SPACE NEWS2007-11-05 14:56:21

In Space News This Week: Nov. 5, 2007 Transforming Space 2007, Nov 5-8 - CSA's premier conference and awards event will take place at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, LAX. The co-chairs for the event are Rep. Ken Calvert, Member, House Appropriations Committee and Rep. Jane Harman, Chair, Intelligence and Information Subcommittee. Confirmed speakers include: Rep. Adam Schiff, Gen. Chilton, Commander of Air Force Space Command; Shana Dale, Deputy Administrator of NASA and Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of Space Exploration Technologies. Mark on your calendars with these two upcoming conferences for the week of November 12. Reach to Space will be held in Washington D.C., at George Washington University from November 12-14. Learn about commercial space industrialization in the 21st Century at this international event. Participation and/or sponsorship includes the Society of Satellite Professionals International, the FAA, NASA, Auburn University, Ohio University, George Washington University and a growing list of industry, academic institutions and professional organizations. For more information go to Also happening November 12-14, the American Astronautical Society will hold its annual conference in Houston. The conference, Celebrating 50 Years - But, What's Next? includes sessions Celebrating NASA's Heritage - Fifty Years of Discovery & Achievement, The Next Fifty Years - Goals and Challenges and Downloading the Stars; The Future of Space Exploration; plus more. Go to to view the complete conference agenda. MYSTERIOUS SATELLITE INTERFERENCE COMPELS ISRAELI GOVERNMENT TO ACT YES TV DEMANDS COMPENSATION, CORRECTIVE ACTION BARBARA OPALL-ROME, TEL AVIV, Israel Prodded into action by public outrage and heavy lobbying by the satellite TV firm Yes Inc., the Israeli government is assessing a package of measures designed to protect commercial broadcast licensees from the type of signal interference that in recent weeks has financially crippled Yes, Israel's sole satellite television service provider. Following more than a month of unexplained and costly disruptions to Yes broadcasting signals, the Israeli cabinet in mid October pledged coordinated government action to halt offshore interference in the firm's satellite broadcasting signals. In a likely test case for government intervention on behalf of commercial firms, the cabinet also directed an inter-ministerial committee to come up with new rules and emergency procedures for assuring the integrity of future satellite broadcasting signals. VIASAT FEELING THE PINCH FROM WILDBLUE'S CAPACITY CONSTRAINTS PETER B. de SELDING, PARIS ViaSat Chief Executive Mark Dankberg said the profitability of the company's commercial division, centered on providing broadband satellite terminals for WildBlue Communications, was being kept at unacceptable levels because WildBlue is running out of in-orbit capacity in certain regions. Dankberg urged investors to continue to back ViaSat's strategy, suggesting that if Denver-based WildBlue does not act to secure new Ka-band satellite capacity soon, ViaSat or someone else will. ViaSat on Nov. 1 reported a financial performance for the six months ending Sept. 28 that met earlier forecasts. But despite six years of investment in commercial Ka-band satellite technology for delivering high-speed Internet, the company is not yet seeing profits commensurate with revenue-generating and market success of the resulting systems. AT DEAL'S CLOSE, TELESAT, LORAL BEGIN MERGING SATELLITE FLEETS PETER B. DE SELDING, PARIS Telesat Canada's acquisition by Loral Space and Communications Co. and a Canadian pension fund was completed Oct. 31, permitting Telesat to consolidate Loral's four-satellite fleet of Skynet spacecraft into Telesat's operations. The deal also allows the new company to realize 58 million Canadian dollars ($60.3 million) in operating cost savings, according to Loral and Telesat officials. "We will start in earnest today to combine the fleets,�? Telesat Chief Financial Officer Ted Ignacy said. "There is almost no duplication in the two companies' customer sets. We are very complementary. The synergies will come on the administrative side, and we expect most of them to be realized by late 2008.�? New York-based Loral and Telesat of Ottawa have estimated that it will cost about 35 million Canadian dollars in one-time charges as it pays severance and incurs other costs associated with shutting down operations that now are redundant. LUNAR LANDER CHALLENGE ENDS IN FIRE, DISAPPOINTMENT LEONARD DAVID, HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. The rocketeers at Armadillo Aerospace, thwarted by engine problems and other mechanical failures, left the 2007 X Prize Cup empty-handed after their spacecraft burst into flames on ignition Oct. 28. Over two days during a Holloman Air and Space Expo, attempts at snaring the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge's $350,000 purse were fraught with technical snags. At one point on Oct. 27, the Armadillo team was within seconds of winning the money — only to have the multi-legged vehicle self-abort and tip over on landing. An attempt the following day to hop from launch and landing pads ended with the MOD craft bursting into flames shortly after engine ignition. X PRIZE CUP EXECUTIVE SUMMIT LINKS ADVENTURERS WITH VCs BRIAN BERGER, HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. On the eve of the X Prize Cup, executives from companies big and small and a mix of senior government officials gathered here to network and hash out the opportunities and challenges confronting the personal spaceflight industry and other such "new space�? ventures. "We're here to have a conversation. No screens. No PowerPoint slides. We're here to talk as candidly as we can,�? said Peter Diamandis, organizer of the invitation-only X Prize Foundation Executive Summit, which drew more than 120 participants. The daylong conversation, moderated by Diamandis and digital-technology-guru-turned-venture-space-investor Esther Dyson, delved into the challenges space entrepreneurs face working with the government and large corporations, raising investment capital, and sorting out insurance, regulatory and safety considerations. FIRST COMMERCIAL SPACESUIT DEBUTS AT X PRIZE CUP LEONARD DAVID, HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. Future suborbital space travelers will be able to wear a spacesuit that was designed with style in mind as well as safety The world's first commercial spacesuit was unveiled at the X Prize Cup festivities here by Orbital Outfitters. The West Hollywood, Calif., company emphasized its approach to engineering, safety and developing some marketing appeal for the emergency spacesuit that will be worn by future commercial passengers on suborbital spacecraft. The Industrial Suborbital Space Suit-Crew (or IS3C for short), a first-generation prototype, was presented in catwalk-like fashion and dubbed as the new free-fall collection of apparel. DSP POSES OPERATIONAL TEST FOR DELTA 4 HEAVY JEREMY SINGER, BOSTON The U.S. Air Force plans the first operational use of a new rocket Nov. 8 when it launches the last of the current generation of U.S. missile warning satellites aboard the largest version of the Delta 4 Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. The launch of the Defense Support Program (DSP)-23 spacecraft currently is targeted for launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on the same day the space shuttle is due to return to Earth, according to Lt. Col. Joe Coniglio, the Air Force's DSP program manager. The priority given to the manned mission could cause the launch of the missile warning satellite to slip by a day or two, Coniglio said during a Nov. 1 interview. The DSP satellite, which was built by Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., will ride on the heavy-lift variant of the Delta 4 rocket built by United Launch Alliance. That rocket had failed to put its payload in the right orbit during a demonstration launch in December 2004 when an errant sensor reading caused its engines to shut down early, contributing to more than two years of delay in the launch of DSP-23. CIVILIAN AGENDA ADVOCATED FOR UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS LEONARD DAVID, BOULDER, COLO. Remotely piloted aircraft could serve as a new tool to support polar research, observe marine mammal populations, patrol borders and monitor wildfires, as well as take on risky assignments like flying into the eye of a hurricane to assess its destructive power. But tasking robot planes to routinely carry out non-military duties also means safely sharing the skies with passenger-carrying aircraft within the U.S. national airspace system. Moreover, budgetary and political support to move the idea forward is needed. Some 150 scientists, government officials and industry specialists met here Oct. 1-3 to begin a dialogue on civilian applications for remotely controlled aircraft. Their goal is to chart out an integrated vision for utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the United States. NEWS BRIEFS: SOLAR WING REPAIR TOPS SHUTTLE CREW'S PRIORITIES The international space station (ISS) was faced with two major threats to its power supply, both of which arose during the STS-120 mission, which launched Oct. 23 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. The station's 4B solar wing, which is attached to the Port 6 truss section of the ISS, tore as it was being deployed Oct. 30. The maimed solar wing still is generating electricity but is structurally unstable. In addition, astronaut Dan Tani discovered unusual metallic grit in solar-array-orienting gears during an Oct. 28 spacewalk, but mission managers abandoned plans to inspect the gears so they could make fixing the solar wing a top priority. At press time, astronauts aboard the ISS were planning a Nov. 3 spacewalk to repair the damaged solar wing. Discovery and its seven-astronaut STS-120 crew are slated to leave the orbital laboratory Nov. 5 and land at Kennedy Space Center Nov. 7, weather permitting. NASA officials said that the crew has enough supplies to stay docked to the ISS for two more days, should the need arise. (Continuous coverage of the STS-120 shuttle mission is available at ATK TESTS SOLID-ROCKET MOTOR FOR SHUTTLE, ARES 1, 5 Alliant Techsystems (ATK) Launch Systems successfully test fired a four-segment reusable solid-rocket motor to support the shuttle and the upcoming Ares 1 and 5 launch vehicles, according to a Nov. 1 ATK press release. The Ares five-segment motor will be based closely on the shuttle's four-segment motor, ATK spokeswoman Trina Patterson said in a Nov. 2 telephone interview. All current and future shuttle reusable solid-rocket motor testing will in some way benefit the design for the Ares reusable solid-rocket motor, she added. INDIAN, MALAYSIAN FIRMS STRIKE TRANSPONDER DEAL Antrix Corp., the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), will lease eight Ku-band transponders on the Measat-3 satellite, owned by Measat Satellite Systems of Kuala Lumpur, to provide capacity for Indian direct-to-home satellite television broadcasters, Antrix and Measat announced Nov. 1. The agreement, which includes an option for Antrix to take more Measat-3 capacity, is another sign of the growing relations between the