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Senate Bill Would Create New Space Commission

The version of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act approved by the U.S. Senate June 22 included an amendment sponsored by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) that would create an independent commission to review military space organization and management. The bill, S. 2766, was approved 96-0.

Allard, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Space Power Caucus, complained in a March 1 letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the priority the Pentagon places on space programs appeared to be suffering.

The amendment would require the secretary of defense to create an independent commission to assess: the Pentagon’s plans to meet future space missions, ways to strengthen space organization and management, and ways to improve the relationship between officials working on classified and unclassified space efforts. It also stipulates that the commission should look at ways to improve interagency cooperation on space work and bolster military space education.

The language is not included in the version of the bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives May 11, and is subject to conference when the House and Senate meet to resolve differences between their bills.

Boeing Awarded Contract For 3 More GPS Satellites

The U.S. Air Force awarded a $138.3 million contract to Boeing Navigation and Communications Systems of Huntington Beach, Calif., to begin production of satellites 10-12 of the company’s GPS 2F satellites, according to a Pentagon contract announcement dated June 22.

The contract comes shortly after the House Appropriations Committee raised questions about the need for those satellites.

The GPS 2F satellites, which were initially planned to begin launching in 2002, have run into technical difficulties that have delayed the first launch until 2008.

The Air Force plans to begin replacing the GPS 2F satellites with a new constellation called GPS 3 in 2013. Given the delays on GPS 2F, the health of the current constellation and the timeframe for GPS 3, the House Appropriations Committee recommended in a report accompanying its version of the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act that the Air Force reassess the need for GPS 2F satellites 10-12. The House version of the bill was approved June 20.

Northrop Sponsors Microgravity Flights

Northrop Grumman Corp. has launched a program that provides educators the opportunity to participate in parabolic flights that provide brief periods of microgravity so they can conduct experiments and share the experience with their students, the Los Angeles-based company announced June 24.

The Northrop Grumman Weightless Flights of Discovery program carried out its first two flights at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida June 10, with 40 educators participating (20 per flight). The program is aimed at sparking student interest in pursing careers in science, space and technology.

Northrop Grumman is sponsoring the program. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Zero Gravity Corp. is operating the parabolic flight aircraft, G-Force One. Zero Gravity also will conduct the training workshops and parabolic flights out of Huntsville, Ala.; San Diego; Cleveland; and Washington. The program includes five workshops and 12 flights in all.

A total of 240 teachers from all 50 U.S. states and nearly 15 countries are expected to participate in the program this summer. Each teacher will attend a workshop to learn how to operate in a microgravity environment, as well as receive support on how to incorporate their experiences into their curricula, according to the news release.

Alcatel Alenia To Supply Gear for European Soyuz

Alcatel Alenia Space will provide the launch-safeguard unit for the European version of Russia’s Soyuz rocket under a contract with the French space agency, CNES, and the Arianespace commercial-launch consortium, Alcatel Alenia Space announced.

Under the contract, whose financial details were not disclosed, Alcatel Alenia’s Belgian subsidiary will provide the switching and power-feeder system that shuts down the Soyuz engines in the event of an emergency. The company also will produce electronic ground equipment to test the engine-shutdown at the Central Specialized Design Bureau of Samara, Russia, which is the Soyuz prime contractor.

Alcatel Alenia Space provides similar gear for Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket. An adapted version of Russia’s Soyuz vehicle is scheduled to begin launches from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, in late 2008.

Frequentis USA To Develop Mission Monitoring System

Frequentis USA Inc. of Rockville, Md., will develop, test and maintain a NASA voice system that allows flight directors and mission specialists at various NASA centers to communicate more efficiently during manned and unmanned space missions, the space agency announced June 23. The system also will be used as an interface to communicate with astronauts.

The fixed-price portion of the contract is worth about $47 million to install the systems at all NASA field centers. The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity portion is worth approximately $66 million for a maximum 15-year performance period, according to the news release.

This installment also will standardize the voice system equipment at all NASA field centers, allowing them to share operator interfaces, Dan Duffy, a NASA project manager, told Space News June 29.

MTS Systems To Supply CLV Manufacturing Tool

MTS Systems Corp. of Eden Prairie, Minn., will design, deliver and test a welding tool to be used in the assembly of large-scale components for NASA’s Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV), which will loft the agency’s planned Crew Exploration Vehicle, NASA announced June 21.

