Sample Issue|Space & Missile Defense Report

March 3, 2008

Table of Contents

Griffin Sees Several Thousand Space Jobs Lost In Florida, Louisiana

Gap Between Space Shuttle Fleet Retirement And Orion-Ares Spaceship Costly As Skills Are Lost, And U.S. Becomes Dependent On Russia For Space Transit

Florida Senator Asks About Commercial Spaceship Launches In Florida

“At least several thousand” space jobs will be lost at Kennedy Space Center in Florida starting around 2011, and perhaps 1,300 or so will be lost at the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana because the space shuttle fleet will cease flying in October 2010, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin said.

Those will be contractor personnel.

It is too soon to know precisely just how many people will lose their jobs, Griffin told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee space, aeronautics and related sciences subcommittee.

While NASA later this month will provide a congressionally-mandated estimate of job losses, at this point, those figures “will be very uncertain,” Griffin cautioned.

At Kennedy, there will be “at least several thousands” of jobs that will disappear and won’t return, when the shuttle stops flying in 2010, and the United States has no transportation system, even to low Earth orbit, until 2015, when the next-generation Orion-Ares spacecraft system begins manned flights.

At Michoud, which produces such items as the external fuel tanks for space shuttles, some 1,900 jobs currently will shrink to 500 to 600, he said.

And this loss of jobs will mean a concomitant loss of U.S. space brainpower and capability, Griffin said. The end of the shuttle flights program will mean both “a displacement of lives and a displacement of skills,” he said.

He made clear that many of the jobs lost will be gone forever, saying that “we will never use as many people as” the space shuttle launching program, once it is abandoned. The shuttle is being retired permanently, and is not being replaced with a program providing as many jobs, he explained.

The United States previously suffered a debilitating brain drain when the Apollo program ceased, and NASA entered years in which it had no space flight capability until the shuttles began flying.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the subcommittee chairman, voiced repeated concern at the impending job losses in Florida and Louisiana during the years when the United States has no manned space flights. “We don’t want to go through what we went through” in the bare-cupboard years between Apollo and the shuttle program, Nelson said. Those were “rough times for folks back home,” he said, noting that he and Griffin have been discussing the problem privately for some time now. The gap and loss of jobs is “an enormous concern to me,” Nelson said.

Similarly, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) lamented the loss of jobs at Michoud. Vitter said shutting down the shuttle program will carry a bitter cost, with “a loss of workforce, a loss of skills,” with employees leaving who “can’t be immediately or easily or cheaply replaced.”

He also noted the incalculable cost to the United States of losing prestige by losing its space program, having no manned space missions at a time when Russia, China and others are sending their people into space.

Nelson asked whether any future private, commercial spaceships might launch from Florida.

NASA just offered to provide $170 million of seed money to Orbital Sciences Corp. [ORB] to spur it to develop a private space transportation vehicle. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008.)

But Orbital will launch from Wallops Island, Va., rather than from Kennedy.

Asked about that, Griffin said that is a private business decision that Orbital made, one NASA didn’t discuss with the firm.

Nelson asked pointedly whether other NASA facilities aside from Kennedy and Michoud will “share the pain” of losing jobs. Griffin said he couldn’t say with precision what employment effects will be at other installations, but some may have little or no jobs losses.

Griffin made clear that he wasn’t at the helm of NASA when the decision was made to create the gap, and he isn’t happy with the prospect of a half-decade without NASA space flights. “We are looking at a substantial period of dependency on the Russians,” he said.

He termed the gap “my greatest concern and my greatest regret.” But that said, he made clear, the gap exists and must be confronted.

Not flying the shuttles doesn’t leave the United States with no costs, lawmakers made clear. Rather, the United States will have to pay for costs of personnel disruption.

Russia: Reliable?

And Uncle Sam also may have to plunk down a hefty $2 billion to buy space transportation services from an increasingly hostile Russia.

“We will spend in the neighborhood of $2 billion on Russian hardware,” Griffin said.

A contract with the Russians will have to be executed by April next year, to give Russia time to assemble spacecraft needed in 2012 and later, Griffin said.

That is causing anguish among many lawmakers.

Russia not only will have the United States over a barrel, with NASA dependent on Moscow to transport U.S. astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station for half a decade, Russia also has other means of leverage over the United States, such as in energy pipelines it controls, Nelson said.

Russia has “got a major chain to yank,” he said.

Further, while buying space transport missions from Russia is estimated now to total $2 billion during the gap between the shuttle program and Orion-Ares, it might be much more, since Russia at that time may be in a monopoly position and able to gouge the United States on launch prices. That monopoly position “dramatically increases their bargaining power,” Vitter said.

Costs per launch already have risen over many years, he added.

Vitter said the United States should accelerate the start of the manned Orion-Ares flights from 2015 back to some earlier point, and/or accelerate development of private commercial orbital transportation services, or COTS.

Griffin, Senior Senator Debate Getting Huge Experiment Into Space

The head of NASA and the senator chairing the NASA oversight panel debated at length how to get an otherwise wasted $1.5 billion experiment up to the International Space Station, during a hearing on the NASA budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2009.

While there was no immediate agreement on how to do that, what is clear is that NASA could do the job if it were given the money for an extra space shuttle mission, before the shuttle fleet retires in October 2010.

Clearly, NASA is underfunded, and needs to have its total budget top line of $17.6 billion increased, lawmakers have said. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Feb. 18, 2008, and Monday, Feb. 4, 2008.)

The discussion began with questioning by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee space, aeronautics and related sciences subcommittee.

On a general level, Griffin agreed that the budget proposal for NASA is very tight, with little margin for unexpected costs or things going awry.

“The margins are quite small,” he said. “We don’t have the reserves” to cover problems “if things go badly wrong,” such as if a hurricane were to strike Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Such an exigency would require reprogramming money from other accounts, he said.

Nelson asked specifically about a very expensive experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), which at this point is sitting on the ground with no room on planned space shuttle flights to get it to the space station before the shuttles stop flying.

The AMS is big, 15,000 pounds, and so large that it would take up a fourth of the room in the cavernous cargo bay of a space shuttle.

And only the shuttles have the size and power to take AMS to orbit.

It is an experiment that would search cosmic rays for new types of matter, and has been the product of years of work by several nations and universities, all going for naught if some means can’t be found to lift it to space.

Nelson wanted to know whether smaller payloads could be removed from shuttle flights to the space station, thereby freeing enough room for AMS. Nelson ran through a lengthy list of items that might be removed from specific shuttle missions.

But Griffin responded that NASA experts have been through those exercises, over and over, and there just is no way to free up room for AMS without failing to haul items to orbit that the space station requires, and Griffin isn’t about to jeopardize the space station just to provide room for the AMS.

“Sir, we looked at that over and over again,” Griffin said. “I am out of options.” He did, however, agree to look at the issue yet again.

He also said he isn’t being an obstructionist here. “There seems to be a perception among your staff that I do not want to fly the AMS,” Griffin told Nelson. That is wrong, the space agency head stated, adding that “I do want to fly the AMS. I would like to find an option to fly the AMS,” so long as it didn’t imperil the space station.

But actually, there is an option that Congress could provide, one that would solve the problem: increase the total NASA budget by an amount sufficient to finance an extra shuttle mission to take AMS to orbit along with other items.

All Congress would need to do is loosen the purse strings and provide the money.

After the hearing, Space & Missile Defense Report asked Griffin whether an additional shuttle mission could be worked in before the mandated 2010 retirement of the shuttle fleet, and what an extra mission would cost.

“It would be notionally a few hundred million dollars for an additional shuttle launch, but I don’t want to be too precise about that,” he said. But yes, it would be possible to fit in another shuttle mission, he said, noting that the current manifest of shuttle missions ends in April 2010, and the shuttle fleet retirement date isn’t until October 2010.

