Briefs050508

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  Space News Business

Briefs050508

posted: 05 May 2008
11:53 am ET





ATK Tests Oldest SRB To Verify Safety Model

 

Alliant Techsystems successfully test-fired a space shuttle reusable solid-rocket motor May 1 in the Utah desert. The test was conducted in part to verify that the ATK-built boosters remain safe to use for shuttle launches up to five years after the propellant has been cast. ATK said the booster used in the test was made seven years ago, making it the oldest space shuttle solid-rocket motor ever fired.

Another main objective of the test was to gather data to aid in the development of the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle ATK is helping NASA build. More than 20 microphones were installed at the test site to collect information that will help engineers predict the lift-off acoustics of the Ares 1, which will use a longer version of the solid-rocket booster (SRB) for its main stage.

 

Total Irradiance Sensor Back in Plan for NPOESS

 

An instrument that measures the total amount of solar energy coming into
Earth’s atmosphere is again part of the design for
the first satellite
�scheduled to fly in the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). The instrument, the Total Irradiance Sensor, was dropped from the satellite’s design during the 2006 restructuring of the NPOESS program. NPOESS is being developed as a partnership among
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Air Force and NASA.

 

The decision, announced May 2, is the third climate-monitoring capability added back to the NPOESS program since
NASA announced in April 2007 it would
restore the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suites Limbs to the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP). In January, NASA and NOAA agreed to place the Clouds and Earth Radiant Energy Systems instrument on NPP.

Gary Payton, the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for space programs, said in a statement that adding the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor back to NPOESS “will not jeopardize the program’s schedule or financial baselines.”

 

SES Moves Astra 5A Into Orbital Slot Above Europe

 

Satellite-fleet operator SES has inaugurated a fifth orbital position over Europe by moving the former Sirius 2 satellite, renamed Astra 5A, into its slot to 31.5 degrees east longitude.

 

Luxembourg-based SES announced April 29 that Astra 5A, launched in November 1997, is expected to remain operational until 2012. It was moved from the SES Sirius slot at 5 degrees east following the arrival there of the new Sirius 4 spacecraft in January. Moving Astra 5A to the new position will permit SES Sirius to develop the 5 degrees east slot into one dedicated to direct-broadcast television. SES increased its ownership of SES Sirius in January to 90 percent from 75 percent. Swedish Space Corp. retains a 10 percent stake.

 

SES Chairman Romain Bausch said the company does not yet have an anchor customer for the new orbital position. Astra 5A has 26 transponders available for telecommunications services in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. SES has secured the right to use up to 40 Broadcast Satellite Services frequencies from the slot, leaving room for further development through the addition of other satellites.

 

“We are in advanced discussions with several customers,” Bausch said in an April 28 conference call with investors. “There is high demand for this capacity, in particular in Eastern Europe.”

 

EMS To Upgrade Satellite Antennas on 20 B-2 Bombers

 

EMS Technologies of Atlanta
signed a $13 million contract with Northrop Grumman Corp. to provide satellite antenna system upgrades for the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of 20 B-2 stealth bombers, according to an April 30 EMS Technologies press release.

 

Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles is the prime contractor for the B-2.

 

The aircraft currently are
capable of receiving
signals from the Air Force’s Milstar fleet of secure communications satellites. Following the antenna upgrade, they will be able to
receive signals from the follow-on
Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communications satellites, which are slated to
�begin launching in 2009.

 

XM, Sirius Extend Deadline For Concluding Merger Deal

 

XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio have agreed to begin extending their merger agreement in two-week increments
if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission fails to approve the merger before the initial deal
expires May 15, the companies announced April 30.

 

XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. of Washington and New York-based Sirius are
waiting on the FCC to approve the transfer of the operating
�licenses issued to Sirius, XM and their subsidiaries to XM, which will be controlled by a new board of directors selected by the two firms, according to the FCC application.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice
ruled March 24 that the merger of the only two satellite radio companies could proceed because it did not violate laws barring a monopoly because satellite radio faces competition from terrestrial companies. The FCC is scheduled to meet May 15 but had not released its agenda for the meeting as of May 2, said FCC spokeswoman Mary Diamond.

 

Companies with broadcasting interests and attorneys general from Maryland, Connecticut, Ohio and Washington have asked
the FCC to reject
the merger. The attorneys general signed a
letter asking the FCC – if it approves the deal – to force the two companies to lease a portion of their satellite capacity to a new satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS).

