News of January 2000

Dates are those of the events (in UT) when available.
 
Commercial Launchers | Heavy-Lift Launchers | Small Launchers
Missile Systems | Advanced Launch Systems | Space Propulsion
Spaceports | Industry | Launch Market


 Commercial Launchers

January 31
Boeing A&M awards a five-year extension of an existing contract with AMI Metals Inc. for the provision of stainless steel and aluminium sheet and plate products used in the production of Delta launchers as well as military and civilian aircraft. The contract, which began in 1996 and now extends to 2004, is reportedly worth US$100 million.
January 31
The U.S. government has begun renegotiating launch agreements with Russia, Ukraine and China. The current agreements, which include launch quotas and pricing regulations for commercial launches to the geostationary orbit, will expire on December 31, 2000 with Russia, and on December 31, 2001 with Ukraine and China. International Launch Services (ILS) and GKNPTs Khrunichev, which market Russia's Proton vehicles have repeatedly asked for the lifting of launch quotas.
Editor's note: Under the current agreement, Russia could conduct up to 20 commercial launches toward geostationary orbit from January 1996 to late 2000. To date, 14 have been performed. Ukraine was allowed 5 launches through late 2001 (none performed), plus 11 on behalf of Sea Launch (2 performed to date). China was cleared for 11 launches (7 actually conducted).
January 25
Resumption of commercial Proton launches on behalf of International Launch Services (ILS) is tentatively set for February 12. The payload will be the Garuda 1 mobile communication satellite for the Asian Cellular Satellite (ACeS) consortium.
January 21
Rosaviakosmos announces that Proton launches from Baykonur, Kazakhstan, will resume in the second half of February (possibly on February 19) and that 12 to 14 Proton launches are currently scheduled in 2000, including 6 to 9 on behalf of International Launch Services (ILS). According to Rosaviakosmos, Russia has paid US$370,000 to Kazakhstan in compensation for damages caused by the crash of two Proton vehicles in July and October 1999. Russia also paid US$50 million of its US$155-million rent for the year. The remaining fee will be paid in the form of equipment and technology such as civilian and military aircraft. In 1999, Russia sent 16 Sukhoi Su-27 fighters to Kazakhstan as part of the rent deal. Another 73 warplanes are due for shipment shortly.
January 20
The Failure Review Oversight Board (FROB) set up by International Launch Services (ILS) issues its own report after having reviewed findings of the Russian Federal Inter-agency Launch Failure Review Board (ILFRB) on the loss of a Proton K vehicle on October 27, 1999. According to the report the most probable cause of failure was silica and metal oxide contamination inside the gas generator and turbine assembly of the KB KhimAvtomatiki RD-0210 engine of the vehicle's second stage. This contamination resulted from poor manufacturing and quality control processes. A RD-0210 test firing will be conducted by Voronezhskiy Mekhanicheskiy Zavod (VMZ), KB-KhA's engine assembly plant, in order to simulate the failure conditions.
Proton flights may resume in March with the launch of a triplet of Uragan navigation satellites to replenish the Glonass constellation. Launch of a dummy spacecraft was proposed but is no longer taken into consideration since Rosaviakosmos estimates that the Rbl400-million Proton launcher (US$20-million) is too expensive to be flown empty. The US$600-million Garuda 1 mobile communication satellite is expected to be launched shortly after the Proton has demonstrated its successful return into operation.
January 17
The development of Boeing Expendable Launch Systems' Delta 4 vehicle might be hampered by an increased control on exports by the U.S. Department of State. According to Space News, some former divisions of McDonnell Douglas, now integrated into Boeing, are still under a procedure that plans to deny them any export license after they were involved in unauthorized technology transfers to China. At stake is Boeing's capability to acquire some vital subsystems outside the United States as well as the possibility to get clearances for the launches of non-U.S. satellites.
January 12
Arianespace plans to launch at least 5 Ariane 5 and 8 to 10 Ariane 4 missions in 2000. Some 16 satellites in the current backlog are qualified and could be ready to fly dual launch missions on Ariane 5 this year. Mission analysis has been completed for 12 different pairs in order to accommodate the actual delivery dates of these satellites.
January 12
CNES, the French space agency, has awarded a contract to Arianespace for the launch of its 3,500-kg Spot 5 remote sensing satellite atop an Ariane 42P vehicle in 2002. Arianespace expects to sign some 15 launch contracts in 2000.
January 10
The Russian government has officially allowed GKNPTs Khrunichev to fly foreign payloads on its new Angara family of modular launch vehicles. The special edict, signed by acting Russian president Vladimir Putin, stipulates that Russian institutional payloads will have the priority on Angara. The Angara is planned to be incorporated into International Launch Services' (ILS) commercial offer.
January 7
Beal Aerospace cancels its plans to build a launcher integration facility for its BA-2 vehicle on St. Croix island in U.S. Virgin Islands after a court decision declared on December 22 that a land deal between Beal Aerospace and the territorial government was illegal. This decision does not affect Beal's other projects to build launch pads in Sombrero Island and/or in Guyana.
January 6
The Russian Federal Inter-agency Launch Failure Review Board (ILFRB) issues its final report on the loss of a GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton K vehicle on October 27, 1999 and concludes that the most probable cause for the loss is the contamination of a KB KhimAvtomatiki RD-0210 engine on the vehicle's second stage, caused by 'poor workmanship' at the Voronezhskiy Mekhanicheskiy Zavod (VMZ) engine assembly plant.
Read ILFRB's Final Report.

