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Satellite Glitch Delays Ariane 5’s Return
April 8

The launch of an Arianespace Ariane 5G vehicle had to be called off and postponed by 24 hours upon request from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which asked for additional technical checks on its Insat 3A satellite. The other payload for this V160 flight is PanAmSat‘s Galaxy 12.
Editor’s note: V160 will be the first Ariane 5 mission since the maiden launch failure of the uprated Ariane 5ECA on December 11, 2002. However, it will use a generic Ariane 5G vehicle, already flown 13 times.

FiatAvio Sold to U.S. Group
April 7

Fiat has eventually selected the U.S. investment fund Carlyle Group, to take over its FiatAvio aerospace propulsion subsidiary for an estimated €1.6 billion. Talks have been engaged for a final agreement to be signed mid-May. For this acquisition, Carlyle will team with Italy’s Finmeccanica Group.
Editor’s note: An earlier attempt for a joint bid by Finmeccanica and French aerospace propulsion group Snecma could not be finalized. The Carlyle Group was incorporated in 1987 and is known to have ties with the U.S. Republican Party. Former U.S. president George H. Bush is one of its counsellors while former British prime John Major is heading its European branch.

NASA Taps Three for OSP Studies
April 6

NASA plans to award about US$135 million worth of contract modifications under its revised Space Launch Initiative program to three competing teams for system design of its proposed Orbital Space Plane (OSP) manned vehicle. Each US$45-million task will cover development of system specifications, including systems analysis, trade studies and concept feasibility. The three contractors are Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems and a team formed by Orbital Sciences Corp. and Northrop Grumman. These awards actually extend contracts previously awarded in May 2001 through July 2004. A Systems Requirement Review (SRR) is scheduled in October to refine the OSP’s mission requirements, with a Systems Design Review (SDR) following in April 2004. A full-scale development decision is expected in late 2004.
Editor’s note: Despite its name, the OSP will not necessarily be a spaceplane nor a reusable vehicle. Its basic mission requirement is to be able to return at least four crew from the International Space Station to the ground with a better reliability than the Space S
huttle by 2010, and to deliver a similar crew to the ISS with a safety better than Soyuz in 2012. Launches will be performed by Boeing Delta 4 or Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 vehicles. NASA is apparently speeding up the OSP design process as the SRR was previously scheduled in December and the PDR in July. Boeing is already prime for the X-47 demonstrator to be flown as a precursor of the OSP, while Lockheed Martin has been selected for the Pad Abort Demonstrator (PAD). OSC has developed the Space Taxi concept as an alternate to the shuttle for ferrying crew to and from the ISS.

Thermo to Take Over Globalstar
April 4

Thermo Capital Partners has proposed to acquire 67% of Globalstar LP for US$55 million in order to lead the mobile satellite telephony venture out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. If the deal is approved by the bankruptcy court the remaining 33% will be shared between Globalstar’s creditors, including the initial backers of the project, Loral Space & Communications and Qualcomm.
Editor’s note: In January, another investment group, New Valley Corp., proposed a similar amount for only 50% but was refused by the creditors which expected a better offer.

Deep Impact Probe Postponed
April 4

NASA has decided to postpone the launch of its Deep Impact cometary probe by nearly one year due to several technical and management issues such as contamination of its propulsion system and delays in the delivery of key elements. The probe was scheduled for launch by a Boeing Delta 2/7925 vehicle by January 2, 2004. Its new launch window will open on December 30, 2004. Despite the delay, the spacecraft will reach comet 9P/Tempel 1 in July 2005 as initially planned.
Editor’s note: Deep Impact was reportedly almost cancelled in 2002. Once at Tempel 1, the probe will fire a 370-kg impactor at the nucleus in order to collect samples from the impact ejectas without having to land.

North Korea Claim Missile Export Legitimate
April 3

North Korean authorities have denied the U.S. any right to impose sanctions on its missile production and marketing entity Changgwang Siniyong Corp. over alleged missile technology exports to Pakistan. Since North Korea has not joined the Missile Technology Control Regime, it is not bound to any restriction, according to a statement by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). On March 24, t he U.S. State Department claims North Korea has transferred missile technology to Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and asked for sanctions against both Changgwang Siniyong and KRL.
Editor’s note: North Korea will leave the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on April 10. Its nuclear and missile programs will be discussed by the United Nations Security Council on April 9. North Korean technology has reportedly been used to develop Pakistan’s Ghauri medium range ballistic missile.

North Korea Claim Missile Export Legitimate
April 3

North Korean authorities have denied the U.S. any right to impose sanctions on its missile production and marketing entity Changgwang Siniyong Corp. over alleged missile technology exports to Pakistan. Since North Korea has not joined the Missile Technology Control Regime, it is not bound to any restriction, according to a statement by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). On March 24, t he U.S. State Department claims North Korea has transferred missile technology to Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and asked for sanctions against both Changgwang Siniyong and KRL.
Editor’s note: North Korea will leave the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on April 10. Its nuclear and missile programs will be discussed by the United Nations Security Council on April 9. North Korean technology has reportedly been used to develop Pakistan’s Ghauri medium range ballistic missile.

SES Eventually Selects Breeze M
March 17

SES Americom has eventually selected the Breeze M upper stage, built by GKNPTs Khrunichev, to fly its AMC-9 communication satellite on a Proton vehicle in late April. Following the loss of its Astra 1K on November 26, 2002, due to a propulsion mishap onboard the RKK Energiya-built Block DM3 upper stage, SES had decided to review various launch options for its next satellite in line, AMC-9, including a possible swap to a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5. The Breeze M selection has already been announced by the Russian side on February 8.
Editor’s note: The launch of AMC-9 was supposed to be the last of a Proton K/DM3 on behalf of International Launch Services.

Eumetsat Plans 4th MSG
March 17

Eumetsat, the European meteorological satellite organization, has approved the acquisition of a fourth Meteosat Second Generation sdatellite (MSG-4) with a plannned budget worth €391 million. A formal contract will be awarded to Alcatel Space later. MSG-4 will be launched in 2012.
Editor’s note: MSG-1 was launched by an Arianespace Ariane 5G on August 28, 2002. It will be followed by MSG-2 in 2005 and MSG-3 in 2007/2008.

