Latest News


By | April 14, 2008

      Arianespace To Launch Satellite For Japanese Operator

      Japanese company Broadcasting Satellite System Corp., or B-SAT, picked Arianespace to launch the BSAT-3b satellite.

      The deal was announced today by Jean-Yves Le Gall, Arianespace chairman and CEO, and Kazuo Takenaka, B-SAT president and CEO, during the visit of French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to Tokyo.

      BSAT-3b will be orbited by an Ariane 5 in the second half of 2010 from the Guiana Space Center, the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, South America.

      This is the seventh satellite that Arianespace is launching for B-SAT.

      In addition, this will be the 25th Japanese satellite task won by Arianespace from the 34 GTO commercial satellites that have been commercially accessible, according to Arianespace.

      BSAT-3b will be positioned at 110 degrees East longitude and will be optimized to provide direct-to-home broadcasts from geostationary orbit to subscribers throughout the Japanese archipelago.

      Orion Emergency Escape Rocket Tested

      A small rocket in the safety system that is to whisk the future American spaceship Orion away from danger in an emergency completed a static firing, according to Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB] and Aerojet, a GenCorp Inc. [GY] unit.

      They fired the jettison motor, a key component of the Launch Abort System (LAS) for the Orion next generation human spaceflight program. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, March 17, 2008.)

      When the next-generation U.S. spaceship Orion is lofted to orbit by the Ares rocket, the LAS will include an emergency rocket that will fit at the very top of the stack, above the Orion space capsule containing the astronauts.

      The powerful extra rocket will yank the capsule away from Ares in event of an emergency, briefly subjecting astronauts to enormous acceleration.

      Then that rocket will separate, and parachutes will deploy from the space capsule as it descends to the ground or ocean.

      Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] is the prime contractor for the Orion project, which is part of the Constellation Program to send human explorers back to the Moon and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

      The Orion LAS, being developed by Orbital, is a new capability that will allow the astronaut crew to safely escape in the event of an emergency during pad operations or during the ascent phase of the flight.

      Aerojet is responsible for the jettison motor, which would be used on every mission to jettison the LAS when it is no longer needed.

      The successful test firing of the jettison motor increases the technical readiness of the LAS and is a major operational accomplishment as the first full-scale rocket propulsion test for the Orion program.

      The full-scale jettison motor test met plan objectives, providing data to validate analytical models. It also demonstrated that the system’s design criteria and manufacturing processes are in place for the jettison motor system to meet the technical and scheduling requirements of the LAS.

      The Orion LAS development program includes several planned demonstration flights, including a pad abort demonstration at the Army White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico at the end of the year.

      The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle is an advanced capsule design utilizing state-of-the-art technology that will be the successor to the space shuttle in transporting humans to and from the International Space Station, the Moon and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

      The LAS design, using the Orbital small rocket technology and Aerojet propulsion systems, is a key element in vastly improving the safety of the flight crew as compared to current human space systems.

      Mars Lander Phoenix Course Correction Aims It Toward Landing On Planet Scheduled For May 25

      This Would Be First Successful Powered Landing On Mars In Three Decades, A Difficult Feat

      Landing Zone May Be Green Valley Area With Fewer Rocks; Promising Area Was Spotted By Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

      A Mars lander Phoenix course correction has aimed the spacecraft toward the red planet for a May 25 powered landing, NASA announced.

      Two prior trajectory maneuvers, last August and October, adjusted the flight path of Phoenix to intersect with Mars.

      NASA conditionally approved a landing site in a broad, flat valley informally called "Green Valley." A final decision will be made after the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes additional images of the area this month.

      The orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera has taken more than three dozen images of the area. Analysis of those images prompted the Phoenix team to shift the center of the landing target 13 kilometers (8 miles) southeastward, away from slightly rockier patches to the northwest. Navigators used that new center for planning the latest course correction maneuver.

      The landing area is an ellipse about 62 miles by about 12 miles (100 kilometers by 20 kilometers). Researchers have mapped more than five million rocks in and around that ellipse, each big enough to end the mission if hit by the spacecraft during landing. Knowing where to avoid the rockier areas, the team selected a scientifically exciting target that also offers the best chances for the spacecraft to set itself down safely onto the Martian surface.