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 Heavy-Lift Launchers

January 12
The Lockheed Martin Astronautics Titan 402B/B-29 vehicle is cleared for a launch in March after no contamination has been found on its payload, the DSP-20 early warning satellite.
January 5
The U.S. Air Force reports that the US$250-million DSP-20 early warning satellite, which was being prepared for a launch atop the Lockheed Martin Astronautics Titan 402B/B-29 vehicle on January 30, may have been contaminated by oil dripping from a crane in a Cape Canaveral Air Station processing facility. The launch is postponed unless the a checkout of the spacecraft is completed.

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 Small Launchers

January 27
The first Minotaur vehicle is successfully launched on behalf of U.S. Air Force's Orbital Suborbital Program. The vehicle, developed by Orbital Sciences Corp., is composed of the first and second stages of a decommissioned Minuteman 2 ballistic missile with the two upper stages from a Pegasus launcher. Following lift off from Spaceport International's commercial launch facility within Vandenberg AFB, the Minotaur delivers in orbit a payload composed of two microsatellites (Jawsat and Falconsat), two nanosatellites (OPAL-1 and Asusat 1), seven picosatellites and a balloon.
See Launch Log.
January 20
The European Space Agency plans to keep the Vega small launch vehicle program alive through April with a budget worth 42 million euros (US$42 million) awarded in May 1999. ASI, the Italian space agency, and FiatAvio are reviewing various technical options to keep the program alive, mainly by redesigning the proposed launcher in order to achieve dramatic cost reductions. The program is funded 55% by Italy. France, which was expected too support 33% of the Vega's budget, decided to withdraw from the project in early 1999, considering that there is no significant market for such a vehicle.
January 20
The first launch of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s new Minotaur launch vehicle, previously planned on January 22, will be delayed to at least the end of the month in order to replace batteries on the Premature Stage Separation (PSS) flight termination system.
January 20
NASA postpones the launch of the replacement High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE-2) satellite onboard a Pegasus XL vehicle from late January to May at the earliest due to concerns regarding the satellite's ground testing.
January 14
The first launch attempt of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s new Minotaur launch vehicle was scrubbed twice just minutes before lift off due to problems with the autosequencer and then with the vehicle's avionics batteries. Another launch attempt is planned on January 22.
January 13
NASA's Langley Research Center plans to contract with Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. to study concept development of a catapult launch assist system that could be used for small-payload launch systems selected by NASA.
January 6
Eurockot Launch Services GmbH confirms earlier unofficial reports regarding an incident on December 22 on a Rokot launch vehicle being prepared for a pad demonstration flight at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia. According to Eurockot, during electrical tests as part of processing of the Rokot vehicle, a faulty command was sent and the payload fairing was jettisoned. The fairing was destroyed but no other damage was reported. However, the Rokot vehicle, which featured an old-style Breeze K upper stage and was due to loft the Russian RVSN-40 smallsat in January, will be de-stacked and returned to GKNPTs Khrunichev's factory for checks. A Russian state commission has been appointed to investigate the mishap.
Another Rokot vehicle, featuring the new Breeze KM upper stage, will be launched for a pad demonstration flight in March. it will carry a pair of dummy spacecraft, presumably mock-up versions of Iridium satellites.