“On a technical basis, could we fit in one more launch?” Griffin said. “Of course.”

To get things moving on that, however, it would be imperative to commit to that added flight by late this year or January year, he said.

New Reports Show Iranian, North Korean, Chinese Missile Threats Worsen As U.S. Moves To Advance Multi-Layered Ballistic Missile Defense

And Then There Is A Reawakening Russia

New reports confirm that multiple missile threats facing the United States are worsening, threats that years ago prompted Washington to institute a $100 billion, multi-year, multi-layered missile defense development program led by the Missile Defense Agency.

Iran, North Korea and China pose palpable and worsening threats, with both missile and nuclear programs, according to new assessments. And Russia continues to pose a formidable strategic threat.

One assessment was delivered by Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The other newly-presented perspective, by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, was an airing and discussion of its 2007 annual report to Congress that experts outlined on Capitol Hill last week.

While Iran is improving its military to counter any attack by a larger adversary such as the United States, Iran also can conduct offensive operations with ballistic missile and naval forces, Maples reported.

For example, Iran is procuring fast missile patrol boats and anti-ship cruise missiles and underwater mines, Maples noted.

Iranian Missiles

And, since early last year, “Iran has begun to invest heavily in advanced air defenses,” he added, “taking delivery of the advanced SA-15 tactical surface-to-air missile systems,” and at the end of last year “announced it will acquire the strategic, long-range SA-20.”

Not only are these weapons intimidating, they will permit Iran to defend key facilities, such as nuclear program centers, according to Maples.

While Israeli aircraft in 1981 demolished the Osirak plant where Iran was thought to be working toward nuclear weapons production, the Arab nation since has decentralized its nuclear processing facilities and moved them deep underground where they are resistant to air strikes.

Iran also is moving ahead with offensive missile capabilities.

“Regular Iranian ballistic missile training continues throughout the country, [and] Iran continues to develop and acquire ballistic missiles that can hit Israel and central Europe, including Iranian claims of an extended-range variant of the Shahab-3 [missile] and a new 2,000-km (1,243 miles) medium range ballistic missile … called the Ashura,” Maples reported. As far as Israel is concerned, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map.

“Beyond the steady growth in its missile and rocket inventories, Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with accuracy improvements and new sub- munition payloads,” Maples continued.

In defiance of outrage from industrialized nations and pressure from the United Nations, Iran is obstinate in continuing to produce nuclear materials, openly in a non-covert operation, that leaders of Western nations fear will be used to develop and build nuclear weapons. Iran says the materials are needed for nuclear electrical power generation, even though Russia has supplied enough nuclear material to fuel such a plant.

And the U.S. take on this?

On the one hand, Maples said that Iran halted its nuclear weaponization and covert uranium conversion and enrichment-related work in 2003.

But, Maples continued, “we assess that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. Iran continues to develop its enrichment program in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

According to Maples, at this point, “Iran is producing uranium enrichment feed material at Esfahan, claims to be enriching uranium in 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz and is working on more advanced centrifuges.

“It also continues to build a heavy water reactor at Arak which will be capable of producing plutonium that could be processed for use in a weapon.”

And there are other disquieting maneuvers by Iran, Maples said.

For example, “Tehran continues to seek dual-use biotechnical materials, equipment and expertise which have legitimate uses, but also could enable ongoing biological warfare efforts.”

Therefore, Maples continued, “We assess that Tehran maintains dual-use facilities intended to produce chemical warfare agents in times of need and conducts research that may have offensive applications.”

Thus there is in the Middle East, within missile range of Israel and Europe, a rogue and belligerent nation that not only moves to acquire longer-range missiles, but which also has a nuclear materials production program and is in a position to shift to production of biological weapons agents.

North Korea

North Korea has long-range artillery close to the demilitarized zone border with South Korea, “complimented by a substantial mobile ballistic missile force with an array of warhead options to include WMD that can strike U.S. forces and our allies in [South Korea] and Japan,” Maples reported.

Some analysts and lawmakers see the threat from North Korea diminished because a test of its longest-range missile ended in failure, with the missile destroyed. But Maples is not reassured by that.

“Development of the Taepo Dong 2, which has the potential to reach the continental United States with a nuclear payload, continues despite a failed July 2006 test launch,” Maples warned “North Korea also continues work on an intermediate range ballistic missile.”

He also is not totally convinced that a six-party agreement means North Korea is guaranteed to surrender and hand over its nuclear weapons and production facilities.

Should the six-party deal founder, such as if North Korea suddenly renounced its concessions, he predicted, then it “is likely to respond with resumed production of fissile material at Yongbyon while also increasing rhetoric intended to encourage a return to dialogue on [North Korean] terms. In such a scenario, additional missile or nuclear tests could occur.”

North Korea in 2006 successfully tested an atomic weapon in an underground detonation.

While some analysts have hailed North Korea for its entering into the six-party talks and a related deal, Maples remains wary.

“Although North Korea has halted and disabled portions of its nuclear program, we do not know the conditions under which Pyongyang would entirely abandon its nuclear weapons capability,” Maples said.

He cited some worrisome points.

North Korea “could have stockpiled several nuclear weapons from plutonium produced at Yonbyon [reactor] and it likely sought a uranium enrichment capability for nuclear weapons. It may also have proliferated nuclear-weapons-related technology abroad.”

North Korea, in 2002, shipped missiles to the Middle East, to Yemen. Though forces of Spain interdicted the shipment, it was declared legal and permitted to continue on its way.

“North Korea may be able to successfully mate a nuclear warhead to a mobile ballistic missile,” he cautioned.

Aside from nuclear weapons, North Korea has expertise in other weapons of mass destruction. “North Korea has had a longstanding chemical warfare program and we believe North Korea’s chemical warfare capabilities probably included the ability to produce bulk quantities of nerve, blister, choking and blood agents,” Maples told the lawmakers.

And it would be difficult for the United States to upbraid North Korea for contravening established norms here.

“North Korea has yet to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention and is not a member of the Australia Group,” Maples noted.

Then there is the biological weapons threat.

“North Korea possesses a biotechnical infrastructure that could support the production of biological warfare agents,” Maples stated.

“North Korea continues to research bacterial and viral biological agents that could support an offensive biological warfare program,” he reported. “This biological infrastructure combined with its weapons industry give North Korea a potentially robust biological warfare capability.”


China “is building and fielding sophisticated weapon systems and testing new doctrines that it believes will allow it to prevail in regional conflicts and also counter traditional U.S. military advantages,” Maples reported.

This Chinese rising military might is multifaceted, encompassing the entire panoply of weaponry.

“The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is building its own sophisticated aircraft, surface combatants, submarines and weapon systems while still buying others overseas,” such as from Russia, Maples reported.

He listed a few of the myriad new cutting-edge weapon systems that China is acquiring.

“China is integrating Russian-produced Kilo-class submarines and Sovremenny-class destroyers into the (PLA navy, or PLAN) as well as S-300 PMU2 surface-to-air [SAM] missiles and Su-27 aircraft into the air force,” Maples noted.

“China has developed and begun to deploy indigenous SAM systems which, together with SAMs imported from Russia, provide Beijing with a modern, layered, ground-based air defense capability to defend important assets,” Maples observed. “China bought four S-300 PMU-2 (SA-20) air defense battalions and intends to buy four more.

“This increases its engagement range out to 200 km,” or 124.3 miles.

That is more than the 100 miles of water in the Taiwan Strait separating Taiwan from the Chinese mainland, where China has assembled 1,300 radar-guided missiles aimed at Taiwan.

