Contract Gives Zero-G Full-Time Access to Aircraft

PRIVATE tabstops:<*t(0.000,0,” “,)> Zero Gravity Corp. (Zero-G), the Titusville, Fla.-based parabolic flight operator, will have full-time use of a Boeing 727-200F cargo plane starting in early 2007 under a four-year deal the company concluded with cargo carrier Amerijet International.

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Amerijet has been Zero-G’s operations partner since 2002, providing access to two 727-200s on a part-time charter basis on weekends, mostly in Florida. Zero-G Chief Executive Peter Diamandis said the new deal for the dedicated aircraft will allow Zero-G to use the aircraft throughout the week, offer flights from airports throughout the country, and position the company to sell commercial services to NASA should the agency go that route.

Diamandis said Zero-G will still have part-time access to a second 727-200 to accommodate heavy demand. He said Zero-G is paying Amerijet $7.5 million under the lease-purchase and maintenance contract. Zero-G plans to spend an additional $2.5 million on improvements intended to entice NASA to use the aircraft for microgravity research and training flights.

Zero-G began carrying paying passengers in late 2004 and since then has conducted 100 flights, Diamandis said, including 40 in 2006. He said the company expects to conduct 100 flights in 2007.


, Alcatel Alenia Ink 48-Satellite Contract

Globalstar Inc. and Alcatel Alenia Space signed a firm contract Nov. 30 for the construction of 48 Globalstar satellites, with launches to begin in late 2009, the chief executives of both companies said.

The contract is valued at 661 million euros ($866 million). Alcatel Alenia Space will supply the first flight model for the second-generation Globalstar mobile-telephony constellation by late 2009, with a group of 23 satellites to be delivered once the first has been tested. A final group of 24 satellites will follow, with the exact price of the contract depending on the speed at which the satellites are built. The longer the period between satellite deliveries requested by Globalstar, the more costly the contract will be.

Alcatel Alenia Space President Pascale Sourisse said Dec. 1 that each satellite will weigh about 700 kilograms at launch, compared to 450 kilograms for the current Globalstar satellites. The new satellites will have a contractual design life of 15 years in low Earth orbit, compared to seven years for the first-generation satellites .

“We will be using just about all our facilities to do the work, but we by no means intend to do it all ourselves,” Sourisse said. “We have not selected a full subcontracting team yet, but we have had bidders’ meetings, and a selection of partners in Europe, Canada, the United States and elsewhere will now begin. The challenge for us will be, once we have built the first satellites and settled the R&D issues, to build the constellation as economically as possible on a per-unit basis.”

Alcatel Alenia Space’s Rome plant, which was used to integrate the first-generation Globalstar satellites, will perform that function for the second generation as well. Payloads will be produced in Toulouse, France, with the satellite structures to be manufactured at Alcatel Alenia Space’s operational headquarters in Cannes, France.

Globalstar of Milpitas, Calif., will be selecting launch vehicles for the satellites in the coming months, Globalstar Chief Executive Jay Monroe said Dec. 1. Monroe stressed that the Alcatel Alenia Space contract goes beyond satellites and includes pre-launch and post-launch support and other services. Globalstar’s working assumption is that it can launch and insure its satellite for an average of $10 million each.

Globalstar’s existing global network of ground installations will be able to work with the second-generation satellites to provide the same voice and data services the company provides today. To offer the expanded data and video services that the newer satellites are designed to handle, the ground network will be upgraded. But Monroe said the investment needed for this upgrade “is certainly not in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We have the antennas already in place. It is not something that will be a huge investment.”

Sourisse said Alcatel Alenia Space is not taking an equity investment in Globalstar and is not providing vendor financing. “This is really a classic type of contract structure,” Sourisse said.

Reyes Selected To Chair House Intel Committee

PRIVATE tabstops:<*t(0.000,0,” “,)> Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) selected Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) as the new chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Reyes, a moderate Democrat and combat veteran with a strong interest in national security issues, was already a senior member of the panel, ranking third in Democratic seniority.

Rep. Jane Harman ( Calif.), the panel’s senior Democrat, was passed over by Pelosi, who has the right as Speaker of the House to appoint whomever she wishes. Also skipped over was Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.), the panel’s second most senior Democrat.

