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Arianespace plans 12 launch missions in 2013 with 11 missions from their French Guiana Spaceport, including six heavy-lift Ariane 5 launches, four medium-lift Soyuz flights and one with the light-lift Vega.

A Soyuz liftoff on February 4, at Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, was operated by Arianespace’s Euro-Russian Starsem subsidiary. The Soyuz mission at Baikonur carried six Globalstar second-generation satellites.

Built by Thales, the satellites utilize “bent-pipe” architecture. Due to the lack of inter-satellite linking (unlike Iridium), a satellite must have a gateway station in view to provide service. The call is routed to the appropriate gateway where the call travels through the terrestrial telecommunications system.

On February 7, an Ariane 5 lofted the Amazonas 3 and Azerspace/Africasat telecom satellites.

The French Guiana Spaceport will also launch two missions with four satellites each for O3b Networks, and two flights with a pair of Galileo (European satellite navigation) spacecraft this year.

The 10 contracts signed for commercial satellite payloads to be delivered to GTO (geostationary transfer orbit) represented a 60 percent share of this market worldwide in 2012, and were in addition to a new order inked for a dedicated medium Earth orbit mission with Galileo satellites.

O3B refers to the “Other 3 Billion” and is primarily intended as a backhaul service for cellular phones in remote countries that do not have a wire line infrastructure. They will also be serving existing, high end maritime markets like the cruise industry.

Each 03B satellite will have 12, fully steerable Ka-Band antennas. Two will target the terrestrial gateways while the other 10 will target the coverage areas. Each beam will have a throughput capacity of 600 Mbps in each direction.

Eight satellites will be spaced 45 degrees apart, orbiting around the equator, in a non-inclined orbit. The beam footprints will have a diameter of about 600 km between 45N and 45S and will be dynamically steered as the satellite moves.

O3b customer terminals have a pair of 1.8 meter Ka band tracking antennas. One antenna acquires and follows a rising O3b satellite in MEO orbit while the second antenna is parked in a home position for the next rising satellite.

O3B Networks was awarded a contract by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines to provide high-speed broadband service to the their Oasis of the Seas, which is the world’s largest cruise ship carrying 8000 passengers and crew.

The Launch Services Alliance, an initiative of Arianespace, Boeing Launch Services and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, combines the strength of three leading launch service providers to ensure on-time missions.

International Launch Services is a U.S.-Russian joint venture with exclusive rights to the worldwide sale of commercial Proton rocket launch services from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. ILS was formed in 1995 as a private spaceflight partnership between Lockheed Martin, Khrunichev and Energia.

Sea Launch is a Russian spacecraft launch service that uses a mobile sea platform for equatorial launches of commercial payloads on specialized Zenit 3SL rockets. It was established in 1995 as a consortium of four companies from Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, managed by Boeing. It was sold to Russian interests in October 2010 after going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Boeing has sued its Russian and Ukrainian partners, saying they refused to pay it more than $350 million following the joint-venture’s bankruptcy filing in 2009. As part of the plan of reorganization, a subsidiary of RSC Energia increased its ownership to 95 percent. Boeing and Kvaerner, now called Aker Maritime Finance AS, split the remaining 5 percent.

Cynics might say Lockheed and Boeing are given a pass by the State Department because they generate big export bucks.

Upstart SpaceX may have to keep its nose cleaner then the established arms dealers. They still managed to offer a more competitive space station transportation system despite ULA’s massive subsidy by US taxpayers.

Maybe the overhead of Pentagon “advisers” actually worked against United Launch Alliance.

ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. It was formed in December 2006 to provide spacecraft launch services for the US government, based on their EELV rockets. ULA merged the two largely duplicate facilities into one central plant in Decatur, Alabama. They make Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.

Lockheed and Boeing have received billions in subsidies, thanks to U.S. taxpayers, to cover the cost overruns of their duplicative Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles. The EELV project exceeded its per-unit cost estimates by 58.4% (GAO Report). Despite the historic cost increase, the Air Force announced, in 2012, its intention to award another $19 billion sole source contract to ULA.

Strand-1 the first Nexus One in Space, will likely launch at the end of the month. The Google phone has not been physically modified in anyway and will test ordinary consumer electronics in low Earth orbit. Its 5-megapixel camera will take pictures of the Earth and the Moon, controlled by a new high-speed Linux-based cubesat computer developed at Surrey Space Centre, which is part of the University of Surrey.

KickSat is the first serious space project to successfully raise funding on Kickstarter. Maybe we could send a fleet of 10,000 smartphones to Mars.

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