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 Missile Systems

January 23
Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space is awarded a US$10.7-million contract by U.S. Navy's Strategic Systems Programs on behalf of the Trident Reentry Systems Applications Program. Lockheed Martin will provide studies, evaluations and test support through September 2000.
January 18
A ballistic missile defense test, conducted on behalf of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, failed six seconds before interception of an incoming dummy nuclear warhead when both infrared sensors on a Raytheon Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) became inoperative. Under the US$100-million Integrated Flight Test 4 (IFT-4) operation, the EKV was launched by a Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV) from Kwajalein Missile Range, Marshall Islands, some 21 minutes after the dummy warhead had been sent on a 7,000-km typical ICBM trajectory by a Minuteman 2 missile from Vandenberg AFB, California. A similar test succeeded on October 2, 1999, with the EKV destroying the mock warhead by direct impact at a relative velocity of about 26,000 km/h.
January 12
TRW Space & Missile Systems was awarded a US$143.7-million contract by the U.S. Air Force to begin full rate production of guidance systems electronics for refurbishment of the Minuteman 3 missiles. Under the Guidance Replacement Program (GRP) this initial contract could be increased to US$1.3 billion over eight annual extensions.

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 Advanced Launch Systems

January 31
CNES, the French space agency, and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA), sign a cooperation agreement regarding NASDA's High Speed Flight Demonstrator (HSFD) program. NASDA plans to fly two HSFDs to prepare for its Hope-X orbital spaceplane project. The demonstrators will be 1/4 scale-models of the actual vehicle. HSFD-1 will feature an air-breathing engine and fly in 2001 to test high-speed automated landing. HSFD-2 will be released from a balloon at about 30 km of altitude in late 2002 or early 2003 to acquire aerodynamical data at transonic speeds. CNES will be responsible for high-altitude balloon operations. The drop test will be conducted from Esrange in Kiruna, Sweden.
January 31
A 13.5-meter-long experimental magnetic levitation ('Maglev') track has been installed by Foster-Miller Inc. inside a high-bay facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). This new track will be able to accelerate a 4.5-kg carrier to 92 km/h in less than 7 meters to study Maglev vehicle dynamics as well as the possibility to use a Maglev launch assist system for future spaceplanes. An outdoor 15-m track, installed by NASA and PRT Advanced Maglev Systems Inc., is already in use at MSFC since September 1999.
Editor's note: Foster-Miller has already been involved in the installation of a Maglev track at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, with General Atomics and Boeing on behalf of U.S. Air Force's 846th Squadron.
Download NASA's Maglev Technology Summary in PDF.
January 19
NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center have completed a series of tests on the ground station network needed for test flights of NASA's X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator. A Lockheed ER-2 high-altitude research aircraft, carrying the X-33 flight communication equipment, was flown twice on the X-33 flight path from Edwards AFB, California, to Michael Army Airfield, at U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.
January 19
The largest parafoil ever was tested by NASA at U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, under the X-38 Crew Return Vehicle demonstrator development program. The 700 sq.m parafoil, developed by Pioneer Aerospace was released from a C-130 Hercules aircraft at an altitude of 6,500 m. During a 11-minute flight, the parafoil deployed in five stages to a 43-meter span and slowed down an 8-ton pallet to a vertical landing speed of 13 km/h. More drop tests are planned before a full scale test flight is due in 2002 with X-38 Vehicle 201 being released in low Earth orbit to reenter the atmosphere and land under a parafoil to demonstrate the validity of a Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) for the International Space Station.
January 12
