Swales Delivers Last Bus for NASA’s THEMIS Mission

Swales Aerospace has delivered the last of five microsatellite platforms for NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission, which will study anomalies in Earth’s magnetosphere, Swales announced June 13.

All five spacecraft platforms, or buses, were built at Swales’ facilities in Beltsville, Md., and then shipped to the THEMIS principal investigator team at the University of California, Berkeley. Each satellite will be equipped with instruments to study the highly reactive particle events in the magnetosphere that appear as the aurora, or northern lights, from Earth’s surface.

The mission is part of NASA’s Medium Explorer Program and is scheduled to launch in October , according to the Swales news release.

Raytheon To Upgrade German Patriot Facility

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Tewksbury, Mass., will upgrade equipment at a Patriot missile test facility in Schrobenhausen, Germany, under a contract worth $10.5 million.

The contract was awarded by COMLOG, a joint-venture company between Raytheon and Germany’s Lenkflugkorpersysteme GmbH that provides Patriot maintenance on behalf of NATO’s Maintenance and Supply Agency.

Raytheon announced June 14 that it will test and deliver upgraded software and hardware for the Patriot Missile 460 test station for COMLOG.

Aerojet Wins Contract To Develop ICBM Upper Stage

Aerojet will develop and test new upper-stage solid-rocket motor technology for future use on ICBMs under a two-phase U.S. Air Force contract worth approximately $19 million , Aerojet announced June 13.

In the first four-month phase of the contract, Aerojet will analyze and evaluate future solid-rocket motor technologies at its facilities in Sacramento, Calif.

In the second phase , Aerojet will demonstrate a full-scale upper-stage motor at the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee.

Lockheed Martin To Acquire Military Info Tech Contractor

Lockheed Martin Corp. will acquire ISX Corp. of Camarillo, Calif., an information technology solutions company that largely does government and military business.

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, according to a June 12 press release from Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin.

Approximately 90 percent of ISX’s business is the Department of Defense, the release said. ISX was awarded the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “contractor of the year” award two years in a row.

Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories in Cherry Hill, N.J., will manage the new business. The transaction is expected to close in June, the release said.

Indian Entertainment Firm Leases Capacity from Shin

YPT Entertainment of Chandigarh, India, will lease transponder capacity from Shin Satellite Public Co. Ltd. of Nonthaburi, Thailand, to deliver news and entertainment programming in India.

The deal calls for YPT Entertainment to initially lease a channel on Shin’s Thaicom 3 satellite, which was launched in 1997 but has a power problem that is expected to reduce its on orbit life. YPT eventually will be transferred to Shin’s newest satellite, Thaicom 5, which was launched May 27. Shin plans to move Thaicom 3 to a new orbital location in September.

Humanitarian Organization To Use QuickBird Imagery

Healing Hands International, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, will use imagery from DigitalGlobe‘s Quickbird satellite for agricultural development and disaster relief missions in Africa and Central America, according to a June 14 DigitalGlobe press release.

Healing Hands will obtain the imagery through a DigitalGlobe business partner, Native Communities Development Corp. of Colorado Springs, Colo. DigitalGlobe is based on Longmont, Colo.

Honeywell Gets $5.2 Million Increment for Aerial Drone

Honeywell International of Albuquerque, N.M., will continue development and demonstration of the Organic Air Vehicle-2 — an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of taking off and landing vertically — under a U.S. Army contract increment worth approximately $5.2 million, the U.S. Defense Department announced June 12.

The increment is part of a three-phase contract worth up to $39.1 million, Louanne Sargent, a spokeswoman for Honeywell, said June 15. The base contract was awarded to Honeywell by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in October 2004.

The company is expected to complete work on the Organic Air Vehicle by February 2009, according to the release.

The term Organic Air Vehicle indicates that the UAV belongs to a single command unit that operates it and also gathers the data via the unit’s own ground-based terminal, Sargent said.

Under the contract increment, Honeywell will develop a so-called Class 2 UAV, which will have twice the endurance of Class 1 drones.

