News of March 2002

Dates are those of the events (in UT) when available.

Commercial Launchers | Government Launchers | Small Launchers
Missile Systems | RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems | Space Propulsion
Spaceports | Industry | Launch Market | Agencies and Governments

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  Commercial Launchers

Contraves Delivers Atlas 5 Fairing
March 26

Switzerland's Contraves Space has delivered the first flight model of the 5.4-m-diameter payload fairing it developed for Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 launch vehicle. This 3,725-kg first flight unit, a 20.4-m-long "short" version, is due to fly in 2003 on the first Atlas 5/500 series launcher.
Editor's note: Contraves developed the composite fairing for the Atlas 5 based on its experience with Ariane 5's 5.4-m-diameter fairings. Longer versions, up to 26-m-tall, were designed for the heaviest versions of the launcher, the Atlas 5H, which is no longer planned to be developed.

Astrium Delivers Last Spelda
March 25

Great-Britain's Astrium Ltd. has delivered the 45th and last Spelda dual launch structure for Ariane 4 to Arianespace. It will be stored until its use on one of the last Ariane 4 flights in late 2002 or early 2003.
Editor's note: Ariane 5's Speltra dual launch launch structures and Sylda 5 dual launch adapters are built by Astrium GmbH in Germany. Astrium Ltd. will continue manufacturing dual payload attach fittings (DPAF) for Boeing's Delta 2 launch vehicles.

Atlas 5 Completes First Wet Dress Rehearsal
March 16
Lockheed Martin successfully completed the first on-pad fueling test of its new Atlas 5 launch vehicle in Cape Canaveral's SLC-41. The 59-m-tall vehicle - actually the first flight model (AV-001) with a dummy payload under its fairing - was rolled out from the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) to the pad on its mobile launch platform on March 6. The five-day "Wet Dress Rehearsal" (WDR#1) began on March 11 and included propellant loading of both the Common Core Booster (RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen) and the stretched Centaur upper stage (liquid hydrogen and oxygen). On a normal flight, all operations would be conducted from rollout of the VIF to launch in 11 hours.
Update: Two more WDRs are due before the actual maiden flight in late June or July.
Khrunichev/Energiya Dispute Settled
March 13
The Proton K/DM3 launch campaign for the Intelsat 903 satellite has resumed in Baykonur after a meeting between top management from RKK Energiya and GKNPTs Khrunichev. Energiya had stopped the preparation for the flight arguing that Khrunichev was late on payments. All issues have been solved according to a RKK Energiya statement.
Editor's note: RKK Energiya is expected to be the biggest looser in the ongoing restructuring of Russian space transportation. With the replacement of its Block DM stages by a Khrunichev-built Breeze stage on the Proton M and no role in the new Angara family of launchers, Energiya will no longer play any industrial role in the International Launch Services consortium and might even be considered a competitor since the Block DM will continue to fly on Sea Launch's Zenit 3SL.

Proton K/DM
(ILS)

Other Energiya's launch vehicle programs currently underway are the Polyot air-launched booster for Vozdushniy Start and the Aurora, a vehicle proposed for launch from Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, if sufficient funding can be raised to complete the Asia Pacific Space Center launch complex.

Arianespace Tests ESC-A Stage Interface
March 12
Arianespace and CNES have begun demonstrating interfaces and operational processes on Ariane 5's new ESC-A cryogenic upper stage in Kourou. A fueling model of the Astrium-built stage, has been mounted atop a mock launch vehicle on the Ariane 5 mobile launch table no.2, which has been equipped with cryogenic arms. By late March, the composite will be rolled out to the ELA-3 launch pad for a series of simulated countdowns with fueling tests, including chilldown and on-pad propellant draining.
Editor's note: The first flight of an Ariane 5ECA, with the ESC-A upper stage, is scheduled in August. The ESC-A, which incorporates the liquid oxygen tank, thrust frame and Snecma HM-7B engine from the Ariane 4's H10-3 third stage, will carry 14 tons of cryogenic propellant. The Ariane 5ECA will have the capacity to loft 10 tons of payload to geostationary transfer orbit.
Atlas 5 Wet Rehearsal Postponed
March 12
Minor technical glitches prevented Lockheed Martin Astronautics from completing the first fueling test on its new Atlas 5 launch vehicle. The test, known as a "wet rehearsal", has been postponed to March 13. The vehicle used for this test is actually the very first flight model of the Atlas 5 (AV-001, in 401 configuration) scheduled for launch in June-July.
Editor's note: This fueling test was previously set for February 28. Two more such rehearsals are planned before the actual launch campaign.
Atlas 5 Rolled Out to Pad
March 11
Lockheed Martin's first Atlas 5 launch vehicle (AV-001) was rolled out to its launch pad in Cape Canaveral's SLC-41 on its mobile transporter. The fully assembled vehicle, with a dummy payload simulator, will undergo a fueling test, known as a "wet rehearsal", to demonstrate interfaces and operational processes. This rollout was delayed by two weeks in order to ease a busy schedule for Atlas launch teams with two flights on February 21 and March 8.
Energiya Halts Proton Launch Campaign
March 11
RKK Energiya is halting the launch campaign of a commercial Proton K/DM vehicle as GKNPTs Khrunichev, the launcher's prime, is reportedly late in payments for delivered Block DM upper stages. RKK Energiya's top manager has refused to approve fueling operations on the vehicle's Block DM3 upper stage. These fueling operations must be completed by March 16 in order to enable a launch on March 30. The payload for this flight is the Intelsat 903 communication satellite built by Space Systems/Loral for Intelsat.
Four Delta 3s Converted to Delta 2
March 8
Boeing Expendable Launch Systems has concerted four of its Delta 3 vehicles under production into Delta 2 vehicles in 2001 according to a Form 10-K filing by The Boeing Co. to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. The conversion work was conducted in order to mitigate some of the risk related to work in process inventory and supplier commitments for the Delta 3 program. Additional opportunities for conversions are under review. Boeing plans to phase out the Delta 3 in 2004, after the current inventory of nine vehicles is depleted.
Update: Boeing's Delta 2 launch manifest includes three Delta 2H vehicles which feature the same Alliant Techsystems GEM-46 strap-on boosters as the Delta 3. Moreover, both vehicles use the same first stage liquid oxygen tank and propulsion.
Atlas 5 Maiden Flight Delayed
March 6

The first flight of Lockheed Martin's new Atlas 5/401 launch vehicle (AV-001) has been postponed from May 9 to mid-June at the earliest and could even slip to July due to delays in the delivery of its payload, Eutelsat's Hot Bird 6, according to International Launch Services. A firm launch date will be announced after the satellite, built by Alcatel Space, has completed its thermal vacuum testing.
Editor's note: Alcatel Space denies any delay in the preparation of Hot Bird 6. The announcement comes a few days after the maiden flight of Atlas 3B, which reportedly demonstrated 85% of the Atlas 5 technologies on February 21, and while the first "wet rehearsal" of the AV-001 vehicle on its launch pad in Cape Canaveral, due on February 28, has been postponed.

