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By | February 5, 2007

      Missile Defense Agency Sets Schedule For BMD Tests In 2007

      The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has scheduled a series of tests for ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems this year, according to Army Brig. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, deputy MDA director.

      Tests this year include:

      • Two intercept flight tests of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense hit-to-kill shield at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, one test in the atmosphere and one beyond the atmosphere. These tests, which will pit THAAD against short-range unitary targets, will be held in the middle of the year and late in 2007.

      • Three Aegis Standard Missile-3 intercepts against short- and medium-range targets. These tests also will be conducted in the middle of the year and late in 2007.

      • Two intercept tests of long-range ground-based interceptors. These tests will be held in late spring and early fall.

      Thus far, there have been 24 hit-to-kill successes in low and high hits in and beyond the atmosphere since 2001, including interceptors striking target missiles in their midcourse and in their terminal phases of flight.

      Northrop Says KEI Program On Schedule For 2008 Booster Flight

      The Kinetic Energy Interceptor program is on schedule to meet the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) objective of a 2008 booster flight, prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] announced.

      This year, KEI will complete several Stage 1 and Stage 2 motor firings and stage separation tests.

      Last year, the program achieved all key proof-of-concept milestones and is readying the system for a first flight test of the booster in 2008, according to Northrop.

      In the past two years, Northrop stated, the program has seen completion of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 static-motor firings; four successful demonstrations — ahead of schedule – of the fire control capability, proving that KEI can meet the short timelines necessary to hit a missile in the early minutes after launch; and several successful high-speed wind tunnel tests.

      Sea Launch Rocket Explodes; Boeing Satellite Built For SES New Skies Lost

      A Sea Launch Zenit-3SL rocket vehicle carrying an NSS-8 satellite built by The Boeing Co. [BA] blew up as it launched from a platform at sea, Boeing announced.

      Boeing built the satellite, which was totally destroyed, for SES New Skies. There were no injuries, Boeing announced.

      The company has three other satellites set to go into orbit in launches by Sea Launch this year: Thuraya D3, Spaceway F3 and DIRECTV 11.

      Boeing is working closely with Sea Launch and the NSS-8 customer, SES New Skies, as well as other customers impacted by this event.

      Neither Boeing nor Sea Launch stated just what caused the explosion, which damaged the launch platform.

      “Following the unsuccessful launch of the NSS-8 spacecraft on January 30, and subsequent safing of all systems, Sea Launch is now in the process of securing the Odyssey Launch Platform and taking initial measures to determine the root cause and implement necessary corrective actions,” Sea Launch announced in a statement.

      “Applications for all necessary permits and licenses required to proceed with these activities are also in process.”

      The launch platform didn’t suffer irreparable damage, according to Sea Launch.

      “A preliminary assessment of the Odyssey Launch Platform indicates that, while it has sustained limited damage, the integrity and functionality of essential marine, communications and crew support systems remains intact,” the company announced.

      “The [launch platform] vessel is operating on its own power and is currently manned by the full marine crew. This team is performing a comprehensive assessment of all aspects of the vessel, including its structural integrity and sea-worthiness, in anticipation of identifying and planning the next steps.”

      A key reason why there were no injuries is that the crew was on another vessel miles away from the launch platform, controlling the liftoff remotely.

      For details on the loss investigations, please see

      Sea Launch is an international launch service provider, based in Long Beach, Calif. Using a floating platform, one of two ocean-going vessels, Sea Launch lifts its Zenit-3SL rocket from a position on the equator at 154 degrees West Longitude.

      Sea Launch partners include Boeing, RSC Energia, Aker ASA and SDO Yuzhnoye/PO Yuzhmash.

      Space Station To Grow, See Record 24 Spacewalks In 2007

      Already spanning an acre in orbit, the International Space Station (ISS) this year will grow faster in size, power, volume and mass than ever before, significantly expanding its capabilities and setting new records for humans in orbit.

      “This will be a challenging but rewarding year for the station program,” said Kirk Shireman, deputy program manager for the International Space Station. “The station’s operations will grow both in orbit and on Earth. As we launch new international components this year, we also will begin new flight control operations from facilities around the world.”

