Staffers See T-Sat as Acquisition Reform Flagship

Congressional staffers, who have been among the biggest critics of U.S. military space acquisition, see a ray of hope in the Transformational Satellite (T-Sat) communications system, a complex series of satellites over which they have raised red flags in the past.

“The good news is that there has been some encouraging news this year,” Mark Haaland, the Senate Appropriations Committee staff member with responsibility for space programs, said Oct. 12 at the 4th Strategic Space and Defense Conference in Omaha, Neb. “We see the T-Sat program as a flagship program for the Air Force.”

Madelyn Creedon, the Democratic staffer responsible for space on the Senate Armed Services Committee, seconded Haaland’s sentiment. “I think on this one we are all pretty much in agreement that it could help demonstrate how to fix space acquisition’s problems,” she said.

Congress will be watching the program closely, said Josh Hartman, the House Appropriations Committee’s space staffer. “What has to happen is for the program to deliver on what they promised,” he said in reply to a question about T-Sat’s funding outlook. Congress trimmed $130 million from the Pentagon’s $867 million T-Sat request for 2007, and there are still concerns on Capitol Hill about the program’s ability to make effective use of the remaining funds, he said.


SES Global Completes $1 Billion Bond Issue

SES Global completed a two-part bond issue totaling 800 million euros ($1 billion) that attracted 2.6 times the amount of subscriptions sought, with nearly 120 investors in Europe and the United States bidding to provide financing, the Luxembourg-based satellite-fleet operator announced Oct. 11.

In an Oct. 10 investor conference call preceding the offering, SES Global said it expects its 2006 revenues to increase by more than 20 percent when its New Skies and ND Satcom purchases are included, and nearly 10 percent when these two investments are removed from the equation.

The company reported 2005 revenues of 1.26 billion euros. SES expects its AMC-14 satellite, being modified by manufacturer Lockheed Martin at the request of customer EchoStar Communications Corp., to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Russia-Kazakh Parley Could Delay TerraSAR-X

The launch of Germany’s TerraSAR-X high-resolution radar satellite may slip into early 2007 because of protracted negotiations between Russian and Kazakh authorities over pollution of Kazakh territory following the Dnepr rocket failure in July. The satellite initially had been scheduled for launch Oct. 31.

Dnepr, a converted SS-18 missile launched from an underground silo at the Russian-run Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, is the designated TerraSAR-X launch vehicle. While officials from ISC Kosmotras of Moscow, Dnepr’s sales agent, have identified the cause of the July failure, Kazakh authorities have refused to approve the vehicle’s return to flight until talks with Russia over reparations for the resulting environmental pollution are concluded.

TerraSAR-X is a private-public partnership between Infoterra GmbH, an Astrium subsidiary, and the German space agency, DLR. Its data will be sold commercially.

To Operate Three Sentinel Satellites

At least three of the five planned Sentinel Earth observation satellites to be developed by the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) likely will be operated by the Eumetsat meteorological satellite organization, according to European government officials.

The satellites are part of Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program. The first five satellites are estimated to cost around 2.3 billion euros ($2.9 billion), with ESA and the European Commission sharing the costs.

Questions remain about how much European Commission money will be available for building the satellites, and until recently it was also unclear what organization would take charge of operating them. But recent agreements among ESA governments have paved the way for giving Darmstadt, Germany-based Eumetsat that authority.

The three satellites likely to be operated by Eumetsat are Sentinels 3, 4 and 5, to focus on ocean monitoring from low Earth orbit, atmospheric studies from geostationary orbit and atmosphere monitoring from low Earth orbit, respectively.

The other two Sentinel GMES satellites, for which an operator has not been selected, will carry radar and superspectral imagers. The first Sentinel satellite is expected to be launched around 2010.

Lockheed Martin, ITT Join Forces on GPS 3

Lockheed Martin Corp. announced Oct. 11 that ITT Industries will serve as its primary subcontractor in the competition to build the next generation of GPS navigation satellites.