Ariane 5 Returns to Flight, Lofts Envisat
March 1st

The 11th Ariane 5G was successfully launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, and lofted European Space Agency's €2.4-billion Envisat polar platform onto Sun-synchronous orbit. This mission, designated V145, had been postponed since October 2001 after a launch mishap on the 10th Ariane 5 launch on July 12, 2001. Arianespace plans four more Ariane 5 flights in 2002, including the maiden flight of the Ariane 5ECA upgraded version, in August, with the ESC-A upper stage able to deliver 10 metric tons to geostationary orbit.
Editor's note: The 8-ton Envisat is the largest and heaviest satellite ever built in Europe, it is also the largest civilian Earth observation satellite ever developed outside Russia. The previous Ariane 5 flight delivered its payload onto a lower-than-planned orbit due to an incident during the ignition of its upper stage's Aestus engine. The mishap resulted from traces of water in the propellant lines. To allow the flight resumption, tighter prelaunch processes have been established and a new, more robust ignition sequence was developed for the Aestus engine. The qualification of this new sequence was completed on February 27.

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  Government Launchers

Ariane 5/H-2A Backup for Government Missions
March 22

Arianespace, CNES and the National Space Development Agency of Japan, are discussing a possible mutual backup launch capability for European and Japanese government missions onbord their Ariane 5 and H-2A launch vehicles. Compatibility between Europe's Ariane 4 and Japan's H-2 vehicles has been discussed since 1993 and between Ariane 5 and the H-2A since 1999. NASDA's Large Scale Deployable Reflector Experiment (LDREX) payload, initially due to fly atop the first H-2A, eventually flew on an Ariane 5G in December 2000. Similarly, the Ariane 5 is proposed as a backup vehicle for the launch of Japan's MT-Sat 1R meteorology and air traffic control satellite in 2003.
Editor's note: No backup launch agreement is considered for commercial payloads.

  
Ariane 5 and H-2A
(Arianespace/NASDA)

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  Small Launchers

IHI/ISAS Consider M-5 Derivatives
March 25
IHI Aerospace and Japan's Institute of Space & Astronautical Science are considering the development of a new small satellite launch vehicle based on existing motors from the all-solid M-5 launch vehicle. The so-called "M-5 Lite" would be based on the second, third and fourth stages of the M-5. This design would allow to loft 500-kg payloads to elliptical low Earth orbits (300 x 600 km) for about US$13 million. Development cost would amount to US$35 million with a first launch in 2005/2006. About 10 small science satellites could be launched by the new vehicle on a yearly basis. According to Space News, ISAS would like IHI to develop and market the launcher on its own, on a commercial basis, without any government funding. IHI and ISAS are also reviewing plans to reduce the recurring cost of the M-5 by 35-50% over the next three years.
M-5 (ISAS)

In addition to the economy of scale which could result from the introduction of the M-5 Lite, other options include the replacement of the first stage, based on the 71.5-ton, two-segment M-14 solid rocket motor, by an improved version with a filament wound composite casing or by a 66-ton monolithic SRB-A currently used as strap-on booster on the H-2A. A redesigned M-34 third stage is also proposed.
Editor's note: The M-5 has been launched three times since February 1997 at a cost of about US$50 million each. The last launch, on February 10, 2000 , was a failure. Four more flights are currently planned through 2005. Earlier in the program, a shorter air-launched version of the M-5 was considered by ISAS but not developed.

DARPA Selects Rascal Awardees
March 21

The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Agency has reportedly selected six industrial teams for study contracts worth US$1-2 million each regarding its Responsive Access, Small Cargo & Affordable Launch (Rascal) system, according to the NASA Watch website. The awardees would be Coleman Aerospace, Delta V (with Alliant Techsystems, A-Squared and I-Squared), Northrop Grumman (with Orbital Sciences Corp.), Pioneer Rocketplane (with HMX), Space Access and Space Launch Corp. (with Scaled Composites). The objective is to design a two-stage vehicle able to loft 75-kg payloads to low-Earth orbit for US$10,000/kg with short notice. The concept must be based on a Recoverable Launch Vehicle as booster stage and an Expendable Rocket Vehicle as upper stage.
Editor's note: A US$70-million budget is considered to build and fly a demonstrator by 2006.

Winds Cause Rokot Postponement
March 16
The first operational launch of a Rokot KM vehicle on behalf of Eurockot Launch Systems GmbH is postponed from March 16 to March 17 due to high altitude winds over the Plesetsk cosmodrome.
Update: Launched successfully on March 17.
DARPA to Award Rascal Contracts
March 6

The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Agency is about to award study contracts for the proposed Responsive Access, Small Cargo & Affordable Launch (Rascal) system able to loft 75-kg of payload to low-Earth orbit for US$750,000 with short notice. Up to five concepts could be selected to compete for a US$70-million contract to build and fly the demonstration vehicle by 2006.
Editor's note: Proposed concepts could be based on a reusable first stage and an expendable upper stage.

GX Development to Begin in April
March 4
Actual development of Japan's new GX ("Galaxy Express") medium-lift launch vehicle will begin in April, at the opening of Japan's new fiscal year with a targeted initial launch capability in early 2006. This development is estimated at 57-63 billion (US$430-475 million), of which the Japanese government will provide one-third through the National Space Development Agency, the Ministries of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). Galaxy Express, a venture led by GX prime contractor Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI), will be in charge of the program and of the marketing and operations of the new vehicle. Initial launches will be conducted from NASDA's Tanegashima Space Center but Galaxy Express is also considering the building of an equatorial launch site on Kiritimati Island, Kiribati, in the Pacific Ocean. This new launch site would require an investment of 26.5-40 billion (US$200-300 million).
GX
(Galaxy Express)
Editor's note: The GX launcher, formerly known as the J-2 or J-1U, will consist in a hydrocarbon first stage based on a Lockheed Martin Atlas tankage and powered by a Russian NK-33 engine provided by GenCorp Aerojet. The upper stage will be fuelled by liquid methane and liquid oxygen and powered by a new engine developed by IHI. In addition to IHI (32.4%), the partners of the Galaxy Express venture are Kokusai Sohko Kakubishi Co. (19.6%), IHI Aerospace Co. (the former Nissan Aerospace, 14%), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (14%), Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (10%), Japan Aviation Electronics Industry Ltd. (5%). and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (5%).
Warning: Kiritimati Island is also known as Christmas Island but should not be confused with Australia's Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, where the Asia Pacific Space Center plans to build a launch site for Russia's Aurora launch vehicle.

