Senators Warn NASA To Keep ISS Research Spending

Four U.S. senators are warning NASA to drop any notions about cutting money in the agency’s 2007 budget that is supposed to pay for research aboard the international space station (ISS).

In an Aug. 8 letter to NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Barbara Mikulski (D -Md.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said they “want to make it clear that any option to further reduce, or curtail altogether, research aboard the ISS would be an unacceptable option and entirely inconsistent with policy guidance enacted by the Congress. …”

The senators were responding to news reports and comments by Kirk Shireman, deputy director of NASA’s ISS program at Johnson Space Center (JSC), that NASA was considering dropping all science funding for ISS.

Shireman told reporters during a July 27 mission briefing at JSC the space agency was looking at this option during the 2007 fiscal year to cover a funding shortfall of up to $100 million.

“Right now we’re quite a bit in the hole,” Shireman said. “We’ll look at a bunch of different options for the assembly budget; all those things are under consideration.”

But in their letter, the four senators, all of whom have significant NASA facilities in their states, pointed out that the Senate Appropriations Committee fully funded the administration’s ISS budget request and a proposal to add $1 billion in funding above the president’s request to pay for the costs incurred by the Columbia accident.

“It is difficult to understand why, with such support from the Senate and the potential for a sizeable increase above the request for NASA, such a drastic measure is being contemplated at this time,” the letter says.

The senators also cited in their letter the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, noting that it “makes very clear the congressional interest in ensuring the nation receives the maximum return on its investment in the space station. The designation of the U.S. segment [of the space station] as a national laboratory and the requirement for NASA to prepare an implementation plan for that laboratory function, due by the end of this year, are indicative of that strong interest and policy guidance to NASA.”

NASA had little to say about the letter. “We haven’t officially received the letter,” NASA spokesman Dean Acosta said Aug. 10. “Once we do, we will have an appropriate response back.”

Raytheon, ATK Finish Testing Thrusters for Intercepto r

Raytheon Co. and ATK successfully completed the second ground test of an advanced version of the thrusters used to guide interceptor rockets for the Pentagon’s sea-based missile defense system, according to a Raytheon news release issued on Aug. 11.

The Solid Divert and Attitude Control System (SDACS), which is built by ATK, guides the kill vehicle on Raytheon’s Standard Missile-3 rockets, which are launched from U.S. Navy Aegis ships, towards their ballistic missile targets.

The recent ground testing is a step toward fully qualifying the advanced SDACS design for deployment. The advanced design adds additional thrust and maneuvering capacity for the kill vehicle, according to the news release.

Globalstar Cleared To Export Eight Satellites to Italy

The Globalstar satellite-telephone company announced Aug. 8 that it has received U.S. State Department approval to export eight Globalstar spacecraft to Italy for final testing in advance of 2007 launches aboard Russian Soyuz rockets.

Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar had booked launch reservations with Starsem S.A., the French-Russian company that markets Russian Soyuz vehicles; and with Eurockot Launch Services GmbH, the German-Russian joint venture that markets Rockot vehicles. But in an Aug. 8 announcement, Globalstar said all eight spacecraft will be launched by the Soyuz rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The eight Globalstar satellites are nearly identical to the Globalstar spacecraft currently in orbit and will be used to replace gaps in coverage and satellites that are being retired. Like the earlier satellites, the new spacecraft were built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., and will be put through final testing at Alcatel Alenia Space’s facility near Rome.

Strong 3Q Positions Integral For Expected Autumn Sale

Based on the results of a strong third quarter Integral Systems Inc. is on track for a potential sale of the company this fall, according to its chief executive.

The Lanham, Md.-based company brought in $27.4 million in revenue during its third quarter, which ended June 30. That was $2 million more than the $25.4 million in revenue it brought in during its previous third quarter.

Net income was $2.8 million, up from $1.9 million during the third quarter of 2005, Elaine Brown, the company’s chief financial officer, said during an Aug. 8 conference call with investors.

Leading the way was the company’s government ground system sector, as well as business from RT Logic, an Integral subsidiary that builds ground systems for space companies.

The c ommercial ground system business dipped slightly, coming in at $4.8 million compared to just under $5 million during the previous third quarter. Integral’s space communications segment brought in $10.8 million in revenue, up from $8.2 million during the same time period the previous year.

This month, Integral is waiting on the award of two ground systems contracts from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Admin., Gaffney said. The company also plans to bid on the ground segment portion of the Global Positioning System 3 (GPS 3) contract, for which they expect to see a request for proposal in October, and an award in March of 2007. “We expect Q4 to look a lot like Q3,” said Pete Gaffney, the company’s chief executive officer.

