U.S. satellite launch industry gets boost
The U.S. satellite launch industry snagged some recent business to gain a welcome lift from a slump caused by weak demand and intense price competition. One of the biggest U.S. players, McLean, Va.-based International Launch Services, received a mid-June boost when it secured two substantial launch contracts for its Atlas III rocket.
Europe's GPS alternative fuels transatlantic debate
By 2006, rockets are scheduled to begin lifting off to carry 30 European satellites into orbit. The satellites will emit signals that will allow people with receiversdrivers, sailors, rescue workers and pilots, for exampleto determine their precise locations on Earth.
It is similar to what the U.S. Global Positioning System already does, and the pending launch of a rival is fueling a new transatlantic dispute, according to news reports in the Washington Post. U.S. officials have called Europe's $3.2 billion Galileo project wasteful and say Europe could better spend the money upgrading its armed forces. But European governments argue that Galileo is crucial to the future of their high-tech industries and to loosening their dependence on the United States.
Toyota takes to the air
In late May, a single-engine prototype airplane designed by Toyota Motor Corp. took flight for the first time in California, signaling the Japanese automaker is considering expanding from cars into aviation, company officials said recently. The four-seat, propeller-driven aircraft was flown from an airport north of Los Angeles to test the components and construction of the plane, called the Toyota Advanced Aircraft. According to reports from Reuters English News Service, Toyota has about 40 peopleincluding aeronautical engineersworking out of its California office on the plane and possible aviation business ventures. "There's a potential for a business opportunity here, and that's why we're studying it," said Toyota spokesman Mike Michels. "The current aircraft out there are really getting old. There's going to be some demand for new planes to replace them." Sales of privately owned airplanes in the United States, the world's largest market, are expected to climb over the next few years as older models are scrapped, he said. Toyota could apply its manufacturing expertise, which has made it the benchmark in automotive vehicle quality, to the aircraft industry, Michels added.
Multinational JSF push
Lockheed Martin's F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, has captured more multinational support. With the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands already on board, Lockheed and the Pentagon expect Italy, Norway and Turkey to join the program officially within the coming weeks and months, according to reports in the Dallas Morning News. In fact, Norway, Italy and Turkey will invest $1.3 billion combined in the JSF, beating a July 15 deadline for would-be foreign partners, a key U.S. official said last month. The addition of those nations, to be announced over the next month, will make seven countries pledged to invest $4.375 billion in the $25 billion program, said Jon Schreiber, international director for the Pentagon's JSF office. Foreign partners participate at various levels in JSF planning and development, and they become eligible to bid for manufacturing subcontracts, although they are given no guarantee of work. Still, the possibility of industrial participation is a major part of the program's attraction for overseas governments.
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