      In addition to control centers in the United States, Russia and Canada, control centers for the station also will be activated in France, Germany and Japan, allowing NASA’s partners to oversee their contributions to the station.

      This year, NASA and Russia plan to conduct as many as 24 spacewalks, more than has ever been done in a single year. The first spacewalk began last week featuring Mike Lopez-Alegria, commander of the current space station mission, known as Expedition 14.

      By the end of Expedition 14 in April, Lopez-Alegria should lead all astronauts in the number of spacewalks and the amount of time spent spacewalking.

      After returning to Earth in July, Expedition 14 and Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Sunita Williams will hold the NASA astronaut record for longest time in space. Lopez-Alegria will have set that record just months earlier.

      Williams also will have completed the most spacewalks by a woman by the end of February.

      Also this year, the electricity generated and used on the station will more than double. By the end of the year, ISS solar panels will extend to almost three-quarters of an acre of surface area. The extra power and cooling will allow the station’s living and working space to expand by more than one-third. The complex will grow from its current size of a two-bedroom apartment to the size of a four-bedroom house by year’s end.

      The laboratories aboard will triple, with the addition of the European Space Agency Columbus lab and the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo.

      A shuttle mission targeted for October will deliver Columbus, while another mission targeted for December will carry Kibo. The additions will mark the first time the station’s interior space has grown in more than six years.

      The ISS supply lines also will grow. A new European cargo vehicle, called the Automated Transfer Vehicle, is set to make its first trip to the station in July. Currently, only the space shuttle and Russian Progress cargo craft deliver supplies to the orbiting laboratory.

      This also will be a year of unparalleled robotic operations. For the first time, the station’s robotic arm will be used to assemble large, pressurized components without a shuttle present. In the fall, the Canadarm2 will be used to move mating adapters and a large connecting module, called Node 2, into place on the station. Node 2 will provide pathways for crew members, air, electricity and water to the new international laboratories.

      As the station breaks new ground in its use of robotics, its robotics system also will grow. On the same mission that delivers the first section of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Kibo lab, the Canadian Space Agency Dextre robotic system will be delivered.

      Dextre, an almost human-shaped two-armed robotic system designed to work with Canadarm2, will add to the highly sophisticated robotics aboard the space station. Dextre will enable the robotics to perform even more intricate maintenance and servicing tasks, which previously would have required spacewalks.

      NASA Aides Approve Aspects Of Moon-Striking Satellite

      NASA officials approved elements of a moon impact mission slated to launch in October next year.

      The unmanned Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will strike the moon near its south pole in January 2009. The craft will search for water and other materials that astronauts could use at a future lunar outpost.

      Scott Horowitz, associate administrator of the agency’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, led a confirmation review panel that approved the detailed plans, instrument suite, budget and risk factor analysis for the satellite.

      The NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the mission, valued at $79 million, excluding launch costs.

      This mission will help NASA gain a new foothold on the moon and prepare for new journeys to Mars and beyond, according to NASA.

      The confirmation review authorized continuation of the lunar impactor project and set its cost and schedule. Another mission milestone, the critical design review, is scheduled for late this month. That review will examine the detailed LCROSS design. After a successful critical design review, the project team will assemble the spacecraft and its instruments.

      The lunar impactor will share a rocket ride into space with a second satellite, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. After the orbiter separates from the Atlas V launch vehicle for its own mission, the LCROSS will use the spent Centaur upper stage of the rocket as a 4,400-pound lunar impactor, targeting a permanently shadowed crater near the lunar South Pole.

      According to scientists, the Centaur’s collision with the moon will excavate about 220 tons of material from the lunar surface. Meanwhile, LCROSS will observe the plume of material with a suite of six instruments to look for water ice and examine lunar soil.

      The satellite will fly through the plume, also impacting the lunar surface. That second impact will be observed from Earth.

      The prime contractor for the satellite is Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] unit Space Technologies, of Redondo Beach, Calif.

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