Under the arrangement, ITT will serve as the navigation payload provider on Lockheed Martin’s GPS 3 team. Boeing is leading the other team in the competition.

ITT supplied the payloads for the Lockheed Martin-built GPS 2R satellites. The U.S. Air Force has launched 14 GPS 2R satellites, two of which feature upgrades to a configuration called GPS 2RM. Six more GPS 2RM satellites are still to be launched.

Northrop Grumman Tests Strategic Illuminator Laser

Northrop Grumman Corp. recently tested a laser that ultimately could be used for a variety of military air and space applications, according to a company news release dated Oct. 12.

Northrop Grumman is working on the Strategic Illuminator Laser under contract to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. During the testing, the laser operated for five minutes at a power level of 5 kilowatts , according to the news release.

Illuminator lasers can be used for targeting purposes as part of laser weapon systems , according to the news release. The illuminators help adjust for atmospheric conditions that could distort the main laser beam, and help it focus on a small area, according to the news release.

NGA’s Empire Challenge Focused on Data Sharing

A recent military exercise involving U.S. and allied forces demonstrated progress in overcoming interoperability issues in the critical field of intelligence data sharing, according to the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) .

In the third Empire Challenge event, conducted Sept. 5 to Sept. 28 at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake, Calif., U.S., U.K., Australian and Canadian forces focused on imagery sharing. The exercise entailed realistic scenarios in which imagery collected by piloted and unpiloted aircraft was downlinked, analyzed and distributed across the networks and borders of the participants.

A similar event is being planned for 2007, the release said.

Lockheed Closes ILS Sale; McKenna Named President

International Launch Services (ILS) announced Oct. 11 that Lockheed Martin has closed on the sale of its majority stake in the launch services firm to ILS board member and consultant Mario Lemme.

ILS also announced that Frank McKenna, who has served as ILS’s vice president and deputy for the past two years, will take over as company president. Longtime ILS President Mark Albrecht will retire at the end of the year, said Fran Slimmer, a spokeswoman for the company.

Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed, Slimmer said.

Lemme is the founder of Space Transport Inc. of the British Virgin Islands, a company established to manage the ILS investment. ILS’s other stakeholders include Khrunichev State Research and Production Center and RSC Energia, both of Russia.

“Going forward, our customers can expect our commitment to performance, as we continue to focus on meeting their launch requirements successfully and on schedule using the Proton launch system,” McKenna said.

McLean, Va.-based ILS markets the Khrunichev-built Proton rocket to commercial customers. The company is expected to continue operating in McLean, according to the Sept. 7 press release from Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., that first disclosed the sale.

Mars Orbiter Snaps Photo of Opportunity Rover

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured imagery Oct. 3 of the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity near the rim of the red planet’s Victoria Crater.

The Opportunity rover — operating on Mars since January 2004 — traveled more than 9 kilometers from its previous location to examine Victoria Crater.

The crater is approximately 800 meters in diameter and is located near the martian equator, according to an Oct. 6 press release from NASA.


Emerging Markets To Connect U.N. Offices

Emerging Markets Communications nabbed a United Nations contract to connect offices of the organization’s High Commissioner for Refugees via satellite, the company announced Oct. 6.

The Miami-based company will connect 56 offices in 23 countries to the refugee commissioner’s headquarters in Geneva, according to the company’s press release . The dollar amount of the contract was not disclosed, Emerging Markets spokeswoman Cynthia Leibman said in an Oct. 9 e-mail message.

NASA Adds Lunar Angle to Student Research Program

College students can propose lunar gravity experiments to be performed at NASA facilities as part of the agency’s latest annual Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program.

This is the first time that the ongoing program will allow experiments in lunar gravity, which is one-sixth of Earth’s, according to an Oct. 5 press release from NASA.

Students interested in participating in the program must submit proposals by Oct. 30. The experiments will be done at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Starsys Inc. To Supply Lunar Orbiter Components

Starsys Inc. landed a $6.3 million contract to provide hardware for NASA’s planned Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, according to a press release issued Oct. 3 by Starsys parent company SpaceDev of Poway, Calif.

