Hot Bird 3 Suffers Major Loss of Power in Orbit

The Hot Bird 3 direct-broadcast television satellite owned by fleet operator Eutelsat of Paris suffered a major loss of power the night of Oct. 3 as it was coming out of a solar-eclipse period, Eutelsat announced Oct. 6.

The satellite recently left its position at 13 degrees east longitude and was being moved to a new slot at 10 degrees east, where it was to begin operations this month under a new name, Eurobird 10.

But on emerging from a solar-eclipse cycle, during which its batteries provide electric power in the place of the satellite’s solar arrays, one of Hot Bird 3’s two solar panels suffered a “substantial deterioration” in its power-generating capacity, Eutelsat said.

Eutelsat and Astrium Satellites, the Hot Bird 3 manufacturer, have opened an inquiry into the cause of the failure.

Eutelsat said the satellite carried a net book value of 55 million euros ($70 million). Depending on whether the failure can be repaired, Eutelsat may write down the value of the satellite, the company said. No Eutelsat customers were affected by the failure.


Boeing Pays $70 Million To Terminate Connexion

Satellite operator SES Global has received $70 million from Boeing as payment for the early termination of satellite leases for the Connexion satellite-delivered Internet service to commercial airline passengers, Luxembourg-based SES Global announced Oct. 3.

The commercial Connexion service will shut down Dec. 31 unless a buyer is found before then. Boeing leases substantial capacitiy on SES Global’s AMC-23 satellite over the Pacific Ocean region. Boeing also leases transponders on SES’s AMC-6 satellite over the Atlantic Ocean. Boeing will continue to lease capacity on the AMC-4 satellite, also over the Atlantic, for Connexion service to U.S. government customers.

India Approves Ku-Band Satellite for Domestic DTH

The Indian cabinet has approved plans to invest 6.1 billion rupees ($133 million) in an all Ku-band satellite that will provide increased domestic capacity for direct-to-home television broadcasts .

A Sept. 29 press release issued by the cabinet said the Insat-4G satellite will be built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 24 months. The project funding includes 3 billion rupees for satellite construction; 2.5 billion rupees for the launch; and 600 million rupees for insurance. Out of the total, ISRO is free to spend 3.8 billion on imported components, the announcement said.

ISRO spokesman S. Krishnamurthy said Oct. 1 that Insat-4G will be a state-of-the-art satellite featuring 18 high-power Ku-band transponders. “This will considerably improve the much needed high-power Ku-band capacity to meet the requirements of domestic direct-to-home transmissions, VSAT and computer-to-computer connectivity,” he said.

The satellite also will have a navigation payload to serve as a backup to one scheduled for launch next year on the GSat-4 satellite , Krishnamurthy said. Insat-4G is scheduled to be launched in 2008 or 2009.

Wins $181 Million Army Satcom Terminal Deal

DataPath Inc. will provide satellite communications terminals and related hardware and software to the U.S. Army under a contract worth $181 million, the company announced in an Oct. 4 press release.

The deal calls for the company to deliver more than 300 transportable terminals, four hub-station trucks and hundreds of spare hardware kits for the Army’s Joint Network Node program, which utilizes commercial satellite capacity, the press release said. Personnel training and equipment maintenance also are part of the contract.

Production of the hardware, which will enable the Army to set up communications outposts using Internet Protocols in remote locations, is expected to begin in late 2006 and finish in 2007, DataPath said. The services under the contract, the largest in DataPath’s 10-year history, will extend into 2008.

DataPath, a provider of satellite and wireless networks, also announced that its 2006 revenues are expected to fall between $280 million and $295 million.

Italy Still Looking for Rocket To Launch Cosmo-Skymed

The first of four Italian Cosmo-Skymed high-resolution radar satellites is undergoing final testing and will be ready for launch by early 2007 but has had difficulty finding a launch vehicle in part because it is a dual military-civilian program for the Italian government, according to industry officials.

Co-financed by the Italian Defense Ministry, Cosmo-Skymed’s Italian government owners had hoped for a launch aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket with the launch negotiated by the French-Russian Starsem organization. But Starsem’s mandate to sell Soyuz rockets does not include military spacecraft, whose launches must be negotiated with Russia’s Rosoboronexport export-control authority.

As was the case when the commercial Sea Launch venture contracted to launch the dual-use Koreasat 5 telecommunications satellite, Rosoboronexport likely will require a financial payment in return for granting approval for a Soyuz launch of Cosmo-Skymed.

Cosmo-Skymed uses a platform similar to Canada’s Radarsat-2 satellite, which was initially scheduled for launch on a Boeing Delta 2 rocket before being transferred to Starsem for a Soyuz launch. Radarsat-2 is a civilian-financed program.

