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By | March 3, 2008

      NASA Gives Lockheed $47.5 Million Contract For Space Shuttle Fuel Tanks

      NASA gave Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] a $47.5 million contract change for external fuel tanks to be mated to space shuttle orbiter vehicles in future missions.

      Lockheed will make the tanks at New Orleans, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility.

      The contract change calls for final assembly of one tank, partial manufacture of a tank and acquisition of component parts for one additional tank to serve as spares, according to NASA.

      That cost plus award fee/incentive fee contract will conclude Sept. 30, 2010, when the shuttle fleet is mandated to stop flying.

      This latest pact brings the total value of the contract with Lockheed, awarded in October 2000, to $2.93 billion, calling for the delivery of 18 external tanks to NASA.

      Work will be performed at Michoud; Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

      Lockheed Martin builds, assembles and tests the space shuttle external tanks for NASA at the Michoud facility. The external tank holds the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen for the shuttle’s three main engines. It is the largest single component of the space shuttle and the only part of the shuttle that is not reused.

      At 154 feet tall, the gigantic rust-colored tank is taller than a 15-story building and as wide as a silo, with a diameter of about 27.5 feet. During launch, the tank acts as the structural backbone for the shuttle orbiter and the solid rocket boosters attached to it.

      The tanks that Lockheed will work on under the contract change are far different from the tank that caused a problem leading to loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia orbiter vehicle and crew of seven in 2003.

      Then, a chunk of foam insulation on the tank ripped loose and struck the orbiter vehicle during ascent, punching a hole in the heat shield leading edge of a wing. Later, during reentry, fiery hot atmospheric gases rushed into the wing, melting structural components and leading to loss of the orbiter vehicle.

      Tanks that Lockheed will work on will incorporate many design changes to lessen risks of foam loss.

      SGT Gains Up To $100 Million NASA Contract To Support Constellation Program

      NASA awarded SGT Inc. of Greenbelt, Md., a contract worth up to $100 million to support the Constellation Program developing the next-generation U.S. spacecraft.

      The Constellation fleet includes the Orion crew vehicle, the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles and Altair human lunar lander.

      That SGT contract has a potential value of $60 million, with options that can take it up to $100 million.

      Work will be performed at Johnson Space Center in Houston with additional work possible at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

      SGT Inc. will provide program planning and control services supporting the Constellation Program. Services include the program’s business management, configuration and data management, requirements analysis and integration, schedule management and integration and technology protection.

      The base period of the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-award-fee contract is three years, effective April 11. The base value is not to exceed $60 million. Two one-year extension options are available and could bring the total contract value to $100 million.

      Northrop, Loral To Join In Seeking Government Satellite Contracts

      Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Loral Space & Communications [LORL] will work together in seeking government satellite contracts, the companies announced Wednesday.

      Loral Space is a unit of Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), which will gain expanded satellite manufacturing capacity by using Northrop test facilities and services in Redondo Beach, Calif.

      While the new cooperative effort would have sizable assets, it enters a market field already dominated by the two biggest defense contractors on the planet, Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] and The Boeing Co. [BA].

      In the Northrop-SS/L deal, each company stands to gain something from the other.

      While SS/L gains access to Northrop facilities, rather than SS/L having to lay out substantial capital to build them on its own, Northrop will be able to use the SS/L 1300 satellite and other SS/L components when Northrop bids on satellite contracts.

      As well, payloads that Northrop designs and builds can be included on SS/L commercial satellites.

      There also will be collaboration between the Northrop Astro Aerospace unit in Carpinteria, Calif., producer of AstroMesh reflectors, with SS/L for future commercial satellite applications.

      "The agreement with Northrop Grumman will allow SS/L to cost-effectively add capacity to address increased near-term commercial satellite opportunities," said Pat DeWitt, Space Systems/Loral CEO. The team arrangement will permit the two firms to pursue both defense and commercial satellite contracts, he said.

      Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Space Technology, detailed a plus in the arrangement.