The 25-month contract is worth up to $9 million, according to the news release. The Robotic Friction Stir Welding System is a six-axis machine that can weld large panels and platforms.

Nortel Nabs Contract To Support GOES Program

Nortel Government Solutions of Fairfax, Va., will provide systems engineering and software development support for the ground segment of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system under a contract worth $3 million, Nortel announced June 20.

Nortel will develop, test and deploy improved sensor processing systems for GOES satellites currently on orbit, including the GOES-13 launched in May, as well as for the GOES-O and GOES-P spacecraft slated to launch within the next three years.

The enhancement could help extend the life of the GOES-10 satellite, which is to be repositioned later this year to monitor weather in North, Central and South America, according to the news release.

Wackenhut To Provide Fire Protection at NASA Ames

Wackenhut Services Inc. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., will provide fire protection services to NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., under a contract worth up to $38.7 million, NASA announced June 20.

The contract has a one-year base period with four one-year extension options, according to the NASA news release. Wackenhut will perform fire suppression services as well as participate in the Santa Clara County Fire Rescue Mutual Aid Plan.

DigitalGlobe Signs Agent For Ex-Soviet Republics

DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colo., has chosen Sovzond of Moscow to distribute imagery from the U.S. firm’s QuickBird satellite in eight former Soviet republics.

Sovzond will be the exclusive distributor of QuickBird imagery in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to a June 27 press release from DigitalGlobe.

Kentucky Group Launches Student Satellite Program

A consortium of universities and other organizations in Kentucky has created a program that will give state undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to design, build and launch a small satellite.

The Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. (KSTC), a managing partner on the KentuckySatellite (KySat) project, announced June 23 that the initiative supports education and research undertakings statewide. The first KySat will carry a variety of payloads whose data will be available free of charge to educational institutions throughout the state.

This summer, a core team of students from universities around Kentucky are spending 10 weeks at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffitt Field, Calif., to design and construct an engineering model of the first KySat satellite. Partners in the project include Ames, the Stanford Space and Systems Development Laboratory and the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo , Kris Kimel, president of KSTC, told Space News June 27.

The student team will return to the University of Kentucky in Lexington this autumn to build a flight-model satellite, Kimel said.

The first KySat will be a cube-shaped satellite with a mass of less than 1 kilogram, according to the June 23 KSTC press release. The satellite’s payload will include a communications capability; temperature-monitoring, voltage and science sensors; and an onboard camera, according to the news release. The satellite is expected to launch in mid to late 2007.

Kimel said he was “not 100 percent sure” who would launch the satellite. But he noted that the project’s launch integrator, the California Polytechnic State University, has launched several projects through Russia the past few years, making the country a likely candidate.

Plans call for the KySat program to design, build and launch satellites every 12-18 months, according to the release. Kimel said the estimated cost for each project is $450,000, including ground operations and student stipends.

In addition to investments from the project’s partners, small grants from the Kentucky Space Grant Consortium also fund KySat, Kimel said .

The KSTC first developed the idea for the KySat program back in 2004 along with NASA Ames. The KSTC has conducted subsurface exploration work with Ames for the past several years, Kimel said.

Teachers Take to Desert for Planetary Exploration Lesson

Seven teachers from NASA Explorer Schools across the United States joined NASA scientists last week in Chile’s Atacama Desert to learn more about the kind of exploration research that takes place on the Moon and Mars, the space agency announced June 20.

The teachers visited the desert as part of NASA’s Spaceward Bound program, where educators design and implement field research and take their experiences back to the classroom in hopes of inspiring students about exploration.

On this expedition, the teachers took part in research demonstrating communications and robotic rover technology in an arid environment similar to that on Mars and the Moon. Chris McKay, a planetary expert from NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., led the expedition.

In addition to participating in field research, the teachers worked on developing new curricula based on the experience to pass knowled ge and inspiration onto their students.

Dordain Reappointed as ESA Director-General

European Space Agency (ESA) Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain was reappointed to his post for an additional four years by ESA’s ruling council.

Meeting in Paris June 21-22, the council also reappointed Antonio Fabrizi as ESA’s director of launchers for a four-year term. Daniel Sacotte, director of human spaceflight, microgravity and exploration programs, was reappointed to his position for a further two years.

