April 15 News Items

Florida Firms and Universities Among NASA STTR Grant Winners (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 16 proposals for negotiation of Phase 2 contract awards in the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The selected projects have a total value of approximately $9.6 million. The contracts will be awarded to 16 hi-tech firms partnered with 15 universities in 18 states. NASA is one of the federal agencies required to reserve a portion of its research and development funds to award to small business. Florida-based winners include: Advanced Engineering Solutions of Ormond Beach (teamed with Oklahoma State University) for a project focused on Integrated Computational Environment for Airbreathing Hypersonic Flight Vehicle Modeling and Design Evaluation; and Mnemonics Inc. of Melbourne (teamed with the University of Central Florida) for a project focused on Wireless, Passive Encoded Saw Sensors and Communication Links. (4/15)

Space Florida Bill Would Provide Tax Benefits for Space Firms (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Space Florida has been pushing a legislative proposal to help it promote the commercial launch pad it hopes to market to would-be space-flight companies. With the space shuttle slated to pass into the history books next year, state lawmakers have found precious few ways to deal with the massive brain-drain the Space Coast is expected to face. The idea behind SB 1526 is to give companies a tax credit for the various costs associated with launching commercial rockets from Launch Complex 36 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport -- whether the spaceflight companies make money or lose it on the endeavor.

Companies that post a net operating loss on the launches could sell their corporate income tax credit to other companies, while those that make money could get a break on half their corporate income tax liability, or for a percentage of the equipment they buy. The problem: the Florida Legislature doesn’t have money to give away this year. So, Space Florida’s lobbyists have been trying to lower the fiscal impact of the bill – it “may” cost the state around $31 million, economists have predicted – by moving its implementation date from 2010 to 2013 and trying to require economists to change the way they calculate the fiscal impact of bills like it that attempt to entice businesses not currently in the state. (4/15)

California Firms and Universities Among NASA STTR Grant Winners (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 16 proposals for negotiation of Phase 2 contract awards in the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The selected projects have a total value of approximately $9.6 million. The contracts will be awarded to 16 hi-tech firms partnered with 15 universities in 18 states. NASA is one of the federal agencies required to reserve a portion of its research and development funds to award to small business. California-based winners include: Hyper-Therm High-Temperature Composites of Huntington Beach (teamed with California State University in Long Beach) for a project focused on Low Erosion Ceramic Composite Liners for Improved Performance of Ablative Rocket Thrust Chambers; and MetroLaser Inc. of Irvine (teamed with Vanderbilt University) for a project focused on Hydroxyl Tagging Velocimetry for Rocket Plumes. (4/15)

House Panel Raises Conflict of Interest Concern at NASA (Source: Congressional Quarterly)
The House Science Committee is taking aim at NASA over a recent contract award that its chairman says wasn’t scrutinized enough for possible conflicts of interest. The contract in question, worth $1.2 billion over five years, is for managing and operating NASA’s system of space-to-ground receivers and transmitters that allow the agency to communicate with its spacecraft, including astronauts in orbit.

The contract was awarded to ITT Corp., which beat out Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., which had held the contract in various permutations for decades. NASA’s inspector general and the Science Committee are both investigating the matter. House Science Chairman Bart Gordon , D-Tenn., complained that he had specifically asked NASA to hold off until the investigations were done. (4/15)

Andrews Official Resigns Amid Controversy (Source: Pensacola News Journal)
The director of the Andrews Institute's space-tourism program resigned Tuesday amid accusations that he used his state job to launch himself into a new mission at more than double the salary. The departure of Brice Harris as director of defense and aerospace programs at the Gulf Breeze institute comes as Gov. Charlie Crist seeks an Ethics Commission inquiry into Harris' role in developing the institute's contract for Project Odyssey. The Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine is attempting to expand into cutting-edge space programs. Project Odyssey is a program to get space tourists ready to handle the physical demands of launching into orbit. (4/14)

World Space Agencies Eye U.S. Station Ties (Source: Huntsville Times)
World space agencies - including NASA - are reviewing options to stretch America's involvement in the International Space Station beyond 2015. Since 2004, NASA has been working under the premise that the U.S. would stop space station operations by 2015 to focus on exploring the moon. Money used to pay for the station and space shuttle flights is planned for the Marshall Space Flight Center-managed Ares rocket program, which NASA plans as a space shuttle replacement. About 1,000 jobs here are tied to space station operations and science. About 200 at a Redstone Arsenal facility run by Boeing continue to produce small parts for the station. Last week, NASA and 14 other members of the space station program met to discuss the possibility of using the station, scheduled to be completed by 2010, until 2020. (4/15)

