Briefs

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  Space News Business

Briefs

posted: 17 January 2007
03:21 pm ET



Space Radar Design Studies Extended by Two Years

 

The U.S. Air Force has awarded two year contract extensions worth $49 million apiece to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to continue design work on the planned Space Radar ground-surveillance system, the Pentagon announced in December.

 

The extensions, which will carry out the design studies to April 2009, were necessary due to congressional reductions to Air Force budget requests for the effort, according to Maj. Regina Winchester, a spokeswoman for the service. The Air Force now intends to award the Space Radar prime contract in 2009, she said Jan. 8 in a written response to questions.

 

Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Northrop Grumman Space Technology have been working on the Space Radar design studies since 2004 under Air Force contracts originally worth $220 million apiece. “The contract extensions will increase the value of the original contracts,”
Winchester
said.

 

Winchester
said plans still call for launching the Space Radar, a joint effort of the Air Force and U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, in 2015. “If there are any changes to this plan, they will be detailed in the release of the FY 2008 President’s Budget Request in February 2007,”
Winchester
said. Orbcomm Subscriber Base Nearly Doubled in 2006 Satellite mobile data-services provider Orbcomm Inc. added 26,000 subscribers – as measured in sales of user terminals – in the last three months of 2006, bringing its total subscriber base to 225,000. That figure is nearly double the number Orbcomm reported a year earlier, the
Fort Lee
, N.J.-based company announced.

 

Orbcomm said the fourth-quarter subscriber additions surpassed the company’s goal of 19,000-25,000 subscriber communicators – the small, battery-powered units that are affixed to utility meters and rail- and maritime-freight packages to permit owners to track their goods in transit.

 

Orbcomm is designing its second-generation satellite constellation, to be financed in part from the company’s successful stock offering. Orbcomm is traded on the U.S. Nasdaq exchange.

 

 


Lockheed


Martin


Lands


Trident Missile Contract

 

Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., received a $654 million contract from the U.S. Navy for continued production of the Trident 2 D5 ballistic missile, according to a company news release dated Jan. 10.

 

The contract covers missile production as well as operations and maintenance support for deployed weapons, according to the news release.

 

The Trident 2 D5 is deployed aboard 12 Navy submarines today, and is expected to be added to two submarines in the future, according to the news release. The missiles were first deployed in 1990, and are expected to remain in service until 2042, according to the news release.

 

The latest contract brings the total value of Lockheed Martin’s Trident 2 D5 contract to approximately $20 billion since 1984.

 

 

MDA to Supply Parts for Two Gascom Satellites

 

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) will supply data-transmission systems for two Yamal-300 model telecommunications satellites being built for
Russia
‘s Gascom satellite-fleet operator,
Richmond
, B.C.-based MDA announced.

 

The MDA contracts, totaling $14 million, are with the German division of
Japan
‘s Sumitomo Corp., which is under a $44 million contract with Gascom to supply the electronics payloads for the two satellites. The Yamal-300 satellite platform is built by RSC Energia of Russia.

 

NEC Toshiba Space Systems of Japan and Tesat-Spacecom GmbH of Germany also are providing payload components for the satellites under separate contracts with Sumitomo, according to Sumitomo.

 

The satellites are scheduled for separate launches in 2008 aboard Russian Proton rockets.

 

Sumitomo has estimated the total cost of delivering the two satellites will be around $170 million.
Japan
‘s export-credit authority, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, is expected to provide part of the financing to Gazprombank of Russia, the financial affiliate of
Russia
‘s natural-gas monopoly, Gazprom, which owns Gascom.

 

 

Raytheon Unit Awarded SM-1 Refurbishment Work

 

Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Ariz., will maintain and refurbish Standard Missile-1 (SM-1) rockets for the governments of
Spain
and
Egypt
under a $29 million contract awarded Jan. 3 by the Pentagon through its foreign military sales program, according to a company news release dated Jan. 10.