OHB To Build French-German Satellite Interface System

PRIVATE tabstops:<*t(0.000,0,” “,)> Germany’s defense technology procurement agency signed a contract Dec. 1 with OHB-System AG to provide the technical interface permitting German and French military forces to access each other’s surveillance satellites, OHB-System announced.

The contract, called E-SGA or Europeanization of Sat ellite-Based Reconnaissance, is valued at 87 million euros ($114 million) and follows an intergovernmental agreement between France and Germany on satellite data sharing. The technical interfaces and other ground gear that Bremen, Germany-based OHB will permit German forces to access France’s Helios 2 high-resolution optical data. The French military in turn will have access to Germany’s SAR-Lupe high-resolution radar satellite system.

The Helios 2A satellite has been in orbit since December 2004. An identical Helios 2B is scheduled for launch in 2009. The first of five SAR-Lupe satellites is scheduled for launch Dec. 19 from northern Russia’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome aboard a Russian Cosmos-3M rocket with a specially de signed fairing to accommodate SAR-Lupe’s 3-meter-wide radar antenna. The rocket successfully conducted a test flight in this configuration in early 2005.

OHB already had begun preliminary work on E-SGA while awaiting a formal contract signature. Ultimately the system could be expanded to include the space-reconnaissance assets of other nations in Europe, notably Italy, with which France has a separate bilateral accord providing Italy access to Helios 2 in return for French access to Italy’s Cosmo-Skymed radar satellites. The first Cosmo-Skymed is scheduled for launch in 2007.

European governments have been unable to coordinate their military space procurement policies, leading to separate Earth observation and telecommunications systems that were not designed to operate together. The E-SGA contract is an attempt to partly compensate for this lack of coordination through the addition of technical interfaces on the ground.

RSCC Orders Payloads For Two More Satellites

The Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) has selected Alcatel Alenia Space’s Italian division to provide electronics payloads for two RSCC telecommunications satellites, Moscow-based company announced Nov. 29.

The payloads, for RSCC’s Express MD1 and MD2 satellites, will be mated to satellite platforms built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow, Russia’s largest satellite builder. RSCC in recent years has made multiple purchases of satellites with Khrunichev platforms and European- or Japanese-supplied payload systems.

The Express MD1 satellite is scheduled for launch on a Russian Proton vehicle in late 2007 in what RSCC said would be a dual mission, with the company’s Express AM-44 satellite as a co-passenger. A launch date for the MD2 satellite was not provided by RSCC.

Express MD1 and MD2 will each carry eight C-band and one L-band transponder for fixed and mobile communications links in Russia and neighboring countries, with the L-band payload used for mobile government services .

In addition to permitting a double launch on a Proton rocket, the relatively small size of the two new satellites will allow RSCC to “pursue a more flexible marketing policy on developing the satellite business, including the existing network backup, and to offer advanced communications and broadcasting services both in Russia and abroad,” RSCC Acting Director Genera Yuri Izmailov said in a statement. RSCC’s current fleet totals 11 satellites in orbit.

DLR Orders Laser Terminal For TanDem-X Radar Craft

The German Aerospace Center, DLR, has agreed to purchase a laser communications terminal from builder Tesat-Spacecom for integration into the TanDem-X radar Earth observation satellite to be launched in 2009, DLR and Backnang, Germany-based Tesat announced.

Under a contract valued at 15 million euros ($19.7 million), Tesat will deliver one laser terminal for integration into TanDem-X. Germany’s TerraSAR-X satellite, for research and commercial Earth observation, carries a similar Tesat-built laser terminal, as does the U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Near-Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) satellite. TerraSAR-X and NFIRE are scheduled for launch in the first half of 2007.

Laser links will be used for high-speed data transmissions between these satellites and the ground, and also for intersatellite links transferring data from one satellite to another at speeds of about 2.8 gigabits per second.

DLR and the European Space Agency are negotiating whether to place a laser terminal aboard the large AlphaSat telecommunications satellite, scheduled for launch into geostationary orbit around 2010. European officials also are discussing a possible role for laser communications for future lunar and Mars exploration missions.


EarthData To Assist TAS Under Mentoring Program

Remote sensing company EarthData International will provide guidance to Triangle Aerial Surveys Inc. (TAS) under a mentoring program sponsored by the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency .

EarthData will assist TAS, a certified minority-owned small business, in its efforts to win more U.S. government business , double its production capacity and expand its mapping and geospatial services capabilities, according to a Nov. 28 press release from Frederick, Md.-based EarthData. The two companies have previously worked together on projects for the state of North Carolina and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

NASA Selects Aurora for Aircraft Routing Software

Aurora Flight Services will develop software for air traffic management under a new contract awarded by NASA under the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

The software will be used to outline flight patterns in support of the National Airspace System, according to a Nov. 27 press release from Cambridge, Mass.-based Aurora Flight Sciences. The National Airspace System is an interconnected system that includes airports, air traffic facilities, airways and navigational aids, and is overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The software will take into account factors such as weather and airspace restrictions in mapping out and modifying flight paths for airplanes and unmanned aerial vehicles , the release said.

Software Adopted For Galileo Control System

LogicaCMG of Britain will provide software that will be used on the ground to monitor the accuracy of Galileo satellite navigation signals and to synchronize the orbits of the satellites in the Galileo constellation under three contracts whose total value is about 5 million British pounds ($9.7 million), LogicaCMG announced Nov. 21.

Under the contracts, LogicaCMG will supply the gear to GMV of Spain and GMV’s Skysoft subsidiary, which have overall responsibility for building Galileo’s Integrity Processing and Orbit Synchronization facilities.

The European Space Agency is overseeing technology development of Galileo, a 30-satellite constellation to provide positioning, navigation and timing services starting around 2011.

“These contracts involve the hardware at the heart of the message broadcast by the Galileo satellites,” Logica CMG Space and Satcoms Director Stuart Martin said in a statement. “Our systems will ensure that positioning information from Galileo will be accurate and reliable.”

GMV focusLEO Software Selected for NASA Mission

Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., will use flight dynamics software provided by GMV of Rockville, Md., for NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory mission, GMV said in a Nov. 20 press release.

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed, GMV said. Orbital Sciences is the prime contractor for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The spacecraft, scheduled to launch in 2008, will take global measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, considered by scientists to be an important contributor to global warming.

GMV’s focusLEO software is used for spacecraft orientation and operation. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory will be the first NASA spacecraft to employ the software, which previously has been used on European Space Agency and European Meteorological Satellite Organization missions.

Alcatel Alenia Space Backs Regional Technology Center

Alcatel Alenia Space, the French-Italian space-hardware builder, is backing development of a competitiveness center in Cannes, France, to coordinate local and regional government research investment and has targeted high-altitude communications platforms as an initial research focus.

The initiative, called Pegase, is one of several such efforts in France in which local industry and government attempt to create a critical mass of activity in their region based on existing expertise. Alcatel Alenia Space, whose operational headquarters are in Cannes , is proposing that Pegase begin with a focus on high-altitude platforms, and specifically on technologies that borrow from the company’s existing space-related work.

Denis Pogarieloff, Alcatel Alenia Space electrical and avionics engineering director, said on board batteries and attitude control for high-altitude platforms are two priority research areas for Pegase. Both borrow from Alcatel Alenia Space’s satellite development. Pogarieloff said some of the work would be coordinated with Aerospace Valley, an existing competitiveness center based in Toulouse, France, where Alcatel Alenia Space also has a satellite production facility.

BSkyB Buys Share of Broadcasting Company

Satellite television provider British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSkyB) of Isleworth, U.K., has acquired a stake in broadcasting company ITV PLC of London for 940 million British pounds ($1.8 billion).

The shares acquired represent 17.9 percent of the company, according to a Nov. 20 press release from BSkyB. The company is funding the transaction through existing cash and a credit facility, the release said.

BSkyB said it does not intend to acquire all of ITV.

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Space Cooperation Still a Goal for China and India

India and China reiterated their desire to cooperate in the use of space technologies for peaceful purposes during the November visit to New Delhi by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

In a joint statement issued Nov. 21, Jintao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said ” both sides reiterate their commitment to the use of outer space for peaceful purposes.” Potential areas of cooperation include remote sensing, communications, meteorology, distance learning, disaster management and launch services, the statement said.

India and China signed space cooperation accords in December 1991 and January 2002, but have yet to identify any specific joint projects.