NASA Imaging Technology May Shed Light on Diabetes

The technology used by NASA scientists to process images of Earth and other worlds has been adapted for use in diabetes research, NASA announced June 13.

Scientists at the George Washington University in Washington and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., modified the NASA image-processing system to study images of rat cells taken with an electron microscope.

The researchers are analyzing these so-called electron photomicrographs to study the beta cells located in the pancreas of a rat, which manufacture insulin that regulates blood glucose levels. Diabetes, which affects nearly 20 million Americans, is the body’s inability to regulate glucose.

Researchers hope the technology will help them identify and understand insulin granules in the beta cells.

“NASA technology combined with our modifications has provided us with new tools for fighting diabetes,” Murray Loew, a researcher at George Washington, said in the news release.

Ball Begins Calibrating 1st JWST Flight Mirror Segment

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has received the first of 18 primary flight mirror segments for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for calibration work and system assembly, the Boulder, Colo.-based company announced June 14.

Over the next four years, Ball Aerospace will calibrate the mirror segments and mount them on a lightweight structure to form the JWST’s 6.5-meter primary mirror. Ball is the principal optical subcontractor for the James Webb telescope, with Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., serving as prime contractor.

The segment was delivered by Axsys Technologies of Rocky Hill, Conn., which is teamed with Ball Aerospace, Brush Wellman and Tinsley Laboratories to manufacture the telescope’s mirrors out of beryllium, a lightweight metal able to withstand the temperature extremes of the space environment , according to the release.

The James Webb telescope will be able to detect objects 200 times fainter than the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing scientists to observe the formation of galaxies dating back to the Big Bang. It is slated to launch in 2013.

AirLaunch Drop-Tests Rocket from USAF C-17

AirLaunch LLC, the U.S. Air Force, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency dropped a 30,000-kilogram payload from a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft June 14 as part of the testing for a new satellite launch vehicle , according to a company news release.

The 30,000-kilogram payload, which was intended as a surrogate for AirLaunch’s QuickReach rocket, was the heaviest single object ever dropped out of a C-17, according to the news release. The test was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“This drop test is the second in a series designed to assure that we can safely extract the QuickReach rocket from a C-17,” said Livingston Holder, AirLaunch’s chief program executive. “With each test, we get closer to the actual mission launch altitude and launch vehicle weight, and ultimately developing a launch vehicle that meets the Falcon [small launch vehicle] requirements.” The Falcon small launch vehicle program is intended to develop a vehicle that can launch a 450-kilogram satellite to low Earth orbit within a day’s notice for less than $5 million.

Vietnam Picks Ariane 5 To Launch Its Vinasat-1

The Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) will launch its Vinasat-1 telecommunications satellite aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket under a contract expected to be announced during the CommunicAsia telecommunications show June 20-23 in Singapore, according to industry officials.

Vinasat-1, Vietnam’s first telecommunications satellite, is being built by Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems of Newtown, Pa. The satellite, an A2100 model, is expected to weigh around 2,800 kilograms at launch and to offer C- and Ku-band telecommunications services from Vietnam’s 132 degrees east orbital position.

VNPT has said the cost of the satellite, including its launch, insurance and two control centers, will be around $270 million. The Vietnamese government estimates that, over its 15-year service life, Vinasat-1 will result in a net savings of several million dollars in lease payments it now makes to satellite operators.

Honeywell Agrees To Pay $2.6 Million Fine to U.S.

Honeywell International paid the United States $2.6 million to settle charges it failed to properly test packaging materials for sensitive electronic parts used by NASA and the Department of Defense, the Justice Department announced June 15. Honeywell was accused of violating the False Claims Act by knowingly making and selling electrostatic protective metallic sheets that did not meet military specifications. The protective sheets were used to make packaging for more than 186,000 different types of sensitive parts used by the military and NASA.

“We were pleased to have reached an equitable settlement with the Department of Justice,” Peter Dalpe, a spokesman for Honeywell Specialty Materials in Morristown, N.J., said June 16.

