Radar Imagery Raises Questions About Presence of Lunar Water Ice

New high-resolution radar images of the Moon have diminished hopes that the lunar poles might harbor water ice that could sustain future human expeditions to the Moon and beyond.

The images, discussed in the Oct. 19 issue of the journal Nature, showed no evidence that ice exists in the craters at the lunar south pole.

Even in the lunar summer the Sun barely edges above the horizon at the Moon’s south pole, so the bottoms of impact craters are in permanent shadow. Since the 1960s, theorists have suggested that these “cold traps” might contain deposits of water ice. The theory was bolstered in 1992 when Earth-based radar telescopes located “ice deposits” inside impact craters at the poles of the planet Mercury.

Because of the tilt of the Moon’s orbital plane relative to the Earth’s equatorial plane, the Earth can rise much higher above the horizon at the lunar south pole than the Sun, so telescopes on the Earth can use radar to examine some of the shadowed areas of the Moon.

Earth-based radar measurements of the Moon since the 1990s have consistently failed to detect ice deposits similar to those on Mercury.

Since water ice could be converted to oxygen, drinkable water or even rocket fuel, it would be a valuable resource for any future lunar base. Because of this high value, NASA’s 2008 Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will crash two vehicles onto the Moon to search for water ice at the South Pole.

In 1999, the Lunar Prospector orbiter discovered concentrations of hydrogen at the lunar poles. If this hydrogen were in the form of water molecules — still a subject of debate — then it would correspond to an average of 1 to 2 percent of water ice in the lunar soil in the shadowed terrain.

“These new results do not preclude ice being present as small grains in the lunar soil based on the Lunar Prospector’s discovery of enhanced hydrogen concentrations at the lunar poles,” said Donald Campbell, a Cornell University professor of astronomy and a principal investigator of the study. “There is always the possibility that concentrated deposits exist in a few of the shadowed locations not visible to radars on Earth, but any current planning for landers or bases at the lunar poles should not count on this.”

Abu Dhabi Seeks Bidders For Civil-Military Comsat

Managers of Abu Dhabi’s Yahsat military-civil satellite telecommunications project have issued a request for bids from global satellite manufacturers for two tri-band satellites for military and commercial telecommunications, according to industry officials.

In what may be a sign that the long-stalled project is moving forward, the United Arab Emirates government-backed Yahsat is asking for proposals for two C-, Ku- and Ka-band satellites. The satellites’ capacity would be shared by military and civilian users. The project has been in discussions for more than a year.

Officials said it still might collapse despite the release of the bid request and Yahsat’s hiring of outside technical advisers.

Former NGA Director Joins GeoEye‘s Board

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper has joined the board of directors of U.S. remote sensing company GeoEye of Dulles, Va.

At the Office of Space Commercialization and U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) workshop Oct. 19, GeoEye Chief Executive Officer Matt O’Connell said Clapper would bring the same sort innovation to GeoEye that he did to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) as the company defines its future. Clapper retired June 13 from his post as director of NGA after serving five years in the position.

Analyst Says ATC Licensees Are Ripe for Merger Activity

Since space is still considered a “risky business,” a number of satellite industry companies would do well to consider consolidation, particularly in certain sectors where there are too many players, according to an industry analyst.

Hoyt Davidson, chief executive officer of satellite industry investment firm Near Earth LLC of New York, offered projections on the state of the industry at the Washington Space Business Roundtable luncheon in Washington Oct. 19.

Investors who consider the space industry as somewhere to spend their money often reject it because they think the industry is either too small or too complicated, Davidson said. For example, while the entire fixed satellite services business sector generates revenues of about $10 billion annually, Philadelphia-based cable provider Comcast brings in $22 billion per year alone, he said.

Mergers, by turn, also are smaller in the space industry, he said.

A number of sectors within the satellite industry would benefit from consolidation, according to Davidson. For example, the six companies that have invested in Ancillary Technology Component (ATC) licenses need to join forces in order to profit from such a venture, he said. Davidson also said he sees too much fragmentation in the satellite ground systems, satellite manufacturing and launch services industries.

Davidson characterized the financial forecast for the direct broadcast service players such as El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV and Englewood, Colo.-based Echostar as “partly cloudy,” adding that the companies need to figure out if they can offer the so-called triple-play packages that include television, telephone and Internet to compete with cable companies. He saw profits continuing in the fixed satellite services and mobile satellite services markets, and predicted that satellite radio players XM and Sirius would overcome their current stock price woes.

Two-Stage Land Launch Rocket Set for Inaugural Flight

The Russian space agency, Roskosmos, on Oct. 19 confirmed that a two-stage version of the new Land Launch vehicle will perform its inaugural flight in December. A Russian government satellite will be the payload on the demonstration flight.