      "This is our first trajectory maneuver targeting a specific location in the northern polar region of Mars," said Brian Portock, chief of the Phoenix navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

      "Our landing area has the largest concentration of ice on Mars outside of the polar caps. If you want to search for a habitable zone in the arctic permafrost, then this is the place to go," said Peter Smith, principal investigator for the mission, at the University of Arizona at Tucson.

      Phoenix will dig into an ice-rich layer expected to lie within arm’s reach of the surface. It will analyze the water and soil for evidence about climate cycles and investigate whether the environment there has been favorable for microbial life.

      "We have never before had so much information about a Mars site prior to landing," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. Arvidson is chairman of the Phoenix landing-site working group and has worked on Mars landings since the first successful Viking landers in 1976.

      "The environmental risks at landing — rocks and slopes — represent the most significant threat to a successful mission. There’s always a chance that we’ll roll snake eyes, but we have identified an area that is very flat and relatively free of large boulders," said David Spencer, JPL Phoenix deputy project manager and co-chair of the landing site working group.

      The latest trajectory adjustment began by pivoting Phoenix 145 degrees to orient and then fire spacecraft thrusters for about 35 seconds, then pivoting Phoenix back to point its main antenna toward Earth. The mission has three more planned opportunities for maneuvers before May 25 to further refine the trajectory for a safe landing at the desired location.

      In the final seven minutes of its flight on May 25, Phoenix must perform a challenging series of actions to safely decelerate from nearly 21,000 kilometers per hour (13,000 mph). The spacecraft will release a parachute and then use pulse thrusters at approximately 914 meters (3,000 feet) from the surface to slow to about 8 kilometers per hour (5 mph) and land on three legs.

      "Landing on Mars is extremely challenging. In fact, not since the 1970s have we had a successful powered landing on this unforgiving planet. There’s no guarantee of success, but we are doing everything we can to mitigate the risks," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at NASA headquarters in Washington.

      For more information about Phoenix, please visit: and

      The Phoenix mission is led by Peter Smith of the University of Arizona at Tucson, with project management at JPL and development partnership at Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] at Denver. International contributions are provided by the Canadian Space Agency; the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland; the universities of Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark; the Max Planck Institute, Germany; and the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

      Atlas V Rocket Set To Launch Satellite Today For ICO Global; This Is Weightiest Satellite Ever For Atlas V Heavy Lifter

      An Atlas V rocket will launch a Space Systems/Loral commercial telecommunications satellite at 4:12 to 5:12 p.m. ET today, Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] announced.

      Liftoff of the rocket supplied by United Launch Alliance, a venture of The Boeing Co. [BA] and Lockheed, can be viewed live at on the Web.

      That satellite is being orbited for ICO Global Communications (Holdings) Ltd [ICOG]. The spacecraft will deliver nationwide mobile interactive media services to portable and handheld devices.

      The ICO G1 satellite is over 27 feet tall, features a 12-meter unfurlable mesh S-band reflector, provides 16 kilowatts of power with solar arrays that span over 100 feet when deployed, and weighs in at approximately 14,630 pounds (6,634 kg) fueled, making it the heaviest satellite ever launched aboard an Atlas V booster.

      The spacecraft will be located at 92.85 degrees west, providing coverage over the United States.

      ICO Global Communications (Holdings) Limited is a satellite communications company based in Reston, Virginia.

      Launch Schedule

      NASA’s Shuttle and Rocket Missions

      A variety of vehicles, launch sites on both U.S. coasts, shifting dates and times… the NASA Launch Schedule is easy to decipher by checking out our Launch Schedule 101 that explains how it all works!

