April 25 News Items

Pentagon Readies Pioneering TacSat-3 for Launch from Virginia (Source: Space News)
An experimental U.S. military satellite now undergoing final launch preparations will analyze the composition of ground features while demonstrating a new mode of operations that empowers deployed forces to direct how spacecraft are employed as they pass overhead. The TacSat-3 satellite already has fulfilled part of its mission, which was to provide experience in developing low-cost satellites that can be fielded relatively quickly, according to the Pentagon's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office.

Five years in the making, TacSat-3 is the second in a series of experimental craft intended to demonstrate the ORS concept. The satellite was delivered to NASA's Wallops Island, Va., launch facility March 28 and is on schedule for a May 5 launch aboard a Minotaur 1 rocket, Thomas Cooley, the TacSat-3 program manager at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, said in an interview. (4/25)

Radar Satellite Likely for Next Operational ORS Mission (Source: Space News)
With development work on its first operational satellite well under way, the U.S. Defense Department's Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office has begun planning its next mission, which likely will involve a lightweight imaging radar launched atop one of multiple small launchers to be procured within the next two years.

An ORS team is studying the different user needs for a small, tactical radar imaging capability and whether the technology is mature enough to employ in the operational ORS-2 satellite. The office will move at an aggressive pace over the next five months to get an acquisition strategy in place and approved so it can award contracts as early as October. (4/25)

SES Posts Record-High Profit in Satellite Capacity Leasing (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg on April 24 reported record-high gross-profit margins for its core satellite capacity-leasing business and said that it continues to see no indication of a slowdown in its business. SES, which in terms of revenue is the world's largest commercial satellite operator, said it sees no sign of any reduction in prices it charges for satellite capacity and is continuing full-speed ahead with its capital investment program, in which nine satellites are to be launched in the next three years. (4/25)

Quality Control, Transparency Pushes Europe to ITAR-Free Products (Source: Space News)
The European Space Agency (ESA) is gradually moving toward an ITAR-free posture for sensitive satellite components for reasons having as much to do with quality control as with the larger goal of achieving autonomy in space technologies, ESA and European industry officials said. Even when ITAR-monitored satellite components are approved for export — such as to U.S. allies in Europe — they cannot be examined in ways that permit quality-assurance oversight that ESA is taking on as one of its duties. (4/25)

Classified Satellite Deal Boosts Northrop Revenue (Source: Space News)
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Sector of Redondo Beach, Calif., reported a $95 million, or 4 percent, sales increase for the first quarter of 2009 due in part to a new revenue stream from a classified satellite program the company landed in 2008, according to an April 22 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Total revenue for the sector during the quarter was $2.5 billion. (4/25)

Lawmakers Warn of More GOES-R Program Troubles (Source: Space News)
U.S. lawmakers expressed concern April 23 that the nation's next generation of geostationary-orbiting weather satellites will encounter cost overruns and schedule delays similar to those that have plagued a parallel effort to develop a new series of polar-orbiting meteorological craft. The first of two Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) satellites is scheduled to launch in April 2015 — two-and-a-half years later than originally planned — with the ability to deliver less than half the products proposed during the program's early stages in 2004.

NASA is procuring the GOES-R satellites on behalf of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which will operate the system. Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) said the GOES-R delays and cost increases were starting to resemble problems NOAA and the U.S. Air Force have encountered with the joint National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). Ehlers said he was experiencing a case of "dejà vu" in comparing GOES-R to NPOESS. (4/25)

Commercial Space Station Prototype Completes 10,000 Orbits (Source: Bigelow Aerospace)
Genesis II, the second prototype expandable space habitat launched by Bigelow Aerospace on June 28, 2007, has completed its 10,000th orbit around the Earth. Following the first spacecraft Genesis I, this unmanned vehicle demonstrates the continued development of future space stations technologies. Orbiting 665 days and having traveled close to 270 million miles, Genesis II has been busy transmitting pressure, temperature and radiation data to the mission operations staff in Las Vegas. Bigelow is also conducting long term testing of systems such as lighting, air circulation, and pressure monitoring systems. In addition, the expanded camera configuration has provided over 51,000 images consisting of the inside of the spacecraft, the external micro-meteoroid shielding, and the Earth. (4/25)

Space Port Indiana Gets Raytheon Contract for Range Technology (Source:
Raytheon Network Centric Systems has become the latest major business customer of Space Port Indiana (SPI), a company formed a little more than a year ago to perform operational evaluations on equipment that must work perfectly in space. Raytheon sent a commercial telemetry and GPS platform on a high-altitude balloon last month for testing in near space. Telemetry equipment is used to provide real-time information on the position and attitude of a rocket.