“China is developing a layered maritime capability with medium-range anti-ship ballistic missiles, submarines, maritime strike aircraft and surface combatants armed with increasingly sophisticated anti-ship cruise missiles,” according to Maples.

What this means is that the United States couldn’t send non-stealthy ships such as aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Strait to block China from invading Taiwan, as China has vowed to do if Taiwan doesn’t submit to rule by Beijing. Sending American ships into the strait would expose them to destruction by those Chinese missiles.

Therefore, the United States first would have to use super-stealth aircraft to take out those missile batteries, a job for the F-22 Raptor stealth supersonic fighter-attack aircraft.

However, there are fewer than 100 of those planes ready for operational duty now, and Congress is considering whether to cut off production at 183, or perhaps 20 more. It is unclear how the Air Force might persuade Congress to fund production of the 381 F-22s by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] that the Air Force says it requires.

Importantly, Maples said the United States sees China looking beyond the time when it might invade and conquer Taiwan, to a day when China would become a huge Asian force.

“China is looking beyond a potential Taiwan contingency and is pursuing capabilities needed to become a major regional power,” according to Maples’s testimony.

“The (PLAN) already operates a large surface and an increasingly modern submarine fleet and may be seeking to operate an aircraft carrier,” Maples continued. “The [PLA] air force is developing an extended-range, land-attack cruise-missile-capable bomber.”

China now must integrate all that hardware into a smooth operation, he added.

Then there is yet another facet of the rising Chinese military might, in space and counterspace capabilities.

They “have significant implications for U.S. space-based communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in a Taiwan Strait contingency and beyond,” he warned.

“Beijing operates communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [CISR] operations in a Taiwan Strait contingency and beyond,” he projected. “Beijing operates [CISR], navigation and Earth resource systems with military applications and will continue to field more advanced satellites through the next decade.”

Maples pointed to the successful Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) shot in January last year.

In addition to destroying its own weather satellite in orbit with a ground-based interceptor missile, “China also is developing jammers and kinetic and directed-energy weapons for ASAT missions,” he stated. China temporarily disabled a U.S. military satellite by “painting” it with a ground-based laser.

“Citing its manned and lunar space programs, China is improving its ability to track and identify satellites — a prerequisite for anti-satellite attacks,” he observed.

Then there is the elephantine Chinese missiles program.

“China is developing missiles of all ranges,” he said. “The CSS-10 Mod-X-2 (DF-31A) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) can strike the continental United States and is joining China’s operational inventory along with the less-capable DF-31” ICBM, Maples said.

“Other future ICBMs could include some with multiple, independently targeted reentry vehicles,” or MIRVs. As well, development continues “on the conventional DF-21 (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missile … variants which can hold U.S. regional assets at risk.”

Not only are these missiles formidable, they are becoming nigh-impregnable to attacks.

“China’s nuclear force is becoming more survivable with the deployment of DF-31 and DF-31A road-mobile ICBMs and the eventual deployment of the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile,” Maples continued.

Currently, China “has less than 50 ICBMs capable of targeting the United States; however the number of ICBM warheads capable of reaching the United States could more than double in the next 15 years, especially if MIRVs are employed. China has also fielded over 1,000 CSS-6 and CSS-7 conventional short-range ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan.”

While such missiles could target non-stealthy U.S. Navy surface ships such as destroyers and cruisers, and could lock onto U.S. aircraft carriers, the United States only now has just awarded contracts to build the first two radar-evading DDG 1000 Class destroyers, which won’t be operational for years. And the program to develop the stealthy coastal fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, is dead in the water, with two vessels (Freedom and Independence) not yet operational, and contracts for later copies canceled because of cost overrun concerns.

China “also is developing more capable conventional missiles able to range U.S. and allied military installations in the region,” Maples cautioned. “Chinese conventional missile upgrades may include maneuvering reentry vehicles with multiple constellation, satellite-aided navigation and terminal guidance.”

As grim as that picture is, it may grow darker.

“China’s nuclear weapon stockpile likely will grow over the next 10 years as new ballistic missiles are activated and older ones are upgraded,” according to Maples. “China likely has produced enough weapon-grade fissile material to meet its needs for the immediate future. In addition, China likely retains the capability to produce biological and chemical weapons.”

Could China, with all this burgeoning high-tech hardware, provide a nasty surprise, hitting the United States with an unexpected threat not foreseen by U.S. intelligence?

Here, the picture is not quite so clear.

While a military threat, China is, it should be noted, a huge trading partner of the United States, with vast Sino-American economic interactions. The U.S. imports about $300 billion more goods from China each year than China buys from the United States, meaning China has all that money to buy whatever it wishes, from large chunks of major U.S. corporations and banks, to the latest military gear.

Just how much money China is shelling out for a technologically advanced military is tough to tell, according to Maples. “China’s total military-related spending for [last year] could be as much as $85 [billion] to $125 billion,” he projected, noting that China’s announced military spending figures are far from realistic accounts of all outlays. For example, the PLA budget “still does not include large costs for strategic forces, foreign acquisitions, military-related research and development and paramilitary forces.

“China’s accounting opacity reflects a lack of institutional capacity as well as an unwillingness to comply with international standards for reporting military spending.

“China also remains reluctant to share details about its growing ASAT capabilities.”

Indeed, China has become a worrisome figure in space.

“Growing capabilities in counter-space, cyber warfare, electronic warfare and long-range precision strike could help China achieve strategic surprise,” Maples acknowledged. “Nevertheless, China’s security strategy emphasizes strategic defense, which integrates diplomacy, economics and information with conventional military operations.” Thus it is unlikely that Chinese military actions could catch the United States totally by surprise.

“If Beijing adheres to this strategy, we will have indications of Beijing’s concerns along with warning of imminent crises,” he estimated.

That said, however, he issued a caveat.

“While Chinese security strategy favors the defense, its operational doctrine does emphasize seizing the initiative through offensive action, including possible preemptive action. China does not view an offensive operational doctrine within the context of a strategic defense as contradictory.”

To view Maples’s testimony titled “Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States” in full before the committee, please go to on the Web and click on Testimonies & Speeches.

Chinese Missiles

A similar ominous portrait emerges from the Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

According to the report, China brandishes not one but three types of long-range ballistic that can strike targets in the United States from launch sites in China (see map on page 99 in the report).

One, the JL-2, with a range of 8,000 kilometers (4,971 miles) can hit targets as diverse as Minneapolis, Maui and Malibu; Los Angeles and Las Vegas; Seattle and San Francisco. Further, when mounted in a submarine launching tube, such as the nuclear-powered Jin Class, the JL-2 can be fired from beneath the Pacific Ocean and strike any target on the East Coast of the United States.

Two other Chinese ballistic missile weapon types, the DF-31A (which can be road-mobile and thus hard for an opponent to target) and the CSS-4, can be launched from within China and strike any target in the 50 United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, all of Europe, Asia including of course Japan, and Africa.

In other words, all three of these Chinese missile types hold at risk all of the highly industrialized nations in the world.

The report discusses the daunting Chinese capabilities in a section on catastrophic warfare.

“The PLA’s capacity to wage catastrophic warfare is improving, as development continues on both the nuclear and conventional components of China’s strategic missile forces,” the report stated.

“Although China officially maintains a ‘no first use’ policy with respect to its nuclear weapons, it is engaged in the modernization of its nuclear arsenal to improve both the survivability and the range of its strategic nuclear missile forces.”

The report casts an especially wary eye at the JL-2 embarked on the Jin Class nuclear-powered submarines, which have limitless range. The first Jin is expected to complete testing and be commissioned this year. With this advancement, “China will possess an even more survivable nuclear deterrent that could target most locations in the United States from protected underwater locations off China’s coast,” without the submarine even having to venture far out into the Pacific.