Roskosmos said preparations for the mission are on schedule, and that the three-stage version of Land Launch, whose commercial sales are managed by Sea Launch LLC of Long Beach, Calif., would make its first commercial flight as scheduled in 2007. Roskosmos said a total of three commercial Land Launch missions would be conducted in 2007, a schedule that Sea Launch officials said may slip as Russian contractors contend with large, abrupt increases in rocket-component and fuel prices.

Land Launch uses the same basic Zenit-3 vehicle that Sea Launch operates from a floating platform in the Pacific Ocean to place commercial telecommunications satellites into geostationary transfer orbit. Operated from the equator, the rocket and its Block DM upper stage can lift a satellite weighing more than 6,000 kilograms into that orbit.

Operated from the new Land Launch installation at Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, located at 56 degrees north latitude, the same Zenit-3 vehicle can place satellites weighing up to 3,600 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit.

While the two-stage Land Launch vehicle slated to lift off in December closely resembles the flight-proven Zenit 2 rocket, the demonstration will utilize for the first time a launch pad, payload-processing facility and other ground infrastructure overhauled specifically for the commercial venture.

Ariane 5 Lofts Satellites for DirecTV and Optus

An Ariane 5 ECA rocket placed telecommunications satellites owned by DirecTV of the United States and Australia’s Optus into geostationary transfer orbit Oct. 13 following a launch from Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. The two satellites had a combined weight of 7,885 kilograms.

It was the fourth Ariane 5 ECA liftoff in 2006. The Evry, France-based Arianespace launch consortium said a final Ariane 5 ECA launch for the year is planned in December for SES Americom’s AMC-18 and WildBlue Inc.’s WildBlue-1 satellites.

DirecTV 9S, built by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., will be used by El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV to augment its high-definition television service in the United States. The 5,535-kilogram satellite carries 52 high-powered Ku-band transponders and two Ka-band transponders and will operate at DirecTV’s 101 degrees west orbital slot.

It was the fourth satellite launched for DirecTV in the past two years. The company has two more satellites, DirecTV 10 and 11, in final assembly. Both are scheduled for launch in 2007.

The Optus D1 satellite is the first of Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp.’s new line of upgraded platforms called Star 2.4. Weighing 2,350 kilograms at launch, Optus D1 has nearly 5 kilowatts of on board power for its 24 Ku-band transponders. Optus will use the satellite, operated at 160 degrees east longitude, to replace the Optus B1 spacecraft, which is being retired, and to expand fixed telecommunications and broadband Internet services in Australia.

The Optus D2 satellite, which is scheduled for launch in late 2007, also uses Orbital Sciences’ Star 2.4 design.

Optus Chief Executive Paul O’Sullivan said in an Oct. 14 statement that the company continues to see growth in demand for direct-to-home television and remote communications services. Optus has generated more than 1 billion Australian dollars ($751 million) in satellite services revenues in the past five years, O’Sullivan said.

Astrium Selected To Build Hot Bird 10 for Eutelsat

Astrium will build the large all-Ku-band Hot Bird 10 direct-broadcast television satellite for Eutelsat to boost the satellite-fleet operator’s coverage of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Eutelsat announced Oct. 19.

The satellite is scheduled for launch in 2009 and will carry 64 Ku-band transponders. It will be col ocated at Eutelsat’s 13 degrees east orbital slot alongside the Hot Bird 8 and 9 satellites, which like Hot Bird 10 are based on Astrium’s Eurostar 3000 platform. All three satellites have a similar broadcast capacity.

Hot Bird 8 entered service earlier in October, and Hot Bird 9, ordered in May, is scheduled for launch in late 2008.

Paris-based Eutelsat said that once Hot Bird 10 is operational, the Hot Bird 7A satellite now at the same 13 degrees east slot will be moved to 10 degrees east. The Astrium-built Hot Bird 3 satellite, recently renamed Eurobird 10, is already at that position and ready to start service despite a partial failure of one of its solar arrays in October.

Eurobird 10 will be unable to host as many television channels as expected because of the failure.

Eutelsat spokeswoman Vanessa O’Connor said Oct. 19 that Eutelsat continues to investigate the Eurobird 10 failure with the satellite’s manufacturer, but has not yet reached a conclusion on its cause.

Kazakh Firm Takes Control of 1st Communications Satellite

Kazakhstan’s new national satellite operator, KazSat, has assumed control of the KazSat-1 satellite launched in June aboard a Russian Proton rocket, Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow announced Oct. 18.

Khrunichev built both the rocket and the satellite, which carries 12 72-megahertz Ku-band transponders to be used for domestic television and telecommunications. Kazakh officials have said owning their own satellite will save money otherwise spent leasing capacity on international satellite systems. KazSat-1 will operate at 103 degrees east longitude, a slot registered to Russia.

