April 10 News Items

Launching the Dream of Civilian Space Travel (Source: Torrance Daily Breeze)
"I call it the greatest space story that was never told," says Michael Potter, who produced and directed a documentary about a team of U.S. entrepeneurs who founded a commercial spaceflight venture using the aging Russian space station Mir. For Palos Verdes Estates filmmaker Michael Potter, the moment Neil Armstrong's foot touched the surface of the moon July 20, 1969, his eyes became fixed on the sky.

Potter began his career as a businessman when he was 9, delivering the Daily Breeze around his Peninsula neighborhood with his twin brother. Their quiet, suburban street was populated with aerospace engineers, and young Potter was quickly drawn to the excitement of the aerospace movement. Now in his 40s, he never did become an astronaut or a famous engineer, but growing up in orbit among some of the aerospace industry's most forward-thinking minds placed him in prime position to document what has come to be known as the New Space Revolution - civilian travel to outer space. Click here to view the article. (4/10)

Delta IV Launch Postponed Until May (Source: Florida Today)
This month's planned launch of a Delta IV rocket carrying a weather and climate observation satellite has been pushed back into May. The United Launch Alliance rocket had been scheduled to blast off with the satellite for NOAA on April 28. But NASA said the launch will now take place no earlier than May 12. During a countdown dress rehearsal on Wednesday a liquid oxygen leak was detected in the first stage. (4/10)

Lockheed Martin SBIRS Team Advancing to Follow-on Production Phase (Source: CSA)
The Lockheed Martin Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) team has submitted its proposal for the program's follow-on production phase and has completed a major Preliminary Design Review (PDR) milestone with the U.S. Air Force. The SBIRS program is designed to provide early warning of missile launches, and simultaneously support other missions including missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness. The SBIRS Follow-on Program, which will complete the SBIRS constellation, will add the third and fourth highly elliptical orbit (HEO) payloads as well as the third and an option for a fourth geosynchronous orbit (GEO) spacecraft. (4/10)

Sea Launch Prepares for the Launch of SICRAL 1B (Source: Sea Launch)
The Sea Launch vessels have departed Sea Launch Home Port for the Equator, in preparation for the launch of Telespazio’s SICRAL 1B communication satellite, on Apr. 19. Liftoff is planned for 1:16 am Pacific Time at the opening of a 57-minute launch window. Upon arrival at the launch site, at 154 degrees West Longitude, the Sea Launch team will initiate a 72-hour countdown. After ballasting the Odyssey Launch Platform to launch depth, the team will roll out and erect a Zenit-3SL rocket on the launch pad, execute final tests and then proceed with fueling operations and launch. Prior to fueling, all personnel on the Launch Platform will transfer to the Sea Launch Commander for the duration of the mission. The team monitors both marine and launch operations remotely from the ship, positioned about four miles uprange of the platform. (4/10)

NASA to Announce Space Station Module Name on Colbert Report on Apr. 14 (Source: NASA)
NASA's newest module for the International Space Station will get a new name on Apr. 14. The agency plans to make the announcement with the help of Expedition 14 and 15 astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." The program will air at 11:30 p.m. EDT. "I certainly hope NASA does the right thing," said Colbert. "Just kidding, I hope they name it after me." (4/10)

Florida Inspector General Finds Fault in Space Tourism Deal (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
An executive with the governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development likely violated state law after arranging a $500,000 grant – including $250,000 from Space Florida – to set up a “space tourism” program at a Panhandle medical clinic, a state inspector general has concluded. The official, Brice Harris, helped draw up a proposal for the program – and negotiated a $150,000-a-year salary for its director – before resigning his government post last summer to take the director’s job.