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  Missile Systems

Coleman to Study Large Target Launch Vehicles Too
March 29

U.S. Army's Space & Missile Defense Center has awarded a 4-month, US$0.6-million contract to Coleman Research Corp., a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, to study the development of a new family of target launch vehicles on behalf of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Enhanced Target Delivery System (ETDS) program. A similar contract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems was announced on March 27.
Editor's note: Coleman Research Corp. provides Hera target launch vehicles, derived from Minuteman ballistic missiles upper stages, to SMDC.

Northrop Grumman to Provide Trident 2 Support
March 28

The U.S. Navy's Strategic Systems Programs has exercised a series of options, worth US$52.5 million, on a contract with Northrop Grumman Marine Systems for launcher subsystem support on Trident 2 (D5) sea-launched ballistic missile systems deployed onbord U.S. Navy and British Royal Navy submarines through June 2005.

Lockheed Martin to Study Large Target Launch Vehicles
March 27

U.S. Army's Space & Missile Defense Center has awarded a 4-month, US$0.6-million contract to Lockheed Martin Space Systems to study the development of a new family of target launch vehicles on behalf of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Enhanced Target Delivery System (ETDS) program. ETDS vehicles will have to be able to launch larger and heavier target payloads for future ballistic missile defense testing in order to address more complex engagement scenarios, including launches from remote, unimproved land-based sites, as well as from sea-based and air-based platforms. The study will also focus on mission flexibility, decreased launch cycle time, and "realistic emulation of current and projected threat systems."
Editor's note: Lockheed Martin Astronautics has previously been in charge of launching Integrated Flight Target (IFT) payloads for ballistic missile defense interception tests onboard decommissioned Minuteman 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles refurbished under the Multi-Service Launch System (MSLS) program. Orbital Sciences Corp. took over this activity in December 2001 with its Orbital Suborbital Program/Target Launch Vehicle (TLV), another Minuteman 2 derivative. Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space is also responsible for U.S. Navy's Trident 2 (D5) sea-launched ballistic missile systems.
Update: Another ETDS study contract was awarded
to Coleman Research Corp., a subsidiary of L-3 Communications (see March 29).

Refurbished Minutemen on Duty
March 25

The first ten Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles with refurbished motors have been returned to operational status on March 15 in U.S. Air Force's Malmstrom AFB, Montana. The motors of their three main stages have been emptied of their initial propellant load and cast with a new one under the Propulsion Replacement Program (PRP). The remaining 490 missiles will undergo a similar refurbishment through 2008. Total cost of the program is estimated at US$2.4 billion. The PRP is led by TRW with major contributions by Thiokol and Pratt&Whitney.
Editor's note: The first refurbished missile was delivered in April 2001. Two other TRW-led Minuteman 3 retrofit programs are underway: the Guidance Replacement Program (GRP), to replace the missiles' vintage avionics with Boeing as main subcontractor, and the Propulsion System Rocket Engine Life Extension Program (PSRE/LEP) to replace refurbish the Atlantic Research Corp. PSRE in the post-boost upper stage.


Refurbished Minuteman 3
delivery (U.S. Air Force)
Russia Considers Own Missile Defense
March 19

The Russian government's Security Council discussed the possibility to develop a National Missile Defense system to match current U.S. efforts in this field. Funding for the Russian Control Systems Agency, in charge of the development of early warning systems, has reportedly been increased by 25%.

Successful Missile Defense Test
March 16

  
Minuteman 2 and PLV
(U.S. Air Force/LMMS)

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency landed its fourth success in six attempts to intercept a simulated incoming intercontinental ballistic missile on behalf of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System flight test program. The Integrated Flight Target 8 (IFT-8), consisting in a dummy warhead and three decoy balloons, was launched from Vandenberg AFB, California, by an Orbital Sciences Orbital/Suborbital Program Target Launch Vehicle (OSP/TLV), based on a refurbished Minuteman 2 ballistic missile. Some 20 minutes later, a Lockheed Martin Payload Launch Vehicle (PLV), based on the second and third stages of a decommissioned Minuteman 2, was launched from the Kwajalein Missile Range, Marshall Islands, carrying a Boeing-Raytheon Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV). The EKV separated from the PLV more than 2,250 km ahead of its target and successfully intercepted the warhead 10-minutes after launch, at an altitude of about 225 km.
Editor's note: On the latest successful test, on July 15 and December 4, only one decoy balloon was released with the target warhead. Moreover the PLV was reportedly guided by a beacon onboard the target warhead but the EKV used its onboard sensors for the final interception, after successful discrimination between the warhead and the decoy. The development campaign includes another 18 test flights and is not expected to be completed before 2006 or 2007. Each test flight costs about US$100 million.
MDA Outlines Plans for GMDS Testbed
March 8
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has released new details on its plans to develop a testbed for its Ground-based Midcourse Defense System (GMDS) in Ft. Greely, Alaska. The initial testbed, available in 2004, will consist of five silos for ground based interceptors with sparing command launch equipment. According to Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, head of MDA, this initial facility would have the capability to "stop an extremely limited missile strike from North Korea."Further upgrades will allow to support missile defense interception tests in the boost and terminal phases. MDA's plans also includes upgrades of the Kwajalein Missile Range and other locations to enhance launch capabilities and range safety to add new interception areas in order to "reduce artificiality in testing and add realism to test scenarios such as multiple engagements." The MDA also plans a US$13.9-million upgrade of the Kodiak Launch Complex at Narrow Cape, Kodiak Island, Alaska, for the GMDS test program.
Editor's note: The 2004 deadline for the implementation of a GMDS testbed in Ft. Greely is suspected to be dictated by political considerations as the current U.S. administration would like to set up an initial GMDs capability before the end of its mandate.
TRW Gets Minuteman Warhead Contract Extension
March 6
TRW ICBM Systems was awarded an estimated US$169.7-million increase on a contract signed in 1998 with U.S. Air Force's Ogden Air Logistics Center to design and demonstrate safety enhanced reentry systems for Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The contract runs through September 2006. TRW will award subcontracts to Lockheed Martin Mission Systems (US$69.6 million) and to Boeing Space & Communications (US$35.6 million).
Report Pinpoints Problems on Early Missile Defense Test
March 4
The U.S. General Accounting Office has issued a report about irregularities found in an early flight test of the ground-based midcourse Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle's sensors in June 1997. The report refutes initial statement by the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (now the U.S. Missile Defense Agency) that the Boeing infrared sensor's performance and warhead discrimination were 'excellent' during the IFT-1A test. According to GAO scientists, sensor overheating severely limited the EKV's discrimination abilities. The report also claims that contractors did not mention the gravity of these problems to government officials.
Download GAO's report (pdf, 552 kb)
Boeing/OSC to Develop Alternate Booster for MDA
March 4
Boeing and Orbital Sciences have been awarded new contracts to develop an alternate design for a silo-launched ground-based interceptor vehicle due to boost the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicles as part of the U.S. Missile Defense's Ground-based Midcourse Defense System. As lead contractor for the overall missile defense effort, Boeing was awarded a US$425-million contract by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to develop and test the second design, or Alternate Booster Vehicle (ABV), before September 2007. Orbital Sciences will act as primary subcontractor to Boeing under a US$400-million development contract running through 2006. If the ABV design is eventually picked up by Boeing, a US$535-million production, deployment and support contract could follow with 70 vehicles to be built from 2003/2004 to 2010. Development of the competing commercial off-the-shelf Ground-Based Interceptor will be transfered to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space. The GBI was initially designed by Boeing with motors provided by Alliant TechSystems and Pratt&Whitney Chemical Systems Division.
Editor's note: Orbital's ABV design is a three-stage booster based on its Pegasus and Taurus vehicles. It was selected by MDA in January. The GBI, which is 18-month behind schedule, failed on its second test flight on December 13, 2001.

