May 9 News Items

RRSat Hurt By Economic Woes (Source: Space News)
Satellite services provider RRSat Global Communications, in what may be an early sign that the economic slowdown will not spare satellite- fleet operators, reported lower-than-expected revenue for the three months ending March 31 and said it had cancelled several customer contracts for non-payment. (5/9)

ProtoStar in Dire Financial Straits as Launch of Second Satellite Nears (Source: Space News)
Start-up satellite operator ProtoStar Ltd. is at risk of being declared in default on loans that financed the company's ProtoStar-1 satellite, which after nearly a year in orbit is generating virtually no revenue. This comes as the company prepares for the May 16 launch of ProtoStar-2, which confronts broadcast frequency-coordination challenges similar to those faced by ProtoStar-1. One official said Bermuda-headquartered, San Francisco-based ProtoStar had in fact defaulted on loan payments due in recent weeks, and that the company was struggling to persuade its creditors for more time to stave off a general default on the $200 million bond payment. (5/9)

Hughes Satellite Revenue Up (Source: Space News)
Satellite broadband provider Hughes Communications on May 7 said its business continues to shrug off the recession in the United States and that consumer- broadband market growth shows no signs of letting up. New customer adds, monthly revenue per customer and monthly customer defections all continued in the right direction in the three months ending March 31, Hughes said. (5/9)

ULA Developing Three Options for Relieving Atlas 5 Launch Logjams (Source: Space News)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) is studying options for alleviating launch bottlenecks at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport that include building additional Atlas 5 infrastructure to allow for concurrent processing of two vehicles. This would entail building a second vertical integration facility and mobile launch platform. Other options being reviewed are increasing launch staffing levels and moving some launches scheduled for the East Coast over to ULA's West Coast launch facility. The idea is to relieve logjams that occur periodically at the Cape, but not necessarily to increase the number of launches per year, Michael Gass said.

"On an average basis the launch manifest is fine, but on a per customer basis, if you're a customer and there's a conflict on the date you want, then it's crowded," he said. While the existing infrastructure in Florida supports the required number of Air Force Atlas 5 missions, NASA and other customers have had to jockey for slots on a full Atlas 5 manifest that is booked well into 2012. Part of the problem is tardy payloads, which create congestion with on-schedule payloads when they finally arrive at the launch facility. Adding a second Atlas 5 vertical integration facility and mobile launch platform is the most expensive of the three alternatives ULA is reviewing, with preliminary estimates ranging from $200 million and $400 million.

ULA proposes to make that investment, most likely recouping its costs through higher launch prices. "From an Air Force perspective, they don't necessarily need this," Gass said. "This is really all the other customers because right now the Air Force is paying for our basic capability, and we're allowed to sell the additional capability on an available basis. Right now they are not even using all the capacity they have." ULA's infrastructure at Cape Canaveral can support 12 Atlas 5 launches per year, well above the EELV program requirement. Problems have cropped up, however, when missions have slipped, pushing a delayed launch toward another mission's launch window.

ULA Could Move Florida Launches to California (Source: Space News)
ULA also is considering moving some launches scheduled for the Cape Canaveral out west to Vandenberg, where an increasing number of different types of missions can be launched as a result of the Atlas 5's capabilities, Michael Gass said. Vandenberg's geography accommodates launches to polar orbits, while Cape Canaveral's is better for low-inclination orbits that track closely with the equator.

"On the West Coast some of the pads don't get used for a year or two. Mostly we've thought about the West Coast as only capable of supporting polar missions, but with the increased performance of the Atlas and Delta vehicles, we can handle a lot of high-inclination missions out of the West Coast going on a southern trajectory, including missions to the space station and some of the GPS [satellites]. Those are all missions that are possible now because of the increased performance of the vehicle," Gass said. (5/9)

Lockheed Once Again Wins Weather Satellite Contract (Source: Space News)
NASA, in consultation with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has awarded Lockheed Martin a billion-dollar weather satellite contract the company originally won last year but which was held up by a protest from a rival bidder, NOAA announced May 7. The Geostationary-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) contract is for two satellites with options for two more for a potential value of $1.09 billion. Slated to begin launching in 2015, the GOES-R satellites are expected to offer substantial improvements over the current-generation GOES satellites, which were built by Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems of Seal Beach, Calif. (5/9)

