is the Pentagon’s experimental TacSat-1 satellite.

Report Cites Barriers to NASA Exploration Agenda

U.S. export control policies could hamper the international cooperation that likely will be critical to the success of NASA’s new space exploration agenda, according to a new report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The report, released June 23, was prepared by George Abbey, former NASA Johnson Space Center director, and Neal Lane, science advisor to then-President Bill Clinton from 1998-2001. It identifies four “serious barriers” to the United States achieving its goals in space science and exploration: “the strict regulation of satellite exports as munitions under the State Department rules, a projected shortfall in the science and engineering workforce, unrealistic plans for NASA’s future space missions that neglect the important role of science, and faltering international cooperation on existing and planned space missions.”

Senate Bill Would Provide $16.4 Billion for NASA

The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 23 approved a bill providing $16.39 billion for NASA next year , about $60 million less than the White House requested. The funding was included in a broader spending bill that also funds the U.S. State, Commerce and Justice departments.

A counterpart spending bill approved June 16 by the House of Representatives would provide $15 million more for NASA than the White House requested but would require the space agency to spend about $50 million more on aeronautics research next year than it had planned.

The House and Senate must work out any difference between their respective spending bills before they can be merged and signed into law by the U.S. president.

Raytheon Co. to Supply Warning Radar for Taiwan

Raytheon Co. won a $752 million contract from the U.S. Air Force June 23 to develop a ground-based early warning radar system for Taiwan, according to a company news release.

The Early Warning Surveillance Radar System detects incoming aircraft, missiles and surface ships, according to the news release. Guy Shields, a spokesman for Raytheon, said the system is similar to hardware that Raytheon has built for the U.S. military, but declined to be more specific.

EADS Shareholders Set To Confirm New Management

Lagard�re and DaimlerChrysler, the French and German shareholders of EADS, are expected the week of June 27 to agree on board appointments and a new management structure, ending months of strategic paralysis at the group, analysts and an executive close to the talks said.

Barring a last-minute upset, Lagard�re and DaimlerChrysler are expected to confirm Tom Enders and No�l Forgeard as co-CEOs of EADS, and Gustav Humbert as Airbus CEO, putting a German national at the head of the civil aircraft maker for the first time in the French company’s history.

Harman to Fight Proposed Cuts in Intelligence Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an intelligence authorization bill June 21 that moves an unspecified amount of funding from technical collection systems into human collection and analysis accounts.

Technical collection refers to systems including spy satellites.

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman ( Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, voted in favor of the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2006, but indicated during floor debate that she had misgivings about the legislation.

“I am concerned that we have made sudden, drastic cuts to certain programs that may lead to a gap in our intelligence capabilities and erode the industrial base needed to develop critical capabilities in the future,” said Harman, whose district includes companies that build spy satellites and related hardware.

Harman noted that Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House intelligence panel, “is committed to addressing this problem with me as the bill moves to conference.” During conference, the House bill will be reconciled with counterpart legislation in the Senate that has yet to be drafted.

Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), chairman of the House panel’s technical and tactical intelligence subcommittee, said during floor debate that cost overruns on several large programs have been drawing funding away from other efforts.

“There are several large programs that are significantly off track, which causes a draining of funds away from other intelligence priorities,” Wilson said. “We will not give contractors blank checks to cover cost, schedule and performance problems that they have failed to manage.”

FCC Extends WildBlue-1 Launch Deadline

U.S. regulators have agreed to give owners of the WildBlue-1 broadband communications satellite a one-year extension, to June 25, 2006, to launch the satellite, but denied the company’s request for an extension to the end of 2006.

In a June 20 ruling, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accepted WildBlue’s claim that the bankruptcy of satellite builder Space Systems/Loral and other delays beyond the company’s control were responsible for the schedule slip.

Denver-based WildBlue is beginning consumer-broadband service this summer using capacity leased from a Telesat Canada satellite. Its own WildBlue-1 spacecraft has been completed by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Loral. But the spacecraft’s status had been under question in early 2004 as Loral sorted out its various contracts in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

More recently, WildBlue told the FCC that the in-orbit anomalies in November aboard the Loral-built Intelsat IA-7 satellite, which resembles WildBlue-1, further delayed the program. WildBlue has contracted with Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium for a launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.