 

The SM-1, originally designed for the U.S. Navy and now used aboard the ships of
U.S.
allies, is a medium- to long-range air defense rocket. The Pentagon replaced its SM-1 missiles in 2003 with the SM-2.

 

Raytheon also is maintaining and refurbishing SM-1 rockets for the governments of
France
,
Turkey
,
Japan
,
Bahrain
,
Poland
,
Italy
and
Chile
under a $31.8 million contract awarded by the Pentagon on Nov. 13.

 

 

Intelsat Provides Backup After Quake Disrupts Fiber

 

Intelsat Ltd. of
Bermuda
provided backup communications services in
Asia
when terrestrial systems were disrupted during the
Taiwan
earthquake Dec. 26, the company announced in a Jan. 11 press release.

 

The earthquake disrupted six major undersea fiber-optic cables, according to the release. Using its GlobalConnex Managed Network Services infrastructure, Intelsat was able to restore communications links for more than 20 telecommunications operators and broadcasters. Traffic for some providers was restored within hours of the earthquake, which registered 7.1 on the Richter scale, the release said.

 

 

General Dynamics Nabs Satellite Terminal Award

 

General Dynamics C4 Systems will build an unspecified number of satellite communications terminals for the military under a four-year, $15.5 million contract with the U.S. Army, the company announced Jan. 10.

 

The terminals will be used by U.S. Marine Corps forces to receive video, imagery and other data in the field.

 

The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Lifecycle Management Command, based in
Ft. Monmouth
,
N.J.
, is administering the contract, which is for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Support Wide Area Network (SWAN) program. SWAN is designed to provide both satellite and Internet Protocol-based communications in the field, according to the General Dynamics C4 Systems press release.

 

The contract could be worth up to $160 million if the military exercises additional options, the release said.

 

General Dynamics will provide three types of terminals under the contract: Warrior 120 and Warrior 180 Very Small Aperture Terminals; and 2.4-meter trailer-mounted terminals. Company spokesman Chris Snapp said Jan. 12 he could not specify how many terminals the military planned to order.

 

The award was made under a larger contracting vehicle called the World-Wide Satellite Systems program. General Dynamics C4 Systems was one of six companies chosen to compete for work under the program, which is estimated to be worth about $5 billion over the next five years.

 

 

Airline Taps EchoStar for In-Flight Entertainment

 

�Startup airline Virgin America plans to equip each of its passenger seats with satellite television and other entertainment options provided by EchoStar Communications Corp. of
Englewood
,
Colo.
, according to a Jan. 12 press release from Burlingame, Calif.-based Virgin America.

 

The deal requires approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation. If approved, the service will begin in spring of 2007, the release said. Virgin
America
launched in December 2005.

 

Under the arrangement, airline customers would be able to get EchoStar’s Dish Network television programming, pay-per-view movies, music and games, the release said.

 

 

Hubble Data Used to Create 3-D Map of Universe’s Dark Matter

 

NASA scientists have used data from the Hubble Space Telescope to develop a 3-D map that displays how dark matter is distributed throughout the universe.

 

Dark matter is different from atoms in that it is invisible and its mass is more than five times greater per unit volume than traditional matter, according to a Jan. 7 press release from NASA. Scientists still do not understand what substances make up dark matter. It is difficult to map because it cannot be seen directly.

 

To make the map, scientists measured the shape of a half-million distant galaxies, the release said. The presence of dark matter can be inferred based on its gravitational effect on the galaxies.

 

Looking at the map, scientists have determined that dark matter appears to be clumpy, or dense, in certain areas – namely, where it collapses under the weight of gravity, the release said. The map suggests that galaxies form where dark matter is most densely concentrated.

 

Scientists are hoping the map will lead to a better understanding of how galaxies grew and were distributed, and eventually yield information about dark energy, a form of gravity believed to influence the distribution of dark matter, the release said.

