April 22 News Items

Bigelow: Freedom to Fly (Source: The Economist)
For many years, parts of America’s space industry have complained that the rules governing the export of technology are too strict. Understandably, the government does not want militarily useful stuff to fall into the hands of its foes. But the result is a system that is too strict in its definition of “militarily useful” and which favors lumbering dinosaurs such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which survive on fat government contracts, rather than nimble but small “furry mammals” that need every customer they can get, domestic or foreign.

In December 2007 one of those mammals, a company called Bigelow Aerospace, filed the first legal challenge to America’s rules for exporting space technology. It disputed the government’s claim that foreign passengers traveling on a spaceship or space station were involved in a transfer of technology. The outcome suggests that there may be a chink in the armour of the export-controls regime.

Current rules could plausibly culminate in government monitors being present while the foreigner was near American space technology. Even training on the ground in a mock-up module was deemed a transfer of technology and therefore required export controls. Bigelow received a ruling in February and that it has spent the past two months digesting. A Bigelow executive says the comany got “everything we could want” from the ruling, though the it still precludes passengers from what he describes as the “bad-boy list of export control”—nationals from Sudan, Iran, North Korea and China will not be allowed to fly or train on suborbital passenger flights, or visit Bigelow’s space station. (4/22)

ITAR Ruling Encourages Space Companies (Source: The Economist)
The ITAR ruling passed down to Bigelow could benefit other companies, who have welcomed the ruling. Marc Holzapfel, legal counsel for Virgin Galactic, describes it as a “major development” because it frees the industry from having to go through the “complicated, expensive and dilatory export-approval process”. Tim Hughes, chief counsel of SpaceX, says the approval is exciting, because it seems to represent a “common-sense approach” and bodes well for similar requests made by companies such as his own to carry foreign astronauts hoping to work on missions to the International Space Station. (4/22)

India's ASTROSAT to be Launched in Mid-2010 (Source: The Hindu)
India's Astronomy satellite, ASTROSAT, which would facilitates study of a range of astrophysical objects, is likely to be launched in mid-2010, scientists from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) said. The scientists have completed the developmental phase of complex science payloads and have just begun integrating them before delivery for the 1650 kg satellite. (4/22)

NASA's 'COLBERT' Designed to Minimize House Calls (Source: Wyle)
NASA's newest piece of astronaut fitness gear headed for the International Space Station, the COLBERT, is perfect for a facility that wants to avoid too many house calls for repairs. Developed by Wyle, the COLBERT is designed to go up to 150,000 miles without a belt change. "The COLBERT represents the integrated efforts of our best engineers and scientists to deliver a highly reliable and very critical piece of flight hardware,"said a Wyle official. Wyle has taken a commercial-off-the-shelf treadmill and modified it to meet spaceflight standards. (4/22)

Spaceport America Plans Annual Educational Launches (Source: ISPCS)
Spaceport America and the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium will conduct their first joint annual educational launch from Spaceport America on May 2. The historic launch, funded by the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISCPS), will utilize an SL-3 launch vehicle provided by UP Aerospace. It will carry 11 multi-sensor experiments designed and created by students from New Mexico schools.

Spaceport America is providing the rocket and launch facilities. New Mexico Space Grant Consortium at New Mexico State University, with proceeds from ISPCS, developed the program that funded two university classes, three community college classes and five high school classes to build electronic experiments over the past academic year. (4/22)

United Technologies Sees Lower Sales in Five of Six Divisions (Source: AIA)
United Technologies Corp. said only its Sikorsky aircraft unit saw a rise in operating profit as the parent company's revenue slid by nearly $2 billion in the first quarter. Hamilton Sundstrand aerospace systems and Pratt & Whitney jet engines were among the divisions reporting declining profit and sales. (4/22)

Lockheed Confident Despite 8.8% Decline in Q1 Profit (Source: AIA)
Lockheed Martin Corp. said it earned $666 million in the first quarter, an 8.8% drop from year-earlier levels. Though revenues rose nearly 4%, earnings were hurt by pension expenses. Despite proposed cuts to big programs like the F-22 fighter and next-generation presidential helicopter, Lockheed said it remains on target for full-year revenues of $44.7 billion to $45.7 billion. (4/22)

Q1 Earnings Drop by Half, Boeing Says (Source: AIA)
"Unprecedented" challenges in the commercial aviation industry led to a 50% drop in Boeing Co.'s first-quarter earnings. Net income fell to $610 million for the March quarter, compared to $1.21 billion in the year-earlier period. Boeing now predicts full-year earnings of $4.70 to $5.00 a share, down from previous estimates of $5.05 to $5.35 a share. (4/27)

