March 11 News Items

Who Is Sirius XM’S Mystery Merger Beneficiary? (Source: Business Week)
On the night of March 10—well after the U.S. markets had closed—Sirius and XM put out their first annual report as a combined company. Looks like CEO Mel Karmazin’s dogged efforts to pare programming costs last year did not fare so well. Content and programming costs ballooned by 11%, or $45.2 million. More interesting, however, is a mysterious one-time payment of $27.5 million to a single program provider, which the report only identifies as “a one-time payment to a programming provider . . . due upon completion of the Merger.”

Due upon completion of the merger? Who could it be? The obvious thought is the guy involved with the one totally massive exclusive programming deal which everyone associates with Sirius XM: Howard Stern. His five-year, $500 million deal doesn’t expire until the end of 2010. But perhaps Howard’s people were savvy enough to insist on a contractual clause that got him a little more cash in case Sirius ever joined forces with its one satellite competitor. Both parties declined to comment. (3/11)

Space Research May Help Explain Salmonella Illness (Source: NASA)
Salmonella bacteria research from two recent NASA space missions discovered key elements of the bacteria's disease-causing potential that hold promise for improving ways to fight food-borne infections on Earth. "This research opens up new areas for investigations that may improve food treatment, develop new therapies and vaccines to combat food poisoning in humans here on Earth, and protect astronauts on orbit from infectious disease," said a NASA scientist.

The Salmonella experiments were flown on shuttle missions to the International Space Station in September 2006 and March 2008. The 2006 experiment results allowed researchers to identify a molecular "switch" that appears to control Salmonella's response to spaceflight in unique ways not observed using traditional experimental approaches on Earth. The 2006 results showed that the space environment causes a short-term alteration in Salmonella virulence -- the bacteria cultured in space were more virulent than those on Earth.

The 2008 experiment confirmed the 2006 results and demonstrated that a change in the growth environment of the bacteria controls its virulence. There is no evidence that the space-grown bacteria sustained these effects for long periods after returning to Earth. (3/11)

ILS Wins Launch for Russian Proton Rocket (Source: ILS)
International Launch Services (ILS) announced a contract for the launch of the ViaSat-1 satellite on an ILS Proton. The satellite is under construction by Loral and is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2011 from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. ViaSat-1 is a high capacity Ka-band spot beam satellite, which is expected to be the highest capacity of all current and planned North American satellites with 10 times the throughput of any other Ka-band satellite. ViaSat-1 will provide broadband Internet services to customers and businesses across North America. (3/11)

Canadian Astronaut Recruitment Campaign Nets Top 16 Candidates (Source: CSA)
The President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) Steve MacLean will introduce the top 16 candidates remaining in the National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign during a news conference on Mar. 16. In addition to introducing the finalists, the news conference will provide media with insight into the National Astronaut Recruitment Campaign selection process. (3/11)

United Technologies to Lay Off Nearly 12,000 (Source: AIA)
With no economic recovery in sight, United Technologies Corp. says it will shed 11,600 jobs this year, reducing its workforce by 5%. UTC's diverse portfolio -- including Pratt & Whitney jet engines, Sikorsky helicopters, Hamilton Sundstrand aerospace components, Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioners -- has shielded the company from past downturns, but nearly every business line is suffering in the current recession. The company said Tuesday it now expects 2009 revenues to fall $2.7 billion short of projections made just three months ago. (3/11)

Scientists Study Options for Clearing Space Junk (Source: AIA)
With space junk posing an increasing threat to both satellites and manned rockets, engineers are looking for ways to clear the air. From water cannons to magnets to lasers, scientists say there are many options for directing the detritus back into the Earth's atmosphere, where it will burn up. The big drawback is cost. "The problem with removing space debris is you don't have any financial benefit from doing it," says an official with the European Space Agency. (3/11)

