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By | February 19, 2007

      Apollo 1 Capsule Moves To New Storage Facility

      NASA moved the Apollo 1 capsule and related materials approximately 90 feet to a newer, environmentally-controlled warehouse at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

      The move provides better protection for the spacecraft.

      Despite routine repairs made throughout the years, the original secure storage container where the vehicle was housed has been deteriorating. NASA officials determined that, due to its age, the container could not be maintained effectively to preserve the capsule.

      Astronauts Lt. Col. Virgil I. Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee died when a flash fire swept through the spacecraft during a launch pad test at Cape Canaveral, Fla., Jan. 27, 1967.

      Originally known as the AS-204 mission, it was renamed Apollo 1 in honor of the crew.

      As directed by the Apollo 204 Review Board, the capsule has been maintained at Langley. The review board’s accident report made recommendations that led to design and engineering changes and increased the overall safety for future Apollo missions and six successful lunar landings.

      ISS Crew Prep For Spacewalk

      International Space Station Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria and Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin conducted leak checks of the Russian Orlan spacesuits they will wear for their spacewalk Thursday.

      They installed some additional equipment on the suits, including lights that will assist in their tasks.

      As well, the crew verified the suits’ readiness by conducting telemetry and communications checks with flight controllers in Russia at the Mission Control Center in Korolev.

      This spacewalk will be the fifth by the Expedition 14 space travelers, a record for a station crew. It also will be the fourth spacewalk conducted from the space station in the past three weeks. The spacewalk, scheduled to begin at approximately 5 a.m. ET, is expected to last six hours.

      The spacewalkers will attempt to free a stuck antenna on the Progress 23 cargo craft docked at the aft end of the station. The antenna did not properly retract when the supply vessel docked in October. Securing or removing the antenna is necessary to allow the Progress to undock in April.

      Additionally, they will survey docking navigation systems for the European Automated Transfer Vehicle, a cargo spacecraft scheduled to make its maiden voyage this summer.

      The spacewalk will be the 10th for Lopez-Alegria, a record for a U.S. astronaut.

      Also this week, robotics ground controllers in Houston commanded the station’s mobile transporter rail car to move to the starboard side of the station’s truss in preparation for the arrival of Atlantis, which will bring a new, school bus-sized truss segment with a third set of solar arrays for the complex, and batteries and other electronics.

      The ISS crew also spent today in the Destiny laboratory, training on the operation of the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

      XM, Sirius Sat Radios Merge

      XM Satellite Radio [XMSR] and SIRIUS Satellite Radio [SIRI] will merge, the firms announced.

      They reached a definitive agreement to combine in a tax-free, all-stock merger of equals with a combined enterprise value of approximately $13 billion, which includes net debt of approximately $1.6 billion.

      Under the agreement, XM shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 4.6 shares of SIRIUS common stock for each share of XM they own. XM and SIRIUS shareholders will each own approximately 50 percent of the combined company.

      Mel Karmazin, currently CEO of SIRIUS, will become CEO of the combined company and Gary Parsons, currently XM chairman, will become chairman of the combined company.

      The new company’s board of directors will consist of 12 directors, including Karmazin and Parsons, four independent members designated by each company, as well as one representative from each of General Motors and American Honda.

      Hugh Panero, CEO of XM, will continue in his current role until the anticipated close of the merger.

      Further management appointments will be announced prior to closing. The companies will continue to operate independently until the transaction is complete and will work together to determine the combined company’s corporate name and headquarters location prior to closing.

      The combination creates a nationwide audio entertainment provider with combined 2006 revenues of approximately $1.5 billion based on analysts’ consensus estimates.

      The companies have approximately 14 million combined subscribers.

      QinetiQ Sciemus Deal

      QinetiQ is to provide a new round of technical advice on spacecraft reliability and risk analysis to Sciemus, QinetiQ announced.

      Two new contracts in the deal are worth GBP650,000 (US$1.268 million) over three years, according to the company.

      The deal covers the operation, licensing, maintenance and continued development of QinetiQ’s Space Risk Assessment Tool (SpaceRAT).

      Building on its success in the satellite insurance market, Sciemus will also draw on QinetiQ’s expertise to develop risk analysis models in cyber security, power generation, U.K. property and other sectors where underwriters traditionally have faced significant challenges when assessing risk.

      Lockheed Sees Magnetic Discovery

      Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] is plumbing just how energy from the solar wind is transferred into the Earth’s magnetosphere.

      In a paper published in this month’s issue of Geophysical Research Letters, scientists from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (ATC) are using data from a unique, state-of-the-art scientific instrument — designed and built at the Palo Alto facility — to determine how and where the transfer occurs.

      This transfer of energy causes auroras and also affects radio communications, satellite operations and electric power systems on Earth.

      The process is called magnetic reconnection and occurs when magnetic fields from different domains — in this case, from the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF) carried by the solar wind, and the Earth’s magnetic field — are spliced together, allowing the transfer of energy from one domain to the other.

      The magnetopause defines the boundary between the Earth’s field and the solar wind. It has a bullet-shaped front, gradually changing into a cylinder as it envelopes the planet and trails off behind where it is called the magnetotail.

      Reconnection breaks through the protection afforded by this natural magnetic sheath, allowing charged particles and energy from the sun to enter the space around Earth.

      Boeing Satellite Handover

      The Boeing Co. [BA] announced an on-orbit handover of the MEASAT-3 satellite to MEASAT Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd.

      “MEASAT-3 has completed all on-orbit testing, and we were pleased to hand over this satellite,” said Stephen T. O’Neill, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International. Transfer of the Boeing 601 satellite to MEASAT follows on-orbit testing to ensure the spacecraft systems are functioning as designed.

      Launched Dec.11 by an International Launch Services Proton/Breeze M rocket from Kazakhstan, MEASAT-3 will enable MEASAT to deliver direct-to-home television and other telecommunication services across Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Eastern Africa and Eastern Europe.

      Raytheon System Up For Tests

      Raytheon Co. [RTN] is poised to deliver the Navy Multiband Terminal (NMT) satellite communication system to the Navy for tests to begin later this week.

      NMT is a system of submarine, shore-based and shipboard communications terminals for the transformational SATCOM component of the Navy FORCEnet concept.

      Loral Initiative

      Loral Skynet, a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications Inc. [LORL], introduced a satellite-based cellular backhaul service that enables mobile/cellular operators to extend their networks and reduce operational costs of serving remote and low annual rate per user areas.

      The service, called SkyReachSM Cellular Backhaul, is a one-stop, end-to-end managed solution that integrates design, implementation, monitoring and support for optimum network management. The service replaces costly E1/T1 lines with optimized satellite links to provide Abis connectivity between operators’ Base Station Controller and Base Transceiver Stations. This connectivity allows networks to expand over challenging geographic regions or for delivering license-mandated services to low user, low income areas.

      The service leverages global coverage from Skynet’s satellite fleet and compression and optimization technologies from Comtech EF Data Corp. and its subsidiary, Memotec, Inc.

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