      Updated — March 31, 2008 – 4 p.m. EDT

      Legend: + Targeted For | *No Earlier Than (Tentative) | ** To Be Determined


      Date: May 16

      Mission: GLAST

      Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

      Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17 – Pad 17-B

      Launch Window: 11:45 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. EDT

      Description: An heir to its successful predecessor — the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory — the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope will have the ability to detect gamma rays in a range of energies from thousands to hundreds of billions of times more energetic than the light visible to the human eye. Radiation of such magnitude can only be generated under the most extreme conditions, thus GLAST will focus on studying the most energetic objects and phenomena in the universe.

      Date: May 31 +

      Mission: STS-124

      Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

      Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

      Launch Time: 5:01 p.m. EDT

      Description: Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-124 will transport the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module – Pressurized Module (JEM-PM) and the Japanese Remote Manipulator System (JEM-RMS) to the International Space Station.

      Date: June 15

      Mission: OSTM

      Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

      Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC-2

      Launch Time: 4:47 a.m. EDT/1:47 a.m. PDT

      Description: The Ocean Surface Topography Mission on the Jason-2 satellite will be a follow-on to the Jason mission.

      Date: July 15

      Mission: IBEX

      Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL Rocket

      Launch Site: Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll

      Description: IBEX’s science objective is to discover the global interaction between the solar wind and the interstellar medium and will achieve this objective by taking a set of global energetic neutral atom images that will answer four fundamental science questions.

      Date: Aug. 28 +

      Mission: STS-125

      Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

      Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

      Launch Time: 8:24 a.m. EDT

      Description: Space Shuttle Atlantis will fly seven astronauts into space for the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. During the 11-day flight, the crew will repair and improve the observatory’s capabilities through 2013.

      Date: Sept. 14 +

      Mission: TacSat-3

      Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Minotaur Rocket

      Launch Site: Wallops Flight Facility – Goddard Space Flight Center

      Description: NASA will support the Air Force launch of the TacSat-3 satellite, managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate. TacSat-3 will demonstrate the capability to furnish real-time data to the combatant commander. NASA Ames will fly a microsat and NASA Wallops will fly the CubeSats on this flight in addition to providing the launch range.

      Date: Oct. 16 +

      Mission: STS-126

      Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

      Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

      Description: Space Shuttle Endeavour launching on assembly flight ULF2, will deliver a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the International Space Station.

      Date: Oct. 28

      Mission: LRO/LCROSS

      Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

      Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 41

      Description: The mission objectives of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite are to advance the Vision for Space Exploration by confirming the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at either the Moon’s North or South Pole.

      Date: Nov. 5

      Mission: GOES-O

      Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta IV

      Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17

      Description: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are actively engaged in a cooperative program, the multimission Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series N-P. This series will be a vital contributor to weather, solar and space operations, and science.

      Date: Dec. 1 *

      Mission: SDO

      Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

      Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 41

      Description: The first Space Weather Research Network mission in the Living With a Star (LWS) Program of NASA.

      Date: Dec. 4 +

      Mission: STS-119

      Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

      Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

      Description: Space Shuttle Discovery launching on assembly flight 15A, will deliver the fourth starboard truss segment to the International Space Station.

      Date: Dec. 15

      Mission: OCO

      Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Taurus Rocket

      Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC 576-E

      Description: The Orbiting Carbon Observatory is a new Earth orbiting mission sponsored by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program.


      Date: Feb. 1

      Mission: NOAA-N Prime

      Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

      Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC-2

      Description: NOAA-N Prime is the latest polar-orbiting satellite developed by NASA/Goddard Spaceflight Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA uses two satellites, a morning and afternoon satellite, to ensure every part of the Earth is observed at least twice every 12 hours. NOAA-N will collect information about Earth’s atmosphere and environment to improve weather prediction and climate research across the globe.

      Date: Feb. 16

      Mission: Kepler

      Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

      Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17 – Pad 17-B

      Description: The Kepler Mission, a NASA Discovery mission, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to detect and characterize hundreds of Earth- size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone.

      Date: March 1

      Mission: Glory

      Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Taurus Rocket

      Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC 576-E

      Description: The Glory Mission will help increase our understanding of the Earth’s energy balance by collecting data on the properties of aerosols and black carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere and how the Sun’s irradiance affects the Earth’s climate.

      Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

      Leave a Reply