News of January 2003

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
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  Commercial Launchers

SES Americom Asks for Proton Launch Slip
January 27

SES Americom has asked International Launch Services to delay the launch of its AMC-9 satellite atop a Proton vehicle. The launch, the last of a Proton K/DM3 planned on behalf of ILS, was due on February 10 and is now tentatively set for March 15. It could even slip to a later date as SES Americom has requested ILS to first complete of its own review of the findings by the Russian investigation board regarding the launch failure of a RKK Energiya Block DM3 upper stage which caused the loss of SES Astra‘s Astra 1K satellite on November 26. Depending on the result of this review, SES is expected to decide whether the launch will use the DM3 stage or a GKNPTs Khrunichev Breeze M stage usually flown on the new Proton M version.

Boeing Plans 20 Launches in 2003
January 27
Boeing Launch Services has planned a busy launch schedule for 2003 with 20 launches. These will include 10 Delta 2 missions, one Delta 3, four Delta 4s and five Zenit 3SLs. The Zenit 3SL is due to demonstrate a 6-ton lift capacity to geostationary transfer orbit during the second quarter. In 2004, BLS already plans 22 launches. On the market side, BSS plans to win at least six launch contracts on its accessible launch market estimated at about 15 to 17 contracts this year.       
Delta 2, Delta 3, Delta 4 and Zenit 3SL
Editor’s note: Only one Delta 4 and the five Zenit flights will fly commercial payloads.
Arianespace Still Plans 6-7 Launches in 2003
January 27
In addition to the final Ariane 4 launch on February 12, Arianespace still plans to conduct five Ariane 5G and Ariane 5G+ launches in 2003, according to its CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall. The uprated Ariane 5ECA could return to flight in the last quarter of this year Mr. Le Gall said during the Pacific Telecommunications Council yearly conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Editor’s note: According to industry sources, Arianespace might have to order new EPS upper stages and Vulcain 1 engines from Astrium and Snecma Moteurs shortly since it does not have enough Ariane  5G and Ariane 5G+ vehicles available in backlog to complete all its planned missions.
Ariane 5G and 5ECA

As of early 2003, Arianespace still has three Ariane 5G vehicles left from its initial production batch (L514 to L516) and three modernized Ariane 5G+ from the second production batch (L518 to L520). In addition to the five flights of 2003, Arianespace still needs at least four more such vehicles to loft ESA‘s Rosetta probe in 2004/2005, the first pair of Automated Transfer Vehicles for International Space Station Servicing in September 2004 and August 2006, and France’s Helios 2A military observation satellite in late 2004.

Rosetta Postponed and Re-Targeted
January 14
ESA and Arianespace have eventually decided not to launch the €1-billion Rosetta cometary probe during the planned launch window which will close on January 31. This decision was taken after the board appointed to review the qualification process of the mission determined that the current procedure was not sufficient to guarantee the success of the mission. The launch of Rosetta on Ariane V158 would have used a new flight plan with a 100-minute coast phase and a delayed ignition of the EPS upper stage. It would also have been the maiden flight of a slightly modified version of the initial Ariane 5G vehicle, the Ariane 5G+. The qualification review was successfully completed on January 10. According to ESA officials, no single point of uncertainty was identified on the launcher but the overall qualification process has to be checked and this effort cannot be conducted before the end of the launch window. Ariane 5 is expected to resume flights in late February with the launch of two commercial payloads atop a standard Ariane 5G.
ESA will now have to select a new target for the probe among 5 or 6 short-period comets that meet the mission requirements as the initial target, 46P/Wirtanen, moves out of reach. The launch could actually be performed between late 2003 and mid-2005. The Rosetta probe, which was ready for launch, will now be returned into a safe passive mode and stored in Kourou. The cost of this postponement is estimated at about €50-100 million.
Editor’s note: This postponement is an undirect consequence of the Ariane 5ECA maiden flight failure on December 11. Although the Ariane 5G version is not affected by the cause of the failure of its uprated version, the failure investigation board has asked for a review of all qualification processes. The Ariane 5G+ introduces minor improvements to the Ariane 5G version that were developed under the "Perfo 2000" program. the major changes are the use of a composite casing for the vehicle equipment bay and of simplified P2001 nozzles on the solid booster stages. The EPS upper stage also carries 300 kg of additional propellant and can be fitted with a "reignition kit" including extra batteries and thermal insulation. This version can deliver up to 6,950 kg into geostationary transfer orbit.
Due to technical constraints, Rosetta has to target a comet with an active nucleus not exceeding 3-4 km in diameter. It can perform gravity assist maneuvers flying by Mars or the Earth but not Venus. Potential targets include Churyumov-Gerasimenko, 15P/Finlay, Howell, Tempel 2 and 86P/Wild 2. ESA has required that Rosetta flies on the Ariane 5G+ version. However, if the Ariane 5ECA successfully returns to flight in late 2003, it is assumed that a launch on an Ariane 5ECA could be negotiated in 2004.
Rosetta Launch Under Review
January 7
Although the Ariane 5G launcher was cleared for flight resumption by the investigation board on the Ariane 5ECA maiden launch failure, Arianespace has appointed a commission to review all of the Rosetta launch’s specific aspects before allowing to proceed witrh actual launch operations. ESA‘s Rosetta probe has to be launched between January 13 and 31 to be able to reach the comet 46P/Wirtanen in 2012. However, its launch will require a nearly 2-hour long coast phase before ignition of the EPS upper stage. The review commission will issue its findings on January 14.
Editor’s note: If Rosetta cannot be launched in January, the mission could be reconfigured to fly in late 2003, but without any asteroid flyby on the way to the comet.

