News Briefs:

On-Orbit Check-Out of Inmarsat-4 Satellite Going Well

The Inmarsat-4 F1 satellite launched March 11 has successfully completed most of its in-orbit system deployment and checkout, including the 7.5-hour unfolding of its boom assembly and the unfurling of its 9-meter-diameter mesh antenna, Inmarsat Chief Technical Officer Gene Jilg said.

The mesh antenna was built by Northrop Grumman’s Astro Aerospace division in Carpenteria, Calif. Similar Astro Aerospace-built antennas are in operation on satellites owned by Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. of the United Arab Emirates and the MBSAT-1 satellite owned jointly by Mobile Broadcasting Corp. of Japan and SK Telecom of South Korea.

“The satellite is flying beautifully,” Jilg said. “The reflector blooming was really fantastic and the other systems are also operating nominally.”

London-based Inmarsat plans to launch two more Inmarsat 4 spacecraft, built by EADS Astrium of France, to provide high-speed L-band mobile communications links to users equipped with terminals now entering production at several hardware manufacturers.

Thrane and Thrane of Denmark, one of the Inmarsat suppliers, has introduced its computer laptop-sized terminal, called the Explorer 500, and has set an initial retail price ceiling of $3,200. Inmarsat officials said that competition among suppliers and the coming higher-volume production of the units should bring those prices down quickly.

French Defense Ministry Buys Satellite Capacity

A joint bid by EADS Space Services and the London Satellite Exchange (LSE) has won a three-year contract to sell X- and C-band satellite capacity to the French Defense Ministry in what both companies hope will be the start of a broader business.

Eutelsat S.A. of Paris also has won a share of the French Astel contract with a separate bid and will provide wide-beam Ku-band capacity over Europe.

EADS Space Services, whose Paradigm Secure Communications subsidiary is under a long-term contract to provide satellite communications services to the British Defence Ministry, will deliver X-band capacity from Britain’s Skynet 4 satellites. Satellite-capacity broker LSE will provide C- and Ku-band capacity on an as-needed basis from satellites covering regions where French troops are present.

The EADS-LSE contract is valued at between 2 million and 8 million euros per year ($2.6 million-$10.4 million), depending on how much transponder capacity the French government needs.

Eric Beranger, president of EADS Space Services, said the Astel procurement is an example of the evolution in French government thinking on procuring military satellite communications capacity.

Unlike Britain , which enlisted Paradigm to manage its military satellite communications capacity, France has opted for a more conventional satellite procurement. The first of a likely three Syracuse-3 military communications satellites, built by Alcatel Space, is scheduled for launch in late May.

But French defense officials have indicated a willingness to consider the British model, which features long-term government purchases of satellite capacity from a private company that is responsible for supplying and operating the hardware.

“You still have a government-run procurement for satellite communications in France, but the Astel idea is to have a one-stop shop,” Beranger said March 23 during the Satellite 2005 conference in Washington, organized by Access Intelligence. “What they want to do with Astel is to procure from one source their capacity needs.”

Beranger said the EADS Space Services-LSE team won four of the five components of the Astel contract, with Eutelsat picking up the fifth. The contract is for transmissions to fixed and transportable terminals between France and its overseas territories, and to places such as Afghanistan, where French troops are stationed.

Dylan Browne, managing director of LSE, said the Astel contract is a one-year deal that is expected to be renewed at least twice. “We at LSE are able to find C- and Ku-band capacity where it’s hard to find,” Browne said. He said LSE is establishing an office in Toulouse, France — home to much of France’s space industry — as part of the Astel contract and in hopes of winning further business.

EADS Space Services’ Paradgim Secure Communications subsidiary in Stevenage, England, has already started serving NATO with satellite capacity under a 10-year contract between the alliance and the British, French and Italian defense ministries. Paradigm is providing the services on behalf of the British Defence Ministry using the Skynet 4 satellite system, which the company manages.

The planned Skynet 5 system, also managed by Paradigm, France’s Syracuse-3 satellites and Italy’s Sicral system will be used to provide NATO with communications in the SHF and UHF frequency bands.

France and Britain each are expected to provide 45 percent of NATO’s SHF capacity, with Italy responsible for the remaining 10 percent. The NATO SHF total contract value is 380 million euros.

The UHF portion of the contract, provided by Italy’s Sicral spacecraft, is valued at 70 million euros.

A separate contract for EHF capacity, expected to be won by a U.S. Department of Defense proposal — although France is bidding as well — is scheduled to be signed by 2006. It is valued at roughly 190 million euros.

