U.S. Air Force Launches Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

The U.S. Air Force launched a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with three unarmed multiple independent reentry vehicles on a trajectory of 4,220 nautical miles to hit targets in the Pacific Ocean.

That test happened to come just as a nation with hundreds of nuclear-tipped ICBMs has invaded a neighboring nation. Russian forces have invaded the former Soviet Union state of Georgia, prompting President Bush to send U.S. forces there on a "vigorous" humanitarian aid mission. (Please see full story in this issue.)

The U.S. ICBM launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, lifting off from North Vandenberg in an operational test to determine its reliability and accuracy, the Air Force announced.

That ICBM was configured with a National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, test assembly. Data collected in the test will be used by the entire ICBM community, including Strategic Command planners and NNSA and Department of Energy laboratories.

In this test, the Air Force returned to a practice that had been discontinued years ago.

"The unique part of this mission was the incorporation of a maintenance task force from an operational missile wing," said Capt. Steve Bonin, launch director for the mission.

Operational tasks were conducted by maintenance and operations Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing, Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

In the past, maintenance teams from missile wings supported the missile testing mission; however, the program was discontinued several years ago. This mission marks a return to this model in which the maintenance task force has the opportunity to perform jobs unique to test operations while validating the work they perform at their home base.

"For me, the unique part of this launch was seeing all the moving pieces coming together," Bonin said. "We had maintenance and operations teams from up north working together with us in the squadron; the coordination we did with the 30th Space Wing who manages the range; as well as the Army and the Navy who supported the mission downrange."

Members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron installed tracking, telemetry and command destruct systems on the missile to collect data and meet safety requirements.

GeoEye Satellite Launch Delayed To Sept. 4 From Aug. 22, Because Aircraft Unavailable For Telemetry Reception

GeoEye Also Restates Results For Recent Years

GeoEye, Inc. announced the launch of its GeoEye-1 satellite will be delayed to Sept. 4 from Aug. 22, because United Launch Alliance (ULA) initiated a change in the target launch date.

Also, GeoEye restated its profit results for recent years.

ULA required the added time to position resources to support receipt of down-range telemetry from the Delta II booster rocket after launch and initial flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. ULA has submitted a request for this revised launch date to the 30th Space Wing.

The support aircraft unexpectedly became unavailable, so ULA had to seek an alternative means of capturing this telemetry. ULA expects that this support will be in place for the new planned target launch date of Sept. 4.

Bill Schuster, GeoEye’s chief operating officer said, "This activity is not related to either our GeoEye-1 satellite or to the booster’s readiness. The GeoEye-1 spacecraft has successfully completed all of its pre-launch checkouts prior to being mated to the booster which is now expected to happen the third week of August."

The other significant item left to complete this launch is the re-test of a Range Safety antenna on the booster. This re-test was scheduled for completion Saturday. GeoEye-1 remains at the Payload Processing Facility at Vandenberg, ready to be lifted and placed on top of the booster. The launch vehicle is stacked on the pad at Space Launch Complex 2 West. Booster processing continues. The launch time remains at 11:50:57 a.m. PT.

The Boeing Co. [BA] unit Launch Services is supporting launch of GeoEye-1 and procured the launch vehicle and associated support services from ULA.

GeoEye-1 will have the highest resolution of any commercial imaging system — 0.41-meters or 16 inches for panchromatic (black and white) imagery and multispectral (color) imagery at 1.65-meter resolution. The satellite is designed to offer three-meter accuracy, which means that end users can map natural and man-made features to within three meters of their actual locations on the surface of the Earth without ground control points. GeoEye-1 was financed in part by GeoEye’s approximate $500-million contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

Separately, the company announced it is restating its financial statements for the years ended Dec. 31, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and quarterly information for such periods and for each of the quarters ended Sept. 30, 2007, and March 31, 2008.

Restatement was compelled by several issues.

As part of the NextView program, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency agreed to pay approximately $237 million to share the cost of constructing the GeoEye-1 satellite. The company said it discovered it hadn’t included cost-share payments received from the federal government under the NextView program in its taxable income. So GeoEye must include previously unrecorded expenses for interest and penalties on unpaid taxes which will reduce net income for 2005, 2006 and 2007 and create a deferred tax asset and corresponding liability on the balance sheet.

But GeoEye filed an application for a change in method of accounting with the Internal Revenue Service that management believes will eliminate all of the interest and penalties for unpaid taxes. As a result, management expects that the financial impact of these interest and penalties will be reversed in the third quarter. Management believes that the reversal will result in an increase in net income for the third quarter equal to the reduction in net income in 2005, 2006 and 2007 relating to unpaid taxes. Management also believes a second result of this accounting method change is a change in  timing of the payment of taxes on cost-sharing payments.