To be sure, the United States wields more nuclear-tipped missiles than China, and the principle of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, applies to China just as it did to the former Soviet Union.

In all this, China is moving to develop a defense industrial base that can produce cutting-edge military hardware on its own, rather than China purchasing weapons platforms from Russia or other foreign sources.

“The Chinese military industrial complex is modernizing to provide the weapon systems and components needed to achieve PLA objectives,” the report stated. Although much of the defense wares China buys may come from Russia or other foreigners, “Chinese defense manufacturers increasingly are becoming able to develop indigenous systems with new capabilities.”

At this point, it is true that China can’t modernize all of its defense industry segments simultaneously, since modernization is difficult and expensive, and therefore must advance first in the highest-priority segments. “Thus, Chinese defense industries are giving priority to sectors that are critical to PLA strategic objectives,” the report explained.

Once a decision is made to move in a given area, however, China is doing well.

For example, “Chinese shipyards are now building second-generation nuclear powered submarines, newly-designed frigates, and a large fleet of oil tankers to support naval operations in the event of a Taiwan conflict that would require carrying out blockade or sea lane denial missions, as well as delaying or deterring support from other countries” attempting to aid Taiwan, a clear reference to the U.S. Navy.

As well, “Chinese shipyards are building modern destroyers and frigates,” the report noted. “The Luzhou-class guided missile destroyer and Jiangkai II guided missile frigate complement China’s improvements in submarine technology with enhanced anti-surface and anti-air capabilities.”

These findings buttress Pentagon testimony earlier before the House Armed Services Committee, the report notes.

Further, Chinese aerospace and defense industries are moving ahead to develop systems for space and counter-space capabilities, such as China’s successful test last year of an anti-satellite ground-based interceptor missile to destroy one of its own weather satellites in orbit.

The report observes that China would wish to knock out U.S. satellites just before any Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

“Space and counter-space capabilities have considerable implications for carrying out disruptive missions in Taiwan Strait contingencies, as well as other possible mission involving space-dependent adversaries” such as the United States. “The United States would lose a significant technological edge [over China] if space-based assets were not available in such a conflict.”

That ability to smash to smithereens any U.S. satellite that Beijing targets is real and believable. “China has developed an advanced anti-satellite program consisting of an array of weapons that could destroy, damage, or temporarily incapacitate an adversary’s satellites,” such as the U.S. military birds in orbit on which American armed forces depend for communications, intelligence and more.

“The use of high energy lasers to temporarily blind U.S. satellites in late 2006 and the use of a direct-ascent anti-satellite kinetic weapon to destroy an aging Chinese satellite in early 2007 demonstrate that China now has this capacity,” the report warned.

China is honing its ASAT skills alongside another deeply disturbing capability, gaining the power to bring the U.S. business and financial sectors to their knees, and perhaps to deal a staggering blow to American military operations.

“Chinese military strategists have embraced disruptive warfare techniques, including the use of cyber attacks [by cadres of computer hackers assailing U.S. information- technology systems], and incorporated them in China’s military doctrine. Such attacks, if carried out strategically and on a large scale, could have catastrophic effects on the target country’s critical infrastructures.”

Aside from developing capabilities to demolish U.S. satellites, China also is moving to develop sophisticated satellites of its own.

“Chinese aerospace companies are now producing advanced imagery and reconnaissance satellites capable of military applications, and have plans to field satellites capable of infrared, multi-spectral, and synthetic aperture radar imaging” according to the report.

“Moreover, Chinese aerospace companies have developed and launched an indigenous navigation satellite constellation in which a group of carefully placed satellites working together provides a larger operational picture than any single satellite could provide.” Four Beidou satellites in orbit over China and nearby nations provide an accuracy within 20 meters, a significant advance over earlier systems.

Looking broadly at just how China is advancing high-tech innovations throughout its defense industry, Beijing is using technology from the United States, from Japan, and from Chinese civilian firms that have products with potential for dual-use (both military and civilian use) applications.

As to how China is gaining U.S. technology, sometimes that involves outright espionage. The report carries a rundown of recent moves by U.S. authorities to prosecute individuals spying for China, case after case (page 105 in the report). And aside from classic military spying, the report notes that China also is prosecuting “an aggressive and large-scale industrial espionage campaign.”

Between the traditional military spying and industrial secrets pilfering, “Chinese espionage activities in the United States are so extensive that they comprise the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies.”

One cautionary note must be raised: as worrisome as the commission report may be, it is based on the best U.S. intelligence estimates, and they have been proven wrong before, with Pentagon leaders being startled to learn that Chinese military advancement is far ahead of American estimates. In other words, Chinese espionage seems to be first-rank, while U.S. intel work sometimes is wanting.

“Several Chinese advances have surprised U.S. defense and intelligence officials, and raised questions about the quality of our assessments of China’s military capabilities,” the report noted.

What intelligence estimates say currently is that the “Chinese defense industry, while still lagging far behind that of the United States, has begun achieving noteworthy progress over the past years. New generations of warships, fighter aircraft, spacecraft, submarines, missiles, and other sophisticated weapon platforms are coming off production lines at an impressive pace and with impressive quality.”

The U.S.-China commission also heard testimony from several expert witnesses at a daylong hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

China is making territorial claims on vast maritime areas, according to Peter A. Dutton, associate professor in the China Maritime Studies institute at the U.S. Naval War College. The college is headquartered at Newport, R.I.

“The Chinese are seeking to alter the traditional balance of maritime rights between coastal states and the international community, especially in and above the Exclusive Economic Zone,” Dutton explained. That is a zone extending 200 miles from the China coastline. Taiwan, however, is but 100 miles from the mainland coast, and the United States and other nations say their ships have a right to traverse the strategically critical Taiwan Strait freely. In the 1990s, President Clinton sent U.S. Navy carrier groups into the strait to block Chinese hostilities, such as Beijing ordering missiles fired toward Taiwan.

China also claims as its territory certain islands in the South China Sea.

“China’s efforts to alter the balance of maritime rights are part of its overall anti-access strategy, and could have an impact on the perceived legitimacy of U.S. operations in the region, especially in times of crisis,” Dutton warned.

“In response, the [United States] should promote military engagement [with China] to build trust; communicate the expectation that China exercise international prerogatives in offshore waters and airspace; commit to the preservation of the legal freedoms at sea that belong to the international community; and maintain its commitment to naval strength in East Asia.”

Another witness before the commission warned that China is aggressively increasing the scope of its sovereign territorial claims.

For example, in 2001 a Chinese fighter aircraft was sent to intercept a U.S. Navy EP-3 intelligence plane that was flying quietly in international airspace.

The fighter came recklessly close to the EP-3, then collided with it, heavily damaging the Navy aircraft and imperiling the two dozen Navy men and women in uniform aboard it.

With their craft crippled, the Navy crew issued an international radio distress call that China refused to recognize, and then made an emergency landing on Hainan Island in Chinese territory, where Chinese troops rushed the aircraft, took the Navy crew prisoner, and ransacked the Navy plane in an attempt to obtain U.S. intelligence and hardware secrets.

China held the crew prisoner for 10 days until the United States issued an apology (“very sorry … very sorry) for the Navy crew landing the plane on Chinese territory.

That is what can happen when a belligerent China oversteps its bounds, according to Philip A. Meek, U.S. Air Force associate general counsel for international affairs.

“Although these flights by U.S. Navy aircraft were lawful under international law, China nevertheless deployed military fighter aircraft to harass the Navy EP-3, with unfortunate results.”

Meek said one must wonder what sort of novel territorial claims may next erupt from Beijing, perhaps asserting that it owns any portion of outer space over China.

