AF GPS Payload Contract Intended to Preserve Spectrum

Seeking to preserve a radio-spectrum reservation in the event of more delays to its GPS 2F navigation satellites, the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin Space Systems a $6 million contract to add a third civilian signal to one of the previous-generation GPS 2RM satellites.

The civil signal, known as L5, is part of the baseline design for the GPS 2F satellites, which are under construction by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems and well behind schedule. The first GPS 2F launch, originally expected in 2002, now is scheduled for 2009.

The Air Force’s reservation with the International Telecommunication Union for L5 radio spectrum requires that the signal begin operating by August 2009, the Air Force said in a written response to questions . Putting the signal on a Lockheed Martin-built GPS 2RM spacecraft will ensure that the service maintains its reservation until the GPS 2F satellites come on line, the service said.

The L5 demonstration payload will be supplied by ITT Space Systems, according to an April 19 Lockheed Martin press release. The GPS 2RM spacecraft that will temporarily broadcast the signal is scheduled to launch in 2008, the release said.

Lockheed Martin recently announced that it had shipped the last of eight GPS 2RM satellites, which are upgraded versions of the GPS 2R satellites the company built for the Air Force. Lockheed Martin Three of the GPS 2RM satellites have launched to date.

Lockheed Gets $385 Million Orion Contract Modification

Lockheed Martin is getting a $385 million expansion of its contract to design, test and build NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle, the planned replacement for the space shuttle fleet, NASA said in an April 20 press release.

According to NASA, the updated contract contains three significant changes: two years were added to the design phase, two test flights of the launch abort system have been added and production of a pressurized cargo carrier for the international space station has been deleted from the initial design phase.

NASA awarded the Orion prime contract to Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver Aug. 31. At that time, the development portion of the contract was valued at $3.9 billion with a period of performance through December 2011. This contract modification increases the total value to about $4.3 billion and extends the development period through December 2013.

“NASA and Lockheed have been working together as a team during the past six months to iron out many critical design and schedule details,” said Skip Hatfield, manager the Orion Project at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This contract update will synchronize our spending plan with the rest of the Constellation Program.”

Missile Defense Agency Mulls Interim STSS Craft

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is weighing the idea of buying a missile tracking satellite that would bridge the gap between a pair of experimental spacecraft slated to launch this year and an operational constellation whose deployment has been delayed, an agency official said.

The Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) will consist of satellites equipped with sensors that can track missiles during the mid-course portion of flight. The demonstration satellites, built by Northrop Grumman Space Technology, are on schedule to launch this year and are expected to have limited operational capability. But the MDA recently deferred the target date for initial deployment of an operational STSS constellation from 2012 to no earlier than 2016.

STSS program officials have raised the idea of launching at least one satellite in the interim, but there is no formal proposal to do so, the official said.

Alenia to Build Sentinal-1 Radar Craft

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Thales Alenia Space Italy as prime contractor for a C-band radar Earth observation satellite called Sentinel-1 to be launched in 2011 in a deal valued at 229 million euros ($310 million), according to European government and industry officials.

A contract is expected to be signed in May, officials said.

Thales Alenia Space Italy bested a competing bid from Astrium Satellites’ German division for the contract, which will be the first spacecraft built for Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program.

Astrium GmbH of Friedrichshafen, Germany, is nonetheless expected to build the radar imaging system for Sentinel-1 in a contract to be signed with Thales Alenia Space valued at around 85 million euros.

GMES is co-funded by ESA and the European Commission.

Sentinel-1 is expected to weigh around 2,200 kilograms at launch and to carry a C-band synthetic-aperture radar to image the Earth in swaths of 240 kilometers across with a ground resolution of between 5 and 8 meters.

Sentinel-1 originally was to be launched in 2010, in time to assure data continuity for users who until then will count on the continued health of the large Envisat radar satellite. ESA officials have said Envisat, launched in March 2002, should be able to remain healthy until 2010.