Cosmo-Skymed managers say the Delta 2 and Soyuz are both being considered. Delta 2 usually carries a price tag that is about double the price for a Soyuz. But the Rosoboronexport involvement likely will reduce the price difference, officials said.

The first Cosmo-Skymed has been shipped from Alcatel Alenia Space’s manufacturing plant in Italy to Cannes, France, for final testing at the company’s facility there.

Raytheon To Close Santa Barbara Facility

Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (SAS) will shutter its Santa Barbara Remote Sensing facility in Goleta, Calif., which builds sensors for civil space programs, in early 2008, the company announced in an Oct. 5 press release.

The decision affects all of the facility’s 250 employees, who will depart through attrition, transfer or layoffs, the company said. Laid off employees will be given the opportunity to apply for jobs elsewhere within the company, Raytheon said.

Raytheon’s other Goleta-based operations, Electronic Warfare Systems and Vision Systems, will not be affected by the move, the announcement said.

Development programs at Santa Barbara Remote Sensing will be transferred to Raytheon SAS headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., the company said. These programs include the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite for a new generation of civil-military weather satellites; and the Glory Aerosol Polarimeter Sensor, which is designed to monitor atmospheric aerosols and climate change from space.

“While it is never an easy decision to close a facility, the challenges of our civil space programs require the unique skills and resources available at our SAS El Segundo headquarters,” Jon Jones, president of SAS, said in a prepared statement.

Raytheon has encountered major problems with the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite, a key instrument for the civil-military National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System. These struggles have been cited as the primary reason for ballooning costs that forced a restructuring of the weather satellite program earlier this year.

Sirius Continues To Gain More Subscribers than XM

For the fourth quarter in a row, Sirius Satellite Radio captured more new subscribers than its competitor XM Satellite Radio, adding a cumulative 441,101 new listeners compared to XM’s 285,000 adds.

The end of the third quarter of 2006 brought Sirius’ total number of subscribers to 5.1 million, according to an Oct. 4 press release. XM still leads in total subscribers, with 7.2 million listeners.

In an Oct. 4 analysis, Cowen & Co., New York, said it expected both firms to become cash flow positive by the end of 2006, as its executives have been predicting. The analysis stated that the companies should start bringing in more subscribers once Sirius launches its NASCAR programming in January and its wearable Stilletto device, and when XM is scheduled to begin new deals with car companies.

ATK Awarded $35 Million NASA Contract Extension

ATK Thiokol will continue to develop the design of the first stage of the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle, now that its contract has been extended by NASA.

The $35 million contract extension is a bridge between Brigham City, Utah-based ATK’s initial award and the prime contract for the first stage, which is expected to be awarded in December, said NASA spokeswoman Kim Newton at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in a phone interview Oct. 5.

The first stage will consist of a single solid-rocket booster, which is similar to that used on the space shuttle but with an additional motor segment added. The stage will be tested initially in spring of 2009.

EMS Picked to Provide Mars Rover Antennas

EMS Technologies Inc.’s Defense and Space Systems unit will provide Ka-band communications antennas for NASA’s planned Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover under a $1.2 million contract, the company said in an Oct. 3 press release.

The antennas are part of the Terminal Descent Sensor for the rover, which will guide it to a safe landing on the surface of Mars, the release said. The Mars Science Laboratory is scheduled to launch in 2009.

The Mars Science Laboratory will be larger and carry a greater payload than the Mars Exploration Rovers now operating on Mars.

ATK Completes Tests on Ares 1 Booster Parachute

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) has finished testing a newly de signed parachute to be used on the launcher being developed to carry NASA’s planned Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle into orbit.

ATK of Edina, Minn., is the prime contractor for the first stage of NASA’s Ares 1 crew launch vehicle, according to an Oct. 2 ATK press release . In August, the company tested the parachute from an altitude of around 3,048 meters to ensure it deploys properly, the release said. The parachute is designed to ensure that the Ares 1’s shuttle-based solid-rocket core stage comes down safely in the ocean after launch .

The initial test flight for Ares 1 is scheduled for April 2009, the release said, with a crew launch scheduled for no later than 2014 . The Orion crew vehicle is the designated replacement for NASA’s space shuttle, which is slated for retirement in 2010.

GPS Control System Clears Test Milestone

The U.S. Air Force on Sept. 1 completed an initial round of testing on a new command and control system that will be used during launches of GPS navigation satellites, the service said Sept. 29 in a press release.