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  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

Pioneer to Study Mars Deceleration System
March 26

Pioneer Aerospace Corp. was awarded a US$2-million contract by NASA's Johnson Space Center to develop technology for a Mars deceleration system.

China Launches Shenzhou 3
March 25

China successfully launched its third prototype Shenzhou spaceship atop a Chang Zheng 2F (CZ-2F "Long March") vehicle. The 7.8-t spacecraft will orbit for several days at an altitude of 335 km and an inclination of 42.4°, conducting a series of scientific experiments before separating in three elements. The reentry capsule will return to Earth while the service module will burn in the atmopshere. The orbital section is expected to stay in orbit for up to six months. Unlike previous Shenzhou flights, in November 1999 and January 2001, Shenzhou 3 does not carry monkeys but an instrumented dummy "yuanghuang" (astronaut) to prepare for future manned missions. If the Shenzhou 3 mission is successfully completed, a first manned mission could occur in late 2003, after one or two more unmanned tests flights. Shenzhou 3 is reportedly carrying an unidentified piggyback microsatellite to be released in flight.
Editor's note: No picture was ever realeased of the Shenzhou 2 return capsule, suggesting that it might have been damaged, destroyed or lost at recovery.

Cosmopolis 21 Suborbital Spaceplane Unveiled
March 14

Russia's Suborbital Corp. and U.S. Space Adventures Ltd. have unveiled their proposed Cosmopolis 21 (C-21) rocket-powered suborbital manned spaceplane designed to carry "space tourists" to the edge of space. The 3.5-ton C-21 spaceplane would be released by a Myasishchev M-55X "Geophysika" high altitude research plane at an altitude of 20 km. It would then ignite its solid propellant kick motor to reach a maximum altitude of 100 km, providing about 3 minutes of microgravity conditions, before reentering the atmosphere and landing on a conventional runway. The C-21, which will need US$10 million to develop, is due to begin regular flights by 2004-2005, with one pilot and two passengers. Total cost of the program would reach US$70 million with two M-55X carrier aircraft and a fleet of seven spaceplanes.
Editor's note: The C-21's propulsion is apparently provided by a refurbished ballistic missile upper stage.

Panel Warns NASA on Shuttle Safety, CRV
March 8
The independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel has released its annual report on NASA's safety issues and concluded that greater efforts are needed in areas such as space shuttle upgrades and the development of a Crew Return Vehicle. According to the report, NASA lacks long-term planning and is focused day-by-day survival of its manned space program. This resulted in the postponement of upgrades in favor of the procurement of additional spare parts to keep the shuttle orbiters flying in their current configuration. The panel also warns that privatizing of the space shuttle fleet would result in higher risks. Regarding the International Space Station, the panel recommends to continue work on the X-38 demonstrator to enable the crew to expand from three to seven as the current limited crew "will not be able to perform all the required tasks without impacting crew health, safety, and/or performance."
Read The 2001 ASAP Report (pdf, 2 Mb)
Astrium/Babakin Joint Venture to Market IRDT
March 6

IRDT Demonstrator
(Astrium/Babakin)
Astrium and NPO Lavochkin's Babakin Space Center have formed a joint-venture, Return & Rescue Space Systems GmbH, to market the Inflatable Reentry & Descent Technology (IRDT) developed by Babakin. Two IRDT demonstrators were flown on the maiden flight of Starsem's Soyuz-Fregat vehicle on February 9, 2000, on behalf of the European Space Agency and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (now part of Astrium). A second IRDT test flight is due in June-July. Astrium holds 51% of the joint-venture and Babakin 49%. IRDT systems could be used for low-cost return of payloads from the International Space Station, on planetary missions or for the recovery of upper stages.
Editor's note: Astrium was given exclusive rights on IRDT development and marketing by a MoU signed with Rosaviakosmos in June 2001. On the two IRDT demonstrators flown in 2000, only one was recovered after landing in a snowstorm in the Orenburg oblast.  The innovative inflatable heatshield performed successfully but did not deploy to its full extent and the 110-kg spacecraft was damaged on impacting the ground.
A larger model, to recover the 1,200-kg Fregat upper stage, could not be located after reentry. A third demonstrator was reportedly flown on a suborbital trajectory on July 20, 2001 with the Planetary Society's Cosmos solar sail demonstrator and lost in the failure of the RSM-50 Volna launch vehicle. The IRDT concept was initially developed for the surface probes of the Mars 1996 mission, lost at launch on November 1996 in the failure of the last Proton K/D vehicle.
Third Shenzhou Flight Imminent
March 6
The launch of China's third Shenzhou man-rated spaceship could occur shortly according to Chinese state press sources. The prototype spaceship is reportedly on its CZ-2F launcher on the launch pad in Jiuquan Space Launch Center. The mission has been postponed from late 2001 due to problems with "product quality." Shenzhou 3 will fly an improved life support systems with an instrumented dummy astronaut ("yuhangyuan"). A CZ-2F vehicle was reportedly removed from the launch pad in late July or early August 2001 and sent back to the assembly plant. In case of success, the first manned flight could occur as soon as 2003 on the fourth or fifth mission.
Editor's note: According to some source, the Shenzhou 3 flight will not occur before June. A second CZ-2F launch pad is reportedly under construction in Jiuquan and might indicate that China plans to conduct multiple launched and possibly orbital rendezvous missions in the near future.
SpaceHab Contracted for Two More Missions
March 6
SpaceHab was awarded a US$42.4-million contract modification by NASA to fly its Logistics Single Module and Integrated Cargo Carrier for two more missions to the International Space Station, STS-116 (12A.1) and STS-118 (13A.1), in May and September 2003, respectively.
U.S. DoD Considers RLV R&D Initiative
March 4

The U.S. Department of Defense is studying plans to launch a National Aerospace Initiative to consolidate its R&D efforts regarding hypersonic propulsion and advanced space launch systems, according to Space News. The 25-year effort would include flight demonstration of concepts and technology about every other year. Some US$30-40 million could be allocated to begin the activities in FY2003.