ESA Asks for €700M for Ariane 5ECA
March 17

ESA has asked for a €700-million funding to return Ariane 5ECA to flight. According to ESA’s proposal, this funding will be provided partly by the member states (€400 million) and partly by the industry (€300 million). This amount would cover new developments and modifications on the Vulcain 2 engine as well as two qualification flights for the Ariane 5ECA version. It will also compensate Arianespace‘s losses related to the delayed introduction of the heavy-lift version of its workhorse launcher. This proposal, to be discussed by ESA’s council during its meeting at ministerial level in late May, has led to very negative reactions from the industry. EADS, one of the largest contractors in the Ariane program, has asked for the European governments to "take their responsibility to support the European guaranteed access to space, else it might very well collapse."
Editor’s note: This amount is similar to the cost of returning Ariane 5 to flight after its maiden flight failure in June 1996.

NASA Readies for Shuttle Flight Resumption
March 14

NASA is setting up an engineering team to prepare modifications on its fleet of Space Shuttles in order to enable flight resumption as soon as the 4th quarter of 2003. This team is intended to define and implement the necessary changes to the vehicles as soon as the investigation on the loss of Columbia, on February 1st, is completed. Among the modifications already considered is a redesign of the insulation on the external tank near the orbiter nose’s bipod. The suspected foam debris that may have damaged Columbia’s thermal protection system during liftoff on January 16 apparently came from that area.
Editor’s note: NASA is reportedly under pressure to resume flights in order to service the International Space Station as well as to ease congressional debates over the future of its manned program. Nevertheless, some sources expect no flight resumptions before 2004.

Arianespace to Lay Off One Third of Staff
March 14

Arianespace plans to reduce its staff by about one third, reflecting a similar drop in its activities. Some 120 posts will be terminated, including 50 related to Ariane 4 which was phased out in February.
Editor’s note: Arianespace had already laid off 25 people in 2002.

U.S. Space Command to Reduce Staff
March 13

The U.S. Air Force Space Command will reduce its workforce by 1,125 positions by 2009 under a U.S. Airt Force initiative to reduce staff and reassign resources to "highest priority" sectors such as special operations or intelligence. A first batch of 756 positions will be eliminated by October 2004, and another 367 in the following five years. U.S. Air Force Space Command currently employs some 40,000 people worldwide.

Vega Development Contracts Signed
February 25
ESA has awarded a €221-million contract to ELV SpA, a joint venture of FiatAvio and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), to complete the development of the Vega small launcher. A second contract, worth €40 million, was also awarded to FiatAvio by CNES, on behalf of ESA, for the development of the P80FW solid rocket motor. The P80FW is an 80-ton experimental motor designed to demonstrate a composite casing technology that could be later used for future Ariane 5 upgrades. The P80FW will serve as first stage of Vega with a Zefiro 23 and a Zefiro 9 motors as second and third stages, and a liquid-fuelled Attitude & Vernier Upper Module (AVUM).
Vega (ESA)

The first qualification flight is scheduled by mid-2006. Vega will be operated by Arianespace from the refurbished ELA-1 pad of the Guiana Space Center, in Kourou, French Guiana. With a payload capability of 1,500 kg to Sun-synchronous orbit, a launch rate of 3 to 4 missions per year is expected, mostly to fly European science and remote sensing missions.
Editor’s note: The Vega program is funded through ESA by Italy (65%), France (12.43%), Belgium (5.63%), Spain (5%), The Netherlands (3.5%), Switzerland (1.34%) and Sweden (0.8%). The P80FW program is supported by Italy (68.6%), France (45.1%), Belgium (6.6%) and the Netherlands (2.7%). AVUM propulsion will be provided by Ukraine’s NPO Yuzhnoye.

Columbia In-Orbit Pictures Released
February 25
NASA has released a set of pictures of Space Shuttle Columbia in orbit taken by the U.S. Air Force Maui Optical & Supercomputing Site (AMOS), in Maui Island, Hawaii, on January 28, four days before the spacecraft was destroyed during reentry. The pictures, in infrared and visible light, do not show any sign of damage on the upper side of the orbiter.

However the area of the left wing near its junction with the fuselage is hidden by the payload bay doors and radiators.
Download the high resolution versions of these pictures on NASA’s website.

Some CNES Projects Could be Delayed
February 24
CNES could have to delay some of its projects as costs overruns of up to 30% have been identified. An audit was conducted on the French national space programs, accounting for about €300 million per year, and concluded that some cuts are necessary in order to return to restore stable financing by 2006-2007. Among the programs that might suffer delays are the development and manufacturing of the Corot observatory for astrosismology (€38.3 million through 2006) and of the Pleiades HR remote sensing satellites (€355 million through 2007). A proposed €255-million Stentor 2 technology satellite program should not be engaged, according to the audit.
Pleiades HR (Astrium)

Editor’s note: Corot is tentatively planned for launch in early 2005, Pleiades HR-1 in late 2005 and Pleiades HR-2 in late 2006. These spacecraft could fly atop Soyuz or Rokot launchers. The Stentor 1 technology satellite was lost in the maiden launch failure of Ariane 5ECA on December 11, 2002.

Possible Columbia Debris in Nevada
February 23

Possible debris from Space Shuttle Columbia have been found in southeast Nevada, near Panaca, some 275 km north of Las Vegas. The debris reportedly consist in fragments of tin foil and "scraps of aluminium", have not been formally identified by NASA. According to experts, a 2-m part of the orbiter’s landing gear may have crashed in the area when the vehicle broke out during reentry, on February 1st, killing its crew.
Editor’s note: As of February 23, no debris from Columbia has been identified as such west of Fort Worth, Texas, although the orbiter apparently began losing fragments while flying over California. Alleged debris found in Utah have been identified as not coming from Columbia.

Soyuz Might Get Guianese Funding
February 22

ESA, CNES and Arianespace have asked for a €4-million budget from the Regional Fund for Jobs Development, to support local area development for the Soyuz launch complex at the Guiana Space Center, in Kourou, French Guiana. A decision is expected by March 7.
Editor’s note: A €60-million funding was refused by the Reghional Council of French Guiana in December 2002. Total cost of the project is estimated at €275-300 million. Once operational, in late 2005, the launch complex will be operated by some 180 Russian technicians.