The company enlisted the services of an investment baker BB&T Capital Markets/Windsor Croup, a division of Richmond, Va.-based Scott & Stringfellow Inc., last quarter to explore a potential sale. Gaffney declined to comment in detail, saying only that the company would have an announcement in the fall, and that the process was proceeding as planned.

ITT Delivers Imaging Sensor For DigitalGlobe Satellite

ITT Corp. of White Plains, N.Y., has delivered the imaging sensor for Longmont, Colo.-based DigitalGlobe’s next-generation satellite, according to an Aug. 7 press release from DigitalGlobe.

The sensor has been tested to meet DigitalGlobe’s performance specifications for the WorldView 1 satellite, and has been shipped to Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., for integration into the satellite.

Construction of the WorldView 1 satellite, which DigitalGlobe is building under its $500 million NextView contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, has been plagued with delays due to integration issues. In the release, Jill Smith, DigitalGlobe’s chief executive officer, said that shipping the sensor is an important milestone that puts construction on track for a mid-2007 launch.

NATO Developing Theater Missile Defense Architecture

NATO has received bids from two companies competing to win a contract to design a theater-level missile defense architecture. The contract is expected to be worth around $130 million.

The contract is intended to bring together existing and planned systems used by NATO members, rather than develop new ones. The winning contractor will develop testing facilities in the United States and Europe where countries can plug in missile defense sensors and interceptor systems to ensure that they can operate in concert with other NATO members.

Northrop Grumman Corp., which is leading a team that includes EADS Defence and Security Systems and Indra, submitted its proposal in early August, according to a company news release. Boeing Co., which is leading a team that includes Lockheed Martin Corp. and Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc. of the United States, as well as Finmeccanica of Italy, Havelsan of Turkey, MBDA of France and Prezemyslowly Instytut Telekomunikacji of Poland, submitted its bid in mid July.

GLAST Instrument Clears Final Testing at Marshall

A key instrument for NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) has cleared final testing and been shipped for integration with the spacecraft, the agency announced Aug. 7.

The GLAST Burst Monitor underwent testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and was shipped July 24 to General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale, Ariz., for integration, according to the news release. The Burst Monitor is one of two instruments — the other being the Large Area Telescope — that will study gamma rays, the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation in space.

The telescope will be capable of locating gamma-ray bursts within seconds. These bursts are created when a massive star — up to 100 times larger than the Sun — collapses, eventually forming a black hole, according to the release.

The Large Area Telescope, meanwhile, is still undergoing environmental testing at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

GLAST is slated to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida sometime in the fall of 2007.

Northrop Begins Work on Dedicated Laser Facility

Northrop Grumman Space Technology has begun renovating a facility at its Space Park campus in Redondo Beach, Calif., that will be dedicated to solid-state laser development and integration work, the company announced Aug. 2.

The Directed Energy Production Facility, a 1,022-square-meter building, will house a high-power laser development area as well as integration areas for military platforms, according to the news release. It is expected to open at the end of 2006.

“This facility demonstrates our tremendous confidence in the potential for laser weapons to transform the way our nation maintains peace,” Alexis Livanos, president of Northrop Grumman Space Technology , said in the news release.

Northrop Grumman will use the facility for work on its Joint High-Power Solid-State Laser Phase 3 program, which will demonstrate lasers capable of operating at power levels up to 100 kilowatts, according to the release.

Telenor To Provide Satcom Services, Equipment to IRC

Telenor Satellite Services, a Rockville, Md.-based subsidiary of Telenor of Norway, will provide satellite communications services and equipment to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) under a two-year agreement, the company announced Aug. 3.

Telenor will provide Inmarsat Broadband Global Area Network, or BGAN, services to the nonprofit organization, which provides relief, rehabilitation and resettlement help for refugees and victims of violent conflict or oppression, according to the news release. Telenor has a reseller agreement with satellite operator Inmarsat of London.

The Telenor-IRC deal includes an option for an additional two years of service. No further financial details were disclosed in the release.

Spacehab Unit To Process Orbital Express Hardware

Astrotech Space Operations, a subsidiary of Spacehab Inc., will help process the payload for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Orbital Express mission under a $1.6 million contract, Spacehab of Webster, Texas, announced Aug. 3.

The Orbital Express Advanced Technology Demonstration Program is exploring the technical feasibility of autonomous, robotic on-orbit refueling services. Astrotech will process and encapsulate the Orbital Express spacecraft at its Titusville, Fla., facilities this September, according to the news release.

Boeing Co. of Chicago, the prime contractor on Orbital Express, awarded Astrotech the contract. The spacecraft is expected to launch this December, according to the news release.

AAE Ku-band Terminals Selected by Oil Company

AAE Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., will supply its MF-TDMA DAMA Eclipse Ku-band satellite system for voice and data connectivity to an oil company with multiple locations throughout Oman, according to an Aug. 4 AAE release. Neither the name of the oil company nor financial details regarding the agreement were disclosed.