operators of the Indian and Malaysian satellite systems. K.R. Sridhara Murthy, Antrix's executive director, said in a statement that ISRO has been unable to keep up with demand for satellite-television capacity despite the launch this year of two satellites, the Insat-4B and Insat-4CR, which together have added 36 Ku-band transponders over India. Satellite operators active in South Asia have long viewed the Indian market as having a huge potential that has been constrained by India's regulatory regime, which makes it difficult for non-Indian satellite systems to serve India's fast-growing satellite-television market. The European Satellite Operators Association, which includes SES of Luxembourg and Eutelsat of Paris, recently asked European regulatory authorities to pressure India to open its satellite-television market. Through a series of agreements in the past three years, Measat slowly has gained entry into India. Measat's principal customer, the Astro All Asia Networks plc satellite-television broadcaster of Malaysia, in April announced it would invest $166 million for a 20 percent share of Indian satellite-television broadcaster Sun Direct TV. COSMOS LAUNCHES THIRD GERMAN RADAR SATELLITE The third of five planned German high-resolution SAR-Lupe radar reconnaissance satellites was launched successfully Nov. 1 by a Russian Cosmos-3M rocket and has begun what is expected to be four weeks of testing before it is transferred to the German armed forces, SAR-Lupe prime contractor OHB-System AG said. The 720-kilogram satellite, capable of detecting ground objects of less than 1 meter in diameter, will join its two identical predecessors in a near-polar 500-kilometer orbit. The full five-satellite network is expected to be operational by late 2008. Bremen, Germany-based OHB-System supplied the satellites and the launchers under a contract with the German armed forces that calls for a certain level of SAR-Lupe capacity to be available without interruption for 10 years. The Cosmos-3M rocket was launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia and placed the SAR-Lupe satellite into orbit about 30 minutes after liftoff. EUROPE PROVIDES TRACKING FOR CHINA'S MOON MISSION In a sign of increasing Sino-European collaboration in space science, three European Space Agency (ESA) satellite tracking stations have been communicating with China's Chang'e-1 satellite as it makes its way to lunar orbit, ESA announced Nov. 1. For the Chinese mission, large ESA-owned satellite antennas in Spain's Canary Islands, French Guiana and Australia have been used for transmitting to and receiving from Chang'e-1 since the satellite was launched Oct. 24 aboard a Chinese rocket. Normally unmanned and operated remotely from ESA's Esoc satellite control center in Darmstadt, Germany, the three facilities were staffed with ESA engineers for the Chang'e-1 mission. The satellite also will rely on ESA ground facilities when it is out of range of China's tracking stations during the planned Nov. 5-7 insertion into lunar orbit. The collaboration "sets the stage for future cooperation with China,�? Erik Soerensen, head of system requirements and validation at Esoc, said in a Nov. 1 statement. ESA will receive data from Chang'e-1 in exchange for the use of the three stations, which are part of ESA's Estrack network. SEA LAUNCH GETS READY FOR NOVEMBER RETURN TO FLIGHT The Sea Launch Odyssey launch platform and its command ship have left their Long Beach, Calif., home port in preparation for a Nov. 13 launch of the 5,180-kilogram Thuraya-3 mobile communications satellite, Sea Launch announced Nov. 1. The launch from Sea Launch's Pacific Ocean site on the equator will be the first since the company's January failure, which destroyed the SES New Skies NSS-8 telecommunications satellite. RRSAT PLANS ACQUISITIONS OF U.S., ASIAN COMPANIES RRSat Global Communications Network, which leases satellite capacity worldwide for resale to television and radio broadcasters, said it expects to complete an acquisition of an unnamed U.S. company by the end of the year before turning to Asia for a similar acquisition, RRSat Chief Executive David Rivel said Nov. 1. Omer, Israel-based RRSat has said in the past that the U.S. purchase, possibly of a teleport, would be valued at between $5 million and $15 million. "We believe we will be able to announce something exciting�? in the coming weeks, Rivel said in a conference call on the company's financial results. "After this first acquisition in America, we will be able to go to the second acquisition, in Asia.�? Rivel said there are so many interesting acquisition candidates in the United States that RRSat has had trouble deciding among them. RRSat leases capacity on more than a dozen satellites and also is building out a fiber network to transmit customer programming. It is a fast-growing business that RRSat is extending to the Internet, an add-on distribution channel that Rivel said costs almost nothing to the company. In addition to providing distribution, RRSat provides what it calls "content management,�? meaning packaging and translating programs into the language of their target audiences before selecting the satellite or terrestrial distribution channel. For the nine months ending Sept. 30, RRSat reported a net profit increase of 47 percent, to $8.2 million; revenue increased 37 percent, to $42.9 million. About 43 percent of RRSat's customers are located in Europe, with 22 percent in the United States. Editorial enquiries, contact Lon Rains, SPACE NEWS Editor-in-Chief at 703-658-8425, e-mail: Advertising enquiries, contact Tony Kingham, SPACE NEWS Advertising Sales e-mail:

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