Atlas 5 Assigned First EELV Mission
February 21

Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 has been assigned a firm payload for the first of its seven U.S. Air Force launches contracted in 1998 under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program. This first mission, scheduled in December 2004, will loft the second Wideband Gapfiller Satellite (WGS-2), a 6-ton-class military communications satellite under development by Boeing Satellite Systems.
Editor’s note: The actual launch mass of WGS satellites is estimated at about 5,500-5,700 kg. This launch will thus likely require an Atlas 5/521 vehicle.

ASI to Award Cosmo-SkyMed Contract
February 20

The Italian Space Agency is about to award a €750-million contract to Alenia Spazio and Telespazio to build the four Cosmo-SkyMed radar remote sensing satellites and the related ground segment. Launch contracts for the constellation will be signed later. The first spacecraft is tentatively set for launch in early 2005, with the others following about every eight months.
Editor’s note: Cosmo stands for COnstellation of small Satellites for Mediterranean basin Observation. The system was initially planned to include optical satellites too but an agreement was signed with CNES in January 2001 to develop the radar satellites in parallel with France’s own Pleiades optical satellites. The Cosmo-SkyMed satellites will be based on Alenia’s Prima bus and weigh about 1,000 kg at launch each. The first two are expected to fly on Russian launchers, either Soyuz or Rokot, while the following may fly on ESA‘s Vega small launch vehicle.

SES Considers Ordering Three Satellites
February 20

SES Global may order three satellites in 2003. Two satellites, Astra 1L and 1M, would be ordered for SES Astra, one of which would replace Astra 1K, lost on November 26, 2002, in the launch failure of a Proton K/DM3 vehicle. The third satellite would be for SES Americom with a Ku-band capavcity to provide direct-t-home television services.
Editor’s note: SES Global has received insurance payments worth US$275 million for the total loss of Astra 1K, and US$57 million for the partial loss of Astra 1G.

Russia Asks Europe for Help to Support ISS
February 20

Rosaviakosmos has proposed the European Space Agency to include one of its astronauts in a permanent crew for the International Space Station in exchange for financial support to the manufacturing of extra Progress freighter vehicles in order to ensure resupply and reboost of the orbital outpost while NASA‘s fleet of Space Shuttles is grounded. ESA declined to comment on the offer.
Editor’s note:
Rosaviakosmos reportedly needs €230-280 million over the next three years to keep up its participation in the ISS. In 2003, two European astronauts were planned to fly on short duration missions to ferry new Soyuz rescue vehicles to the ISS. These two flights, now expected to carry permanent crews of one Russian and one U.S. astronauts, would have brought €30-40 million to Russian space industry. The first of the two Soyuz flights is due in early May.

Arianespace Could be Restructured
February 20
Europe’s Arianespace could be restructured in order to consolidate the manufacturing and operations of the Ariane launchers in the hands of the industry, namely EADS Launch Vehicles, according to French aerospace trade newsletter Aéronautique Business. EADS-LV, to be merged in the near future with the space transportation business units of Astrium, could takeover some of Arianespace’s activities and staff, as well as part of its debt. The resulting restructured Arianespace would remain in charge of launch services marketing and launch manifest management.
Editor’s note: This proposed restructuring, on the model of archrivals Boeing Launch Services and International Launch Services, was outlined by Philippe Camus, CEO of EADS, and Jean-Paul Bechat, CEO of Snecma, in a letter addressed in January to the French ministries of Research and Defense, who share the responsibilities for space activities in France.

Since Ariane and Arianespace are European ventures, such a restructuring would only be possible if endorsed by ESA’s council, due to meet at ministerial level in late May or early June.

Arabsat to Order New Satellite
February 20

The Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat) is reportedly planning to order a new satellite, Arabsat 3B, to maintain its orbital communication capacity after the partial failure of its Arabsat 3A satellite in 2002.
Editor’s note: Arabsat 3A was insured for US$170 million. All previous Arabsat satellites have been built by Alcatel Space.

Carlo Gavazzi Will Build Iranian Smallsat
February 19
Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (MSRT) has contracted with Italy’s Carlo Gavazzi Space to build and launch its Mesbah technological satellite. mesbah will reportedly carry a remote sensing payload as well as a messaging package developed in partnership with the Iranian Ministry of Post, Telegraph & Telephone. Launch onto low Earth orbit at an altitude of 900 km is due in 2005 atop a yet-to-define launcher.
Editor’s note: The Mesbah program was initiated in 1998 on behalf of the Iranian Research Center for Science and Technology (IROST),
the Iranian Remote Sensing Center and the Iran Telecommunications Research Center (ITRC), with a reported US$10-million budget.

The spacecraft will presumably be based on Carlo Gavazzi’s Mita small satellite bus and include an experimental remote sensing payload. Iran had previously reported launch agreements with Russia and China to loft an indigenously-built Mesbah piggyback on a Russian or a Chinese launcher. These agreements have reportedly been cancelled.

NASA Will Not Ask for a Waiver to Buy Russian Ships
February 19

NASA does not plan to ask for a waiver to be allowed to buy additional Soyuz ferries and Progress freighters from Russia’s RKK Energiya to support continuous occupation of the International Space Station while the Space Shuttle fleet is grounded in the wake of the Columbia tragedy. Under the Iran Non Proliferation Act adopted by the U.S. Congress in 2000, NASA cannot purchase any hardware from Russian aerospace companies unless they are proven not to have provided any support to Iran’s ballistic missile program for more than one year.