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft To Provide SOFIA Spares (Source: Space News)
Two modified Boeing 747 aircraft used to ferry space shuttles back to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida following West Coast landings will supply spare parts for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) after the orbiter fleet is retired. SOFIA is a telescope-equipped 747 currently undergoing flight tests at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, the California facility that also serves as a backup landing site for the space shuttle. (5/9)

Minotaur Launch Delayed at Virginia Spaceport (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The 69-foot Minotaur I rocket has been delayed for the third time due to an electrical voltage anomaly. The soonest launch date is now Tuesday, May 19th. The Air Force Research Laboratory's $60 million satellite, TacSat-3, which includes ARTEMIS, a hyperspectral imager built by Raytheon Co. and designed to provide real-time images to military commanders on the battlefield, is the Minotaur's primary payload. (5/9)

Wallops Tour Offers Peek at 'Exciting Time' Ahead for Spaceport (Source: Salisbury Daily Times)
If visitors arriving for a tour of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport this week had questions about what is next for the facility, a 70-foot banner bearing a half-size depiction of Orbital Science Corp.'s Taurus II rocket made the answer clear. The banner hung from a crane at the intersection of Chincoteague and Mill Dam roads near the entrance to the newly created Wallops Research Park, where an estimated 400 people coming to view MARS' launch of a Minotaur I rocket carrying an Air Force satellite could see it as they arrived.

The spaceport is preparing for the Taurus II's demonstration mission late in 2010, including the addition of $50 million in new infrastructure on Wallops Island. Billie Reed, executive director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, led the bus tour for about 50 guests, including state and local officials. The tour passed the Minotaur on its pad at the island's southern end and also past sites to the north where a launch pad for the liquid-fueled Taurus rocket and a $12 million horizontal integration facility with room to assemble two of the rockets simultaneously will soon be built. In addition to the new infrastructure being built on the island in preparation for the Taurus project, Orbital is undergoing a $45 million expansion of its northern Virginia campus. (5/9)

Editorial: Reform Space Florida Fast in Wake of Kohler's Failed Tenure (Source: Florida Today)
In truth, Steve Kohler was never a good fit for the critical job of luring new space business to the Sunshine State as head of Space Florida, the state’s space-recruiting arm. Named to the post by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006, the Pennsylvania economic development official lost the confidence of space industry leaders and state lawmakers as they watched his bad business and management decisions mount. The damage that Kohler’s failed tenure has done to Florida’s space recruiting efforts is severe, weakening the agency’s credibility in the fiercely competitive global arena of attracting commercial space business.

It also raises questions about the performance of the board of directors, whose lack of oversight should be examined and steps taken to ensure tougher agency accountability. Gov. Charlie Crist should act at once to reorganize the agency, naming a space industry expert to the leadership post. He should also consider other reforms and is under growing pressure to do it, with Nelson saying Friday, “It’s time to clean house at Space Florida and move ahead with an aggressive schedule for a commercial space industry in Florida.”

There’s no time for Crist to waste. Florida is staring down the barrel of thousands of job cuts coming to Kennedy Space Center next year when NASA’s shuttle fleet retires, losses that will fall hardest on the Space Coast and other Central Florida counties. That outlook could be worsened depending on what happens with President Obama’s newly ordered review of NASA’s future, putting the fate of its moon exploration program in doubt. Retooling Space Florida is essential, lest its effectiveness fall even further off the radar screen than it has already. (5/9)

Editorial: NASA and Florida Need Space Mission Booster (Source: St. Petersburg Times)
The Obama administration announced last week that an independent panel would take a "fresh look" at NASA's space flight program. This is a poor time for the president to contribute to the same "sense of drift" he bemoaned in March. The space agency needs a new sense of purpose and strong leadership to carry it out. But in Washington, the Obama White House continues to fiddle, while in Florida leaders have failed to rally around a high-tech industry that could chart a new course for the state. The embattled president of Space Florida resigned last week, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Friday that agency should "clean house.''

The end of shuttle flights, even if they extend into 2011, will have devastating effects on Florida. The Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that job losses at Kennedy could cost another 18,000 jobs across the region. The layoffs will only compound the fall in property values as many aerospace workers try to relocate or seek retraining for other jobs.

The state needs to develop a space policy as the White House reassesses its own plans for NASA. The industry has too much history in Florida and too much promise for the state's economy to tie it solely to the whims of this administration's vision for space exploration. Florida should find incentives to keep the industry's technical base and to compete for commercial space ventures. At the least, Florida can remain on the cutting edge until the Obama administration sorts out whether, how and when to return to flight. (5/9)

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