Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 17 July 2006
02:18 pm ET


DLR, OHB Studying Lunar Concepts

The German Aerospace Center, DLR, and space-hardware manufacturer OHB-System AG of Bremen, Germany, are dividing the 500,000 euro ($640,000) cost of a 10-month study contract for a future lunar exploration program called Mona Lisa, OHB-System announced.

Under the Mona Lisa contract it received from DLR, OHB will design possible lunar exploration scenarios in which German industry would play a major role. The goal is to be prepared for a sizable German contribution if a European or international lunar exploration program takes shape.

The European Space Agency, through its Aurora Core Program, also is investigating lunar exploration scenarios and is expected to issue study contracts late in 2006. A decision on a lunar exploration program is expected in 2008. European scientists are divided over whether the Moon or Mars should be the focus of their exploration effort.

Sirius Again Signs More New Customers than XM

Sirius Satellite Radio of New York added significantly more subscribers than its competitor, XM Satellite Radio of Washington, during the second quarter of 2006, but still lags far behind XM in total subscribers.

Sirius added 600,460 net new subscribers during the quarter, which is 64 percent higher than the number of subscribers it added during the same period last year, according to a July 6 press release from the company. Sirius’ total subscribers now number 4.68 million, compared to 1.81 million at the end of the second quarter of 2005.

XM added 398,000 new subscribers during the quarter, bringing its total to 6.89 million subscribers, according to a July 6 press release from XM.

XM Chief Executive Officer Hugh Panero attributed the limited growth to a lack of product availability and an “overall softness” in the retail market.

Panero made similar remarks about softness in the retail market when XM lowered its overall subscriber projections for the year in May from 9 million to 8.5 million, but some analysts then disputed his claim, citing Sirius’ growth as a rebuttal.

In a July 6 report, analyst Tom Watts of SG Cowen and Co. of New York said that XM’s numbers were not a surprise, given the company’s previous announcement, but that Sirius had outperformed expectations.

Proton To Resume Flight With Hot Bird 8 Launch

International Launch Services (ILS) expects to return its Proton-M vehicle to flight Aug. 5 with the launch of the Eutelsat Hot Bird 8 telecommunications satellite. The flight will be the first since a Feb. 28 failure in which the $179 million Arabsat 4A satellite was lost.

ILS President Mark Albrecht said the Russian government, Khrunichev, Lockheed Martin and the U.S. State Department’s Defense Trade Security Administration (DTSA) — which oversees technology transfer from the United States — worked remarkably quickly to determine the failure’s cause and corrective actions.

Albrecht specifically cited DTSA: “They worked holidays and evenings and were extremely helpful,” he said. “The result is that Eutelsat’s satellite, which was supposed to launch in May, will be no more than 10 weeks late into orbit.”

Separate Russian and ILS investigations concluded that the failure was probably caused by an unidentified “foreign particle” that entered the vehicle’s upper-stage fuel line, blocking a hydraulic pump nozzle and resulting in the engine’s premature shutdown.

Surrey Turns Beijing-1 Over to Chinese Owner

Small-satellite specialist Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) of Guildford, England, has transferred control of the Beijing-1 Earth observation satellite to a private Chinese company for commercial operations, SSTL announced June 30.

The 166-kilogram Beijing-1, carrying a black-and-white imager with a 4-meter ground resolution and a color imager with a 32-meter resolution, was launched in October aboard the Russian Cosmos rocket that also placed Britain’s Topsat satellite into low Earth orbit. Beijing-1 was built by SSTL for about $19 million, including launch, according to SSTL.

Beijing Landview Mapping Information Technology Co. will operate Beijing-1 on a commercial basis for government and private-sector customers. One of its first projects will be to map all of China’s territory within six months.

“We are now ready to commence a new era of commercial [Earth observation] services for our customers,” the company’s chief executive, Wu Shuang, said in a statement.

Ball To Build Two Cameras For NASA’s Glory Mission

Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colo., will design and build two cloud monitoring cameras for NASA’s Glory mission. The cameras, based on Ball’s CT-633 star tracker cameras, will help collect data on aerosols and radiant energy from the Sun, the company announced June 26.

Ball spokeswoman Sara Sloan said the tracker hardware design will be adapted with new optics and software to provide a “very cost-effective solution.”

Sloan said the idea of modifying the star trackers came out of the company’s work on NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (Calipso) program. She said Ball engineers re used the tracker hardware on the Calipso satellite with a scanner to confirm the presence of clouds.