 

Sirius and XM each obtained stockholder approval for the pending merger in November. The two companies announced in separate April 29 press releases that they would delay their annual stockholders’ meetings — scheduled May 20 for Sirius and May 23 for XM – until they have more information about the merger approval.

 

Senate Panel Adds To T-Sat Budget, Shifts MDA Priorities

 

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee added $350 million to the president’s request for the Transformational Satellite (T-Sat) communications system and shifted missile defense funding toward fielded systems at the expense of developmental programs in its markup of
the 2009 Defense Authorization bill April 29.

The future of the U.S. Air Force’s T-Sat program has been uncertain since Congress last year appropriated 2008 funding

to procure another of the prior-generation
Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites. The Air Force is
studying its satellite communications
options and expects to present a new strategy
to Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England this month. In February U.S. President George W. Bush requested $843 million for the T-Sat program for
2009.

 

The committee also added $100 million to the president’s $1 billion request for the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system and
�$115 million to the $811 million request for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

 

The top-line funding for the Missile Defense Agency remains the same, as the committee proposed reductions to
what it called “lower priority” developmental programs. These
include: $45 million from
the Airborne Laser
; $50 million from
the Space Tracking and Surveillance System
; $50 million from
the Multiple Kill Vehicle
; $45 million from
the Kinetic Energy Interceptor
; $100 million from
special programs; and all of the requested $10 million from
the Space Test Bed program.

 

 

NASA Delays Mission To Refurbish Hubble

 

NASA has pushed back the planned launch of the final shuttle flight to overhaul the Hubble Space Telescope by up to five weeks due to external fuel tank delays, mission managers said May 1.

 

Space shuttle program manager John Shannon said that the additional time required to include post-Columbia safety improvements in two shuttle fuel tanks supporting the Hubble servicing mission have delayed the spaceflight until
no earlier than late September. A seven-astronaut crew was slated to launch toward Hubble aboard NASA’s shuttle Atlantis on Aug. 28.

 

Atlantis’ next fuel tank, and a second reserved for a rescue shuttle, are NASA’s first built from scratch that include modifications to limit the loss of foam insulation that could damage an orbiter during liftoff.

“I really think it’s a small price to pay, to tell you the truth, four to five weeks for all the improvements that we’re getting on this tank,” Shannon said.

 

 

Contract Aims To Retain External Tank Workers

 

NASA has signed a $39.5 million contract modification with
Lockheed Martin Space Systems‘ Michoud Operations unit in New Orleans to implement a retention plan for employees who work on the space shuttle external tanks, according to an April 30 NASA press release.

 

Employee incentives
will be provided
“to ensure mission success and construction of the remaining external tanks to support space shuttle program requirements through September 2010,” the press release said. The

retention package is needed to produce the
11 external tanks left
on Lockheed Martin’s contract with NASA, the release said.

 

The contract will end September 30, 2010, and the modification brings the total value of the contract, awarded in October 2000, to $2.9
7 billion, the press release said. That
contract called for the delivery of 18 external tanks to NASA.

 

Work will be performed at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans; NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.; and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

 

Lockheed Martin builds, assembles and tests the space shuttle external tanks for NASA at the Michoud facility. The 47-meter
-tall
�external tanks hold the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen for the shuttle’s three main engines. The tank is the largest single component of the space shuttle and the only major one
that is not reused.

 

Pentagon-Iridium Deal Extended 5 More Years

 

Mobile satellite services provider Iridium Satellite LLC reported an 11.2 percent increase in revenue and a 6.8 percent increase in subscribers for the three months ending March 31 compared to the previous three-month period.

 

Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium said April 28 that it had renewed a five-year air-time services and gateway-maintenance agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense as part of what is called the Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services contract.

 

Iridium operates a constellation of 66 satellites in low Earth orbit. It forecasts that these satellites will continue to provide full voice and data service until at least 2013, by which time a
second-generation constellation should be in place. The company expects to sign a contract for construction of the second-generation constellation sometime in mid-2009.

 

For the three months ending March 31, Iridium reported revenue
�of $74.3 million, up 11.2 percent compared to the three months ending Dec. 31 and a 41 percent increase over the same period in 2007. The company said its subscriber count stood at more than 250,000 as of
March 31, a 6.8 percent increase compared to the subscriber base reported as of
Dec. 31.

