April 2 News Items

Kosmas Votes Against House Budget Lacking Shuttle Flexibility (Source: Florida Today)
"The budget put forward by House Leadership outlines many priorities that are important for moving our country forward: comprehensive energy reform; a 21st Century education for our children; and access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. Though there are areas of the budget that I support, my priority is helping Central Florida through these difficult economic times, and I believe the Senate's proposed budget does more to protect jobs in our community. Thousands of jobs at Kennedy Space Center and tens of thousands across Florida are at risk due to the pending spaceflight gap. Unlike the Senate version, the House budget does not give NASA the flexibility to fly the Space Shuttle past 2010." (4/2)

Congressman Posey Supports SIFT Teacher Program (Source: SPACErePORT)
Congressman Bill Posey, whose district includes part of the Cape Canaveral Spaceport and the Space Coast, will be the featured guest at an Apr. 7 luncheon of the Summer Industrial Fellowship for Teachers (SIFT). The event will provide an opportunity for Space Coast companies to sign-on as sponsors of summer employment opportunities for K-12 teachers. Visit www.floridasift.com for information. (4/2)

Florida Space Bills Face Senate Committee on Monday (Source: SPACErePORT)
Two bills aimed at supporting Florida's space industry will be considered by a state Senate committee on Monday afternoon. SB-888, sponsored by Senator Evelyn Lynn, would establish in statute a Space Transportation Research & Development Institute (STRDI). SB-2156, sponsored by Senator Thad Altman, would provide tax credits for companies operating within a commercial launch zone. (4/2)

United Launch Alliance Completes Partnership Program With NASA (Source: ULA)
United Launch Alliance (ULA) engineers have completed the preliminary design and development of an in-space inflatable sun shield for the Atlas V launch vehicle's upper stage. The work was performed in partnership with engineers from ILC Dover in Delaware, and with support from NASA engineers at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The sun shield is designed to inflate and deploy after jettison of the launch vehicle payload fairing to reflect the sun's rays away from the upper stage tanks, thereby minimizing the liquid boil-off of the two super-cold propellants.

The Atlas V upper stage uses liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, both of which are very cold -- minus 420 degrees F and minus 290 degrees F, respectively. Both liquids vaporize quickly in the presence of heat from the sun's rays in space. Although the initial design of the sun shield is for use on the Atlas V upper stage, the same concept could be used for ULA's Delta IV, other rockets or for in-space propellant depots. Propellant depots are long-term storage tanks or refueling stations for space vehicles on their way to earth orbit, to the Moon or to Mars. (4/2)

Russia to Launch Another Three Soyuz Spacecraft to ISS in 2009 (Source: RIA Novosti)
Russia is planning to launch three more Soyuz piloted spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) this year. The first Soyuz TMA vehicle this year, the TMA-14, was launched on March 26 and delivered members of the 19th Expedition to the ISS. "In line with international agreements, Russia will launch the Soyuz TMA-15 on May 27, the Soyuz TMA-16 on October 1, and the Soyuz TMA-17 on November 20 from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan," Roscosmos said in a statement. The next Soyuz TMA will transport three additional crewmembers to the ISS. It will be the 102nd flight of a Soyuz spacecraft since 1967. (4/2)

North Korea Launch a Test for International Law (Source: AP)
North Korea says it has the right to put a satellite into orbit under an international space treaty. The U.S. and others, suspicious the planned launch is really a test of a long-range military missile, say firing any rocket would violate a United Nations ban. As with many legal areas, there is room for debate. Experts say differences in the wording of the U.N. Security Council resolutions on the North's missile testing and the United Nations' Outer Space Treaty open the way to interpretation, which may be enough to allow Pyongyang to escape punishment for a launch.

The Security Council censured North Korea twice in 2006, first for carrying out a ballistic missile test that July and then for conducting a nuclear test explosion three months later. Security Council Resolution 1718, adopted after an underground atomic bomb test, said Pyongyang "shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching." But a 1967 U.N. treaty says outer space "shall be free for exploration and use by all states without discrimination of any kind." (4/2)

Lunar Prize Sets Asian Hearts Racing (Source: Asia Times)
While the people who established the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) are hoping that the winning team will leave its mark on the moon in the next three years or so, the GLXP has already left an important mark on China. With a nod of approval from the government of China, a privately funded German-Chinese team is quietly taking shape. There are only 3 GLXP teams now based in Asia, including two in Malaysia - Independence-X Aerospace (IDXA) which is based in Shah Alam and Kuala Lumpur, and Team Advaeros in Perak. However, it is Team Selene in Shanghai that is truly breaking new ground. Indeed, the existence of Team Selene is remarkable in itself. Observers of Chinese activities in space who have claimed for years that a state-military monopoly oversees and supports all space activity in China will immediately see that Team Selene does not fit the mold. (4/2)

North Korea Vows to Attack Japan if Rocket Intercepted (Source: AFP)
North Korea's military threatened Thursday to attack "major targets" in Japan if Tokyo tries to shoot down a satellite it intends to launch as soon as this weekend. "If Japan recklessly 'intercepts' the DPRK's (North's) satellite for peaceful purposes, the KPA will mercilessly deal deadly blows not only at the already deployed intercepting means but at major targets," said a statement from the Korean People's Army (KPA). (4/2)

