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Watchkeeper Gets New Delivery Date

PARIS — Thales says deliveries of the Watchkeeper UAV will get under way toward year’s end.

Handover of the system, intended for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance, had been expected in February but were delayed by some as-yet-undisclosed “technical difficulties,” Thales executives said Feb. 25 in revealing 2010 final results.

Executives say the issues were detected in a report issued by Britain’s National Audit Office and have now been resolved.

Tests Planned On Cell-Phone Jamming Of GPS 

Urgent tests are planned to determine if a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to grant LightSquared conditional approval to deploy up to 40,000 terrestrial base stations to augment its mobile satellite service capacity could cause potentially harmful jamming of GPS signals.

Safran Sales, Earnings Expected To Grow Sharply After Lull 

Safran will create an aircraft wiring joint venture with Comac and supply the engine nacelle for Airbus’s A320NEO family in moves that will reinforce the French engine and aero-equipment manufacturer’s future narrowbody sales and help position it for the coming market uptick.

New CellularSystem WillDebut In Africa 

ViaSat and African operator RascomStar-QAF are introducing a low-power portable GSM cellular uplink station that should significantly lower the cost of serving cell-phone customers in rural areas and sharply reduce satellite price disparities with respect to terrestrial networks.

Pace Picks Up As ISS Shifts To Operations

With the lengthy assembly of the International Space Station drawing to a close, NASA is moving to extend use of the orbiting laboratory to other federal agencies, academia and the private sector through a fast-paced competition to select a non-profit manager for oversight of the broad, cutting-edge research agenda envisioned by Congress under a National Laboratory designation.

French Buy More Sperwer Tactical UAVs 

FRENCH UAVs: Safran says its Sagem defense unit will supply three additional Sperwer Mk II tactical unmanned aerial vehicles to the French army. The sale, which includes five vehicles on option plus associated ground remote video terminals (RVTs), will reinforce France’s Afghan contingent and provide more systems for training. The aircraft will be equipped with Euroflir 350+ optronics suites. Sagem also will modernize a batch of RVT remote terminals ordered in 2009 under the deal. The French army has used the UAV in Afghanistan since 2008.

Safran To Form Wiring Joint Venture With Comac, Supply A320NEO Nacelles

Safran will create an aircraft wiring joint venture with China’s Comac and supply the engine nacelle for the Airbus A320NEO family in moves that will reinforce the French engine and aero-equipment manufacturer’s position in the future narrowbody sector.

New Boeing Entity Aims To Grow Space Services Business 

PARIS — Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems has created a new unit to market commercial satellite services to the U.S. government and other satellite users.

The BSIS entity is intended to enable the company to take advantage of hot government demand around the world for satellite services, especially for communications, where demand is outstripping supply, says Craig Cooning, BSIS vice president and general manager. It will employ 30-40 people and eventually will be headquartered in Washington to be near its target customer base.

SES Predicts Lull In Growth, Orders New Satellite 

PARIS — SES expects revenue growth to slow a bit this year because of launch delays and a solar array problem, but predicts expansion will resume in 2012 as new capacity—including a spacecraft ordered Feb. 17 —s added to the fleet.

Despite Revenue Lull, Contractors Look To Improve Profitability 

Facing a flat sales outlook and bleak budget environment, European defense companies are looking to streamlined operations and targeted acquisitions to help sustain profitability.

European Freighter Heads To Space Station

PARIS — European space officials are hoping that the flawless launch of Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) to the International Space Station (ISS) Feb. 16 will buoy efforts to fund a planned extension of the facility.

The cargo vessel, christened Johannes Kepler, lifted off from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:50 p.m. local time atop an Ariane 5 ES rocket, setting up a scheduled docking with the ISS on Feb. 24.

Airbus Set To Finalize Japanese A380 Order, Studying NEO For A318

Airbus is poised to sign off on a new order for the A380 super jumbo with Skymark Airlines, a Japanese low-cost carrier, its top salesman, John Leahy, said Feb. 16 in Paris.

Thales Posts Operating Loss, But Cites Progress 

PARIS — Additional charges and provisions for overruns on several big programs, including the Airbus Military A400M airlifter, drove down profits at Thales last year. However, orders were better than expected and the company now feels it has removed the uncertainties on the affected projects, positioning the company for a return to profitability.

EchoStar Acquisition Of Hughes Reinforces Its Broadband Play 

PARIS — EchoStar Corp. has agreed to acquire Hughes Communications in a move that will recast the battle for control of the fast-growing broadband satellite service sector.

The transaction for around $2 billion — including the refinancing of Hughes debt — was announced Feb. 14. It will give EchoStar control of Hughes’s main operating company, Hughes Network Systems (HNS), as well as its manufacturing unit, which is a leader in broadband and high-speed mobile satellite service (MSS) technologies.

Tiger Crash Raises Issues With New Helmet-Mounted Display 

PARIS — French defense officials are wondering how a Tiger attack helicopter managed to crash during a joint French-Afghan mission on Feb. 4, given that it had just been fitted with advanced Thales TopOwl helmet-mounted night vision displays (HMDs).

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