Scenarios Narrowed for Columbia Tragedy
February 19
The Columbia Accident Investigation Board has now been given full responsibility over the investigation on the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia during its reentry on February 1st. More than 8,000 pieces of debris have been collected, including one of the flight computers, and are being displayed in the RLV hangar at NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center. Remains of the seven crew members have been identified and returned to their families. The investigation is focusing on a possible puncture or breach either in the left wing’s reinforced carbon carbon leading edge or in the landing gear door area.
Columbia debris are displayed in KSC’s RLV hangar (NASA)

Columbia’s last liftoff on Jan. 16 (NASA)
This breach enabled hot plasma to burn through and damage the wing’s inner structure and wiring. This breach eventually induced an increased aerodynamic drag. The resulting roll torque had to be compensated by two and later four thruster firings. Analysis of 32 seconds of telemetry data collected after the loss of standard communications with the orbiter vehicle (at 13:59:52Z) showed that the fuselage remained almost intact and most of onboard systems (auxiliary power units, flight computers, navigation systems and electrical generators) were still functioning after the left wing underwent severe structural damage. Several theories are under review regarding the actual cause of the breach including a possible impact at launch by up to three pieces of the foam insulation recovering the External Tank, possibly filled with ice from pre-launch moisture condensation, impact by the heavier underlayer material, an undetected pre-launch corrosion or an impact by an undetected orbital debris.

Due to confimed visual observations of a trail of debris during reentry over Southern California, the search for remains of the orbiter vehicle has been extended westward from Texas to California.
Editor’s note: The collected debris represent about 12,000 kg of material, out of the 105,591 kg the orbiter was planned to weigh at landing. Four previous shuttle flights reportedly experienced impacts from falling foam on Challenger in 1983, on Columbia in 1990 and 1992, and on Atlantis in 2002. On all these flights, the impact did not cause any severe damage. The ET for Columbia’s STS-107 mission was ET-93, the next to last Lightweight Tank (LWT) as this version is being phased out and replaced by the new Super
Lightweight Tank (SLWT) introduced in 1998. It was built by Lockheed Martin Michoud in December 2000.

Space Launches from Orenburg
February 18

MKK Kosmotras and the Strategic Rocket Forces of Russia (RVSN) are negotiating with the administration of the Orenburg oblast, in southern Russia, to conduct orbital launches with its Dnepr vehicles from the Dombarovskiy strategic missiles base (50°45’N, 59°30’E), some 15 km from the Kazakh border.
Editor’s note:
Dombarovskiy is one of the three remaining R-36M launch sites in Russia with Kartaly, Cheliabinsk oblast, and Uzhur, Krasnoyarsk oblast. Before the 1st Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1), in 1990, there were 64 active R-36M silos on the base. Twelve have been deactivated through 2002. By transferring some or all of its launch activities from Baykonur to a Russian territory, Kosmostras would simplify its export and fees issues with the Kazakh authorities.
European Bid for FiatAvio Confirmed
February 18

Italy’s Finmeccanica group and France’s Snecma are discussing a joint bid to takeover FiatAvio. According to business sources, the two European groups are ready to invest €1.5-1.8 billion to acquire the Italian aerospace propulsion company. U.S.-based Carlyle Group investment fund has reportedly issued its own bid, valued at €1.6-1.7 billion.
Editor’s note: FiatAvio owns 6.03% of Arianespace and 50% of Europropulsion. Snecma also owns 8.13% of Arianespace and the remaining 50% of Europropulsion, while Finmeccanica owns 1.13% of Arianespace.

Second Atlas 5 Undergoes Rehearsal
February 18

Lockheed Martin is conducting a 3-day countdown dress rehearsal of its second Atlas 5 launcher in Cape Canaveral AFS. The AV-002 vehicle, an Atlas 5/401 similar to the one used for the maiden launch on August 21, 2002, was rolled out to the launch pad at SLC-41 on February 17. The vehicle, which carries no payload nor fairing, will be loaded with its propellant and prepared for a simulated launch. Once the rehearsal completed it will be emptied and rolled back to the assembly dock to be mated with its payload, the Astrium-built Hellas Sat 2 satellite, for an actual launch scheduled on March 14.

Austrian Cardan for Vinci
February 17

Austrian Aerospace GmbH (AAE) was awarded a contract to develop the movable suspension system for the Vinci cryogenic engine, under development by Snecma Moteurs to power Ariane 5‘s ESC-B future upper stage. The first development model of this cardan mechanism will be delivered by late 2003. Later, up to 10 operational systems could be produced each year.

Sea Launch Unaffected by Proton Failure
February 17

The failure of a RKK Energiya Block DM3 upper stage on a Proton K launch on November 26, 2002, should not affect Sea Launch operations according to the Failure Review Oversight Board set up by the Boeing-led consortium to assess the conclusions of the Russian State Commission investigation. The board detremined that six out of the seven recommendations of the commission had already been implemented or do not apply to the Block DM-SL version flown on Sea Launch’s Zenit 3SL.
Editor’s note: The Proton failure was reportedly caused by particle contamination of the syntyn synthetic kerosene by components of the Block DM3’s 11D58M engine.

Russia to Boost Progress Line
February 17
The Russian government has given its informal "green light" to Rosaviakosmos to fund an increase of the production rate of Progress M1 freighters by RKK Energiya. The government would support this effort by allocating all the funds planned for the International Space Station program in the 2003 budget before mid-year. Extra funds could be allocated in the second half of the year if NASA‘s fleet of Space Shuttles remains grounded.

Editor’s note: Russia had initially planed three Progress launches in 2003 to resupply and reboost the ISS. As the U.S. space shuttles are grounded, a fourth Progress will be needed this year and five to six freighters could be needed in 2004 at a cost of US$23 million each. Twelve Progress vehicles are reportedly under manufacturing.

Europe Studies Probes to Near-Earth Asteroids
February 17

Astrium and QinetiQ are reportedly studying concepts for future ESA missions to the near-Earth asteroids. Qinetiq proposes Simone ((Smallsat Intercept Missions to Objects Near Earth), a fleet of low-cost spacecraft. Each 120-kg probe would fly piggyback on an Ariane 5 vehicle and use QinetiQ’s T5 ion thruster to rendezvous near-Earth asteroids.
Astrium’s concept, known as Ishtar (Internal Structure High-resolution Tomography by Asteroid Rendezvous), would feature a 420-kg spacecraft to probe the internal structure of near-Earth asteroids.
Editor’s note: ESA has no formal program to send probes to the near-Earth asteroids yet and these feasibility studies are funded through the General Studies budget.

