News of April 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

Loral May Cancel H-2A Launch Contracts
April 25
Space Systems/Loral is likely to cancel the remaining launches it contracted in 1996 with Rocket System Corp. to loft commercial satellites on its H-2A launcher. Due to the sharp drop in launch prices, the pricing conditions of the 6-year old contract are no longer attractive and SS/L might cancel the contract even if it has to pay a penalty fee. However, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun daily newspaper, RSC plans to try to salvage the deal by offering a major discount. Eight launches were planned under this bulk procurement contract but no firm payload was ever assigned to any of them. This cancellation would leave RSC with only one firm launch contract, with Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure & Transport (MoLIT), to launch its MT-Sat 1R meteorology and air-traffic control satellite in 2003.
Editor’s note: RSC landed two contracts in 1996 with Hughes Space & Communications (now Boeing Satellite Systems) and SS/L, for ten launches each. 


Following two consecutive launch failures of the H-2, the predecessor of the H-2A, in February 1998 and November 1999, Hughes cancelled its contract at no cost in July 2000 and recovered the US$36 million it had already paid. SS/L got a US$7.5-million refund in December 2000 when it cancelled two of its ten launch reservations.

Delta 4 Maiden Flight Slips Again
April 24

The inaugural flight of Boeing‘s new Delta 4 launch vehicle has been postponed from July 15 to August 31, apparently to give more time to prepare the launcher. Effects of this delay on the following Delta 4 flights is not known yet.
Editor’s note: The flight was initially due in January 2001 but was postponed to April and November 2001 and eventually re-set for April 30, 2002, as the program experienced technical hurdles. Earlier this year, it was moved to July 15, officially upon request by Eutelsat who is expected to fly its W5 satellite atop the new vehicle.

Coface Supports iPStar Launch on Ariane
April 18
France’s Coface will provide export credit funding to Shin Satellite to cover 85% of the launch costs for its iPStar satellite due to fly on an Arianespace Ariane 5 launch vehicle in late 2003. The launch is valued at less than US$90 million.
Editor’s note: Shin already landed a similar funding support from U.S. Ex-Im Bank for its US$250-million development contract with Space Systems/Loral.
Looking for a Launcher for Atlantic Bird 1
April 12
Italy’s Alenia Spazio is reportedly looking for a replacement launch opportunity for the Atlantic Bird 1 satellite it built for Eutelsat. Atlantic Bird 1, a 2,600-kg communication satellite ordered in 1999 for an in-orbit delivery, was initially due for launch atop a China Great Wall Industry Corp. Chang Zheng 3A (CZ-3A "Long March") vehicle, provided that Alenia could secure the necessary export licenses. The launch, initially due for mid-2001, has now slipped for more than one year. Launch options reportedly under consideration include the maiden flights of Arianespace‘s Ariane 5ECA or that of Boeing‘s new Delta 4 vehicle, both in the third quarter.     
CZ-3A, Ariane 5 and Delta 4

Editor’s note: Despite numerous press reports, no firm payload has been announced yet for the first flight of the Delta 4. Eutelsat’s W5 satellite (the refurbished W1) is often considered as the best candidate but Eutelsat refused to confirm any launch commitment.

Shin Taps Ariane 5 for iPStar Launch
April 11

Thailand’s Shin Satellite has selected Arianespace for the launch of its iPStar multimedia satellite. This 40-Gbps satellite, built by Space Systems/Loral, will fly atop an Ariane 5 vehicle in late 2003. Shin will pay less than US$90 million for the launch. The total budget for the iPSTAR program is US$350 million.
Editor’s note: Arianespace launched all three previous Shin satellites: Thaicom 1 in 1993, Thaicom 2 in 1994 and Thaicom 3 in 1997.

Boeing to Ship Next Sea Launch Payload
April 9
Boeing Satellite Systems is about to ship PanAmSat‘s Galaxy 3C 77-transponder communication satellite to Long Beach, California, for pre-launch processing prior to its integration atop a Sea Launch Zenit 3SL vehicle due for launch in late May.
Editor’s note: This launch was initially due in July 2001 and has been postponed since then due to endemic power failures on every BSS-702 satellites. Galaxy 3C will be the first BSS-702 launched since XM Roll on May 8, 2001.This was Sea Launch latest mission too.
Atlas 5 and Delta 4 Get FAA Licenses
April 3
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued licenses to Lockheed Martin and Boeing for their respective Atlas 5 and Delta 4 launch vehicles, both due for maiden flight in July. Boeing’s license covers Delta 4M and 4M+ launches to low inclination orbits from Cape Canaveral. Additional licenses will be needed for Delta 4H launches as well as for launches from Vandenberg AFB, California, and to high-inclination orbits. Lockheed Martin’s license covers only the initial Atlas 5/401 version. Lockheed Martin is expected to apply for licenses to launch other versions as well as for launches to high-inclination orbits from Vandenberg although it has no firm plan yet to develop a launch capacity from there.

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  Government Launchers

Titan 4 Launch Delayed
April 25

The U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center has decided to postpone the launch of its next Lockheed Martin Titan 4B vehicle due to an unspecified problem with its classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, presumably a geostationary signal intelligence satellite. The launch was due on June 3 and could slip for more than a few days. The Titan 4B vehicle, in a 401B configuration with a Centaur cryogenic upper stage, is sitting on its pad at Cape Canaveral‘s SLC-40 launch complex.

India to Fund GSLV Mk3 Heavy-Lifter
April 24

The Indian cabinet has approved the development of the GSLV Mk3 launcher by the Indian Space Research Organisation. The Rs 24.98-billion (US$510-million) program will lead to the development of a launcher able to loft 4,400-kg satellites to geostationary transfer orbit by 2007/2008 with a growth potential toward a 6,000 kg payload capability through minor improvements. The GSLV Mk3 will feature a L100 core stage powered by two improved Vikas engines and two S200 boosters loaded with 200 tons of solid propellant each. Its C25 cryogenic upper stage will carry 25 tons of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. A 25% part of the budget will be spared for "foreign exchange components" in order to ensure a launch rate of two flights per year according to Indian press reports.
Editor’s note: The GSLV Mk1 is the current version of India’s geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle derived from the previous PSLV with a Russian 12KRB cryogenic upper stage provided by GKNPTs Khrunichev. It flew once, on April 18, 2001. The GSLV Mk2 will be an improved version featuring an indigenously-developed C12.5 cryogenic upper stage. Its maiden flight is due in late 2003.

EELV Launches Slipped
April 22
Some 40% of the launches ordered to Boeing and Lockheed Martin under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle procurement have slipped beyond 2007 due to delays in the deployment of satellite systems. Launches initially planned by 2007 are now planned in 2007-2012. Among the delayed programs are the Block 2F version of the Global Positioning System (GPS-2F), the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP), the Wideband Gapfiller Satellites (WGS), the geostationary Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS-High) and the Tri-Service Experiments (TSX) planned under U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory‘s Space Test Program. Nevertheless, further EELV launches could be ordered in 2002.
Editor’s note: Most of these missions have been delayed by the very good performance of satellites already in orbit, exceeding their planned lifetime and thus not needing replacement.

Delta 4 and Atlas 5

Under the current schedule, the first EELV mission for Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 is due in 2005.

Delta 2 On Hold Due to Self-Destruct System
April 22

The U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center has decided to postpone the launch of a Navstar Global Positioning System satellite from May 8 to June 8 at the earliest due to concerns with the new Automatic Destruct System (ADS) on its Boeing Delta 2/7925 carrier vehicle. The decision was made just after a U.S. Air Force inspection of the installation procedures for this upgraded flight termination system on the first Delta 2H vehicle, due for launch in January 2003. The inspection showed that the ADS could become inactive in one failure scenario involving premature separation of the payload fairing and the fairing clamshells damaging the self-destruct system on the second stage. This failure scenario was not covered by the previous flight termination system either.