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has filed a civil lawsuit against Rockwell International Corp. and Boeing Co. for 'allegedly concealing fraud by a subcontractor on NASA's space shuttle and International Space Station programs'. According to DoJ, NASA 'was billed for millions of dollars in fraudulent costs by a company called Omniplan, hired by Rockwell to work on the programs between 1986 and 1993'. Omniplan noticeably operated a pizza business that was re-billed to NASA. United Space Alliance, which took over space shuttle operations, is a 'successor company liable for repayment of the false claims'.
January 10
NASA and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works are considering replacing the planned composite liquid hydrogen tank of the X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator by another made of aluminium. The US$60-million graphite-epoxy tank provided by ATK (formerly Alliant TechSystems) failed during a structural test on November 3, 1999. A swap of tanks, would delay the X-33's first flight to early 2002. Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems, which already built the X-33's liquid oxygen tanks, began preliminary design work on a new liquid hydrogen tank for the X-33 as soon as December.
January 7
Kelly Space & Technology (KST) was awarded a US$1.2-million contract by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center to continue a study on the development of space transportation through 2030. NASA plans to incorporate KST's findings into its Integrated Space Transportation Plan, to be presented to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in October.
January 6
Refurbishment of NASA's X-34 A-1 structural test article is complete. The A-1A vehicle is now ready for 16 runway tow tests to be conducted at Edwards AFB, California, from February on. The A-1A will later be transferred to White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, for a series of 5 glide tests after release from Orbital Sciences' 'Stargazer' carrier aircraft.
January 5
NASA's second X-34 hypersonic demonstrator reaches a major assembly milestone with the attachment of its composite wings to its fuselage at Orbital Sciences Corp.'s facility in Dulles, Virginia. The X-34-A2 vehicle is planned to perform the first X-34 powered test flights by mid-year.

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 Space Propulsion

January 31
GenCorp Aerojet announces that it has completed verification testing of its Orbital Maneuvering Engine (OME) for the Hope-X orbital spaceplane under development by the National Space Development Agency of Japan. The 18-kN pressure-fed and regeneratively-cooled OME, which performed 19 firing tests in vacuum, was actually developed under contract from Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) which is prime for Hope-X's propulsion system. The test engine will be refurbished and delivered to IHI as a flight spare in addition to two flight units now ready for acceptance testing.
January 31
NASA's Langley Research Center plans to contract with GASL Inc. for development and testing of an hypersonic scramjet flow path for speeds from Mach 3 to Mach 10.
January 31
NASA's Glenn Research Center awards a US$202,478 contract to Boeing's Rocketdyne division for the development of a high-power Hall thruster.
January 31
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has completed a series of tests on a ceramic matrix composite turbine designed by AlliedSignal Composites Inc. (now Honeywell) and which can withstand much higher temperatures than current metallic turbines. The turbine performed dozens of tests in a metallic turbopump shaft at speeds of up to 25,000 rpm.
January 27
NASA's Glenn Research Center plans to contract with Busek Co. to study concept feasibility on a new model of high-power Hall thruster for advanced in-space propulsion.
January 23
The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries LE-7 engine that apparently caused the failure of the H-2S (8F) launch vehicle on November 15, 1999, has been recovered by remotely operated vehicles by a depth of about 3,000 m. The salvaged faulty engine will be investigated by Japan's National Aerospace Laboratory and National Space Development Agency which operates the H-2 vehicle.
January 20
NASA's Glenn Research Center issues a request for offer regarding research on a high-performance monopropellant thruster for small satellites (less than 100 kg) achieving at least 250 seconds of specific impulse.
January 18
An Ariane 5 solid rocket booster will undergo a static firing test in Kourou in April to qualify a redesigned upper segment, with a 2.4 t propellant overload as well as new nozzle material to be introduced on Ariane 5 vehicles under the P2 procurement batch ordered by Arianespace in 1999 (from L517 on). The test will be conducted by CNES, the French space agency, on behalf of European Space Agency's Ariane 5 Technological Accompaniment (ARTA-5) program.
 



