March 17 News Items

Loral Reports 2008 Operating Results (Source: Loral)
Loral reported revenues for the year of $1.57 billion for the year and $466.7 million for the quarter. The net loss for the year and quarter, which were significantly impacted by non-cash charges, were $692.9 million and $629.4 million, respectively. (3/17)

Russia's Top Secret Spaceport No Longer Secret (Source: Pravda)
Plesetsk Cosmodrome is a Russian spaceport, located in the Arkhangelsk region, about 800 km north of Moscow and south of Arkhangelsk. During the Cold War period it was a super secret military facility. Now Plesetsk starts working for peaceful purposes sending peaceful satellites to the orbit. Plesetsk was originally developed by the Soviet Union as a launch site for intercontinental ballistic missiles. The existence of Plesetsk Cosmodrome was originally kept secret, but it was discovered by British physics teacher Geoffrey Perry and his students, who carefully analyzed the orbit of the Cosmos 112 satellite in 1966 and deduced it. After the end of the Cold War it was learned that the CIA had begun to suspect the existence of an ICBM launch site at Plesetsk in the late 1950s. The Soviet Union did not officially admit the existence of Plesetsk Cosmodrome until 1983. (3/17)

Lockheed Establishes Altair Office in Texas to Pursue Lunar Lander Project (Source: PR Newswire)
Lockheed Martin has located its Altair program office in Houston, in its bid to provide support for the next-generation human lunar lander system for NASA. The company submitted its proposal to NASA last month for the Altair Conceptual Design Contract and the agency is expected to award several contracts for the first phase of the program later this spring. (3/17)

Astronaut Encounters at Kennedy Space Center (Source: CNN)
"The first person who will walk on Mars hasn't even started high school yet," says retired Astronaut Jon McBride, who now speaks to kids and parents as part of the popular Astronaut Encounter programs at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. That's a sobering thought as Discovery's seven astronauts make their way to the International Space Station to deliver the final installment of equipment needed to complete the station's electricity-generating solar panels, giving it the capacity to support a larger crew of six and doubling its power for scientific research. (3/17)

Sweden's Ice Hotel Starts Selling Tickets to Space (Source: AP)
You can sleep in eight degrees below zero, try dogsledding or go on a whale safari. Not exotic enough? Try a space trip through the aurora borealis. Sweden's famous Ice Hotel says it will start including tickets for Virgin Galactic's space trips in its offerings to tourists. The trips, from nearby Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden, will start in 2012 if tests with Virgin's spaceships go according to plan. Ice Hotel spokesman Roland Sand said Tuesday that tourists will be able to chose whether to go through the winter season's aurora borealis or the midnight sun of Swedish summer. (3/17)

Editorial: Out of This World (Source: North Carolina News & Observer)
NASA already is under watch, in a way, required to formally notify Congress if a particular program has cost overruns greater than 15% (a pretty generous window). It may be that a tougher restriction is needed. Certainly more internal oversight is a must. The agency is important, make no mistake. Its missions follow in the tradition of world, and out of this world, exploration, and important technological advances have been made in the course of carrying out the moon landing and space shuttle flights. The U.S. must not abandon the search for new frontiers. And the bravery of astronauts who even now are conducting a space shuttle mission is both admirable and inspiring. But NASA cannot expect unlimited leeway with regard to its budget, and endless patience from the GAO or members of Congress. It has to play by the rules, and that means being candid when it comes to the cost of what it wants to do. (3/17)

Obcomm Increases Full Year 2008 Service Revenues by 34.4% (Source: Orbcomm)
Orbcomm, a global satellite data communications company focused on two-way Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications, today announced financial results for the fourth quarter and the full year ended Dec. 31, 2008. Total Revenues for the twelve months ended December 31, 2008 were $30.1 million, an increase of 6.9% from the full year 2007 revenues. Service Revenues for the full year 2008 increased 34.4% to $23.8 million from the comparable period of 2007 due primarily to an increase in billable subscriber communicators, the inclusion of ORBCOMM Japan, and the commencement of Automatic Identification System (AIS) revenue. (3/17)

Atlas Scrub Comes Amid Varied Troubles (Source: Florida Today)
The planned launch of an Atlas V rocket and a new military communications satellite came amid a trio of troubles that cropped up in short order after fuel-loading operations began at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The 19-story rocket had been scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at 9:24 p.m. The weather appeared as if it would be good to go. Two minor valve problems were overcome early in the launch countdown. But then problems cropped up with the rocket's flight control system and a liquid oxygen valve on the rocket's Centaur upper stage. The Eastern Range also was "no-go" because one of two required instruments that verify command destruct signals failed a routine countdown test. (3/17)