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  Space Propulsion

Atlantis to Fly With Three SSME Bk2 Engines
March 31
NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis will be the first to fly with a complete set of three upgraded Boeing Rocketdyne Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) for mission STS-110 on April 4. The SSME Bk 2 upgraded engines include an improved high-pressure liquid hydrogen turbopump developed by Pratt&Whitney. This new pump incorporates a cast housing without welds, an integral shaft/disk with thin-wall blades and ceramic bearings. The upgrade is designed to increase reliability of the engines. Atlantis has already flown with a single SSME Bk2 in July 2001 (STS-104) as also did Endeavour in December 2001 (STS-108).
Editor's note: SSMEs have already undergone several upgrades to improve relaibility and performance. In 1995, the Block 1 upgrade introduced a redesigned liquid oxygen turbopump, a two-duct engine power head and a single-coil heat exchanger. In 1998, the Block 2A upgrade incorporated a larger-throat main combustion chamber.

SSME Bk2
(NASA-MSFC)
India Test Improved Solid Rocket Motor
March 30

The Indian Space Research Organisation has successfully completed the second and last firing test of an improved solid rocket motor for the third stage of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in Sriharikota Range, Uttar Pradesh. This motor, which features an optimized composite casing and nozzle and an increased propellant loading, delivered up to 85 kN of thrust (at sea level) for 112 seconds. It will be first used on the PSLV-C4 mission, in late 2002, to increase the vehicle payload capacity to geostationary transfer orbit by 70 kg.
Editor's note: PSLV-C4 will be the PSLV's first mission to GTO, carrying ISRO's 950-kg MetSat 1 meteorology satellite.

India Conducts Long Duration Cryogenic Engine Firing - Recent Update
March 30
The Indian Space Research Organisation has successfully conducted the first long-duration hot firing test of the indigenous cryogenic engine developed under the Cryogenic Upper Stage Program (CUSP) at its Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu. The 75-kN engine, turbopump-fed and regeneratively cooled, completed a 720-sec. burn. This was the fifth firing test in the program. The first test, on February 9, lasted a mere 10 seconds. It was followed by two 40-sec. burns and one lasting 200 seconds. The CUSP engine is planned to fly on the third test flight of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) in 2003.
Editor's note: The CUSP stage is due to replace the 12KRB cryogenic upper stage designed and supplied by Russia's GKNPTs Khrunichev. In flight, the CUSP engine will have to operate for 740 seconds.

GSLV
(ISRO)

The certification process requires a qualification for 1,400 seconds of combustion. The development program suffered a major delay after a failed firing attempt on February 16, 2000, which was aborted after 15 seconds due to due to a leak of helium from a punctured tube which prevented liquid hydrogen supply to the engine.

Europe/Russia Cooperation on Methane Engine
March 22

A group of seven European and Russian engine manufacturers will jointly study and develop a large, reusable liquid oxygen/methane-fed engine, dubbed Volga, for future European advanced space transportation systems. A MoU was signed between France's Snecma Moteurs, Germany's Astrium GmbH, Sweden's Volvo Aero and Belgium's Techspace Aero, as well as NPO Energomash, KB KhimAvtomatiki and the Keldysh research center from Russia. The partners plan to invest €20 million in a preliminary 3-year definition phase, to identify operational requirements and develop relevant technologies. Two more years will be needede to develop an engine demonstrator. About €200 million will be needed to complete the development and qualification of the engine. The 4,000-kN Volga engine will be designed for up to 50 flights. Provided that sufficient funding is raised for its development, it could be available as soon as 2009.
Editor's note: The Volga is likely to be proposed for funding by the European Space Agency within its revised Future Launcher Preparatory Program which could be launched in June.

Test Mishap Confirmed on Atlas 5 Motor
March 18

A large solid rocket motor developed by GenCorp Aerojet to serve as strap-on booster for Lockheed Martin's Atlas 5 series of launchers, failed during a qualification firing on March 15 in Sacramento, California. This 95-sec. hot firing test was the first of two qualification tests intended to clear the way for the operational use of the motor. Some 30 sec. into the test, a pressure drop was reported apparently due to a burnthrough in the motor's nozzle. However, the test is claimed to have successfully demonstrated cold temperature start-up (4°C) and a new inhibitor designed to provide softer liftoff dynamics. According to Aerojet, the mishap should not have any impact to the overall test schedule. A development firing test of the motor was successfully performed on August 30, 2001. First flight of an Atlas 5 version with strap-on boosters is due in 2003.
Editor's note: The Atlas 5 solid rocket motor does not feature any thrust vectoring capability and its nozzle is fixed, with a 7° cant. The current Atlas 5 backlog includes only one commercial spacecraft which will require strap-on boosters for launch: a 5-t Inmarsat 4 satellite in 2003/2004. All other commercial payloads assigned to the new vehicle will presumably fly atop Atlas 5/400 or 5/500 configurations. Lockheed Martin awarded a US$500-million contract to Aerojet to develop the motor in February 1999.

Historical Test Stand Renovated in Edwards
March 18
Test Stand 1-D in Edwards AFB, California, one of the largest rocket engine test stand in the U.S., is being renovated on behalf of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The 18-month, US$12.6-million effort includes upgrading the stand, built in the 1960s for the Apollo program, to current environmental requirements as well as modernizing its electrical, plumbing and instrumentation systems. The upgraded test stand will be suitable for of hot firing tests of liquid oxygen-kerosene fueled engines delivering up to 6,500 kN of thrust.
Editor's note: This faciliity will presumably be used for firing tests of new hydrocarbon-fueled engines developed under NASA's Space Launch Initiative.
Second Firing Test for Atlas 5 Booster
March 15

GenCorp Aerojet has conducted the second in a series of three horizontal hot-firing tests of a new solid rocket motor designed to serve as a strap-on booster for Lockheed Martin Astronautics new Atlas 5 series of launchers. The 18-m-tall motor, 155-cm in diameter, will be the largest monolithic solid rocket motor ever flown with a launch mass of 40,825 kg. Results of the 95-sec. test have not been released yet. The first firing est was conducted in August 2001.
Editor's note: The first Atlas 5 vehicle to fly with strap-on boosters will apparently be an Atlas 5/500 due to loft Télésat Canada's Nimiq 2 direct broadcasting satellite in December. The Atlas 5/400 will carry up to three boosters (5/431) while versions of the Atlas 5/500 have been designed with one to five boosters (5/511 to 5/551).
Watch the firing test on KCRA Channel's website (Real, WMP, QT).