Sigmar Wittig of Germany, chairman of the ESA council, said Dordain’s new four-year mandate was unanimously approved by the agency’s 17 member governments. Dordain became director-general in July 2003 after having served as the agency’s director of launchers and director of strategy.

ESA Test Fires Vega Second Stage Motor

The second stage of Europe’s four-stage Vega small-satellite launch vehicle was successfully fired June 26 for the first time, completing one of several milestones scheduled in the next eight months in preparation for a late-2007 inaugural flight, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced.

The Zefiro 23 solid-fueled stage was fired for about 75 seconds at an Italian Defense Ministry test center in Sardinia.

Vega is being financed by ESA, with Italy paying for more than 60 percent of the development, to complete Europe’s launcher lineup along side the medium-lift Soyuz vehicle and the heavy-lift Ariane 5. Soyuz, imported from Russia, is expected to start launches from Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in late 2008. Ariane 5 is operational.

Vega will be capable of placing a 1,500-kilogram satellite into a 700-kilometer polar orbit. Its principal market is expected to be European government science and Earth observation satellites. It is powered by three solid-fueled stages topped by a liquid-fueled upper stage.

The Zefiro 23 stage is built by Avio SpA of Colleferro, Italy.

Young Engineers Needed in Russia

The inability to attract sufficient numbers of young engineers to the aerospace industry, long a concern at U.S. companies, remains a pressing problem in Russia as well, according to the Russian space agency, Roskosmos.

Roskosmos said in a June 20 summary of a meeting of its board of directors held that day that Russia’s space sector continues to lose ground relative to other areas of the Russian economy with respect to work-force renewal.

The average age of a Russian space industry employee is 46.2 years, five years older than the average worker age in Russia, according to Roskosmos. Roskosmos Director-General Anatoly Perminov said attracting and retaining qualified personnel should be among the space sector’s highest priorities.

Roskosmos also said Russian space enterprises needed to rid themselves of unnecessary administrative staff and unprofitable subdivisions to concentrate on their core businesses.

Raytheon Launches Educator Externships

Raytheon’s Network Centric Systems unit in Marlborough, Mass., has launched a teacher externship program where educators will work on a full-time basis to learn about the latest technology trends and then pass that knowledge onto their students, Raytheon announced June 16.

Selected teachers will work in the company’s engineering department to provide satellite communications support and other technology services, Raytheon said in the news release. Educators will then incorporate what they have learned into their curricula to help spark student interest in the profession.

Kenneth H. Altshuler, a physics teacher and head of the science department at Wayland High School in Wayland, Mass., will be the first externship participant, according to the news release.

“The externship provides the stage for cutting-edge technology to shift from the boardroom to the classroom,” Jerry Powlen, vice president of Raytheon’s Integration Communications Systems unit, said in the release.

NASA Announces Crew For STS-120 Mission

NASA announced June 19 the crew members for the agency’s STS-120 space shuttle mission, which will deliver an Italian-built U.S. connecting module, Node 2, to the international space station.

U.S. Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy will command the mission. This will be Melroy’s third spaceflight; she previously served as mission pilot for STS-92 in 2000 and STS-112 in 2002. She will be joined by Marine Corps Col. George D. Zamka, who will serve as the pilot, and mission specialists Scott E. Parazynski, Army Col. Douglas H. Wheelock, Navy Capt. Michael J. Foreman and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo A. Nespoli from Italy.

A launch date has yet to be determined for this mission.

Dark Energy Research Earns $1 Million Prize

Johns Hopkins University astronomer Adam Riess and two colleagues were co-winners of the $1 million Shaw Prize in astronomy this year for their discovery of “dark energy” back in 1998, according to a June 21 Johns Hopkins news release.

Riess, along with colleagues Saul Perlmutter at the Lawrence Berkeley Observatory and Brian Schmidt at the Mount Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University in Canberra, discovered the expansion rate of the universe was actually speeding up rather than slowing down.

Riess and his team found that, instead of gravity attracting the universe together, “dark energy” — an energy in the vacuum of space that is thought to act repulsively — was making the universe expand faster.

The astronomer said he discovered he was a recipient of the award from a colleague who called his home, as well as a journalist’s e-mail requesting an interview.

