April 4 News Items

Virginia and Maryland Push to Meet Orbital's Needs at Wallops (Source: SPACErePORT)
Virginia and Maryland are teaming up to establish Wallops Island as the preferred launch site for new commercial rockets, starting Virginia's successful recruitment of Orbital Sciences Corp. and its new Taurus-2 rocket. These states are pouring millions into spaceport infrastructure for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops, establishing tax incentives for space business development, and doing other things to make their spaceport more competitive.

They're pursuing a research park adjacent to their NASA installation, and they're even developing a space-themed license plate to fund their space efforts. The latest news is that Virginia Senator Jim Webb has secured $21 million for Wallops Island in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009. Add to that a new appropriation of $10 million by the Virginia General Assembly, and a request for $8 million in stimulus funding from Accomack County. These investments will help Orbital Sciences Corp. to better compete against SpaceX and its Falcon-9 rocket for NASA space station resupply missions. (4/4)

Composite Pressure Vessels Developed for Cryogenic Applications (Source: Composites World)
Two California-based aerospace companies, Microcosm Inc. and Scorpius Space Launch Co. have teamed to create a series of all-composite, cryogenic pressure vessels that have been tested down to 77°K, the temperature of liquid nitrogen and colder than liquid oxygen. The high-strength and super lightweight "Sapphire" pressure vessels can now be built with an integral stringer system, allowing the tank to completely replace the structure that was previously required to hold it. In many respects, this is similar to the first unibody chassis on automobiles that ultimately did away with the older and much heavier auto chassis made essentially of I-beams, changing the way automobile structures have been built ever since. (3/30)

NOAA Dedicates Stimulus Funds to NPOESS Satellite (Source: Space News)
Some of the money the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) received in the $787 million economic stimulus package Congress enacted in February will be used to accelerate funding for the nation's next generation of polar-orbiting weather satellites. According to the stimulus funding spending plan it sent to Congress the week of March 30 for review, NOAA intends to put an additional $26 million into the development of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) and spend $48 million on two climate sensors previously dropped from NPOESS, the Cloud and the Earth's Radiant Energy System instrument and the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor. (4/3)

Controllers Stabilize Wayward European Astra Satellite (Source: Space News)
Ground teams have succeeded in regaining control of the Astra 5A satellite, which failed in January and was feared to have spun out of control and into a dangerous drift along the geostationary arc, according to satellite builder Thales Alenia Space. After more than two months of work, Thales Alenia Space and the Swedish Space Corp. (SSC), which is controlling the satellite for owner SES of Luxembourg, were able to slow the satellite's spin to enable its solar panels to remain pointed toward the sun long enough for a minimal recharge of its batteries. (4/3)

Orbital Rebukes Insurers For Going After Boeing (Source: Space News)
One of Boeing Satellite Systems' principal competitors came to the company's defense April 3, rebuking insurance underwriters for bringing Boeing before arbitration panels to force compensation for insurance claims paid following defects on the first generation of the Boeing 702 satellite line. David Keslow, director of business operations at Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., said insurers have gone too far in trying to sue Boeing for payment. He also criticized Boeing's own insurers, who tried to avoid having to pay if Boeing loses its battle with the other insurers. (4/3)

ILS Details Proton Launch Price Reduction (Source: Space News)
International Launch Services (ILS) has been able to cut its commercial launch prices substantially in recent months in part because of the drop in the value of the Russian ruble against the U.S. dollar and in part by taking advantage of "a window of opportunity" following delayed launches planned by the Russian government. The result of ILS's newly aggressive market positioning is that the company has won several satellite competitions in recent months, offering prices of $75 million to $80 million for a Proton rocket, according to industry officials and customer financial statements. Competitors insist that, at these prices, ILS is losing money. But ILS President Frank McKenna said the price cuts, which industry officials said have been as much as 30 percent, are due to a confluence of events that have made Proton vehicles less expensive, for the moment. (4/3)

China Developing Unmanned Module as Space Station Precursor (Source: Space News)
China hopes to attract international partners to its effort to send an unmanned space module into low Earth orbit in late 2010 as a precursor to a larger human-tended space station, Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program said. China would use the 8.5-ton module called Tiangong-1 to test docking technology being developed for the space station, which is planned for completion in 2020. The module also would serve as a laboratory for China and its partners to conduct scientific research in zero gravity. "There would be opportunities for other nations to do scientific experiments and maybe something else on a small scale," Zhou said. (4/3)

China Discusses ISS Participation, No Plans for Human Lunar Missions (Source: Space News)
A Chinese space official joined a National Space Symposium panel discussion on international cooperation, where participants from the European Space Agency, European Union and Japan responded coolly to questions about whether China could join the 15 nations, including the United States, partnering on the international space station. Jean-Jaques Dordain, director-general of the European Space Agency, said he believes the 15 international space station partners should have to unanimously agree to allow China's participation. "We need to include new partners because new partners can bring a lot," Dordain said. "But they must be agreed upon by all partners."

Zhou Jianping said if given the opportunity China might be interested in joining the international space station partnership. Whether or not China would pursue such an option "depends," Zhou said. The space station "is not contracted by China, but I think international cooperation is good because spaceflight is to explore the universe and [impacts on] humankind," Zhou said. While the United States is working toward a goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2020, China is embarking only on unmanned lunar missions, Zhou said. "Right now we have no manned lunar mission program — only unmanned missions," he said. (4/3)

Air Force 'Ambivalent' on Commercial Use of Atlas, Delta (Source: Space News)
The two companies selling U.S. Delta and Atlas rockets to commercial customers said they could not justify a full re-entry into the market given the continued tough pricing environment for commercial launches. Speaking at the Satellite 2009 conference — the same day that major satellite fleet operators all but pleaded that Delta and Atlas managers reconnect with the commercial market — they said there was no real incentive for them to do so.

