News Briefs

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  Space News Business

News Briefs

By Compiled by Warren Ferster

posted: 25 April 2005
11:58 am ET


Orbital Sciences, SpaceX|Win Launcher Info Work

The U.S. Air Force has awarded initial contracts to Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of El Segundo, Calif., to assemble user guides for their proposed quick-turnaround small-satellite launchers as part of the Responsive Small Spacelift Launch Vehicles program, the Air Force announced.

The potential value of the indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts through April 2010 is $100 million. For now, Orbital is receiving $60,000 to produce manuals for its proposed Raptor 1 and Raptor 2 air-launched rockets, still in the design phase. SpaceX will receive $30,000 for manuals for its Falcon 1 vehicle, scheduled to make its first launch this year.

New Software Gives UAVs Much Greater Autonomy

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis has successfully flight-tested software that gives the ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) a high degree of autonomy in locating, identifying and tracking targets, as well as directing fire against them, the company reported April 20.

The tests took place at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range, N.M., using a pair of ScanEagle drones, Boeing said. ScanEagle UAVs, designed by Boeing and the Insitu Group Inc. of Bingen, Wash., have flown more than 2,000 hours in Iraq since last summer, but the pair used in the live-fire tests were outfitted with software that gave them unprecedented autonomy, said Chick Ramey, a spokesman for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

The new software, developed under a contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, could help significantly reduce the manpower requirements associated with operating ScanEagle craft and other UAVs , Ramey said. A UAV typically requires hands-on attention, from charting its course during flight to making sure it stays in its assigned position until its job is done, according to the Boeing news release.

Boeing Begins Delivering USAF Cockpit Terminals

 

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis has begun delivering satel�lite communications hardware that will enable U.S. military pilots to receive text messages in their cockpits, compa�ny spokeswoman Michelle Roby said.

The Combat Track 2 systems are being installed in U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft as well as bombers , Roby said. The systems are designed to work with UHF satellites .

Germany Falls Behind in National Space Spending

Space spending by the German government “is the aerospace sector’s biggest headache,” according to Rainer Hertrich, outgoing president of the German Aerospace Industries Association, BDLI, and outgoing co-chief executive of EADS, Europe’s biggest aerospace company.

In a review summarizing year 2004 activity, BDLI said Germany has fallen behind Italy to third place in Europe — behind longtime leader France — in the amount of money dedicated to national space efforts, as opposed to those conducted within the European Space Agency (ESA). Germany remains ESA’s second-largest contributor, with financing totaling slightly more than 500 million euros ($645 million) in 2004.

But Germany spent just 145 million euros on its national space efforts in 2004, compared to Italy’s 170 million euros and France’s 674 million euros, BDLI said.

“Germany has begun attaching less importance to space travel than other European nations,” Hertrich said. BDLI figures show that space sector employment in Germany declined by 12 percent in 2004.

BDLI said with the exception of the Galileo satellite navigation project, “which from the German angle looks set to become a major success. … Germany’s future as a whole regarding the space industry looks precarious.”

France, Israel to Build Earth Observing Craft

The French and Israeli space agencies have agreed to jointly develop a small satel�lite to monitor global vegetation coverage and water quality, the agencies announced.

The Venus satellite, weighing less than 200 kilograms and scheduled for launch in 2008 , has an estimated price tag of about $53 million, not including the cost of an as-yet-undetermined launch vehicle and three years of satellite operations and data handling. Israel is paying about 70 percent of the total, with the French space agency, CNES, paying 30 percent.

Israel will provide the satellite platform, to feature an ion-electric propulsion system, and will handle the satellite’s integration. CNES will finance the main imaging camera, expected to have a ground resolution of 5.3 meters in black-and-white mode and also to take images in 12 spectral bands.

To meet the planned launch date, CNES will contract with El-Op Electro-Optics Industries Ltd. of Rehovot, Israel, for the satellite’s main imaging camera.

Zvi Kaplan, director general of the Israel Space Agency, said Venus will be managed as a bilateral cooperative effort with both France and Israel equally sharing access to the satellite. Both nations will build ground-reception stations for the program.