 

 

Ariane 5 ECA to Launch Protostar-1 TV Satellite

 

An Ariane 5 ECA rocket will launch the ProtoStar 1 direct-broadcast television satellite in mid-2008 under a contract announced Jan. 8 by the Arianespace launch consortium of
Evry
,
France
.

 

ProtoStar Ltd., headquartered in
Bermuda
, has contracted with Space Systems/Loral to refurbish the former Chinasat 8 satellite, which as ProtoStar 1 will provide television services to South and
East Asia
.

 

The satellite is expected to weigh 4,100 kilograms at launch and to carry 22 Ku-band and 38 C-band transponders. It will operate at 98.5 degrees east longitude.

 

 

Boeing, Northrop Continue Enhanced Polar Design Work

 

Boeing and Northrop Grumman will continue design work on secure satellite communications payloads for the U.S. Air Force’s Enhanced Polar System under phase 2 contracts worth $8.4 million apiece, the companies said in separate press releases.

 

Enhanced Polar System payloads will be hosted aboard polar-orbiting satellites to provide secure links to
U.S.
forces – primarily naval vessels – operating in far-northern latitudes beyond the reach of geostationary orbiting satellites. The Milstar 2 secure satellite communications system has a polar adjunct, known as the Interim Polar Satellite system, which consists of Boeing-built extremely high frequency (EHF) payloads hosted aboard classified satellites. The Enhanced Polar System will extend the reach of Milstar’s follow-on systems.

 

Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif., and Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., have been working on Enhanced Polar System designs since July, when both were awarded six-month phase 1 contracts worth $1.5 million apiece. Both companies supplied Milstar payloads and Northrop Grumman is a key partner on the team building Milstar’s replacement, the Advanced EHF system.

 

Boeing announced its phase 2 contract Jan. 9 and said the work will conclude in December. Northrop Grumman announced its award Dec. 5 and said its study would last 14 months.

 

 

NASA Funding Will Keep ATK Working on Ares 1 First Stage

 

NASA has agreed to give ATK Launch Systems Group of
Brigham City
,
Utah
, an additional $48 million to tide the space shuttle solid-rocket booster manufacturer over until the prime contract for the first stage of the agency’s next crew launching vehicle is awarded in February.

 

ATK Thiokol has been assisting NASA with the early design and development of the Ares 1 rocket’s first stage since last year under its current solid-rocket booster contract. The contract modification, announced Jan. 5, brings the total value of ATK Thiokol’s Ares 1-related work to $111 million.

 

The Ares 1 first stage is being designed as a larger, more powerful version of the solid rocket boosters that help lift the space shuttle. Combined with a cryogenic upper stage powered by an updated version of the Apollo-era J-2 engine, the Ares 1 will be used to lift NASA’s planned Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle in orbit.

 

NASA released a draft request for proposal for the Ares 1 upper-stage production contract Jan. 4. A final request for proposal for that piece of business is expected in late February, with a contract to be awarded around August.

 

ATK announced late last year that it plans to compete for the upper-stage work with teammates Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, the prime contractors for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and J-2X upper-stage engine, respectively.

 

 

Hughes Sees Demand for High-End Broadband Service

 

New customers signing up for Hughes Network Systems’ HughesNet consumer-broadband satellite service are more likely to purchase the higher-cost, higher-throughput subscriptions than previous subscribers, Germantown, Md.-based Hughes announced Jan. 9 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

 

Hughes, which currently provides two-way broadband connectivity through more than a dozen Ku-band satellites leased from various operators, is planning to launch its own Ka-band satellite, Spaceway 3, in early 2007. New customers will be encouraged to use this satellite, which requires different user equipment to work with Ka-band.

 

Hughes reported that as of Dec. 31 it had more than 325,000 HughesNet subscribers, an 18 percent increase over a year earlier.

 

Mike Cook, Hughes’ senior vice president, said 40 percent of new HughesNet customers in 2006 opted for the higher-capacity service, compared to 20 percent in 2005. Hughes currently offers five subscription plans featuring different throughput speeds and limits on monthly use.