In its ruling, the FCC accepted WildBlue’s version of events, but noted that Intelsat has been able to launch another Loral-built satellite despite the IA-7 problems, and that an 18-month extension was not justified. The Intelsat IA-8 satellite was launched successfully by a Sea Launch LLC rocket June 23.

ESA Deploys Radar Booms On Mars Express Satellite

The three-pronged radar instrument aboard Europe’s Mars Express satellite has been fully deployed and put through initial tests and is expected to start operations in July following a 10-day commissioning period, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced June 22.

The radar, featuring two 20-meter and one 7-meter boom antennas, is designed to study Mars’ atmosphere and to look up to 5 kilometers beneath the planet’s surface for water. Its deployment had not been completed until now because of concerns that the antennas would snap back toward the satellite’s body while they were being unfolded, damaging the satellite or its other instruments.

Mars Express, launched in June 2003, arrived in Mars orbit in December 2003.

With deployment and initial checkout completed, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, or Marsis, instrument will undergo detailed tests of its observing power.

Starting July 4, it should be ready for operations. An initial subsurface examination is expected to be possible for about two weeks. After that, the Mars Express satellite’s orbit will carry it out of optimal range for this work, and Marsis will be used for atmospheric sounding.

The satellite’s orbit is expected to take it closer to the planet’s surface starting in November. Subsurface soundings can be made when Mars Express is no more than 800 kilometers from the martian surface. The satellite’s orbit varies between 260 and 11,000 kilometers in altitude.

Telemetry Relay Glitch Forces Manual Docking

The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, is considering alternatives for relaying command telemetry data to the international space station following a glitch that complicated the docking of a Progress cargo ship at the orbiting facility June 19.

Currently Roskosmos relies on a relay facility operated by the Russian Space Forces to relay commands from its Mission Control Center in the Moscow suburb of Korolev to the space station. But two minutes before the latest Progress docking attempt, a sudden electrical power drop at the Space Forces facility — and the failure of staff there to activate a back-up system — left Roskosmos unable to transmit key telemetry information for the automated maneuver, forcing the two astronauts aboard the space station to do the job manually.

In a June 21 press conference, Roskosmos Director-General Anatoly Perminov said the agency may have to create its own telemetry relay system in the wake of the incident. The system possibly would rely on Russian-built-and-operated Yamal telecommunications satellites, he said.

Spat Over Cost Growth Could Stall Galileo Effort

European government squabbling over national roles in the Galileo satellite navigation project has paralyzed an attempt to finance a Galileo cost overrun that must be paid by September, according to European government officials.

The overrun, estimated at slightly more than 400 million euros ($492 million), was in part caused by Galileo’s late approval by these same governments, both at the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Commission. It also is due to security-related specifications added to the program.

ESA and the commission have agreed to divide responsibility for the overruns. The money will permit the Galileo Industries S.A. consortium to continue work preparing the system’s ground installations and an initial group of three or four Galileo satellites. The full 30-satellite Galileo constellation is to be financed mainly by a private-sector consortium, due to start work late this year.

ESA in December signed an initial contract with Galileo Industries to start the so-called In-Orbit Validation work on Galileo, with the remaining funds to be secured by June.

But in the past month, the German and Italian governments have refused to pay their share of the overrun, citing different reasons that include concerns over whether they will be well-represented in the future Galileo consortium.

During a June 21-22 meeting of ESA’s ruling council in Darmstadt, Germany, agency officials sought to secure their 200 million-euro share of the excess Galileo costs. As expected, however, ESA governments declined to sign off on the financing.

They agreed to take a fresh look at the problem July 26.

By that time, a selection of a Galileo concession consortium should have occurred, even though a final concession contract is not expected until the end of the year.

ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said that if ESA governments do not agree to pay for the Galileo overruns by mid-September, ESA will be forced to stop work on the project.

Unseen Planet Would Ex plain Hubble Image

An image taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope provides strong evidence that a dusty ring surrounding a nearby star is being reshaped by an unseen planet’s gravitational pull.

The U.S. space agency announced June 22 that the most detailed image yet taken of the dusty ring around the star Fomalhaut indicates the gravitational pull of an elliptical-orbiting planet is responsible for the ring’s narrow width and uneven edges.

The ring’s inner edge is much sharper than its outer edge, a sign that an object is gravitationally sweeping out material, according to a NASA news release. The suspected planet likely is orbiting inside the ring’s inner edge, between 7.6 and 10.5 billion kilometers from the 200-million-year-old Fomalhaut.