Titan 2 De-stacked From Pad
April 21

Titan 23G

A long-delayed Lockheed Martin Titan 23G vehicle was eventually defuelled and destacked from SLC-4W in Vandenberg AFB, California, to make room for another similar vehicle due to loft a polar meteorological satellite on behalf of the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration on June 24. No operational Titan 23G was ever destacked and defuelled on the pad.
Editor’s note: Each of the Titan 23G vehicles, actually refurbished decommissioned Titan 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles, is configured for a specific payload. The Titan 23G G-9 vehicle, nicknamed "Cindy Mary", was initially stacked in late 2000 for the launch of the US$193-million DMSP-5D3-F16 Defense Meteorological Satellite Program spacecraft. The mission has been postponed continuously since two failed launch attempts on January 20 and 21, 2001 with the latest glitch – a leaky valve on an hydrazine thruster – forcing to remove the Lockheed Martin-built satellite and return it to the factory for repair. This launch is now scheduled in October.
NASDA Plans New H-2A Version
April 17
Japan’s National Space Development Agency has formally approved the development of a new version of its H-2A launch vehicle. The H-2A/204 would reuse the H-2A’s two-stage cryogenic core vehicle with some structural reinforcement on the first stage to accommodate four 60-ton SRB-A solid strap-on boosters. This version will be able to loft up to 6,000-kg of payload to geostationary transfer orbit for a target launch cost of US$75 million. It will be introduced in 2004 with the launch of the 5,800-kg ETS-8 engineering test satellite.
Editor’s note: The H-2A is currently available in three versions depending on the number of strap-on boosters: 202 (2 SRB-As), 2022 (2 SRB-As and 2 Castor 4As) and 2024 (2 SRB-As and 4 Castor 4As). 

H-2A/202, 2022, 2024 and 204

The 2022 version will fly in 2003 to launch the MT-Sat 1R meteorology and air-traffic control satellite for Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure & Transport (MoLIT). A 212 version with a large Liquid Rocket Booster (actually a first stage with two LE-7A engines) is also under study to increase the payload capability to 7,500 kg to geoastationary transfer orbit but it could be replaced by an evolution of the 204 version with a widebody first stage (see April 6 for detail). A formal decision between the two concepts is expected in June.

Last Titan Rolled Out
April 11

Titan 4B

Lockheed Martin Astronautics has rolled out the last of its Titan vehicles, a Titan 4B vehicle due to loft a classified U.S. Air Force payload from Cape Canaveral in 2003. The Titan production line in Littleton, Colorado, near Denver, will be modified to support the new Atlas 5 family of launchers.
Editor’s note: Over 350 Titan vehicles have been launched since the very first Titan 1 intercontinental ballistic missile in February 1959. Among these, 212 Titan vehicles have been flown on space missions including 20 Titan 2s, 137 Titan 3s, 15 Titan 34s, 4 Commercial Titan and 36 Titan 4s. Three refurbished Titan 2 missiles are still due for launch in 2002-2003, as well as 4 Titan 4Bs. The Titan 4 series will be replaced by Boeing’s new Delta 4H vehicle for the launch of very large payloads to low-Earth or geostationary orbits.
H-2A Considered as Backup Launcher for Galileo
April 11
Japan’s H-2A launch vehicle could serve as a backup launch system to Europe’s Ariane 5 for the launch of Galileo global navigation satellites according to Arianespace officials. Arianespace is bidding together with Starsem to provide launch services for the 30-satellite constellation with a mix of Ariane 5ECB and Soyuz/ST vehicles.
Editor’s note: Under an agreement currently negotiated between Arianespace, ESA, CNES and the National Space Development Agency of Japan, a mutual backup between Ariane 5 and the H-2A is proposed for European and Japanese institutional payloads.
NRO Payload Assigned to Delta 4H
April 10

Delta 4H
The U.S. Air Force‘s Space & Missile Systems Center has officially assigned a U.S. National Reconnaissance Office payload to the third flight of Boeing‘s Delta 4H heavy-lift launch vehicle. The classified payload, presumably a large geostationary signal intelligence satellite, will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station‘s SLC-37 in 2004.
Editor’s note: In October 1998, Boeing was contracted for an initial batch of 19 Delta 4 missions, including two Delta 4H flights, under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. The first one was assigned to the launch of the DSP-23 early warning satellite. The NRO payload will fly the second heavy-lifter. In addition to these two missions, the U.S. Air Force agreed in December 2000 to pay Boeing US$141 million for an initial demonstration flight in early 2003.
U.S. Air Force Studies EELV Upper Stage Disposal
April 8
The U.S. Air Force and The Aerospace Corp. are studying options to remove spent upper stages of Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 and Boeing‘s Delta 4 launchers from operational orbits after direct injections of payloads. The two launchers, developed under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, will be used to deliver some payloads directly onto high altitude orbits – like the Navstar satellites for the Global Positioning System – without need for the apogee kick motors used with previous launchers. This will result in large spent stages travelling for decades (or even centuries) on the same orbit as their payloads. Among the options considered are an extra burn of the upper stages to move them into a "graveyard orbit" or an early payload release with final orbit tuning performed with their onboard station-keeping thrusters. The study will be completed within 6 months.
Editor’s note: The first launch of a Navstar satellite by an EELV is currently scheduled in 2005.
Alternate Design for Heavy H-2A
April 6
Japan’s National Space Development Agency is considering an alternate widebody design for the heavy-lift versions of its new H-2A launch vehicle according to Japan Times. The proposed design would be based on a new 5-m-diameter version of the current 4-m-diameter H-2A first stage, carrying 50% more propellant and powered by two Mitsubishi Heavy Industries LE-7A engines instead of one, with four SRB-A solid strap-on boosters. This widebody H-2A, with a 6-ton payload capacity to geostationary transfer orbit, would replace the H-2A/212 version, with a standard first stage and a single strap-on Liquid Rocket Booster (LRB) derived from the first stage with two LE-7A engines, and two SRB-As. The new version would cost 10% less to develop. A formal decision between the two designs is due in June after deliberation within the Space Activities Commission.

widebody concept and
H-2A/212 (NASDA)

  Editor’s note: The H-2A/212 is currently scheduled to perform a demonstration flight in 2005. Its main payload for future operational missions is the 15-ton H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV), an unmanned freighter for the International Space Station. A H-2A/222 version, with two LRBs was also planned as a future development. The new widebody design is likely to require major modification to the existing launch facilities in Tanegashima which were designed for the H-2A versions based on the 4-m-diameter core stage and LRBs.

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  Small Launchers

Rascal Contractors Confirmed
April 19

The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Agency confirms the award of six nine-month study contracts for the Responsive Access, Small Cargo & Affordable Launch (Rascal) system. The objective of the Rascal study is to design a two-stage vehicle able to loft 75-kg payloads to a 500-km-altitude orbit for US$750,000 with a capability to launch from a conventional runway 24 hours after the arrival of the payload. The concepts must be based on a Reusable Launch Vehicle as booster stage and an Expendable Rocket Vehicle as upper stage. Northrop Grumman was awarded a US$1.9-million contract for a feasibility study on its proposed concept, based on low-cost RLVs and ERVs with high-powered, short-cycle propulsion systems. The study also includes evaluation of the technologies required to stage the ERV and control the RLV in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Orbital Sciences Corp. will be in charge of the ERV development. Spath Engineering will also be part of the team. Delta Velocity was also awarded a contract, worth US$1.25 million, to study its own version of Rascal, with a modified fighter aircraft as the RLV and a two-stage ERV. Delta Velocity’s team includes Allied Aerospace Industries Inc. (A2I2), ATK Tactical Systems, Athena Technologies, CSA Engineering, Advanced Project Research Inc. (APRI) and NASA‘s Dryden Flight Research Center. The other awardees are Coleman Aerospace (with Vela Technology Development , Pan Aero and XCOR Aerospace), Pioneer Rocketplane (with Scaled Composites, Microcosm, Orbitec and HMX), Space Access (with APRI, Honeywell and Microcosm) and Space Launch Corp. (with Scaled Composites). Each received a contract worth US$1-2 million. Following the initial feasibility study, two teams will be downselected in early 2003 for a 12-month definition study and a single contractor will be picked in early 2004 for actual development and test flight.
Editor’s note: A US$70-million budget is considered to build and fly two demonstrators by 2006. The use of a modified fighter aircraft (a Convair F-106 "Delta Dart") as a reusable first stage was proposed in 1996 by Kelly Space & Technology for its Eclipse Sprint and Eclipse Express launch system.