 

 

SBSS Pathfinder Satellite On Track Following Review

 

A space surveillance satellite designed by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems for the U.S. Air Force has passed its critical design review, clearing the way for construction to begin, the Seal Beach, Calif.-based company said in a press release Jan. 8.

 

The first Space Based Space Surveillance System (SBSS) satellite remains on schedule for launch in December 2008, Boeing said. Dubbed the SBSS Pathfinder, the satellite will be equipped with a sensor designed to keep tabs on objects in low Earth orbit. It will replace the Midcourse Space Experiment, a satellite launched in 1996 whose mission evolved from missile tracking to space surveillance.

 

The system critical design review examined Boeing’s design as well as its approach to satellite assembly, testing and in-orbit operations, the press release said. The four-day event, which took place in
Seal Beach
, included more than 100 government and industry participants, the company said.

 

“Presentations, analysis and documentation have provided evidence of a complete detailed design, and the road to launch is well defined and achievable,” Lt. Col Steven Nessmiller, Air Force SBSS program manager, said at the conclusion of the review, according to the press release.

 

The SBSS Pathfinder is designed to enhance the existing
U.S.
space surveillance network, increase capacity and reduce the time needed to detect and track orbiting space objects.

 

Northrop Grumman Corp. of
Los Angeles
is the prime contractor on the SBSS program. Boeing received a $184 million contract in March 2004 to build the Pathfinder satellite. The program recently was restructured due to cost growth and other issues.

 

 

Instruments Aboard Hinode Complete In-orbit Testing

 

Instruments aboard the Hinode spacecraft (also known as Solar-B), a collaboration of NASA and the European and Japanese space agencies, have completed in-orbit testing and are now producing images that scientists hope will provide new insights into solar flares and other phenomena, according to a Dec. 22 press release from NASA.

 

The three-year Hinode mission was launched Sept. 22, and the spacecraft is in a polar Earth orbit that provides views of the sun for nine months out of the year, project scientist John Davis of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said in a phone interview Jan. 10.

 

Hinode features three instruments that together will take 3-D profiles of solar activity from the surface of the sun through its outer atmosphere. The X-ray Telescope will study the sun’s outer atmosphere; the Solar Optical Telescope will collect data from the sun’s visible surface, or corona; and the Extreme-Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer will look at the layers between the outer atmosphere and the corona, he said.

 

Davis said the experiment will provide a detailed and comprehensive picture of the sun’s magnetic field and its role in solar activity. Similar measurements have been taken from the ground, but never from space.

 

 

Boeing Co. Demonstrates New GPS Ground System

 

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis completed a demonstration that shows that the ground system it has built for the U.S. Air Force’s GPS satellite navigation system can successfully command the space segment.

 

The test is the final demonstration before Boeing turns the ground system over to the Air Force in April, according to a Jan. 4 company press release. The system, called the Architecture Evolution Plan, will control the 32 in-orbit GPS satellites as well as those under construction or awaiting launch, the release said.

 

During the test, the ground system maintained contact for three hours with a single GPS Block 2R satellite, sending commands and navigation updates, and verifying other data. The test took place at the Master Control Station at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, the release said.

 

The next-generation
U.S.
satellite navigation system, known as GPS 3 and slated to begin launching by 2013, will be controlled by a new system called the GPS Operational Control Segment. A request for proposals for the GPS Operational Control Segment contract was expected in late December, but has been delayed.

 

 

Northrop Grumman, ATK To Continue ICBM Work

 

Northrop Grumman Corp. of
Los Angeles
will continue to perform life-extension upgrade work on the Minuteman 3 ICBM fleet under a $15 million contract option exercised by the U.S. Air Force, the company said in a Jan. 5 press release.

 

The Propulsion System Rocket Engine Life Extension Program is focused on the fourth and final stage of the Minuteman 3 missile. The contract calls for Northrop Grumman and partner Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., to refurbish and replace hardware on the upper stage, the press release said.