TRW Gets Minuteman Motor Contract Extension
March 11
TRW ICBM Systems was awarded an estimated US$32.5-million modification on a contract signed in 1998 with U.S. Air Force's Ogden Air Logistics Center to face cost increases in the the Propulsion System Rocket Engine Life Extension Program for Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles. These cost overruns are reportedly resulting from some U.S. government facilities not being available and an extended the development phase combined with a delayed production phase due to funding shortfalls. The contract now runs through March 2012. TRW will award a US$21-million subcontract to Atlantic Research Corporation.
Editor's note:The Propulsion System Rocket Engine Life Extension Program is designed to refurbish the post-boost, liquid-propulsion stage of the Minuteman 3 missiles.
Alliant to Provide ABV's Motors
March 8
Alliant Techsystems announces that it will receive a US$300-million subcontract by Orbital Sciences Corp. to provide Orion solid rocket motors for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency's Alternate Booster Vehicle. Orbital was awarded an initial US$425-million contract by MDA on March 4 to develop the ABV.
Editor's note: Alliant is already providing its GEM-40 motor for the first stage of the commercial off-the-shelf Ground-Based Interceptor designed by Boeing and whose development has been transfered to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space. Alliant's Orion motors are flown on Orbital's Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur vehicles.
Cosmos 1 Solar Sail Slips to September
March 1st

The Planetary Society announces that the launch of its prototype solar sail, developed under the Cosmos 1 project, has slipped to September. This postponement was caused by many factors including delays in the production of solar arrays due to heavy snowstorms in Central Russia, longer development time to add redundancy, test mishaps and the need to replace the solar sails which had been packed for too long before the launch. A formal launch date will be set by late March.
Editor's note: The 40-kg demonstrator, built by NPO Lavochkin's Babakin Space Center, will be launched atop a converted RSM-50 Volna missile from a Russian submarine at sea.

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  Spaceports

Tata Steel to Deliver GSLV Launch Platform
March 13

Tata Steel will deliver a 750-ton mobile launch platform for the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) to the Indian Space Research Organisation, in Sriharikota Range, Tamil Nadu, later this month. The platform (19.2 x 19.2 x 8 m) features a special refractory lining for multiple use and cryogenic arms for on-pad fuelling of the upper stage. Under a Rs 140-million (US$3-million) contract, Tata Steel is due to build a second platform.

Ukraine to Define Tsyklon 4 Launch Pad in Alcântara
March 12
A team of Ukrainian engineers will settle in Brazil's Alcântara Launch Center in late March or early April in order to define the exact location for a future launch pad for NPO Yuzhnoye's new Tsyklon 4 launch vehicle. A joint-venture of Yuzhnoye, with Brazilian and U.S. partners, will be incorporated in the near future to market the vehicle. According to NKAU, the Ukrainian space agency, five intergovernmental agreements are being worked on this matter.
Editor's note:The Tsyklon 4 was initially planned to be developed under a partnership with FiatAvio but the Italian motorist is now focusing in priority on the development of the Vega small launch vehicle for ESA.
Cost of Soyuz Pad in Kourou Revised
March 8
The cost of building a launch complex for Soyuz vehicles in Kourou has been revised from US$250 million to US$180 million, according to French aerospace weekly Air&Cosmos. If approved by ESA's council in June, the investment could be shared between Russia, ESA and European industry, each providing US$60 million.

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  Industry

Energiya and Khrunichev Lay Off
March 20

RKK Energiya and GKNPTs Khrunichev are reportedly conducting significant cuts in their workforce due to unsufficient funding from the Russian government on national programs and Russia's involvement in the International Space Station.

U.S. DoD Discourage Would-be TRW Bidders
March 12
The U.S. Department of Defense is said to have informally discouraged Boeing and Lockheed Martin from making a counter bid for TRW, citing anti-trust concerns. TRW is currently facing a hostile US$5.9-billion bid from Northrop Grumman. Rival bids have been expected from Boeing, General Dynamics, Honeywell and Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin Avoids Strike
March 11
Lockheed Martin has reached tentative agreements with the local International Association of Machinists unions at its Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space facilities in Sunnyvale, California, thus avoiding a previously announced strike movement.
Lockheed Martin Workers Ready for Strike
March 6
Workers of several Lockheed Martin plants plan to go on strike on March 11 asking for better contracts, with improved wages, health insurances and pensions. Among the plants affected are Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space facilities in Sunnyvale, California, and multiple Lockheed Martin's facilities in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
AKO Polyot on Strike
March 5
Workers of Omsk-based AKO Polyot aircraft plant plan to go on strike on March 6 as they have not been paid since November 2001. Polyot's space activities should not be affected by the strike as workers of the space branch are reportdely paid in due time.
Editor's note: AKO Polyot, which is in charge of assembly of Antonov An-70 carrier aircraft, is prime for the Kosmos 3M launch vehicles and in charge of integration for several series of NPO Prikladnoy Mekhaniki spacecraft like the Uragan satellites for the Glonass global navigation system and the Tsikada/Parus navigation satellites. Production of the Kosmos 3M was reportedly stopped in 1995 but some 10 vehicles are still in storage.
TRW Rejects Northrop Grumman's Bid
March 3
TRW's board voted unanimously to reject Northrop Grumman's unsolicited US$5.9-billion takeover bid, qualifying the offer as "grossly undervalued." Northrop Grumman had issued its proposal on February 21 with a deadline on March 3. Northrop Grumman has announced that it will pursue its attempt to takeover TRW through an hostile bid on the company.
Editor's note: While Northrop Grumman had proposed to buy TRW shares at US$47 each, the stocks had reached US$50.05 at New York Stock Exchange on March 1st. Some analysts expect other large aerospace companes like Boeing or Lockheed Martin to issue bids on TRW too.

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  Launch Market

Mercury Probe Gets Go Ahead
March 29

John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory has received NASA's approval to begin manufacturing on the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging (Messenger) spacecraft after successful completion of the project's critical design review. Actual integration of the spacecraft elements will begin in November.
Editor's note: The 1,066-kg spacecraft is due for launch in March 2004 atop a Boeing Delta 2/7925H vehicle. It will perform two flybys of Venus in June 2004 and March 2006, and then two of Mercury in July 2007 and April 2008 before actually entering orbit around the planet in April 2009. Total cost of the program is US$286 million.

Boeing Sets Up Team for MUOS
March 27

Boeing Space & Communications has set up an industrial team to compete for U.S. Navy's Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), a future military communication satellite system designed to replace the current UHF Follow-On (UFO) series. The Boeing-led team will include ViaSat, Hughes Network Systems, TRW Space & Electronics, Harris Corp. and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC). Two 14-month study contracts, worth US$40-million each, will be awarded later this year in order to select a prime contractor in late 2003. Initial operational capability for the new system is expected in early 2008, with full capability by 2013.
Editor's note: Another industrial team will likely be led by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space.