Riess recalled learning from a colleague that there was a fax for him about co-sharing the $1 million prize. “He said, ‘There’s a thing on the fax machine,'” Riess said in the news release, referring to the phone call from his colleague. “I’m like, ‘OK, hang onto that.'”

European Metop Satellite Progresses Toward Launch

Europe’s first polar-orbiting meteorological satellite, Metop, has cleared prelaunch operations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and is on track for a July 17 launch aboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket, the 19-nation Eumetsat organization of Darmstadt, Germany, announced June 27.

Built by Astrium Satellites, Metop is being fueled in preparation for its integration with the Soyuz rocket’s Fregat upper stage.

Metop, whose development funding is shared between Eumetsat and the European Space Agency, will be operated by Eumetsat as part of a joint polar meteorological satellite system that includes U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Defense Department satellites. Metop will be assuming a function currently performed by a NOAA satellite.

Ball, Levin and Near Earth Join Forces with t/Space

Transformational Space Corp. (t/Space) announced June 28 it has added XM Satellite Radio co-founder Lon Levin to its senior management team and Ball Aerospace Corp. to its technical team.

Reston, Va.-based t/Space is one of six finalists in a NASA-funded effort to demonstrate new launch services to the international space station. NASA is expected to decide by the end of the summer which companies will get additional contracts under the $500 million program.

With the aid of a $6 million NASA contract that ended in September 2005, t/Space has been developing an air-launched crew capsule for the purpose of delivering astronauts and cargo to the international space station. Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colo., has been tapped by t/Space to design and produce the avionics systems for the so-called Crew Transfer Vehicle (CXV).

Levin, an aerospace veteran who also played a key role in the creation of Mobile Satellite Ventures, joins t/Space as the company’s chief strategic officer. Levin is expected to work closely with Near Earth LLC, a New York-based investment banking firm t/Space has hired to help finance development of the CXV.

European Group To Study Navigation Applications

Grupo GMV of Spain will lead a 10-company consortium to investigate the use of satellite navigation systems in Europe for humanitarian assistance, emergency management and law enforcement, GMV announced.

The 20-month Harmless project is budgeted at 2 million euros ($2.5 million) and co-financed by the European Commission and the consortium members. It is being overseen by the Galileo Joint Undertaking in Brussels, Belgium.

Harmless will assess how best to use Europe’s Egnos system — which uses U.S. GPS satellites in tandem with geostationary satellites to boost GPS accuracy and reliability — and the future European Galileo global satellite navigation system for emergency and law-enforcement applications.

Egnos is undergoing testing and is expected to be fully operational in 2007. Galileo is expected to be in service around 2011.

GeoEye Gets $3.7 Million For Imagery of Airports

GeoEye of Dulles, Va., won a $3.7 million contract from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to provide imagery of 365 airfields around the United States in order to produce airport mapping databases.

As part of the NGA’s Stereo Airfield Collection program, GeoEye will obtain images to build three-dimensional maps of such features as runways, buildings and the terrain surrounding airfields.

Mark Brender, vice president of communications and marketing for GeoEye, said the company hopes to take the work done for the NGA and expand it into the commercial sector. “Satellite imagery can map, merge, monitor and measure what’s going on in and around airports — and in stereo,” Brender said.

The contract is independent of the work GeoEye does for the NGA under the ClearView program, Brender said.

FCC Seeks Feedback on New Spectrum Allocation

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is asking for feedback from industry as it considers opening up additional spectrum in the 17- and 24-gigahertz frequency bands to satellite broadcast services.

The FCC will seek comment on such issues as how to process applications for operating in the band, licensing terms and various standards and technical requirements, according to a June 21 press release from the agency.

The satellites will downlink domestically in the 17.3-17.7 gigahertz frequency band and uplink in the 24.75-25.25 gigahertz band, the release said.

The spectrum would be used for a “new generation of innovative satellite services … providing a mix of video, audio, data and multimedia services to residential and business customers,” the press release said.

Globalstar Asks To Shift Spectrum To ATC Services

Globalstar of Milpitas, Calif. has asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to use all of the spectrum allocated for its mobile satellite service to a new hybrid service that will include satellites and a network of ground-based repeaters, or ancillary terrestrial component (ATC).