Gov. Charlie Crist asked his inspector general to investigate after the Orlando Sentinel reported in January that Harris may have violated a revolving-door law prohibiting state employees from taking a job with a company if they were "substantially" involved with overseeing or negotiating a contract with that company. In asking for the investigation, Crist said, "Well, there's no question it probably doesn't pass the smell test." The IG urged the state Ethics Commission to sanction Harris. (4/10)

Florida Teams Set for Final Round of the Team America Rocketry Challenge (Source: AIA)
The top 100 student rocketry teams in the country are ready for the final round of competition of the Team America Rocketry Challenge next month after AIA announced the qualifiers for the fly-off on Friday. The seventh annual TARC -- the world's largest rocket contest -- will take place May 16 at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. The final competition gives middle and high school students a chance to earn part of a total prize package of $60,000 in scholarships and other prizes. A total of 653 teams from 45 states and the District of Columbia took part in the qualifying rounds of competition. Florida finalists include five teams from Plantation High School in Plantation, and one team from West Boca Raton High School. Congratulations! Click here for information. (4/10)

California Teams Set for Final Round of the Team America Rocketry Challenge (Source: AIA)
The top 100 student rocketry teams in the country are ready for the final round of competition of the Team America Rocketry Challenge next month after AIA announced the qualifiers for the fly-off on Friday. The seventh annual TARC -- the world's largest rocket contest -- will take place May 16 at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. The final competition gives middle and high school students a chance to earn part of a total prize package of $60,000 in scholarships and other prizes.

A total of 653 teams from 45 states and the District of Columbia took part in the qualifying rounds of competition. California finalists include teams from Desert Valley High School (Brawley), Westmont High School (Cambell), Newark Memorial High School (Newark), Santa Cruz High School (Santa Cruz), Templeton Middle School (Templeton), and Oaks Christian High School (West Village). Congratulations! Click here for information. (4/10)

ZeroGravity Teacher Flight Competitions Start in Virginia (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia Technology Alliance is promoting the utilization of ZeroGravity flights for teachers and students throughout Virginia to boost public interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Ten regional technology councils and other public-interest civic groups are banding together to purchase as many as twenty ZeroGravity seats this year with the aspiration of flying more in the future. A press conference was held at the state capitol in Richmond this week to launch the program. (4/10)

Spaceport America Offers Job Opportunities (Source: Las Cruces Sun-Times)
A near-capacity crowd Thursday of about 260 people filled Commission Chambers at the Doña Ana County Government Center to learn more about the construction of Spaceport America. The size of the crowd was significant, because the project will take businesses of practically all types to complete the spaceport. If businesses aren’t directly involved in the construction, they could be with ancillary services and products they could provide to the estimated hundreds of people who will be working on the 17-month project. (4/10)

Kazakhstan Indefinitely Postpones Space Program (Source: Xinhua)
Kazakhstan has indefinitely postponed a plan of sending its own cosmonaut to the International Space Station (ISS) for lack of funding, Talgat Musabayev, head of the National Space Agency. Musabayev said the sole reason for putting off the plan was lack of funding. He did not disclose the exact amount of fund specified in contract signed with Russia for the joint space mission. But he expressed the belief that Kazakhstan would go on with the plan, without giving a specific timetable for its implementation. (4/10)

Editorial: New Mexico Spaceport Efforts Gaining Ground (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
All along, the spaceport has had its critics. As the economy has tumbled in the past year, many of those critics have held the spaceport up as a boondoggle and a stress on an already strained state budget. But we would argue that a new industry is precisely what is needed at this time. And we believe this particular industry will be viable and is particularly suited to southern New Mexico. Yes, it will be a few years down the road before the economic impact really kicks into high gear. But that makes it all the more critical to get these baby steps done now. Continued progress and movement now brings us ever closer to the day we can feel the positive effects. Any delays now will only delay those positive effects. (4/10)

Arianespace Nets $3.3 Million for 2008 (Source: Arianespace)
Arianespace announced 2008 sales of 955.7 million euros [$1.27 billion], with net income of 2.5 million euros [$3.3 million]. Despite the global economic crisis Arianespace enjoyed a remarkable year in 2008, in terms of both number of launches and new launch contracts. Arianespace confirmed its world leadership, as it carried out six Ariane 5 launches, orbiting 10 geostationary satellites plus the Jules Verne ATV to the International Space Station. It won 13 of the 18 launch contracts open to competition during the year. Furthermore, in 2008 Arianespace was selected by the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) to launch the entire Galileo constellation. (4/10)

