Defining the Future of Flight: 1997 -- present

Communication in Orbit

At the edge of space, Boeing satellites continued to link people, countries and systems. In January 2006, Boeing began work on three satellites and associated ground systems with Mobile Satellite Ventures. This was the largest order for Boeing commercial satellites since 1997. Under this contract, three Boeing-built geo-mobile satellites enable the world's first commercial mobile satellite service using both space and terrestrial elements.

Orbital Express
Artist's concept of Orbital Express

In April 2007, Boeing demonstrated the technical readiness of its GPS III payload design, allowing the U.S. Air Force to upgrade GPS satellites quickly and cost effectively. Spacecraft maintenance took another robotic leap forward when a Boeing-led industry team in March 2007 launched Orbital Express, a demonstration spacecraft for a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program aimed at demonstrating fully autonomous on-orbit spacecraft servicing.

The "Rhythm and Blues" satellite duo was completed when a Boeing 702 satellite was transferred on orbit to XM Satellite Radio on Dec. 19, 2006. The Boeing-built satellite joins its sister satellite, XM-3, to complete the set, named after the music they transmit.

Delta II
Delta II rocket launches two NASA satellites

Watching our world from the edge of space are a pair of NASA satellites launched by a Boeing Delta II rocket on April 28, 2006, to further study clouds and aerosols. A month later, the first of three Boeing-built, next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES-N), providing continuous real-time weather and environmental data, was launched for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Boeing completed the first phase of its nanosatellite research and experimentation with the April 17, 2007, successful launch and testing of the picosatellite CubeSat TestBed 1, weighing less than 3 pounds. The spacecraft accomplished 100 percent of its primary mission objectives, testing a variety of technologies, design elements, and attitude determination and control approaches for future operational nanosatellites -- spacecraft weighing less than 22 pounds.

During 2008, Boeing finished building its 20,500-square-foot satellite Mission Control Center in El Segundo, Calif., to manage up to four commercial or government satellite missions at the same time, and Boeing won the Satellite Industry Leadership Award from the 2008 International Satellite and Communications exchange.

The same year, a Sea Launch Zenith-3SL rocket launched a Boeing-built spacecraft for Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications, providing mobile telephone services, and successfully delivered the DIRECTV 11 broadcast satellite to orbit from its ocean-based platform on the equator, marking its fourth successful launch of a Boeing-built DIRECTV satellite. And the U.S. Air Force placed the first Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite into operation over the Pacific region. In October, Boeing launched the GeoEye-1 satellite aboard a Delta II rocket; GeoEye-1 has the highest resolution of any commercial imaging system. In December, Boeing won a $234 million contract to complete production of the sixth WGS satellite. April 2, 2009, the second Boeing WGS satellite started sending the first signals from space.

In 2009, the U.S. Air Force awarded Boeing a $75 million contract extension to continue risk reduction and system definition for the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT), bringing Boeing's total TSAT contract funding to $793 million. In October 2009, Boeing launched the second WorldView-2 satellite for DigitalGlobe aboard a Delta II rocket into a sun-synchronous orbit to collect and record commercial, high-resolution Earth imagery.

On June 4, 2008, the crews of Space Shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory on the orbital outpost. In October of the same year, NASA awarded Boeing a $650 million sole-source contract to continue to deliver and integrate components and software for the International Space Station.

During August 2009, Boeing employees at Checkout, Assembly and Payload Processing Services worked on a massive project as they prepared the 31,694-pound Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, containing life-support and science equipment for the International Space Station, to be launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. It was one of heaviest payload missions at the time.

The moon once again became the focus of new developments when in February 2009, Boeing, through its Space Exploration division, submitted a proposal to NASA for Altair lunar lander design support. In October 2009, Boeing and the Russian aerospace company, RSC-Energia, announced plans to work together on a common docking system for advanced space exploration vehicles.

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