Northrop Earnings Climb 47% Despite Industry Slump (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Northrop Grumman Corp. posted a 47% jump in first-quarter net income as its aerospace division managed to post earnings and sales increases despite an industrywide slump. The aerospace giant also raised its 2009 earnings forecast by 15 cents to $4.65 to $4.90 a share. (4/22)

Constellation Program at "High Risk," NASA Reports (Source: Wall Street Journal)
NASA says it is $1.9 billion short of the funding it needs to achieve an initial launch of the Constellation program by September 2014. The space agency's most pessimistic report to date is seen as strengthening the hand of lawmakers who want to extend the life of the space shuttle beyond its scheduled 2010 retirement. (4/22)

Aerospace Industry Resilient Despite Economy (Source: AIA)
The aerospace industry showed modest growth in the midst of extremely challenging economic circumstances in 2008, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey announced at the 44th Annual Year-End Review and Forecast. Blakey said industry sales are on pace to reach total sales of $204 billion, an increase of 2.1%, a record level for the fifth straight year. Click here for more information. (4/21)

Airline Employment Slides 6.6% (Source: AIA)
Employment at U.S. airlines was down 6.6% in February as carriers shed 27,500 jobs in the past year. According to the Department of Transportation, airlines employed 391,700 workers in February 2009, compared to 419,200 in February 2008. (4/22)

Aircraft Piling Up at Boeing Plants (Source: AIA)
The Seattle Times counts at least 10 new aircraft parked at various Boeing Co. locations, awaiting delivery to cash-strapped customers. Though a spokesman insists Boeing has no "white tails," or completed planes in search of customers, "What Boeing clearly does have," the paper reports, "is customers in distress and some airplanes sitting as expensive excess inventory far longer than the plane maker would like." (4/20)

Gates Beats Congress to Employment Argument (Source: AIA)
Lawmakers returning to Washington Monday after a spring recess will have their first real chance to stamp their priorities on the 2010 defense budget. But analysts say Pentagon chief Robert Gates has already anticipated much of the debate, framing his budget in terms of jobs and stealing much of the lawmakers' thunder. (4/20)

NextGen to Get Big Push on Capitol Hill (Source: AIA)
Narrower air lanes, reduced spacing between planes and reduced vectoring would help save the economy some $40 billion a year in fuel costs and lost productivity, according to advocates of the NextGen air traffic control system. Airlines and other industry supporters plan to make NextGen funding a key priority in congressional budget debates, though the mechanism for that funding remains contentious. "It's our top priority because it's a way of spending government money in a way that's going to deliver billions and billions of dollars in benefits to consumers and the nation's economy," says a spokesman for the Air Transport Association. (4/21)

As Lunar Orbiter Prepares to Launch, Budget Questions Remain (Source: MSNBC)
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled to launch June 2 on a mission to map landing spots for future astronauts, came in just 10% over budget. But the good news ends there. Based on NASA's track record, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the Constellation program will cost about 50% more than initial estimates, requiring an extra $3 billion annually to meet the goal of putting Americans back on the moon by 2020. (4/21)

White House Rejects Ex-NASA Chief's Funding Claims (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The unusually blunt war of words between the White House and the former NASA administrator continued Monday as the Obama administration defended itself against caustic criticism from former space agency chief Michael Griffin. The White House reaffirmed President Barack Obama's backing for costly manned space operations in the face of Griffin's accusation Friday that budget-cutting bureaucrats were secretly creating a fictional space program by draining the agency budget.

The president is very committed to human space exploration and believes that NASA has a critical role to play in pushing the bounds of human understanding and achievement, said an OMB official. The quick response to Griffin's sharp criticism underscores the political sensitivity of NASA-related issues as Obama struggles to choose a new agency administrator and develop a realistic spending blueprint to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. Manned spaceflight is an important issue to voters in Florida, which Obama narrowly carried in 2008, as well as Texas, where he lost. (4/21)

UCF Project Among NASA/NSBRI Research Initiatives Funded (Source: NASA)
NASA's Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) will fund a dozen proposals to help investigate questions about astronaut health and performance on future space exploration missions. The selected proposals, representing 11 institutions in eight states, will receive a total of almost $16 million during a three to four-year period.

Eduardo Salas of the University of Central Florida will lead an initiative called: Optimizing Crew Performance in Long Duration Space Exploration: Best Practices for Team Training and Cohesion Measurement. (4/20)

Ames Project Among NASA/NSBRI Research Initiatives Funded (Source: NASA)
NASA's Human Research Program and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) will fund a dozen proposals to help investigate questions about astronaut health and performance on future space exploration missions. The selected proposals, representing 11 institutions in eight states, will receive a total of almost $16 million during a three to four-year period.