Roskosmos, Arianespace|Ink Soyuz Launcher Deal

The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roskosmos, and the Arianespace commer�cial-launch consortium signed a contract for the supply of Soyuz rockets to be launched from Europe’s French Guiana facility starting in 2008.

The two organizations announced April 11 that under the terms of their contract, Arianespace will pay Roskosmos 121 million euros ($156.2 million) to modify the Soyuz so it can be launched from Europe’s equatorial Guiana Space Center, where it will complement the launch services provided by the heavy-lift Ariane 5 vehicle, which is made in Western Europe.

The European Investment Bank is providing Arianespace with financing in the form of a low-interest loan that has been guaranteed by the French government. Evry, France-based Arianespace, as a commercial operator, is expected to repay the loan from Soyuz launch revenues over 10 years.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has agreed to pay the 223 million euros needed to build the Soyuz launch pad in Kourou. The French government is financing nearly 60 percent of the ESA investment.

The Roskosmos-Arianespace contract calls for Arianespace to make payments directly to the Russian agency, which will then be responsible for paying the Russian companies that will modify the current Soyuz and deliver the vehicle for shipment to the South American space port.

The Samara Space Center of Samara, Russia, and NPO Lavochkin of Khimki, Russia, are prime contractors for the Soyuz 2-1b vehicle and its Fregat upper stage, respectively.

The contract follows the signing March 21 of agreements between Arianespace, the French government, ESA and the European Investment Bank authorizing the loan package and the use of French government land for the Soyuz 2-1b launch pad.

The modified Soyuz will be able to launch about 3,000 kilograms of satellite payload into geostationary transfer orbit from the French Guiana site.

PanAmSat Buys Another Satellite From Orbital

PanAmSat Corp. has ordered a fourth small geostationary communications satel�lite from Orbital Sciences Corp., Orbital Sciences announced April 18.

The PAS-11 satellite, based on Orbital Sciences’ Star 2 platform, will carry 18 Ku-band and 16 C-band transponders to provide fixed telecommunications and direct-to-home television services from an orbital slot over the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft is scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2007.

Orbital Sciences, based in Dulles, Va., did not release financial details of the contract, which also includes options for two more spacecraft.

This i s the fourth Star 2 satellite PanAmSat of Wilton, Conn., has purchased from Orbital Sciences since 2000. Galaxy 12 was launched in 2003, while Galaxy 14 and 15 are scheduled for launch later this year.

Lawmaker Vows to Restore NASA Aeronautics Funding

The chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee responsible for NASA’s budget said April 20 that he opposes a White House plan to cut spending on aeronautics research next year at the U.S. space agency.

NASA’s 2006 budget request includes $852 million for aeronautics, $54 million less than this year’s level . In 2007, according to White House projections, aeronautics spending would drop another $178 million, to $728 million, before leveling off.

U.S. lawmakers from California, Ohio and Virginia — three states with NASA field centers heavily involved in aeronautics research – have vowed to fight the cuts.

Accordingly, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the House Appropriations science, state, justice and commerce subcommittee, said during the hearing that he would push for holding aeronautics spending steady next year at $906 million, the amount Congress ultimately approved for 2005.

Wolf also said he would work with other congressional committees on legislative language requiring the Bush administration to come up with a national policy for aeronautics. The United States should not cut aeronautics spending, close down test facilities and lay off engineers and other specialists until it has a clearer idea of where it is heading in aeronautics, he said.

Wolf also said he was unhappy with cuts to NASA’s Earth science program, in particular the decision to cancel the Glory climate-monitoring satellite mission that had been slated for a 2007 launch. NASA has said it will continue to develop Glory’s main instrument, a greenhouse gas sensor, while looking for ways to put it in orbit short of launching a dedicated satellite.

“If these flights of opportunity don’t materialize, then we will have wasted over $50 million building the instruments,” Wolf said.

The White House is asking for $16.4 billion for NASA for 2006, an increase of 2.4 percent.