Fifteen percent of the settlement, $393,750, went to Vernon, Calif.-based Caltex Plastics and one of its executives, Jim Higgs. Higgs initiated the whistleblower suit against Honeywell in 2003 alleging that the company had sold Caltex Plastics materials that had not gone through the proper testing. Higgs said Caltex Plastics used the sheets purchased from Honeywell to produce antistatic bags used by aerospace contractors to package microchips and other sensitive elec tronic parts.

Soyuz Launches Russia Remote Sensing Probe

The Russian remote sensing spacecraft Resurs DK-1 was successfully lofted into orbit June 15 aboard a Soyuz launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Starsem, the Soyuz Company, reported after launch.

This is the fourth successful Soyuz flight in 2006.

SOFIA Passes Critical NASA Technical Review

A panel of senior NASA managers found “no insurmountable technical or programmatic barriers” to the completion of the SOFIA flying astronomy observatory, the U.S. space agency announced June 15, but pointedly noted it had not decided whether to continue the over-budget and behind-schedule program or cancel it.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a 747 jetliner equipped with a German-built infrared telescope, has been on the chopping block since the beginning of the year. NASA shocked the astronomy community and annoyed its German partners when it sent Congress a budget request in February that included no money for SOFIA. NASA said at the time that it put SOFIA on hold in order to evaluate the technical challenges standing in the way of the observatory beginning its first science flights.

“We placed the program on hold last February because of programmatic and technical issues,” NASA Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, the agency’s third-in-command, said in a June 15 statement. “Since that time, we have thoroughly reviewed the program and now are confident that SOFIA can resolve those issues. However, it is not yet clear whether SOFIA represents the best investment of space science funding, and we will need to consider funding options and sources before we decide to continue the mission.”

CNES Approves Investment In Swedish Smallsat Program

The French space agency, CNES, on June 15 gave its formal approval for an investment in Sweden’s Prisma project, which features two small satellites designed to validate technologies for in-orbit rendezvous and docking, and formation flying, CNES announced.

CNES valued its participation in Prisma at about 16.5 million euros ($20.9 million), including personnel costs. The French contribution will include radio frequency measurement gear. The German Aerospace Center, DLR, and the Technical University of Denmark also are taking roles in Prisma, for which the Swedish Space Corp. will be prime contractor.

The two satellites — a chaser craft weighing 140 kilograms and a 40-kilogram target spacecraft — are scheduled to be launched in 2008 into a 600-kilometer orbit.

Sea Launch Wins Contract To Loft 3rd Thuraya Satellite

Sea Launch LLC will loft the 5,250-kilogram Thuraya 3 regional mobile telecommunications satellite in January 2007 under a contract with manufacturer Boeing Satellite Development Center, Sea Launch of Long Beach, Calif., announced June 12.

The launch, from Sea Launch’s floating platform in the Pacific Ocean at the equator, will be the company’s third mission on behalf of Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. All three of the large Thuraya satellites were manufactured by Boeing of El Segundo, Calif.

Financial terms of the latest contract were not disclosed.

Irvin Aerospace To Design CEV Airbag Landing System

Irvin Aerospace of Santa Ana, Calif., will design an airbag landing system for NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) under a five-year contract from the agency’s Langley Research Center, which is overseeing the CEV’s launch-abort system integration and the command capsule’s landing system , Irvin announced June 12.

Irvin will design and test the airbag landing system in various landing simulations. The contract also includes options to manufacture and test the system at Langley in Hampton, Va., Irvin said in a news release.

ILC Dover LP of Frederica, Del., announced May 17 a similar five-year contract from Langley to develop and demonstrate airbag concepts. That contract is valued at up to $2 million, according to the ILC release.

Irvin did not disclose the value of the contract in the news release.

WildBlue Internet Access Offered to DISH Customers

EchoStar Communications Corp. will distribute WildBlue Communications’ satellite-based high-speed Internet service to its DISH Network satellite television customers under a new five-year agreement, EchoStar of Englewood, Colo., announced June 9.