 

Iridium is diversifying its portfolio of services to include machine-to-machine communications, used to monitor cargo in transit, remote utility meters and other assets.

 

 

NASA Decommissions Polar Astronomy Craft

 

NASA has decommissioned the Polar spacecraft that for 12 years has been studying
how the near-Earth

space environment is affected by the sun’s continual bombardment of radiation and particles, NASA announced
April 29.

Polar was built by Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems
�and
launched Feb. 24, 1996, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It was the second element in NASA’s Global Geospace Science (GGS) program, and its orbital loop over the Earth’s poles enabled scientists to study the movement of energetic charged particles above these
�regions, a NASA
press release said. The first element, the Lockheed Martin-built Wind satellite, continues to operate after 14 years at the L-1 libration point in space.

 

The
GGS program is part of the
International Solar Terrestrial Physics program mounted by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.

 

ORS Office Yet to Finalize Payload for June Launch

 

The Pentagon’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program office still hasn’t decided

which satellite
will fly on the upcoming launch of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon 1 rocket but expects to do so within the next few weeks
, according to
U.S. Army Lt. Col. James Pruneski, deputy director of the
office.

In
an April 21 interview, Pruneski said the U.S.
Air Force Research Laboratory’s Plug and Play

satellite platform
is the top candidate for the mission, dubbed Jumpstart
. Technicians at the lab are
working six days a week on the bus
and
are still on track to have it ready in time for a launch window that opens June 24 at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean
, he said.

 

However, if the Plug and Play bus falls behind and will
not
be ready in time
, the ORS office could turn to one of two other choices that
still would
give the military experience integrating payloads
quickly, Pruneski said. Those
choices are the Trailblazer satellite
, built by SpaceDev Inc., and CUSat, which was developed under a partnership between
the
�Air Force and Cornell University.

 

Trailblazer, using a platform originally developed for the
U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Distributed Sensing Experiment, which was canceled last year, is intended to reduce risk for a future common platform for ORS satellites.
�CUSat consists of
two tiny satellites that would separate in space, with one taking pictures of the other
�and relaying the photos to the ground
to demonstrate an orbital inspection capability.

 

Florida National Guard Selects Skyport Global

 

The Florida National Guard has selected SkyPort Global Communications of Houston and Applied Global Technologies of Rockledge, Fla., to provide satellite communications services during emergencies, according to an April 29 SkyPort press release.

 

Under the $500,000 contract, the two firms will provide teleport services, bandwidth, hardware
, network backup and iDirect Hub services to maintain
voice, video, data and
Internet
communications among National Guard troops and other first responders during and after a disaster, the press release said.

 

Raytheon Gets Order To Upgrade SMART-T Gear

 

Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., has been awarded a $86.7 million task order from the U.S. Army to install upgrade kits on satellite communications terminals to make them compatible with the military’s planned
Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite communications system, an April 28 Raytheon press release said.

 

Raytheon will be upgrading the Army’s Secure Mobile Anti-jam Reliable Tactical Terminal
�(SMART-T) systems that currently operate on the
Milstar secure
�satellite communications network
. The upgrade will increase the terminals’ data rates by four times
, the press release said.

 

The order was made under
an indefinite-quantity, indefinite-delivery contract originally awarded in 2007.
The total value of Raytheon’s work under the contract is now $183.3 million.

 

Meanwhile, Raytheon reported increased sales across each of its divisions for the first quarter of 2008 during an April 24 conference call. The company’s
�Integrated Defense Systems division reported an 18 percent sales increase over the first quarter of 2007 driven by
work for
the U.S. Army and U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The division booked $331 million in Patriot missile
design and development contracts
for both the United States and its
allies during the quarter.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based Missile Systems division reported a 15 percent sales increase over the first quarter of 2007, largely due to $578 million in bookings for the Standard Missile-3 interceptor program, the company said.

 

The Space and Airborne Systems division, of El Segundo, Calif., reported a 3 percent sales growth compared to the first quarter of 2007, primarily due to growth in airborne sensor programs. The division also booked $186 million in classified contracts, Raytheon said.

The Intelligence and Information Systems division of Garland, Texas, saw a sales increase of 18 percent over the same period of last year
.