Northrop Grumman Gets More Fire Scout Funding

Northrop Grumman’s Unmanned Systems Development Center in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., will continue systems development work on the Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) under a $135.8 million contract modification from the U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman announced Aug. 8.

The Fire Scout will serve as a communications relay and provide imagery for intelligence and battle-damage assessment purposes . Also capable of carrying weapons, the vehicle can fly missions nearly eight hours long, according to the news release.

Northrop Grumman will continue system development and demonstration work on the vehicle through 2008 under the award modification. Northrop Grumman is under contract to deliver nine Fire Scout UAVs to the Navy under the same award.

NSA Upgrades Terminals For Mobile Satellite Links

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has upgraded software for its General Dynamics C4 Systems-built Sectera Black Digital Interface terminal, which provides secure data connectivity to several satellite networks including Iridium, Inmarsat and Globalstar, according to an Aug. 8 news release from C4 Systems, a unit of General Dynamics, Falls Church, Va.

The upgrade enhances the security of the Sectera Black Digital Interface terminal, which is designed to protect information up to the Top Secret level. The terminal is mobile and lightweight, and can be used to encrypt voice and data transmissions over satellite networks at data rates up to 128 kilobits per second, according to the news release.

Proton Rocket Lofts Hot Bird 8 into Orbit

Eutelsat‘s Hot Bird 8 direct-broadcast television satellite — the largest spacecraft ever built for the Paris-based company — is expected to enter service in October following a successful Aug. 5 launch aboard an International Launch Services Proton-M vehicle, Eutelsat and ILS announced.

The launch, from the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, marked the return to flight for the ILS Proton-M following a failure in February. ILS President Mark Albrecht said in a statement that the McLean, Va.-based company plans two more Proton-M launches this year. He did not name the satellites to be launched.

Built by EADS Astrium of Europe, Hot Bird 8 weighed 4,900 kilograms at launch and carries 64 Ku-band transponders. It will be stationed at Eutelsat’s principal orbital position, at 13 degrees east longitude, where it will provide in-orbit backup for other Eutelsat satellites co-located at that slot.

The arrival of Hot Bird 8 also will permit Eutelsat to move its 20-transponder Hot Bird 3 satellite to an undisclosed location.

Helius Enters Partnership With National Networks

Startup telecommunications firm National Networks of Lake Charles, La., will have access to Helius Inc.’s satellite-delivered IP broadcasting solutions under a new partnership agreement, Lindon, Utah-based Helius announced in an Aug. 8 press release.

Financial terms of the partnership arrangement are not being disclosed, according to Ashley Stolworthy of the North Orem, Utah-based Snapp Norris Group, which does public relations for Helius.

Under the agreement, National Networks will use Helius’ products and delivery platform to provide corporate customers a number of satellite-delivered video applications, such as digital signage, advertising , distance learning and others , the release said.

NASA, Air Force Forge Research Cooperative

NASA and the U.S. Air Force have entered into an aeronautics research partnership intended to facilitate the sharing of information, reduce duplication and enhance long-term planning, the U.S. space agency announced Aug. 7.

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne signed the memorandum of understanding Aug. 7 at a Pentagon ceremony.

“Although NASA and the Air Force have differing missions, there are common aeronautics research goals that dictate we maintain a close partnership,” Griffin said in the news release.

Boeing Tests Mirror Relay for High-Energy Lasers

Boeing and the U.S. Air Force have successfully tested a half-scale version of a mirror relay system that could help direct high-energy lasers to destroy ballistic missiles or other enemy targets, Boeing announced Aug. 7.

The Aerospace Relay Mirror System payload could be carried aboard airships or spacecraft to help reduce atmospheric interference with laser beams and extend their range beyond line of sight, according to the news release.

“This demonstration is a major step in the development of relay technology because it shows that a relay mirror system can receive laser energy and redirect it to a target, extending the laser’s range,” Pan Shanahan, vice president and manager of Boeing’s Missile Defense Systems unit in St. Louis, said in the release .

The demonstration was held at Air Force Research Laboratory facilities at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. Boeing began work on the system four years ago under a $20 million contract from the Air Force, according to the release.

Ball Receives Kepler Mirror For Testing and Integration

Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. has received the primary optical mirror for NASA’s Kepler planet-finding mission and will conduct environmental testing before integrating the hardware with the spacecraft, Ball Aerospace of Boulder, Colo., announced Aug. 8.

The Kepler mission will attempt to find Earth-like planets in distant solar systems using a field of view 70,000 times greater than that of the Hubble Space Telescope. It will specifically search for planets as they pass in front of their host stars, using the resulting changes in a star’s brightness to determine the size and orbit of a planet, according to the press release.