Galaxy Express Increases Its Capital
April 1st

Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) announces that its subsidiary Galaxy Express Corp., in charge of development, marketing and operations of Japan’s new GX medium-lift launcher, has increased its capital to J¥384 million (US$2.9 million) by late March. Further increases are due in the future and new investors might join in, such as Lockheed Martin of the United States. Maiden flight of the GX vehicle is due in March 2006.
Editor’s note: Full development of the GX is estimated at J´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). IHI’s partners in the Galaxy Express venture are Kokusai Sohko Kakubishi, IHI Aerospace (the former Nissan Aerospace), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Japan Aviation Electronics Industry, and Fuji Heavy Industries. Lockheed Martin Astronautics will provide the vehicle’s first stage.

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  Missile Systems

TRW to Refurbish More Minuteman Stages…
April 26

Minuteman 3
(U.S. Air Force)

U.S. Air Force’s Ogden Air Logistics Center exercised a US$11.5-million on TRW‘s Propulsion Replacement Program contract for the 2nd phase of the initial low rate production of refurbished 1st, 2nd and 3rd stages of Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including production qualification acceptance test support and ordnance production. This activity, to be completed in September 2002, will be fully subcontracted to ATK Thiokol and Pratt&Whitney’s Chemical Systems Division.
… And Provide Metric Tracking Systems
April 25
Another option, worth US$15.5 million, was exercised by the Ogden Air Logistics Center on TRW’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Prime Integration contract to provide the Global Positioning System Metric Tracking Program for the Minuteman 3 missiles. Delivery should be completed in September 2006.
Storm 2 Target Launched and Not Intercepted
April 25

An Orbital Sciences Corp. Storm 2 ballistic missile target was launched from White Sands Missile Range as part of a theater missile defense test. The Lockheed Martin Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) intended to intercept it failed to launch. The operation was part of a dual interception test conducted on behalf of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command. A second PAC-3 successfully intercepted a Raytheon PAC-2 missile. Another interception test is due in May.
Editor’s note: Introduced in 1997, the Storm 2 single-stage vehicle is based on a decommissioned SR19 Minuteman 2 second stage and the reentry vehicle from a decommissioned Pershing 2 missile.

Lockheed Martin to Support British SLBMs…
April 25

Trident 2 (D5)

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space was awarded a US$12-million contract by U.S. Navy‘s Strategic Systems Programs to provide support to the British Royal Navy’s fleet of Trident 2 (D5) sea-launched ballistic missiles through March 2003.
… And Study SLBM Technology Sustainment
April 25
U.S. Navy’s SSP also awarded a US$9-million contract to LMM&S for R&D studies through March 2005 regarding the technology sustainment of the Trident 2 SLBM system. These activities, based on the output of the previous years’ Technology Sustainment Support Services efforts, will encompass the development of a radiation hardening systems design software program and new studies on the dynamic response of the missile structure to rocket motor ignition events, as well as on alternative missile drag reduction devices.
India Sets Up Strategic Command
April 24

India will set up a Strategic Nuclear Command by June to take over control of the country’s nuclear arsenal, including new missile units created within Indian Army to operate the Agni ballistic missiles which will be placed under the newly formed Army Strategic Rocket Command.

QRLV-2 Launched From Kodiak
April 24
Orbital Sciences Corp. successfully launched the second Quick Reaction Launch Vehicle (QRLV-2), from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Narrow Point, Kodiak Island, Alaska. The QRLV-2 single-stage suborbital vehicle was made from the M56 second stage of a decommissioned Minuteman 1 intercontinental ballistic missile under U.S. Air Force‘s 2nd Sounding Rocket Program (SRP-2). The launch was conducted on behalf of the U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center‘s Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) and provided a realistic theater ballistic missile tracking target for the Alaskan Command‘s joint-service Northern Edge 2002 Exercise. The launch also served as a test platform for the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command’s experimental batteries.
Editor’s note: The QRLV-1 vehicle, also made from a M56A1 stage, was launched on March 22, 2001 from Kodiak in support of the Northern Edge 2001 Exercise.

(U.S. Air Force)

QRLV vehicles are designed from single- or two-stage combinations of several available rocket motors: GenCorp Aerojet‘s M56 and SR19 (2nd stage of Minuteman 2 and 3), Alliant TechsystemsM57 (3rd stage of Minuteman 1 and 2) and ATK Thiokol‘s Castor 4B. Two-stage QRLV designs for have been flown under U.S. Air Force’s previous Atmospheric Interceptor Technology (ait) program, also from Kodiak, with the ait-1 (SR19/M57A1) and ait-2 (Castor 4B/M57A1) missions in November 5, 1998, and September 15, 1999. One QRLV launch is planned each year through 2008.

TRW to Develop Liquid Booster Target
April 22

TRW was awarded a five-year, US$29-million contract by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to develop and test fly a liquid-fuelled booster stage which could be used as a representative target for theater missile defense and later national missile defense systems. The booster, fuelled by non-toxic propellants (hydrogen peroxide and kerosene), will simulate “Scud” types of missiles.
Editor’s note: TRW was selected for this contract on September 26, 2001, under the second phase of its Liquid Booster Development Program, then on behalf of U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command (SMDC). TRW will compete with Orbital Sciences Corp., also selected by SMDC, for a following production contract, expected to be worth US$100-million over 6 years. Current Hera target vehicles are based on solid-fuelled stages from the Minuteman ballistic missile series. Several Scuds have also been acquired by the SMDC to serve as targets.

TRW to Modernize Minuteman Targeting System
April 18

U.S. Air Force’s Ogden Air Logistics Center awarded a US$65-million contract to TRW Space & Missile Systems to extend the life of the Rapid Execution & Combat Targeting Service onboard the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Consolidated Missile Defense Industry Team Formed
April 11

The U.S. Department of Defense has formed a National Industry Team (NIT) to consolidate all research and development activities for its missile defense programs. The NIT is led by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, as the two lead contractors, and also includes TRW, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and various smaller industrial contractors, national laboratories and universities. The objective is to integrate a large number of missile defense platforms and sensors into a layered defense system to intercept incoming missiles during boost, midcourse and terminal phases of flight. A tight schedule has been set as an initial capability is planned in 2004-2006. According to DoD estimates, the previously separate Airborne Laser (ABL), Navy Area Theater Ballistic Missile Defense, National Missile Defense, Navy Theater Wide, Space-Based Infrared System Low (SBIRS-Low), and Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) programs would have cost a total of US$59.1 billion to complete. Now the consolidated Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) would cost "only" US$47.2 billion.
Editor’s note: Since Germany and Italy are involved in some theater missile defense systems like the Medium Extended Area Defense (MEADS), based on Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 missile, the NIT could later integrate some European contractors.

Nuclear Interceptors Considered for Missile Defense
April 11

The U.S. Department of Defense is considering the possibility to mount nuclear weapons on missile defense interceptors in case the current hit-to-kill system cannot meet its required capabilty to discriminate warheads from decoys, according to the Washington Post. The nuclear interceptors are also considered more efficient to ensure the destruction of warheads carrying biological or chemical warfare. The viability of this concept will be investigated by the Defense Science Board once it has completed its current review of the missile defense programs during the third quarter.
Editor’s note: A missile defense system based on interceptors carrying nuclear weapons was developed in the 1950s and 1960s with the Spartan and Sprint programs. These two systems were fielded in 1976 to protect Minuteman launch sites in North Dakota and withdrawn 4 months later. Nuclear interceptions could result in ionized clouds and electromagnetic shock waves eventually blinding ground-based radar systems and scrambling electronic equipment. Moreover, very large nuclear warheads would be needed to eradicate chemical/biological agents in the atmosphere and nuclear explosions could instead further disseminate the spores and contaminated particles.

Minuteman 3 Test Flight Successful
April 8
An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from Vandenberg AFB and successfully delivered its dummy warheads on targets at the Kwajalein Missile Range in Marshall Islands, Pacific Ocean. The launch was conducted by Vandenberg’s 576th Flight Test Squadron, the 90th Space Wing from Warren AFB, Wyoming, and an airborne launch control team from Offutt AFB, Nebraska, under the Force Development Evaluation Program aimed at testing missile launching systems and improving their accuracy and reliability. The last launch under FDEP was on February 10, 1999.