Russian Satellite Communications Co. of Moscow, which operates its own fleet of telecommunications satellites, helped design KazSat’s Accol, Kazakhstan, satellite control center and trained Kazakh engineers in satellite operations.

Kazakh officials have said a KazSat-2 spacecraft will be launched in the next two years following a contract with Khrunichev, which includes a launch aboard a Proton rocket, as part of a bilateral agreement between the Russian and Kazakh governments.

Loral’s Biggest Shareholder Invests $300 Million More

The biggest shareholder in Loral Space and Communications has agreed to invest a further $300 million into the company “to pursue both internal and external growth opportunities in the satellite communications industry,” New York-based Loral announced Oct. 17.

The investment by MHR Fund Management LLC will come in the form of a purchase of convertible preferred stock. It will give MHR a fourth seat on Loral’s eight-member board of directors.

Loral Chief Executive Michael B. Targoff said the funds would give Loral a war chest to “take advantage of emerging opportunities in both the satellite services and satellite manufacturing markets. … [I]t strengthens our ability to play an enhanced role in the satellite industry.”

MHR was instrumental in pulling Loral out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in November 2005 and currently owns 36 percent of the company’s common stock.

Loral owns the Skynet satellite-fleet operator and satellite manufacturer Space Systems/Loral. Loral officials have said their new owners are seeking to play a role in the consolidation of the satellite sector.

TCS Satcom System Certified For U.S. Coast Guard Use

Satellite terminal and router systems built by TeleCommunications Systems Inc. (TCS) of Annapolis, Md., have been certified ready for use by the U.S. Coast Guard by the Joint Interoperability Test Command.

The Coast Guard will use TCS’s SwiftLink DVM-90 and SwiftLink 2410 deployable systems for a variety of communications needs, according to an Oct. 17 press release from TCS.

The tests found the systems to be 100 percent successful in completing voice, data and video transmissions, the release said.

Mars Orbiter Maps Planet’s Past Water Distribution

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been capturing imagery detailing past distribution of water on the red planet in preparation for the formal beginning of science operations in November, the U.S. agency said in a news release dated Oct. 16.

The orbiter already has captured imagery that shows the materials that make up the region south of its Mawrth Vallis, according to the press release. It also has captured detailed pictures of gullies in an unnamed crater in the planet’s Terra Sirenium region, according to the release.

Both pictures show details about the planet’s erosion, as well as when gullies were created by flowing water, the release said.

NASA Enlists Students to Help Name Station Module

NASA is asking students from kindergarten through 12th grade to help name one of the modules in which crews will live and work on the international space station.

NASA’s Node 2, currently in storage at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and slated for launch in late 2007, will help connect the station’s science labs and supply vehicles, according to an Oct. 17 NASA press release.

Students can enter the contest as a class or individually, and must submit a photo of a model of the node, along with a name and a brief essay on why they chose the moniker, the release said.

NASA scientists, engineers and educators will be involved in judging the competition, and the winner will be announced in early 2007.

Boeing Satellite Radios Clear Design Review

The airborne and maritime segment of the U.S. military’s next-generation satellite-compatible radio system has completed its preliminary design review, according to Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, which is building the system.

The initial design for the Airborne Maritime/Fixed Station Joint Tactical Radio System (AMF JTRS) was reviewed in mid-October by more than 100 industry and government officials in Anaheim, Calif., according to an Oct. 16 press release from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis.

Now that the review has finished, the company can proceed with more detailed design work on the system, the release said.

Florida Universities Form Aerospace Research Team

Three Florida universities have agreed to join forces in aerospace and space-technology research.

The Florida Institute of Technology of Melbourne, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, and Tallahassee’s Florida State University signed an agreement Oct. 5 to establish a joint institute that will coordinate their aerospace efforts, according to an Oct. 12 press release from Embry-Riddle.

The schools will develop collaborative programs with federal agencies such as NASA, state organizations such as Space Florida, and private companies, according to the release.

Spitzer Records Jupiter Temperature Variations

Jupiter’s surface is extremely hot on one side and freezing cold on the other, according to new temperature measurements made by scientists using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

In early October, the telescope made its measurements of the day and night temperatures on Jupiter, which revealed that temperatures fluctuate dramatically, according to an Oct. 12 NASA press release.

This is the first time such variations have been observed; previous measurements of the planet by other instruments have only looked at such traits as size and mass, the release said.

Northrop Grumman Tests New UAV Control System

Northrop Grumman has demonstrated a new command and control system that can aid in the delivery of video content from multiple unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to analysts.

The Heterogeneous Urban Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition Team (HURT) controls a group of small, low-flying UAVs and directs them to send video images instantly to war fighters in the field equipped with hand-held devices, according to an Oct. 17 press release from Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman. The company is developing the system under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program, the release said. The demonstrations took place between Sept. 25 and Oct. 6, the release said.

