March 28 News Items

NASA'S Shuttle Discovery Glides Home After Successful Mission (Source: NASA)
Space shuttle Discovery and its crew landed at 3:14 p.m. EDT Saturday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a 13-day journey of more than 5.3 million miles. The STS-119 flight delivered the space station's fourth and final set of solar array wings, completing the station's truss, or backbone. The additional electricity provided by the arrays will fully power science experiments and help support station operations. (3/28)

North Korean Rocket Could Reach Hawaii: US Admiral (Source: AFP)
America's top military officer said on Friday that a rocket North Korea plans to launch next month has a range that could possibly reach Hawaii. Asked if the North Korean rocket could reach the US states of Hawaii or Alaska, Admiral Mike Mullen told CNN: "In some cases, yes, they could probably get down to Hawaii." International concern has been mounting about North Korea's announcement it would launch a communications satellite between Apr. 4-8. The U.S., Japan and other allies believe Pyongyang is using the launch to test a ballistic missile that could, in theory, cross the Pacific to reach North America. The launch, combined with North Korea's atomic weapons, were cause for serious concern, the admiral said. (3/28)

FAA Administrator Nominee an Unknown on Space Transportation Issues (Source: SPACErePORT)
President Obama has named J. Randolph Babbit to lead the FAA, pending Senate confirmation. Babbit is a partner in the worldwide aviation consultancy of Oliver Wyman. He was the former Chairman and CEO of Eclat Consulting until they were acquired by Oliver Wyman in 2007. Babbitt is internationally recognized as a leader in the field of aviation safety and policy, and labor relations with almost 40 years of experience in the industry. He is a former director of the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA). He has no background in space transportation and his views on the subject have not been reported. (3/28)

NASA Awards $10 Million Cooperative Agreement To University Association (Source: NASA)
NASA Ames Research Center has selected the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) for award of a new five-year cooperative agreement valued at $9,873,524 to provide internships to talented university students and faculty engaged in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Under the terms of the agreement, the USRA will design, implement and manage a workforce development program, called the Education Associates Program (EAP), under the auspices of NASA Ames Education and Public Outreach Branch.

The program will address the critical shortage of American students enrolling in, and graduating from, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This is a matter of serious concern to NASA, all high-tech companies and the nation. To encourage student engagement in STEM fields of study, the EAP will provide hands-on internships with NASA scientists and engineers, with a particular added focus on diversity enrollment. (3/28)

Virgin's WhiteKnightTwo Completes 3rd Test Flight (Source: Space News)
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo carrier aircraft made its third flight Mar. 25, achieving an altitude of nearly 5,500 meters and top speed of roughly 260 kilometers per hour during the two and a half hour flight. It was the WhiteKnightTwo's longest and fastest flight to date. The test flight, conducted from the Mojave Air and Spaceport, Calif., also included engine restart tests and other assessments of the aircraft's operating and handling capabilities, the company said in a release.

Virgin's test plans call for sending WhiteKnightTwo aloft with SpaceShipTwo during the second half of 2009. The company also plans to offer WhiteKnightTwo for training and to ferry science payloads. The aircraft could potentially launch an unmanned rocket capable of placing a satellite into low Earth orbit, company officials said in a March 25 press release. (3/28)

Hearing To Examine ITAR's Grip on Satellite Exports (Source: Space News)
The chairman of a U.S. congressional committee planning hearings on satellite export restrictions said the potential loss of jobs among U.S. satellite component providers is an argument in favor of relaxing at least some elements of the current licensing regime. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs terrorism, nonproliferation and trade subcommittee, said aerospace companies and U.S. intelligence officials have told him that the U.S. aerospace industrial base has been weakened by controls on exports of satellites and satellite components. The current export control regime, known as ITAR, or International Traffic in Arms Regulations, treats satellites as weapons and has made it more difficult for builders of satellite parts to win business abroad. (3/28)

Intelsat, Boeing Finalizing $500 Million Satellite Deal (Source: Space News)
Intelsat is in final negotiations with Boeing on a $500 million contract under which Boeing would deliver four telecommunications satellites based on a new design, with one of the spacecraft carrying a UHF-bandwidth payload for the Australian Defence Force, according to industry officials. The contract, expected to be signed in the coming weeks, would mark the return in force of Boeing Satellite Systems to the commercial market, which the company has mainly watched from the sidelines in the past couple of years. (3/28)

Canada's MDA Looking to U.S. for Growth after ATK Deal Nixed (Source: Space News)
Almost a year after the Canadian government ruled against Alliant Techsystems' purchase of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates' (MDA) space assets, the British Columbia firm has rebounded and is moving ahead with plans to market its products in the United States. (3/28)

Europe's Astrium Reaches Billion-Dollar Milestone in 2008 (Source: Space News)
Astrium Services of Europe, which is branching out from its core military satellite communications services business to Earth observation and navigation, became a billion-dollar company in 2008 with a 43 percent increase in revenue compared to 2007. (3/28)

General Signals Shift in Missile Defense Spending (Source: Space News)
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a clear signal to the missile defense community that starting in 2010 budgetary pressures will force the Pentagon to shift priority away from the long-range strategic missile threat toward regional ballistic missile threats. (3/28)

Florida Senator Decides Against Legislatively Blocking Launch Pad Spending (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Last month, the chairman of a key state Senate budget committee said he would push to freeze about $10 million in public financing intended to help Space Florida convert Launch Complex 36 into a multi-user commercial facility. Legislative auditors had recommended the freeze on funds for the project because Space Florida hadn't yet finalized a master plan for the $55 million facility. Lawmakers also quietly told the agency to drop its plans to ask for up to $43 million more for the complex during the next three years.

