Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 29 June 2006
03:32 pm ET


Delta 2 Launches Two Experimental Satellites

A U.S. military space experiment intended to help pave the way for the development of future small satellites was launched aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket June 22.

The Microsatellite Technology Experiment (MiTEx) was developed jointly by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The experiment features two small satellites — one built by Lockheed Martin Corp., the other by Orbital Sciences Corp. — intended to examine new lightweight technology in areas including power, propulsion and avionics, according to a Pentagon fact sheet.

Boeing Considering Sale Of Connexion Business

Boeing Co. of Chicago is mulling a possible sale of its Connexion by Boeing unit, which provides Internet connectivity via satellite to airline customers. In a statement the company issued June 23, Connexion said: “We are evaluating the long-term business model for Connexion by Boeing to assess what is best for the business and our customers. We know we have a useful product, but we are trying to determine how good a business we have.”

Connexion said in the statement the decision would be based on a market analysis and from discussions with customers, but that a decision has not yet been made. Connexion spokesman Marc Birtel declined to comment beyond the company’s statement.

Boeing has lost an estimated $1 billion in the ventu r e since it began six years ago, according to Paul Nisbet, an analyst with JSA Research Inc. of Newport, R.I., who said June 23 that the business unit has been plagued with such problems as airlines backing out of installation deals and customers being unwilling to pay high prices for the service.

“Not being in the communications business, Boeing overestimated the numbers of passengers willing to pay around $30 for that service,” Nisbet said. Nisbet added any of the large satellite communications operators could potentially eye the unit for purchase. “They could probably figure out a better way of making money from it than Boeing has,” he said.

U.S. Says N. Korean Launch Won’t Speed Up MDA’s Work

The Pentagon has not accelerated any aspect of its missile defense work in response to a possible North Korean test of a long-range missile, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry “Trey” Obering, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), told reporters at a June 23 breakfast in Washington. Obering declined, however, to confirm or deny press reports that the Pentagon had placed the Ground Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) System interceptors that are located in Alaska and California on alert as a result of a possible North Korean test. The GMD system is built by Boeing Co. of Chicago.

Obering pointed out that the Pentagon has moved the GMD system from a test configuration to operational status many times over the past 18 months, and said that he is confident that the GMD interceptors could knock down a North Korean missile.

Obering acknowledged that the Pentagon’s knowledge of North Korea’s missile capabilities is limited by the fact that the country has not tested a long-range missile since 1998, but said that his confidence stems from the physics involved with testing thus far.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile June 22 during testing with its sea-based missile defense system aboard a U.S. Navy cruiser off the coast of Hawaii in a test that Obering hailed as “very, very successful.”

The Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System is not capable of shooting down long-range missiles like what North Korea might use, Obering said.

According to a Defense Department official, the Aegis system uses a modified Standard Missile-3 rocket built by Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., that is not fast enough to intercept a long-range missile.

However, the radar on the Aegis ship could play a major role in tracking a long-range missile headed towards the United States, Obering said.

The United States and Japan are working on an improved version of the Standard Missile-3, and senior leaders officially signed off on the cooperative development June 23, the Defense Department official said.

France, Italy Study Military Broadband Satellite Potential

The French and Italian space agencies agreed June 22 to jointly study the potential of a Ka-band broadband satellite that would be used by the two nations’ defense forces and by civil government agencies.

The Athena-Fidus satellite, weighing about 3,000 kilograms, would be launched into geostationary orbit in 2010 and be capable of data throughput speeds higher than 2 gigabits per second, according to the French space agency, CNES. The DVB-RCS and DVB-S2 transmission standards would be used for transmissions between the satellite and users’ terminals.

CNES and the Italian Space Agency, ASI, will co-finance the initial studies. The development of Athena-Fidus might permit the French and Italian defense ministries to scrap plans for a French Syracuse 3C military communications satellite and a future Italian Sicral spacecraft for lower-priority French and Italian military forces’ communications.

