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Telecom Satellite Work Drives Growth at Orbital

Orbital Sciences Corp.’s commercial satellite division will post profit margins of between 5 and 6 percent in 2006 on the strength of continued strong demand and reduced research and development expenses that accompanied a boost in the product’s performance, company officials said July 20.

Officials said they expect to win two more commercial telecommunications satellite orders by the end of the year, which would bring to three the company’s tally for 2006. A total of 22-23 commercial geostationary telecommunications satellites likely will be ordered worldwide this year, and six to eight of these should be in the 2,500-kilogram, 5-6-kilowatt class in which Orbital specializes, Orbital Chairman David W. Thompson said.

Thompson also said Orbital is looking to win more Pentagon satellite contracts in the future as U.S. defense authorities react to the occasionally huge cost overruns in some of their larger satellite programs. To attract this business, Thompson said the company is modifying some of its existing satellite designs.

“It’s a case of moving an existing product line into a market where we have been a relatively small supplier,” Thompson said. “The drumbeat [from defense authorities] is getting louder and more frequent. The overall climate looks very good.”

In a conference call with financial analysts, Thompson said the company in late June completed work on the Optus D-1 satellite for Australia’s Optus Networks satellite operator. The satellite is the first of an improved version of Orbital’s Star-2 product, capable of providing 5 kilowatts of on board power. It is scheduled for launch this autumn aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket.

As the first of its kind, Optus D-1 was the focus of considerable research and development investment that forced the company to take a loss on the program. But Orbital also is building, as part of the same contract, a second satellite dubbed Optus D-2 . In addition, the company has since won orders from satellite operators Intelsat, Malaysia’s Measat Satellite Systems, SES Global and Norway’s Telenor Satellite Broadcasting for similarly configured spacecraft, and these programs have swung the satellite division back into profitability.

“We hope for a 5-6 percent margin for the full year,” Thompson said.

Orbital has won one commercial geostationary satellite contract this year — the AMC-21 satellite for SES Global that it is building with Alcatel Alenia Space of France and Italy. Orbital will be providing the satellite platform, or bus. Thompson declined to specify prospective customers for the two additional orders he is forecasting this year.

Dulles, Va.-based Orbital reported that revenues for the first six months of 2006 totaled $389.1 million, a 12.9-percent increase over the same period in 2005. Operating income, at $32.4 million, was up 20 percent compared to a year ago. Orbital Chief Financial Officer Garrett E. Pierce said the commercial satellite business provided “the lion’s share” of the growth so far this year.

The Satellite and Related Space Systems division accounted for 55.4 percent of Orbital’s revenues for the first six months of this year, compared to 48.5 percent of the total a year ago.

Orbital Chief Operating Officer J.R. Thompson said the strength of the satellite business is the main driver behind the company’s plans to increase its employment by 15 percent in 2006. The company’s work force stood at about 2,600 at the beginning of the year.

The new employees and an expanded satellite production facility at the Dulles headquarters will boost the company’s satellite capacity by 40 percent by mid-2007, J.R. Thompson said.

European Commission Orders Data From DMC

A company created to market data from the multinational Disaster Monitoring Constellation of Earth observation satellites has won a contract to provide imagery to the European Commission for agricultural monitoring.

The company, DMC International Imaging Ltd., will provide 32-meter-resolution imagery in 600-kilometer-wide swaths to the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, under a contract valued at 1.5 million euros ($1.9 million), DMC International announced July 20.

The company is located in Guildford, England, home to small-satellite builder Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., which built the disaster-monitoring constellation satellites for the governments of Algeria, China, Nigeria, Turkey and Britain. The satellites are spaced apart in low Earth orbit so that given areas of Earth can be imaged at least once each day, reducing the amount of time it takes to collect cloud-free imagery.

Globalstar Unveils Plan For Initial Public Offering

Globalstar Inc. of Milpitas, Calif., hopes to raise $100 million through an initial public offering (IPO) of stock, the company announced July 18. The money go toward construction of Globalstar’s next-generation satellite system, the launch of eight existing spare satellites, and ground facility upgrades, according to papers filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission July 17.

The press release did not specify a date for the IPO. The company has yet to determine how many shares will be offered at what price , according to the press release . Globalstar spokesman Dean Hirasawa said the company is not commenting on the proposal because it is in a quiet period.

The offering is being underwritten by Wachovia Capital Markets of Washington.

