■ The European Space Agency’s 3.3t Herschel infra-red telescope and 1.8t Planck scientific observatory will be launched in the first quarter of 2008 by Arianespace Ariane 5 ECA from French Guiana. Prime contractor for both spacecraft is Alcatel Alenia Space.
■ Sea Launch is to launch Hughes Network Systems’ Spaceway 3 Ka-band communications satellite on a Zenit 3SL from its launch platform in the Pacific Ocean in 2007. Spaceway 3 will be based on a Boeing 702 spacecraft bus.
■ Orbital Sciences is to build NASA’s 175kg (385lb) Space Technology 8 demonstrator satellite under a $50 million contract that includes a Pegasus air-launch early in 2009 for a seven-month orbital test of technology for large solar sail missions.
■ The maiden flight of UP Aerospace’s Spaceloft XL rocket will take place on 27 March at the New Mexico Spaceport. At least two further launches are planned in 2006 for the vehicle, which can carry 50kg (110lb) payloads up to 225km (140 miles).
■ Kazakhstan’s Kazkosmos plans to launch a fleet of eight satellites by 2011-12. Four remote-sensing spacecraft will be built by Russia, while Kazakhstan plans to build four communications satellites to be launched between 2007 and 2010.
■ Alcatel Alenia Space has signed a contract with China Satellite Communications to build the 4.6t Spacebus 4000C2-based Chinasat 6B C-band communications satellite to be launched on board a Chinese Long March 3B booster.
■ NASA has invited proposals to supply commercial cargo services to the International Space Station after retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 or earlier. One or more contracts are expected to be awarded in May 2006.
■ The first bi-directional optical link between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kirari Optical Inter-orbit Communications Engineering Test Satellite and the European Space Agency¹s Artemis spacecraft has been made using Silex laser technology.

Source: Flight International