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  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

NASA Downselects SLI Concepts
April 30
Boeing TSTO concepts

Northrop Grumman air-launched concepts
(Northrop Grumman)

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center has completed the first milestone review of its US$4.8-billion Space Launch Initiative and downselected 15 promising architectures for future reusable launch systems. This Initial Architecture Technology Review analyzed and evaluated competing 2nd-generation reusable space transportation architectures and technologies proposed by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and a Northrop Grumman/Orbital Sciences Corp. team against NASA and commercial mission requirements, as well as safety and cost goals. The selected architectures are mostly two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) systems powered by liquid oxygen/kerosene or cryogenic engines or a combination of both.

Orbital Sciences
Space Taxi concept on Delta 4H

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman
TSTO concepts (LMA/Northrop Grumman)
Northrop Grumman
booster assisted RLV concepts
(Northrop Grumman)
A Systems Requirement Review is planned in November to downselect two to three architectures. The final design will be selected for full scale development in 2005/2007.
Molniya Works on MAKS Thermal Protection
April 29

Russia’s NPO Molniya has initiated work on the metallic thermal protection systems for its proposed MAKS reusable, air-launched spaceplane. A 60% scale mock-up of the MAKS has been completed and NPO Energomash is still developing the vehicle’s RD-701 tripropellant engine. The MAKS will be air-launched from the back of an Antonov An-225 "Mriya" carrier aircraft. A maiden flight is tentatively planned by 2008, if funding can be completed.
Editor’s note: In March 2000, the Russian government was reportedly providing 37% of the program’s budget with a first launch planned in 2006.

KSC Tests Advanced Umbilicals
April 23

NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center is testing the Smart Umbilical Mating System which could serve as a next-generation umbilical system for future vehicles developed under the Space Launch Initiative. The automated SMUS, under development by Rohwetter Systems since 1999, incorporates connectors with a mate, demate and remate capability to reduce pre-launch processing time and enhance flexibility.

MSFC to Tap Nielsen on Air-Launch Study
April 23

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center plans to contract with Nielsen Engineering & Research (NEAR) to conduct engineering studies regarding the separation of rocket stages from aircraft in flight. These studies will include simulation of the dynamics and separation path of the rocket stage relative to the aircraft and development of conceptual design of separation systems and separation trade studies such as varying wing loading for the rocket stages and varying flight conditions at separation.

XCOR Buys Rotary Rocket Patents
April 22

Startup space transportation company XCOR Aerospace has acquired selected assets of Rotary Rocket, including full and exclusive rights to all technologies it developed as well as patents for various reusable launch vehicle systems. XCOR plans to use some of the Rotary Rocket technology in its own vehicle and engine designs and may also license technology to clients for other projects. Among claimed technological innovations developed by Rotary Rocket and acquired by XCOR are high-performance liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket engine designs, composite liquid oxygen tank technology, and rocket engine injector technology.
Editor’s note: From 1997 to January 2001, Rotary Rocket raised and spent about US$30 million to develop a manned, reusable, single-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle, dubbed Roton 9C. The company claimed to be able to build and operate a fleet of Roton vehicles, for a mere US$150 million. Only little preliminary development on a propulsion system due to boost the 180-t vehicle to orbit was reported in 1997/98. Most of the company’s public efforts were focused on demonstrating the feasibility of a rotor-powered vertical landing design through three test flights of the US$5-million Roton Atmospheric Test Vehicle demonstrator in July, September and October of 1999. XCOR Aerospace is designing a reusable suborbital launch system which could be turned into a suborbital space tourism vehicle or a microsatellite launch system. Since July 2001, under the EZ-Rocket demonstration project, it has been conducting nine test flights of two 1.8-kN XR-4A3 engines mounted on a modified EZ aircraft.

NASA Shuts Down X-38 – Corrected
April 18

NASA officials announce that the X-38 Crew Return Vehicle program is officially being shut down. The reentry test flight of the X-38 Vehicle 201 demonstrator onboard a Space Shuttle had recently been delayed to 2005, precluding any operational use of a X-38-derived CRV before 2008. According to NASA officials statements, the technologies developed for the X-38 will be applied to a future vehicle, probably a multi-purpose Crew Transport Vehicle (CTV). New options to operate the International Space Station with a crew of 6/7 without any available CRV are under review, including the purchase of additional Soyuz TMA vehicles from Russia. A report is expected by late May.
Editor’s note: NASA invested US$185 million in the X-38 development and the European Space Agency contributed for €82 million, including €27 million in components for the V201 demonstrator, all of which have reportedly been delivered, some through Germany’s own Technology for Future Space Transportation Systems (Tetra) managed by DLR aerospace research agency. RKK Energiya reportedly asks for a US$65-million fee per additional Soyuz.

NASA Interested in Advanced Avionics for SLI
April 12

NASA‘s Glenn Research Center is consulting the industry to define specifications for advanced avionics technologies to support the Space Launch Initiative. GRC has issued a request for information regarding the feasibility of three main elements: an advanced modular avionics Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) that could serve as a building block for the control and data handling system onboard a 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle and would be adaptable to any vehicle avionics architecture, a high-speed data bus with deterministic protocol, and advanced real-time software techniques with associated verification processes.

ESA Unveils Jules Verne Freighter
April 9
The European Space Agency has decided to give names to its future resupply ships for the International Space Station. The first of these Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs), due for launch in September 2004, was christened "Jules Verne." This proto-flight model is under construction in several parts of Europe. Alenia Spazio is currently buiding the vehicle’s pressurized cargo carrier in Turin, Italy, while Astrium SAS is working on the avionics bay in Toulouse, France. Astrium GmbH will begin the integration of the propulsion module in Bremen, Germany, in July. Meanwhile, dynamic testing of the Structural and Thermal Model is proceeding in ESA’s ESTEC technical center in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, and should be completed by June. The Electrical Test Model is in final integration by Astrium in Toulouse and will be shipped to EADS Launch Vehicles in Les Mureaux for functional testing.
  Editor’s note: The 20,750-kg ATV will deliver up to 6 tons of payload to the ISS every 15 months as part of a barter agreement with NASA to cover part of Europe’s share of utilization cost. It will also carry some 4,700 kg of propellant to reboost the station. Each ATV will thus have the resupply and reboost capability of roughly three Russian Progress vehicles. Arianespace was contracted in 2000 to provide nine Ariane 5ESV launchers for the ATVs.
Backgrounder: EADS Launch Vehicles is prime contractor for the €597-million development phase while Astrium GmbH will be in charge of production of operational vehicles. A final production contract, for 8 vehicles, is expected by late 2002 or early 2003. EADS-LV is also developing the highly autonomous flight software. Other major partners in the program include Contraves Space for the structural parts, Fokker Space for the solar generators and Sodern for the rendezvous sensors.
X-38 Human Interface Terminated
April 8
NASA‘s Johnson Space Center has terminated an ongoing sollicitation regarding the development of a human interface for the X-38 Vehicle 201 demonstrator. Vehicle 201 was designed as a proto-flight model of a future Crew Return Vehicle for the International Space Station. It is tentatively due for unmanned reentry flight from orbit in 2003.
Atlantis Flight Delayed by Hydrogen Leak
April 4
Preparation for the launch of NASA‘s Space Shuttle Atlantis has been interrupted after a gaseous hydrogen leak was reported on the pad during fuelling operations of the vehicle’s large External Tank. The leak was detected more than 8 hous before liftoff on a line used to evacuate boiling hydrogen from the tank during fuelling operations. The launch, on the STS-110 assembly mission to the International Space Station, has been postponed at least to April 7 and is likely to slip beyond that date while emergency repairs are underway on the pad.
Shenzhou 3 Returns
April 1st

China’s third prototype Shenzhou manned spaceship successfully reentered and landed in Inner Mongolia at 08:51Z, after 108 orbits. The service module was jettisoned after deorbiting and destroyed during reentry. The autonomous orbital module was released in orbit. It is expected to perform several maneuvers and remain in operations for six to nine months. Shenzhou 3 was launched by a CZ-2F vehicle on March 25.
Editor’s note: Pictures of the Shenzhou 3 capsule were released shortly after landing as they were for Shenzhou 1 in 1999. The absence of pictures from the Shenzhou 2 capsule in January 2001, suggests a failure.