Boeing, Argon ST Teams Designing GPS Alternative

Teams led by Boeing Phantom Works and Argon ST will develop competing designs for a device that would exploit radio signals from a variety of sources to provide precise navigation information to ground troops under contracts with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The Robust Surface Navigation program is intended to yield a device that can exploit so-called signals of opportunity in the event that the GPS satellite navigation system becomes unavailable due to jamming or other issues, Boeing said in an April 18 press release. Such alternative signals might come from satellites, cell phone towers and television transmission towers, the company said.

Boeing said its team on the design effort includes ROSUM of Mountain View, Calif.; NAVSYS of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Shared Spectrum of Vienna, Va.

Boeing Phantom Works of St. Louis and Argon ST of Vienna, Va., each won nine-month, Phase 1A contracts worth $2.6 million and $2.4 million, respectively. The contracts include Phase 1B options, which, if exercised, would last for six months and be worth $1.6 million to $2.2 million, said Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for DARPA.

Phase 2, lasting two years, would include a prototype demonstration, Walker said. After each phase, DARPA will evaluate each contractor’s work, and decide if they will continue forward.

U.S., Britain to Study Joint Lunar Missions

The U.S. and British governments agreed April 19 to consider cooperative efforts in lunar exploration, with the accent placed on robotic technologies in keeping with Britain’s longstanding avoidance of astronaut-related programs.

The agreement, announced by the British National Space Centre (BNSC) April 20, was signed in Washington by NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin and Sir Keith O’Nions, director-general for science and innovation at Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry, which is one of the major sources of BNSC funding.

British satellite contractors Astrium of Stevenage and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of Guildford immediately seized on the bilateral accord to propose a variety of lunar projects.

The BNSC has commissioned studies of a lunar lander, a lunar penetrator and high-bandwidth telecommunications technologies that could be used from the lunar surface. No decision has been made to pursue them into hardware development. As a member of the European Space Agency, Britain is taking part in Europe’s Aurora space exploration program.

Under the new agreement, NASA and BNSC will create a joint technical team “as soon as possible” to evaluate possible collaboration in lunar missions.

China Postpones Meeting Of Orbital Debris Group

The China National Space Administration has postponed the 25th meeting of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), which it had been slated to host beginning April 23 at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing.

China’s hosting of the meeting came at an awkward time — just weeks after the United States revealed that a Jan. 11 test of a Chinese anti-satellite weapon had created a huge field of orbital debris.

News of the cancel ed meeting was reported in the April 19 issue of the U.K.-based newspaper Financial Times, which said China has informed the United States, Russia, and other members of the group that it would host the meeting in November.

An official affiliated with the IADC confirmed the postponement.

GLAST Being Readied for Environmental Testing

NASA’s Gamma ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST, is set to undergo a series of tests designed to simulate the rigors of liftoff and the space environment, according to an April 11 NASA press release .

While GLAST’s individual components already have passed environmental testing, the 4,230-kilogram space observatory is now almost fully assembled, NASA said. The upcoming tests will take place at the facilities of the spacecraft prime contractor, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems of Gilbert, Ariz.

“The observatory is getting ready for the final testing in the simulated environment of space, so that any problems can be fixed to ensure that it will work when we launch it,” Kathleen Turner, program manager for GLAST’s Large Area Telescope at the U.S. Department of Energy, said in a prepared statement.

Starting around the first week of May , GLAST will undergo electromagnetic interference tests to ensure that its individual systems do not interfere with one another, Kevin Grady, GLAST project manager, said in an April 18 phone interview. Next, a series of mechanical simulations will test GLAST’s ability to withstand the shock and vibration of launch aboard a Delta 2 rocket . Finally, a six-week thermal vacuum test will simulate the temperature extremes GLAST will experience in space.

GLAST is scheduled to be launched this fall on a five-year mission to study gamma rays and their sources.

Raytheon Co. To Continue Patriot Work for U.S. Army

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Tewksbury, Mass., recently received contract modifications from the U.S. Army worth $13 million to continuing providing technical and material support for Patriot missiles, according to a company news release dated April 13.