Ariane 5ECB Could Slip
January 7

ESA has asked CNES, in charge of Ariane 5 developments, to save some €300 million through 2005 in the Ariane 5 Plus development program. This amount will presumably be needed to complete the qualification of the new Ariane 5ECA, including a possible qualification flight in the second half of 2003. One of the options considered to achieve this saving is delaying the introduction of the Ariane 5ECB, a follow-on version of the Ariane 5ECA with a payload capability increased to 12 tons and a reignitable upper stage. According to ESA’s director general, Antonio Rodotà, «CNES has to assess if the market actually requires the Ariane 5ECB as soon as 2006
Editor’s note: The Ariane 5ECB is mostly required by two payload that cannot be launched with the Ariane 5ECA version in their current version: the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and the Galileo global navigation satellites, both ESA programs. The first two flight models of the ATV are currently planned for launch on Ariane 5G or G+ in September 2004 and August 2006. The deployment of the Galileo constellation, by a mix of Starsem Soyuz/ST and Arianespace Ariane 5s is to be completed by 2008.

Ariane 5ECA to Resume Flight in Six Months
January 7
Arianespace plans to resume flights of its Ariane 5ECA heavy lift launcher in the second half of 2003, possibly with a qualification flight. The independent investigation board has issued its report on the causes of the vehicle’s failure on its maiden flight on December 11. According to the board, actual flight loads exceeding specifications induced cracks in the dump cooling lines of the Vulcain 2 engine nozzle. The resulting leak led to an overheating and desintegration of the nozzle. The initial Ariane 5G version of the launcher is not affected by the failure and could resume flights shortly. The board recommends to improve the engine’s nozzle, possibly with an increased pressure in the cooling lines, and the simulation of flight loads during ground testing. Arianespace will propose a formal recovery plan by January 20.
Ariane 5ECA

Editor’s note: The Snecma-built Vulcain 2 engines features a longer and wider nozzle (expansion ration, ·=60) than the original Vulcain 1 engine (·=45) for better performance in altitude. The nozzles of both Vulcain engines are provided by Volvo Aero. According to Pr. Wolfgang Koschel, head of the investigation board, the nozzle of the Vulcain 2 engine has to withstand aerodynamic loads twice stronger than the Vulcain 1.

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  Government Launchers

Second GSLV Slips to March
January 13
The Indian Space Resaerch Organisation has postponed the second qualification flight of its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) from February to late March. The vehicle will feature improved thrust in order to reach a payload capacity of 1,800 kg to geostationary transfer orbit.
Editor’s note: This will be the last qualification flight for the GSLV version featuring a Russian-built 12KRB cryogenic upper stage provided by GKNPTs Khrunichev. A third qualification flight, in late 2003 or early 2004, will test the Indian-built C12
cryogenic upper stage.

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  Small Launchers

Orbital Gets Four U.S. Government Launches
January 24

Minotaur (OSC)

Orbital Sciences Corp. announces that it was awarded four U.S. government launch contracts totalling about US$60 million in value by late 2002. NASA has exercized an option on its Small Expendable Launch Vehicle Service 2 (SELVS-2) contract for one Pegasus XL launch in 2005 to loft its Spectrometry & Photometry of the Intergalactic Medium’s Diffuse Radiation (SPIDR) mission.

