Problems over the financing of prime Orbview satellite puts Taurus launch back a month

The planned launch this month of NASA's Quick TOMS spacecraft to replace the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer Satellite (TOMS) has been delayed until 15 September at the earliest because of the financial problems of Orbital Imaging (Orbimage). Its Orbview 4 satellite is also due to be carried on the Taurus launch from Vandenberg AFB, California.

Orbital Sciences (OSC), which owns 50% of Orbimage, is reportedly not willing to invest another $10 million into the ailing commercial remote sensing company.

The OrbView 4 high resolution commercial remote sensing satellite is the prime payload for the Taurus launch, with NASA's QuickTOMS flying piggyback. QuickTOMS will assist in mapping the world's atmospheric ozone content, while OrbView will return 1m (3.3ft) resolution panchromatic and 4m (13ft) multispectral images for commercial customers.

"Orbimage is working on restructuring its financial situation in order to create a foundation that will carry the company through the launch and commissioning of OrbView 4, at which time Orbimage will debut its high-resolution and hyperspectral imagery services," says OSC.

Orbimage "is working with its financial advisers, as well as its major shareholders", including OSC, and "its debt holders hope to create a structure that will allow Orbimage to accomplish these goals", says OSC.

Both satellites are at Vandenberg. The Taurus "is in good shape, the range is waiting on direction from us. All elements are in place to make this mission happen", adds OSC.

The OSC solid propellant Taurus booster first flew in 1994 and has a record of five successful launches. It can carry 1,360kg (3,000lb) to low Earth orbit and has two firm contracts to launch a classified US Air Force satellite and Rocsat 2. OSC also has Taurus reservations for three NASA launches under its MedLite programme.

Source: Flight International