NASA’s X-43A Recognized for New Speed Record

Guinness World Records officially recognized the speed of Mach 9.6, or 11,295 kilometers per hour, achieved by NASA’s X-43A hypersonic vehicle as the new world speed record for jet-powered aircraft, the space agency announced June 20.

The X-43A project involved an air-breathing jet engine that could power an aircraft up to 10 times the speed of sound. The flight took place last November over the Pacific Ocean west of California. The project was part of NASA’s Hyper-X Program, which now has two world speed records under its belt. The first was set at Mach 6.8 in March 2004.

Spacenet To Connect Ace Hardware Chain

Spacenet Inc. will provide broadband satellite services to Ace Hardware’s 4,800 member stores throughout the United States, allowing for high-speed internet access for faster credit- and debit-card purchases, Spacenet of McLean, Va., announced June 20.

Spacenet will install its Connexstar service hardware at all member stores to provide an outbound data rate up to 1 megabit per second and an inbound rate up to 256 kilobits per second, according to Stan Schneider, a Spacenet spokesman. Financial and other terms of the contract, including deployment schedule, were not disclosed.

Tachyon to Extend Into Afghanistan, Other Areas

Tachyon Networks announced June 20 it will expand its satellite-delivered broadband telephony, video and data services into Afghanistan and other markets in central Asia and eastern Europe.

The Vienna, Va.-based company will add on to its existing European hub using Ku-band capacity aboard the PAS-10 satellite to make available secure communications in such areas as Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Poland and Romania.

Tachyon has secured new contracts as a result of the expansion, but company spokesman Chris Leach would not divulge any further detail about the awards.

This service expansion comes after Tachyon announced June 1 that it had secured another $7 million in funding from West River Capital and other investors to sustain the company through 2005.

Northrop is Developing NASA Monitoring System

Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles is designing a health-monitoring architecture for NASA that will interconnect with a spacecraft’s key subsystems to detect, identify and resolve problems in areas such as power, propulsion and life support, the company announced June 22.

The architecture, which is being developed as part of a four-year, $26.8 million contract with NASA, will continuously monitor key systems aboard future spacecraft by using an approach much like that on personal computers. If a space vehicle’s onboard computers cannot resolve a problem, they will provide astronauts with interactive guidance on how to manually correct the malfunction.

Northrop Grumman plans to spend the first year of the contract testing architecture software at NASA research centers, and then deploy higher-fidelity hardware for three years of testing.

DARPA Challenge Teams Using NavCom Receivers

Twelve of 40 teams competing in the 2005 Grand Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are using NavCom Technology’s SF-2050 GPS receivers and StarFireT Network to enable their robotic vehicles to successfully self-navigate 241 kilometers of desert terrain.

NavCom, a subsidiary of Deere & Co. based in Torrance, Calif., said June 20 that the team who first completes the off-road course in the Mojave Desert will receive a $2 million prize.

The StarFire network, a satellite-based augmentation system, is used in land, marine and aeronautical applications.

Austrian Airlines To Offer Connexion Internet Service

Connexion by Boeing will begin outfitting Austrian Airlines aircraft to receive its high-speed in-flight Internet service starting in early 2006 under an agreement announced by the companies June 16.

Initial plans call for installing Connexion equipment aboard seven Austrian Airlines aircraft. The service will be available primarily on long-haul routes. Austrian Airlines, based in Vienna, flies to 130 destinations in 66 countries.

University of Arizona To Build Astrobiology Center

The Arizona Board of Regents approved June 16 the building of a new astrobiology center at the University of Arizona in Tucson to study the possible existence of life outside the solar system.

University of Arizona professors Nick Woolf and Jonathan Lunine will act as interim directors of the Life and Planets Astrobiology Center, which also is expected to serve as the Tucson node of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. No opening date for the facility has been set.

SeaSpace Systems Used To Process NOAA Weather Data

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used SeaSpace’s TeraScan ground systems to acquire and process images from the agency’s NOAA-18 weather satellite, the Allied Defense Group, which owns SeaSpace, announced June 3.

NOAA officials utilized the TeraScan technology in both Alaska and Washington to process data from the agency’s newest polar-orbiting satellite . The NOAA-18 satellite was launched May 20 aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Research Systems To Sell Sensor Systems Products

Sensor Systems Inc. has selected Research Systems Inc. (RSI), a Boulder, Colo.-based subsidiary of ITT industries, to distribute Sensor Systems’ RemoteView products in the United Kingdom, France and Italy, RSI announced June 21.