NATO has budgeted an additional 175 million euros for satellite control facilities, satellite Earth stations and modems to permit NATO forces to move from one satellite system to another.

Pentagon To Help With Air Force Procurements

The Pentagon’s acting procurement chief took control of 21 U.S. Air Force acquisition programs — nine of them space related — March 28, saying the service could use some help in the absence of a secretary.

The move came on the first weekday following the retirement of acting Air Force Secretary Peter B. Teets, who also was filling in for the service’s acquisition chief. Those posts were vacated in January by James Roche and Marvin Sambur, respectively.

Teets was serving as undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office before he assumed the additional duties.

Michael Dominguez, Air Force assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, has taken over Teets’ Air Force responsibilities.

Michael Wynne, who has served since May 2003 as acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a March 28 news release that Dominguez could use some “advice … during a time of transition.”

Wynne asked the Air Force for a list of significant program decisions expected over the next six months. While Wynne likely will approve those decisions, day-to-day program oversight likely will be handled by the Air Force, according to a Pentagon official.

Space programs now in Wynne’s portfolio include: the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites; Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle; Global Broadcast Service; Mobile User Objective System; GPS; National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System; Wideband Gapfiller; Transformational Satellite Communications system; and the Space Based Infrared System High missile warning program.

Express-AM2 Satellite Launched by Proton Rocket

A Russian Proton-K rocket successfully launched the Express-AM2 satellite for Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) March 30, RSCC announced.

The satellite — the fourth of five planned Express-AM spacecraft featuring Russian-built platforms with French or Japanese payloads — is expected to be operated by Moscow-based RSCC at 80 degrees east longitude starting in July.

Weighing 3,180 kilograms at launch, the Express-AM2 was built by NPO PM of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, with payload electronics supplied by Alcatel Space of Paris. Alcatel built four of the Express-AM payloads. The fifth payload, on the Express-AM1 satellite already in orbit, was provided by NEC/Toshiba Space Systems of Japan.

Express-AM2 was launched as part of Russia’s government space program and the rocket used the Block-DM upper stage, built by RSC Energia of Moscow, that also powers the second stage of the Sea Launch Zenit vehicle. The Proton variant marketed by International Launch Services uses a newer upper stage built by Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center of Moscow, the prime contractor for the overall vehicle.

Express-AM2 is designed to operate for 12 years. It carries 16 C-band, 12 Ku-band and one L-band transponder and is expected to carry government and private-sector broadcast transmissions and mobile government communications.

The last of the Express-AM series satellites on order, the AM3, is scheduled for launch in June, RSCC said.

DRS To Supply Parts for WISE Satellite Instrument

The Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory of Logan, Utah, awarded DRS Technologies a $5.4 million contract to supply components for the main sensor on NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Experiment, (WISE) satellite.

Under the contract, Parsippanny, N.J.-based DRS will deliver by June advanced infrared sensor modules for the cryogenically cooled telescope. WISE is a roughly $200 million Medium-class Explorer mission designed to create a detailed stellar map of the entire sky .

The mission, slated to launch in 2008, is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory of Pasadena, Calif. The Space Dynamics Laboratory is building the instrument and Boulder, Colo.-based Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. is building the spacecraft.

EADS Astrium’s Eurostar Satellite Line Logs 200 Years On-Orbit Operations

EADS Astrium’s Eurostar satellite line has logged 200 years of in-orbit operations since being introduced in 1990, the company, which has major operations in England, France, Germany and Spain, announced.

Twenty-six Eurostar spacecraft (including the Hotbird 8 above) have been placed into operation in geostationary orbit, and 24 are still in service . The two others were taken out of service after functioning beyond their scheduled operational life, EADS Astrium said.

The company’s current line of products is led by the Eurostar 3000 satellite frame, whose first model — the W3A satellite owned by Eutelsat S.A. of Paris — was placed into orbit in March 2004.

Three other Eurostar 3000 satellites have since been successfully launched, and seven more are under construction.

Three More Automakers Sign Deals With Sirius

Sirius Satellite Radio will be offered as a factory-installed option on Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover and Jaguar car models in the coming months, Sirius of New York announced March 23.

Mercedes-Benz will offer the service on its 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class sport utility vehicle beginning in April. Mercedes-Benz will add Sirius as an option on six more model-year 2006 vehicles later this year and on four model-year 2007 vehicles that debut in 2006 . The option, which includes six months of service, will have a suggested retail price of $500.

Jaguar plans to add Sirius to four models beginning in May, but pricing has not been determined.