Pegasus XL (OSC)

Separately, the U.S. Department of Defense has booked three Minotaur flights under U.S. Air Force‘s Orbital/Suborbital Program 1 (OSP-1). One payload will be the Near-Filed Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) in 2004. The other two payloads will be disclosed later. These launches will begin in 2003.
Editor’s note: With the launch of SPIDR, OSC was awarded 6 out of 16 missions planned under the SELVS-2 procurement.

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  Missile Systems

Agni 3 to Fly in 2003
January 11
India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation is about to complete the development of the Agni 3 ballistic missile and plans to conduct a test flight before the end of the year. The Agni 3 will be able to deliver a nuclear warhead with a range exceeding 3,000 km. DRDO also has the capability to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 3,500 to 14,000 km if required, according to Indian defence officials, who admit the country might not need such long range systems.
Editor’s note: The Agni 3 will presumably build on the previous versions of the Agni series, derived from Indian Space Research Organisation‘s SLV-3 and ASLV small launch vehicles.
OSC to Supply 9 GMD Booster Test Flights
January 10

Boeing has awarded an additional US$50-million to its contract with Orbital Sciences Corp. to proceed with the development and testing of its Taurus Lite Orbital Boost Vehicle (OBV) for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency‘s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. These funds will support a series of 9 demonstration and test flights due to begin in early 2003. These flights include two booster tests and seven interception missions under the Integrated Flight test (IFT) program through 2006. OSC’s contract, awarded in March 2002 and running through 2007, is now worth over US$450 million. Options for the production of some 50 booster vehicles could add an other US$535 million from 2004 to late 2009.
Editor’s note: The Taurus Lite is a silo-launched, wingless version of the Pegasus XL vehicle with a stretched first stage.

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  RLVs, Reentry and Manned Systems

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  Space Propulsion

GRC Looks for Airbreathing Technology for Launchers
January 17

NASA‘s Glenn Research Center plans to ask for industry proposals regarding R&D efforts in airbreathing technology for future launch systems. A formal NASA Research Announcement (NRA) will be issued on February 3 on behalf of the Propulsion Research & Technology Project as part of the Next Generation Launch Technology Program (NGLTP). Up to US$25 million could be invested in several tasks to be conducted under the project for FY2004-2006.

NASA Tests Clean Solid Propellant
January 13
NASA has successfully tested an environmentally friendly solid propellant developed by Stanford University and NASA’s Ames Research Center. This non-toxic, low cost fuel, designed for hybrid propulsion systems, is based on paraffin and produces only carbon dioxyde and water during combustion with liquid oxygen. Its burn rate is three times superior to that of common solid fuels used for hybrid motors. Some 200 firing test runs are planned at Ames Hybrid Combustion Facility.
Snecma/Volvo to Develop Turbopump
January 10
Snecma Moteurs and Volvo Aero have signed an agreement to jointly develop an advanced turbopump demonstrator. Testing is due to begin in 2004 to validate the technologies for possible future engine developments to be decided in 2005.

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Layoffs Feared in Kourou
January 15
Some 400 jobs could be cut at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, according to local trade unions. This staff reduction, as part of a plan to save up to €40 million over the next three years, would be achieved by not renewing some jobs perforemd by expatriated Europeans and through early retirements.
Agreement Prepared for Soyuz in Kourou
January 10
The European Space Agency is reportedly giving the final touch to an agreement with Russia regarding the launch of Soyuz vehicles from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. The agreement is exepected to be reviewed by ESA’s ministerial council in March-April and signed with Russia in April, in order to allow breaking ground work to begin in May. Launches could then begin in late 2005.
Editor’s note: The financing sources for the €250-300  million budget required to build the Soyuz launch pad have not been fully identified yet. In November 2002, France proposed that the Russian share could be funded through a loan to be paid back by profitrs from the commercial launches.

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Galileo Industries Shares Work Between Partners
January 13
Galileo Industrie, a joint-venture of France’s Alcatel Space, Italy’s Alenia Spazio, Germany’s Astrium GmbH and Great-Britain’s Astrium Ltd., is about to complete its internal work-sharing agreement to dispatch the future industrial contracts for the development and production of the Galileo global navigation satellite.
Editor’s note: ESA‘s €550-million contribution for the industrial phase of the Galileo program cannot be released unless Germany and Italy settle their dispute regarding the industrial leadership on the program.
Alcatel to Cut Jobs
January 9

As the satellite market remains in crisis, Alcatel Space plans to cut 400 more jobs. In 2002, Alcatel Space has already reduced its workforce by 450 to accomodate the new market conditions.