Posey: Obama Should Name NASA Chief Soon (Source: Florida Today)
Rep. Bill Posey is urging President Barack Obama to name a new agency chief as soon as possible, saying NASA "cannot afford to remain without an administrator at this critical juncture." The Space Coast Republican sits on the NASA House Action Team, co-chaired by Rep. Suzanne Kosmas. "Major decisions are being made that will greatly affect our nation's future in space," Posey wrote. "NASA is in the midst of making decisions about the phasing-out of the Shuttle program and how we move forward with America's next generation launch vehicle...If this transition is not done right, not only will thousands of American workers at the nation's space centers and their families be severely and adversely affected, but our nation's leadership in space will further erode," he wrote. (3/17)

USRA Points To Impact Of Export Controls On Space Research (Source:
In testimony delivered during a recent Capitol Hill hearing organized by the Aerospace States Association (ASA), Dr. Thomas H. Zurbuchen, Professor of Space Science and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan and Vice Chair of the Universities Space Research Association's (USRA) 102 member Council of Institutions, urged action on two pressing issues affecting space-related research at US universities and our nation's ability to remain a leader in space.

In his remarks, Dr. Zurbuchen drew attention to the dramatic decline in "hands on" research opportunities for graduate students and also on the need to better balance the impact of ITAR restrictions on US space-related research with national security needs. Dr. Zurbuchen pointed out that the number of small missions and experimental launches - missions that had provided critical experience for generations of US researchers - had declined by over 80% since the late 1970s and that this decline is negatively impacting the nation's technical workforce.

Dr. Zurbuchen also spoke on the adverse impact of export control regulations on US space-related scientific research. The current application of these regulations has resulted in unintended consequences that have had a chilling affect on the conduct of space-related research in the US university community, said Dr. Zurbuchen. Click here to view the article. (3/17)

Seeking Details, Like the Rest of Us (Source: Space Politics)
Last last week the Republican caucus of the House Science and Technology Committee released its views on relevant portions of the president’s FY10 budget, including a few paragraphs on NASA’s budget. The members are, by and large, pleased with the budget, with one caveat: a lack of details on what the administration’s plans really are. "It is unclear whether the ‘new space flight systems for carrying American crews and supplies to space’ is the Constellation System already under development.” They add that they are concerned with the flat funding profile for the agency after 2010 that, they believe, could jeopardize NASA’s ability to continue development of Constellation (if, in fact, that is the program mentioned in the budget) while maintaining its other missions. (3/16)

Editorial: Name NASA’s Boss Now (Source: Florida Today)
Expanding the Space Station's crew from three to six is a long-awaited milestone that should start science experiments and help the station live up to its potential as a cutting-edge orbiting laboratory. But back on the ground, NASA still doesn’t have a new administrator, and it’s hurting the agency’s ability to gain a fair share of federal money as long-range budget negotiations between Congress and the White House take shape, NASA supporters say. That makes it critical President Barack Obama follow through on his statement last week that he’s poised to name NASA’s new boss. We urge him to make the announcement this week because there’s no more time to waste. (3/17)

Dramatic Cost Increase for NASA Space Physics Mission (Source: Examiner)
NASA has selected United Launch Alliance of Littleton, Colo. to launch the agency’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) space physics mission. The unmanned spacecraft will lift-off from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport aboard an Atlas V rocket. MMS is a space physics research effort to discover the fundamental plasma physics processes of magnetic reconnection that occurs when energy emanating from the sun's solar wind interacts with the Earth's magnetic field. Four identical satellites will be launched together in a stacked configuration. They will fly in an elliptical orbit around Earth.

Several factors have caused the mission cost to grow dramatically, according to a National Research Council report. The science instruments increased in size, complexity, and cost. The number of spacecraft was then reduced to four, however, the cost grew nonetheless when MMS independent review panel recommended further redundancy in the instrumentation and the spacecraft. Then the mission was moved from a Boeing Delta II rocket to the more expensive Lockheed Martin Atlas V. (3/17)

Gates Girds for Battle on DOD Budget Cuts (Source: AIA)
With solid GOP credentials and experience in eight administrations, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to provide political cover for deep Pentagon spending cuts due to be announced within weeks. But observers say other Republican Pentagon chiefs, from Donald Rumsfeld to Dick Cheney, have been largely unable to cut big weapons programs in the past. (3/17)