Land Rover will include Sirius on its 2006 Range Rover and Range Rover Sport vehicles starting in July. The units will feature a touch-screen interface, and the price has not been set.

SES Americom’s AMC-12 Finishes On-Orbit Tests

SES Americom’s AMC-12 communications satellite has completed in-orbit tests and should be ready to begin commercial service by April 8, the company announced.

The satellite, launched Feb. 3, is being moved to its operating orbital location at 37.5 degrees west longitude. AMC-12, built by Alcatel Space of Paris, carries 72 C-band transponders and will provide service to the Americas , Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Americom sister company SES Astra, which will operate 33 transponders on AMC-12 under the name Astra 4A, signed up its first customer for the satellite, the company announced March 23. SkyVision , headquartered in Hertfordshire, England, has leased two of the transponders to provide broadband Internet services in Africa.

SES Americom, based in Princeton, N.J., and SES Astra of Luxembourg are subsidiaries of SES Global.

Express-3A Capacity To Provide U.S.-Cuba Links

NewCom International Inc. has leased capacity aboard Russia’s Express-3A satellite to provide communications between the United States and Cuba, the Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications announced March 24.

Service will be provided via NewCom’s teleport in Miami and the Caribe ground station operated by Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, Cuba’s national telecommunications provider .

Express-3A, operated by Intersputnik of Moscow, carries 12 C-band and five Ku-band transponders and provides coverage over the eastern United States, Africa and the Middle East.

Last Shuttle Radar Maps Delivered by Boeing Co.

Boeing Co. has delivered the final set of topographic maps developed from data collected during a February 2000 space shuttle mission to the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency , Boeing announced March 23.

Boeing produced more than 91,000 cells of digital terrain elevation maps using data from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission flown by Space Shuttle Endeavour.

The mission used a pair of antennas to collect radar data of Earth’s surface from 56 degrees south to 60 degrees north of the equator, covering about 80 percent of Earth’s land mass.

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis produced the terrain data under the $23 million Global Geospatial Intelligence con tract.

Four Inventions Headed to Space Tech Hall of Fame

Four inventions based on technology developed for use in space will be inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame, the Space Foundation announced March 24.

The Space Technology Hall of Fame, established in 1988 by the Space Foundation and NASA, recognizes space technology that has been adapted for commercial applications .

The 2005 inductees are:

– The InnerVue Diagnostic Scope System, which uses image-enhancement technology and a disposable endoscope — a small, flexible tube with a light and a camera lens used to examine the inside of the digestive tract — to allow doctors to perform less invasive medical diagnoses. The system was developed by Arthrotek Inc. of Warsaw, Ind.

– Smart fabric technology developed by Outlast Technologies Inc. of Boulder, Colo. The fabric, derived from materials developed to protect astronauts from extreme temperature fluctuations, contains so-called Thermocules that absorb, store and release heat. It is used in a wide range of products.

– NanoCeram Superfilters, which are used to filter pathogens from water supplies. The technology, developed under a cooperative effort between NASA and several private companies, was first used on water filtration systems for spacecraft.

Portable Hyperspectral Imaging Systems developed by the Institute for Technology Development, located at Stennis Space Center, Miss., and NASA. The development of smaller sensors has resulted in new applications in the biomedical, forensics, counter terrorism, food safety and Earth imaging markets.

The induction ceremony will be held April 7 during the 21st National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Virginia Firm Lands DISA Satellite Services Award

Artel Inc. of Chantilly, Va., received a contract from the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to provide satellite services to U.S. Central Command to support operations in Iraq, Artel announced March 22.

The work was awarded under the Defense Information Systems Network Satellite Transmission Services-Global program . Artel is one of three companies that act as commercial satellite services brokers to the Pentagon under that program.

Artel will provide the communications links to Central Command using the Intelsat IS-706 satellite. The company also will provide management and support services from its network operations center in Chantilly .

The contract, valued at $3.7 million for the first year, could be worth up to $12.5 million if three one-year options are exercised, Artel said.

27 Proposals Selected for NASA Research Funding

NASA will fund 27 research proposals under the second phase of a program intended to stimulate technology development by small businesses, the agency announced March 29.

The efforts will be funded for two years at up to $600,000 apiece under the Small Business Technology Transfer program, which is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The program, which requires that small businesses collaborate with federally funded research institutions, also is designed to find commercial applications for the technical innovations it produces.

The 27 phase 2 efforts were selected from among 41 that received funding under the first phase of the program.

Comments: Warren Ferster,