Florida Space Bills Advance in Tallahassee (Source: SPACErePORT)
Two space-related bills were considered and passed by a Senate committee last week, including SB-888 and SB-2156. SB-888, sponsored by Sen. Evelyn Lynn, would establish the Space Transportation Research & Development Institute in Florida Statutes. This bill will be heard by the Higher Education Committee on Apr. 15. SB-2156, sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman, would provide corporate income tax credits related to aerospace employment and tuition reimbursement for aerospace workers. This bill will be heard next by the Finance & Tax Committee. (4/7)

Pratt And Whitney Rocketdyne Tests New Propulsion Technology (Source: SpaceDaily.com)
Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne completed a series of successful hot-fire tests for a propulsion system that could lead to increased mission capability and flexibility in sending humans to the moon, Mars and beyond. During the tests at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, a 25 pound-force thruster testbed successfully demonstrated cooling with gaseous methane and gaseous oxygen, as well as rapid start and stop at simulated altitude conditions. (4/8)

Air Force Awards $184 Million to ULA for NRO Mission (Source: DOD)
The Air Force is awarding a firm fixed priced contract to United Launch Services, LLC, Centennial, Colo., for $184,000,000. This action will provide launch services for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) mission, NROL-15; the undefinitized contract will ensure that the current launch schedule is maintained. At this time, $138,000,000 has been obligated. LRSW/PK, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., is the contracting activity. (4/7)

Happy US-Russian Crew Deny 'Divorce in Space' (Source: AFP)
A Russian and US space crew denied on Friday that new rules forbid them from sharing toilets and food in orbit, hailing their work as the "best partnership" in human history. "We are still working our partnership together, but please don't make a mistake," US astronaut Michael Fincke said at the crew's first news conference since returning from the International Space Station (ISS). "This is the best partnership that humans have ever had ... We're going to the stars together," he said in comments aired on Russian state television.

"We share things... The Americans definitely never said the Russians cannot use their toilet," added Fincke, gracefully switching between English and Russian. An interview by veteran cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, published after the Russian returned to the ISS last month, laid bare extraordinary tensions in the US-Russian space partnership. Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper that new no-sharing rules instituted on the station were damaging morale and causing friction among the crew. (4/10)

Perminov: ISS Tourism Dependent Upon U.S. Shuttle Decision (Source: Interfax)
The decision to resume tourist flights to the International Space Station (ISS) will be made after NASA decides on how long its shuttles can remain in service, said Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos). “We will consider space tourism in the context of the program of further missions. It is very important for us to know until which year shuttles will be used, and based on this information we will build our plans,” Perminov told journalists on Wednesday. (4/8)

NASA's Secret Rebels Want Obama on Their Side (Source: Fox)
NASA rocket scientists secretly working on what they say is a better, safer rocket want President Obama to ditch the space agency's official space-shuttle replacement design and pick theirs instead. Representatives of the alternative project, named DIRECT, met with members of Obama's transition team before the inauguration in January and are now pressing Congress and the White House to order an independent review. The renegade NASA engineers, along with others from space contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, began meeting secretly three years ago to share doubts about the Ares I and Ares V rockets, which are the linchpins of the upcoming Constellation program.

The DIRECT team counters that their single 'Jupiter' rocket could be off the ground sooner than the Ares, that all of its parts have been already tested and that it would cost less money. The scientists, who have been collaborating after-hours in Internet chat rooms to discuss fuel-mass ratios and rocket trajectories, insist on remaining anonymous and leave their public comments to a spokesman. "The reason we have to be unnamed is NASA has a reputation for making life miserable for anyone who's working on [DIRECT]," said an engineer who works at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and asked not to be identified. "Quite a few have been transferred to undesirable locations."