“In future rocket flights, engine thermal measurements, structural stresses and a host of other data will be collected. This helps to better understand methods and applications that will be best suited for a wider spectrum of customer flight requests,” an SPI statement said. “SPI asked Raytheon to be involved in the project as part of an ongoing development of airspace management and utilization efforts. Raytheon has more flights planned at SPI in 2009.”

In addition to balloon lifts, SPI's facility at the Columbus Municipal Airport has been providing customers with telemetry, guidance, tracking, GPS, communications and airspace management tools. It just added a rocket engine test cell designed to accommodate up to 3,000 pounds of thrust, and that capability can be expanded to meet customer needs. SPI will start rocket launches next month to offer an opportunity “to test within the rigorous environment of high(-gravity) loads, vibration and even rapid descent.” The company plans to launch Indiana’s first unmanned aerial vehicle in August and is working toward the first quarter of 2010 to become the country’s third FAA Certified Launch Facility. (4/25)

Panama City's Starlight Signs Agreement with NASA (Source: Panama City News Herald)
Panama City Beach's Starlight Environmental Group has entered into a licensing agreement with NASA and will use one of the space agency's patented technologies for environmental cleanup purposes. The NASA technology is called Emulsified Zero-Valent Iron (EZVI), and was developed initially to help NASA deal with its own environmental cleanup issues related to rocket fuels.

Starlight plans to use the technology locally, with its first application to be at a local gas station. "We're taking it beyond what [NASA's] concept was," said a Starlight official. He said six other U.S. companies have been licensed commercially to use the technology, although he emphasized that Starlight was the only one using it for petroleum and diesel spills. (4/25)

NPOESS Divorce, Pentagon Style (Source: DOD Buzz)
OSD is considering seeking permanent separation from NASA and NOAA on the fiscally challenged NPOESS satellite program. The first recommendations on just how to divide assets and responsibilities are likely next week. NPOESS may be as much as another $500 million over budget, roughly a 6 percent cost increase. It’s not enough to trigger another Nunn-McCurdy, but it’s a healthy increase. The original program costs were $6.8 billion. As of June 2006 they were estimated at $11.1 billion. They had risen to $14 billion as of June 2008. Tack on up to $500 million and you may be close to what the program will now cost taxpayers. The original due date for the first satellite was this year. The first NPOESS satellite is now scheduled for launch in 2014, which some fear may leave a gap in the country’s weather forecasting abilities. (4/25)

Amateur Rocket To Fly From Eastern Shore (Source: WJZ-TV)
Aircrafts have already been warned away, and the Guinness Book of World Records is standing by. On Saturday, the world's largest amateur rocket is set to blast off. Hardware that's not needed has been removed and final tests prepared. The one-tenth scale model of a Saturn-Five rocket is thirty-six feet long and weighs 1600 pounds, making it the largest amateur rocket ever built to fly.

The Maryland-Delaware Rocketry Association is helping to prepare and launch it. With eight solid rocket motors, there's no guarantee the rocket will work. "We like to say it's a rocket, what can go wrong? The obvious answer is everything and anything," said McGilvray. Steve Eves spent $30,000 on his rocket. Lift off is noon Saturday from a farm near the small town of Price in Queen Anne's County. (4/25)

SpaceX Completes Qualification Testing for Draco Thruster (Source: SpaceX)
SpaceX successfully completed a rigorous qualification of its new Draco spacecraft thruster and Draco propulsion tank in Texas. The Draco thruster test series included 42 firings with over 4,600 pulses of varying lengths and was performed in a vacuum test chamber to simulate the space environment. The series resulted in a total firing time of over 50 minutes on a single thruster. Draco thrusters generate approximately 90 pounds of thrust using storable propellants with long on-orbit lifetimes. The use of these propellants provides the option for a crew-carrying Dragon spacecraft to remain berthed at the ISS for up to a year. (4/24)

Sea Launch Lofts Italy's Sicral 1B Satellite (Source: Space News)
A Sea Launch Zenit 3SL rocket successfully placed Italy's Sicral 1B military telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit April 20 in the first of what is likely to be just two launches from the oceangoing Sea Launch platform this year as the Long Beach, Calif.-based company works to resolve rocket-component supply issues. (4/20)

Sea Launch Ordered to Pay HNS $52 Million (Source: Space News)
An arbitration panel has ordered Sea Launch Co. to pay Hughes Network Systems (HNS) about $52 million in a dispute over whether HNS had a right to terminate a launch contract and demand a full refund of its prelaunch payments, according to an April 22 Boeing Co. submission to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (4/25)

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