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  Launch Market

Venus Express Contract Signed
January 28

ESA has awarded a €82.4-million contract to Astrium for the development and manufacturing of the Venus Express probe. This Venus orbiter spacecraft, largely derived from the previous Mars Express, will be launched in November 2005 atop a Soyuz-Fregat vehicle. A launch contract is under negotiation with Starsem. Venus Express will conduct a 2-Venusian-year study of the planet.
Editor’s note: By reusing existing hardware, ESA and Astrium have been able to reduce the overall cost of the mission from more than €200 million to some €150 million. As a paradox, the value of the Venus Express industrial contract actually exceeds that of Mars Express which was worth about
€60 million. According to Astrium officials, the extra cost results from the more hostile environment around Venus which will require additional thermal control and radiation hardening as well as the complete redesign of the solar arrays. Mars Express uses off-the-shelf solar arrays from the Globalstar program.

Alcatel to Build Payloads for Two More Ekspress AMs
January 25

PO Kosmicheskaya Sviaz, the Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC), has contracted with Alcatel Space to deliver the communication payloads for its Ekspress AM2 and AM3 satellites. The payloads, to be delivered in the third and fourth quarters of 2004, will be fitted on top of satellite platforms developed by NPO Prikladnoy Mekhaniki. The contract is reportedly worth €50-100 million.
Editor’s note: Alcatel has already provided similar payloads for five satellites built by NPO-PM: Eutelsat‘s Sesat and four Ekspress As (A1, A2, A3 and A1R). Two more payloads are also being manufactured by Alcatel for Ekspress AM11 and AM22. Ekspress AM2 and AM3 are expected to be launched on GKNPTs Khrunichev Proton vehicles procured outside International Launch Services. PO-KS had earlier selected Japan’s NEC/Toshiba Space Systems to provide the payloads of all
Ekspress AMs

Intelsat and PanAmSat Give Up on Eutelsat Takeover
January 24

Rival global communication operators Intelsat and PanAmSat have both halted their respective negotiations to take over European operator Eutelsat for an estimated US$3 billion. However, Intelsat reportedly remains interested in the acquisition.
Editor’s note: Eutelsat’s acquisition by non-European operators is strongly opposed by Eutelsat’s current management, as well as by European space industry, the French government and the European Commission, which consider Eutelsat as a "strategic asset" for Europe.

PanAmSat Files for Ka Slots
January 16
PanAmSat Corp. has filed for nine Ka-band geostationary slots through the Australian Communications Authority. These slots are intended to replace all but one of the Ka-band slots it held in the United States which would have required satellites to be launched before 2005.
NASA Interested in Megha-Tropiques
January 13
NASA has expressed its interest in participating in the joint Indian-French Megha-Tropiques mission to monitor the atmosphere over tropical regions, according to Space News. Megha-Tropiques is under development by the Indian Space Research Organisation and CNES and due for launch in late 2005 atop an Indian PSLV. It is part of the missions currently under review by CNES as part of its cost-cutting process.
Editor’s note: Megha-Tropiques will be built by Alcatel Space based on its Proteus multimission bus.

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  Agencies and Governments

China Might Join Galileo
January 27

China is reportedly ready to invest some €300 million in Europe’s Galileo global navigation system in exchange for unrestricted access to the non-military global positioning service.
Editor’s note: China has introduced its own regional navigation satellite system in 2000 with the launch of two Beidou satellites onto geostationary orbit. A third satellite is due for launch in 2003.

EC Might Join of ESA
January 17
The European Commission could become an associated member of the European Space Agency in order to improve the cooperation between the two for space research and development.
Editor’s note: ESA’s 14 member states are not the same as the 15 members of the European Union. ESA includes Norway and Switzerland while EU includes Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal.
EC Proceeds on Galileo Despite ESA’s Hurdles
January 15
Although the European Space Agency is unable to release its €550-million budget for the development of the Galileo global navigation satellite system unless the dispute between Germany and Italy regarding the industrial leadership of the program, the European Commission is proceeding with its own share of the program. The EC has already committed €240 million out of its €550-million budget and established the arrangements for the concession-holder to be selected in 2004 to carry out the programme during the system deployment and commercial operation phases. The EC is also preparing the setting up of the future Security Authority due to manage the system. Initial operational capability for Galileo remains scheduled for 2008.
Editor’s note: The Galileo industrial sharing will be discussed at ESA’s council meeting at ministerial level in April. Launches are due to begin by 2005 with pairs of demonstration satellites atop Soyuz/ST launchers provided by Starsem. The main constellation is tentatively planned to be deployed by Arianespace with Ariane 5ECB launchers.

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