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  Space Propulsion

MSFC Seeks Support on Nuclear Electric Propulsion
April 23

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center plans to hire B.G. Smith & Associates for engineering support to the Fission Propulsion Project. This support will encompass the definition of technologies required for nuclear electric propulsion as well as for the definition of a flight demonstrator plan.

Lockheed Martin Might Scrap U.S.-Built RD-180 Capability – Recent Update
April 22
Lockheed Martin is considering the option of putting the development of a U.S.-based production line for NPO Energomash’s RD-180 engine on hold unless its completion becomes necessary for U.S. autonomous access to space. The production line has been prepared by Pratt&Whitney in its West Palm Beach facility since 1997 to cope with a U.S. Department of Defense requirement that any launcher procured through the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program could be 100%-built in the United States. The Russian-built RD-180 is the power plant for the first stage of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 launcher. Lockheed Martin proposes to stockpile 7 or 8 engines in order to ensure a continuous launch capability during the two to three years needed to initiate a domestic production if the Russian supply becomes unavailable for any reason. This strategy would allow to save money from the required investments. The U.S. Air Force, which manages the EELV program, still considers that a domestic production line is necessary.

Editor’s note: EnergoMash is currently under contract with Lockheed Martin to deliver up to 101 engines for the Atlas 3 and 5 vehicles. Initially, under the EELV procurement, Lockheed Martin had to provide a 100%-U.S. production capability for the Atlas 5 vehicle as soon as the very first flight. Over the years, this capability has been regularly postponed as the cost of a U.S.-built RD-180 appeared to be several times that of a Russian built engine. In 2000, the domestic production capability was announced in 2003. Recently, it was not planned before 2008/2010. The RD-180 is not the only part of the Atlas 5 to be built outside the United States. The 5.4-m-diameter payload fairings are supplied by Contraves Space in Switzerland and interstage adapters are built by EADS CASA Espacio in Spain.

Atlas 5 SRM Test Marred by Burn-Through
April 15
  The failure of the first qualification static firing of a 40-ton solid rocket motor developed by GenCorp Aerojet to serve as strap-on booster for Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 series of launchers, on March 15, was caused by a burn-through according to an independent review. The burn-through appeared in a O-ring seal at the base of the motor’s fixed nozzle. The joint presumably failed 30 sec. into the 95-sec. firing, as a consequence of the low temperature at start-up (4°C) which was one of the test objectives. Due to this failure, this qualification test, the first of two, will have to be repeated. According to Lockheed Martin officials, this will not result in any delay for the first flight of an Atlas 5 with strap-on boosters as a 6-month margin had been planned between the qualification of the motor and its first flight. However, this margin will be reduced to 3 months. First flight of an Atlas 5 version with strap-on boosters is due in February 2003.
Editor’s note: A development firing test of the motor was successfully performed on August 30, 2001.
Aerojet Validates Tri-fluid Injector for SMV Engine
April 10

GenCorp Aerojet has successfully validated its design for a tri-fluid injector to be used on the non-toxic Advanced Reusable Rocket Engine (ARRE) it develops for U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate. Tests were conducted in February and March on a subscale version of the injector using two different injector patterns. Both performed successfully, and one will be chosen for the full-scale tri-fluid injector. The ARRE, which will burn kerosene with hydrogen peroxide, is planned for initial hot firing tests in late third quarter. It is later planned to power U.S. Air Force‘s proposed Space Maneuver Vehicles. The tri-fluid injector enables a closed-cycle engine design by allowing the decomposed peroxide, used to drive the turbopump, to ignite the hydrogen peroxide and kerosene in the thrust chamber.
Editor’s note: Aerojet was awarded a US$10.4-million in May 2001 to develop the ARRE through November 2002. The contract includes options which could increase its value to US$29 million through April 2005. The SMV would be an operational military derivative of the Boeing X-37 orbital spaceplane under development for NASA. The main propulsion system of the X-37 is planned to be a 31-kN Boeing Rocketdyne AR2/3 non-toxic propellant engine also fed with kerosene and hydrogen peroxide.

NASA to Study Nuclear Propulsion Risks
April 10

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center plans to contract with GPS Solutions for a risk identification study on future nuclear electric propulsion space vehicles. In its proposed FY2003 budget, NASA plans to initiate a US$950-million, five-year effort on space nuclear reactors, with an initial budget of US$125 million, in order to provide electrical power for ion propulsion systems on future deep space probes.

Praxair Contracts for Delta 4 Propellant
April 8
Praxair has signed a US$35-million long-term contract with Boeing to supply liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for its Delta 4 family of launch vehicles. This contract is a first for U.S. launch industry as previously, all cryogenic propellants wer procured through U.S. government agencies.
Hubert Astronautics to Study on Propellant Sloshing
April 4

New Jersey-based Hubert Astronautics was awarded a US$128,000 contract by NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center for a study on the "nutation behavior of spinning space vehicles with on-board liquid propellant" based on available flight and ground-testing data.
Editor’s note: The topic of propellant sloshing affecting satellite stability will also be studied by European Space Agency‘s Sloshsat-Flevo spacecraft, to be released in low-Earth orbit by Space Shuttle Atlantis in April 2003 on the STS-115 mission to the International Space Station.

MSFC Tests SLI Thrusters
April 2

NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center has begun a series of firing tests on a new Reaction Control Engine (RCE) developed by TRW under the Space Launch Initiative. The RCE uses non-toxic propellants (liquid oxygen with either liquid hydrogen or ethanol) and can provide two levels of thrust – either 110 N or 4.4 kN – for orbital maneuvers such as docking and deorbiting. A total of 30 hot firing tests are planned with the RCE, using liquid oxygen and hydrogen as propellant.

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U.S./Brazil Safeguard Agreement Reviewed
April 24

A technology safeguard agreement signed by the Brazilian government with the U.S. administration in April 2000 could be ratified by the Brazilian parliament before a May 2002 deadline. A report in favor of the ratification was approved by the parliament’s Science & Technology Commission and will now be reviewed by the Justice & Constitution Commission. The agreement is required to allow the launch of U.S.-built satellites and launch vehicles from Brazil’s Alcântara Launch Center (CLA) in the Maranhão Province.
Editor’s note: In 2001, an influent group of Brazilian congressmen tried to convince the government to step down from the agreement, considering that it includes provisions which may harm the country’s aerospace industry, such as one preventing Brazil to invest money raised from the launch activity into its own space program.

Brazil/Ukraine MoU on Tsyklon in Alcântara
April 22

Tsyklon 4

The Brazilian and Ukrainian space agencies, AEB and NKAU, signed a MoU regarding the use of Brazil’s Alcântara Launch Center (CLA) for the launch of Ukraine’s Tsyklon 4 vehicles. A working group was formed to identify the infrastructure requirements for Tsyklon operations. A report is due in late June. Meanwhile a technology safeguard agreement already signed by Brazil will be ratified by Ukraine in May. The incorporation of a joint-venture to operate and market the vehicle is planned in September. The Brazilian government plans to invest US$50 million in Alcântara to develop a dedicated launch pad. The new vehicle, developed by NPO Yuzhnoye, will be able to loft 5,500 kg to low-Earth orbit and up to 1,800 kg to geostationary transfer orbit for US$30-50 million per launch. A 10 launches/year capability is targeted. The first flight is planned in 2005.
Russia in Baykonur Through 2011
April 22
The Russian Space Forces have announced their intent to conduct space launches from Baykonur, Kazakhstan, until at least 2011. Commercial launches to the geostationary orbit as well as manned and unmanned missions to the International Space Station will still be launched from the site which is leased to Kazakhstan by Russia. However, military missions and other government missions will progressively be moved to Plesetsk, Northern Russia, with the introduction of GKNPTs Khrunichev‘s Angara family of launchers in 2003-2005.
Editor’s note: Russia’s withdrawal from Baykonur would mean the phasing out of Proton and Zenit launchers for Russian payloads since they have no launch facility available in Plesetsk. 

The Angara launchers are specifically designed to replace most of the older Russian satellite launchers such as the Kosmos and the Proton. The Soyuz vehicle and its derivatives can be launched from Plesetsk, as well as Ukraine’s Tsyklon. Both launchers are also considered for launches from equatorial launch sites.