The IPO fulfills a condition placed on Thermo Capital Partners of New Orleans when the firm took Globalstar out of bankruptcy in 2003. Globalstar was required under the agreement to offer stock by Oct. 13, 2006.

Any money raised in an IPO will come on top of $200 million Globalstar secured earlier this year from Thermo Capital Partners, and an additional $200 million obtained from Wachovia Securities.

Roger Rusch, an industry analyst and president of TelAstra Inc. of Palos Verdes, Calif., said the amount Globalstar is seeking will not go very far in the creation of a next-generation satellite system.

“The intention may have been to not give up a lot of ownership in the company,” Rusch said.

Rusch said it is hard to predict how long Globalstar’s existing constellation of satellites will hold up , particularly if any suffer from battery failures, which are difficult to anticipate.

Currently, Globalstar operates a network of 43 satellites and 25 ground stations. It plans to start upgrading ground facilities and launching next-generation satellites in 2009, according to the SEC filing. The new constellation would extend the life of the company’s network into 2025, the filing said.

Divert Thruster for MKV Passes Initial Testing

Lockheed Martin Corp. completed initial testing of the divert thruster for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Multiple Kill Vehicle (MKV) program, according to a company news release dated July 20.

The MKV would use a shotgun approach to destroying ballistic missiles. The divert thruster would help the kill vehicles home in on the enemy missiles.

ASRC Wins Contract To Support Activities at Glenn

ASRC Aerospace Corp. of Greenbelt, Md., will provide on-site support services for engineering and science activities at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland under a contract worth up to $250 million, ASRC announced July 19.

The contract has a two-year base period with three one-year extension options. ASRC will support such areas as aeronautics, microgravity science, propulsion and space exploration, according to the news release.

ASRC has provided support services to Glenn for the past 25 years in conjunction with Analex Corp. of Fairfax, Va.

Eutelsat Revenue Growth Exceeds Firm’s Expectations

Satellite-fleet operator Eutelsat Communications reported a 5.4-percent increase in revenue for the year ending June 30, with broadband access and government business showing especially strong growth, Paris-based Eutelsat announced July 20.

When one-time payments from suppliers for late satellite delivery or poor in-orbit performance are excluded, revenues increased by 4.6 percent. Eutelsat, which trades on the European Euronext stock exchange, had told investors to expect revenues to increase by about 3.5 percent for the year.

Sales for Eutelsat’s fiscal year totaled 791.1 million euros ($1 billion ) before stripping out one-time items. Eutelsat’s core television broadcast business accounted for two-thirds of the revenues. Revenues from video distribution for the year increased by 3.4 percent, to 528.6 million euros.

The company, which sells capacity on 23 satellites, reported 17.4 million euros in revenues for the year from satellite manufacturers paying penalties for late deliveries or for service interruptions aboard satellites already in orbit.

Eutelsat’s D-Star broadband service to corporate and government customers, mainly in Europe and Africa, grew by 29 percent in the year and totaled 5,300 customers as of June 30. D-Star serves regions where cable or DSL terrestrial broadband links are nonexistent.

The other star performer for Eutelsat during the year is what the company calls its “Multi-usage” service for military and other government customers. This sector also includes Eutelsat’s loan of satellite capacity to the Arabsat organization of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Arabsat has suffered satellite in-orbit and satellite-launch failures in the past three years and continues to lease a Eutelsat satellite, but on a short-term basis that has been repeatedly renewed. Eutelsat’s Multi-usage business grew by 14.5 percent, to 69.7 million euros, during the year.

The government business was also helped by the strengthened U.S. dollar compared to the euro. Many government customers, including the U.S. Defense Department, lease capacity under one-year contracts . For a company like Eutelsat, this means the business is less predictable, but it also means these customers are paying higher prices per transponder than customers agreeing to long-term contracts.

Canadian Satellite Radio Signs 80,000 Subscribers

Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (CSR) of Toronto, which has signed up 80,000 subscribers in its three quarters of operation so far, will raise its prices from $12.99 per month to $14.99 per month.

Existing subscribers will be locked into the cheaper rate until September 2007, Steve Tapp, president and chief operating officer of CSR, said during a July 14 conference call with investors. CSR operates under the XM Canada brand.

Approximately 64,000 of the company’s 80,000 subscribers bought after-market radios, with the remainder purchasing factory-installed models, many including a trial subscription, said John Bitove, chairman and chief executive officer of CSR, during the call.