The Glory mission, scheduled to launch in 2008, is a remote-sensing observatory that will collect data from Earth orbit for three years. It is part of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

The Ball sensors will be part of the mission’s Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor, which will collect data on the chemical and microphysical properties of aerosols as well as their spatial and temporal distributions. A second instrument, the Total Irradiance Monitor, will collect radiant energy data from the Sun.

Ball is under contract to build the cameras for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. No financial details were disclosed.

Arabsat Signs Arianespace To Launch Badr-6 in 2008

Arabsat Chief Executive Khalid Balkheyour signed a contract July 6 with Arianespace Chief Executive Jean-Yves Le Gall to launch the Badr-6 telecommunications satellite, also known as the Arabsat-4AR, aboard an Ariane 5 rocket in the first half of 2008, the Evry, France-based Arianespace announced.

The satellite, to be located in orbit at 26 degrees east longitude, will carry 24 C-band and 16 Ku-band transponders and will replace the Arabsat-4A lost during a February launch failure. Like Arabsat-4A, Badr-6 will be built by Astrium and Alcatel Alenia Space. Industry officials say Riya dh-based Arabsat also has signed a contract with Arianespace to launch the first of a new generation of Arabsat satellites toward the end of the decade. A manufacturer for that satellite, tentatively named Arabsat-5A, has not been selected.

NASA Could Cut the Size Of Shuttle Robotic Arm

NASA is discussing ways to reduce the size and weight of the shuttle robotic arm that was almost doubled in length after the Columbia accident to help crews examine their spacecraft in orbit for any signs of damage.

The new boom, which carries sensitive visual and laser cameras, added another 15 meters to the shuttle’s 15-meter robotic arm. During NASA’s STS-118 mission — currently slated to launch in mid-2007 — shuttle officials plan to launch a set of brackets to accommodate the current boom at the international space station.

“The thought is that we would like to have a smaller, better boom that’s a little bit easier to use with better sensors to fly up on the space shuttle,” John Shannon, NASA’s deputy shuttle program manager, said during a mission briefing at Johnson Space Center. “We’d like something a little less so we can carry up more cargo,” he added.

The current shuttle inspection boom could be installed at the ISS about five shuttle flights in the future, Shannon added.

OHB-System To Build Six Orbcomm Satellite Frames

OHB-System AG will provide six satellite platforms for the Orbcomm messaging constellation, and also manage the satellites’ integration and launch, under a contract announced July 7.

Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., is supplying the satellites’ electronics payloads under a previously announced contract.

Bremen, Germany-based OHB, an Orbcomm shareholder, said the contract includes options for two additional satellite platforms. OHB is prime contractor for Orbcomm’s Coast Guard demonstration satellite, to be launched later this year.

OHB will be using a satellite platform provided by Polyot of Omsk, Russia, for the Orbcomm order.

Boeing, Northrop Get USAF Study Contracts

Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Space Technology have each been awarded a $1.5 million U.S. Air Force study contract that could lead to a deal to build the communications payload for a next-generation polar-orbiting military satellite.

Chicago-based Boeing and the Redondo Beach, Calif.-based Northrop Grumman business unit each will examine ways to develop and produce two separate protected payloads that are to include anti-jam capabilities and measures to help the spacecraft avoid detection and interception, according to a July 6 Boeing press release. The system would provide communications for soldiers operating above 65 degrees north latitude, the release said.

Boeing spokesman Dave Garlick said July 7 that the company would not answer specific questions related to the contract. Northrop Grumman spokesman Bob Bishop could not provide additional details by press time.

Each six-month contract includes a 14-month option to deliver the system’s architecture, engineering plan and risk management plan, which would be worth approximately $8 million.

The system, known as the Enhanced Polar System, will fill communications gaps in areas not covered by the military’s other two future communication systems: the Advanced Extremely High Frequency and the Transformational Satellite Communications System, the release said. The payloads would be integrated on two separate spacecraft, the release said.

The device would replace the payload used for the military’s existing Interim Satellite Program, which uses a modified communications payload that Boeing built, originally as a spare for the Navy’s Ultra High Frequency Follow-On satellite system.

Satcom Bw Deal Spurs $16.3 Million Payment

The July 5 signing of the German military’s Satcom Bw satellite telecommunications contract with a joint venture including ND Satcom will trigger a supplemental cash payment of $16.3 million by SES Global of Luxembourg to ND Satcom’s former owner, Agusta Technologie AG.