Starsys will be responsible for the orbiter’s solar array drive, antenna-pointing actuator and other electronic components, according to the press release.

Starsys first became involved with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter program when it was awarded a contract to build an optics mechanism for one of the payloads last year, the release said. The latest contract brings the value of Starsys’ work on the mission to $7.25 million.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is being built by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and is slated for launch in fall of 2008.

Ship Fleet Equipped for Iridium-Based Services

Maritime fleet management company Zodiac Maritime Agencies Ltd. of London will use an Iridium-based system to equip its 132 ships with communications ability.

The ships’ crews can use the system for general e-mail and other services such as news and sports results, according to an Oct. 4 press release from Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium Satellite LLC . The communications package, supplied by reseller AND Group plc of North Shields , U.K., includes satellite airtime and a transceiver built by Thrane & Thrane of Kongens Lyngby, Denmark.

NASA Langley Awards Technical Support Work

Science Systems and Applications Inc. of Lanham, Md., will provide technical support services at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., under a contract potentially valued at $140 million.

The five-year contract requires Science Systems and Applications to provide support in the areas of Earth and planetary atmospheric research, technology development, data services and logistics , according to an Oct. 4 press release from NASA.

NASA Lightning Data Released for Research

NASA scientists have released 11 years of aggregated lightning data that they think will help researchers gain a better understanding of dangerous storms.

The data was collected by the Optical Transient Detector aboard the Microlab-1 satellite and the Lightning Imaging Sensor on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission satellite. Scientists are using the information to learn more about the relationships between climate change and weather patterns, and how storms move, according to an Oct. 2 NASA press release.

The data is important because it provides a comprehensive picture of lightning over an extended time period, the release said. Previously, scientists relied on data over a few years’ span. This will help scientists spot trends on a regional and even a global scale, the release said.

EMS Messaging Service Available in Middle East

A satellite-based mobile data service that uses terminals and airtime provided by EMS Satcom will become available in the Middle East by Nov. 1, according to company spokeswoman Kelly Fry.

The service, which utilizes EMS Satcom’s eNcompass PDT Packet Data Terminal transceiver, already is available in North America using capacity leased from Mobile Satellite Ventures of Reston, Va. Fry declined to disclose the satellite operator that will provide the capacity in the Middle East.

Neil Mackay, EMS Satcom’s senior vice president, said in an Oct. 3 press release that EMS has seen an increase in demand for instant messaging capabilities in the region. EMS Satcom is a division of EMS Technologies of Atlanta.

The data service, which is used for applications such as force tracking and asset management, soon will be available in Europe, the release said.

APL Wins NASA Contract Worth up to $750 Million

The John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., will provide aerospace research services for NASA under a new five-year contract.

The deal, which has a maximum value of $750 million, is for space systems engineering , testing and evaluation, and other research and development services, according to an Oct. 3 press release from NASA. The work will be done to support NASA’s robotic space missions.

ManTech International Acquires GRS Solutions

ManTech International Corp. has acquired GRS Solutions as part of an effort to capture more business in the intelligence market.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, according to an Oct. 6 press release from ManTech.

Fairfax, Va.-based ManTech provides technology solutions for space programs, the intelligence community and other government customers, the release said. For example, the company has provided software design and testing services for a number of missions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., Mark Root, ManTech executive director for corporate communications, said Oct. 6 .

GRS of Falls Church, Va., provides analysis and technical solutions largely focused on counterintelligence and counterterrorism missions, the release said. The company generated more than $10 million in revenue for its 2006 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30 the release said.

Missile Warning Sensor Clears Acoustic Testing

Northrop Grumman has finished acoustic testing on the main sensor for the U.S. Air Force’s first geosynchronous-orbiting Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellite, the company said Oct. 3.

The infrared sensor was built by Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Azusa, Calif. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., is the prime contractor on the SBIRS program.