For U.S. Satellite Makers, a No-Cost Bailout Bid (Source: New York Times)
Officials in Washington are moving to revitalize yet another faltering American industry: the business of making the communications satellites. But this rescue would not cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact it could be virtually free — if Congressional Democrats succeed in lifting export controls that classify satellite technology as weapons and have handicapped American manufacturers since the last days of the Clinton administration. House hearings on the controls are to begin Thursday. Proponents of change are optimistic, pointing to a campaign pledge by President Obama and the support of respected figures like Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald R. Ford and George Bush. (4/2)

Russian Council Ratifies Brazil Space Agreement (Source: Itar-Tass).
Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, on Wednesday ratified an agreement on space cooperation with Brazil. The document was signed in Brasilia in 2006. The purpose of the agreement is to establish and develop cooperation with Brazil in the field of protection of space technologies in a number of high-tech and science-intensive sectors that appear to be beneficial for Russia, Federation Council Committee for International Affairs first deputy chairman Ilyas Umakhanov said. The agreement guarantees safety and security and prevents misuse of protected products and technologies exported from Russia. Cooperating organizations will be required to draw up plans for the protection of technologies and submit them to governmental authorities for approval. (4/2)

Editorial: Let Shuttle Finish Planned Flights (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
While the next generation of human-spaceflight vehicles is being developed, the space shuttle and international space station will play important roles in maintaining our global leadership in space. That is why the space shuttle should be allowed to complete its planned flights to fully equip the space station before being retired. The latest milestone flight of Discovery is strong evidence that the shuttles are operating at their highest level of safety and performance ever. Equally evident in the weeks leading up to STS-119 was the fact that the shuttle team itself is working at a high level of safety and performance.

At present, the shuttle is set for retirement at the end of next year without any consideration for the additional time it could take to complete all of the missions needed to finish the ISS in a safe and reliable manner. With the shuttle and its government and industry team working at new levels of efficiency and safety, it just makes prudent sense to give NASA the funds and the time it needs to fly out this manifest, including the launch of a critically important spectrometer that, without a shuttle flight, would be abandoned on the ground. (4/2)

Astronauts May Need More Intense Workouts to Maintain Muscle Fitness (Source: American Physiological Society)
A new study in the The Journal of Applied Physiology, suggests that astronauts need to modify their workouts to avoid extensive muscle loss during missions onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The latest NASA-sponsored research from Ball State University's Human Performance Laboratory (HPL) suggests that changes are needed to optimize the inflight exercise regimen for astronauts to improve their muscle performance while in space for extended stays. Average stays on the ISS run about six months, and preservation of crewmember health in zero-gravity environments is paramount for safety and mission success. Since exercise is the primary course of action to protect the cardiovascular system, bone, and skeletal muscles, astronauts need to find the optimal exercises to stay fit. (4/2)

Congressional Bill Seeks to Streamline Satellite Exports (Source: AIA)
Satellite makers could get a multibillion-dollar boost by a bill in Congress that would remove some of the regulatory hurdles associated with foreign sales. Some Democrats, including California Rep. Ellen Tauscher, are pushing to reverse a decade-old provision that classifies satellites as weapons, making it much harder to sell the technology abroad. Hearings in the House are scheduled to begin on Thursday, and President Barack Obama has already voiced support for the proposal. (4/2)

Pyongyang Threatens to Shoot Down U.S. Spy Planes (Source: AIA)
North Korea believes Boeing-built RC-135 surveillance aircraft are spying on its launch preparations for a purported communications satellite, and Pyongyang is threatening to "mercilessly shoot down" any U.S. plane in its airspace. Outside observers believe North Korea is using the launch to test long-range missile technology in violation of UN restrictions. (4/2)

Pentagon Budget Unknown; Contractors Brace for Cuts (Source: AIA)
Defense contractors such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman have flocked to Capitol Hill over the past few weeks, all trying to ensure continued support for their projects despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates' plans to reduce military spending. Details on the $534 billion Pentagon budget aren't known, but Gates could slash a major defense weapons program next week. (4/2)

Costs for Ares Rocket Soar to $44 Billion (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The cost of getting NASA's next-generation rocket to the space station has ballooned from an initial $28 billion to about $44 billion today — and that number is likely to keep rising, according to NASA studies and government officials. The soaring costs are driven by a host of technical troubles and made worse by the way NASA budgeted the Constellation program, which is supposed to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. The cost overruns and other problems are likely to delay the rocket's launch from March 2015 to late 2016, widening the gap between the planned retirement of the space shuttle in 2010 and the first Constellation flight, while extending thousands of job losses in Brevard County.