During the company’s third quarter, which ended May 31, CSR brought in $2.34 million in revenues; there are no corresponding numbers from the previous year because the company did not exist then. CSR reported a net loss of $20.4 million for the quarter.

The company’s subscriber acquisition costs were $69 per customer during the quarter, while its costs per gross addition (which includes advertising and media promotions) were $241 per customer, which Chief Financial Officer Michael Washinushi attributed to extra money spent to capture customers shopping for Father’s Day.

Since its inception, CSR has brought in $3.53 million in revenue and experienced a net loss of $79 million.

Boeing Relocates Work to Huntington Beach Facility

Boeing Co. plans to move the work handled today at its Anaheim, Calif., facility to a company facility in Huntington Beach, Calif., according to a Boeing news release dated July 21.

The largest project at the Anaheim facility is development of the U.S. Army’s Future Combat System, a network of ground and aerial vehicles connected by satellites and other communications links.

Gary Toyama, vice president of the California region for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, said in the news release that the move is intended to better integrate the company’s capabilities, and lay a foundation for “long term stability and competitiveness.”

European, Russian Officials Out of Sync on Countdown

European government authorities, still smarting over communications problems with Russian mission control during the failed October 2005 Rockot launch that destroyed Europe’s Cryosat Earth observation satellite, thought they had taken sufficient precautions to avoid misunderstandings during the Soyuz launch of the Metop-A weather satellite.

During the Cryosat launch, Russian mission control broadcast a Rockot launch sequence scenario from the vehicle user’s guide as if it were real telemetry data long after the Rockot and its Cryosat payload had crashed into the Lincoln Sea near the North Pole. Exasperated European Space Agency (ESA) officials sent letters to the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, saying this would not do.

For the July 17 Metop-A launch, ESA’s Esoc operations center, responsible for guiding Metop-A once it reached orbit, was equipped with a direct telemetry link to assure that officials there received accurate information about the location of the satellite and rocket after liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

But during the third aborted launch attempt July 19, Esoc mission control counted down to 2 minutes and 19 seconds before announcing that the launch had been scrubbed. At the Baikonur site, the launch countdown had been stopped 46 seconds earlier, at 3 minutes and 5 second before liftoff. European officials said the 46-second difference is probably due to the time it took for mission control in the Baikonur bunker to inform Esoc that operations had been scrubbed.

EMS and France Telecom Team on French Navy Work

France Telecom Mobile Satellite Communications and EMS SatCom will partner to provide satellite communications services for the French navy under a contract valued at $6 million .

Paris-based France Telecom and EMS SatCom of Ottawa will equip six maritime patrol aircraft for satellite communications under the deal, with an option to equip two more, according to a July 17 press release from EMS SatCom. Under the contract, the companies will provide the systems, air time and support for five years.

BSkyB Offers Bundled TV-Internet Package

British Sky Broadcasting PLC (BSkyB) of London will bundle a broadband Internet service with its satellite television packages, the company announced July 18.

BSkyB is investing 400 million pounds ($735.6 million) over the next three years in the venture, which it expects to reach profitability in 2010, according to a BSkyB press release . The company expects to allot 250 million pounds in capital expenditures during the first two years of offering the service, which is known as Sky Broadband.

A basic package of 2 megabytes of bandwidth will be free for subscribers to BSkyB’s satellite television service; costs are incurred if users want additional bandwidth per month.

Gilat VSAT Network To Support Brazil Lottery

Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. of Peta Tikva, Israel, will provide a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite-based network to help run the Brazilian National Lottery under a contract with Comsat International of McLean, Va.

The network will consist of two hub stations and approximately 5,000 VSAT terminals, according to a July 18 Gilat press release . Comsat is providing a hybrid Internet Protocol-based network for Caixa Economica Federal in Brazil, which manages the country’s federal lottery.

The value of the contract between Gilat and Comsat was not disclosed, according to Stan Schneider of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Schneider Communications, which does public relations work for Gilat.

Thales and EMS To Supply Airborne Satcom Systems

OnAir of Geneva has enlisted Thales Group of Cedex, France, and EMS Satcom of Ottawa to help develop and manufacture systems to provide satellite communications services aboard Airbus aircraft.

Under the arrangement, which is expected to generate $30 million in business for Thales and EMS over five years, the companies will develop systems to enable in-flight cell phone and Internet service, EMS said in a July 18 press release. System deliveries are expected to start in late 2006, according to the release.