In a written statement provided to Space News, Jacob Ninan, program director for international cooperation at the Indian Space Research Organisation, said discussions have been held but nothing concrete has been agreed upon. “We restated in the Joint Declaration made by the two governments at the time of the Chinese President’s visit that we would seek to explore possibilities to strengthen our ties in the peaceful applications of space technology.”

Germany Pledges Funding For Earth Observing Group

The German government has agreed to invest 100,000 euros ($131,000) per year for the next three years to help finance the 66-nation Group on Earth Observations (GEO) as part of a global effort to monitor environmental phenomena, Joerg Hennerkes, state secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, announced Nov. 28.

In an address in Bonn, Germany, during GEO’s plenary session, Hennerkes said Germany “is prepared to get involved on a large scale” to assure the success of GEO, which was created in 2005 following summits in Washington, Tokyo and Brussels. GEO is headquartered at the World Meteorological Organization’s headquarters in Geneva. Its goal is to stitch together existing Earth observation and environmental surveillance networks into a global, interoperable system.

“Global problems call for global solutions, and international cooperation is right at the top of the international Earth observation agenda,” Hennerkes said.

New Horizons Camera Snaps Pictures of Pluto

An instrument on the NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons probe captured its first images of the dwarf planet in September.

The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager took the pictures from a distance of about 4.2 billion kilometers during testing Sept. 21-24, according to a Nov. 28 press release from NASA. The tests confirmed the instrument’s ability to capture shots of distant objects , the release said.

Launched in January, New Horizons will be the first spacecraft to visit Pluto and its moon, Charon. It is scheduled to make a flyby of the distant system in July of 2015.


Signs Resellers for Inmarsat BGAN Service

Inmarsat distributor Thrane & Thrane of Virginia Beach, Va., has signed up GeoWireless and CaribWebStar as its first two resellers of Inmarsat’s next-generation satellite broadband service.

GeoWireless of North Charleston, S.C., and CaribWebStar of Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, will purchase airtime and terminals for Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service from Thrane & Thrane .

GeoWireless will provide the BGAN services to students, business customers and first responders, while CaribWebStar will serve users in remote areas, according to a Nov. 21 press release from Thrane & Thrane.

UGS Software to Support Quality Control at Astrium

Astrium Satellites of Europe will use a software program developed by UGS of Plano, Texas, to automate some of the quality-control checking it does when assembling electronics equipment.

UGS’s software, called Tecnomatix, issues an “electronic birth certificate” that keeps tabs on the assembly processes for equipment to make sure everything is done correctly, according to a Nov. 21 press release from UGS.

Astrium traditionally has documented the assembly process on paper at every stage, according to the press release. The automated system will help reduce the chances of human error in that process, UGS said.

Swales Aerospace Lands Langley Support Contract

Swales Aerospace of Beltsville, Md., will provide technical and engineering support services to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., under a five-year contract with a maximum potential value of $200 million.

Tasks to be performed under the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract include support for aerodynamic analysis, structural testing, data analysis and flight-deck design, NASA said in a Nov. 27 press release.

Spacecom Touts Sales of Amos-3 Satellite Capacity

Space Communications Ltd. (Spacecom) has sold more than 50 percent of the capacity on its planned Amos-3 satellite, which is intended to strengthen the company’s foothold in the direct-to-home television market.

Ramat Gan, Israel-based Spacecom is scheduled to launch Amos-3 during the third quarter of 2007, according to a company press release dated Nov. 28 . Amos-3, being built by Israel Aircraft Industries of Lod, Israel, will provide coverage of the Middle East as well as parts of Europe and North America.

Customers that have already booked capacity on Amos-3 include BOOM TV, a Romania-based satellite television company, YES Satellite, a direct-to-home television provider based in Israel, and Israeli government organizations.

Spacecom also plans to market the satellite for very small aperture terminal and broadband Internet applications, the press release said.

Amos-3 is expected to become operational after testing during the first quarter of 2008.

QinetiQ Demonstrates UAV Formation-Flying Software

QinetiQ has demonstrated software that helps control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying in close formation , according to a Nov. 28 press release from the Hampshire, U.K. based company.

The demonstration, which the company said was the first of its kind, was funded by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence .

