December 28, 2013

Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Get Space Fence Bridge Contracts (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force has awarded two contracts worth about $10 million combined for Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to further demonstrate how their competing prototypes of an advanced space surveillance system would handle a range of operational scenarios.

The awards come as both companies continue to await the Air Force’s selection of a prime contractor for the multibillion-dollar Space Fence, a ground-based radar system designed to dramatically improve the Pentagon’s space-object tracking capabilities. That long-delayed contract award is now expected in April. (12/27)

Defense Bill Trims Funding for SBIRS, Boosts Some Missile Defense Accounts (Source: Space News)
U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law Dec. 27 a compromise U.S. defense authorization bill that largely honors the U.S. Air Force’s 2014 funding requests for space programs while providing additional funds to shore up the nation’s missile defense capabilities.

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act sets overall funding limits for defense programs, including space and missile defense. Specific funding levels for the individual programs will be decided by congressional appropriations committees in 2014. The measure reverts to the Air Force’s request for all of its major space programs with one notable exception: The Space Based Infrared System missile warning satellite program, for which lawmakers authorized $934 million, a $30 million decrease from the request. (12/27)

SpaceX Targets First Launch of 2014 for Jan. 3 (Source: Florida Today)
SpaceX is targeting the Cape's first launch of 2014 one week from today. A Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to blast off with Thaicom Plc's Thaicom 6 television satellite at 5:50 p.m. Jan. 3, the opening of a window that extends to 7:17 p.m. The launch would be SpaceX's second from the Cape of its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket and second of a commercial communications satellite to a geostationary orbit. (12/27)

Technical Problem Delays Space Station Streaming-Video Venture (Source: Reuters)
Spacewalking cosmonauts on Friday installed two cameras outside the International Space Station for a Canadian streaming-video business but then retrieved the gear after electrical connections failed, officials said. Station commander Oleg Kotov and flight engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy left the station's Pirs airlock at 8 a.m. EST as the complex sailed 260 miles over Australia.

During the first part of Friday's planned seven-hour outing, the Russian cosmonauts set up a high-definition video camera on a swiveling platform and a medium-resolution still imager for Vancouver-based UrtheCast Corp. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, agreed to host the cameras on the $100 billion station, a project of 15 countries, in exchange for rights to use images and video taken over Russia. UrtheCast has commercial rights to images and video of the rest of the world.

UrtheCast plans to sell data to companies and government agencies that buy Earth-observing satellite imagery. It also plans to stream images over the Internet for free to subscribers, with the aim of attracting advertisers and sponsors. But those plans are on hold after an unknown glitch kept the cameras, located outside the station's Zvezda command module, from communicating with ground stations. Editor's Note: Here's a marketing video describing a competing service by Skybox. (12/27)

Astronauts Complete Repair at Station, Clearing Way for Cargo Mission (Source: Space News)
After two spacewalks, one fewer than NASA thought it would take, astronauts replaced a balky valve in the international space station’s cooling system, setting the stage for Orbital Sciences Corp. to launch a cache of supplies to the outpost on Jan. 7. (12/27)

RSCC’s Expansion Plan Back on Track with Express-AM5 Launch (Source: Space News)
Russia’s Proton-M Breeze-M rocket on Dec. 27 successfully placed the transponder-packed Express-AM5 telecommunications satellite into orbit in a key milestone for the Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), whose near-term growth plans have been slowed by rocket and satellite issues.

Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, and Proton’s builder, the Khrunichev Space Center of Moscow, said in separate statements that the rocket’s Breeze-M upper stage released the Express-AM5 into the planned transfer orbit some five hours and 12 minutes after liftoff from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The satellite’s launch was insured for 7.08 billion Russian rubles, or $217 million.

Moscow-based RSCC’s expansion plans have been slowed in the past couple of years by Proton launch failures and unexpected in-orbit satellite failures. The latest incidents were the July Proton failure, which did not carry an RSCC satellite but delayed RSCC’s launch plans; and the July failure of the Express-MD1 satellite. (12/27)

Chinese Rover Hibernating to Survive Frigid Lunar Night (Source: SpaceFlight Now)
China's moon rover is sleeping through its first lunar night after completing an initial survey of its surroundings, a mostly uniform gray landscape interrupted by scattered boulders and craters. Since landing on the moon Dec. 14, the rover has driven off its landing platform, activated on-board scientific instrumentation, flexed its robotic arm and driven around the lander as the two spacecraft inspected each other with still and video cameras. (12/27)

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