Speaking of the Atlas-5, a Lockheed official said his main customer, the U.S. Air Force, appears ambivalent about whether to facilitate the rocket's commercial availability. While the Air Force has publicly urged that Atlas remain commercially active, "there is an undercurrent there that prevents its use." He said in 2008, eight Atlas launches were scheduled for the U.S. government, and that only two occurred, meaning there was a wide opening for commercial launches, at least in terms of launch pad availability.

Speaking of the Delta, a Boeing official said: "People want it, but we're having a hard time getting to where it's priced right...Boeing will not enter into a bad deal...I would ask the big three [Arianespace, SeaLaunch, and ILS]: Either there are extreme variations in your cost basis, or some of your launches were not that profitable." An ILS official said he fears the commercial launch market is facing an oversupply situation as new vehicles enter a stagnant market, but he said he could not understand why Delta and Atlas could not make a commercial business work: "I find it incredible that, for some reason, we have qualified vehicles out there and we can't use them." (4/3)

Pelosi: Shuttle Retirement Date Could Be Settled in Conference Committee (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had not taken a position on whether the space shuttle should fly beyond its scheduled retirement in 2010, but expected the White House would have a “strong role” in pushing that date. In its 2010 budget proposal, the Obama administration noted it would continue a Bush-era policy of retiring the shuttle next year, a blow to Florida aerospace workers who had hoped that the new president would extend the shuttle and delay thousands of job losses.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, inserted language into the Senate version of the 2010 budget that would allow for shuttle flights beyond 2010 and would give NASA an extra $2.5 billion in 2011 to conduct those flights. Under Pelosi's leadership, the House did not insert similar language into its budget proposal, which prompted U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, to break party ranks and oppose the bill. Pelosi said this issue would be settled in a House-Senate conference committee that would convene to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions. But she warned that money is limited. (4/4)

Pelosi Likes Lampson for NASA Post (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had good things to say about former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, the Texas Democrat who once represented the Johnson Space Center area and has been mentioned as a candidate to become the next NASA chief under Obama. “I think he is a great person for it. I really know Nick Lampson. I think he would be fantastic,” she said. “He was a champion for NASA." (4/4)

Wasserman-Schultz Supports Posey Bill to Extend Shuttle (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Rising South-Florida Democratic star Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Weston, is supporting Central-Florida Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, in his bill to keep the space shuttle flying until NASA builds its replacement vehicle or a U.S. company launches a private spacecraft capable of reaching the International Space Station. Posey staff members said that the bill does not aim to drain development money from the Constellation program -- NASA's replacement for the shuttle -- in order to keep the space shuttles flying. (4/4)

Discussion on Emerging Obama Space Policies Planned for ISDC Event in Orlando (Source: NSSFL)
Space industry advisors to President Obama, including members of the transition team for NASA, will be featured at the upcoming International Space Development Conference (ISDC), planned for May 28-31 in Orlando. The officials will lead a discussion on emerging space policies, and the processes being put in place to manage space program decisions across multiple agencies. Visit http://www.ISDC2009.org for information. (4/2)

New Mexico Meetings Focus on Spaceport Job Opportunities (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A series of town hall-style meetings are scheduled for the the next few weeks for local contractors, businesses, organizations and individuals interested in spaceport opportunities. Gerald Martin Construction Management of Albuquerque — the company selected to manage the construction of Spaceport America — will host these informational meetings at locations in Las Cruces, Hatch, Truth or Consequences, Anthony, Deming, Silver City and Alamogordo. (4/4)

Pakistani Militant Group Threatens India Space Scientists (Source: The Hindu)
India's Union Home Ministry has asked scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to be careful in their movement, following intelligence inputs that Pakistan-based militant group Lashker-e-Taiba was planning to kidnap or assassinate them. Security around scientific installations has also been enhanced, Ministry sources said on Friday. The alerts followed intercept of a conversation between two LeT militants over satellite phone whose base was located at the local headquarters of the militant group at Koel in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. (4/4)

Astrium: We Are Committed to Space Jet (Source: Flight Global)
EADS Astrium's suborbital space jet has the company's long term commitment and its technological development will be sustained according to the company's deputy chief technical officer. Following speculation that Astrium's January decision to slow space jet's development meant it was closing the project down, the company's deputy chief technical officer Hugues Laporte-Weywada spoke exclusively to Flightglobal.com about the long term plan. Without giving a timetable he pointed to business jet and rocket engine development both having seven-year concept to certification schedules. (4/4)

NASA Reaches Out to Hispanics -- En Espanol (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Before heading to space last month, Joseph Acaba — the first astronaut of Puerto Rican descent — appeared in a NASA video talking about how pursuing a good education is the best way to reach your dreams. He spoke in Spanish. And while Acaba and the rest of shuttle Discovery's seven-person crew were aboard the space station last month, NASA issued daily updates of their construction and spacewalking exploits — also in Spanish. It's all part of the space agency's 4-year-old effort to reach out to Hispanics, in America and abroad. (4/4)

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