GeoEye also completed a detailed study regarding the application of Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code on ownership changes. Application of the findings of this study confirmed that, as previously reported, the company had lost the use of net operating losses, although it lost fewer net operating losses than reported earlier.

This resulted in a decrease in income tax expense and related tax liabilities from the amounts reported previously, because the earlier ownership change occurred sooner than previously reported and thus eliminated fewer net operating losses.

Also, GeoEye identified a decrease of $3 million in direct expenses last year due to an overstatement of imagery purchased from third parties associated with imagery sales.

Northrop Grumman-Led Kinetic Energy Interceptors Team Conducts Successful Pressure Tests of Rocket Motor Case

Three months of testing on the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) composite cases ended successfully last month, Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] announced.

A team of contractors led by Northrop completed structural integrity and hydro-proof testing on the composite cases.

They will be used on the high-pressure Stage 1 and 2 solid rocket motors.

Tests were conducted by Alliant Techsystems [ATK] at its Utah facility as the principal subcontractor responsible for Stage 1 and 2 rocket motor development.

Raytheon Co. [RTN] oversaw the tests as the lead for interceptor development.

The structural and hydro-proof tests are performed to intentionally destroy a case in order to demonstrate it can withstand internal pressures and loads beyond what the cases will experience during operational flight.

This involves a high-pressure water system that simulates different loads over a period of time, gradually increasing the pressure each cycle.

"Both Stage 1 and Stage 2 configurations represent the same design and process to be used for our booster flight test planned for 2009," said Tony Spehar, sector vice president and KEI program manager for Northrop Grumman Space Technology. "Together, these tests significantly reduce risk associated with the program and demonstrate the progress we’ve made since the last rocket motor test."

Solid rocket motors cases have been tested this way for decades. This test is another milestone to ensure success of the program as it prepares for the full-scale KEI booster flight next spring.

KEI is designed to be a mobile, globally deployable missile defense system featuring a new high-acceleration booster. The system’s mission is to provide a strategically deployable, tactically mobile, land- and sea-based capability to defeat medium- to long-range ballistic missiles during the boost, ascent and midcourse phases of flight. A Northrop Grumman-led team won the development and test contract in 2003.

Ariane 5 Launches Superbird-7, AMC-21 Satellites Into Geostationary Orbit

An Ariane 5 heavy lifter rocket blasted off from French Guiana, South America, to place the Superbird-7 and AMC-21 satellites into geostationary transfer orbit, Arianespace reported.

This was the ninth Ariane 5 launch in a year, lofting 16 civilian and military telecommunications satellites, along with the first Automated Transfer Vehicle flight. The ATV is a robotic European spacecraft for logistics missions to the International Space Station.

All told, the Ariane 5s hoisted a combined total payload weight of 75,430 kilograms, or 83.15 tons.

This latest flight marked the 27th consecutive successful Ariane 5 launch, and was the fifth of seven missions planned by Arianespace this year.

The heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA lifted off on time in a late-afternoon launch that provided a daylit view of the vehicle’s trajectory as it headed downrange from the spaceport.

Superbird-7 rode in the upper position of the Ariane 5 dual payload stack, and was released first during the half-hour mission, separating 26 minutes into the flight. The spacecraft was orbited by Arianespace for Japanese operator Space Communications Corp. (SCC) in the framework of a contract with Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

Once positioned at its orbital slot of 144 degrees East, Superbird-7 will succeed the current SCC Superbird-C satellite, and is designed to provide a wide range of Ku-band telecommunications services with enhanced performance. Superbird-7 is based on the Mitsubishi DS2000 satellite platform, and it had a liftoff mass of 4,820 kilograms (5.3 tons).

The Superbird-7 is the seventh SCC spacecraft launched by Ariane and the 23rd Japanese commercial satellite lofted by Arianespace. Additionally, Superbird-7 was the second Mitsubishi-built payload orbited by Ariane 5.

AMC-21 deployed as the second satellite passenger on the mission, leaving the lower launcher payload position 30 minutes after liftoff. This 2,500-kilogram (2.76 tons) spacecraft was manufactured by Thales Alenia Space incorporating the Orbital Sciences STAR-2 satellite bus. The satellite will operate from the new SES 125 degrees West orbital position.

The relay capacity provided by AMC-21 will be marketed by the U.S.-based SES AMERICOM, which is to offer the advanced Ku-band telecommunications links for mobile applications and TV broadcasting. Coverage will include the 50 U.S. states, as well as Southern Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

AMC-21 was the 30th satellite launched by Arianespace for the SES group.

The first Arianespace mission, in 1984, used an Ariane 1 launcher that orbited SPACENET 1, which was operated by one of the SES group’s predecessor companies.

Arianespace plans two more flights this year, its busiest calendar year since the Ariane 5 began flying in 1999.