OnAir, a joint venture between Airbus, also of Cedex, and SITA, also of Geneva, was established in 2005 to develop an in-flight communications system for Airbus and Boeing aircraft, according to Charlie Pryor, director of the Wordshop of London, which does public relations for OnAir. The first system is scheduled to be installed and fly on board an Air France Airbus A318 in the first quarter of 2007, Pryor said.

Lockheed, ATK Test Rocket Motor for U.S. Navy

Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) have successfully test fired a first-stage motor for a proposed submarine-launched ballistic missile that would be capable of striking targets at intermediate ranges within 15 minutes, according to a July 17 joint Lockheed-ATK press release .

The modified ATK Orion 32-7 booster motor was fired at maximum thrust for 50 seconds at an ATK test facility in Promontory, Utah. The low-cost, solid-propellant motor was tested under the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Launched Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Booster System Demonstration.

The effort is aimed at demonstrating a conventionally armed missile proposed for deployment aboard the Navy’s Ohio-class Trident SSGN guided missile submarines.

The test demonstrated the operation of the motor with a thrust-vector control system, which steers the motor’s nozzle.

Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., is the prime contractor on the project; ATK of Edina, Minn., is developing the rocket motor technology. Lockheed received a 16-month, $9.2 million contract for the project in 2005.

CNES, Firms Testing S-Band Video to Satellite Handsets

The French space agency, CNES, is teaming with Alcatel and cellular-network operator Orange to test satellite-delivered S-band video transmissions to mobile handsets in a region around Toulouse, France, with a helicopter simulating the role of a satellite, CNES announced July 18.

Originally expected to end in September after three months, the test will now be continued through December. A successful test is one of the preconditions of French government financing, Alcatel said in April. The French government’s Industrial Innovation Agency agreed to provide 38 million euros ($48 million) in grants and loans to an Alcatel-led consortium to roll out an S-band mobile-television network in France that would be linked by satellite.

CNES has been working with satellite operators Eutelsat of Paris and SES Global of Luxembourg on the Toulouse experiment. Eutelsat in particular is weighing whether to add a 12-meter-diameter S-band antenna to its W2A satellite, which is scheduled to be ordered from industry this autumn.

For the CNES-run tests in Toulouse, an S-band signal transponder is placed aboard a helicopter flying at a high altitude. The transponder communicates with a network of terrestrial signal boosters installed at Orange-owned sites that also provide cellular coverage. Prototype terminals have been developed by CNES and Alcatel.

The goal of the simulation is to verify signal strength at different look angles relative to the satellite and the ground repeaters, and also to experiment with different types of handset antennas. The coverage area includes small villages as well as larger towns.

Lockheed Martin Completes 5th Modernized GPS Craft

Lockheed Martin has completed the fifth of eight modernized GPS 2R-M satellites the company is building for the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed announced July 18.

The GPS 2R-M spacecraft will provide two new military signals with enhanced encryption and anti-jamming capabilities, as well as a second civilian signal for more-precise navigation functions, according to the release. It will be stored at Lockheed’s Valley Forge, Pa., facilities until it is requested for launch by the Air Force.

The second of the GPS 2R-M satellites is slated to launch Sept. 14. It will join the first GPS 2R-M satellite launched last year.

GPS Overlay for India Passes Preliminary Test

Raytheon Co. has successfully completed a preliminary test of a system that will enhance GPS navigation signals in India, Raytheon of Waltham, Mass., announced July 18.

The GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation-Technology Demonstration System monitors GPS signals, spots errors then sends correction messages to end users to improve location accuracy. During testing, the system improved the accuracy of both vertical and horizontal coordinates up to 1 meter, according to the news release.

The project, sponsored by the Indian Space Research Organisation and Airports Authority of India, is a first step in the country’s plans to roll out a space-based navigation system in the country. Raytheon supplied and installed the ground subsystems under a partnership with both organizations.

Planetary Society Seeks To Unite Moon-Return Efforts

The Planetary Society hopes to unite the interests of the United States, China, India, Japan and Italy in launching a manned lunar mission — making the return to the Moon an international cooperative venture rather than a competition, the Pasadena, Calif.-based organization announced July 18.

Planetary Society Executive Director Louis Friedman unveiled the International Lunar Decade initiative at the Committee on Space Research’s 36th Scientific Assembly in Beijing July 18. The Planetary Society hopes to launch an international framework for science cooperation and mission coordination for lunar exploration , according to the news release.

“The [International Lunar Decade] can help combine national mission objectives in an international venture to sustain the vision of human explorers going to the Moon and Mars,” Friedman said in the release.