For the demonstration, the software was installed in each of the UAVs, which were controlled by an operator flying nearby in a twin-jet aircraft, the release said. The test took place in rarely used airspace in Southwest England, the release said.

QinetiQ is scheduled to conduct further trials using its Tornado Integrated Avionics Research Aircraft to command the UAVs in early 2007, the release said.

Opens Office in Dubai’s Internet City

Satellite communications company NewSat Ltd. will open up a new sales office in Dubai’s Internet City, an area set up by the government that lets technology companies operate without the restrictions that govern other areas in the United Arab Emirates.

NewSat of Southbank, Australia, provides satellite services such as high-speed Internet and Voice Over Internet Protocol. The company has been operating in the Middle East and Africa since 2004 and cited the region as a growing business area in a Nov. 21 press release.

FTMSC Can Now Resell U.S. Globalstar Services

Satellite communications services reseller FTMSC U.S. LLC of Davie, Fla., will now offer Globalstar mobile satellite services to its customers in the United States .

FTMSC already sells the services of Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar in Europe, according to a Nov. 22 press release from FTMSC. The company resells services from other major satellite operators as well, including Inmarsat of London, Thuraya Satellite Services of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and Iridium Satellite LLC of Bethesda, Md.

Blue Force Tracking Deal Worth $19 Million to DRS

DRS Technologies of Parsippany, N.J., received an order worth roughly $19 million to provide the U.S. Army with rugged computer equipment and peripherals for a system that would be used to track the position of friendly forces on the battlefield, according to a Nov. 22 DRS news release.

Under the contract, DRS will supply the Army with more than 1,700 computer systems, and more than 4,500 hard drives for the Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is the prime contractor for FBCB2, which uses GPS navigation signals and communications satellites to help U.S. troops chart the position of their own forces on the battlefield and avoid friendly fire accidents, a technique known in the service as blue force tracking. The FBCB2 system is used on more than 40 different types of Army and Marine Corps vehicles, according to the news release.

DRS has built more than 25,000 computer systems for FBCB2 thus far, according to the news release.

DRS Technologies also received a $7 million contract from Northrop Grumman Corp. to build lightweight sensors for small unmanned aerial vehicles to be used as part of the U.S. Army’s Future Combat System (FCS), according to a Nov. 28 DRS release.

The optical and infrared sensors are designed for reconnaissance and target acquisition missions. Northrop Grumman Corp. is leading the airborne systems integration work on the FCS program.

Boeing Demonstrates UAV Refueling Technique

A Boeing Co. flight test in August demonstrated an unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV) ability to fly alongside a tanker aircraft. The exercise was conducted to demonstrate the UAVs ability to be refueled in flight; refueling of UAVs to date has always taken place on the ground, according to a Nov. 27 Boeing news release.

The testing involved an Air Force KC-135R refueling tanker provided by the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Air Refueling Wing, and a Learjet provided by Calspan Corp., which was equipped with a Boeing flight control system that enabled it to fly without a pilot.

Boeing conducted six flights that enabled it to examine the ability of the UAV to fly in various positions required for aerial refueling. Testing planned for August 2007 will involve the UAV flying autonomously around the refueling aircraft, according to the news release.

“With autonomous air refueling capabilities, unmanned aircraft will have greater combat radius and loiter time,” said David Riley, Boeing Phantom Works automated aerial refueling program manager. “This can enable a quicker response for time-critical targets and will reduce the need for forward-staging refueling areas. Another benefit is increased in-theater military presence with fewer military assets.”

USAF Conducts 1st Global Hawk Flight Test in Continental U.S.

The U.S. Air Force conducted the first flight test of a Global Hawk unmanned aircraft in the United States Nov. 21, according to an Air Force news release dated Nov. 22.

While airmen have controlled Global Hawks flying overseas from bases inside the United States, the recent test marked the first time U.S. controllers have flown take off and landing sorties with a UAV flying inside the continental United States, according to Airman First Class George Cloutier, a spokesman for Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

Prior to the Nov. 21 flight, airmen training to control the Global Hawk on take off and recovery had to deploy to overseas bases to do so, he said.

The vehicle used for the test flights at Beale is not outfitted with the sensors that are used aboard the Global Hawks used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in current military operations, according the news release.