 

The 22-month option, awarded Nov. 28, is the second of six under the 13-year Propulsion System Rocket Engine Life Extension Program contract. The remaining options are worth $58 million, the press release said. The total potential value of the program, which began in 2000, is $155 million, the press release said.

 

The Propulsion System Rocket Engine Life Extension Program is part of a wider upgrade effort designed to maintain the readiness of the U.S. ICBM fleet. Northrop Grumman is the prime integration contractor, and its principal partners are Boeing Co. of Chicago, Lockheed Martin Corp. of
Bethesda
,
Md.
, and Alliant Techsystems (ATK) of
Edina
,
Minn.

 

In a related development, ATK announced Jan. 8 that Northrop Grumman awarded it contract options worth $225 million to continue refurbishment work on the first three stages of the Minuteman 3 missiles. The award is the sixth of seven options under the ICBM Propulsion Replacement Program, ATK said in a press release.

 

Under the contract option, which extends through February 2009, ATK will replace components and propellant on 84 booster sets, the company said in the release. The company also will provide spare component hardware, the release said.

 

 

Hernandez Engineering Wins Marshall Support Contract

 

Hernandez Engineering Inc. will provide safety and mission assurance services to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville
,
Ala.
, under a contract worth $376.2 million.

 

Hernandez Engineering, a Houston-based, woman-owned small business specializing in engineering and analysis, does both government and corporate work, with clients such as a number of the NASA centers, the U.S. Air Force, and defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp. of
Bethesda
,
Md.

 

Under the 10-year contract, which begins Feb. 1, Hernandez will provide services such as quality assurance, risk management and system safety engineering, according to a Jan. 4 press release from NASA.

 

 

New XM Receiver Includes GPS, Weather Information

 

XM Satellite Radio of Washington unveiled a prototype of a new portable radio that provides GPS-based positioning information and weather data along with the ability to play music.

 

The device, called the Bushnell Onix 400, will be available for purchase this summer, according to a Jan. 8 press release from XM. Pricing information will be available at that time, the company said.

 

The satellite radio provider developed the device along with Bushnell Outdoor Products of Overland Park, Kan., which builds GPS products along with binoculars and other devices.

 

The Bushnell Onix 400 is the first portable device to incorporate satellite radio, weather and GPS, the release said. It was among the products promoted at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas
.

 

 

Supreme Court Declines To Hear EchoStar Case

 

The U.S. Supreme Court will not intercede in a dispute between EchoStar Communications Corp. of
Englewood
,
Colo.
, and the major
U.S.
broadcasting networks over EchoStar’s broadcasting rights to local television content.

 

EchoStar and the networks, including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, have been fighting in the courts for nine years over whether EchoStar has the right to broadcast local content to subscribers outside the area in which the programming was generated.

 

U.S.
law permits EchoStar to broadcast content produced in one area to customers in another, provided those customers do not have access to locally generated programming. But after EchoStar began broadcasting such content to other customers who simply wanted programming from different areas, the major local networks sued the company.

 

A U.S. District Court in
Miami
in October ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering EchoStar to halt the broadcasts by December. EchoStar attempted to get an extension on that date from the same court, but halted the broadcasts for some 800,000 subscribers after that appeal was denied. EchoStar then turned to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided Jan. 8 that it will not hear the case, according to the court’s Web site.

 

In a statement issued Jan. 9, EchoStar said it has been “out of the distant network channel business” since December, and that its customers have other alternatives to receive the content, such as antennas, or receiving content through a third party.

 

Legislation introduced in the Senate last November in the form of the Satellite Consumer Protection Act of 2006 would allow EchoStar to broadcast the material, but Congress adjourned without enacting the measure. Similar legislation has not yet been introduced in the new Congress, which convened for the first time Jan. 4.

 

 


Gilat Lands VSAT Deal With Telekom


Serbia

 

Telekom
Serbia
will use a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) network provided by Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. to give citizens in remote areas phone and Internet access.