MEASAT-3a Satellite Damaged As Crane Attempts To Load It On Rocket

Damage Means Launch Must Be Postponed; New Launch Date Not Yet Set

The MEASAT-3a satellite was damaged when a crane hit it at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, so that launch will be postponed, Land Launch announced.

That accident occurred in an assembly and test building where technicians had just mated the satellite with the Block DM-SLB upper stage on the Zenit-3BSLB rocket.

Experts now are assessing the extent of the damage.

Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB] is helping MEASAT Satellite Systems Sdn Bhd, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, replan the mission.

A team of MEASAT and Orbital engineers currently are assessing the damage to determine the next course of action, which may result in the satellite being returned to Orbital’s satellite manufacturing facility for repair and retesting, according to Orbital.

Based on findings of the damage assessment, which is expected to take several weeks, the MEASAT and Orbital team will also be replanning the launch schedule.

"We are working closely with our customer to do all that we can to assess the situation and recommend a course of action that will put the mission back on track in as little time as possible," said Christopher Richmond, senior vice president and head of Orbital Commercial Communications satellite programs.

There were no injuries to personnel and no hazardous gases were released.

Land Launch didn’t announce a new launch date.

When it finally goes up, the Zenit will deliver the 2,355 kilograms (5,181 pounds) communications satellite to geosynchronous transfer orbit for Measat.

The MEASAT-3a satellite carries 12 active Ku-band and 12 active C-band transponders and features three antennas to provide C-band fixed satellite services throughout Asia and the Middle East; and Ku-band direct-to-home television broadcasting to Malaysia and Indonesia.

NASA’s Shuttle and Rocket Missions

Updated — August 15, 2008 – 11 a.m. EDT

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

2008 Launches

Date: October +

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. 5

Mission: IBEX

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL Rocket

Launch Site: Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll

Launch Window: 12:41 to 12:48 p.m. EDT

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: Oct. 8 +

Mission: STS-125

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 1:34 a.m. EDT

Landing Site: Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility

Landing Date and Time: Oct. 10 – 9:37 p.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: Nov. 10 +

Mission: STS-126

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 9:31 a.m. EST

Landing Site: Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility

Landing Date and Time: Nov. 25 – 3:55 p.m. EST +

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

Date: Nov. 20 *

Mission: STSS Demonstrators Program – Missile Defense Agency

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17, Pad A

Description: STSS Demonstrators Program is a midcourse tracking technology demonstrator and is part of an evolving ballistic missile defense system. STSS is capable of tracking objects after boost phase and provides trajectory information to other sensors and interceptors. To be launched by NASA for the Missile Defense Agency.

Date: Dec. 16 *

Mission: GOES-O

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta IV

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 37

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.

2009 Launches

Date: Jan. 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. 4

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. 12 +

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: Feb. 27 *

Mission: LRO/LCROSS

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

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

Description: LRO will launch with the objectives to finding safe landing sites, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment and test new technology. The Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite mission is seeking a definitive answer about the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at either the Moon’s North or South Pole.

Date: April 10

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: April 30

Mission: STSS ATRR – Missile Defense Agency

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

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

Description: STSS ATRR serves as a pathfinder for future launch and mission technology for the Missile Defense Agency. To be launched by NASA for the MDA.

Date: May 15 +

Mission: STS-127

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver the exposed facility of Japan’s Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station.

Date: June 15

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.

Date: July 30 +

Mission: STS-128

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Atlantis will use a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to carry experiment and storage racks to the International Space Station.

Date: Sept. 15 *

Mission: Mars Science Laboratory

Description: The Mars Science Laboratory is a rover that will assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life and to determine the planet’s habitability.

Date: Oct. 15 +

Mission: STS-129

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Discovery will deliver components including two spare gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly and a spare latching end effector for the station’s robotic arm to the International Space Station.

Date: November +

Mission: WISE

Description: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will survey the entire sky in the mid-infrared with far greater sensitivity than any previous mission or program ever has. The WISE survey will consist of over a million images, from which hundreds of millions of astronomical objects will be catalogued.

Date: Dec. 10 +

Mission: STS-130

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver the final connecting node, Node 3, and the Cupola, a robotic control station with six windows around its sides and another in the center that provides a 360-degree view around the International Space Station.

2010 Launches

Date: Jan. 26

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: Feb. 11 +

Mission: STS-131

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Atlantis will carry a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module filled with science racks that will be transferred to laboratories of the International Space Station.

Date: April 8 +

Mission: STS-132

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Discovery mission will carry an integrated cargo carrier to deliver maintenance and assembly hardware, including spare parts for space station systems. In addition, the second in a series of new pressurized components for Russia, a Mini Research Module, will be permanently attached to the bottom port of the Zarya module.

Date: May 31 +

Mission: STS-133

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver critical spare components including antennas and gas tanks to the International Space Station.

Source: NASA