“Since Chinese authors have voiced similar objections to [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] satellites passing over China’s territory and its [exclusive economic zone, or EEZ], it is conceivable that China would assert the rationale of the [EEZ] … as their claimed legal basis for any attacks on these satellites in outer space.

“Further, China might extend its actions beyond ISR satellites and enforce any alleged territorial claims in outer space by engaging commercial communications satellites and direct broadcasting satellites that pass overhead and broadcast materials China considered objectionable or a threat to its national security.”

If China passes laws claiming that its territory extends vertically through the stratosphere and into outer space, that “definitely would be a cause for concern,” Meek cautioned.

Another possibility is whether China might wage cyber warfare against computer IT networks of other nations if those networks contain materials drawing Chinese displeasure.

China might attempt to mount lawsuits or revoke business licenses of those firms, and failing that, “China might resort to computer network attack to remedy what it perceives as a security threat to China,” Meek stated.

Any Chinese move to wage cyber warfare “would affect the national security of the [United States] and other space faring nations adversely,” Meek continued, with his warning encompassing U.S. military, civil and commercial space and cyberspace assets, and encompassing economic damage as well.

“Any attempt by China to establish territorial claims in outer space would strike at the very core of space law and should be strongly opposed at all levels of government,” Meek advised, and his words there encompass not merely U.S. interests, but rather global interests. “All nations that benefit from space would be affected adversely,” he stated. “The global economy is dependent upon the fundamental priciples of freedom of navigation in outer space, and upon the inability of nations to assert territorial claims in space.”

The U.S.-China commission report, a 351-page bound volume, can be viewed in full, along with testimony presented to the commission on Capitol Hill last week, by going to on the Web and looking for the 2007 “Report to Congress of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission” at the Web site home page.


Turning back to Maples, the Defense Intelligence Agency director, it may be that what is past is prologue.

While the West may regard the Cold War as the bad old days, for some Russian leaders it may be a time viewed with nostalgia, days when Russia was one of only two superpowers, and respected as such, or at least greatly feared.

“Russia is trying to re-establish a degree of military power that it believes is commensurate with its renewed economic strength and general political confidence,” Maples said.

That economic strength derives in part from the shift from a planned, centralized economy to a semi-capitalist system, and from Russia becoming an exporting power, selling goods around the world ranging from big-ticket military hardware to huge amounts of energy supplies.

“Perceived Western encroachment into its claimed areas of interest and Islamic or insurgent threats along its periphery are driving Russia’s current military activities and modernization efforts,” Maples observed.

Moscow again wishes to be a preeminent player on the global stage.

“Russia’s widely publicized strategic missile launches, increased long-range aviation flights and Kuznetsov carrier strike group deployment are meant to signal Moscow’s continued global reach and relevance to domestic and international audiences,” Maples stated.

Another way that Russia is telling the planet that it’s back, big as ever, is in its military buildup, financed from a newly flush government treasury.

“Russia has made a major commitment of almost 5 trillion rubles to its 2007-2015 budget to develop and build new conventional and nuclear weapon systems, with Moscow’s priority on maintenance and modernization of the latter,” Maples disclosed.

And these will be impressive advancements, if — if — they work.

“Development and production of advanced strategic weapons such as the SS-27/TOPOL-M ICBM and the Bulava-30 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) continues,” Maples reported. “In April, Russia rolled out the first Dolgorukiy-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) designed to carry the Bulava-30 SLBM which continues testing despite several publicized failures.”

Still, Russia has older submarine-based ICBMs that work.

Russia as well is developing a combination short-range ballistic missile and cruise missile, and it may be expanded later to encompass new artillery and multiple rocket launching systems.

And there are new road-mobile ICBMs, and a Topol-M with a multiple independent reentry vehicle warhead.

Further, “Russia retains a relatively large stockpile of non-strategic nuclear warheads,” Maples observed.

And that is a concern, for fear terrorists may strike and steal such weapons or fissile materials to use in attacks against the West.’

There’s more.

Some Russian scientists have been “publicizing information on chemical agents designed to circumvent international arms control agreements and to defeat Western detection and protection measures. Such work may be continuing today,” Maples stated.

While use of such weapons hasn’t been seen among advanced nations since the first half of the 20th century, that may not still be true where Russia is concerned. “Russia may consider using chemical or even biological agents in counterterrorism situations as demonstrated by its use of chemical incapacitants to resolve the Dubrovka Theater hostage situation in 2002,” Maples asserted.

He also provided the commission with estimates of potential threats in other nations, including Syria and Pakistan, and problems posed by such factors as rogue nations with deeply buried weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities.

GAO: U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Meets Most Test Objectives; Missile Defense Agency Budgeting Improved, But Could Be Better

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has improved its budget processes so they are more like those in conventional federal agencies, but MDA still needs to improve the transparency and accountability in the way it keeps its books, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) presentation to Congress.

Paul Francis, GAO director of acquisition and sourcing management, presented the report and testified before the House

Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee at a closed hearing. His prepared testimony and report was available on the GAO website.

“In the past year, MDA has fielded additional and new assets, enhanced the capability of some existing assets, and achieved most test objectives,” Francis testified.

MDA has seen missile defense systems score repeated hits against target missiles, with repeated successes over the past several years.

But the GAO frowns upon some MDA budgeting moves. Congress gave the agency extraordinary budget flexibility to help spur rapid development of a shield against enemy missiles, as ballistic weapons proliferate around the globe, and are now found in rogue states.

GAO criticized the way MDA uses budgetary “blocks,” such as Block 2006.

“MDA did not meet the goals it originally set for the block,” the GAO stated. “Ultimately, MDA fielded fewer assets, increased costs by about $1 billion and conducted fewer tests. Even with the cost increase, MDA deferred work to keep costs from increasing further, as some contractors overran their fiscal year 2007 budgets. Deferring work obscures the cost of the block because such work is no longer counted as part of Block 2006.”

And the GAO took issue with some other MDA budget procedures.

“The cost of the block may have been further obscured by a way of planning work used by several contractors that could underestimate the actual work completed. If more work has to be done, MDA could incur additional costs that are not yet recognized.”

On another point, the GAO quarreled with the way MDA measures performance of ballistic missile defense systems (BMDS).

“MDA also sets goals for determining the overall performance of the BMDS,” the GAO official noted. “Similar to other DOD programs, MDA uses models and simulations to predict BMDS performance. We were unable to assess whether MDA met its overall performance goal because there have not been enough flight tests to provide a high confidence that the models and simulations accurately predict BMDS performance. Moreover, the tests done to date have been developmental in nature, and do not provide sufficient realism for DOD’s test and evaluation Director to determine whether BMDS is suitable and effective for battle.”

On one point, however, the GAO conceded that giving MDA its extraordinary budget flexibility helped MDA get missile defense systems developed and ready for work.

“While this flexibility has expedited BMDS fielding, it has also made MDA less accountable and transparent in its decisions than other major programs, making oversight more challenging,” the GAO stated.

To be sure, “MDA, with some direction from Congress, has taken significant steps to address these concerns. MDA implemented a new way of defining blocks — its construct for developing and fielding BMDS increments — that should make costs more transparent. For example, under the newly-defined blocks, MDA will no longer defer work from one block to another.”

On another point, the GAO also praised MDA.

“Accountability should also be improved as MDA will for the first time estimate unit costs for selected assets and report variances from those estimates. DOD also chartered a new executive board with more BMDS oversight responsibility than its predecessor.

“Finally, MDA will begin buying certain assets with procurement funds like other programs. This will benefit transparency and accountability, because to use procurement funding generally means that assets must be fully paid for in the year they are bought.

