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By | June 18, 2007

      Delta V Launches Classified Payload In Orbit Despite Problem

      A United Launch Alliance Delta V rocket launched a classified payload into orbit, despite an anomaly in the upper stage of the rocket, according to wire service reports.

      The payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which handles spy satellites, wasn’t announced.

      Also, officials at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base didn’t say just what the anomaly was, except that it caused only a minor degradation of performance in the upper stage.

      ULA Launch

      Earlier, a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launched the Italian-built COSMO-SkyMed payload into orbit.

      Blasting off from Space Launch Complex 2, it marked the first use of a ULA Delta II launch vehicle by Boeing Launch Services, a division of Boeing Network and Space Systems, for a commercial satellite.

      “ULA is pleased to have successfully launched this critical Earth observation system for our customer,” said Mark Wilkins, vice president, ULA Delta programs. “Our launch team is comprised of the most experienced engineers and technicians in the industry and we look forward to continuing to provide reliable, innovative and cost effective launch services for future commercial launches.”

      The ULA Delta II 7420-10 configuration vehicle featured a ULA first stage booster powered by a Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine and four Alliant Techsystems (ATK) strap-on solid rocket motors. An Aerojet AJ10-118K engine powered the second stage. The payload was encased by a 10-foot-diameter composite payload fairing.

      Hyper-Spectral Imaging Sensor Moves Toward December Launch

      A hyper-spectral imaging sensor, delivered to Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, is heading toward a December launch.

      The system, designed by Raytheon Co. [RTN], will demonstrate and assess military applications from satellites launched on demand.

      In December, the sensor will launch on Tac-Sat-3.

      Called ARTEMIS (Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer), Raytheon designed and developed it within 15 months as part of a rapid development experiment.

      That was funded by a $15 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory. The typical development cycle of such a program would be four to five years, according to Brian Arnold, vice president for Raytheon Space Systems.

      In the responsive space approach, satellites and their cargo, such as an ARTEMIS payload, would be kept in a holding facility where systems could be assembled and transported rapidly to a convenient launch site.

      Employing commercial-off-the-shelf components and industry standard interfaces, ARTEMIS serves as a prototype for systems that can support rapid launch requirements in an easy- to-manufacture, low-cost design.

      “Conceivably, a system could be mounted on a satellite, launched, and in orbit 200 miles above the earth within three to seven days of a request by a field commander, providing data in a user-friendly format while greatly reducing critical response times and enhancing battle assessment capabilities,” Arnold said.

      Raytheon is working on concept development for a follow-on hyper-spectral imaging payload with an even wider coverage area for the Naval Research Laboratory. The ARTEMIS sensor was developed for the Department of Defense Tactical Satellite program.

      The program is advancing as some military strategists and lawmakers say that the United States must be able to replace, swiftly, any satellites that may be lost. Their comments come after China this year used a ground-based missile to destroy one of its own aging weather satellites in orbit, an act that produced thousands of pieces of dangerous space debris. Analysts say the shot proved China commands the capability to destroy U.S. and allied military and civilian satellites and spacecraft, while threatening personnel in space.

      Israel Launches Satellite Watching Iran, Iraq And Syria

      Israel launched an intelligence satellite that will provide views from space of Iran, Iraq and Syria every 90 minutes, according to the Jerusalem Post.

      Called the Ofek (Horizon) 7, the satellite was boosted to orbit by a Shavit missile lifting off from Palmahim Air Force Base.

      The lead contractor is Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which also will operate the ground station where imagery data will be downlinked from Ofek 7.

      The satellite is expected to have a four year life as it orbits about 370 miles above the Earth.

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