Australian Military Plans New Telecom Satellite

The Australian Defence Ministry has tentatively budgeted up to $1.1 billion for a next-generation military telecommunications satellite to succeed the Optus and Defence C1 satellite currently in orbit, the ministry announced June 20.

The decision is embedded in the Defence Capability Plan 2006-2016, which includes nearly $39 billion in capital equipment purchases during the period.

The ministry also announced it would spend up to 75 million Australian dollars ($55.3 million) for a new satellite ground station and mobile communications modems for Australia’s military in 2007 and 2008.

The new military communications satellite is scheduled to be ordered between 2010 and 2012, and launched between 2013 and 2015. The project is tentatively budgeted at up to 1.5 billion Australian dollars .

The Optus and Defence C1 satellite, valued at launch at about $343 million, carries separate commercial and military payloads. The SingTel Optus company operates the commercial transponders, and Australia’s defense forces use the X- and Ka-band payload. It entered service in mid-2003 and is expected to remain operational until 2018.

HNS Signs Network Services Deal with BP North America

Hughes Network Systems LLC of Germantown, Md., has signed a contract with BP Corp. North America to provide the Chicago-based company with network services in the United States, according to a June 20 Hughes press release.

The contract, the amount of which was not disclosed, is a four-year deal and includes the installation and management of both Digital Subscriber Line and satellite broadband technologies at more than 10,000 retail locations, the release said.

“We think this is a large market — the managed services market,” Arunas Slekys, Hughes vice president of corporate marketing, said in a telephone interview June 21. “The issue is getting all broadband services from one provider.”

The company already has outfitted more than 2,000 of the new sites, Slekys said.

Telenor Unveils Laptop-Si zed BGAN Terminal

Telenor Satellite Services of Rockville, Md., has introduced a new satellite terminal to be used with its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), Telenor said in a June 20 press release.

The company’s Wideeye Sabre 1 is smaller than laptop size and allows voice and data applications to be done simultaneously, the release said. Telenor Satellite Services, a reseller of Inmarsat‘s BGAN satellite service, will be offering the use of the terminal, which was developed by its subsidiary Addvalue Technologies Ltd. of Singapore, as part of its general portfolio.

The cost of the terminal has not been determined, according to Telenor spokesman Dave Farmer.

Loral, Go2Call Team To Sell VoIP in Asia

Loral Skynet of Bedminister, N.J., has partnered with Evanston, Ill.-based Go2Call to provide Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services in Asia, Loral announced in a June 19 press release.

Loral will provide the satellite service and platform, while incorporating Go2Call’s VoIP technology, the release said. The partnership will target telecommunications and broadband carriers, businesses and government organizations as customers.

Boeing Tests Router for Compatibility with T-Sat

Boeing Co. of Chicago has completed a series of tests to demonstrate the compatibility of the router it is building for the Transformational Satellite Communications (T-Sat ) mission with a government terminal, the company announced in a June 20 press release.

Boeing’s router, T-Sat Next-Generation Processor Router, was tested to see if it complies with the government’s anti-jamming waveform, which was developed for the T-Sat mission.

The testing was done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington. Boeing Co.’s router is designed to provide high-speed Internet protocol capabilities, according to the release.

Boeing has a $514 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for its development work on T-Sat . The primary contractor for the mission is expected to be selected in 2008.

Kazakhstan To Loft 2nd Satellite in 2008

Kazakhstan’s 1,380-kilogram KazSat satellite launched June 18 aboard a Russian Proton-K vehicle will be joined in two years by a second satellite to meet television and telecommunications demand in the Central Asian republic and surrounding areas , Kazakh government officials said. KazSat-2 should be launched in 2008, they said.

Zskar Zhumagaliyev, chairman of Kazakhstan’s Information Agency, said KazSat will save $25 million per year in what domestic communications organizations pay in leasing capacity on foreign satellites. He said Kazakhstan’s e-government initiative, which will use the satellite, will provide another $200 million in total savings, according to a transcript of his statement provided by Kazakhstan’s Khabar national news agency.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said KazSat, launched from the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, is part of his country’s long-term space program up to 2020.