Entech Inc. to Develop|Solar Array Technology

Entech Inc. of Keller, Texas, nabbed three NASA contracts to develop solar power array technology for use in explor�ing the Moon and Mars, Entech an�nounced April 18.

Under the first contract, valued at $600,000 over a period of 18 months, Entech will develop a special version of its solar array technology, dubbed Stretched Lens Array, that will produce electricity from infrared light as well as sunlight. The technology will be deployed in locations where sunlight is rare or not available, such as at the Moon’s polar regions.

Under a separate $500,000 contract, Entech will support the Reconfigurable High-Energy Solar Clipper program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The program is intended to develop a new spacecraft for ferrying cargo from low Earth orbit to lunar orbit using solar-powered electric thrusters .

Under Phase 1 of the solar-electric propulsion award, Entech will develop advanced lens materials and high-voltage solar cell circuits. If NASA exercises its option for Phase 2 development, additional work on the program could be worth $2.1 million, Entech said.

Under the third award, valued at $1.8 million over 12 months, Entech’s solar array technology will be applied to a large-area platform dubbed the SquareRigger. The contract contains an option for additional work potentially worth another $12.5 million, Entech said.

The three development efforts are funded by NASA’S Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

Spacenet VSATs to Link|Fast Food Restaurants

Spacenet Inc. received a contract to provide broadband connectivity via satellite to more than 200 Arby’s fast-food restaurants across the United States, Spacenet announced April 18.

Spacenet, based in McLean, Va., will set up a network based on its Connextar very small aperture terminal (VSAT) system for 237 Arby’s restaurants operated by San Diego-based Sybra Inc., the second largest Arby’s franchiser in the United States. The network will handle credit card authorizations, customer surveys and provide a corporate intranet connection linking each restaurant with Arby’s corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Spacenet already has installed and maintains a similar network for 825 stores for RTM Restaurant Group of Atlanta, the largest Arby’s franchiser in the United States.

Details of the contract were not released.

Italian Space Station Logistics Module Sealed in Preparation for Shuttle Flight

Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., have closed the hatch on the Italian-built Multi-Purpose Logistics Module for the international space station (ISS) in preparation for the space shuttle return-to-flight mission, NASA announced April 15.

The module, built by the Italian Space Agency and dubbed Raffaello, will carry 12 racks of cargo, including food, spare parts and research equipment, to the space station.

The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled for launch during a window that runs from May 15 through June 3.

DRS Technologies Buys Codem Systems Inc.

DRS Technologies has acquired space and defense electronics manufacturer Codem Systems Inc., DRS announced April 18.

Codem of Merrimack, N.H., produces high-frequency signals-intelligence systems, antenna controller systems and monitoring software used in applications such as satellite communications, remote sensing and tracking, telemetry, command and control.

“Codem enhances DRS’s position in intelligence and surveillance systems while supporting greater access to emerging market opportunities, such as those related to homeland defense,” Mark Newman, chairman, president and chief executive officer of DRS, said in a statement.

DRS, based in Parsippany, N.J., paid $29 million in stock for Codem and could pay more based on certain financial targets that Codem must achieve. Codem is expected to generate about $25 million in annual revenue, DRS said.

Iridium Satellite LLC Enjoys Strong First-Quarter Growth

Revenue at Iridium Satellite LLC jumped 26 percent in the 2005 first quarter as the number of subscribers for the satellite telephone service increased 19 percent over the same period in 2004, Iridium announced April 14.

“Iridium’s revenue and subscriber growth, and strong first-quarter profits reflect the results of a vertical market strategy penetrating key markets such as maritime, defense [and] government services, and aviation,” Carmen Lloyd, Iridium’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “With continuing success of this strategy, we foresee continued profitability.”

With the Iridium fleet expected to remain viable through 2014, the company does not foresee any major capital expenditures for the next five years, Lloyd said.

Bethesda, Md.-based Iridium Satellite, a privately held firm created in the wake of the bankruptcy of the original Iridium, does not report its complete financial information.