It’s All Your Fault, Bill (Source: Space Politics)
With the Shuttle's retirement, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Central Florida jobs are in jeopardy during one of the worst periods for the national economy since the Great Depression. And it’s all your fault, Sen. Bill Nelson. According to an Orlando Sentinel article, some in the industry, as well as a former Congressman, had pinned their hopes on Nelson as an “angel” to watch over Florida's space interests, only to have him apparently fail them. Nelson is criticized for not winning more for spaceflight programs in the stimulus bill, as well as not convincing the Obama Administration to extend the shuttle’s life beyond 2010. Retired Congressman Dave Weldon said he was “disappointed” with what Nelson has accomplished on the issue, but added that “I know that he has tried.”

So does Nelson deserve all this blame? The article doesn’t note that the $400 million set aside for “exploration” in the stimulus bill—the part most likely to directly benefit KSC—was $400 million more than what was in the House version of the bill; the Senate version of the stimulus bill, supported by Nelson, had $500 million for exploration. And while Nelson boasts of his influence on Obama’s shift on space policy during the campaign—he tells the Sentinel “I took it upon myself to counsel with candidate Obama” on space—how much influence he really had then, or has now, is less certain.

The article correctly explains that Nelson’s influence in the Senate is limited because he is not an appropriator, and thus he (and his Space Coast constituents) are at a disadvantage compared to Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Richard Shelby, the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the NASA budget. However, while the Sentinel quotes Weldon about his disappointment with Nelson, it only mentions in passing that, for his last several years in Congress, Weldon was an appropriator himself, including a stint as vice-chair of the House subcommittee with NASA oversight—and even he wasn’t able to prevent or mitigate this situation. (3/11)

Virginia Spaceport License Plate Readied for 2010 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport special automobile license plate will not be produced until the summer of 2010 due to the time crunch and failure to gain 350 pre-subscriptions in time for the 2009 General Assembly to pass it, says Jack Kennedy, secretary of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority. "We have gathered over one hundred subscriptions in southwestern Virginia's Wise County alone and will seek to have 350 subscriptions will be in hand from the mountains of southwestern Virginia by late summer if possible, " notes Kennedy. "We are there on the tag design now." The specialty tag will be one more highly visible tool to market the spaceport within the commercial space launch community and to and expand awareness among residents. (3/11)

Rummager's Galactic Find Turns Out to be Stolen Meteorite (Source: JSonline)
The 50-pound hunk of metal Tom Lynch had been using to hold up his grandson’s basketball hoop is actually a meteorite, by some estimates worth as much as $100,000. This story begins not in a galaxy far away, but at a Milwaukee rummage sale a few years ago. Tom Lynch paid $10 for an odd hunk of metal he figured might be copper or bronze with potential salvage value. He had no idea it had dropped from space into the Arizona desert some 50,000 years ago.

After watching a TV show, he realized it may be more than he thought it was. He took his 4.6 billion-year-old find to the Milwaukee Public Museum and then to Chicago's Field Museum last month. The scientists got excited. Yes, they said, it's a meteorite. Before he could get too excited, a call came from Jim DuFoe, a minerals expert he had consulted. Bad news, DuFoe said. The meteorite was stolen in 1968 from the Meteor Crater Visitor Center near Flagstaff in 1968. (3/11)

Lawmakers: NASA Watchdog Lacks Bite, Needs to Go (Source:
Key members of Congress from both parties want NASA's internal watchdog fired, arguing he can't be trusted to oversee the $1 billion in additional money the space agency is getting under the Obama administration's economic stimulus package. Government reports dating back to 2006 have accused NASA Inspector General Robert "Moose" Cobb of ineffectiveness, of profanely berating employees and being too close to the agency's leadership. Calls for his ouster have intensified in the past month, since NASA is getting additional stimulus money for space exploration, research, and aeronautics.