KazSat was built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow, with the electronics payload provided by Alcatel Alenia Space of France and Italy. The satellite carries 12 72-megahertz Ku-band transponders and will operate in Russia’s 103 degrees east longitude orbital slot.

The Russian Satellite Communications Co. of Moscow said June 20 that it was responsible for the satellite’s overall design, and that KazSat would provide coverage in central Russia.

Sea Launch Lofts Final PanAmSat Satellite

The last satellite to be launched under the PanAmSat name was successfully placed into orbit by a Sea Launch Zenit-3SL vehicle June 18, a launch that marks the beginning of the end of a company that will now become part of the satellite establishment it was created to battle.

The Galaxy 16 telecommunications satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., will replace PanAmSat’s Galaxy 4R satellite at the company’s orbital slot at 99 degrees west longitude.

Galaxy 16 carries 24 C-band and 24 Ku-band transponders to provide high-definition television, Internet Protocol TV and broadband Internet access.

The accuracy of the launch could enable Galaxy 16 to provide more than 20 years of in-orbit service, compared to the 15 years specified in the satellite construction contract.

Ken Lee, vice president of PanAmSat, said the satellite and launch were insured for a sum that represents the lowest premium seen in the commercial satellite industry in the last five years. PanAmSat Chief Executive Joe Wright said Galaxy 16 cost $172 million.

Chris Hoeber, Space Systems/Loral senior vice president, said Galaxy 16 is the first satellite he has worked on that ended up weighing less than expected when it was first designed. The Galaxy 16 launch weight was 4,640 kilograms.

The launch was the third for Sea Launch Co. LLC this year. It increases the likelihood that the Long Beach, Calif.-based firm will meet its goal of conducting five or six launch campaigns in 2006, a performance that would be a record for Sea Launch. The next launch, of Korea Telecom’s Koreasat 5 satellite, is scheduled for August.

Galaxy 16 is the 43rd satellite launched for PanAmSat since the Wilton, Conn., company’s Galaxy 1 spacecraft in 1983.

Loral Skynet Unveils Two Backup Satcom Services

Loral Skynet of Bedminster, N.J., is rolling out two new contingency services for Internet Protocol (IP) data networks that transfer traffic to the company’s Telstar satellite fleet when an outage occurs over terrestrial lines , Loral announced June 15.

The first service, called SkyReach Ensure, will provide government and businesses organizations continuous connectivity by automatically transferring traffic to Telstar satellites during terrestrial outages . Loral said this service is useful in the case of both natural disasters and human errors on terrestrial IP networks. Human errors account for nearly 80 percent of network outages, according to the news release.

The second new service , SkyReach SAVER (Satellite Access by VSAT for Emergency Recovery), provides a satellite backup option to organizations that do not need continuous access to an IP data network. Skynet said this service will provide access to an IP data network within a few hours of a terrestrial outage.

“It just makes more sense from a cost standpoint to implement a restoration solution as opposed to a continuity solution,” Patrick Brant, president of L oral Skynet, said in the release.

Saab To Provide Converters For Two Eutelsat Satellites

Saab Ericsson Space of Gothenburg, Sweden, will provide nearly 50 Ku-band frequency converters to Astrium Satellites for the W2M and Hot Bird 9 satellites Astrium is building for Eutelsat of Paris , Saab announced June 16. No financial details were disclosed.

The W2M satellite, being built by Astrium and Antrix Corp., the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, will provide television broadcasting and broadband services in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, Saab said in its press release. Hot Bird 9 will offer video distribution and direct-to-home television services in Europe. Both satellites are scheduled to launch in 2008.

Spacecom’s Amos-4 Plan Targets Southeast Asia

Having signed a contract to launch its Amos-3 communications satellite in late 2007 aboard a Land Launch rocket, Spacecom Ltd. of Ramat Gan, Israel, has begun planning for a fourth satellite that will expand the company’s business into Asia.