The modifications bring the value of a contract that Raytheon signed with the Army in 2005 to $43 million , according to the news release.

Under the contract, Raytheon will continue to support reliability testing of the Patriot missile stockpile, as well as recertification and repair of the interceptors.

The contract modifications include options that could be worth an additional $12 million, according to the news release.

Lockheed Nabs Award for U.K. Trident Support Work

Lockheed Martin will continue providing program management and engineering services for Trident 2 D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles used by the United Kingdom under a $14.2 million U.S. Navy contract, the company said in an April 16 news release.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., which builds the missiles, began work on the contract on April 1, and will wrap up by March 31, 2008, according to the news release. Lockheed Martin is executing this work as part of an arrangement between the U.S. Navy and the United Kingdom, according to Lynn Fisher, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman.

JAXA Fixes Link Between Daichi, Kodama Satellites

The ability of Japan’s Advanced Land Observation Satellite, or Dai chi, to transmit information to the Kodama data-relay satellite was temporarily lost April 5 due to a technical glitch that is under investigation, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) reported April 10.

JAXA was able to restore communications between the satellites April 8 by switching to a backup data relay system aboard Daichi, the agency said. Emergency observations of an Earthquake-stricken area of the Solomon Islands that were made during the morning of April 8 were successfully transmitted via direct links between Daichi and ground stations, JAXA said.

Finalists Set for AIA’s Rocketry Competition

The finalists are now set for the fifth annual student model-rocketry competition known as Team America Rocket Challenge , according to an April 16 press release from the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the event organizer.

The field has gone from 690 teams representing 48 states and Washington to 104 teams from 23 states following completion of the qualifying round April 8. The teams are vying for a total of $60,000 worth of scholarships and prizes. Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon Co . also will pay for the winning team to go the Paris Air Show in June.

The finals will take place at Great Meadow field events center in The Plains, Va., May 19.

The Team America Rocket Challenge features teams of three to 15 students in grades 7-12. Each is required to build a model rocket from scratch and use it to launch a raw egg to an altitude as close as possible to 257.58 meters in a flight lasting 45 seconds.

Precision is rewarded over power, so teams would get higher marks for reaching a height of 250 meters than for achieving 300 meters, contest coordinator Audrey Koehler said in an April 18 phone interview. The egg must be returned to the ground unbroken. The winners are determined by a point system, Koehler said.

“Hopefully some of these students will be working on real rockets and other aerospace products in the future,” John Douglass, AIA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement.

K-1 Rocket
To Support Japanese Station Users

Rocketplane Kistler Inc. will use its planned K-1 reusable launch vehicle to support Japanese users of the international space station under an agreement with Japan Manned Space Systems, the companies announced April 17.

Rocketplane Kistler of Oklahoma City is one of two companies selected to demonstrate space station logistics capabilities under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. Japan Manned Space Systems is a private company established to support the Kibo module and other Japanese space station assets.

Australian Telecom Firm Orders Iridium Equipment

Australian telecommunications and information services provider Telstra Corp. has ordered $3.5 million worth of Iridium Satellite user equipment from Beam Communications Pty. Ltd., Iridium Satellite of Bethesda, Md., announced April 17.

The equipment includes fixed site terminals, vehicle-mounted phones and accessories for hand-held devices, Iridium, which operates a 66-satellite global mobile telecommunications constellation, said.

Telstra of Melbourne will use the equipment to fulfill its part of Australia’s universal service obligation, which requires telecommunications providers to ensure that services are accessible to everybody in that country.

Beam Communications, a subsidiary of Tele-IP of Australia, is a leading manufacturer of Iridium-based telecommunications equipment.

To Start Building Antarctic NPOESS Antennas

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has cleared Raytheon to deploy two data-reception antennas in Antarctica for the U.S. National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), the company said in an April 12 press release.

