ESA‘s Cluster Mission is Extended Through 2009

The European Space Agency (ESA) has extended the Cluster scientific mission through 2009 to perform additional measurements, ESA announced Feb. 18.

The four identical Cluster satellites (above) were launched in pairs in July and August 2000 on a mission to study solar wind and its interaction with the protective magnetic shield that surrounds Earth. The Cluster satellites fly in formation between 200 kilometers and 19,000 kilometers from each other, and perform their studies in conjunction with ESA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft.

The Cluster mission, originally funded for two years, currently is operating under a three-year extension. During the new four-year extension, the distance between the spacecraft in the formation will be altered to allow Cluster to perform the first measurements of space plasmas on small and large scales simultaneously, and study new regions of space previously unexplored by the mission . The latest extension is funded at 30 million euros ($39.8 million).



RT Logic Ships Parts for NPOESS Control System

RT Logic of Colorado Springs, Colo., has delivered components for the ground system that will be used to control the next generation of U.S. polar-orbiting weather satellites, the company announced Feb. 14.

RT Logic, a subsidiary of Integral Systems Inc. of Lanham, Md., is providing the command, control and communication segment for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is being jointly developed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Air Force.

The RT Logic-supplied systems will manage the overall mission, including operations and data delivery. RT Logic developed six payload pre-processor systems and five telemetry and command modems, which will be installed at ground stations in Svalbard, Norway.

Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems unit in Aurora, Colo., is providing the NPOESS ground system for overall prime contractor Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif.

The first spacecraft is scheduled for launch before the end of 2009.

NASA and Navy to Share Info on Safety Procedures

NASA and the U.S. Navy have signed an agreement to share information on their safety polices and procedures, NASA announced Feb. 16.

Under the memorandum of agreement between NASA’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance and the Naval Sea Systems Command, personnel from the two organizations will participate in audits of management programs and projects performed by each other.

Under previous agreements, NASA personnel have observed an audit of a submarine safety program, while Navy personnel participated in a space shuttle return to flight safety and mission assurance audit.

EMS to Supply System for Russian Telecom Network

EMS Technologies Inc. won a contract to provide a broadband satellite network subsystem to Russia’s Morsviazsputnik organization, EMS announced Feb. 16.

EMS’s Satellite Networks division, based in Montreal, will deliver a DVB-RCS system to be installed in Russia. Such systems allow satellite operators to offer broadband services such as Internet access, video conferencing and wireless networking to customers via satellite. The EMS system can provide download speeds of up to 45 megabits per second and upload speeds of up to 4 megabits per second. Terms of the contract were not released by EMS.

Army Extends Northrop’s Work on Weather System

Northrop Grumman received a one-year follow-on contract from the U.S. Army to continue development of a system that provides weather information to troops in the field , the company announced Feb. 15.

Under the extension, Northrop Grumman’s Information Technology Sector of McLean, Va., will integrate off-the-shelf software into the Integrated Meteorological System, which includes self-contained terminals that can be vehicle-mounted or carried by soldiers. The new software will improve the system’s forecasting capabilities .

Northrop Grumman also will develop new interfaces to support additional sensor input and satellite data communications as well as software to allow the units to share information via the Army’s Internet-style network.

Northrop Grumman has been the system integrator for the Integrated Meteorological System since 1992. The latest follow-on contract, worth $5.9 million for the first year of work, includes five option years.

Odin Scientific Mission Extended for Fifth Year

The Odin international science mission has been extended for a fifth year, Swedish Space Corp., which built the satellite platform, announced Feb. 15.

Odin, launched into a 600-kilometer orbit in February 2001, carries instruments developed by Canada, Finland and France to study the upper atmosphere as well as survey interstellar space for water and oxygen. The spacecraft was designed to operate for two years and spends half of its time pointed toward Earth and half pointed toward space.

The extension will allow Odin to continue its observations until April 2006, Swedish Space Corp. of Kiruna, Sweden, said.

Tut to Supply Equipment for Space Shuttle Data System

United Space Alliance awarded a contract to Tut Systems Inc. for a broadband network that will supply information on NASA’s space shuttle, Tut Systems announced Feb. 22.

Tut Systems, located in Lake Oswego, Ore., will deliver broadband network equipment that will be integrated into a ground measurement system at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The hardware will be installed on three mobile launcher platforms and provide data to the launch control center. Tut Systems spokesman Jeff Schline declined to discuss any aspects of the contract.

Houston-based United Space Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., maintains and operates the space shuttle orbiters for NASA.

Apache Corp. Enters Into DigitalGlobe Partnership

Oil and gas exploration company Apache Corp. has joined DigitalGlobe’s Enterprise Partner Program, DigitalGlobe announced Feb. 22.

The Enterprise Partner program, launched in September 2004, offers participants easier access to geospatial information and products developed by Longmont, Colo.,-based DigitalGlobe. Partners pay an annual fee for access to DigitalGlobe’s satellite imagery archive as well as future imagery acquisitions.

Apache, headquartered in Houston, also has operations in Canada, the United Kingdom, the North Sea, Egypt and western Australia.

NOAA Issues Contract for Remote Sensing Survey

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded a contract to Global Marketing Insights Inc. to perform market research in remote sensing technology, the company announced Feb. 22.

Under the Survey and Analysis of the Remote Sensing Market in Aerial and Spaceborne applications contract, Cleveland-based Global Marketing will study the political, economic and technical trends that will influence the global remote market over the next decade. The study is expected to be completed by the end of 2005, the company said.

Raymarine Introducing DTH Receiver for Boats

Raymarine of Nashua, N.H., plans to offer a new satellite television system for boaters, the company announced Feb. 17.

The Raymarine 45 Satellite TV System, which is scheduled to be available in North America this spring and in Europe this summer, is compatible with all direct-to-home (DTH) satellite television services, Raymarine said.