Previously, MDA has been able to pay for assets incrementally using research and development funds.”

But even with all of those moves and acknowledged progress, the GAO still isn’t satisfied with the MDA budget process.

“Some oversight concerns remain, however,” according to Francis. “For example, MDA does not plan to estimate the total cost of a block, nor to have a block’s costs independently verified — actions required of other programs to inform decisions about affordability and investment choices. Also, the executive board faces a challenge in overseeing MDA’s large technology development efforts and does not have approval authority for some key decisions made by MDA.”

To view the report and testimony titled “Defense Acquisitions: Assessment of DOD Efforts to Enhance Missile Defense Capabilities and Oversight” in full, please go to GAO-08- 506T at on the Web.

Israel Has No Choice In Mounting Missile Defense, Even If Costs Are Huge, Israeli Ambassador Says

Terrorists, Insurgents Now Hitting Israel With Perhaps 16 Missiles Daily May Increase That To 100 To 200

Terrorist groups attacking Israel already have moved from an average of perhaps five missiles slashing into Israel daily, to 16 or so now, and that toll may rise to 100 to 200 enemy missiles bombarding Israel soon, according to Sallai Meridor, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.

While the attackers may be able to use cheap rockets and missiles to assail Israel, ballistic missile defense interceptors can be expensive, meaning that a sustained massive missile barrage raining down on Israel could pose a huge financial burden, Meridor said.

But, he added, “what are the alternatives you have” aside from using missile defense systems to defend innocent civilians and property from ruination and death?

Meridor, meeting with several reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, responded to a question from Space & Missile Defense Report as to whether the attackers, if they bombard Israel with hundreds of missiles, could impose a gigantic financial burden on Israel as it attempts to use missile interceptors to ward off the blows.

“The answer is yes,” Meridor said.

And clearly, he said, Israel is going to be facing ever-increasing numbers of enemy missiles slamming into its homes, shops, and businesses.

The problem, he said, is that the attackers are able to obtain increasingly high quality munitions that last much longer, and thereby permit the attackers to amass much larger arsenals of missiles.

Hamas, a terrorist group, has moved from low-grade explosives that could only be stored for weeks or months before expiring, to “high quality explosives” that can last “for many years,” he explained. That means that the attackers now can store “hundreds or thousands” of missiles and rockets before unleashing an attack, he said.

He translated what this means for Israel by putting it in U.S. terms.

If, he said, only three enemy missiles landed on Washington, D.C., each day, nonetheless it is likely that very few people would come to work or shop in Washington.

For Israel, with 16 rockets a day, and the likelihood that soon 100 or 200 a day may slam down on civilian targets, the unending attack has been an economic disaster, he said.

And then there is the financial burden of mounting an adequate defense, to have enough interceptors to knock down the incoming weapons, he observed.

Like the United States, Israel has a layered ballistic missile defense program, with separate types of interceptors geared to taking down short-range, medium-range and long- range incoming missiles.

For example, the long-range defense is the Arrow, an interceptor program conducted jointly by Israel Aircraft Industries and The Boeing Co. [BA]. Boeing produces many components for the Arrow system in the United States.

European Missile Defense

Boeing also is involved in the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, which is installed in Alaska and California to guard against enemy missiles launched by Asian nations at U.S. targets.

The United States also proposes adding a third GMD site in Europe, with a radar in the Czech Republic and perhaps 10 interceptors in silos in Poland. Those countries are negotiating with the United States to provide sites.

The European GMD system would guard against missiles that Iran might launch against European targets, or U.S. troops stationed there. As well, U.S. officials have said the European GMD system could hit Iranian missiles if they were aimed at targets in Israel.

Space & Missile Defense Report asked Meridor if that would be a viable defense for Israel.

On the one hand, Meridor said he is “not sure [the European GMD] would be sufficiently relevant for the defense of Israel.” Yet at the same time, he added, “we are in close cooperation with the United States on every option” for defending Israel from missile attacks.

And Israel is very concerned about the growing Iranian missile threat.

Iran has fired multiple missiles in a single test; developed or obtained ever-longer-range missiles; fired a missile from a submerged submarine; and persisted in producing nuclear materials in the face of condemnation from developed countries concerned that Iran may build nuclear weapons to mount on its missiles.

Also, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be wiped from the map.

“We are taking seriously the Iranian threat,” Meridor said, noting that even conventional warheads on missiles Iran supplied to terrorists have caused severe damage in Israel.

Joint Strike Fighter

Turning to military aircraft, Meridor commented on the globalized program to produce the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), which in the United States is called the Lightning II.

This supersonic stealth fighter is being developed by a contractor team led by prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], with Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and BAE Systems playing key roles.

Asked whether Israel may purchase 100 of the swept-wing fighters, Meridor said he couldn’t provide a definitive answer. But he indicated that Israel is interested in the warplane, and that there is a high potential of that interest resulting in a significant buy.

As to details of whether it would be, for example, the conventional JSF that takes off from a runway or the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing, or STOVL, version, Meridor declined to say. “I cannot tell you exactly how many and what configuration, and when” Israel might announce a purchase of the planes, he said.

Bush Continues Talks With Czech Leader On European Missile Defense

President Bush said he spoke last week with Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Republic prime minister, to again press the U.S. call for creation of a Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in Europe.

GMD systems now are installed in Alaska and California, and the European system would be a third site, guarding against missiles that Iran might launch toward targets in Europe.

If built, the GMD system would include a radar in the Czech Republic, and interceptors in silos in Poland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has opposed installation of the GMD system in Europe, claiming it would threaten Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, an assertion roundly dismissed by U.S. leaders.

“I believe it’s in our interests to try to figure out a way for the Russians to understand the system is not aimed at them, but aimed at the real threats of the 21st century, which could be a launch from a violent regime — a launch of a weapon of mass destruction,” Bush said.

He spoke with reporters after the election of Dmitry Medvedev to succeed Putin as president of Russia. But Putin likely will have huge continuing clout in another post.

It will be interesting, Bush mused, to see who — Putin or Medvedev — shows up to represent Russia at the next Group of Eight Nations heads of state meeting.

The United States will wish to work with whomever runs Russia, to seek to prevent terrorists or rogue states from capturing Russian weapons of mass destruction.

“It’s in our interest to be able to make sure that materials that could cause great harm aren’t proliferated,” Bush said.

He also praised Russia for supplying nuclear material to Iran to power a nuclear electrical generating station, noting that the Russian move eliminates any pretext Iran might assert for its continued production of nuclear materials.

While Iran says the materials would be for peaceful electrical generation, Western leaders fear Iran may be assembling fissile materials to construct nuclear weapons.

Bush said whomever is elected in November to succeed him in the White House, the next U.S. president should work diligently to foster better relations with Russia.

Critic Assails U.S. ASAT Shot, But Also Predicts It Will Aid Aegis Missile Defense System In Gaining Full $1.2 Billion Funds

The United States move to shoot down an errant, dysfunctional intelligence satellite was unrealistic, but the successful shot probably will ensure that Congress provides the full requested $1.2 billion for the Aegis sea-based ballistic missile defense program in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, a missile defense critic stated.

Victoria Samson, a research analyst with the Center for Defense Information think tank in Washington, also asserted that the anti-satellite (ASAT) shoot-down cost $100 million.

President Bush ordered the shoot-down because the intel satellite contained a fuel tank filled with 1,000 pounds of toxic hydrazine, fearing the material might crash into a populated area somewhere around the world when the dead satellite reentered the atmosphere and plunged to the ground.

Samson said the shoot-down wasn’t typical for an Aegis ballistic missile operation, something that Pentagon leaders have stated as well.

The system uses the Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] Aegis weapons control and radar system and a Raytheon Co. [RTN] Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor missile.

