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By | December 18, 2006

      TacSat-2 Satellite Launched From Wallops Island

      TacSat-2 was launched successfully at 7 a.m. ET Saturday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA Wallops Island Flight Facility, according to NASA.

      Launch came after some delays, at the spaceport operated jointly by Maryland and Virginia. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, page 6.)

      The bird was lofted into space, to a circular orbit about 255 miles above terra firma, by a Minotaur I launch vehicle.

      Still housed inside a shroud on the rocket, the plan calls for TacSat-2 to be released into space at an altitude of some 100,000 to 150,000 feet.

      Along for the ride was the NASA GeneSat-1 satellite.

      TacSat-2 features 11 onboard experiments, which will be conducted during the spacecraft’s planned six to 12-month mission.

      The Navy Target Indicator Experiment (TIE) consists of a wideband sensor to gather radar, radio, and handheld communication signals. The TIE also will check for the automated identification transmission now mandated for large ocean-going ships.

      TacSat-2 can directly talk to any common data link compatible ground station across the globe.

      Other features include the integrated global positioning system occultation receiver, which will compile high-precision location data for the micro satellite, recycled solar array panels producing 500 watts of power, and autonomous operations allowing TacSat-2 to think for itself.

      NRO Satellite Launched From Vandenberg AFB

      A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II launch vehicle at 4 p.m. ET Thursday successfully launched to orbit a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite, the NRO announced.

      ULA is a joint venture of The Boeing Co. [BA] and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT]. Boeing developed the Delta II.

      The launch vehicle rose from Space Launch Complex 2 West at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

      “This afternoon’s spectacular launch went without a hitch and was made possible by the dedication and hard work of the entire government and industry team,” said Col. James Norman, director of the NRO Office of Space Launch and the NRO mission director.

      The NRO develops and operates unique and innovative overhead reconnaissance systems and conducts intelligence-related activities.

      Arianespace Says It Is 5 For 5 In 2006 Launches

      Arianespace said it rolled up a 5-for-5 record of successful launches this year.

      The company finished the year Dec. 8 by placing two satellites into geostationary transfer orbit for two private American operators: WildBlue-1 for WildBlue Communications and AMC-18 for SES AMERICOM.

      (Please see separate story on WildBlue-1 launch in this issue.)

      This was the 30th Ariane 5 launch, and the 16th success in a row, according to Arianespace.

      “The latest successful launch of an Ariane 5, the fifth in 2006, confirms that Arianespace sets the global standard for launch services, with solutions meeting the needs of both private and governmental operators around the world,” the company stated.

      Over the last 12 months, Arianespace has orbited 12 communications satellites, plus an experimental payload, Arianespace stated.

      Today, Ariane 5 is the only commercial launcher in service capable of simultaneously launching two payloads, according to the firm.

      Colorado-based WildBlue Communications started its Internet service offering by using capacity on Telesat’s Anik F2 satellite, launched by an Ariane 5 in July 2004. With the WildBlue-1 satellite, the company will be able to expand its broadband service offering to consumers and small businesses located in zones where ground-based services do not exist.

      AMC-18 is the 25th SES Global satellite to use an Ariane launcher. SES Global is the leading private satellite operator in the world, according to the firm.

      The AMC-18 satellite will be operated by SES AMERICOM, the largest supplier of satellite services in the United States, which operates a fleet of 18 satellites, and primarily serves the Americas. As part of the SES Global family, SES AMERICOM can provide end-to-end telecommunications solutions anywhere in the world.

      The mission was carried out by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff was on Friday. Dec. 8,5:08 pm ET.

      Provisional parameters at injection of the cryogenic upper stage (ESC-A) were:

      Perigee: 249.4 km for a target of 250.0 km ( + or – 3)

      Apogee: 35,922 km for a target of 35,947 km ( + or – 160)

      Inclination: 2.0 degrees for a target of 2.0 degrees ( + or – 0.06 degree)

      WildBlue-1 is one of the first satellites to be totally dedicated to broadband Internet services. Built by Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California, WildBlue-1 weighed 4,735 kg at launch. Offering 35 spotbeams, it will enable operator WildBlue Communications to provide broadband Internet access for the contiguous United States, even in the most isolated regions of the country. It will be positioned at 111.1 degrees West. AMC-18, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] Commercial Space Systems in Sunnyvale, California using an A2100 platform, weighed 2,081 kg at launch. It is fitted with 24 active high-power C-band transponders and offers a minimum design life of 15 years. AMC-18 will provide cable TV distribution services for the United States from its orbital position at 105 degrees West.