SES purchased the 74.9 percent of satellite ground hardware builder ND Satcom it did not already own from Agusta in May for 35.6 million euros ($45.2 million). The two companies agreed that, once the Satcom Bw deal was concluded, the sales price would be adjusted by up to 12.8 million euros.

ND Satcom, which reported 80 million euros in revenues in 2005, expects the Satcom Bw contract to boost sales by 40-50 percent between 2007 and 2009, when the bulk of the Satcom Bw equipment is delivered, according to SES estimates.

Initial ATV Flight Model Passes Acoustic Testing

Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) successfully passed a series of acoustic tests conducted on the vehicle’s first flight model, called Jules Verne, according to the European Space Agency (ESA) and ATV prime contractor EADS Space Transportation.

The Jules Verne ATV is scheduled to be launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket to the international space station in mid 2007. It is designed to carry water, fuel and supplies to the station, and then is destroyed on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Several ATVs will be built to service the station over the next decade.

When filled with fuel and supplies, ATV will weigh about 20,500 kilograms. The flight model tested at Estec weighed 11,000 kilograms.

Three 30-second acoustic tests were conducted over a period of a week at Europe’s Estec technology center in Noordwijk, Netherlands. During each test, more than 400 sensors were placed on the vehicle to measure its reaction to the acoustic environment during launch.

SS/L, Sea Launch Win Contracts for AsiaSat 5

AsiaSat is paying $95 million to Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) for the construction of the AsiaSat-5 satellite and $45 million to Sea Launch LLC for a late-2008 launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Kazakhstan, aboard a Land Launch Zenit-3SLB vehicle.

In a June 21 statement to Hong Kong stock exchange authorities Hong Kong-based AsiaSat said it expects the entire AsiaSat-5 program to cost $180 million, including insurance and ground facilities needed for the satellite.

When launched from Baikonur, the Zenit-3SLB rocket is capable of placing satellites weighing up to 3,500 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit, according to Sea Launch. The Zenit-3SL vehicle operated from Sea Launch’s oceangoing platform stationed on the equator in the Pacific Ocean is capable of placing a 6,000-kilogram satellite into the same orbit. The first Land Launch mission is scheduled for 2007.

Eutelsat Moves Satellite To Accommodate Nilesat

Eutelsat of Paris and Egypt’s Nilesat have agreed to a capacity-sharing arrangement involving two of the 15 transponders on Eutelsat’s Atlantic Bird 4 satellite, Eutelsat announced July 3. Those two transponders carry 18 television channels that now are being used by Nilesat.

Atlantic Bird 4, formerly called Hot Bird 4, had been operating since 1998 as part of Eutelsat’s prime television-broadcast service fleet at 13 degrees east longitude. Starting in late April, the satellite was transferred to the 7 degrees west orbital slot, next to Nilesat’s existing Nilesat 101 and 102 satellites.

Eutelsat was able to accommodate Nilesat, whose satellites are nearly full, after the successful March launch of Eutlesat’s Hot Bird 7A spacecraft, which took over from Hot Bird 4.

Nilesat has agreed to lease part of Atlantic Bird 4’s 15-transponder capacity while it determines whether and when it will add to its own fleet. Eutelsat is keeping part of Atlantic Bird 4’s capacity for itself and announced it had booked a contract with Noorsat of Bahrain for television broadcasting from the new orbital slot.

ESA Explores 3 Concepts For Launching ExoMars

European governments expect to select a mission configuration for the ExoMars Mars lander and rover mission by February from among three competing options, according to European government and industry officials.

ExoMars received 600 million euros ($750 million) in financing in December from European Space Agency (ESA) governments. The program is designed to send a rover and a ground penetrator to Mars in 2011 or 2013 to search for current or past life.

The three missions being considered are:

– A single launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket operated from Europe’s Guiana Space Center carrying a descent module and rover. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would be used to relay the findings to Earth.

– A two-Soyuz option in which a second launch is used to place a European orbiter around Mars for data relay instead of using the NASA orbiter.

– A single Ariane 5 ECA launch, with a larger descent module, including the rover, and an orbiter carrying a scientific payload in addition to a telecommunications-relay package. The Ariane 5 option could result in the launch date slipping to 2015 or 2016.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com