 

Lockheed Martin Unit Joins Northrop OCX Bid

 

Lockheed Martin Information Systems an
d Global Services of Gaithersburg, Md., has joined Northrop Grumman’s
team competing for the contract to develop the GPS 3 ground control system for the U.S. Air Force, Los Angeles-based
Northrop Grumman said in an April 28 press release
.

 

Lockheed Martin led
one of three teams that competed for two $160 million study contracts for the new system, called GPS OCX. Teams led by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon Co. of Waltham, Mass., won the 18-month contracts in November 2007. The Air Force expects to award the contract to build the first eight GPS 3 navigation spacecraft in May
and then the GPS OCX contract in spring 2009.

 

Lockheed Martin joins the team that also includes Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., Integral Systems of Lanham, Md., and General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems of Dayton, Ohio.

Strong Demand Prompts EMS To Expand Campus

 

EMS Technologies of Norcross, Ga., will build
a 3,000-square-meter addition to its headquarters facility and has signed a lease for additional office space nearby
to meet the needs of its growing Defense and Space Systems division, according to an April 30 company
press release.

 

The Defense and Space Systems division has seen growth in its communications-on-the-move, sensors and countermeasures, and national security space businesses, the release said. The division reported revenue of $15.5 million for the first quarter of 2008
, an increase of $1.8 million over the same period in 2007. EMS Technologies has added 120 employees since the beginning of 2007, mostly in the Defense and Space Systems division, the release said.

 

Overall, EMS Technologies reported first quarter revenue of $75.5 million, a 13 percent increase over the same period in 2007, the company said in another April 30 press release
. The company’s Satcom division accounted for the largest
share of the growth, with sales growing by 27 percent to $25.8 million for the quarter. EMS Technologies credited increasing demand for satellite communications and the resulting increase in sales of its high-speed data terminals for the Satcom division’s growth.

 

 

Northrop Wins $42 Million Army Deal for Radar Sensors

 

The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command awarded a $42 million contract to Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems of Baltimore to develop a radar sensor for the Extended Range/Multi-Purpose unmanned aerial vehicle program, according to an April 28 Northrop Grumman news release. Northrop Grumman will build 10 STARLite Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indication radar sensors under the terms of the contract.

 

Dave Shrum, vice president of weapons and sensors for Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems’ land forces division, said in the news release that the sensor will be used to develop precise maps of the ground and spot the movement of enemy targets.

 

 

SMDC Highlights Troops’ Need For Advanced Communications

 

As U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) moves forward with the development of a constellation of tiny satellites that can augment communications coverage for troops in the field, one SMDC official at the 6th Responsive Space Conference spoke of the problems that troops can run into when they lack communications links.

 

Maj. Jason Conroy, an SMDC space operations officer who previously commanded a company of troops in the early phases of battle in Iraq, said during an April 30 panel discussion that troops without beyond-line-of-sight communications links could not receive overhead imagery that could have shown enemy forces laying minefields, embedding tanks and other heavy artillery in Iraqi cities, and blocking roads with vehicles.

 

Other difficulties that U.S. troops without such links faced in Iraq included delays in contacting medical forces to tend to wounded soldiers and an inability to receive weather information that would have warned of severe conditions like sandstorms, Conroy said.

 

Troops in Afghanistan who often went in only with out-of-date maps, and without satellite communications links were unable to receive imagery that could have shown how those maps had changed, resulting in cases where vehicles went off road or even into canals, Conroy said.

 

Addressing these issues does not necessarily require continuous communications coverage, Conroy said. Even coverage during parts of convoy routes could prove helpful, he said.

 

Hamel: Dedicate 60-70% of ORS Funds for Small Launchers

 

The Pentagon should consider devoting 60 to 70 percent of its Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) budget to fund an inventory of launch opportunities for small satellites, according to a senior Air Force official.

 

Lt. Gen. Mike Hamel, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, said during an April 29 luncheon speech at the 6th Responsive Space Conference that those launch opportunities could help spur the development of new satellites for the ORS effort that could launch on small rockets or as secondary payloads aboard the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle family.

Hamel, who is planning to retire shortly, said he hoped that if the military were to fund an inventory of potential rides for ORS payloads, that those opportunities would not languish on the ground while awaiting satellites caught up in lengthy development cycles.

However, despite the desire for satellites that can be built on a faster and cheaper basis than most military spacecraft today, the military cannot sacrifice discipline as it develops ORS payloads, Hamel said.