 

Telekom
Serbia
of
Belgrade
, a national telecommunications carrier, will use Gilat’s SkyEdge VSAT equipment to deploy a network at community centers across the country. The VSAT terminals will be used for phone, fax, Internet, television re-broadcasting and business purposes, according to a Jan. 8 press release from Gilat of Petah Tikva, Israel.

 

The value of the contract with Telekom
Serbia
was not disclosed, according to Stan Schneider of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Schneider Communications, which does public relations for Gilat.

 

 

DirecTV Emphasizes Partnerships for DSLPRIVATE

 

Satellite-television broadcaster DirecTV Inc. will continue to rely on partnerships with telephone companies to provide its customers with broadband access and sees no reason to develop its own broadband offer for at least the next several years, DirecTV Chief Executive Chase Carey said.

 

Any DirecTV move toward a broadband package even then would be based mainly on whether telephone companies’ DSL broadband, which now complements DirecTV’s satellite-video package, expands to offer increased video and becomes a DirecTV competitor.

 

Until that time, Carey said, DirecTV’s partnerships with telephone companies’ DSL broadband offers is sufficient, especially since ultimately broadband access will become a commodity.

 

DirecTV has been considered a possible investor in one of several satellite-based two-way mobile broadband projects now in development, which will require several billion dollars of investment in ground infrastructure.

 

Carey’s comments make that seem less likely. “We’re pretty well positioned [in broadband] over the next couple of years,” he said Jan. 9 at a Citigroup investors conference during the Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas
. “The phone companies’ DSL and telephone offer marries very well with our services.”

 

Carey said DirecTV’s near-term focus will be rolling out high-definition television in the
United States
. The addition of two new satellites – DirecTV 10 and DirecTV 11 – scheduled for launch this year will permit the company to expand its HD offer to more than 150 national television channels.

 

El Segundo, Calif.-based DirecTV is about to see an ownership change as its largest shareholder, News Corp., swaps its 38.5 percent stake in DirecTV for Englewood, Colo.-based Liberty Media Corp.’s 16.5 percent ownership of News Corp.

 

Carey reiterated that there are currently no discussions on a merger with competitor EchoStar Communications Corp. of
Englewood
,
Colo.
He said he would have nothing against such a merger, and that
U.S.
regulators probably could be persuaded to accept it given the changes in the media-distribution network in the fours years since regulators rejected a previous merger attempt.

 

 

NASA To Use Metric For Moon Missions

 

When NASA returns astronauts to the Moon, the mission will be measured in kilometers, not miles. And that’s not all; the agency has decided to use metric units for all operations on the lunar surface, according to a statement the
U.S.
space agency issued Jan. 8.

 

The change will standardize parts and tools. It means Russian wrenches could be used to fix an air leak in a U.S.-built habitat. It also will make communications easier in such situations as determining how far to send a rover for a science project.

 

NASA has ostensibly used the metric system of measurements since about 1990, the statement said, but English units are still employed on some missions, and a few projects use both. NASA uses both English and metric aboard the international space station, for example.

 

NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter was lost in 1999 after course-correction commands based on English measurements were sent to the spacecraft, even though metric units were called for in the mission specifications. As a result, incorrect changes were made to the spacecraft’s trajectory.

 

The decision to formally adopt metric measurements for the Moon missions comes after a series of meetings between NASA and 13 other space agencies around the world, where metric measurements are the standard.

 

“When we made the announcement at the meeting, the reps for the other space agencies all gave a little cheer,” said Jeff Volosin, strategy development lead for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. “I think NASA has been seen as maybe a bit stubborn by other space agencies in the past, so this was important as a gesture of our willingness to be cooperative when it comes to the Moon.”

 

Informally, the space agencies have also discussed using Internet protocols for lunar communications, the statement said. “That way, if some smaller space agency or some private company wants to get involved in something we’re doing on the Moon, they can say, ‘Hey, we already know how to do Internet communications,'” Volosin said. “It lowers the barrier to entry.”