Vexcel Spots Changes in Commercial Radar Data

Vexcel Corp. of Boulder, Colo., has developed a satellite imagery processing system that can detect changes in commercial synthetic aperture radar data, Vexcel announced April 15.

The product, dubbed CCDMap, automatically ingests and process raw data to create satellite imagery products. The system can then compare the data with pre�viously developed products to identify changes to the landscape such as vehicle tracks, harvesting of crops and soil excavation, that may not be visible to the naked eye.

The system works with civilian and commercial synthetic aperture radar systems such as Envisat, ERS-1, ERS-2 and Radarsat-1, Vexcel said.

USRA To Establish Space Nuclear Power Center

The Universities Space Research Association (USRA) will establish a facility dedicated to research on uses of nuclear power in space, the USRA announced March 30.

The USRA’s Center for Space Nuclear Research will be established in association with the Idaho National Laboratory and will be located in Idaho Falls, Idaho, adjacent to the laboratory.

The center will be used by university scientists doing research and develop�ment on advanced space nuclear systems, including space power and propulsion systems, and radioisotope power generators, the USRA said.

The USRA, headquartered in Columbia, Md., is part of a team led by the Battelle Energy Alliance of Columbus, Ohio, that received a 10-year, $4.8 billion contract from the U.S. Department of Energy in November to manage the Idaho National Laboratory.

EMS Wins Contract
To Supply U.S. Navy Airborne Terminals

EMS Technologies Inc. will supply broadband satellite communications ter�minals for a U.S. Navy aircraft program under a contract potentially worth $1.5 million, the company announced April 18.

EMS Technologies’ Satcom division of Ottawa will supply its eNfusion Broadband HSD-400 high-speed data terminal for the Navy’s P-8A multi mission maritime aircraft program under a subcontract from Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis .

Boeing won a contract in June to replaced the Navy’s existing P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft with an aircraft based on Boeing’s 737 jetliner. The Navy plans to buy 108 of the P-8As.

EMS will deliver the terminals from mid-2005 through 2009 as part of the System Development and Demonstration phase of the contract.

Lockheed’s DMSP Contract Modified to Reflect Delay

The U.S. Air Force has modified a contract with Lockheed Martin to cover a de�lay in the launch of a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) weather spacecraft, the Air Force announced April 15.

Th e Air Force will give Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., the prime contractor on the program, $20.1 million to adjust the launch schedule for DMSP satellite F-19. The mission has been delayed from May 2009 to October 2009, the Air Force said.

The next satellite in the DMSP series, dubbed F-17, is scheduled for a Decem�ber launch aboard a Boeing Delta 4 rocket.

The DMSP satellites are scheduled to be replaced near the end of the decade by the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, a joint effort of the Air Force and U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Microspace To Deliver Content to Health Clubs

Satellite solutions provider Microspace Communications Corp. of Raleigh, N.C., won a contract to distribute entertainment and specialized advertising to health clubs across the United States, Microspace announced April 18.

Under the contract from Pittsburgh-based ClubCom, Microspace will use its Velocity satellite distribution network to deliver the programming content to more than 600 health clubs.

Details of the contract were not re�leased.

ASPRS Foundation To Give Scholarships and Grants

The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) has created a new foundation to raise and distribute grants and scholarships, ASPRS announced April 13.

The ASPRS Foundation Inc. is a descendent of the American Society of Photogrammetry Foundation, which was formed in 1979 and later became the International Geographic Information Foundation.

The ASPRS Foundation’s board of trustees will be responsible for funding , managing and approving research grants and scholarship awards. James Plasker, ex�ecutive director of ASPRS, will head the foundation, with Jesse Winch, ASPRS awards program manager, serving as the assistant executive director.

The board of trustees also will include three past presidents of ASPRS: Thomas Lillesand will serve as president; Roger Crystal as vice president and secretary; and Mike Renslow as treasurer.

ASPRS has set aside $30,000 from its reserve fund to match individual ASPRS member and regional contributions to the foundation.