NASA officials say they are trying to figure out how much money the program needs to retain the 2015 launch date. "Space exploration poses unique challenges and requires a unique commitment, but NASA must be held accountable for their programs and how they are spending taxpayer dollars," said U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D- New Smyrna Beach, the freshman congresswoman whose district includes Kennedy Space Center. The House Appropriations Committee will examine NASA's budget in coming weeks as part of Congress' annual spending review. The costs of Constellation will be a focus of that examination. (4/2)

Ares Technical Issues Lead to Cost Increases (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Ares I also battling myriad technical issues, including problems with its liquid-fueled upper-stage engine and violent shaking caused by the burning of its solid-fuel first stage. NASA has characterized these issues as normal rocket-development problems, but each is taking longer and costing more to resolve than anticipated. And the design changes they require have resulted in additional costs. Given NASA's history of cost overruns, few think that the program's current cost estimate will hold. But many think that the current number is the most accurate projection NASA has released about the cost of Constellation.

"I think that $44 billion should be a much more realistic cost estimate than anything they put forward at the very start of the program," said John Logsdon, a space scholar at the National Air and Space Museum. But, he added, "I'm willing to bet that $44 billion is not the final number either." A senior government auditor agreed. "You have to be cautious about how accurate that estimate can be, given the number of technical and design risks that still face the [Constellation] program," said Cristina Chaplain, who monitors NASA spending for the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. "[NASA officials] have a history of being optimistic." (4/2)

Alabama Congressional Members Prefer Ares Over Shuttle Extension (Source: Huntsville Times)
Florida lawmakers' plan to extend the life of the space shuttle could become a double-edged sword, Alabama lawmakers and space experts say. An extension could sap money from new Marshall Space Flight Center-developed rockets and keep NASA out of manned spaceflight for years if space agency budgets are not properly funded. Since 2005, NASA has been working on the transition from the three-decade-old shuttle program to newer Marshall-developed Ares I and Ares V rockets that would support the International Space Station.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which holds sway over the NASA budget, has said keeping Ares development fully funded and on track is crucial, and the shuttle program retirement should be reviewed carefully so it does not delay the new rockets. "I am supportive of the shuttle program and hope that it will be able to safely finish its mission by the end of 2010," Shelby said. "However, if funds are necessary for delaying the retirement of the shuttle program, those dollars cannot come at the expense of the nation's next manned space program," the Ares I and Ares V being developed at Marshall.

Freshman Democratic Rep. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, agreed with Shelby and said he wouldn't support an extension of the shuttle program if it would delay the Ares program. "I would support continuing shuttle flights past 2010 only if NASA can assure us that it is safe and we can do so without taking funding resources away from the development of the Ares program," Griffith said. More than 1,000 NASA and aerospace contractor jobs in North Alabama are now tied to the space shuttle program. NASA has been moving most of the shuttle workers to the Ares rocket programs. (4/2)

Editorial: Options Abound if Obama Kills Ares Rocket (Source: Florida Today)
Although some in Congress hope to delay the space shuttle’s retirement until 2011, President Obama’s latest budget suggests there will be no extension of the program, allowing the remaining orbiters to become museum pieces after 2010. It’s not yet a done deal, but this is not good news for Florida’s aerospace workforce. What remains unclear, at least to some, is whether Obama still plans to replace the shuttles with Ares 1 and Ares 5 rockets.

Ares 1 would be much less capable than the shuttle and not be fully operational until at least 2015, resulting in a five-year human-spaceflight gap and thousands of lost jobs. The gap’s rippling economic consequences, including the loss of strategically skilled aerospace workers, were acknowledged with concern by the Obama campaign in 2008. Also acknowledged were technical issues that cast some doubt on whether the Ares rockets would work as planned, or be delivered on time and within budget.

In his campaign’s space policy platform, Obama refrained from explicitly identifying Ares as the shuttle’s replacement, referring instead to “successor systems.” Although Ares development continues, some insiders believe the program is on the chopping block. The uncertainty adds to the anxiety of our aerospace workers. If Ares is canceled, what are NASA’s alternatives, and which would be best for Florida? There are several possibilities. Click here to view the editorial. (4/2)

SpaceX Finds $15M (Source: SoCalTeCH)
Hawthorne-based SpaceX, the commercial space rocket venture of Paypal's Elon Musk, disclosed Tuesday in a regulatory filing that the firm has raised $15M of an ongoing $60M, equity round. According to the filing, the first close occurred on March 18th. No details of the funding round have been released by the company. SpaceX has previously raised funding from the Founders Fund. (4/2)

Stafford's Lampson Emerges as Possible Pick for Space Chief (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, once a county assessor and school science teacher, has emerged as a contender for the top job at NASA. The 64-year-old Stafford Democrat, whose Houston-area congressional district included Johnson Space Center, has joined a short list of prospective nominees for the $177,000-a-year post. Former astronaut Charles Bolden Jr., a retired Marine Corps major general, also remains in contention, in part because of support from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairman of the Senate panel that oversees NASA.

The selection of a NASA administrator has dragged on for months. It has been complicated by political divisions within the NASA community, rival candidates favored by Texas and Florida lawmakers and a White House distracted by a national economic crisis. A bipartisan group of 14 lawmakers including seven Texans recently wrote Obama to express their concern about the absence of a NASA administrator. Lampsons congressional allies have been privately urging Obama to consider the former congressman ever since his 2008 defeat. (4/2)

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