According to Samson, the shoot-down operation wasn’t representative of a ballistic missile defense shot because the Aegis system and SM-3 were primed to know where to look for the non-functional satellite; it is much larger than a typical enemy missile warhead; the ASAT shot was delayed until seas calmed; software and hardware were changed from the usual missile defense versions; officials waited to take the ASAT shot until the sun came out and warmed up the satellite to make it more visible to the Aegis system, and more.

To view Samson’s paper titled “Shooting down USA-193: A $100 million shot to be followed by even greater political costs” in entirety, please go to on the Web.


Space Shuttle Endeavour Cleared For Launch March 11 At 2:28 A.M. In Dark, With Flashbulbs Popping For Pics

U.S. ASAT Shot Demolishing Errant Intel Satellite Creates Little Increased Chance Space Debris Will Hit Endeavour During Its STS-123 Mission

ATV Launch Set For March 8; Delta Launches This Month

Space Shuttle Endeavour was cleared for launch in the dark at 2:28 a.m. March 11 from Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, on a long 16-day mission to the International Space Station that will include a grueling five spacewalks, top NASA officials said at a press briefing.

Because this won’t be a day-lit launch, the ascent will be photographed using a radical new piece of technology added to the spaceship: flashbulbs.

Actually, they will be a couple of standard off-the-shelf electronic flash units by a Japanese digital camera maker. Those units will flash every two seconds.

Endeavour will be the first shuttle to head into space since the United States successfully demolished a dysfunctional intelligence satellite using a sea-based ballistic missile defense system.

When a Standard Missile-3 interceptor smashed into the satellite to destroy it, that created many pieces of space debris, much of which descended into the atmosphere and burned up during reentry.

Some debris pieces remain in orbit. But they pose little risk to the shuttle, raising chances it will be hit by a piece of debris to 1 in 259 from 1 in 269 for the entire mission, NASA figures.

Overall, Endeavour is in great shape to blast off on the STS-123 mission to install part of the Japanese Kibo laboratory on the International Space Station.

NASA crews “are not working a lot of issues” in the smooth flow of work heading for the March 11 launch, Bill Gerstenmaier, associate NASA administrator for space operations, said.

The Endeavour mission means that Japan will now have a working control center on the ground, linked to its laboratory.

There also is a control center in Germany for the European Columbus laboratory module on the space station.

And, In Toulouse, France, there will be a control center operating when the first European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is launched March 8 to supply the space station.

Endeavour will have launch opportunities March 11 and 12, and then if liftoff is delayed, stand down for five days to make way for a Delta rocket launch.

Endeavour in that case would next have a launch opportunity March 17.

Although NASA has encountered problems with a solar array rotary joint on a giant electrical generating panel on the space station, there will be ample power for the station, Gerstenmaier indicated. A new trundle bearing assembly will be installed on this shuttle mission to help the electrical array move better to follow the sun.

SpaceX Falcon 1 Rocket Tests On Merlin 1C Engine Complete; Launch Expected This Spring

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) completed qualification testing of its Merlin 1C next generation liquid fueled rocket booster engine for use in the Falcon 1 rocket.

Tests were conducted at the SpaceX Texas Test Facility near Waco, Texas, on a Merlin 1C configured for powering the first stage of a Falcon 1 rocket.

After completing development testing in November, the qualification program began to verify the final design features on an actual production engine, clearing the way for full- scale manufacturing.

“Our propulsion and test teams finished the qualification program with a record-breaking day that included four full mission duration firings on the engine,” said Tom Mueller, vice president of propulsion for SpaceX. “This marathon run brought the total operating time on a single engine to over 27 minutes, which is more than ten complete flights. The engine meets or exceeds all requirements for thrust, performance and durability.”

“This was the final development milestone required for the next Falcon 1 flight,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “In the coming weeks we’ll begin qualifying Merlin for the higher thrust and performance levels required by our Falcon 9 rocket, keeping us on track for delivering the first Falcon 9 vehicle to Cape Canaveral by year end.”

The single Merlin 1C will power the next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off this spring from the SpaceX launch complex in the Central Pacific atoll of Kwajalein. The far larger Falcon 9 uses nine Merlins on the first stage, and a single Merlin in vacuum configuration powers the Falcon 9 second stage.

The Merlin 1C is an improved version of the Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine, which lofted the Falcon 1 on its first flight in March 2006 and second flight in March 2007. The regeneratively cooled Merlin 1C uses rocket propellant grade kerosene (RP-1), a refined form of jet fuel, to first cool the combustion chamber and nozzle before being combined with the liquid oxygen to create thrust. This cooling allows for higher performance without significantly increasing engine mass.

In its Falcon 1 configuration, Merlin 1C has a thrust at sea level of 78,000 pounds, a vacuum thrust of 90,000 pounds and a vacuum specific impulse of 301 seconds. In generating this thrust, Merlin consumes 300 pounds a second of propellant and the chamber and nozzle, cooled by 90 pounds a second of kerosene, are capable of absorbing 10 MW of heat energy.

The Merlin engine is the first new American booster engine in ten years and only the second in over a quarter century. The prior two American engines were the RS-68 developed in the late nineties by Pratt & Whitney’s RocketDyne division, used in the Boeing Delta IV launch vehicle, and the Space Shuttle Main Engine developed in the late seventies, also by RocketDyne. With a production rate of one engine per week by late this year, SpaceX will produce more rocket booster engines than the rest of U.S. production combined and more than any country except Russia, according to SpaceX.

Launch Schedule


Date: March 11

Mission: STS-123

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 2:28 a.m. EDT

Description: Mission STS-123 on Space Shuttle Endeavour will deliver the Kibo Japanese Experiment Logistics Module – Pressurized Section (ELM-PS) on the twenty-fifth mission to the International Space Station.

Date: April 17 *

Mission: STSS ATRR – Missile Defense Agency

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

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

Launch Time: **

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 16

Mission: GLAST

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17 – Pad 17-B

Launch Window: 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. EDT

Description: An heir to its successful predecessor — the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory — the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope will have the ability to detect gamma rays in a range of energies from thousands to hundreds of billions of times more energetic than the light visible to the human eye. Radiation of such magnitude can only be generated under the most extreme conditions, thus GLAST will focus on studying the most energetic objects and phenomena in the universe.

Date: May 25 +

Mission: STS-124

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 7:26 p.m. EDT

Description: Space Shuttle Discovery on mission STS-124 will transport the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module – Pressurized Module (JEM-PM) and the Japanese Remote Manipulator System (JEM-RMS) to the International Space Station.

Date: June 15

Mission: OSTM

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

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

Launch Time: 4:47 a.m. EDT/1:47 a.m. PDT

Description: The Ocean Surface Topography Mission on the Jason-2 satellite will be a follow-on to the Jason mission.

Date: July 15

Mission: IBEX

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL Rocket

Launch Site: Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll

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: Aug. 8 *

Mission: GOES-O

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta IV

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17

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.

Date: Aug. 14 +

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: Aug. 28 +

Mission: STS-125

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 8:24 a.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: Oct. 16 +

Mission: STS-126

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

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

Date: Oct. 28


Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

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

Description: The mission objectives of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite are to advance the Vision for Space Exploration by confirming the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at either the Moon’s North or South Pole.

Date: Dec. 1 *

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: Dec. 4 +

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: Dec. 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. 1

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. 16

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: March 1

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.


NASA Gives Lockheed $47.5 Million Contract For Space Shuttle Fuel Tanks

NASA gave Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] a $47.5 million contract change for external fuel tanks to be mated to space shuttle orbiter vehicles in future missions.

Lockheed will make the tanks at New Orleans, at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility.