The antenna is housed in a 45-centimeter-tall dome, and the company plans to unveil a 60-centimeter product by the end of 2005, which could pick up weaker signals.

SES Americom Network |To Utilize ViaSat Equipment

ViaSat Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif., will supply a two-way broadband satellite networking system to SES Americom, ViaSat announced Feb. 15.

ViaSat will provide its Surfbeam Ku-band satellite terminals to allow SES Americom of Princeton, N.J., to expand its networking services.

The multiyear deal includes a gateway, terminals and support services through ViaSat’s Network Operations Center. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Northrop Grumman UAV Manufacturing Facility To Produce Global Hawk Components

Northrop Grumman Corp. is expanding the work planned for its unmanned systems facility in Jackson County, Miss., to include the manufacturing of components for the U.S. Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) , according to a company news release issued on Feb. 18.

The facility, initially designed to manufacture Fire Scout unmanned helicopters (above) for the U.S. Army and Navy, will more than double in size to handle the Global Hawk work.

The Fire Scout UAV can provide surveillance, reconnaissance, communications relay and targeting capabilities . The Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft that provides high-resolution imagery to military commanders.

Manufacturing operations of the components for both vehicles are expected to begin in January 2006. Final assembly and testing of Global Hawk UAVs will continue at the Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Palmdale, Calif.

Budget Hit List Includes Space, Missile Defense

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) tagged some of the Pentagon’s biggest missile defense and space programs as ripe for termination in a list of options for members of Congress looking to reduce the federal budget.

Those options include halting development of the U.S. national missile defense system after fielding the initial test bed in Alaska and California. The planned follow-on activities include more radar sensors and interceptors for use with those two sites as well as a third interceptor base, according to the report.

Canceling the follow-on work on the Ground Based Midcourse Defense system would enable the Pentagon to iron out the kinks in the existing system and maintain a limited capability to defend against a missile launched from North Korea, according to the CBO report.

This could save $13 billion through 2015, according to the report, dubbed “Budget Options” and released in February .

Another option is terminating the Airborne Laser, which features a modified Boeing 747 aircraft that would use a directed energy beam to shoot down ballistic missiles in their boost phase. Eliminating that program could save $2 billion through 2009, the CBO said.

The report noted that the laser system thus far has not generated sufficient power to disable ballistic missiles at long ranges, and the aircraft could be vulnerable to enemy fire if forced to operate closer to missile-launching sites. Ground- or sea-based interceptors might be able to perform the same mission at a lower cost and with a less risky development path, according to the report.

Another option involves canceling the U.S. Air Force’s Space Radar satellite development effort . The Air Force currently plans to spend $2.2 billion on the development of those satellites from 2006 through 2009, according to Air Force budget documents .

The Space Radar program is facing technical challenges with its power systems, and airborne platforms may provide a better vantage point for surveillance of the ground, according to the report.

Pentagon Awards Will Aid University Research

The U.S. Defense Department intends to make $43.9 million worth of awards to 108 academic institutions for the purchase of research instrumentation, according to a Feb. 18 Pentagon press release.

There will be 212 awards under the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), with award values ranging from $60,000 to $990,000 for an average of $207,000. The DURIP program is intended to support purchases of equipment that enhance a university’s defense-related research capabilities.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Office, Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The awards are intended to support research capabilities in areas such as information technology, propulsion, remote sensing instrumentation and advanced materials.

Sirius Satellite Radio Lures NASCAR Away from Rival XM

Sirius Satellite Radio signed a five-year broadcasting and marketing agreement with the U.S. National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), snatching the popular sport from rival XM Satellite Radio, Sirius announced Feb. 22.

New York-based Sirius will begin broadcasting races and other NASCAR events in 2007 under the $107.5 million deal. The two organizations will develop a marketing campaign, and Sirius will be allowed to sell advertising time on the NASCAR channel it will create.

The deal will take effect when NASCAR’s current agreement with XM of Washington, signed in January 2000, expires at the end of the 2006 season.

XM and Sirius have engaged in a content duel as they seek to secure exclusive programming deals in order to distinguish their respective satellite radio offerings.

Previous agreements mainly have been revenue-sharing deals with small fixed payments, but the companies have begun to pay cash to land established stars and programming . Sirius will pay $500 million to broadcast radio personality Howard Stern and gave the National Football League $188 million in cash and $32 million in stock for broadcast rights. XM will pay $650 million to broadcast Major League Baseball for the next 11 years.

The shift by NASCAR could signal another rise in programming costs for both companies as they begin to renew existing arrangements , according to Alden Mahabir, an analyst with Vintage Research of New York .

“We cannot help but wonder if undue competition will ultimately spell problems for both XM and Sirius,” Mahabir said in a written note to investors. “With respect to NASCAR specifically, we believe Sirius is paying significantly more than XM, but do not know XM’s cost specifics.”

While the NASCAR shift could have an impact on subscriber expectations for the two companies, Mahabir said it was too early to alter forecasts.

U.S. Renews Radarsat’s Landsat Products Deal

The U.S. Department of Agriculture exercised its final option on a contract with Radarsat International for crop-monitoring products based on data collected by the U.S. government’s Landsat 7 satellite, the company announced Feb. 23.

Radarsat International of Richmond, British Columbia, obtains Landsat 7 imagery from the U.S. Geological Survey, which operates the satellite and is responsible for distributing and storing the data that it collects.

Brad Dorn, remote sensing coordinator for the Crop Assessment Division within the Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service, said Congress mandated that funding for agency’s Landsat 7 data-purchasing program be funneled through a commercial company, and Radarsat submitted the lowest bid.

The value of the one-year option is $750,000, bringing the total value of the five-year deal to $3.8 million.