VirtuTech Inc. To Supply GLAST Training Software

Virtutech Inc. will develop flight training software for General Dynamics C4 Systems to use on NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) project.

The software will be used primarily for operator training, and can simulate anomalous situations such as temperature fluctuations that operators might need to respond to, Paul McLellan, vice president of marketing for San Jose, Calif.-based Virtutech, said Oct. 16 in a phone interview.

This is the first time Virtutech has done NASA-related work for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based General Dynamics C4 Systems, McLellan said. Financial details of the agreement were not released, he said.

Virtutech also announced in an Oct. 16 press release that it will provide testing software for Rockville, Md.-based BAE System’s RAD750 Space ComputerT, which has been used as a processor on several space missions.

Northrop To Bid as a Prime On Missile Defense Program

Northrop Grumman will bid as a prime contractor for a U.S. Army missile-defense command and control system , the company announced Oct. 16.

Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman is setting its sights on the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) program, which will integrate sensors, shooters and command and control for both air and missile defense, according to an Oct. 16 Northrop Grumman press release.

The Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Program Office, which was established in August, will oversee the procurement, the release said.

SPADAC Wins Patent For Data Analysis Technology

Spatial Data Analytics Corp. (SPADAC), a geospatial intelligence company based in McLean, Va., has received a U.S. government patent for predictive analysis technology, SPADAC said in an Oct. 18 press release.

The patent, which is co-owned by the U.S. Department of Defense and SPADAC, is for a software engine that predicts where future events of concern to intelligence officials might occur, the release said. The company has five more patents pending with the U.S. Patent Office.

Integral Systems To Provide Vinasat-1 Control Software

Integral Systems will provide a control system for Vietnam’s Vinasat-1 satellite under a new agreement with Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems is building the satellite for the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group, according to an Oct. 16 press release from Integral Systems of Lanham, Md. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The satellite control system will use several elements of Integral’s existing EPOCH Integrated Product Suite, the release said.

Inmarsat‘s Marisat F-2 Reaches 30 Years in Orbit

The Marisat F-2 satellite celebrated 30 years in orbit Oct. 21, even though it was built with a design life of just five years.

The satellite, which is operated by Intelsat of Bermuda with backup teleport services provided by Rockville, Md.-based Telenor Satellite Services, was moved to a new orbit in order to provide communications to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole research station in 2000, said Telenor spokesman Tom Surface in a phone interview Oct. 17.

Surface said that the satellite is projected to provide service for at least another year. It operates for a small window of time per day, between four and six hours, he said.

Honeywell Portfolio Gets EMS Software, Hardware

Honeywell has added software and hardware developed by EMS SatCom to its portfolio of products.

The technology, known as EMS’s eNfusion SwiftBroadband technology, will be marketed to the commercial airline industry to be used for satellite communications purposes, according to an Oct. 16 press release from Ottawa’s EMS. The agreement is expected to be worth at least $35 million to EMS over the next five years, the release said .

EMS Antenna Approved For Inmarsat Satellites

An antenna built by EMS SatCom has been through its necessary testing and has received approval from Inmarsat to be used with the company’s satellites.

EMS performed the test according to standards set by Inmarsat, according to spokeswoman Kelly Frye. The terminal, called the eNfusion AMT-3500 fuselage-mount Intermediate-Gain Antenna (IGA), is the first of its type to receive approval from London-based Inmarsat, according to an Oct. 16 press release from EMS SatCom of Ottawa. The antenna is designed to fit particularly small aircraft.

NMS Releases New Version Of AccessGate Software

NMS Communications has released a new version of a software-based device that helps satellite and mobile communications providers better use their existing bandwidth.

Framingham, Mass.-based NMS has released its new AccessGate 2000 software platform, which compliments its existing AccessGate 1000 software , according to an Oct. 16 press release from NMS. The software can be used for up to 16 ports per application, the release said.

Harris Modem Successfully Connects to AEHF Satellite

A modem built by Harris Corp, has successfully uplinked to the U.S. Navy’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) multi-band terminal system.

The terminal built by Melbourne, Fla.-based Harris is designed to connect U.S. Navy assets with hardware operated by other services and provide connections to the Global Information Grid currently in development, according to an Oct. 16 press release from Harris. Harris is competing to win a contract for the engineering, manufacturing and development portion of the AEHF program, which will be awarded in June of 2007. The contract could be worth more than $1 billion to Harris by 2015, the release said.

DirecTV Local Channels Coming to More Markets

DirecTV plans to provide local high-definition programming in 25 more markets during the fourth quarter of 2006, according to an Oct. 10 press release from the El Segundo, Calif., satellite television provider.

Cities such as Little Rock, Ark., and New Orleans will receive local news, sports and prime time programming from ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, according to the press release . This will bring the company’s total number of markets receiving local programming to 67, which represents approximately 74 percent of U.S. television households, the release said.