Arianespace Revives WildBlue Contract
February 15

WildBlue Communications has resurrected one of its launch contracts with Arianespace to loft its WildBlue 1 broadband communication satellite atop an Ariane 5 vehicle in early 2005. Built by Space Systems/Loral, this 4,735-kg spacecraft will be dedicated to direct access to the Internet over the United States.
Editor’s note: WildBlue had signed two launch contracts with Arianespace in 2000 but both were rescinded in 2001/2002 as the project was shelved due to a lack of funding. WildBlue was eventually bailed out on December 23, 2002, by a US$156-million investment from Liberty Satellite, Intelsat and NRTC.

Ariane 4 Retires With Panache
February 15
After a three-day delay due to high altitude winds, Arianespace‘s last Ariane 4 eventually lifted off from the Guiana Space Center, in Kourou, French Guiana, and successfully injected its payload onto the planned transfer orbit (199.0 x 35,880 km, inclined 7.00° for a target of 199.8 x 35,944 km, inclined 7.00°) . The passenger for this flight (V159) was the 7th and last satellite of the Intelsat 9 series built by Space Systems/Loral for Intelsat.
23 years of first generation Ariane vehicles:
Ariane 1, Ariane 40, Ariane 42P, Ariane 44P, Ariane 42L, Ariane 44LP and Ariane 44L.

This launch is not only the last of an Ariane 4 but also the last of a first generation Ariane. Since December 24, 1979, 144 Ariane 1 to 4 vehicles have been launched, including 116 Ariane 4s. These flights used 958 Viking and 144 HM-7 engines provided by Snecma. Ariane 4 launches lofted 414.5 tons of payload to orbit. This was also the 119th and last flight from the ELA-2 launch complex in Kourou which will be dismantled in the coming months. Some equipment will be used in the refurbishment of ELA-1 to accomodate ESA‘s Vega small launch vehicle and on the future Soyuz launch pad.
Editor’s note: After this launch, Arianespace will operate only Ariane 5 vehicles. Three standard Ariane5G vehicles are currently on order, as well as nine modernized Ariane 5G+. The upgraded Ariane 5ECA, which failed on its maiden flight on December 11, 2002, will resume flight in late 2003. The Viking engine line in Snecma’s Large Propulsion manufacturing plant in Vernon, Normandy, is now closed. However, a Viking-derived engine, the Vikas, is still in production in India to power the second stages and liquid boosters for Indian Space Resaerch Organisation‘s PSLV and GSLV launchers. The HM-7B engine will continue to fly on the ESC-A cryogenic upper stage of Ariane 5ECA. It should be phased out in 2006/2008 and replaced by the Vinci on the Ariane 5ECB version.

AMC-9 Could Slip, Jump Launcher
February 14

SES Americom and International Launch Services are still reviewing options for the launch of the AMC-9 satellite. Although GKNPTs Khrunichev has announced earlier that the Alcatel-built communication satellite would fly atop a Proton K/Breeze M combination in late March, SES Americom is reportedly weighing the option of swapping the 4,100-kg satellite to a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5. AMC-9 is scheduled to be shipped to its launch site by late February or early March.
Editor’s note: Transfer to an Atlas 5 would delay the launch to May at the earliest. AMC-9’s delivery could be postponed for further checks as another Alcatel-built Spacebus 3000, Thaicom 3, has suffered a major solar generator failure in orbit.

Rosetta Faces Limited Retargeting Options
February 13

ESA‘s Rosetta cometary probe has only two suitable comets left to complete its mission after it missed its launch window in January due to concerns regarding its Ariane 5G+ launch vehicle. In an initial list of 5-6 comets meeting the mission criteria in terms of size and period, the Rosetta Science Working Group has identified two comets that could be reached by the probe with a launch before mid-2005. A liftoff in February 2004 atop an Ariane 5G+ would allow to reach comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko ("Chury") in 2014 after a series of Earth and Mars flybys. Unfortunately, this comet’s nucleus is 5 km in diameter and would likely damage the probe’s lander due to its "relatively strong" gravity. The second option would be to aim at comet 46P/Wirtanen, as initially planned, but using a more powerful launch vehicle in January 2004. As the Ariane 5ECA is unlikely to be qualified in time, the European probe might have to fly a Russian Proton but would require a modified payload fairing as the spacecraft is 40-cm too big to fit inside the standard version. The Science Working Team has issued a resolution urging ESA to adopt the second option. ESA’s Science Programme Committee is expected to endorse one of the options at its next meeting on February 25-26.
Editor’s note: Since the Rosetta probe is not qualified to approach the Sun at a distance below 0.9 AU, it cannot perform the Venus flyby maneuvers that could enable to reach comet Wirtanen with a launch on an Ariane 5G+ in October 2003 or April 2004. A launch to comets 10P/Tempel 2 or 88P/Howell is impossible too for the same reason.
Rosetta was initially planned to fly the first Ariane 5G+ vehicle between January 13 and 31 but Arianespace and ESA decided to put the launch on hold after the investigation on the Ariane 5ECA maiden launch failure had led to a review of all Ariane 5 qualification procedures. Rosetta would have been the first spacecraft to exeprience a delauyed ignition of the EPS upper stage.

Both EELV Lines to Be Kept
February 12
The U.S. Air Force denies earlier reports that it might decide to drop one of its two contractors under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program in order to shave costs.

Delta 4

In its budget proposal for FY2004 the U.S. Department of Defense plans to spend US$538.8 million over the next five years to support both Boeing‘s Delta 4 and Lockheed Martin‘s Atlas 5 families of launchers. The U.S. Air Force has initially planned to raise around US$1 billion to compensate for the downturn of the commercial launch market. The FY2004 budget proposal includes a US$617.3-million enveloppe for the EELV program, including US$164 million for "assured access support." The planned budget for FY2005 would reach US$773 million.