Vinci (Snecma)
January 18
Snecma Moteurs confirms rumors that it is studying a possible cooperation with Pratt&Whitney to jointly develop a new generation cryogenic engine for upper stages by merging current efforts to develop the 155-kN Vinci in Europe and the 250-kN RL50 in the U.S. A joint program might allow to reduce the development by about one year and to reduce recurrent production costs by some 20%. A formal proposal is due to be presented to the European Space Agency before next meeting of the Ariane Program Board in March.
Editor's note: The Vinci (formerly MC-150) is the first expander-cycle cryogenic engine to be developed in Europe. It is planned to be available in 2005 to boost the ESC-B restartable cryogenic upper stage for an improved version of Ariane 5, tentatively dubbed Ariane 5EC-B, able to loft up to 12 tons of payload into geostationary transfer orbit. The RL50 is a new engine unveiled by Pratt&Whitney in June 1999. It is proposed for upgrades on upper stages currently designed to use the smaller RL10 engines, for instance on Boeing's Delta 4 or Lockheed Martin Astronautics' Atlas 5. It has not been included yet in any formal launch vehicle design.



RL50 (P&W)
January 14
Beal Aerospace ships the first thrust chamber for the second stage of its BA-2 launch vehicle to its test facility in McGregor, Texas. The 4-m-tall thrust chamber is due to perform its initial firing in February on an horizontal test stand and to provide up to 3,600 kN of thrust.
January 12
NASA's Glenn Research Center awards a US$50,000 contract to United Technologies Corp. (Pratt&Whitney) Large Military Engine to develop components for an experimental ceramic composite nozzle.
January 10
Beal Aerospace begins operation of a Type 2 Hydrogen Peroxide Concentrator at its test facility in McGregor, Texas. The concentrator will be used to produce up to 5 tons of hydrogen peroxide propellant per day for engine testing.
January 10
The wreckage of the National Space Development Agency H-2S (8F) vehicle that failed on November 15 has been located and photographed on the ocean floor by 3,000 m depth, some 380 km northwest of the Ogasawara Islands. A recovery of the faulty Mitsubishi Heavy Industries LE-7 engine which shut down 107 seconds earlier than planned will be attempted.
January 7
Lockheed Martin Astronautics reports that three more RD-180 engines have been delivered to its assembly plant in Littleton, Colorado, for integration on Atlas 3 vehicles. These are the second third and fourth engines delivered by NPO Energomash. The first one has already been integrated on the AC-201 vehicle, currently due for launch in April.
January 7
Japan's National Space Development Agency has identified three possible causes for the failure of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries LE-7 engine which caused the loss of the H-2S (8F) vehicle on November 15, 1999. According to preliminary analysis of the failure, the engine have ceased functioning 289 seconds into flight because of either a blockage of the hydrogen piping system, including the liquid hydrogen turbopump, or an opening at the lower reaches of the piping system after the liquid hydrogen turbopump, or an opening between the pre-burner combustion chamber and the turbines upper reaches. The investigation will proceed with a detailed investigation on the engine's manufacturing history and the search for the engine's wreckage at sea.
January 7
Pratt&Whitney has decided to keep its rocket engine manufacturing business in its current location in West Palm Beach, Florida.
January 4
GenCorp Aerojet announces that it has completed testing of its Mark 6D Attitude Control System for NASA sounding rocket payloads. An advanced version of the 20-year-old Mark 6, the Mark 6D reportedly exceeded all pointing accuracy expectations.