"Apparently, Mr. Cobb thought he was supposed to be the lap dog, rather than the watchdog, of NASA," Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tennessee, told CNN. Gordon, chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, has asked President Obama to remove Cobb. In a letter co-authored by Rep. Brad Miller, D-North Carolina, who leads the House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, the lawmakers argue that "NASA cannot afford another four years with an ineffective inspector general." (3/11)

Sen. Hutchison Secures $1.5 million for Texas A&M Space Robotics (Source: KBTX)
U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Texas’ senior Senator, announced the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill includes $1.5 million that she secured for the Advanced Robotics for Lunar and Martian Exploration project at Texas A&M University. The legislation provides full year funding for various government departments, agencies, and priority programs. “Texas A&M University will be at the forefront of robotic research and Lunar and Martian investigation as NASA begins its new vision for space exploration,” said Sen. Hutchison. (3/11)

Who Controls Space? (Source: Global Post)
The Feb. 10 crash — the first head-on debris collision in space — highlighted the absence of any effective governmental or corporate solutions to a problem that can only worsen as more nations and corporations venture into space. Coincidentally, the collision occurred while the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was convening a technical meeting in Vienna. The Committee, formed after the launch of Sputnik, maintains a voluntary registry where space-faring nations can choose to reveal the basic orbital parameters of their satellites.

But the international body has no authority to create or regulate space lanes, much less the means to track or clear debris already in orbit. The meeting served mainly to give non-governmental organizations a platform to argue for some plan to bring order to the orbits. Modest progress is being made. France has pushed for the creation of a satellite tracking system, and the European Union recently allocated 50 million euros (about $63 million). But so far there hasn't been a clear effort to create a worldwide space traffic control system. (3/11)

Shuttle Launch Now Targeted for No Earlier Than Mar. 15 (Source: NASA)
Space shuttle Discovery's launch to the International Space Station now is targeted for no earlier than March 15. NASA managers postponed Wednesday's planned liftoff due to a leak associated with the gaseous hydrogen venting system outside the external fuel tank. The system is used to carry excess hydrogen safely away from the launch pad. (3/11)

Obama Calls NASA an Agency 'Adrift' and In Need of New Mission (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
President Barack Obama spoke with more than a dozen regional reporters in the White House today, including Mark Matthews of the Orlando Sentinel, who asked the new commander-in-chief about the space shuttle's 2010 retirement and what it means for the Space Coast. MATTHEWS: "Retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 is going to devastate the Space Coast economy... You’re looking 3,500 job losses at least at [KSC] which will multiply to as many as 28,000 jobs throughout that entire area. Right now, you are reaffirming President Bush’s decision to retire the shuttle in 2010. [My question is] why you decided to keep that 2010 retirement date for the shuttle and what type of plans you may have to try and save the Space Coast from an economic crater?"

OBAMA: "First of all, we have authorized were budgeted for additional shuttle launches that had not been scheduled. So we’re extending the life of the shuttle because a) I think it is doing some important work and b) we are very mindful of the economic impact of the space program in the region. I will soon be appointing a new NASA director. I think it’s important for the long term vibrancy of our space program to think through what NASA’s core mission is and what the next great adventures and discoveries are under the NASA banner.

The space shuttle program has yielded some extraordinary scientific discoveries, but I think it's fair to say that there's been a sense of drift to our space program over the last several years. We need to restore that sense of excitement and interest that existed around the space program. Shaping a mission for NASA that is appropriate for the 21st century is going to be one of the biggest tasks of my new NASA director. Once we have that vision, then I think that it’s going to be much easier to build support for expanding our space efforts. What I don’t what NASA to do is just limp along. And I don’t think that’s good for the economy in the region either." (3/10)

North Korea Launch May Actually Put Satellite in Space (Source: AP)
North Korea, long known to obscure its ballistic missile tests behind claims of space rocket launches, may well try to fire a satellite into orbit later this month, according to top U.S. intelligence officials. "The North Koreans announced that they were going to do a space launch, and I believe that that's what they intend," National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week. "I could be wrong, but that would be my estimate." North Korea announced its intention to launch the satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 in February. But regional powers suspected the claim as a cover for the launch of a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska. (3/10)

Space Transportation R&D Bill Passes Crucial Committee (Source: Rep. Hukill)
The House Economic Development Policy Committee unanimously passed State Rep. Dorothy Hukill’s bill to help keep Florida at the forefront of cutting edge space technology. HB-69 creates a multiuniversity institute that would provide research and development of new space technologies. The institute will partner with the FAA, NASA, and other Federal agencies in pioneering new space transportation technology and will work closely with academic institutions throughout the state to provide ground-breaking research.