The contract change calls for final assembly of one tank, partial manufacture of a tank and acquisition of component parts for one additional tank to serve as spares, according to NASA.

That cost plus award fee/incentive fee contract will conclude Sept. 30, 2010, when the shuttle fleet is mandated to stop flying.

This latest pact brings the total value of the contract with Lockheed, awarded in October 2000, to $2.93 billion, calling for the delivery of 18 external tanks to NASA.

Work will be performed at Michoud; Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Lockheed Martin builds, assembles and tests the space shuttle external tanks for NASA at the Michoud facility. The external tank holds the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen for the shuttle’s three main engines. It is the largest single component of the space shuttle and the only part of the shuttle that is not reused.

At 154 feet tall, the gigantic rust-colored tank is taller than a 15-story building and as wide as a silo, with a diameter of about 27.5 feet. During launch, the tank acts as the structural backbone for the shuttle orbiter and the solid rocket boosters attached to it.

The tanks that Lockheed will work on under the contract change are far different from the tank that caused a problem leading to loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia orbiter vehicle and crew of seven in 2003.

Then, a chunk of foam insulation on the tank ripped loose and struck the orbiter vehicle during ascent, punching a hole in the heat shield leading edge of a wing. Later, during reentry, fiery hot atmospheric gases rushed into the wing, melting structural components and leading to loss of the orbiter vehicle.

Tanks that Lockheed will work on will incorporate many design changes to lessen risks of foam loss.

SGT Gains Up To $100 Million NASA Contract To Support Constellation Program

NASA awarded SGT Inc. of Greenbelt, Md., a contract worth up to $100 million to support the Constellation Program developing the next-generation U.S. spacecraft.

The Constellation fleet includes the Orion crew vehicle, the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles and Altair human lunar lander.

That SGT contract has a potential value of $60 million, with options that can take it up to $100 million.

Work will be performed at Johnson Space Center in Houston with additional work possible at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

SGT Inc. will provide program planning and control services supporting the Constellation Program. Services include the program’s business management, configuration and data management, requirements analysis and integration, schedule management and integration and technology protection.

The base period of the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-award-fee contract is three years, effective April 11. The base value is not to exceed $60 million. Two one-year extension options are available and could bring the total contract value to $100 million.

Northrop, Loral To Join In Seeking Government Satellite Contracts

Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and Loral Space & Communications [LORL] will work together in seeking government satellite contracts, the companies announced Wednesday.

Loral Space is a unit of Space Systems/Loral (SS/L), which will gain expanded satellite manufacturing capacity by using Northrop test facilities and services in Redondo Beach, Calif.

While the new cooperative effort would have sizable assets, it enters a market field already dominated by the two biggest defense contractors on the planet, Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] and The Boeing Co. [BA].

In the Northrop-SS/L deal, each company stands to gain something from the other.

While SS/L gains access to Northrop facilities, rather than SS/L having to lay out substantial capital to build them on its own, Northrop will be able to use the SS/L 1300 satellite and other SS/L components when Northrop bids on satellite contracts.

As well, payloads that Northrop designs and builds can be included on SS/L commercial satellites.

There also will be collaboration between the Northrop Astro Aerospace unit in Carpinteria, Calif., producer of AstroMesh reflectors, with SS/L for future commercial satellite applications.

“The agreement with Northrop Grumman will allow SS/L to cost-effectively add capacity to address increased near-term commercial satellite opportunities,” said Pat DeWitt, Space Systems/Loral CEO. The team arrangement will permit the two firms to pursue both defense and commercial satellite contracts, he said.

Alexis Livanos, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Space Technology, detailed a plus in the arrangement.

“For some of our mission areas, we believe that assured access to SS/L’s 1300 bus and bus subsystems would improve our cost and delivery schedule competitiveness. In addition, hosted payloads hold the promise of providing us greater ability and flexibility to rapidly respond to our government customers’ evolving needs.”

Northrop also has formed bonds with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to expand satellites offerings.

For example, last April, Northrop and IAI teamed to build and launch operational surveillance satellites in a responsive production cycle to provide U.S. government users with all-weather, day/night imaging capabilities. The initiative is a rapid response, low-risk and affordable space-based radar imaging system designed for 24-hour surveillance in all weather conditions from a low Earth orbit.

The system is planned as an operationally responsive space initiative that can deliver critical new capabilities to users about 28 months after authorization to proceed.

That move to offer rapid satellite creation and orbiting came just a few months after China, in January last year, proved it can demolish U.S. military and commercial satellites in orbit. China used a ground-based interceptor missile to demolish one of its own aging weather satellites. Too, China has used a ground-based laser to “paint” and disable a U.S. military satellite.

U.S. leaders are seeking ways to replace, swiftly, any satellites that may be destroyed in anti-satellite, or ASAT, attacks.

Hughes Gains Role In Intelsat Satellite System

Hughes Network Systems, LLC will provide the HX broadband satellite platform for an Intelsat Ku-band broadband maritime service, Hughes announced.

Intelsat will deliver its new service via a limited number of distributor partners in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico regions starting in the middle of this year.

Extensive Intelsat satellite coverage and market presence help to position both companies for success in delivering yachting broadband services.

Space Systems/Loral Gets SES Contract For Satellite

Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) will provide a new satellite to SES New Skies, SS/L announced. SS/L is a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications [LORL].

Designed as the largest most powerful satellite in the SES fleet, NSS-14 expands and enhances the company’s ability to provide fixed satellite services to the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

NSS-14 is the second satellite contract that SES awarded to SS/L and it is designed to be located at 338 degrees East, one of the most highly demanded orbital locations for trans-Atlantic traffic.

The spacecraft is a state-of-the-art, hybrid C- and Ku-band satellite that includes SS/L’s heritage ion propulsion system and a 15 year design life.

Space Systems/Loral currently has six 20-kW satellites under construction that are based on its 1300 satellite platform. The 1300 bus, which is the basis for both NSS-12 and NSS-14, features a long record of operation. In all, SS/L satellites have amassed more than 1,400 years of on-orbit service.

NSS-14 has been specifically designed for its orbital location, with C-band beams serving the eastern hemisphere of Europe/Africa, full Americas coverage as well as a Global beam to support mobile and maritime customers. Four high-powered, regional Ku-band beams will provide service to Europe/Middle East, West Africa, North America and South America with extensive cross-strapping between C- and Ku-band transponders providing enhanced connectivity.

Raytheon Finishes Communications Upgrade For NPOESS

Raytheon Co. [RTN] completed a communications upgrade for the Antarctica area for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), Raytheon announced.

The upgrade of the off-continent satellite communications link at McMurdo Station more than triples the bandwidth available for scientific research, weather prediction, and health and safety of those stationed at McMurdo. The project is part of the NPOESS command, control, and communications segment.

“This upgrade paves the way for a second major communications upgrade planned for 2012 in preparation for the use of McMurdo Station as one of 15 NPOESS ground stations worldwide,” said Mike Mader, vice president of the Raytheon NPOESS program. “NPOESS will be significant to monitoring global environmental conditions and will collect and disseminate data related to weather, atmosphere, oceans, land and near-space environment.”

The McMurdo project consisted of upgrading one of the two satellite earth station antennas located at Black Island as well as changing satellite service and terrestrial network vendors providing the 10 Mbps (megabit per second) service for McMurdo. The work began in early October as Raytheon Polar Services Company upgraded the electrical systems at Black Island. The antenna was fitted with a new Ku-band feed and electronics by Raytheon Information and Intelligence Systems (IIS) in late November and the new system was placed into operation Dec. 23.

Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] is the prime contractor and has overall responsibility for the NPOESS program development effort.

Raytheon is part of the Northrop-led NPOESS team.

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