NASA denies taking punitive action against DIRECT project participants. So far, reception to their ideas from political decision-makers has been less than enthusiastic. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, "sees no reason to second-guess NASA's own experts," his office said. A White House spokesman said the Obama administration would not comment on Constellation and the alternative proposed by DIRECT until it names a replacement for former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who stepped down in January. (4/10)

Washington Governor Unveils Plan to Boost Aerospace (Source: AIA)
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire will create a commission to keep her state competitive in the aerospace industry, but she is stopping short of the tax cuts some experts say are needed to reduce the cost of building airplanes in the Seattle area. "We still have the edge," Gregoire said Thursday in announcing her new Council on Aerospace, but a state-commissioned study would seem to dispute that. Deloitte Consulting found that Washington's "disadvantages outweigh the advantages in attracting and retaining aerospace companies relative to other states," specifically North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Kansas. (4/10)

Chief of National Reconnaissance Office Announces Resignation (Source: AIA)
Scott Large announced this week he will step down April 18 as head of the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency responsible for overseeing U.S. spy satellites. Large made the announcement in an employee e-mail Wednesday, but did not cite specific reasons for his decision. (4/10)

Astrotech to Support Energia on MRM1 Station Launch (Source: Astrotech)
Astrotech has entered into a formal $1.8 million agreement to support Russia's RSC Energia at Astrotech's Cape Canaveral payload processing facilities to prepare Energia's Mini Research Module (MRM1) for flight aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle during the STS-132 mission. “This is a great win for Astrotech Corporation, and is the result of a lot of hard work from people all across the organization,” said Thomas B. Pickens III, Astrotech’s chairman and chief executive officer. (4/9)

Scientists Pinpoint the 'Edge of Space' (Source: University of Calgary)
Where does space begin? Scientists at the University of Calgary have created a new instrument that is able to track the transition between the relatively gentle winds of Earth's atmosphere and the more violent flows of charged particles in space - flows that can reach speeds well over 1000 km/hr. And they have accomplished this in unprecedented detail. Data received from the U of C-designed instrument sent to space on a NASA launch from Alaska about two years ago was able to help pinpoint the so-called edge of space: the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space. With that data, U of C scientists confirmed that space begins 118 km above Earth. (4/9)

NASA Extends SAIC Contract at JSC in Texas (Source: NASA)
NASA has exercised a $58 million, one-year extension option for a contract with Science Applications International Corporation of Houston to provide support to safety and mission assurance activities at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Safety and Mission Assurance Support Services contract helps ensure safety, reliability, maintainability, and quality in the International Space Station Program, the Space Shuttle Program and the Constellation Program. (4/9)

John Glenn is on Auction Block for Charity! (Source: ASF)
Hall of Fame Astronaut John Glenn is putting himself on the auction block to raise money for college scholarships for top engineering and science students through the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation’s online Auction of Astronaut Experiences & Memorabilia opening today at http://www.astronautscholarship.org/auction.pl. The winning bidder will share an unforgettable meal with Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, who will regale his guests with stories of his historic spaceflight adventures, answer questions about astronaut life, the U.S. space program, and what it's like to be a living legend. (4/9)

Obama Science Advisor Talks Post-Shuttle Gap and Foreign Reliance (Source: Space Politics)
We don’t have a NASA administrator yet, but we do have a presidential science advisor, in the form of John Holdren, who formally started work last month. Holdren addressed space policy issues in recent interviews. He said the administration's current plan is to retire the Shuttle "within the 2010 framework" while adding an additional mission. "If that can’t be done and things slip, then consideration will be given to going beyond that date. And that would be the last shuttle mission. There will be a gap in our capacity to put people in space with U.S. vehicles, because we will not have a follow-on to the shuttle ready before 2015."

When asked if the gap can be limited to 4 years: "It’s going to be at least that long. I don’t see any way we can do it before 2015, and if things go as they often do, it might be a little later than 2015. And what we’ll have to do in that interim period is rely on our international partners, which means the Russians. It might also be the Chinese, depending on how our relationship develops...I think it’s possible in principle to develop the required degree of confidence in the Chinese. I put it out there only as speculation, but I don’t think it should be ruled out." (4/9)

Obama Science Advisor Talks Space Council (Source: Space Politics)
Holdren: The space council is not yet fully articulated. One model is that it would be co-chaired by NSC and OSTP because of civil and military aspects of space. But it might sit as a committee within PCAST [President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology] or be freestanding. In a previous time, it reported to the office of the vice president. There are different options that are being considered. But there will be a space council. And again, it will be meaningful because, where ever it sits, its conclusions will propagate to the president. We’ve got a president who cares about these issues and who has a huge capacity to absorb complex issues, and we’re going to use that capacity. (4/9)

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