Globalstar received FCC approval in January to use 11 megahertz of spectrum in the 1.6/2.4 gigahertz frequencies for ATC purposes. Globalstar is seeking approval for an additional 16.85 megahertz of spectrum.

Sofradir Nabs Award for BepiColombo Detector

Sofradir of Grenoble, France, will design a near-infrared detector to study the mineralogy of Mercury as part of Europe’s BepiColombo mission under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA), Sofradir announced.

Under the design-study contract, valued at about 500,000 euros ($625,000), Sofradir will design a short-wave infrared detector to be fitted on the Visible Infrared Imaging spectrometer on the mission’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter. The company will deliver a sample detector in early 2007.

The two-spacecraft BepiColombo mission is expected to be launched around 2013.

Philippe Chorier, space program manager at Sofradir, said the project will permit Sofradir to develop a single detector for both the visible and short-wave infrared ranges, “enabling an all-important reduction in system cost.”

Sofradir has supplied infrared detectors for the French Defense Ministry’s Helios 2A optical reconnaissance satellite, which is currently operational; and ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft, now in orbit around Venus.

Orbital Wins Tampa Area Fleet Management Work

Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., has received a $9.2 million contract to provide a satellite-based system that will manage a fleet of more than 300 city transportation vehicles in Tampa, Fla.

The contract is from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority . Orbital’s system will rely on GPS information and also will improve voice and data communications between vehicle operators and dispatchers, according to a June 22 press release from Orbital.

MedStar Hospital Group Orders Iridium Services

Iridium Satellite LLC of Bethesda, Md., will equip the Baltimore- and Washington-based hospital group MedStar Health with emergency backup communications services under a contract announced June 26 by the mobile satellite services provider.

The Iridium equipment will be provided through a reseller, Roadpost Inc. of Mississaugua, Ontario. MedStar has ordered monthly communications services, nine terminals and 96 mobile handsets to be installed in a variety of hospitals and medical facilities, according to the press release . MedStar expects to spend between $300,000 and $400,000 on the equipment and services, according to MedStar spokeswoman Erica Murray.

University of Miami Center Inks Deal for Spot 5 Data

Spot Image Corp. of Toulouse, France, won a contract from the University of Miami in Florida to provide Spot 5 satellite imagery to the school’s Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing.

Since 2003, Spot Image has provided the center with lower-resolution from the Spot 2 and Spot 4 satellites, according to a June 26 press release from University of Miami. The Spot satellites are owned by the French government but Spot Image markets the imagery that they collect.

Angela Hennicky, a spokesman for Spot Image’s U.S.-based subsidiary, declined to disclose the dollar amount of the contract.

ABL Tested To Verify Sensor Alignment

Boeing Co. successfully fired surrogate lasers from its Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft during recent ground testing of the hardware in Wichita, Kansas, according to a company news release dated June 26. The testing used low-power stand-ins for the ABL’s powerful chemical laser. The actual ABL system is designed to destroy a ballistic missile in its boost phase. It also is designed to track and illuminate its target. The first intercept demonstration is scheduled to take place in 2008.

The ground tests verified the alignment of ABL’s optical beam system and the sensors that will guide lasers to an actual target, according to the news release.

Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, said in the news release that the demonstration gives Boeing added confidence that the ABL’s design is sound.

Chilton Takes Over at AF Space Command

U.S. Air Force Gen. Kevin “Chili” Chilton took command of Air Force Space Command June 27.

Chilton, who once served on a space shuttle crew with Air Force Undersecretary Ronald Sega, is the Air Force’s astronaut to receive his fourth star.

Chilton succeeds Gen. Lance Lord, who retired in March.

Delta 4 Launches NRO Satellite From Vandenberg

Boeing Co. launched a U.S. government intelligence satellite aboard its Delta 4 rocket June 27, marking the first launch from the company’s West Coast launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The payload, which is classified, was the first National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite to launch aboard either of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) rockets. Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Atlas 5 vehicle is the other member of the EELV family.

The only previous NRO satellite to launch aboard a Delta rocket was GeoLITE, which was lofted by a Delta 2 vehicle in 2001, according to a Boeing news release.

The next Delta 4 mission from Vandenberg is a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft that is expected to be placed into polar orbit in November.

