GeoEye-1 Satellite Faces Three-Month Delay

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  Space News Business

GeoEye-1 Satellite Faces Three-Month Delay

By COLIN CLARK
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 21 January 2008
10:51 am ET





WASHINGTON — The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) expressed disappointment in the news that GeoEye’s high-resolution GeoEye-1 imaging satellite faces another delay, but said other assets at its disposal will be able to cover any possible collection gap.

In a Jan. 14 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Dulles, Va.-based GeoEye said the launch of GeoEye-1 aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket would be delayed another three months, from mid April to late summer. The satellite originally was supposed to launch in early 2007.

GeoEye
said the postponement is a ripple effect of a delay to another Delta 2 launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., for an unspecified U.S. government customer. The company said the GeoEye-1 satellite itself is on track to be shipped to Vandenberg in time for an April launch.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Boeing confirmed that the delayed government launch is an MDA mission.

The NGA, which distributes imagery to the military and intelligence community, helped underwrite the construction of GeoEye-1 and is the anchor customer for the satellite’s data.

In a written statement Jan. 17, NGA spokesman Marshall Hudson said the agency recognizes “that even if delayed the [GeoEye-1] timeline would still be in line with other programs of similar scope and complexity.” The delay will cause “some internal replanning of our geospatial production programs, but the commercial vendors continue to satisfy many of our needs with imagery from their existing satellite systems.”

GeoEye-1 was one of two highly capable commercial imaging satellites financed under the NGA’sNextView program. The other satellite, WorldView-1 owned by DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colo., was launched successfully in September.

According to GeoEye’s SEC filing, the circumstances leading to the delay are in dispute.

GeoEye
said Boeing Launch Services of Huntington Beach, Calif., was under contract to launch the satellite April 16 from Vandenberg. But on Jan. 12, Boeing sent GeoEye a letter saying it would not be able to launch the satellite during the 30-day window that opens up on that date, GeoEye said in its filing. GeoEye said Boeing offered to launch GeoEye-1 during a 30-day window beginning Aug. 22.

GeoEye understands that a U.S. government mission scheduled for launch in February has incurred some delay and that Boeing is planning to use the April launch time frame for that mission. There is typically a two-month lag between launches of Boeing’s Delta 2 rocket at Vandenberg,” the company said in its SEC filing. Another U.S. government satellite is scheduled to launch in June from Vandenberg, GeoEye said.

Boeing “contended in its letter that the GeoEye satellite may not be ready for an April launch,” GeoEye said in its filing. “GeoEye disputes that contention. Testing on the first two of three environmental tests – electromagnetic interference and dynamics – have been completed.”



GeoEye




said it expects to ship the satellite to Vandenberg




by March 11, which




would leave Boeing with sufficient time to carry out the launch in April




.





GeoEye spokesman Mark Brender said Jan. 16 that the company is “currently disputing a change in our launch date” and still plans




to ship the satellite in time for




an April 16 launch. The satellite is being tested at the facilities of its builder, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Gilbert, Ariz.



GeoEye “is exploring all possible remedies and alternatives” to Boeing’s decision to move the launch date, according to the SEC filing.



Susan Wells, a spokeswoman for Boeing Launch Services of Huntington Beach, Calif.,




said via e-mail Jan. 17 that the company “values” its relationships with commercial companies and “will continue to work to ensure the best possible opportunity to launch GeoEye-1.”







She acknowledged in a Jan. 18 phone conversation that the delayed U.S. government launch cited in GeoEye’s filing is a Delta 2 mission for the MDA.



MDA spokesman Rick Lehner said the launch will not deploy a payload. Instead, the purpose is to have the MDA’s missile-tracking Near Field Infrared Experiment satellite, which was launched last April, observe the Delta 2’s flight. Lehner said there are limited opportunities to launch the rocket at a time when it could be observed by the experimental satellite.