Lee Stone, Ph.D., of NASA Ames Research Center, will manage a project called: Robust Human-System Interface Design for Spaceflight-Induced Environments. (4/20)

The Case for a Suborbital COTS Program (Source: Space Review)
As some suborbital companies struggle to raise the funding needed to develop their vehicles, NASA is taking an increasing interest in these vehicles' capabilities to do science. Jeff Foust suggests that this may open the door for a COTS-like program that helps both NASA and industry. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1356/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Ferrets of the High Frontier (Source: Space Review)
A lesser-known class of spy satellites developed during the Cold War were signals intelligence satellites known as "ferrets". Dwayne Day provides a detailed history of the development of ferrets based on some newly declassified documents. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1355/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Space War: Going Deep (Source: Space Review)
How can the military best protect its satellites from potential attack? Taylor Dinerman proposes that one way may be to put those spacecraft out of harm's way entirely. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1354/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Revisiting "Tourists in Space" (Source: Space Review)
How rigorous should the medical requirements be for potential space tourists? Dr. Petra Illig takes a critical look at the recommendations made in a recent book on the subject. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1353/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Has Anybody Seen Our Satellite? (Source: Space Review)
In the early years of the Space Age, not only were there problems determining if satellites reached orbit, there are also problems figuring out where they came back down. Dwayne Day recounts one such case that was the inspiration for a book and movie. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1352/1 to view the article. (4/20)

Hurricane-Killing, Space-Based Power Plant (Soure: WIRED)
How's this for crazy?: A company files a patent to destroy hurricanes as they form by beaming them with energy from a space-based solar plant. Maybe it is crazy, but that same company, Solaren, took a first step in that direction last week when it inked a deal with the northern California utility, PG&E, to provide 200 megawatts of power capacity transmitted from orbit in 2016.

Apparently, sending up billions of dollars worth of solar collectors and using microwaves to send the energy onto two square miles of receivers in the desert is a little ho-hum to Solaren's wild minds. "The present invention relates to space-based power systems and, more particularly, to altering weather elements, such as hurricanes or forming hurricanes, using energy generated by a space-based power system," Jim Rogers and Gary Spirnak write in their 2006 patent application.

By heating up the upper and middle levels of an infant hurricane, they say they could disrupt the flows of air that power the enormous storms. Air warmed by tropical waters flows up through a hurricane and is vented through the eye into the upper atmosphere. Theoretically, you could heat up the top of the storm and lower the pressure differential between layers, resulting in a weaker storm. (4/20)

China Launches "Yaogan VI" Remote-Sensing Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China on Wednesday launched a remote-sensing satellite, "Yaogan VI," from the Taiyuan spaceport in north Shanxi Province. The satellite was successfully launched into the space on a Long March 2C carrier rocket. It will be mainly used for land resources survey, environmental surveillance and protection, urban planning, crop yield estimates, disaster prevention and reduction, and space science experiments. (4/22)

Smallest Exoplanet Found in Search for Earth's Twin (Source: Reuters)
Scientists searching for a planet like Earth said on Tuesday they have found the smallest planet ever detected outside the solar system, less than twice the size of our own. The exoplanet, a planet that orbits a star beyond the solar system, is called Gliese 581e after the star it circles. Because of its relatively small size it is likely rocky, like Earth, as opposed to gas giants such as Jupiter or Saturn, the astronomers said. "It is the lightest planet detected outside the solar system so far," Dr. Gaspare Lo Curto said. (4/22)

Events Overtake NASA Acceleration Study (Source: Aerospace Daily)
Obama administration delays in setting out a clear space policy, with funding to go with it, appear to have rendered NASA plans to narrow the post-shuttle "gap" in U.S. human access to space out of date before they could be implemented. A Constellation Program Acceleration Study prepared last year and released April 20 finds the U.S. space agency $1.9 billion short of the funds it needs to meet an internal initial operational capability (IOC) target date of Sep. 2014. That milestone means sending astronauts to the International Space Station with an Ares I crew launch vehicle carrying an Orion crew exploration vehicle.

But the needed funds have not been forthcoming, and some of the activities the acceleration study suggested could increase confidence in meeting that date - including an extra flight-test - have been ruled out. Factors cited in the internal NASA study as contributing to the shortfall include undefinitized changes in the Orion contract; the shift from land to water landing and its effect on Orion reusability, and the need for additional testing in the J2-X upper stage engine development program. (4/22)

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