Atlas 5

Editor’s note: After the loss of NASA‘s Space Shuttle Columbia, analysts estimated that one of the consequences of the tragedy would be that the U.S. Air Force would keep both contractors in order to maintain assured access to space.
Last Ariane 4 Delayed by Weather
February 12
The launch of Arianespace‘s 116th and last Ariane 4 vehicle, due on February 12, was postponed for at least 24 hours due to high altitude winds over the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana.
ESA Proposes Financing Plan for Soyuz in Kourou
February 11

A delegation of the European Space Agency is about to propose to its members states a financing plan for the Russian contribution to the building of a Soyuz launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. Russia’s €100-million share – due to cover the launch table, the access platforms and the fluid systems – would be funded by bank loans or by ESA itself and reimbursed at a rate of about €17 million per year from 2006 to 2015. A final decision is expected at ESA’s extraordinary ministerial council meetingnow scheduled on May 27.
Editor’s note: The total cost of the Soyuz launch complex is estimated at €270 million. Ground-breaking work is due to begin by mid-year at the Malmanoury site, 12 km North West from Ariane 5‘s ELA-3 launch complex. Sollicitation for the facilities is due in May with actual building work beginning in October. Initial launch capability is due in late 2005. The launch facility will be designed for Starsem‘s Soyuz-Fregat and Soyuz/ST vehicles but is also expected to be compatible with the manned version of Soyuz U.

Joint Finmeccanica/Snecma Bid for FiatAvio
February 11

Italy’s Finmeccanica group and France’s Snecma could issue a joint bid to takeover FiatAvio. The bid, favored by the Italian government, would prevent Italy’s aerospace propulsion group to be bought by U.S.-based Carlyle Group investment fund, considered at the best bidder yet.
Editor’s note: FiatAvio’s value is estimated at about €2 billion. Other bidders for FiatAvio include GE, Rolls-Royce and Pratt&Whitney.

China Denies MRV Launch
February 11

China has officially denied a report by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper regarding an alleged ballistic missile test with multiple reentry vehicles (MRVs). According to Yomiuri Shimbun, the test, conducted by mid-December 2002, involved a Dong Feng 21 (DF-21) missile launched from Taiyuan and was intended to demonstrate a MRV system designed to defeat the U.S. missile defense system.

North Korea Might Resume Launches
February 10

North Korea may decide to resume test flights of its Pekdosan launcher (U.S. designation: Taepo Dong 1) within months according to U.S. officials. Such a launch, with a possible overflight of Japan, would be part of North Korea’s attempts to increase pressure on the U.S. administration during disarmament talks. According to U.S. intelligence, likely launch dates could be in April or September.

Loral Faces Claim for Alliance Breach
February 10

Loral Space & Communications is reportedly facing a US$350-million claim from former partner Alcatel Space after an arbitration panel admitted in January that Loral had violated its partnership agreement with Alcatel Space. Hearings are due through May to assess Alcatel’s claimed damages.
Editor’s note: In 2001, Loral unilaterally withdrew from its alliance in satellite manufacturing with Alcatel Space to negotiate a partnership with Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The Space Systems/Alliance partnership was founded in 1991 between Space Systems/Loral, Aerospatiale (now part of Alcatel Space), Alcatel, Alenia and DASA/Dornier (now part of Astrium). DASA and Alenia bought back their stakes in 1997.

AMC-9 to Fly Proton K/Breeze M
February 8
SES Americom has decided that its AMC-9 satellite will eventually fly atop a Proton K/Breeze M combination instead of the Proton K/DM3 as initially planned, according to GKNPTs Khrunichev, prime for both the Proton vehicles and Breeze upper stages. A failure of the RKK Energiya Block DM3 upper stage caused the loss of SES Astra‘s Astra 1K satellite on November 26. The launch of AMC-9 has been postponed from February 10 to late March or early April. Satellite delivery in Baykonur is now scheduled on February 28. A tentative launch date has been set on March 31.
Proton M/Breeze M

Editor’s note: The launch of AMC-9 was supposed to be the last of a Proton K/DM3 on behalf of International Launch Services. The Breeze M upper stage was developed as an upper stage for the modernized Proton M version but it has already been test-flown once on a Proton K on July 5, 1999 (Proton failure) and June 6, 2000 (success). The Block DM3 is the commercial version of the Block DM-2M which flew successfully atop a Proton K on December 25, 2002, on a Russian government mission.

Foreign Object Near Columbia Raises Questions
February 8

NASA is currently reviewing telemetry from Columbia‘s final mission to find possible connections with a an unidentified object detected near the orbiter by a military radar in Eglin AFB, Florida. The object apparently separated from Columbia on January 17, some 24 hours into flight, at a speed of about 5 m/s. It has not been determined yet if the object is linked in any manner to the orbiter reentry failure on February 1st.
Editor’s note: According to NASA, the unidentified object could be an ice plug from the water dump system (although such plugs have never been tracked from the ground before), or a piece of "non-critical" hardware released from the orbiter or its payload. Some analysts also believe that this object could be either a debris from an ealier damage on the orbiter’s left wing or an orbital junk that may have impacted the shuttle.

South Korea/Russia Cooperation in Space
February 7
South Korea and Russia are expected to reach a technology cooperation agreement for space development before mid-year, according to the South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). The MOST has already set up a technology coordination program with Russia regarding the KSLV-1 launch vehicle. A joint delegation of the South Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and Hyundai Mobis will visit Russia by February 20 to discuss possible cooperations with Rosaviakosmos and Russian aerospace industry, mostly for the development of the KSLV engines and the procurement of row materials.

Maiden flight of the KSLV-1 is tentatively planned for late 2005.
Editor’s note: KARI is also discussing the possibility to launch its Kompsat 2 satellite atop a Russian booster, presumably a GKNPTs Khrunichev Rokot. The launch, due in April 2004, is currently contracted on a Chinese CZ-2C.
Russia Asks for Funds to Keep ISS Aloft
February 7
Rosaviakosmos has estimated that at least Rbl.1.5 billion (€45 million) will be needed in 2003 to maintain the International Space Station into operations while NASA‘s fleet of Space Shuttle Orbiters is grounded in the wake of the Columbia reentry failure on February 1st. Without the shuttle, the only vehicles left to deliver goods to the orbital outpost are the Progress M1 freighters which also provide most of the reboost maneuvers to compensate orbital decay of the 180-ton complex. According to Rosaviakosmos, each Progress M1 mission costs some Rbl.750 million and two more will be needed in 2003 to support a permanent crew in orbit. Rosaviakosmos had initially set aside Rbl.4 billion (€120 million) to fund ISS operations this year. Twelve Progress M1 freighters are currently under construction by RKK Energiya.
Russia’s Progress M1
tug/freighter (NASA)

Editor’s note: Some 100 kg of extra cargo could also be carried onboard manned Soyuz TMA ferries if the ISS permanent crew is reduced from three to only two. ESA‘s Automated Transfer Vehicle will not be available before September 2004 to provide both freight and reboost capabilities equivalent to three Progress M1s each.