In a press release, Northrop Grumman said the sensor went through sound and vibration testing that simulated the stresses it will undergo during launch . The testing was performed at Northrop Grumman’s Large Acoustic Testing Facility in Redondo Beach, Calif.

The first geosynchronous-orbit SBIRS satellite is slated for launch in late 2008. Lockheed Martin already has delivered a pair of SBIRS sensors that will be hosted aboard classified satellites operating in highly elliptical orbits.

EchoStar Debt Offering To Raise $500 Million

A division of satellite television broadcaster EchoStar Communications Corp. is planning to raise $500 million through a debt offering, the company said in a Sept. 29 press release.

EchoStar DBS will offer the debt as 7 percent senior notes due in 2013, the press release said. The offering is expected to close Oct. 18, the press release said.

EVC Uses Spot Imagery in Afghanistan Map Project

East View Cartographic (EVC) of Minneapolis has completed a project to create satellite-based maps of Afghanistan for military use.

The project required the company to deliver 39 topographic maps to the Royal Netherlands Army Geographic Agency. The maps cover more than 25,000 square kilometers and are based primarily on 2.5-meter-resolution imagery collected by the French Spot 5 satellite, according to a Sept. 28 press release from EVC.

Boeing Touts Progress on GPS Hardware, Software

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis announced Oct. 12 that it has achieved important milestones on space hardware and ground-segment software for the U.S. Air Force’s GPS satellite navigation program.

On the space segment side, the company delivered the gyroscope package for the first GPS 2F satellite. In a press release, Boeing also reported that the navigation data unit for that satellite has finished final acceptance testing, while the associated software has completed final qualification testing.

Boeing is building 12 GPS 2F satellites and expects to deliver the first in 2007.

Meanwhile, Boeing said it has completed key tests of software it has developed for the ground-based GPS Operational Control Segment upgrade effort. The tests verified that the software meets or exceeds all performance requirements, Boeing said.

NASA Launches Student Aeronautics Competition

NASA has launched a student aeronautics competition that challenges high school students to describe how air transportation systems might look 50 years from now and college students to solve complex problems in areas such as hypersonic flight and Mars landings.

The program, designed to inspire a new generation of aeronautical engineers, offers cash rewards ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for the first place winners in each category, NASA said in an Oct. 10 press release. The competition is sponsored by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

Entries for the high school and college competitions are due March 15 and April 27, respectively. Winning college students may be eligible for summer internships at NASA field centers.

Gilat Lands Contract for VSAT Network in Russia

Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. will provide a broadband Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite network that will expand the reach of a distance-learning program in Russia, the company said.

Gilat of Petah Tikva, Israel, will provide a hub station and terminals for its SkyEdge broadband service so that Teleport-Services of Moscow can expand an educational network for the Moscow-based Modern University for the Humanities , according to an Oct. 11 press release from Gilat.

The VSAT network also will serve business and government agencies in remote regions of eastern Russia, the release said.

XM Radio and Acura Offer Deal for Used Car Buyers

Buyers of Acura certified pre-owned vehicles equipped with factory-installed XM Satellite Radio receivers will get three months of free service, XM of Washington announced in an Oct. 11 press release.

About one-third of the 35,000 used vehicles that Acura certifies annually come with factory-installed XM devices , the release said. Customers will not have to pay for an activation fee under the arrangement .

Orbit Logic Sells 100th Mission Software License

Orbit Logic of Greenbelt, Md., has sold the 100th license of its scheduling software for space mission planning, according to a Sept. 26 press release from the company.

Orbit Logic’s software is called the STK/Scheduler program, and is an add-on to the STK orbit-modeling software program developed by Analytical Graphics Inc. of Exton, Pa.

Americom Opens Center For Government Business

Americom Government Services, which sells commercial satellite capacity and solutions to U.S. government customers, will open a new technical center in Hagerstown, Md., Oct. 17.