Things have apparently changed: Senator Mike Fasano confirmed Friday he no longer planned to freeze the money through so-called "proviso" language in budget bills set to be released today because "they got the message loud and clear." He added, "I think they're doing a fine job." However, plans for the complex still haven't been finished; there are so far no publicly announced companies willing to launch rockets from it. Click here to view the article. (3/28)

Virgin Galactic Makes WhiteKnight Two Structural Changes (Source: Flight Global)
To solve handling and stability problems Virgin Galactic has made structural modifications to the vertical stabiliser fins of its WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft prototype Virgin MotherShip (VMS) Eve. has obtained photographic evidence that VMS Eve's two booms' vertical stabilisers have been reshaped by prime contractor Scaled Composites for a larger lower rudder hinge and a more pronounced horn that may contain a heavier counterweight. The image also shows two new vortex generators added just forward of the lower hinge point and the right boom's fin has a new antenna bulb attached to its top. (3/28)

Ares/Orion Slipping Up To 18 Months - Shuttle Extension Gains Momentum (Source:
NASA’s Constellation Program (CxP) will conduct a “Content and Schedule” summit meeting in the next few months, after it was evaluated their current schedules are “broken”. The meeting will aim to protect against a slip that is estimated to be as serious as 18 months, or outright cancellation for Ares I. Meanwhile, the push for extending the shuttle program by at least two years is gaining serious momentum.

Constellation’s schedules have been slipping at an alarming rate over the past few years, with the last PMR (Program Milestone Review) confirming a 12 month slip in the IOC (Initial Operational Capability) to March, 2015. This date relates to Orion 2, with Orion 4 - currently classed as the first crew rotation for the International Space Station (ISS), otherwise known as FOC (Full Operational Capability) - launching one year later in March, 2016.

While these dates continue to be the official timeline, internal reviews have found those schedules to be “broken”, with CxP departments across the program reporting they are at “zero percent confidence” for keeping to the March, 2015 (IOC) timeline. The problem isn’t just funding - which has become problematic for CxP over the last few years - but also what is described as “serious disconnects” between related departments, such as Orion, Ground Ops and Ares. While continued changes to the designs of Ares and Orion are part of the natural development cycle, issues such as Thrust Oscillation and vehicle performance have come at a price for both schedule and costings, despite fine work from the engineering teams tasked with mitigating the issues. (3/28)

SpaceX Falcon, Dragon Offer Hope For New Florida Space Business (Source: SPACErePORT)
As SpaceX plans for Falcon-9 advance at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, so too do Florida's prospects for re-capturing international market share for commercial satellite launches, building an orbital space tourism enterprise, and developing a new space research capability. The spaceport's Atlas and Delta rockets have had limited success in winning commercial launches, in part because they are booked-up with government missions. Falcon-9 will provide new capacity at the Cape for commercial missions.

With its Dragon capsule--intended initially to support NASA--SpaceX will be able to fly private-sector astronauts on space tourism missions, perhaps to destinations like Bigelow Aerospace's proposed commercial space station. In addition to carrying humans, SpaceX plans to deploy unmanned Dragon capsules on science missions, carrying university, industry and government research. This "DragonLab" capability will provide new opportunities for Florida universities to expand their involvement in space research. (3/28)

ESA and CNES Sign Contract on Guiana Space Center (CSG) (Source: ESA)
The European Space Agency (ESA) and CNES, the French Space Agency, signed a 435 million Euro contract assuring the availability of the CSG launch range for ESA programs and activities and for the exploitation of Ariane, Vega and Soyuz launchers over the period 2009 to 2013. From 2009 onward, a family of launchers, composed of Ariane, Vega and Soyuz, will be operated from CSG under a new legal framework, which includes in particular an agreement between ESA and the French Government on CSG and associated services.

Under this agreement, the French Government guarantees to ESA the availability of the CSG launch range for ESA programmes and activities and for the exploitation of Ariane, Vega and Soyuz. The French Government has designated CNES as the authority responsible for the implementation of this guarantee on its behalf by means of the contract just concluded between ESA and CNES. ESA has, since 1975, contributed through such contracts to the upkeep and operating costs of the CSG launch range, ensuring the availability of the range as a key element of guaranteed access to space for Europe. (3/27)

Another Russian Satellite Breaking Up After Debris Collision (Sources: Interfax, SPACErePORT)
Russian ground-based space control facilities are monitoring a decommissioned Cosmos 2421 Russian military satellite as it 'is gradually falling to pieces.' Cosmos 2421 "is expected to cease to exist by the end of this year," the Space Forces said on Friday. The likely cause is "partial small-fragment destruction of the solar panel, possibly as a result of collision with a small-size space object of some kind," the Space Forces said.

This is separate from the Cosmos 2251 satellite that collided with an Iridium satellite in February. Russia is not the main producer of space waste. At the 26th session in Moscow in 2008 of the Space Debris Coordination Committee, a NASA official said China was responsible for 40%, the United States 27.5%, Russia 25.5%, and other countries 7% of debris. Click here to view the article. (3/28)

Nebraska's STRATCOM Tracks Space Junk (Source: KETV)
More than 19,000 pieces of space debris are orbiting the earth and STRATCOM has the job of keeping track of everything. The agency is responsible for tracking dead satellites, tool boxes and pieces of space junk as small as a baseball. "Cords, lens cap covers and I guess now, there's a tool bag in space from a previous space walk," said Brigadier Gen. Michael Carey, STRATCOM's Deputy Director of Global Operations. The debris is the result of more than a half-century of space flight. It's now posing major obstacles for current and future space missions. "You can't steer those 19,000. Most are not steerable," he said. "There's always a risk of being hit by space debris. There is a risk." (3/28)

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