Imagery Shows Columbia Wing Mishap
February 8

High resolution pictures of Orbiter Vehicle Columbia during reentry on February 1st, show likely damage on the left wing about one minute before its breakup over Texas. The images, currently being analyzed by NASA‘s Johnson Space Center, were taken by a U.S. Air Force telescope in southwestern United States. They show a jagged leading edge on the left wing near the "wing glove" that connects to the fuselage. The pictures also show a concentration of plasma near the damaged area as well as firings of the orbiter’s right aft yaw thrusters to compensate the resulting drag.
Editor’s note: The leading edges on the wings of the orbiters (as well as the nose cap) are the parts of the vehicle that have to sustain the highest thermal and dynamic loads at reentry with temperatures exceeding 1,250°C. I
nstead of silica tiles, they are protected by reinforced carbon-carbon structures sepoarated by carbon seals and bolted on the aluminum frame.

India May Test Agni 3 in 2003
February 7

India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation is planning to test the 3,000-km range version of its Agni family of missiles by the end of the year. The Agni 3 is expected to be launched after the end of the Indian monsoon season in September. According to technical sources, the Agni 3 will be able to carry a 1-ton nuclear warhead, and upgrades are planned to extend its range to 5,000 km.

Orbital’s Missile Defense Booster Flies
February 6

Orbital Sciences Corp. has completed the first test flight of the Taurus Lite, a new booster vehicle developed under contract by Boeing on behalf of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA). The Taurus Lite Orbital Boost Vehicle (OBV) is designed to carry an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle on an interception trajectory to annihilate an incoming warhead and is thus one of the major elements of MDA’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. On its first flight, the booster was launched from Vandenberg AFB, California, and flew a ballistic trajectory over the Pacific Ocean. It reached an altitude of about 1,800 km and impacted 5,600 km downrange. No interception was planned on this test flight. Eight more test flights are planned.
Editor’s note: OSC was contracted to develop an "Alternate Boost Vehicle" (ABV ) in March 2002. In addition to 9 test flights, the current contract includes 5 boost vehicles for the GMD tets-bed in Fort Greely, Alaska. The Taurus Lite is a three-stage vehicle composed of an Orion 50SXLG solid rocket motor as first stage, an Orion 50XL as second stage and an Orion 38 as third stage. All motors are provided by Alliant TechsystemsThiokol Propulsion. The Orion 50SXLG is a stretched version of the Orion 50SXL used as first stage of the Pegasus XL and second stage of the Taurus launchers. It features a new hydraulic thrust-vector control system, developed by Honeywell Engine Systems Division. The Orion 50 and 38 are the second and third stages of the Pegasus and third and fourth stages of the Taurus and Minotaur launchers. The Taurus Lite is competing with Boeing’s own Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) booster vehicle whose development was transfered to Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space in March 2002. The ABV development contract could exceed US$900 million if all options are exercised

First Delta 4 EELV Mission Slips to March
February 6

The first launch of Boeing‘s Delta 4 conducted under U.S. Air Force‘s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program has been postponed from February 11 to March as a contamination was reported on a valve in the gimbal actuation system of the Common Booster Core stage’s Boeing Rocketdyne RS-68 engine. The payload for this flight is a Lockheed Martin-built Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) geostationary military communication satellite, DSCS-3-A3.
Editor’s note:
The mission will also be the maiden flight of the Delta 4M version with no strap-on booster. It will presumably carry a Lockheed Martin Integrated Apogee Boost System (IABS) since the DSCS-3 satellites do not feature apogee kick motors. Among the elements that forced to postpone the launch, the Eastern Test Range – which includes Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – will be shut down for three weeks until March 4 for a yearly series of upgrades and maintenance.

Independent Board to Lead Columbia Probe
February 6

The interagency Accident Investigation Board led by Adm. Gehrman will assume sole authority to determine the cause of the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew during reentry on February 1st. Amid concern by the U.S. Congress regarding NASA‘s objectivity in the investigation, the chart establishiong the AIB will be modified to ensure full independence from the U.S. space agency. NASA will maintain its own internal investigation commission examining multiple scenarios in its fault tree.
Editor’s note: This decision was largely caused by garbled reports by U.S. and international media regarding NASA’s own investigation which within days announced that it was or was not considering the impact of a foam debris on the left wing as the root cause for the failure. Actually, the foam impact is and has always been one of the scenarios investigated by NASA’s team. However, it is also likely that the AIB will unveil flaws or weaknesses in the way the shuttle program is managed, as it is always the case when such a complex system is probed.

Micro Spysat Success
February 5

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory XSS-10 microsatellite has successfully completed its 12-hour mission according to Boeing, which developped the 31-kg autonomous spacecraft. XSS-10 was released from the second stage of a three-stage Boeing Delta 2/7925 vehicle on January 29 and orbited within 100 m of the stage to take pictures of it.
Editor’s note: XSS-10 was flown under the Experimental Spacecraft System (XSS) Microsatellite Demonstration Project, conducted jointly by the AFRL, the U.S. Air Force Space Command, the U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and industry, to evaluate future microsatellite applications such as satellite inspection. An XSS-11 is due for launch in early 2004. In 2006, XSS-12 will carry subsatellites to evaluate in-orbit servicing.