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 Spaceports

January 31
According to Florida Spacegram, the U.S. government is expected to issue its new Space Transportation Recommendations to the U.S. Department of Defense on February 8 following an extensive inter-agency federal review of national launch issues, primarily focusing on management and operations at Cape Canaveral Air Station and Vandenberg AFB.
January 27
Supporters of Texas Spaceport projects are reportedly seeking federal support for loan guarantees to build one or more spaceports for reusable launch vehicles. Space Access Corp. has joined the Texan team to use federally guaranteed loans to help develop its proposed SA-2 reusable spaceplane.
January 17
Two transporters for space shuttle payload canisters are delivered at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Each of the 24-wheeled, 20-m-long transporters, manufactured by Kamag Transporttechnik GmbH, of Ulm, Germany, can weigh up to 78 tons when loaded .
January 14
Brazil and the United States are expected to announce shortly an agreement which would allow U.S. satellites to be launched from Brazil's Alcântara Launch Center according to the 'O Globo' newspaper.
January 8
Arianespace introduces its new 'roll-on, roll-off' cargo ship, to transfer elements of Ariane launch vehicles from Europe to French Guiana. The MN Colibri, sister ship to the MN Toucan, in service since 1995, leaves the harbor of Le Havre, in France, on her first trip to Kourou, carrying the core stage of the Ariane 505 launcher.
January 3
Beal Aerospace has received a proposal from Florida officials, including a package of tax incentives and grants valued at about US$10 million to conduct manufacturing and launch operations for its BA-2 vehicle from Cape Canaveral.

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 Industry

January 27
Lockheed Martin decides to consolidate its space systems business, including Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, of Sunnyvale, California, Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems, of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Lockheed Martin Astronautics, of Littleton, Colorado, into a new division, called Lockheed Martin Space Systems, to be headquartered in Denver, Colorado.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works Co., prime contractor for NASA's X-33 Advanced Technology Demonstrator, is consolidated with other Lockheed Martin aeronautical units in Marietta, Georgia, and Fort Worth, Texas, to form Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.
January 14
Boeing officially announces that it will acquire the satellite manufacturer Hughes Space & Communications as well as Hughes Electron Dynamics (satellite electric components) and Spectrolab (solar generators) for US$3.75 billion. The world leader for communication satellites, Hughes was not tied to any launch provider.

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 Launch Market

January 28
NetSat 28 Company LLC has selected Space Systems/Loral to design and build a Ka-band communication satellite due for launch before October 2002.
January 26
RapidEye AG of Munich, Germany, selects Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL) to provide the Minisat buses for its constellation of four small remote sensing satellites (380 kg each) due for launch by pairs in early 2002 and early 2003.
January 25
Eutelsat selects Alcatel Space to build a new satellite, tentatively designated as NewBird, to be delivered on the ground in May 2001. This SpaceBus 3000B2 type spacecraft will weigh some 3,000 kg at launch and is planned to become Atlantic Bird 2 once in orbit.
January 18
Matra Marconi Space is awarded a contract by Intelsat to build the first New Intelsat Alpha (NI-Alpha 1) satellite which will be launched during the third quarter of 2002 by an Ariane 5, Proton M or Zenit 3SL vehicle. This 5,000-kg spacecraft will be the first to use the new Eurostar 3000 bus. The contract includes options for up to 7 additional satellites.
January 11
The European Space Agency gives its approval for the construction of the 1,500-kg Mars Express probe by Matra Marconi Space. Mars Express is slated for launch to the Red Planet in June 2003 on top of a Soyuz U/Fregat vehicle provided by Starsem.
January 10
Space Systems/Loral has signed a contract with iSky to build an advanced Ka-band satellite, iSky 1, for a launch due in 2001.
January 10
Intelsat exercises options on an existing contract with Space Systems/Loral to order the Intelsat 906 and 907 satellites to be launched in 2002.
January 7
Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems and Orbital Sciences Corp. (OSC) have signed a previously announced contract with Japan's NTT DoCoMo to build the N-Star c geostationary mobile communications satellite to be launched in 2002. OSC will provide the satellite bus and launch arrangements.
 


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