The Planetary Society hopes to launch the initiative in 2007, which will mark the 50th anniversary of Sputnik and also is the year Japan and China aim to launch their Selene and Chang’e lunar missions, respectively.

The Planetary Society said the International Lunar Decade effort would ideally end with the launch of an international human mission to the Moon around 2019.

Aerojet-built Ion Engine Could Propel Future Probes

Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., has delivered a new ion thruster to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland that can operate for a continuous 30,000 hours or more at a higher fuel-efficiency rate than today’s chemical rocket engines, the company announced in a July 19 news release. The technology offers NASA a new propulsion option for future space exploration missions, the company said.

Aerojet’s ion thruster, developed under NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) project led by Glenn, provides a thrust level three times higher than the Solar Electric Propulsion Technology Application Readiness ion thruster, which was used on the agency’s Deep Space 1 mission. The new thruster offers a tenfold increase over current chemical rocket engines and emits an iridescent glow rather than fire and smoke, according to the news release.

The thruster already has completed acceptance testing at Glenn and will head to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., for environmental testing.

Glenn has led the NEXT project since its inception in 2002 to develop a next-generation electric propulsion system. It is managed by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

JWST Main Mirror Judged Able To Withstand Launch

A segment of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) primary mirror has completed three tests that indicate the instrument will be able to withstand the rigors of launching aboard an Ariane 5 vehicle , Northrop Grumman, prime contractor on the telescope, announced July 20.

Northrop, along with Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., which is developing JWST’s optics, subjected the primary mirror segment to two vibration tests and one acoustics test at Ball’s Boulder, Colo., facilities. The vibration tests showed the mirror segment is able to withstand the forces of gravity during launch, and the acoustics test simulated the noise experienced during launch aboard an Ariane 5 vehicle, according to the news release.

The primary mirror will consist of a total of 18 mirror segments once mounted on a backplane and integrated into the telescope, Sally Koris, a spokeswoman for Northrop Grumman, told Space News July 20. The tests on the mirror segment “prove the technological maturity” of the instrument, she said.

The completion of these tests elevated the primary mirror to a Technology Readiness Level 6, a government measurement indicating the instrument has been successfully tested in an operational environment.

The JWST will allow scientists to peer at great infrared distances and observe the beginnings of the universe. Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., is developing JWST under contract with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

NASA Marks 30th Anniversary of 1st Viking Landing

This July marks the 30th anniversary of NASA’s first landing on Mars. The twin Viking spacecraft captured the first high-resolution photos of the surface, gathered data on soil and atmosphere compositions, and searched for signs of life, NASA said in a July 14 NASA press release .

Viking 1 launched Aug. 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars in June 1976. It’s lander touched down at Chryse Planitia July 20, 1976. Viking 2 launched Sept. 9, 1975, and arrived at the red planet Aug. 7, 1976, with its lander touching down at Utopia Planitia Sept. 3, 1976.

Though designed to function for 90 days, t he Viking landers and accompanying orbiters collected Mars data for more than six years, returning more than 50,000 images and mapping 97 percent of the Martian surface, according to the release .

“The Viking mission looms like a legendary giant, an incredible success against which all present and future missions will be measured,” Doug McCuiston, NASA’s Mars exploration program director in Washington, said in the news release.

U-blox Receiver Used for Motorola Tracking System

Motorola Inc. of Schaumburg, Ill., will incorporate u-blox’s Antaris GPS receiver into its vehicle-tracking systems provided to the New York and Chicago fire departments due to its high sensitivity even in weak-signal environments, u-blox America of Herndon, Va., announced July 13.

The Motorola MDR800 model F5127 vehicle-tracking system provides the precise location of emergency vehicles even in tunnels or underground parking garages, allowing emergency dispatchers to effectively coordinate rescue operations.

“With the implementation of the MDR900 with u-blox technology, response time to 911 calls has been shortened by 3 minutes” in New York, Asa Yanai, project manager at Motorola, said in the news release.

NASA Software To Improve Industrial System Monitors

NASA technology designed to analyze data from systems on the space shuttle and international space station is being adapted for use in health-monitoring software for industrial plants, NASA announced July 13.

iSagacity, an engineering and software company based in Half Moon Bay, Calif., will integrate technology from NASA’s Inductive Monitoring System (IMS) into its Remote Manager software. The combined product will help detect suspicious system behavior that could lead to a failure. The detection technology could be used at power generation plants and water treatment facilities , according to the release.