NPO-PM Begins Work on Vinasat
March 27

Russia's NPO Prikladnoy Mekhaniki has reportedly begun work on Vietnam's first geostationary communication satellite. The US$197-million Vinasat will carry 28 transponders and will be launched in late 2004 atop a Proton vehicle. It will later be located by 132° East.

European Ministers Unlock Galileo
March 26

The ministers of Transports of the European Union have eventually approved their share of the funding for the controversial €3.3-billion Galileo global navigation satellite system. The ministers approved a €450-million budget under the TransEuropean Network (TEN) program which will add to another €100 million previously awarded by the Council and to the €550 million awarded in November 2001 by the European Space Agency. These funds will cover the €1.13-billion development and validation phase of the program through late 2004. No funding has been approved yet for the following €2.1-billion deployment phase nor for the operations and replenishment of the constellation which will cost an estimated €220 million per year.
Editor's note: The Galileo constellation, to be operational in 2008, will be composed of 30 satellites (27 active and 3 in-orbit spares) in medium-Earth orbit (23,616 km, 56°) on three orbital planes. Each satellite will weigh about 640 kg at launch. Arianespace and Starsem are jointly bidding to loft the constellation to orbit onboard a mix of Soyuz/ST and Ariane 5ECB launchers. Galileo Industries, a joint-venture of Alcatel, Alenia and Astrium, is expected to develop and build the satellites under ESA prime contractorship.

DLR Supports TerraSAR-X
March 25

Germany's DLR aerospace research center will invest €100 million in InfoTerra's TerraSAR-X X-band synthetic aperture radar observation satellite. A contract will be signed with Astrium in April. Astrium will invest some €30-40 million of in-house funds, to develop the ground segment. The 1,250-kg satellite, based on Astrium's new AstroBus platform, is tentatively planned for launch in late 2005 or 2006, presumably on a MKK Kosmotras Dnepr launch vehicle.
Editor's note: A larger L-band satellite, TerraSAR-L, was proposed under European Space Agency's Earth Watch program but failed to get the necessary funding. The AstroBus platform merges elements developed for Matra Marconi Space's Leostar and Dornier Satellitensysteme's FlexBus platforms.

Boeing Reports Problems on TDRS-I
March 22

Boeing Satellite Systems reports that its US$280-million TDRS-I tracking & data relay Satellite, launched on March 8 atop a Lockheed Martin Atlas 2AS, on behalf of NASA, is experiencing pressurization problems with one of its four propellant tanks. TDRS-I was launched onto a 247 x 29,135 km subsynchronous transfer orbit with a 27.1° inclination. The problem was presumably pinpointed after two initial burns, on March 11 and 13, first to raised the perigee to 433 km then the apogee to geostationary altitude. A further burn was performed on March 19, raising the perigee to 3,521 km and lowering the inclination to 21.4°.
Editor's note: Boeing is due to deliver the TDRS-I satellite in geostationary orbit. Depending on the kind of problem experinced, the satellite operational lifetime could be significantly reduced and NASA is likely to renegotiate the terms of contract with a reduced fee to take over the satellite. In case of "total loss" (i.e. loss of more than 50% of the satellite mission), Boeing would have to provide a replacement spacecraft within 36 months.
Update:
A fourth burn on March 25 raised the perigee to 8,383 km and lowered again the inclination to 17.4°.

Alcatel/Arianespace Take Stake in Agrani
March 21

Alcatel Space and Arianespace have signed an agreement with Essel Group's Agrani Satellite Services Ltd. to support the development and launch of the Agrani 2 satellite. Alcatel will invest US$15 million for a 9.75% stake and Arianespace US$5 million for 3.25%. A formal contract is expected to be signed shortly between Agrani and Alcatel Space for a turnkey delivery. The Agrani 2 satellite is planned for launch atop an Arianespace Ariane 5 vehicle in late 2003. Total cost of the Agrani 2 project is estimated at Rs 11.5 billion (US$236 million).
Editor's note: Agrani 2 is the former Thaicom 4 satellite which has been in storage at Alcatel Space's facilities in Cannes since 1997. The Spacebus 3000-type spacecraft had been built under an option to the Thaicom 3 procurement contract with Shinawatra Satellite (now Shin Satellite). The satellite will be modified with 24 C-band and 14 Ku-band transponders to provide direct broadcasting, Internet access and other communication services to India and surrounding regions. As Afro-Asian Satellite Communications Ltd. (ASC), Agrani had ordered two HS-601-class satellites for mobile communication services from Hughes Space & Communications (now Boeing Satellite Systems) in January 1995. The US$700-million deal fell short has ASC could not raise the necessary funding. In May 1998, ASC signed a contract with Lockheed Martin Space Systems for a single A2100AX satellite (Agrani 1) but again the deal did not materialize despite backing financial institutions led by the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) as the U.S. State Department denied to issue an export license for the satellite.

Pakistan Announces Communication Satellite
March 19

Pakistan claims that its first communication satellite will be launched by year end. An announcement was made by the country's federal minister for Science & Technology, Dr. Atta ur Rehman, who added that a contract will be signed within 6 weeks. The satellite will feature C, Ku and Ka-band capacity and located by 38° East.
Editor's note: No prime contractor nor launch service has been officially selected for this program. In 1998, Alcatel Space was selected to develop and operate the Paksat system but the deal apparently fell short due to a lack of financing. In April 2001, the ministry of Science & Technology had already announced a launch within two years.