Construction of the NPOESS Safety Net antenna sites is expected to begin during the 2007-2008 Southern Hemisphere summer at the NSF-managed McMurdo Bay research station, Raytheon said.

The NPOESS Safety Net will consist of 15 reception antennas deployed around the world that will ensure the rapid dissemination of data from the civil-military satellite system.

Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems of Garland, Texas, is responsible for the NPOESS ground segment as part of a team led by prime contractor Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif.

Orbital Express Satellites Demostrate Battery Transfer

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced April 18 that the two spacecraft that comprise its Orbital Express satellite-servicing experiment separated for the first time and then reattached themselves a short time later.

The Orbital Express experiment features the Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations (ASTRO) servicing spacecraft and the NextSat serviceable satellite, which were launched in a mated configuration March 8. The separation experiment, accomplished using ASTRO’s robotic arm, took place April 17, DARPA said in a press release.

It was the latest in a series of feats accomplished so far by the Orbital Express spacecraft. On April 7, ASTRO successfully transferred a battery to NextSat using its robotic arm, according to an April 17 press release from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis, the Orbital Express prime contractor. Boeing said it was the first-ever hardware transfer between unmanned spacecraft on orbit.

And on April 2, ASTRO successfully transferred two loads of hydrazine fuel to NextSat, which was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo.

“These achievements are the first steps toward developing a system that will extend the life and operation of various types of spacecraft,” George Muellner, president of Boeing Advanced Systems, a unit of Integrated Defense Systems, said in a prepared statement.

The battery and fuel transfers occurred “at the lowest levels of spacecraft autonomy” and required approval to proceed from the ground crew, according to the Boeing press release. Future Orbital Express demonstrations will test increased autonomy and require less ground-crew intervention .

Upcoming Orbital Express experiments include replacement of a working computer using ASTRO’s robotic arm, provided by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, British Columbia.

“This is the first time an autonomous system has replaced a computer ” in space, said Air Force Lt. Col. Fred Kennedy, DARPA’s Orbital Express program manager.

Also planned is a series of separation and recapture experiments in which the two spacecraft will drift apart to distances of 10 meters, 30 meters, 60 meters and, eventually, 7 kilometers, before coming back together, Kennedy said in an April 18 interview .

Raytheon Wins Contract To Upgrade Secure Terminals

Raytheon will provide upgrade kits for a family of secure, anti-jam satellite terminals to make them compatible with the U.S. Air Force’s planned Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) satellite system, the company said in an April 12 press release.

The Secure Mobile Anti-jam Reliable Tactical Terminal, or SMART-T, was designed for the Milstar satellite system, which will be replaced by the Advanced EHF satellites starting in 2008.

In the press release, Raytheon said it will provide SMART-T upgrade kits to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, while Canada and the Netherlands will receive terminals that are compatible with the Advanced EHF system only. The total contract value is $84.6 million, Raytheon said.

The upgrades will increase by four times the amount of data that can be handled by the SMART-T terminals, Raytheon said. The work will be performed at the Largo, Fla., facilities of Raytheon Network Cen tric Systems, the company said.

Northrop’s ICBS Team Welcomes Lockheed

Northrop Grumman added Lockheed Martin Corp. to its team competing to build an improved communications network for the U.S. military’s air and missile defense systems, according to a Northrop Grumman news release dated April 12.

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems of Huntsville, Ala., is competing against Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Tewksbury, Mass., for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) prime contract, which is expected to be awarded in August.

Mike Trotsky, vice president of air and missile defense for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control of Dallas, said the company brings its experience as prime contractor on programs including the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense systems to Northrop Grumman’s IBCS team.

Small Satellite Missions Could be Coalition-Based

A Pentagon concept for partnerships with other countries on small-satellite missions has begun to generate interest in the international community, according to a U.S. military officer .

U.S. Air Force Col. Tom Doyne, an action officer for operational experimentation in the office of the director of defense research and engineering, said that in the months since he wrote a column about the concept for Space News in January [“Coalition ORS: A 100 Satellite Solution,” Jan. 29, page 18], he has been invited to give presentations to conferences in Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as NATO.