The NASA technology uses artificial intelligence and data-mining techniques as well as archived and simulated sensor data to detect a potential problem, according to the release.

“We recently granted a nonexclusive patent license to [iSagacity] to develop new software based on the IMS technology developed at NASA Ames [Research Center],” Phil Herlth, technology partnership manager at Ames in Moffett Field, Calif., said in the release.

Prototype Mars Drill Rig Undergoes Arctic Testing

NASA began testing a prototype of an automated martian-surface drilling rig in the Canadian Arctic July 19 , Brian Glass, a NASA Mars drilling researcher at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., confirmed to Space News that day.

The Drilling Automation for Mars Exploration project will help determine whether drills controlled using artificial intelligence can operate for hours without human intervention, which would be required on Mars since communications with Earth would be limited to once or twice a day, according to a July 11 press release from NASA about the project.

NASA scientists and engineers have set up the drill tests at the Haughton Crater on Devon Island, which is located in Canada’s Nunavut Territory just north of Ontario and Quebec.

Demonstrations will run until July 27, according to the news release.

Crystal Cruise Ships Offer SeaMobile Broadband Service

Guests aboard the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony cruise ships now will be able to take advantage of wireless broadband communications services under a new contract between SeaMobile Inc. of Seattle and Crystal Cruises of Los Angeles.

SeaMobile’s satellite-based technology allows ship passengers to use their own cellular phones and wireless personal data assistants, according to a July 11 SeaMobile press release . The contract amount was not disclosed.

Modine Delivers Prototype Heat Pipes for Spacecraft

Modine Manufacturing Co., a thermal management firm based in Racine, Wis ., has delivered prototypes of heat-resistant titanium pipes to NASA that could be used aboard spacecraft bound for the Moon, Mars or beyond, Modine announced in a July 14 press release.

The heat pipes — delivered to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland by Modine subsidiary Thermacore International — can withstand heat created by a space probe’s power-generation system and continue to operate in temperatures as high as 250 degrees Celsius.

Measuring 12.7 millimeters in diameter and 1.15 meters in length, the heat pipes will be incorporated into radiator panels that will dissipate unconverted waste-heat from an electricity-generating system, according to the release.

“The first use of this heat pipe technology will most likely be on the Moon for rejecting heat from the electric generating system for powering the lunar habitat,” Nelson Gernert, a research and development engineer at Thermacore, said in the release.

No financial details were disclosed.

Alliance Spacesystems, Vision Composites Merge

The merger of Alliance Spacesystems Inc. of Pasadena, Calif., and Vision Composites Inc. of Signal Hill, Calif., companies that both have done work in Mars rover robotics and space structures, was completed July 1 .

The new company, Alliance Spacesystems, will look to expand its approximately 1300 square meter facility in Pasadena, which houses engineering and manufacturing facilities that focus on robotics and mechanisms, according to a July 10 press release from Alliance. Composites and structures work will remain at Signal Hill, the release said.

The merger involved no exchange of funds.

Thaicom 3 Customers Shifted to Thaicom 5

Shin Satellite’s Thaicom 5 telecommunications spacecraft has entered service at 78.5 degrees east longitude and taken over all traffic formerly handled by Thaicom 3, Bangkok-based Shin announced July 14.

Thaicom 5, launched in May, carries 14 Ku-band and 25 C-band transponders and will deliver direct-to-home television and other services in Southeast Asia over a planned 12-year service life. Shin ultimately expects to broadcast high-definition television using Thaicom 5.

Shin plans to move Thaicom 3 to 50.5 degrees east longitude, a new orbital slot for the company that will give it better access to Middle East markets. Thaicom 3 suffered a loss of about half its power in 2003 and is expected to be retired in 2007 or 2008, depending on the amount of fuel used in the voyage to its new position.

Raytheon To Support Navy Satcom Systems

Raytheon Co. will provide satellite communications mission support for the U.S. Navy under a five-year contract valued at $75 million , the Waltham, Mass. company announced July 13.

Under the contract, Raytheon will maintain and upgrade satellite terminals throughout their service life. The company has installed more than 500 satellite communications systems for the Navy in the past 20 years, according to a July 13 Raytheon press release .

Raytheon also won a $38 million contract from the GPS Joint Program Office to design next-generation GPS receivers for the military, according to another July 13 press release . The company is eligible for another award to do more advanced development work.

Comments: Warren Ferster, wferster@space.com