As NASA prepares to transition to the next generation of space flight vehicles, House Bill 69 will better position Florida to remain the world leader in new space research and technology. “This legislation not only provides for state-of-the-art space research, it creates and saves jobs,” Hukill said. “We have the brightest people in the country working right here in our own backyard. Florida can’t afford to lose these high-tech jobs.” (3/10)

For Florida Space Boosters, a Modest Agenda in Tallahassee (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space supporters are advancing a pitch to create a new institute that would coordinate space transportation-related research and development, led by Daytona-based Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University...Facing a dreary financial picture, lawmakers are hard-pressed to find any cash to stave off a mass exodus of workers from the Space Coast following the shuttle’s retirement next year. In previous years, the Florida Legislature has ponied up millions for dollars to beef up its commercial space endeavors. But this year’s space agenda is modest by comparison.

The Space Transportation Research and Development Institute that would be created by HB-69 would be launched over several years and eventually could require state money. But the House Economic Development Policy Committee amended the bill Wednesday to spell out that no dollars would have to be spent on it and no staff would be assigned from the Governor's Office. Space boosters had originally suggested it could require a $500,000 appropriation to start up the institute, but not now.

Space backers are also trying to win $3 million in funding for workforce training, and the creation of a new tax rebate for private businesses willing to launch rockets from a multi-user launch complex Space Florida is trying to build. HB-69's sponsor, Rep. Dorothy Hukill, argued that the job-loss situation at NASA has added steam to the lobbying push in Tallahassee – if not the commitment to provide cash. "Space industry workers “can’t be out of work for a long period of time. They’re going to go someplace else that offers that kind of excitement in that field,” she said after her bill unanimously cleared the House committee. “If we can’t say ‘Look, we’re working on something. We’ll have something in the future,’ they’re going to take those opportunities out of state. We will have a complete brain drain.” (3/10)

Altair Lunar Lander Decision Clouds Florida Jobs Situation (Source: SPACErePORT)
NASA's recent reduction in projected post-Shuttle job losses in Florida, from 6,400 to 3,500, was partially based on plans locate new Constellation program elements at KSC. Based on comments last June by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin during a visit to the Space Coast, assembly of NASA's new Altair lunar lander was planned to be based at KSC to offset Shuttle job-loss impacts. Griffin's comments were in direct response to Senator Bill Nelson's pointed questions about what NASA would do to prevent the permanent loss of skilled aerospace workers at KSC.

The local expectation that Altair assembly and processing would be done at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport was put in doubt on Tuesday when a KSC official remarked during a National Space Club presentation that NASA has decided to open the Altair site selection to competition. Despite the fact that the Space Station Processing Facility is ideally suited to the requirement and will be nearly empty when Altair comes to town, Florida officials are concerned that other states will use their political influence to take the program away. With Altair assembly potentially going to another state, the job-loss projection of 3,500 may need to be revised upward. (3/10)

Retiring Shuttle May Doom 38,200 Space Coast Jobs (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Figures released by NASA this week predict the retirement of the shuttle will result in the loss of at least 3,500 jobs at KSC. Some industry officials say the number could be as high as 10,000. The best-case scenario would result in the loss of about 9,870 other jobs in the surrounding community; the worst-case number is 28,200. But the one Floridian in Washington who has the most stature and clout to fight to keep that from happening — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who once flew aboard the shuttle — has been able to do little to prevent the looming economic disaster.

