March 21 News Items

North Korea to Close Two Air Routes for Rocket Launch (Source: Xinhua)
North Korea will close two aerial routes through its controlled airspace from April 4 to 8 for its planned communications satellite launch, Japan's transport ministry said. The closure will be from 11 a.m. on Apr. 4 to 4 p.m. on Apr. 8. Some countries suspect this may be a test of a long-range missile capable of reaching North America. Japan has declared it would shoot down any objects flying towards its territory. (3/21)

Chinese Hackers Seek Space Intel From Nelson? (Source: Senator Nelson)
Cyber-invaders thought to be in China have recently hacked into the computer network in U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office, according to the senator's office. Two attacks on the same day this month and another one last month targeted work stations used by three Nelson staffers - a key foreign-policy aide, the deputy legislative director and a former Nelson NASA adviser. But the hackers didn't make off with any classified information, which isn't kept on office computers, a Nelson spokesman said. (3/20)

NASA Supports Multiplayer Gaming Initiative (Source: NASA)
NASA officials are finalizing negotiations for a Space Act Agreement (SAA) with three gaming companies whose joint proposal for a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game has been selected for collaborative development. The three companies - Project Whitecard, Inc., Virtual Heroes, Inc., and Information In Place/WisdomTools - teamed up to create a proposal for "Astronaut: Moon, Mars, and Beyond," a game concept developed for NASA's MMO gaming initiative, which is designed to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and career fields. (3/21)

Russian Defense Cuts Could Affect Space (Source: Aviation Week)
A reduction in defense spending being considered under a revised federal budget plan threatens key Russian launcher and satellite navigation projects, even though space budgets are not expected to be impacted by the new plan. Vladimir Putin has assured government and industry space officials that the revised 2009 draft budget contemplates no reduction in allotments for the development of new space projects. Almost 82 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) is to be allocated for three programs, Putin said, without saying which ones. However, he said the new Angara launcher would be among the priority programs, along with communication, navigation and remote Earth sensing spacecraft development.

However, the plan, to be presented to the Russian parliament next week, envisions cuts in defense outlays that could severely affect some elements of the space program. Among the potential victims of the plan, which would roll back defense spending from 1.3 trillion rubles to 1.19 trillion rubles, are the new Vostochny spaceport to be built in the Amur region of Russia's Far East, a launch pad for Angara being constructed at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia and enhancements to the Glonass navigation satellite system. The defense budget line for spaceports alone could drop by 4.5 billion rubles, industry officials say. (3/19)

Angara (Russia's EELV) On Path to Replace Older Russian Rockets (Source: Aviation Week)
The 1.5-25-metric ton lift Angara family of modular launchers is intended to replace Russia's current launcher line with advanced designs that are relatively inexpensive to operate and use environmentally friendly oxygen-kerosene. The first variant, a light booster for low-Earth-orbit missions, will replace existing ICBM derivatives whose shelf life and suitability for commercial applications is limited. It is scheduled to be introduced in 2011. A heavy-lift version, due to follow towards the end of the same year, will complement and eventually replace the Proton line. (3/19)

New Mexico Spaceport Hires Firm for Archaeological Work (Source: AP)
A Las Cruces firm has been awarded a contract to conduct an archaeological investigation at four sites within the boundaries of the state-owned Spaceport America. Zia Engineering and Environmental Consultants was among several companies competing for the contract. Zia will conduct the necessary archaeological fieldwork at the four sites and prepare preliminary and final reports per state and federal regulations. New Mexico Spaceport Authority executive director Steve Landeene says he's confident that Zia and the authority will work diligently to preserve New Mexico's archaeological history. Architects are currently working on the final design for the spaceport's terminal and hangar facility. (3/21)

Alliant, USA Finish Agreement (Source: Florida Today)
NASA contractors Alliant Techsystems and United Space Alliance this week announced the terms of a contract that affects hundreds of jobs at Kennedy Space Center. The $257 million deal formalizes an agreement announced last fall, which said that about 550 USA workers would continue to work part time on NASA's next-generation moon rocket and a test flight planned for this summer. That's the equivalent of 180 full time employees. The deal extends through 2014, the year before the first manned flights of the Ares I and Orion crew capsule are planned. (3/21)

New Station Wings Will Give Power to Scientists (Source: Florida Today)
NASA's Mission Control Center erupted in applause, and engineers shed tears Friday after astronauts achieved a major milestone in space. Shuttle Discovery's crew unfurled the last of four pairs of golden solar array wings on the International Space Station, completing an eight-year effort to build the outpost's power supply. The accomplishment doubles the power available for science research and supports a planned doubling of station crews to six people in May.

