I just read this board for the first time and I must say I'm surprised at the responses to the Earlybird problems. Are people only allowed to say positive things here? Personally, if I'm invested in a stock (and I am invested in Orbital) I'd like to know about potential problems.
From what I've heard from an EarthWatch person, I don't hold out much hope for Earlybird. I saw somewhere that it is insured for $25 million.
A loss of Earlybird has a combination of bad and good impacts on Orbital:
- since the problem appears to be a spacecraft one and Orbital (CTA) built it, that's not good. Orbital (CTA) has also built NASA's Clark satellite which I believe is very similar to EarlyBird (in fact the designers of Clark's sensor went on to form EarthWatch). I'm sure the Earlybird problem will have to be identified before Clark can be launched.
- Orbital owns a small portion of EarthWatch (5% I think) which it got when Orbital bought MDA. MDA built a large portion of the ground processing system for Earlybird, and was counting on getting similar work from large distributers of Earlybird data. MDA is also counting on getting work for EarthWatch's Quickbird satellite.
- At least two companies partially or completely owned by MDA (Radarsat International and Triathalon Mapping) had agreements with EarthWatch to distribute EarlyBird data.
- EarthWatch is a competitor with Orb Image. Although I think they have funding to build Quickbird, the loss of EarlyBird is not good. I expect they would probably pursue some agreement with NASA to get images from Clark if it is launched successfully.
If you folks think this type of information is crap, I imagine I'll hear about it. :-)
By the way, I used to work for Orbital (MDA, actually) and was a team lead on the EarlyBird system we built for EarthWatch.