RemoteView is Sterling, Va.-based Sensor Systems’ software application for importing, viewing, reporting and analyzing government and commercial remote-sensing data. The agreement went into effect April 6.

EMS Technologies To Develop UAV Antenna

The U.S. Office of Naval Research has selected EMS Technologies Inc. to develop a Common Data Link antenna system to operate as a high-altitude relay and router package in the Navy’s Global Information Grid network, EMS announced June 22.

The Atlanta-based company’s Defense & Space Systems division will develop the technology to include multiple antenna beams with low-noise receive and high-power transmit amplification. The system will be mounted on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to provide high-speed communications between ship, air and ground terminals.

The initial phase of the project will last two years under a contract valued at $1.68 million.

Students Win Access to Astro-E2 Space Telescope

Eight high school students from San Francisco will be able to study a supernova later this summer using the new Astro-E2 X-ray observatory, a spacecraft with three X-ray telescopes built by the United States and Japan that can observe a form of light invisible to the naked eye, NASA announced May 29.

Astro-E2 is set to launch this summer on a Japanese M-V rocket and will be placed in a near-Earth circular orbit for a mission life of five years. It is designed to study supernova remnants, such as that of the Tycho Supernova the students plan to observe .

The students are the winners of a NASA-sponsored science contest in which they were asked to write a science proposal to study supernova remnants and their interaction with interstellar medium.

Stellar Two-Way Modem Designed for Orbcomm

Stellar Satellite Communications announced June 16 the introduction of the company’s DS100 two-way satellite modem, designed for machine-to-machine applications via the Orbcomm low Earth-orbiting satellite network.

The DS100 — designed by Stellar of Dulles, Va., and Delphi Technologies Inc. of Troy, Mich. — is touted as a rugged transceiver that can be used in such applications as automatic utility meter reading, transportation tracking, oil and gas field monitoring and security.

Intelsat General MovesTo Suburban Maryland

Intelsat General Corp. has moved its main office to Bethesda, Md., from Washingto n, to house its 50 employees. The company — a subsidiary of Intelsat Ltd., which is headquartered in Bermuda — provides mobile satellite networking services to government and commercial customers.

Naval Global Hawk UAVs Achieve Test Milestones

Northrop Grumman conducted the first flight test June 7 of the second of two Global Hawk unmanned aircraft that have been specially adapted for use by the U.S. Navy, according to a company spokeswoman.

The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program is intended to yield a version of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that is customized to take imagery of coastal areas rather than targets on land, said Revelle Anderson, a spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems in San Diego, Calif.

In the latest test, the UAV, dubbed N2, flew from Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Anderson said.

That followed on the heels of a May 20 test in which the first UAV built under the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program, dubbed N1, transmitted information via Ku-band satellite link from San Diego to its future operating base at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Md., Anderson said. The N1 flew for the first time in October 2004.

Both vehicles are slated to be delivered to the Navy this year, and are expected to participate in the Navy’s Trident Warrior exercise in December, Anderson said. The annual Trident Warrior exercise enables the Navy to test new information network capabilities in a realistic environment.

Raytheon Co. Conducts KEI Wind Tunnel Tests

Raytheon Co. has completed the first in a series of wind tunnel tests under a program to develop a high-speed rocket capable of intercepting ballistic missiles as they lift off , according to a June 13 news release from the Waltham, Mass.-based company.

A key objective of the testing is to narrow down options for the shape of the nose cone for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI), which is being developed by Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp. with Raytheon as the primary subcontractor. Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., another subcontractor on the effort, developed the requirements for the test and provided analysis support.

The Pentagon plans to decide whether to continue work on the Kinetic Energy Interceptor following the first flight of the booster rocket, which is scheduled for 2008.

Sandia Lab Demonstrates Miniature Airborne Radar

The Sandia National Laboratories has flown an experimental radar sensor that takes high-resolution images despite its tiny size, according to a news release from the lab, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR) weighs just 11 kilograms, but took images sharp enough to distinguish objects as small as 10 centimeters across from a range of 6 kilometers during airborne testing in May, according to the news release from the Albuquerque, N.M. -based lab.

The MiniSAR payload could be mounted on unmanned aerial platforms that are far smaller than those in use today, and perhaps one-tenth the cost, according to the news release.