NASA Glenn To Utilize ASRC Support Services

ASRC Aerospace Inc. of Greenbelt, Md., will provide a variety of technical and engineering support services to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland under a contract with a total potential value of $250 million.

The contract, which has a two-year base period and three one-year renewal options, includes on-site support in the areas of aeronautics, microgravity science, space exploration, and space power and propulsion, according to a June 30 press release from NASA.

Tsunami Alert Network Will be Linked by Iridium

Iridium Satellite LLC of Bethesda, Md., will provide satellite data links for a system of 31 ocean buoys used by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to detect and monitor tsunami waves.

The buoys are part of the second-generation Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART 2 ) system, which includes sensors on the seafloor and on-surface buoys . The buoys act both as collection platforms and as relays for the data collected by the seafloor sensors, according to a June 30 press release from Iridium. The sensor readings are transmitted to NOAA warning centers.

The dollar amount of Iridium’s contribution to the $37.5 million DART 2 system was not disclosed.

Legal Settlement, Delays Will Cost Boeing $1 Billion

Program delays and a tentative legal settlement with the U.S. government on ethics-related charges will cost Boeing Co. as much as $1.1 billion, the company announced June 29.

Approximately $615 million of the charge, to be taken against Boeing’s second-quarter financial results , reflects a legal settlement with the government over the improper hiring of a senior Air Force official and the theft of proprietary documents from rival Lockheed Martin during a competition for military satellite launches, Boeing said. The settlement with the U.S. Justice Department , announced by Boeing May 15, absolves the company of all government civil and criminal charges related to the case s, the release said.

Boeing also will record a charge of between $300 million and $500 million due to delays in delivering Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft to the governments of Australia and Turkey. The exact amount of the charge will be determined in the upcoming weeks, Boeing said in the release.

The delivery of the surveillance aircraft has been delayed up to 18 months. Boeing cited development and integration issues with hardware and software components as the reason for the delays. It plans to deliver six aircraft to Australia by 2008 and is still finalizing its schedule for the four aircraft it is building for Turkey.

U.S. Freezes Assets of Chinese Aerospace Firm

The U.S. Treasury Department announced June 13 that it had frozen the U.S. financial assets of China Great Wall Industry Corp. and three other Chinese firms for allegedly aiding Iranian missile development.

“The companies targeted today have supplied Iran’s military and Iranian proliferators with missile-related and dual-use components,” Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement announcing the action.

China Great Wall Industry Corp. markets Chinese launch services and other space products. While the company maintains a small presence in the United States through Torrance, Calif.-based G.W. Aerospace, China has been effectively barred from launching U.S.-built satellite hardware since 1999.

Aerojet Wins Contract To Design CEV Landing Rocket

Aerojet landed a $4.25 million NASA contract to develop technology for a rocket-powered landing system for the space agency’s planned Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), the company announced June 27.

During the first phase of the five-year contract, Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet will work with engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., on a controllable solid-rocket propulsion system intended to enhance the safety of CEV ground landings. Options under the cost-capped contract include building and demonstrating the landing system at Langley’s impact test facility.

NASA Solar System Chief Headed to Maryland Lab

Andrew Dantzler, who stepped down as NASA’s Solar System Division chief in June, has been hired by the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to manage its work on the space agency’s Living with a Star program, according to an APL official.

Dantzler is replacing Ken Potocki, who is retiring from the lab. NASA awarded APL of Laurel, Md., a 12-year contract in 2000 to design, develop and operate missions in the Living with a Star and Solar Terrestrial Probes program. In May, APL was assigned responsibility for building the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, a pair of spacecraft slated to launch in 2012 to study how the Sun interacts with the Earth’s radiation belts. Dantzler is due to start in August.

Planned NASA Launchers Named After Greek God

NASA announced June 30 that it is naming its Crew Launch Vehicle and proposed heavy-lift cargo vehicle Ares 1 and Ares 5, respectively. Ares is the Greek counterpart to the Roman god Mars. NASA has been using the names internally since the beginning of the year.

The Crew Launch Vehicle, utilizing a modified space shuttle solid-rocket booster and an updated Apollo-era upper-stage engine dubbed the J-2X, is in development to loft NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle into orbit starting around 2014. The heavy-lift cargo vehicle will consist of five RS-68 engines mounted below a larger version of the space shuttle external tank flanked by two modified space shuttle solid boosters.