Delta 2 stage
imaged by XSS-10
Telesat Taps Astrium for Anik F1R
February 4

Télésat Canada has contracted with Astrium to procure the Anik F1R communication satellite. Based on the Eurostar 3000S bus, this 4-ton satellite will carry 24 C-band and 32 Ku-band transponders. Launch is due by mid-2005 on a launcher yet to define. Anik F1R will be deployed at 107.3°West to replace the Boeing Satellite Systems-built Anik F1.
Editor’s note: The Eurostar 3000S is the "small" version of Astrium’s Eurostar 3000 series, already ordered by Eutelsat for its W3A satellite and by Hispasat for its Amazonas 1. This bus is also planned for the Skynet 5 British military communication satellites. Anik F1, launched by an Ariane 4 in November 2000, is a BSS-702 and suffered the generic solar concentrator problem of this series of satellite.

Three Columbia Failure Investigation Boards
February 2

In addition to the in-house Mishap Investigation Team, NASA has appointed a Space Shuttle Mishap Interagency Investigation Board, to provide an independent review of the events and activities that caused the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew on February 1st. This board is led by U.S. Navy Adm. (retired) Harold Gehman, and includes Rear Adm. Stephen Turcotte, Commander of U.S. Naval Safety Center; Maj. Gen. John Barry, Director, Plans & Programs, at the Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command; Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hess, Commander of U.S. Air Force Chief of Safety; Dr. James Hallock, Aviation Safety Division Chief, U.S. Department of Transportation; Steven Wallace, Director of Accident Investigation, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration; Brig. Gen. Duane Deal, Commander, U.S. Air Force’s 21st Space Wing, as well as several senior NASA officials such as Scott Hubbard, Director of NASA Ames Research Center; former astronaut Bryan O’Connor, NASA Associate Administrator, Office of Safety and Mission Assurance; and Theron Bradley, NASA Chief Engineer. A third panel will be appointed by the U.S. Congress.
Editor’s note: Admiral Gehrman had no previous involvement in the space industry but he was co-chairman of the independent commission that investigated the attack on the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, on October 12, 2000.

Arianespace Posted Losses in 2002
February 2

Arianespace posted losses in 2002 for the third consecutive year. Last year, operating loss amounted to €50-60 million, to be compared to €193 million in 2001 and €242 million in 2000. However, the final figure might be higher as Arianespace plans to raise the level of its provisions, initially planned at €50 million, to cover losses in 2003 in the wake of the Ariane 5ECA launch failure on December 11. With 12 launches in 2002, Arianespace sales amounted to €1.3 billion, up from €807 million in 2001. Arianespace’s official results will be released in June, presumably during the Paris Air Show.
Editor’s note: Arianespace had expected to launch at least one Ariane 5G+ and three Ariane 5ECAs in 2003. These two versions of the Ariane 5 launcher are intended to be about 35% cheaper than the current Ariane 5G.

Iran Cancels Zohreh Contract
February 1st

The Iranian Ministry of Post, Telegraph & Telephone has cancelled its US$125-million agreement with Russia’s Avi Export to acquire its Zohreh ("Venus") geostationary communication satellite from NPO Prikladnoy Mekhaniki (NPO-PM). Zohreh was tentatively planned for launch in late 2004 atop a Soyuz vehicle.
Editor’s note:
The agreement had caused a spat between the ministry and the Majlis (the Iranian parliament) which claimed that a better deal could have been signed directly with NPO-PM. Procurement of one or two Zohreh satellites has been announced and postponed almost every year since 1986. The initial project was actually drafted by the Shah’s regime in the 1970s. Alcatel Space was selected as prime contractor for two satellites in 1992 but the US$350-million contract was signed. A US$500-million budget was quoted for a single satellite procurement in 1999.

Columbia Disintegrates at Reentry, Crew Lost
February 1st
NASA’s oldest space shuttle orbiter, OV-102 Columbia, was destroyed during reentry over Texas. All seven crew were killed in the accident. Columbia was returning to Earth after the 16-day STS-107 science mission. Landing was planned at NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 14:16Z. The deorbit burn occured at 13:15Z. At 13:53Z, hydraulic system temperature sensors failed in the left wing. Trailing debris were then spotted over California. At 13:56Z, an increase of temperature was detected in the on the left main gear tires and brakes. Bondline temperature sensor data on the left wing was lost at 13:58Z and one minute later temperature and pressure data of the left main gear tires were lost too. All contact was lost with Columbia at 14:00Z. Debris rained over a 200-km-long trail from Palestine, Texas, to Fullerton, Louisiana. No casualty was reported on the ground.
Columbia’s crew: NASA‘s Dave Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Mike Anderson, William McCool and Israel Space Agency‘s Ilan Ramon.

At the time of loss of contact, Columbia was travelling at a speed of about Mach 18 and at an altitude of 63 km. Early analysis of available telemetry data suggests that the thermal protection system failed under the left wing, leading to structural overheating and breakup. The root cause of this failure has not been identified officially but it is suspected that the thermal protection system tiles could have been hit and damaged by a falling foam debris from the External Tank outer insulation during ascent. However, other scenarios are reportedly considered including propellant tank or auxiliary power unit explosion, structural collapse and faulty navigation. All shuttle flights are postponed at least until completion of the failure investigation.
Editor’s note: Although NASA had detected the foam incident at launch, it estimated that it could not endanger the vehicle and crew. For years, space shuttle missions have no longer been carrying any repair kit for the thermal protection system in case a tile damage was detected. This mission used the last Light Weight Tank (LWT-86) version of the ET. It was manufactured by Lockheed Martin Michoud Space Systems in mid-2000.
With the shuttle grounded for months and possibly more than a year, plans to complete the assembly of the International Space Station will be delayed. The current crew of the ISS was due to return to Earth onboard the next shuttle flight in March (STS-114). However, it could use the Soyuz TMA-1 crew return vehicle if needed and has enough supply to stay onboard through June. Decisions will have to be taken shortly whether to send up a replacement crew onboard Soyuz TMA-2 or to mothball the station until the shuttle can resume flights. The station still can be resupplied and re-boosted by Russian Progress cargo ships.
This was Columbia’s 28th flight in nearly 22 years. With 300 days in orbit, it was the longest flown orbiter. NASA’s space shuttle fleet is now reduced to three orbiter vehicles: OV-103 Discovery (30 flights in 19 years, 242 days in orbit), OV-104 Atlantis (26 flights in 18 years, 220 days)
and OV-105 Endeavour (19 flights in 11 years, 207 days).

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.

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.

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