The Launch/Early Orbit Anomaly Resolution and Disposable Operations (LADO) system consists of hardware and software and features a distributed architecture. It will replace the mainframe-based Satellite Network Command and Control Segment, which has been used in GPS launches to date.

Developed by a team led by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis, the LADO 1 system is now in operational testing in preparation for the launch of an Air Force GPS Block 2R-M satellite in late 2007, the service said. A more advanced version of the system, dubbed LADO 2, is in development and will be used for launches of the GPS Block 2F satellites, the Air Force said.

Mars Orbiter Sensor Readied for Operations

A mineral-mapping sensor aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has opened its eyelid and is ready to begin its mission, according to a Sept. 27 press release from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) opened its protective cover Sept. 27, the press release said. The cover had been closed since the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s August 2005 launch to avoid heat damage and contamination by fuel residue , according to the press release.

Built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the CRISM sensor is designed to look for areas on the martian surface that were once wet enough to leave a mineral signature , the release said. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is adjusting its orbit around the red planet and deploying and testing its various instruments in preparation for the commencement of science operations in November.

FCC Opens Bureau for Disaster Management

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has created a bureau to deal specifically with emergency communications.

The Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will handle emergency management and preparedness, taking care of functions previously dispersed throughout various departments in the FCC, according to a Sept. 26 FCC press release .

The Satellite Industry Association applauded the move in a Sept. 27 press release, saying it plans to work with the bureau on developing best practices, preparedness plans and network reliability measures.

USA Operations Contract Covers Next Six Months

NASA has awarded United Space Alliance (USA) an interim contract worth $1.1 billion for continued operation of the space shuttle and related activities for the next six months, the agency announced Oct. 2.

The bridge contract replaces USA’s Space Flight Operations Contract, which expired Sept. 30, NASA spokesman Kyle Herring said. NASA and Houston-based USA, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., are still negotiating a contract that will run through Sept. 30, 2010, the year the space shuttle fleet is to be retired.

The interim contract will be folded into the longer-term deal once it is finalized, which is expected to occur within the next six months, Herring said. Besides shuttle operations, the final contract will cover activities related to the space station and the transition to the shuttle’s replacement, he said.

Alcatel, Maroc Connect Team on Morocco Project

Alcatel of Paris will partner with Maroc Connect of Morocco to deploy a next-generation satellite-based communications network in the North African country.

To be deployed by early 2007, the network will cover five major areas in Morocco , according to an Oct. 3 press release from Alcatel. The companies have agreed to invest more than 25 million euros ($31.7 million), the release said.

XM-Ready Hyundai Cars Headed for Showrooms

The first Hyundai vehicle models factory equipped with XM Satellite Radio have been rolled out, according to the Washington-based satellite radio provider.

The 2007 Santa Fe is the first of four Hyundai models that will offer XM radios as a standard feature, according to an Oct. 3 XM press release .

Spatial Energy Signs With Google Earth Enterprise

Spatial Energy, a geospatial information company that generates maps based on satellite and aerial photos for the energy industry, has entered into a partnership agreement with Google Earth to provide customized products to oil and gas companies.

In a press release dated Oct. 2, Spatial Energy of Boulder, Colo., said it has been certified as a Google Earth Specialist as part of the Google Earth Enterprise Professional program. “Google Earth Enterprise integrates a client’s proprietary data with our satellite imagery and aerial photography to deliver uniquely customized 3-D geospatial databases direct to desktop,” Spatial Energy President Bud Pope said in a prepared statement.

ATK Tests Demonstrate Hypersonic Technology

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of Edina, Minn., has completed a series of ramjet engine technology tests that the company says will bring sustained hypersonic-vehicle flight a step closer to reality.

During the tests, conducted at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., an ATK-designed ramjet engine combustor was hot-fired for a total of 23 minutes under conditions simulating speeds of Mach 3.7 — or 3.7 times the speed of sound — to Mach 5.5, ATK said in a Sept. 26 press release. Individual test firings lasted up to 2.5 minutes, and ATK spokesman George Torres said previous such tests have been measured in seconds.

The latest test effort was funded internally by ATK, Torres said. The technology is applicable to long-range strike weapons, he said.

In a statement provided by Torres, Charlie Precourt, ATK vice president for Advanced Strategic Systems, said the engine test effort builds on the company’s work on NASA’s X-43 hypersonic vehicle, which reached a speed of nearly Mach 10 in a 2004 flight. “We took our X-43 experience at Mach 10 and simplified it to a Mach 5 configuration to focus on a rapid standoff weapon. That weapon can fly 640 kilometers in 8 minutes vs. an hour for a cruise missile. We believe we can fly such a system in 30 months.”