      Tomahawk Missile Test Successful In Launch From Destroyer

      A Navy Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile launched successfully from a destroyer in a test this month, producer Raytheon Co. [RTN] announced.

      The missile rose from the vertical launch system on the USS Milius (DDG 69), an Arleigh Burke Class destroyer, in the West Coast test. It was the first time the ship launched a Block IV version of the weapon.

      That test was conducted at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Sea Test Range off the coast of Southern California.

      Once launched, the Tomahawk — equipped with an inert warhead — completed the launch sequence and transitioned to cruise flight.

      It flew a fully guided 869-mile course using global positioning satellite and digital scene matching area correlator navigation to a target site on the Naval Air Systems Command land range at China Lake, Calif.

      “Tomahawk Block IV provides our warfighters with the capabilities needed to successfully fight in the 21st century battle space,” said Capt. Rick McQueen, Navy Tomahawk all-up-round program manager. “The successful test … shows that the Baseline IV Tomahawk Weapon System will maintain the legacy of weapon effectiveness that Tomahawk has demonstrated in every major conflict from Desert Storm through Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

      “This successful test of a surface launched variant of Block IV Tomahawk adds another arrow to the quiver of our warfighters,” said Harry Schulte, vice president, Raytheon Missile Systems Strike product line.

      A surface- and submarine-launched precision strike stand-off weapon, Tomahawk provides long-range precision strike missions against high value, heavily defended targets.

      Block IV Tomahawk, which achieved fleet introduction in May 2004, incorporates innovative technologies to provide new operational capabilities while dramatically reducing acquisition, operations and support costs, according to Raytheon.

      The new capabilities that Block IV Tomahawk brings to the Navy’s sea strike capability are derived from the missile’s two-way satellite data link that enables the missile to respond to changing battlefield conditions.

      A strike controller can “flex” the missile in flight to preprogrammed alternate targets or redirect it to a new target. This targeting flexibility includes the capability to loiter over the battlefield awaiting a more critical target.

      The missile also can transmit battle damage indication imagery and missile health and status messages via the satellite data link. Firing platforms, for the first time, will have the capability to plan and execute GPS-only missions. Block IV also has an improved anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced mission performance.

      Wildblue-1 Satellite Launched On Ariane 5 ECA Rocket From French Guiana

      The Wildblue-1 satellite was launched Friday night and deployed solar arrays, according to Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), a unit of Loral Space & Communications [LORL].

      After soaring into space, the satellite completed thruster maneuvers placing the bird in a circular geosynchronous orbit, the company stated.

      WildBlue-1, the world’s first commercially dedicated all-Ka-band, multiple spot-beam broadband satellite, was built by SS/L for WildBlue Communications, Inc., Denver, Colo., according to SS/L.

      “We are pleased by the successful launch and initial performance of all satellite systems,” said Dave Leonard, chief executive officer of WildBlue Communications, Inc. “Space Systems/Loral was an excellent partner to work with throughout the manufacturing process and we relied on its support and expertise to make this project a success.”

      WildBlue-1 was launched on Dec. 8 aboard an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

      Orbit raising operations are being conducted from SS/L’s Mission Control Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

      Within the next few weeks, following its final placement into geostationary orbit at 111.1 degrees West longitude and routine in-orbit testing, SS/L will hand over the satellite to WildBlue, expanding its broadband Internet service capability.

      The satellite’s powerful spot-beam design will enable WildBlue to more than triple its capacity to provide low-cost, high-speed Internet access throughout the contiguous United States.

      WildBlue-1 weighed approximately 4.7 metric tons at liftoff. Its design was based on the Space Systems/Loral 1300 spacecraft bus. The satellite carries a unique, multiple antenna configuration that will power two-way data communications to homes and small businesses in communities where terrestrial broadband access is either limited or unavailable.

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