Ball is the prime contractor for the Kepler mission, responsible for building the spacecraft, system integration and testing. The 1.4-meter primary mirror was built by subcontractor L-3 Communications Brashear of Pittsburgh.

Kepler is slated to launch beyond Earth’s orbit in 2008.

Gilat to Help Optus Widen Rural Broadband Service

SingTel Optus of Sydney, Australia, is expanding the availability of Gilat Satellite Networks’ SkyEdge broadband services in rural Australia and New Zealand under a new agreement, Gilat announced Aug. 8.

Israel-based Gilat will supply Optus with several thousand Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) and other SkyEdge hub infrastructure to provide rural customers with satellite-based voice, data and video broadband services, according to the news release. Since 2004, Optus has deployed more than 12,000 Gilat VSATs and several hubs to serve corporate, government and residential customers in the areas.

The expansion supports the first stage of an Australian government plan, called the Rural Broadband Subsidy, to deliver broadband services to rural areas, according to the release. No financial details about the agreement were disclosed.

Pratt & Whitney To Expand Huntsville-based Work Force

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne plans to add nearly 200 jobs at its facility at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., by August 2007, to support work associated with the agency’s plan to replace the space shuttle and return astronauts to the Moon , the company announced Aug. 8.

The expansion is part of Pratt & Whitney’s effort to design, manufacture, assemble and test the J-2X engines for the Crew Launch Vehicle upper stage. The Crew Launch Vehicle will loft NASA’s next-generation human transport vehicle, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, beginning in 2014.

Currently, 85 employees work at the company’s Huntsville facility, which also provides support for the space shuttle’s reusable liquid-fueled main engine.

As Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s director of exploration and Huntsville operations, Rick Bachtel will lead the expansion at Marshall .

Pratt & Whitney also announced plans to open a J-2X program office, with the yet-to-be-determined deputy program manager based in Huntsville.

C4 Systems Nabs Contract For USAF Satellite Security

General Dynamics C4 Systems of Scottsdale, Ariz., will design equipment to help guard against unauthorized access to U.S. Air Force satellites under a contract worth $9.7 million, C4 Systems announced Aug. 8.

Under the Air Force’s Aerospace Vehicle Equipment — Increment 1 program, C4 Systems will develop and demonstrate technology for encryption modules for Air Force satellite telemetry, tracking and control systems . The encryption modules will feature circuitry that is reprogrammable to meet the requirements of future upgrades to the satellite systems, according to the news release.

“Military and commercial customers want to be sure that no one commandeers satellite assets or monitors the data moving in and out of those assets,” John Cole, vice president of information assurance at C4 Systems, said in the news release.

Work is to begin immediately at C4 Systems’ facility in Scottsdale.

NASA Stennis Extends Two Support Contracts

NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has awarded two contract extensions to support facility operations and propulsion testing, NASA announced Aug. 9.

Stennis awarded Mississippi Space Services a one-year extension worth $61.6 million to provide facility operating services . Mississippi Space Services, located at Stennis, is a joint venture between Computer Sciences Corp., El Segundo, Calif., and Shaw Infrastructure, Baton Rouge, La.

Stennis also exercised the first option on a six-year contract with Sverdrup Technology Inc., Tullahoma, Tenn., to support propulsion test operations at the center as well as at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The contract option is valued at $42.4 million, according to the release.

ICG Develops Program To Convert Phones for Iridium

The International Communications Group (ICG) has introduced a new satellite-conversion software program to enable customers equipped with Verizon Airfone hardware to tap into the Iridium global satellite network after Verizon Airfone ends its service in December, Newport News, Va.-based ICG announced Aug. 8.

Verizon Airfone, which provides satellite-based air-to-ground communications in North America , will shut down Dec. 4 unless a buyer is found for the service, according to the news release. The shutdown would affect nearly 4,000 passenger and business aircraft equipped with Teledyne’s MagnaStar telephone systems to connect to the Verizon network.

ICG’s new conversion program would allow these customers to use the same hardware to access the Iridium network on a single voice/data channel or a multichannel system, according to the news release.

Iridium Satellite Secures New Round of Financing

Iridium Satellite LLC of Bethesda, Md., has secured $210 million in debt financing through investment brokers Lehman Brothers Inc. and Morgan Stanley Senior Funding Inc., both of New York.

The funds will be used for a variety of purposes, such as collateral, repaying the company’s existing loans, developing new services, and returning money to investors, according to an Aug. 7 press release from Iridium.

The financing consists of four combined loans, including a $98 million four-year loan, a $62 million five-year loan, a $40 million six-year loan and a $10 million three-year revolving credit facility , the release said.