Russia Picking Moon Rocket Design (Source:
Russian space officials say they will select the winning design this month for the rocket intended to carry cosmonauts to the moon within a decade. A Russian official said the winner will be picked by March 25. "We have a bidding procedure, under which we made a request for proposals and now will be reviewing those proposals to determine a prime developer, based on the most interesting project from the cost-effectiveness point of view," he said. The primary requirement is for the rocket to carry 20-23 tons into low-Earth orbit. That's about three times as heavy as the Soyuz capsule cosmonauts have ridden into space since 1967. It's also to use environmentally friendly fuels, the BBC said. The first test launch of the new rocket is expected about 2015 with the first manned launch in 2018. (3/17)

Russian Rocket Lofts ESA Gravity Mapping Satellite (Source: Space News)
Europe's gravity-field-measuring satellite, GOCE, was successfully placed into low Earth orbit March 17 by a Russian Rockot vehicle operated from the Plesetsk spaceport in northern Russia. (3/17)

Orbcomm Satellite Declared Total Loss Following Power Failure (Source: Space News)
Satellite two-way messaging service provider Orbcomm has lost control of one of the six satellites it launched in June, declaring it a total loss following a power failure, the company announced March 16. (3/17)

ViaSat Changes Launchers as Proton Prices Drop (Source: Space News)
ViaSat Inc. is canceling its contract with Arianespace for an Ariane 5 launch of the ViaSat-1 satellite in favor of an International Launch Services (ILS) Russian Proton rocket, ViaSat announced March 11. The decision will save ViaSat some $20 million even if it pays contract-cancellation penalties to Arianespace, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company said March 11. (3/17)

March Madness for Space Geeks (Source: Universe Today)
Have you ever looked on with envy at your office mates' brackets and (illegal) betting pools for the NCAA basketball tournament but you don't know the difference between a jump ball and a jump shot? Well, now there's a bracket just for you: March Mission Madness. And it's a showdown of epic proportions, plus it's not even against the law to participate (as long as no money is changing hands!). With NASA's March Mission Madness, you can enjoy intriguing matchups, story lines and buzzer beating drama. Beginning today, March 9th, NASA fans will be able to view the lineup of 64 NASA missions, learn about mission goals, and vote for your favorite missions, as well as predict which missions your fellow space geeks and nerds will vote for during this single elimination tournament. Visit for information. (3/16)

Space Industry Critical to Global Economic Growth (Source: People's Daily)
The international space industry grows vigorously despite the sluggish global economy. Intensive space activities, particularly since March this year have repeatedly made headlines in global international media: China's lunar probe Chang'e-1 ended its 16-month mission with a controlled crash onto the moon; the US launched Kepler space telescope designed to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars; Russian and US astronauts completed a five-hour spacewalk; European Earth Gravity Field and Ocean Circulation Explorer will be launched soon... Click here to view the article. (3/17)

Cosmology Center Established at The University of Texas (Source: UT Austin)
A new interdisciplinary center for the study of the frontiers of the universe, from the tiniest subatomic particle to largest chain of galaxies, has

been formed at The University of Texas at Austin. The Texas Cosmology Center will be a way for the university’s departments of astronomy and physics to collaborate on research that concerns them both. “This center will bring the two departments together in an area where they overlap — in the physics of the very early universe,” said Dr. Neal Evans, astronomy department chair. (3/16)

Giant Leap for Educator Astronauts, Small Step for Education (Source: Space Frontier Foundation)
The successful launch Space Shuttle launch with educator astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold is an important symbol for education, but NASA’s education programs need more support according to leaders of the nonprofit Teachers in Space program. Teachers in Space project manager Edward Wright said: “The educator astronaut program is getting back on course, and we look forward to an exciting two week mission. At the same time...a lot of work still needs to be done to repair NASA’s neglected education programs.”

A 2008 review of NASA’s precollege education program by the National Research Council noted both management difficulties and budget problems. “Over the past 5 years, [NASA's] education priorities and management structure have changed multiple times,” the NRC report said. “In the 13-month period between September 2005 and October 2006, there were four different assistant or acting assistant administrators for education. NASA’s education program has also faced a downward trend in the budget and specifically for K-12 STEM education activities....In addition, the percentage of mission funds that must be allocated to education and public outreach in the Science Mission Directorate was recently reduced as the result of an agency-level decision.”

The NRC report stated that, “There has been a general decline in education funding across the Office of Education Programs, from $201 million in fiscal 2003 to $162 million in fiscal 2006… The budget request for 2007 funding for the headquarters Office of Education Program was comparable to 2006; the total 2008 budget request dropped substantially, to $121.9 million.” Click here to view the article. (3/16)

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