NASA Selects Technologies for ST-7 Mission
March 18
NASA has selected Stanford University and Busek Co. to provide the Disturbance Reduction System technology for its Space Technology 7 mission to be flown in 2006. Stanford University will provide a highly sensitive gravitational reference sensor that will measure the position of a spacecraft with respect to an internal free-floating mass in a pure vaccum environment. Busek will provide a set of miniature ion thrusters to control the spacecraft's position with extremely fine precision. The US$62.6-million ST-7 mission will be flown under NASA's New Millennium program in order to demonstrate this technology for future science missions such as a spacecraft designed to detect gravitational waves.
Editor's note: This concept of using a free-floatting mass inside the satellite to compensate atmospheric drag was first tested in 1972 with the Triad mission.
European Leaders Push Again for Galileo
March 16
During their meeting in Barcelona, heads of governments from European Union's 15 member countries reaffirmed their support to the €3.3-billion Galileo global navigation satellite system. A final funding decision on the first phase of the program is expected on March 25-26, at a meeting of European transport ministers.
Editor's note:For the first phase of the program, the European Union is expected to fund a €450-million budget to complement the €528-million investment already agreed by the European Space Agency in November 2001.
DARPA Taps Boeing for Orbital Express Phase 2
March 12
The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Agency has selected the team led by Boeing Phantom Works for the second phase of the Orbital Express satellite servicing technology demonstration program. The team was awarded a US$99.1-million increment to its previous study contract and will invest US$13.4 million on its own in the program. This 42-month phase will include development of a prototype servicing satellite, the Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations (ASTRO) satellite, and a target serviceable satellite, NextSat. The two will be flown onto orbit in 2005 to demonstrate the feasibility and utility of autonomous, robotic on-orbit satellite servicing, using a standard, non-proprietary servicing interface.
Editor's note: Boeing's team includes Ball Aerospace & Technology, TRW Space & Technology, MD Robotics and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. The other teams were led by Sanders and by Spectrum Astro.
NASA Prepares Mars Scout AO
March 12
NASA's Office of Space Science plans to issue an announcement of opportunity (AO) in April for its proposed Mars Scout missions. The Mars Scouts will be small science missions to Mars orbit or surface intended to complement the major, strategic Mars missions planned under NASA's Mars Exploration Program (MEP) as well as by other non-U.S. space agencies. Selection of missions is planned for late 2002 with a first flight opportunity in 2007.
Editor's note: Mars Scout probes will be launched as auxiliary payloads on commercial flights to geostationary orbit and will use onboard propulsion systems to reach Mars.
Alcatel Loses Two, Wins One SES Satellites
March 11
SES Global has cancelled orders for two satellites from Alcatel Space and awarded the French satellite manufacturer a contract for one new spacecraft. The cancelled orders were for the AMC-22 and AMC-23 satellites ordered for SES Americom in 2000 as GE-3i and GE-4i. The new satellite, based on the Spacebus 4000 bus, will weigh 4,850 kg at launch and carry 60 C-band transponders.
Editor's note: SES Global denied an earlier report that the new satellite will be designated AMC-23 again.
Astrolink Contracts Terminated
March 7
All Lockheed Martin contracts to build and launch the Astrolink satellites have been terminated in Q4 2001 according to a Form 10-K filing by Lockheed Martin Corp. to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. Lockheed Martin Commercial Space had been contracted to build four Advanced A2100 type satellites and International Launch Services was due to provide two Atlas and two Proton launches.
Update: Astrolink International LLC, owned 31% by Lockheed Martin, failed to raise more than US$1.3 billion out of the US$3.7 billion it need to complete the constellation. The initial investors, Lockheed Martin, TRW, Telespazio and Liberty Media, reportedly gave up in October 2001.
SBIRS-Low Restructuring Plan Due in April
March 7

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency is expected to issue a restructuring plan for the low-Earth orbit segment of the Space-Based InfraRed Satellite (SBIRS-Low) system in April. U.S. Department of Defense's proposed budget for FY2003 delayed the program by two years.
Editor's note: The SBIRS-Low constellation, considered as a major part of the missile defense architecture, would be based on 20 to 30 satellites with infrared sensors to provide mid-course missile tracking. Two teams are competing on the program. One is led by TRW, with Raytheon and Northrop Grumman and the other by Spectrum Astro, with Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Congressional review of the program in 2001 revealed significant cost overruns, schedule slips and technical challenges. Launches would be conducted from Vandenberg AFB, California, atop Boeing Delta 4 boosters.

U.S. Navy to Issue RfP for MUOS
March 6

The U.S. Navy is about to release a RfP for the design and development of its future Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). Two 14-month study contracts, worth US$40-million each, will be awarded later this year in order to select a prime contractor in late 2003. The new system will have to be fully deployed before 2013 as the U.S. Navy plans not to order any further satellite beyond UFO-11.

WildBlue on Hold
March 4

Space Systems/Loral has suspended all activities on the two WildBlue broadband communication satellites while WildBlue Communications investors are looking for additional funding according to Space News. The venture, backed by Echostar Corp. and Télésat Canada, has already secured US$440 million, but needs another US$400 million to resume its activities.
Editor's note: WildBlue Communications (previously known as KaStar and iSky) holds two firm launch contracts with Arianespace for its 5-ton-class satellites.

Shin Gets Ex-Im Bank Loan for iPStar
March 1st

The U.S. Export-Import Bank has eventually approved a US$250-million loan to Thailand's Shin Satellite in order to support its iPStar satellite program despite protests by competing U.S. and European operators, namely Hughes Network Systems (leader of the SpaceWay program), PanAmSat and New Skies Satellites. The spacecraft is being manufactured by Space Systems/Loral and should be completed by December 2003 and ready for launch in 2004, on a launcher yet to be selected.

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  Agencies and Governments

Japan's Space Budget to Decrease in FY2002
March 7

H-2A
(NASDA)
Japan plans to spend J¥267.5 billion (€2.33 billion) in space for FY2002, due to begin on April 1st, a 5.2% decrease compared to FY2001. J¥29.9 billion (€260 million) will be devoted to space transportation. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT) will provide J¥164 billion (€1.43 billion), mostly to fund the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). NASDA's budget will amount to J¥144.7 billion (€1.26 billion), including J¥11 billion (€96 million) for the H-2A launch vehicle and J¥2.6 billion (€23 million) for the Hope-X unmanned spaceplane demonstrator program. Meanwhile, ISAS will receive J¥18 billion (€157 million), including J¥2.1 billion (€18 million) for the M-5 launch vehicle.
M-5
(ISAS)
The Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI) will get J¥11.9 billion (€104 million) for space activities, with J¥2.5 billion (€22 million) to be spent on the Unmanned Space Experiment Recovery System (USERS) and J¥2.37 billion (€21 million) to be invested in R&D efforts to support the design of space transportation systems. The Cabinet Office will invest J¥67.7 billion (€589 million), mostly to support its Information Gathering Satellite program of military observation satellites. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure & Transport (MoLIT) will get J¥19.6 billion (€170 million), of which J¥11.7 billion (€101 million) will be spent to support the MT-Sat 1R satellite for meteorology and air traffic control. Other ministries involved in the space budget are the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts & Telecommunications (Sômushô, J¥3.6 billion, €31 million), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fishing (MAFF, J¥539 million, €4.7 million), and the Ministry of Environment (MoE, J¥250 million, €2.2 million).
Editor's note: USERS is due for launch onto low earth orbit in August on the third H-2A, together with a geostationary data relay satellite. Two IGS satellites are slated for launch atop an H-2A vehicle in early 2003. MT-Sat 1R is due for launch on a H-2A vehicle in 3Q 2003 with an Arianespace Ariane 5 booked as a back-up launch option. MT-Sat 1R will replace MT-Sat 1 which was lost at launch on November 15, 1999, on the failure of the last H-2 vehicle.
European Satellite Operators Form Association
March 1st

Nine European satellite operators have decided to form the European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) in order to present the interests of their sector before key European organizations including the European Union's bodies and the European Space Agency. The ESOA members are Europe*Star, Eutelsat, Hispasat, Inmarsat Ventures, New Skies Satellites, Nordic Satellit AB, SES Global, Telenor and Telespazio.

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