Doyne said in an April 10 interview at the National Space Symposium that he also has presented the concept, which is under review within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, to the Aerospace Industries Association in Arlington, Va.

The concept, which Doyne calls “Coalition Operationally Responsive Space,” was inspired by an idea promoted by Adm. Michael Mullin, chief of naval operations, intended to expand the reach of the U.S. Navy. While the Navy has roughly 300 ships, it could effectively have 1,000 ships if it partnered with other nations, according to Mullin’s concept.

Under Doyne’s concept, the United States and at least one partner could take advantage of economies of scale by making block purchase of small satellites and agreeing to share data. Working together could strengthen the Pentagon’s relationships with those nations, he said.

If a group of countries is involved, each could potentially reap the benefit of a full constellation of communications or image-gathering satellites with an investment equivalent to one spacecraft, Doyne said.

This possibility could be most promising to countries that have to date been unable to afford the cost of launching constellations, he said.

Block purchases of small satellites could help stimulate the industrial bases in the United States and elsewhere , making responsive space efforts less expensive in general, Doyne said.

International partnerships are not new for the Pentagon, Doyne said. The Air Force, for example, has formed partnerships with allies to purchase aircraft such as the F-15, F-16, F-35 and C-130, he said.

The first four NATO communications satellites were variants of the U.S. Defense Satellite Communications System spacecraft, he said.

Doyne cited the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation led by England’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. as an analog for his partnership concept. The satellites in that system were purchased by a coalition of China, Algeria, Nigeria, Turkey and the United Kingdom, he said.

Doyne noted that a number of issues need to be addressed before such a plan could be implemented, including export regulations and common standards for satellite interfaces to ensure interoperability if a block purchase is split between companies in two nations .

Jena-Optronik Recognized
With Boeing Avionics Award

Jena-Optronik has been selected as Boeing Co.’s Supplier of the Year 2006 in the avionics category following its performance in delivering the Astro 15 star sensors for Boeing’s Wideband Global Satcom, Spaceway and other satellite programs, Boeing and Jena, Germany-based Jena-Optronik announced April 19.

Chicago-based Boeing made the selections in 11 supplier categories based on on-time delivery, post-delivery support and pricing measures. Founded in 1991, Jen-Optronik specializes in building opto-electronic systems as well as guidance, navigation and control hardware.

FAA Releases New Regs for Reusable Suborbital Rocketry

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued new regulations April 6 that govern experimental permits for reusable suborbital rockets, including vehicles designed to propel passengers to suborbital heights.

In addition to the permit application , a vehicle developer will need to provide the FAA a program description, a flight test plan and operational safety documentation, including a hazard analysis and a response plan in case of a mishap, according to the new regulations.

The one-year permit is renewable following an FAA review.

The FAA also released April 6 a sample of the application needed by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) to initiate the required reviews for an experimental permit .

“These regulations were greatly aided by input from industry,” Patti Grace Smith, AST’s associate administrator, told Space News April 10. “I think one of the bedrocks of our approach and our office is that we do not have all the answers … we don’t pretend to have all the answers. We invite industry involvement and input. “

The FAA’s AST will conduct a workshop on the experimental permit process May 16 at FAA headquarters in Washington .

Eyes Atlas 5 To Loft Dream Chaser Vehicle

SpaceDev of Poway, Calif., is considering launching its planned crew and cargo vehicle aboard United Launch Alliance‘s (ULA) Atlas 5.

SpaceDev’s Dream Chaser is derived from NASA work on the HL-20 piloted lifting body and is being designed to carry crew and cargo to the international space station as well as to support commercial space tourism flights. In an April 10 press statement, Mark Sirangelo, SpaceDev’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the match up of Dream Chaser with a flight-proven launch system like Atlas would be a key element to the company’s success.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations, SpaceDev will work with ULA to explore the technical requirements for lofting Dream Chaser atop an Atlas 5.