      "For some of our mission areas, we believe that assured access to SS/L’s 1300 bus and bus subsystems would improve our cost and delivery schedule competitiveness. In addition, hosted payloads hold the promise of providing us greater ability and flexibility to rapidly respond to our government customers’ evolving needs."

      Northrop also has formed bonds with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to expand satellites offerings.

      For example, last April, Northrop and IAI teamed to build and launch operational surveillance satellites in a responsive production cycle to provide U.S. government users with all-weather, day/night imaging capabilities. The initiative is a rapid response, low-risk and affordable space-based radar imaging system designed for 24-hour surveillance in all weather conditions from a low Earth orbit.

      The system is planned as an operationally responsive space initiative that can deliver critical new capabilities to users about 28 months after authorization to proceed.

      That move to offer rapid satellite creation and orbiting came just a few months after China, in January last year, proved it can demolish U.S. military and commercial satellites in orbit. China used a ground-based interceptor missile to demolish one of its own aging weather satellites. Too, China has used a ground-based laser to "paint" and disable a U.S. military satellite.

      U.S. leaders are seeking ways to replace, swiftly, any satellites that may be destroyed in anti-satellite, or ASAT, attacks.

      Hughes Gains Role In Intelsat Satellite System

      Hughes Network Systems, LLC will provide the HX broadband satellite platform for an Intelsat Ku-band broadband maritime service, Hughes announced.

      Intelsat will deliver its new service via a limited number of distributor partners in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions starting in the middle of this year.

      Extensive Intelsat satellite coverage and market presence help to position both companies for success in delivering yachting broadband services.

      Space Systems/Loral Gets SES Contract For Satellite

      Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) will provide a new satellite to SES New Skies, SS/L announced. SS/L is a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications [LORL].

      Designed as the largest most powerful satellite in the SES fleet, NSS-14 expands and enhances the company’s ability to provide fixed satellite services to the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

      NSS-14 is the second satellite contract that SES awarded to SS/L and it is designed to be located at 338 degrees East, one of the most highly demanded orbital locations for trans-Atlantic traffic.

      The spacecraft is a state-of-the-art, hybrid C- and Ku-band satellite that includes SS/L’s heritage ion propulsion system and a 15 year design life.

      Space Systems/Loral currently has six 20-kW satellites under construction that are based on its 1300 satellite platform. The 1300 bus, which is the basis for both NSS-12 and NSS-14, features a long record of operation. In all, SS/L satellites have amassed more than 1,400 years of on-orbit service.

      NSS-14 has been specifically designed for its orbital location, with C-band beams serving the eastern hemisphere of Europe/Africa, full Americas coverage as well as a Global beam to support mobile and maritime customers. Four high-powered, regional Ku-band beams will provide service to Europe/Middle East, West Africa, North America and South America with extensive cross-strapping between C- and Ku-band transponders providing enhanced connectivity.

      Raytheon Finishes Communications Upgrade For NPOESS

      Raytheon Co. [RTN] completed a communications upgrade for the Antarctica area for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), Raytheon announced.

      The upgrade of the off-continent satellite communications link at McMurdo Station more than triples the bandwidth available for scientific research, weather prediction, and health and safety of those stationed at McMurdo. The project is part of the NPOESS command, control, and communications segment.

      "This upgrade paves the way for a second major communications upgrade planned for 2012 in preparation for the use of McMurdo Station as one of 15 NPOESS ground stations worldwide," said Mike Mader, vice president of the Raytheon NPOESS program. "NPOESS will be significant to monitoring global environmental conditions and will collect and disseminate data related to weather, atmosphere, oceans, land and near-space environment."

      The McMurdo project consisted of upgrading one of the two satellite earth station antennas located at Black Island as well as changing satellite service and terrestrial network vendors providing the 10 Mbps (megabit per second) service for McMurdo. The work began in early October as Raytheon Polar Services Company upgraded the electrical systems at Black Island. The antenna was fitted with a new Ku-band feed and electronics by Raytheon Information and Intelligence Systems (IIS) in late November and the new system was placed into operation Dec. 23.

      Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] is the prime contractor and has overall responsibility for the NPOESS program development effort.

      Raytheon is part of the Northrop-led NPOESS team.

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