The service — called “DISH High-Speed Internet, powered by WildBlue ” — is targeted toward DISH customers in rural markets where terrestrial high-speed Internet services are not readily available. The service will be offered starting this autumn, with pricing to be announced later this year, according to the news release.

According to the agreement, EchoStar will handle customer care, installation and billing operations while WildBlue, also of Englewood, will manage satellite and backbone connectivity.

Symmetricom To Supply Electronic Gear for MUOS

Symmetricom Inc. of San Jose, Calif., will supply an oscillator to generate a stable frequency reference for the U.S. Navy’s Mobile User Objective System, a constellation of mobile communications satellites slated to begin launching in 2010, Symmetricom announced June 12.

Under a subcontract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., the prime contractor on the program , Symmetricom is to deliver an engineering model of the oscillator early this summer, with delivery of the first flight models due in August 2007, according to the news release.

Financial details of the subcontract were not disclosed.

The Mobile User Objective System will provide connectivity for ships at sea as well as for mobile ground forces operating around the world — even in hard-to-reach places such as beneath jungle canopies. It is the replacement system for the Navy’s UHF Follow On satellite system.

NASA Inks Deal With Praxair For Shuttle Liquid Oxygen

Praxair Inc. of Danbury, Conn., and Mims, Fla., will supply liquid oxygen for NASA’s space shuttle program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida under a five-year contract worth up to $5.8 million if all options are exercised, NASA announced June 12.

Praxair will provide the necessary management, labor, facilities and equipment to manufacture and deliver the liquid oxygen to Kennedy, according to the release.

L-3 Communications Names Interim Chief Executive

Michael T. Strianese will serve as interim chief executive officer of L-3 Communications while the New York-based defense technology firm searches for a permanent replacement for Frank C. Lanza, who died suddenly June 6 .

Strianese was L-3’s chief financial officer before assuming his interim role, according to a company press release issued June 9 .

L-3’s board also appointed Robert B. Milliard as its non-executive chairman . Milliard is a managing director of New York-based Lehman Brothers Inc., one of L-3’s founding investors.

The search for a permanent leader for L-3 will be led by an executive committee consisting of three independent board members, the company said.

Com Dev International Sales Up 17 Percent for Quarter

Space hardware manufacturer Com Dev International of Cambridge, Ontario, reported sales of 38.2 million Canadian dollars ($34.5 million) during the second quarter of 2006, a 17-percent increase over the same period last year.

In a June 8 press release, John Keating, the company’s chief executive officer, attributed the revenue increase to progress in a mix of ongoing projects rather than an upswing in new orders.

“We have the organizational resources in place to take advantage of the cyclical upturn we are seeing in the commercial satellite market, while at the same time continuing to grow our civil and military business,” Keating said in the release.

Com Dev’s net income for the second quarter of 2006 was 5.4 million Canadian dollars, compared to 1.8 million in the second quarter of 2005.

GMV To Provide Software For NASA Mission Planning

GMV Space Systems of Rockville, Md., will provide mission planning and scheduling software for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is scheduled to launch in late 2008, GMV announced June 12.

The software, called FlexPlan, is integrated into a mission’s ground segment and is used to implement, change and validate flight rules for both orbiting satellites and interplanetary flight missions , according to the release. With this software, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., also can monitor onboard instruments, power systems and data dumps.

The FlexPlan software has been used on space missions headed by the European Space Agency and the European meteorological satellite organization, or Eumetsat, according to the release.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will launch on an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle to orbit the Moon and collect scientific data for nearly a year.

Rear Adm. Robert Murrett Tapped as Director of NGA

The White House has nominated U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Robert B. Murrett to receive his third star and take over as director of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which makes maps and analyzes imagery for the military and intelligence community.

Murrett, currently the director of naval intelligence, will replace James R. Clapper, whose retirement after nearly five years at the helm of the NGA became official June 13. Clapper, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general, announced Murrett’s selection at his retirement ceremony.

Pending confirmation of Murrett’s military promotion, the NGA will be led by Lloyd Rowland, the agency’s acting deputy director.

Murrett was selected for the NGA post by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in consultation with John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com