Italy Might Revive Kenya Launch Site
April 20
ASI, the Italian space agency, is considering the reactivation of its off-shore launch facilities in Kenya for microsatellite launches. The San Marco and Santa Rita platforms, off Malindi, have been renamed Luigi Broglio Space Center and could be refurbished to accomodate a new launch system in 2-3 years for €20-25 million. No launcher has been selected yet for the project. From 1967 to 1987, the University of Rome conducted 9 launches from San Marco to loft U.S., Italian and British satellites with U.S.-built Scout vehicles.
Editor’s note: ASI is currently reviewing the whole Italian space program following the government change in late 2001. Italy is also funding 65% of European Space Agency‘s Vega small launcher program which will launch satellites in the 1,000-1,500 kg range from Kourou.

Detention Center Threatens Christmas Spaceport Project

April 15

Plans by the Australian government to build a detention center for asylum seekers in Christmas Island might endanger Asia Pacific Space Center‘s project to build a US$400-million commercial spaceport on the island. Russian partners in the project reportedly fear that the center would cause security and safety issues for the launch complex. The Australian government denies any concern.
Editor’s note: Australia is currently detaining asylum seekers in a center located within the Woomera Restricted Area, next to the Woomera Rocket Range. On April 20, riots broke out and 14 guards were wounded when trying to resist more than 100 rioters.

Ukrainian Delegation in Brazil
April 14
A Ukrainian delegation, led by the director general of NKAU, the Ukrainian space agency, is touring Brazilian space facilities, including the Alcântara Launch Center, to discuss cooperation projects.
Editor’s note: Ukraine proposes to launch its new Tsyklon 4 vehicle from Alcântara. Five intergovernmental agreements are reportedly in the works on this matter. Teh delagation is also expected to define the exact location for a future Tsyklon 4 launch pad.
Indonesia Concerned at Christmas Spaceport Project
April 12

The Indonesian government has expressed its concerns regarding the international project to build a commercial spaceport on Australia’s Christmas Island in Northeastern Indian Ocean. As the Asia Pacific Space Center spaceport would be located only 360 km south of Java, Indonesia’s most populated island, the government considers that, in case of launch failure, debris could fall on Indonesian territory. No official objection has been issued yet to the Australian government. According to an Indonesian Aerospace Agency (LAPAN) official, geostationary missions from Christmas could lead to flights over Java, Bali and Lombok islands.
Editor’s note: Most of these concerned are unjustified as flight trajectories from Christmas island would avoid Indonesian territory for geostationary as well as polar launches. Since 1985, Indonesia has been unsuccessfully promoting a national spaceport project for indigenous rockets as well as commercial launch vehicles from China or Ukraine. Potential sites were selected near the Equator in Biak and Waigeo islands, North of Western Papua; Halmahera island in Northern Moluccas; in Northern Sulawesi (Celebes); and Bintan island, less than 50 km from Singapore.

France and ESA Sign Agreement on Kourou
April 11

The French ministry of Research and the European Space Agency have signed a 5-year agreement extending French government’s guarantee of ESA’s access to CNES facilities and resources in the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, for its programs such as the Ariane launch system. ESA member countries have agreed to invest €423.2 million in Kourou in 2002-2006 to cover fixed costs. The previous agreement had expired at the end of 2001.
Editor’s note: The Guiana Space Center is one of the operational centers of France’s CNES. ESA owns most of the Ariane launch facilities which are operated by Arianespace, its operational, industrial and commercial agent. CNES is responsible for all safety aspects of the launch activities.

Atlas 5 Pad Ready for Operations
April 8
Lockheed Martin and Hensel Phelps Construction Co. have signed a certificate confirming that the re-built SLC-41 launch complex in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is now ready to support launch operations for the Atlas 5 family of launchers. The certificate was actually signed on March 1st after completion of 39 months of work. The facility was used for the first Atlas 5 wet dress rehearsal on March 11-15.

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Lockheed Martin to Cut Jobs Too
April 29

Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space will implement a workforce reduction of about 400 employees, primarily in its Sunnyvale, California, site in order to streamline its operations. LMM&S employs a little less than 7,000 people in the San Francisco area.

Saab Ericsson Space to Cut Jobs
April 23

Sweden’s Saab Ericsson Space will cut 60 jobs in its Göteborg plant due to a decreasing international telecommunications market and a shrinking Swedish space budget. Of Saab Ericsson Space’s 680 employees, 490 work in Göteborg.

EADS Plans Integrated Space Subsidiary
April 23

EADS plans to merge all its space activities, including Astrium, into a single entity, tentatively dubbed "Space Co." instead of creating two poles around its space transportation and satellite businesses. This restructuring was approved by its partner, BAe Systems, which owns 25% of Astrium.
Editor’s note: The previously proposed "Launcher Integrated Company", a.k.a. LiCo, would have been formed from the existing EADS Launch Vehicles subsidiary and space transportation activities from Astrium in Toulouse (equipment bays), Stevenage (dual launch adapters), Bremen (upper stages and manned systems) and Ottobrunn (space propulsion).

Volvo Aero Reduces its Workforce
April 23

Volvo Aero confirms previously announced cut of 303 job positions at its component plant in Trollhattan, Sweden, The job cuts were first announced in late 2001 was due to a severe downturn in the aerospace industry. The actual layoffs will be limited to 168 workers with 67 pension settlements and no replacement for 68 retirements or resignations.
Editor’s note: Volvo Aero delivered its last components for Ariane 4‘s Viking engines earlier this year.

U.S. Propellant on Ariane
April 15
Arianespace has purchased a first batch of ammonium perchlorate from Williams Equipment & Controls Co. (Wecco), of South West Jordan, Utah, to increase its strategic reserves as its main supplier, Groupe SNPE, is still waiting for a decision by the French government to allow work resumption in its Isochem facility in Toulouse. Isochem, which produces ammonium perchlorate and monomethyl-hydrazine for Ariane launchers, was closed on September 21, 2001, following the explosion of the nearby AZF (Atofina) fertilizer production plant. According to French trade daily La Tribune, the use of U.S. ammonium perchlorate will induce additional costs of about €1 million per Ariane 5 launch. Also affected by the unavailability of French ammonium perchlorate is the development of France’s newest sea-launched ballistic missile, the M51, due for initial test flght in late 2003 or early 2004.
Editor’s note: No decision on the resumption of chemical activities in the Toulouse area is expected before the French presidential elections, on May 5, as the prime minister is the candidate for the Socialist Party.
Northrop Grumman Raises its Bid for TRW
April 14
Northrop Grumman has increased its unsollicited bid to take over TRW from US$5.9 billion to US$6.7 billion by offering US$53 per share instead of US$47. TRW’s board asked its shareholders to take no action while it reviews the revised offer.
Editor’s note: TRW shares reached US$51.97 on April 12.
Lockheed Martin Cuts Shuttle Tank Workforce
April 10

Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems will cut its workforce by 325 positions as a result of NASA‘s plans to reduce the number of Space Shuttle missions in the coming years. LMMSS currently employs 2,100 workers in New Orleans, Louisiana, and another 90 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to build and process the space shuttle External Tank. The slow-down in shuttle missions will force to reduce the ET production from 8 to 6 per year.
Editor’s note: In March 2001, LMMSS had already announced 250 layoffs due to the ET production cutback and the cancellation of the X-33 single-stage-to-orbit demonstrator program. The layoffs were eventually limited to 100.