Astronauts have run into problems unfurling solar arrays, which are folded like roadmaps to a thickness of inches and packed into boxes before traveling on the shuttle. Chemical coatings have stuck together, preventing the folds from coming apart. (3/21)

ILS Wrests Intelsat Launch Away from Land Launch (Source: Space News)
The Intelsat IS-16 satellite will be launched aboard an International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket in 2010 under a contract expected to be valued at $75 million, according to industry officials. The deal is the latest example of ILS cutting prices to capture contracts to launch satellites that once would have been considered too small for the heavy-lift Proton vehicle. IS-16 had been scheduled for launch aboard the new Land Launch system — being marketed by Sea Launch Co. of Long Beach, Calif. — under a contract announced in February 2008. Land Launch has since encountered schedule delays that have forced some customers to review their launch options.

An ILS Proton rocket can place satellites weighing more than 6,000 kilograms into geostationary transfer orbit. Until recently, ILS had viewed relatively small spacecraft like Orbital Sciences' Star 2 platform as too small to be considered for Proton launches. But the decline in the Russian ruble has permitted ILS to drop its prices, bringing them within the range of the going rate for launching satellites like IS-16. ILS signed a similar contract, for $80 million, in February with AsiaSat of Hong Kong to launch the AsiaSat 5 satellite later this year. AsiaSat 5 also had been scheduled for Land Launch. (3/21)

Loral Satellite to Carry Additional European Government Payload (Source: Space News)
The European Commission will pay SES of Luxembourg about 18 million euros ($23.28 million) for the first two years to operate an L-band payload to be used for Europe's satellite navigation system, with further payments to be determined after 2013. As expected, the commission selected SES's Loral-built Sirius 5 satellite, to be launched in 2011, as the winner of a competition to host a payload to replace similar hardware on the European Space Agency's Artemis data-relay satellite due to retire the same year. (3/21)

Revenue Up, Profit Down For Hong Kong's Asiasat (Source: Space News)
Satellite-fleet operator AsiaSat of Hong Kong on March 19 reported a 10 percent increase in revenue in 2008 and said its three satellites increased their fill rates to 60 percent from 49 percent a year earlier, mainly from new customers on the AsiaSat 4 satellite. (3/21)

Intelsat's 2008 Revenue Growth Reflects Broader Industry Trend (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Intelsat said revenue in 2008 grew 8 percent, and 6 percent in the last three months of the year, compared to a year earlier, and Intelsat Chief Executive David McGlade said March 18 that "to date we have not seen any material impacts from the recession." Intelsat's results follow the equally upbeat year-end financial statements of competitors SES of Luxembourg, Eutelsat of Paris and Telesat of Canada. These four companies account for around 75 percent of the annual revenue of the global commercial fixed satellite services industry. All reported higher sales, healthy satellite fill rates and continued strong backlog. Intelsat said its backlog as of Dec. 31 was $8.8 billion. (3/21)

Loral Has Right to Nix Sale of Telesat Canada's Telstar Satellites (Source: Space News)
Loral Space and Communications has the right to veto Telesat Canada's possible sale of its Telstar 10 and Telstar 18 satellites because of the likely adverse tax consequences on Loral if the sale occurs before November 2012. Ottawa-based Telesat in late 2008 received a $200 million offer from an undisclosed buyer for the satellites. Telesat is under pressure to decide in the coming months whether to accept it because a decision on whether to replace the aging Telstar 10 spacecraft must be made this year. (3/21)

NASA's Multi-Robot Planetary Exploration Plans (Source:
Multi-robot planetary exploration would be a complex affair, with humans working with a diverse team of mobile robots operating in a variety of control modes. Aurora Flight Sciences, MIT's Manned Vehicle Laboratory (MVL), and MIT Humans and Automation Laboratory (HAL) have just won a NASA Small-Business Technology Transfer Research proposal to develop a software system that performs command and control. "Aurora sees this as an opportunity to expand its multi-vehicle coordination capabilities into the realm of planetary exploration. We view this project as a natural integration of our expertise in space systems and in tools for planning and coordinating autonomous teams,' said Dr. James Paduano, Autonomy Controls and Estimation Group Lead. (3/21)

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