March 15 News Items

Shuttle Launches to Space Station (Source: Florida Today)
Discovery and seven astronauts are safely in orbit. Nine minutes after lifting off from the Kennedy Space Center, the orbiter and its crew have just dropped the external tank and they are drifting. The shuttle lifted off under skies so clear that the twin solid rocket boosters could be seen falling away. As the shuttle climbed higher, viewers back at KSC could see its plume turn orange as sunlight reflected off of it. The crew immediately got working on its initial post-launch checklists, working with Mission Control in Houston to do the work to prepare Discovery for almost two weeks in orbit. (3/15)

Eutelsat Chief Unapologetic About Use of Chinese Launch Services (Source: Space News)
Satellite-fleet operator Eutelsat has no regrets about agreeing to launch one of its satellites aboard China's Long March rocket and will do it again if the Chinese vehicle meets Eutelsat's schedule, technical and financial requirements, CEO Giuliano Berretta said. It may occur sooner rather than later. A satellite Eutelsat is ordering in the coming weeks, called W3C, will be compatible with the Chinese launcher and is a clone of Eutelsat's W3B satellite to be launched by the Chinese in mid-2010. Eutelsat's board approved the W3C satellite's construction March 10. (3/15)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Disbanding Space Enterprise Council (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is disbanding the Space Enterprise Council (SEC), an affiliate established in 2000 that lobbies U.S. policymakers on behalf of the domestic space industry, effective May 1, according to sources familiar with the situation. The chamber's surprise decision leaves the council, which has 35 dues-paying members and whose monthly meetings have become an important forum for interaction between U.S. government and space industry officials, facing an uncertain future. Sources said the council benefited from its loose affiliation with the chamber, a powerful lobbying organization that represents some 3 million businesses and organizations. (3/15)

NASA Moon Probe Launch Pushed Back to Late May (Source: Space News)
NASA has pushed back the launch of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) roughly a month to no sooner than May 20, NASA spokeswoman Nancy Neal-Jones said. LRO had been slated for an April 24 liftoff out of Florida, but LRO's project manager notified his team in February that launch would slip into May due to a holdup in the planned launch of the U.S. Air Force's Wideband Global SATCOM-2 (WGS-2) satellite. (3/15)

Ground Teams Expect To Regain Control of Astra 5A (Source: Space News)
Ground teams attempting to regain control of the Astra 5A satellite, which failed suddenly Jan. 15 and began drifting along the geostationary arc, are now optimistic they will be able to steady the satellite sufficiently to permit it to charge its batteries for a return to full control by the end of March, according to the satellite's builder, Thales Alenia Space. (3/15)

NASA Gets $17.8 Billion as '09 Omnibus Becomes Law (Source: Space News)
NASA received $17.8 billion for 2009 in an omnibus spending bill U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law March 11. The U.S. government's 2009 budget year began Oct. 1, but most federal agencies have been operating since then at their 2008 funding levels — $17.3 billion in NASA's case — due to the inability of Congress to finish a dozen spending bills before adjourning last year. With the long overdue enactment of the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (H.R. 1105), NASA's available funding increased some $500 million over 2008, with the bulk of the increase going toward the development of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and its Ares 1 rocket. (3/15)

Mojave Air & Space Port: A Bright Spot in a Gloomy Economy (Source: Bakersfield Californian)
Super-secret aircraft. Mysterious, unannounced test flights. “Black hangars” where few are granted entry. That’s the attraction and mystique of Mojave Air and Space Port, home to the world’s most eclectic collection of experimental aircraft, cowboy aviators and rebel engineers ever assembled by private enterprise. As the rest of the county — and the nation — tries to find its footing in today’s down-spiraling economy, Mojave Air and Space Port is enjoying one of its best years ever.

“I built a budget with the thought we’d be down 15 percent; We’re up 11 percent,” said Stuart Witt, general manager of the airport made famous in 2004 when SpaceShipOne became the first privately funded rocketplane to send a man to suborbital space and back again. Not only are revenues from the airport’s 40 tenant businesses up 11 percent, fuel sales early this year soared 37 percent over the same period last year, Witt said. “I don’t know if our actions did this or we’re somehow insulated by events or other unknown factors.” One thing is certain: The private space race isn’t the only industry powering the airport’s orbiting economy. (3/15)

Stephen Metschan Aims High to Keep NASA in Space (Source: The Oregonian)
Stephen Metschan is working, hard, to save America's space program. In these tough economic times, Stephen, born and brought up in Portland, understands there's a chance NASA could be shut down completely for lack of funding. So he's spent the past few years talking to folks at NASA and private space-related companies -- many of which disagree with each other -- to come up with a plan to keep the U.S. in space. He's even designed rockets to take us there (see

The key concept, he says, is to base future exploration on existing NASA programs and develop systems that do more than just one trick. Decisions at the top about multibillion-dollar programs were made inefficiently, he says. "And mistakes at that point generate huge problems down the road. While we had all these software tools to design a vehicle once you decided to do it a certain way, there were no tools to decide what the best approach was in the first place." It was a NASA engineer who suggested Stephen start his own company to build those tools. Stephen left Boeing and founded TeamVision in 1997.

After the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, Stephen says, "the country had a soul-searching moment, thinking: What are we doing, risking these people's lives? Is the program worth the blood and treasure we're expending?"...Stephen's company created a proposal [to move beyond the Space Shuttle] based on the low budget Stephen thought Congress would fund. In 2005, "we had four meetings at NASA, showing an approach that would use a direct derivative of the space shuttle launch system as the most affordable path to lunar missions and beyond. It was well received for a while." The problem, Stephen says, is that President Bush named a new NASA administrator, Michael Griffin, who came in and said, in Stephen's words, "I already know the solution, and off we go." Click here to view the article. (3/15)

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