Does Gravity Change With the Seasons? (Source: New Scientist)
Everyone has heard of Newton's apple. He watched it drop to the ground in the autumn of 1666, prompting him to ask a series of questions. "Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground?" Newton wondered. "Why should it not go sideways or upwards, but constantly to the Earth's center?" One question Newton didn't ask is whether apples or oranges fall differently. Or whether an apple would fall differently in the spring. They might seem peculiar concerns, but Alan Kosteleck√Ĺ, a physicist based at Indiana University in Bloomington, thinks they are important. He and his graduate student Jay Tasson have found that such flagrant violations of our best theory of gravity could easily have evaded detection for centuries. (4/15)

Purdue Space Forum Explores Future of NASA, Private Spaceflight Companies (Source: Lafayette Online)
Purdue alumni will share their insights into the future of space exploration during the 2009 Purdue Spring Space Forum on April 24 at the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering. Dan Dumbacher, director of the Engineering Directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, will speak about NASA’s plans for exploration after the retirement of the space shuttle in 2010. John Gedmark, a 2003 Purdue graduate and executive director of the Personal Spaceflight Federation, will discuss the prospects of space tourism and the potential benefits of commercial spaceflight to science and education. (4/15)

Big Test Looms for NASA's New Rocket (Source: Space.com)
The pieces are coming together for the first test flight of NASA's new rocket, Ares I, scheduled to lift off this summer. The rocket prototype, called Ares I-X, is scheduled to blast off from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport. The flight will be unmanned, and will only include a partial first stage of the rocket, which should lift the vehicle and mockups of its upper stage to about 25 miles (40.2 km) in roughly two minutes. The test is a critical first try of the new Ares I rocket for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, which NASA hopes will replace the space shuttle as America's preeminent spaceship. (4/15)

North Korea Warns Japan Against Searching for Missile Debris (Source: Florida Today)
North Korea warned Japan Wednesday against searching for debris from the communist state's rocket launch, official media reported. The North's military accused Japan of deploying warships to search for rocket parts and termed this an act of espionage and an "intolerable military provocation." (4/15)

NASA Names Treadmill After Colbert (Source: CNN)
What do you do when you're NASA and comedian Stephen Colbert wins your contest to name the new wing for the International Space Station? You name an orbital exercise machine after him. NASA will name an orbital exercise machine after comedian Stephen Colbert. NASA will name an orbital exercise machine after comedian Stephen Colbert. The Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill, or COLBERT, is expected to keep astronauts in shape. "I think a treadmill is better than a node ... because the node is just a box for the treadmill," Colbert deadpanned. "Nobody says, 'Hey, my mom bought me a Nike box.' They want the shoes that are inside." (4/15)

Editorial: Imagination Drives Power from Space (Source: Merced Sun-Star)
Stardate: April 10, 2009. The world began looking a bit different on that day. In the future, some might say that was the day things began looking up. From when they are small, American children are taught to believe the sky's the limit, that imagination is boundless, that great inventors try and fail repeatedly until they break through with their dreams to change the world. Thus, April 10, 2009: That's the date when imagination docked with the Earthbound economics model in our backyard. The California Public Utilities Commission received a request on that day from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to buy renewable energy from Solaren, a Manhattan Beach company whose secretive Web site offers little beyond this teaser: "Energy for Tomorrow with the Technology of Today."

Solaren's fuel is sunlight. Its "plant" is proposed for space. What has been deemed fantasy and science fiction for decades is now the basis of a real request for what is described in the application as a real technology ready to be tried. (4/15)

Tampa Middle-Schoolers Explore Space (Source: Tampa Tribune)
Stewart Middle School's John Glenn Top Gun Academy students traveled to Germany recently to visit their teacher, Lynn McDaniel. By using videoconferencing technology, the students spoke with McDaniel, who was in Germany visiting family, and Mike McKay, the director of human space flight for the European Space Operations Center, similar to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. McDaniel lived in Germany while teaching for Department of Defense schools. While there she developed a relationship with the European Space Operations Center and tapped into those contacts to set up the videoconference April 3.

McDaniel said the timing of the talk corresponded with the celebration of 100 Hours of Astronomy, part of the International Year of Astronomy, an effort by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO to get people back in touch with the celestial world. "I wanted our John Glenn Top Gun Academy students to realize there are STEM Science, Technology, Engineering and Math career options all over the world because from space there are no borders," McDaniel wrote in an e-mail. (4/15)

Star Crust is 10 Billion Times Stronger Than Steel (Source: New Scientist)
The crust of neutron stars is 10 billion times stronger than steel, according to new simulations. That makes the surface of these ultra-dense stars tough enough to support long-lived bulges that could produce gravitational waves detectable by experiments on Earth. Neutron stars are the cores left behind when relatively massive stars explode in supernovae. They are incredibly dense, packing about as much mass as the sun into a sphere just 20 kilometres or so across, and some rotate hundreds of times per second. (4/15)

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