His critics say he has failed, and even a former NASA ally in Congress says he has not done enough. "Right now, NASA needs an angel in the House or Senate. And that's a role that we were hoping Bill Nelson would step up to," said former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, who retired in 2008. "I have been, at times, disappointed that he has not been able to do more, but I know that he has tried," said Weldon, who fought for KSC while serving on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Click here to view the article. (3/11)

Destroyed Satellites' Debris Falling Into Atmosphere (Source: Florida Today)
Junk created by the collision of two satellites last month is poised to fall into Earth's atmosphere this week. When the U.S. Iridium 33 communications satellite and the defunct Russian military communications satellite Cosmos 2251 collided and were destroyed, the smashup left a fresh sea of fragments orbiting at various angles. Engineers have been watching the debris, which has raised the risk of other collisions in space. Now the U.S. Strategic Command says a fragment catalogued as 1993-036PX will re-enter the atmosphere Thursday, according to Other bits are expected to take the plunge March 28 and March 30. (3/10)

UF Student Team Among 15 in National Moon Exploration Competition (Source: NASA)
Fifteen teams have made it to the finals of a NASA and National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) competition that challenged university students to think about the conditions astronauts will face when we return to the moon, then design projects that could become part of real lunar exploration. The undergraduate and graduate engineering students won the right to compete against each other at the 2009 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage or RASC-AL forum to be held in Cocoa Beach on June 1-4. A team from the University of Florida is among five in the graduate-level category. Ten other teams are competing at the undergraduate-level. (3/10)

Air Force Offers Free Cape Tours to Public (Source: Florida Today)
The 45th Space Wing Public Affairs Office offers free bus tours of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for the general public the second Wednesday of each month. The three-hour tour includes a visit to the Air Force Space and Missile Museum, as well as active and retired launch pads and facilities. Tours begin at 8:45 a.m. at the South Gate of Cape Canaveral AFS. Reservations are required and seating is limited, on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 321-494-5945, 321-494-5949 or 321-494-5933 for reservations and information. (3/11)

Sirius XM Radio Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2008 Results (Source: Sirius XM)
Sirius XM Radio announced pro forma full year 2008 revenue of $2.44 billion up 18% over 2007 pro forma revenue of $2.06 billion; total subscribers of more than 19 million up 10% from 2007 subscribers of 17.3 million; and positive pro forma adjusted income from operations in the fourth quarter of 2008. Sirius XM ended the fourth quarter 2008 with 19,003,856 subscribers, up 10% from 17,348,622 subscribers at year end 2007. In the fourth quarter 2008, Sirius XM achieved positive pro forma adjusted income from operations of $31.8 million as compared with a pro forma adjusted loss from operations of ($224.1) million in the fourth quarter 2007. (3/10)

Com Dev Reports Earnings (Source: The Record)
Com Dev International Ltd., the maker of satellites and satellite parts, has remained profitable despite broader economic woes and doesn't see any clouds on the horizon, the company said. For the third consecutive quarter, Com Dev earned at least $4 million in the three months ending in January. Profits reached $4.4 million, compared to $1.3 million in the same quarter of 2008. Earnings were depressed early last year due in part to the strength of the Canadian dollar at the time. (3/10)

Astrium Reports Jump in Sales, Profit Margins for 2008 (Source: Space News)
The Astrium space division of Europe's EADS aerospace conglomerate reported sharply higher sales and pretax profit in 2008 on improved performance in its Ariane 5 launch vehicle and French strategic missile businesses and continued profitability in its services division, EADS announced March 10. (3/10)

Europe, China Remain at Odds over Navigation Systems (Source: Space News)
China and Europe "have made no concrete progress" in negotiating how to harmonize their planned satellite navigation systems despite two years of effort, setting up a conflict as each tries to protect its ability to jam the other's military frequencies in a time of war without jamming its own, Chinese and European officials said March 5. (3/10)

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