The facility is needed in order to accommodate Americom’s expanding business in the government sector, according to an Oct. 10 press release .

The new building is around 2,787 square meters in size and will house much of Americom’s work in network engineering, production and development of services including Command and Control On the Move , which primarily targets military customers.

Shin Satellite Unit Offers VOIP Service in Cambodia

CamShin Co. Ltd. of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has launched a satellite-based international calling service in the Southeast Asian country that uses voice-over- Internet-protocol (VOIP) technology.

The company, a subsidiary of Shin Satellite plc of Bangkok, Thailand, will target its existing customer base of more than 300,000 subscribers, as well as new clients, with the service, according to an Oct. 9 press release from CamShin. Users can dial 005 in front of their destination number in order to access the service, which became available Oct. 1, the company said.

Glenn To Coordinate |NASA
PRIVATE puncspace:p

Safety Efforts

NASA’s safety and mission assurance efforts will now be coordinated under a central office overseen by the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The office, known as the NASA Safety Center, replaces NASA’s Assurance Technology Center, which resides at the Ohio Aerospace Institute of Brookpark . The reorganized office will have a larger role in coordinating the safety programs at each individual NASA center, said Bryan O’Connor, chief of safety and mission assurance at the new center .

In an Oct. 12 phone interview, O’Connor said he expects that the center will receive around $10 million in funding annually, roughly double that of its predecessor. The center’s 25-person workforce will grow by an as yet undetermined number of employees to handle the new functions, he said.

The center’s responsibilities will include preserving technical excellence and supervising mishap investigations, as well as conducting audits, according to O’Connor. Alan Phillips, formerly from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., will serve as the director of the new center.

Winds Grow Stronger in Jupiter’s Little Red Spot

Storms brewing in the area known as the Little Red Spot on Jupiter are now as strong as those in giant planet’s Great Red Spot, according to scientists working with data collected by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The scientists have determined that wind speeds in the smaller spot have reached approximately 644 kilometers per hour , NASA said in an Oct. 10 press release . The increased wind speeds likely are a contributing factor in why the area changed from white to red in color in late 2005, the release said.

The Little Red Spot about the same size as Earth in diameter; the Great Red Spot is about triple the size of Earth’s diameter, the release said.


Northrop Opens Center for Missile Defense Research

Northrop Grumman Corp. of Los Angeles has established a new center devoted to missile defense research and development in the company’s Cummings Research Park complex in Huntsville, Ala.

The Missile Defense Engineering and Analysis Center has an initial staff of 50 , and will be fully operational in early 2007, the release said. The staff probably will grow to around 100 people by that time , said Gary Abercrombie, Northrop Grumman vice president for missile defense programs .

Work at the center, which will focus largely on modeling and simulations, will be performed for internal customers and directly for government clients , Abercrombie said in an Oct. 12 phone interview.

The center next year will move to Northrop Grumman’s new Huntsville headquarters facility, which is slated to open in February , Abercrombie said. He declined to say how much Northrop Grumman is investing in the new center or in the new headquarters.

A-Trax Inc. To Market GPS Devices for GTXC

GTXC, a Los-Angeles based GPS products company, has signed an agreement to provide miniature waterproof personal GPS devices to government security agencies and consumer maritime customers.

The company’s agreement is with A-Trax Inc., also of Los Angeles, a distribution firm that specializes in marketing maritime technology. A-Trax will market two GTXC products, one for the government market and one for consumer s, according to an Oct. 9 press release from GTXC.

Afghan Telecom Extends Contract With Globecomm

Afghan Telecom Corp. has extended its satellite teleport service contract with Globecomm Network Services Corp. for approximately one year.

Globecomm Network Services, a subsidiary of Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Globecomm, has been providing teleport services to Afghan Telecom since its inception in 2005, according to Matthew Byron, corporate vice president for Globecomm. The contract extension is worth $2.1 million.

Afghan Telecom provides communications services to government organizations in the war torn country, Globecomm said in an Oct. 5 press release.