Spacecom has neither a launch date nor an orbital slot for the planned Amos-4 satellite, but is targeting the Indian Ocean region, said Motty Slomovitz, the company’s vice president for sales and marketing in North America. A slot over the Indian Ocean would stretch Spacecom’s coverage area from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and Japan, he said.

The company eventually hopes to operate a fleet of five to six satellites, Slomovitz said in a June 13 interview.

Currently Spacecom operates two satellites, Amos-1 and Amos-2, both in the 4 degrees west slot over the Atlantic, which provides coverage of the Middle East, Europe and the East Coast of the United States. Amos-3 will join the other two spacecraft in that slot, eventually replacing Amos-1, which was launched in 1996. Amos-2 became operational in 2004.

Amos-3 will boast more capabilities than its predecessors, including Ka-band capacity and steerable rather than fixed antenna beams, Slomovitz said.

Over the next few years, Spacecom expects to see growth both in its commercial business, primarily in direct-to-home television broadcasting, as well as in its U.S. Department of Defense business, which is arranged through U.S. companies, Slomovitz said.

ISRO Details Architecture of Satellite Navigation System

The Indian government’s recently approved satellite navigation system features four satellites in geostationary orbit and three in highly elliptical orbit to cover a broad area including the whole of the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman Gopalan Madhavan Nair said.

The system architecture is similar to that of Japan’s planned Quazi-Zenith Satellite System, also to provide navigation and timing services over a large region.

In a press briefing in Paris June 16, Nair said the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System’s budget of 14.2 billion rupees ($311 million), approved in May by the Indian government, is only for the space segment. The ground infrastructure will be covered under a separate budget, Nair said.

Nair also announced a launch-vehicle partnership with the Arianespace launch consortium of Evry, France. He said Arianespace likely would continue to launch India’s domestic Insat telecommunications satellites when those spacecraft are too large for India’s indigenous Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) . But both GSLV and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle “can be seen as a kind of backup” for smaller satellites that Arianespace cannot launch.

K.R. Sridhara Murthi, executive director of Antrix Corp. Ltd., ISRO’s commercial space arm , said India is aware that Russia’s Soyuz rocket, to be operated by Arianespace starting in 2008, has a similar capability to that of India’s GSLV vehicle. “Time will tell how this develops,” Murthi said.

ARES Corp. To Support NASA Management System

ARES Corp. of Burlington, Calif., will maintain and support a Web-based management system for NASA under a five-year contract worth up to $12 million, NASA announced June 16.

The Process Based Mission Assurance-Knowledge Management System provides program managers at all NASA centers with access to critical mission and safety data. ARES will support system infrastructure, content management and information, as well as provide training, marketing and outreach support, among other maintenance duties, according to the news release.

Spaceward, NASA To Host Telerobotic Competition

The Spaceward Foundation of Mountain View, Calif., is joining forces with NASA’s Centennial Challenges program to host a competition in which teams must build simple structures using remote-controlled robots that could one day operate on the Moon or Mars, the foundation announced June 16.

In the Telerobotic Construction Challenge, contestants will build robotic vehicles to assemble a structure using building blocks that are scattered throughout an arena, according to the news release. The team members can only control the robots using equipment that simulates an Earth-Mars communications delay and related distance restrictions.

The competition offers a prize purse of $250,000, according to the news release.

“If the Telerobotic Construction Challenge can successfully demonstrate the remote assembly of simple and complex structures, many aspects of exploration in general will be affected for the better,” Scott Horowitz, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, said in the news release.

A complete list of competition rules is available at www.spaceward.org/rra.html.

Orbital To Upgrade County Transit Dispatch System

Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., will upgrade the fleet management system for the public transit service of Montgomery County, Md., under a first-phase contract valued at $3 million, Orbital announced June 16. The contract includes two follow-on phases worth a combined total of $3.1 million.

Under the contract, Orbital will upgrade the Computer Aided Dispatch and GPS-based Automatic Vehicle Location programs for Montgomery County’s Ride On public transit service, which includes 390 buses. Orbital installed the original fleet management system for Montgomery County — located in the Washington metropolitan area — in 1996, according to the news release.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com