Groupe SNPE Post Losses
April 9
Groupe SNPE, France’s state-owned chemistry group posted consolidated sales worth €853.4 million in 2001 with losses amounting to €20.2 million. Insurance coverage of the group’s facilities in Toulouse, which stopped all their activities on September 21, following the explosion of the AZF (Atofina) fertilizer production plant, allowed to avoid additional losses. Groupe SNPE’s activities in Toulouse, including propellant production for Arianespace, represent more than 600 jobs and yearly sales amounting to about €150 million. As work resumption has been delayed by political authorities despite positive advises from experts and local commissions, Groupe SNPE had to invest €35.8 million in exceptional provision.
Editor’s note: Total Fina Elf has decided to close definitely its damaged AZF plant.
Work Resumption in SNPE Toulouse Postponed
April 3
The French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, has decided to postpone indefinitely any decision regarding the resumption of activity in several chemical plants in Toulouse, including Group SNPE‘s Isochem which produces propellant for Arianespace. The Department Committee for Health and Safety gave its green light for the resumption of industrial activity on March 29 and a formal decision by the government was expected shortly. All chemical industries in the Toulouse area put their activities on hold following the explosion of the AZF (Atofina) fertilizer production plant. on September 21.
Editor’s note: According to representatives of the industry, the decision not to approve the resumption of activity was taken on a political basis. Lionel Jospin is the French socialist canadidate for the presidential elections due on May 5. Groupe SNPE facilities in Toulouse produce monomethyl-hydrazine (MMH) for Ariane 5‘s upper stage and ammonium perchlorate for solid propellants.

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  Launch Market

Private Biosatellite Plan
April 22

The Mars Society, together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington and the University of Queensland, Australia, are developing the Translife Mars Gravity Biosatellite, a privately-funded US$10-million mission for biological studies on mice under a simulated Mars gravity generated by the spin of the spacecraft. Launch is planned in mid-2005 with a recovery after 52 days. and then return the crew safely to Earth. The team is considering a number of launch vehicle options. The recovery capsule will be developed by the University of Queensland’s Centre for Hypersonics.

India Plans New Satellites
April 19

India’s Department of Space (DOS) plans to launch seven new Insat communication satellites before 2007. Insat 4A to 4H will be provided by the Indian Space Research Organisation to improve the space communication capacity over India. Insat 4D will be a spare.
Editor’s note: DOS and ISRO still have three Insat 3 satellites waiting for launch. Insat 3A and 3E are planned to fly Arianespace Ariane 5 vehicles in 2002 and 2003 while Insat 3D should be the payload for the first operational GSLV flight (GSLV-C1) in 2004.

TRW to Develop SBIRS-Low
April 18

U.S. Air Force’s Space & Missile Systems Center has awarded a US$665-million contract to TRW to engage the design and development of the Space-Based Infrared Systems Low (SBIRS-Low) Program. The low-Earth orbit constellation will have to be able to detect missile launches and track their warheads during the midcourse phase of their ballistic flight. The system will provide a discrimination capability to enable the interception of incoming missiles in all phases of flight as part of the U.S. missile defense system.
Editor’s note: SBIRS-Low satellites will presumably be deployed by Boeing Delta 4 vehicles since Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 has no polar launch capability from Vandenberg AFB.

NASA Selects Four Midex Proposals
April 18

NASA‘s Office of Space Science has selected four proposals for the next round of Mid-sized Explorer (Midex) missions. Two of these proposals will be selected in March 2003 for full development and launch in 2007 and 2008. The current selection was done from 42 proposals received in October 2001. Each will receive US$450,000 for a four-month feasibility study.
• The Astrobiology Explorer (ABE) is a US$180-million cryogenic infrared telescope proposed by NASA’s Ames Research Center to detect organic compounds among interstellar matter. The 600-kg ABE spacecraft, built by Ball Aerospace & Technology, would be launched in the second quarter of 2007 onto a drifting heliocentric orbit by a Boeing Delta 2/7425-9.5 vehicle.
• The Next Generation Sky Survey (NGSS) is a new US$180-million highly sensitive infrared telescope proposed by the University of California in Los Angeles and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The 580-kg satellite would be built by Ball Aerospace & Technology too and launched by an Orbital Sciences Taurus 2210 into a Sun-synchronous orbit.
• The Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission would involve five microsatellites to probe different regions of the magnetosphere and observe storms. This US$150-million mission is proposed by the University of California in Berkeley. Launches of the Swales Aerospace-built probes onto highly elliptical orbits would be conducted on a Delta 2/7425-10 vehicle in mid-2006.
• The Advanced Spectroscopic and Coronagraphic Explorer (ASCE) would carry three highly sensitive solar telescopes to study Sun’s outer atmosphere. This US$177-million mission is proposed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Launch of the Orbital Sciences-built spacecraft is proposed atop a Taurus 2210 toward a 600 km orbit with a 28.5° inclination in December 2006.
Editor’s note: Previous Midex missions include the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Explorer (Image), launched in March 2000, the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP), launched in June 2001and the Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer to be launched in September 2003. All three launches were or will be conducted on Boeing Delta 2 vehicles.

Brazil Considers Radar Satellite
April 15

AEB, the Brazilian space agency, and INPE, Brazil’s national space research institute are revising the country’s national satellite program and consider the possibility of developing a US$100-million multipurpose radar remote sensing satellite, MapSAR, with Germany’s DLR aerospace research center.
Editor’s note: INPE’s first optical remote sensing satellite, SSR-1, initially due for launch in 1994, then 1998 and 2002, is now planned to fly in 2005, presumably atop a Brazilian VLS-1 launcher.

NASA Issues Mars Scout AO
April 12
NASA‘s Office of Space Science has issued an announcement of opportunity (AO) 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. The AO closes on August 1st and the 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.
Aviabel Withdraws from Space Insurance
April 11

Belgian aerospace insurer Aviabel has decided to stop underwriting any new space risks insurance policies. Aviabel explains its decision by "the extreme volatility of the loss ratio, due to the insufficient number of insured spacecraft," resulting in "a disproportionate need of capital resources or intensive relying on a reinsurance market characterised by an ever-decreasing capacity." Moreover Aviabel points out that space industry is using mostly unproven state-of-the-art technologies making risk assessment almost impossible. Aviabel will fulfil all its liabilities related to previous contracts.
Editor’s note: Aviabel’s insurance capacity amounted to US$22 million per launch in 2000, representing some 2.5% of the worldwide space insurance capacity. Aviabel created its space insurance department in 1983. Since last year, the space insurance capacity has shrunk by about 30%.

SBIRS-High on the Verge of Cancellation
April 11

The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office has been asked to study low-cost alternative solutions to the geostationary segment of the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS-High) for early missile defense warning. The SBIRS-High, whose cost has skyrocketed from an initial US$1.8 billion to more than US$4.5 billion, is undergoing a congressional review. A decision whether to cancel it or not is due on May 5.
Editor’s note: The SBIRS-High program has already undergone several adjustments to reduce its costs. Four satelites are to be built by Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space based on its A2100 bus to replace aging Defense Support Program satellites built by TRW. The first launch has slipped from 2002 to 2006 at the earliest and could even be postponed to 2008. Two launches are tentatively manifested on Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 and one on a Boeing Delta 4.

SBIRS-High satellite
DLR/Astrium to Develop TerraSAR-X
April 10

Germany’s DLR aerospace research center and Astrium have signed a public/private partnership (PPP) agreement to jointly develop the TerraSAR-X X-band synthetic aperture radar observation satellite. DLR will invest €102 million in the project and Astrium €28 million. DLR will be in charge of science operations while commercial operations will be taken over by Astrium’s InfoTerra GmbH subsidiary. The 1,023-kg satellite will be built by Astrium, using its new AstroBus platform, and launched in mid-2005 atop a Russian launch vehicle.
Editor’s note: TerraSAR-X baseline launch system is a MKK Kosmotras Dnepr booster. A larger L-band satellite, TerraSAR-L, is proposed under European Space Agency‘s Earth Watch program but failed to get the necessary funding during last ESA ministerial council in November 2001. Its launch is tentatively due in 2007. The AstroBus platform merges elements developed for Matra Marconi Space’s Leostar and Dornier Satellitensysteme’s FlexBus platforms.

India Prepares Health Satellite
April 9

The Indian Space Research Organisation has reportedly begun work on a satellite system dedicated to telemedicine services and tele-education for paramedics. The so-called "Health Satellite" would carry 12-14 transponders and could be ready for launch in 2005.

Iridium Plans Replacement Constellation
April 8
Iridium Satellite, which took over the Iridium constellation in March 2001, plans to contract for the manufacturing of a second generation system according to Space News. Iridium’s operating license issued by the U.S. Federal Communication Commission for this follow-on system will expire my mi-July if no manufacturing contract has been signed. The original plan by Iridium Inc. included a 96-satellite constellation but this design is expected to be changed.
Editor’s note: Other operators and manufacturers whose FCC license for 2nd generation L/S-band systems will expire by mid-July are Boeing, Celsat America, Constellation Communications, Globalstar, ICO Global Communications, Mobile Communications Holding Inc. (Ellipso‘s parent company) and TMI Communications.
Thuraya Plans 2nd Satellite Launch
April 7
Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co. plans to launch its second geomobile communication satellite in early 2003. The 5,250-kg Thuraya 2 satellite, built by Boeing Satellite Systems will be located at 28.5° East to complement service provided by Thuraya 1 from 44° East.
Editor’s note: Thuraya 2 is tentatively planned for launch on a Zenit 3SL vehicle ordered by Boeing under a bulk contract with Sea Launch in 1996. Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications recently filed a US$371-million insurance claim for "constructive total loss" of its first satellite due to a major power loss caused by pollution from the thruster exhausts on its solar array’s concentrators. Thuraya 2, initially ordered as a ground spare, holds a world record insurance coverage of US$800 million.
Eutelsat Contracts for Refurbished W1 Satellite
April 5
Eutelsat has signed a contract with Alcatel Space to purchase the refurbished W1 communication satellite which was damaged during ground testing in June 1998. Renamed "W5" and carrying 24 Ku-band transponders, the 3,000-kg satellite is due for launch during the third quarter of 2002. Eutelsat will later announce a launch service and a firm orbital slot.
Editor’s note: W5 has been manifested as the payload for the maiden flight of Boeing‘s Delta 4 launch vehicle, on July 15. However, Eutelsat never confirmed this selection.
Backgrounder: The W1 satellite was doused by a fire extinguishing system during payload testing in Alcatel’s facilities (then Aerospatiale’s) in Cannes. A US$50-million insurance claim was reportedly filed for its loss. The W1 designation was later given to an Astrium-built satellite, initially ordered as Ressat and launched in September 2000. The replacement satellite built by Alcatel Space under the initial contract (W1R) was eventually renamed EuroBird and launched in March 2001.
Pegasus Issues RfP for Ka-band Satellites
April 4
Pegasus Satellite Communications has issued a RfP for the procurement of two Ka-band communication satellites according to its annual report to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. A budget of US$250 million is planned for the procurement and launch of the first satellite. In order to delay expenses, the second satellite could be procured later.
Editor’s note: In August 2001, Pegasus Satellite Communications was awarded an operating license from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for a Ka-band satellite located in geostationary orbit at 107°West. This license expires in March 2003 but could be extended to March 2005.
Hellas Sat to Lease a Satellite and Buy Another
April 2

Hellas Sat Consortium Ltd., the new satellite operator for Greece and Cyprus, is considering the lease of Deutsche Telekom‘s aging Kopernikus 3 communications satellite to provide services from the 39° East slot in geostationary orbit before its license for this orbital position expires in September 2002. Hellas Sat also plans to acquire a new satellite from Astrium, for a launch in 2003. This new satellite could actually be the former Intelsat APR-3 which has been in storage at Astrium’s facilities in Toulouse since 1999.
Editor’s note: The Hellas Sat Consortium Ltd. is owned by AvacomNet, the Cyprus Development Bank, OTE Telecom, Hellenic Aerospace Industry and Telesat Canada. Its initial plans included the purchase of two BSS-376-type satellites from Boeing Satellite Systems and their launch atop Arianespace Ariane vehicles in August 2002 and March 2004 for an estimated US$250 million. Kopernikus 3, which was launched in October 1992 by a McDonnell-Douglas Delta 2/7925 vehicle, will be replaced by leased capacity onboard SES Astra‘s Astra 3A satellite which was launched by an Ariane 4 on March 29.
Backgrounder: The Intelsat APR-3 satellite had first been contracted by Intelsat in January 1997 from Matra Marconi Space as Intelsat K-TV. In May 1998, the contract was transferred to New Skies Satellites, Intelsat’s commercial spinoff, and the satellite was renamed NSS-6. It was shipped to Kourou for launch on an Arianespace Ariane 4 vehicle in March 1999 and repatriated to Europe after a defect was detected on its solar arrays. New Skies then cancelled the procurement as its prospected Asia/Pacific market had collapsed while the satellite was being delayed. In February 2001, Intelsat bought the stored satellite again but required a Chinese launch as part of a deal involving Chinese operator Sino Satellite Communications Co. Ltd. (Sinosat). The contract was cancelled in August 2001 after Astrium failed to get the necessary export licenses from the U.S. State Department.

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  Agencies and Governments

CNES Signs Pluriannual Plan with French Government
April 10
CNES, the French space agency, has signed its Pluriannual Contract with the French ministries of Research and Defense. This contract is a roadmap for CNES activities through 2005 with three main objectives: maintain a competitive access to space, foster technological innovation and development, and use space technologies to serve the society. CNES will invest some €1.1 billion in space transportation programs over the period. It will be asked to play a major role in the cost reduction effort currently underway in the industry for the Ariane launch system. The Guiana Space Center, in Kourou, French Guiana, will be asked to improve its productivity by about 1.5% a year.
Editor’s note: The statement by the French ministry of Research announces the introduction of the Ariane 5ECB version, able to loft 12 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit with the new ESC-B cryogenic upper stage, in 2007 instead of mid-2006.
Italy/Russia Sign Cooperation Agreement
April 3

ASI and Rosaviakosmos, the Italian and Russian space agencies, have signed a MoU regarding future cooperation in the space transportation and propulsion domains. The agreement covers possible joint efforts regarding development of liquid propulsion systems (in particular liquid oxygen/kerosene engines), small and medium launch vehicles, solid propulsion systems, electrical propulsion and advanced propulsion systems for for future launchers, as well as R&T on reusable launch systems and the use of existing Russian launch vehicles to loft Italian micro and small satellites. A cooperation on aeronautical engines is included as well.
Editor’s note: According to Russian press reports, the agreement would give Italy access to Russian technology in exchange for its support to the implementation of a launch pad for Soyuz vehicles in Kourou, French Guiana.

India/Indonesia to Cooperate in Space
April 3
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indonesia’s National Institute for Aeronautics & Space (LAPAN) have signed a MoU regarding future cooperation in space science, technologies and applications, during a visit of the Indonesian president, Ms Megavati Soekarnoputri, to India.   
  Editor’s note: A previous MoU was signed by ISRO and LAPAN in 1997 for the provision of TT&C services using a ground station in Biak Island (Western Papua) to support launches of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles and operations of Indian remote sensing satellites. None of the two countries is member of the Missile Technology Control Regime.


There is an old tradition in French aerospace publications to insert fake news in the first issue to be published in April. The stories are usually almost credible but they are easily identified as they include numerous references to fishes (in French, an April fool’s trick is called a “Poisson d’avril”, litterally an “April fish”).

We followed that tradition by inserting the story below on April 1st. Please note that in French, "Eurothon" would mean "Euro-tuna" and that the Beluga is a fish too. Of course, there’s no FISH program at ESA.

We know that at least a few people took this seriously, we apologize for any inconvenience that may have resulted from this joke… and watch out for April 1st, 2003!

Read our previous April Fools News.

Europe Considers Roton Revival – Fake News
April 1st

Roton C-9
(Rotary Rocket)

Astrium and Eurocopter are considering the incorporation of a joint-venture to acquire exclusive rights on Rotary Rocket‘s patented Roton design of a single-stage-to-orbit manned reusable launch system with a rotor-powered landing system. The Eurothon launch system would at first be proposed as an advanced technology testbed under European Space Agency‘s Future Innovative Spaceship & Hypersonics (FISH) research program (formerly known as the Future Launcher Preparatory Program) to be discussed in June. Rotary Rocket’s Roton Atmospheric Test Vehicle (ATV) could be shipped to Europe onboard an Airbus A300-600ST "Beluga" to begin demonstration flights at Eurocopter’s Ottobrunn test center during the third quarter.
Editor’s note: Astrium’s new chairman & CEO, Antoine Bouvier, is a former top executive from Eurocopter. The Roton ATV performed three test flights in 1999 to demonstrate hovering and landing capability of the Roton design before the company had to stop its development in June 2000 due to a lack of funding.
Watch Roton ATV’s 3rd test flight (QT).

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