April 8 News Items

Tentative Opposition Emerges to Pentagon Budget Plan (Source: New York Times)
Defense contractors remained largely quiet on Tuesday as politicians and military groups took the lead in attacking proposed cuts to major weapons systems. Lawmakers from Georgia and Oklahoma were quick to blast cuts to the F-22 and Future Combat Systems, couching their critiques in terms of both jobs and moral responsibility. Meanwhile, the head of the Air Force Association said the budget plan "may cost us lives and reduce our strategic options in a very dangerous world." But some analysts predicted manufacturers would have a harder time opposing the cuts, given the recession and the prevailing outlook. "I think the pain was spread equally, and I think the rewards are out there equally," said defense consultant Franklin Miller. "I think it would be unwise to really take this thing on." (4/8)

Averting Armageddon Via Asteroid (Source: Baltimore Sun)
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported that on March 2, asteroid 2009 DD45 came within about 48,000 miles of Earth. In astronomical terms, that's way too close for comfort. And yet during President Barack Obama's most recent press conference, no reporter asked him about this just-missed catastrophe. The fact is, the world hardly noticed.

Asteroid 2009 DD45 was estimated to be between 69 and 154 feet in diameter. An asteroid that size exploded over Siberia in 1908 and flattened more than 800 square miles of forest, killing everything in its path. Moreover, 2009 DD45 is considered to be the runt of the litter when it comes to the asteroid family - quite small in relation to the planet-killers screaming through our solar system undetected. (4/8)

Russia to Usher in New Space Technology (Source: New Scientist)
Russia is embarking on its most ambitious space project since the cold war, with plans for a new spaceship and launcher. Until now, Russia has tweaked rather than upgraded spacecraft. Soyuz is over 40 years old and on its fifth generation. Now the Russian space agency plans to replace all its launch facilities and rocket designs. "Post-Soviet Russia has never had a massive project of this kind," says Aleksey Krasnov, head of the agency's human space-flight program.

The company that will build the spaceship has been given until June 2010 to design a 20-ton reusable craft that can carry six people, twice the capacity of Soyuz. As well as ferrying crew to the International Space Station, it should be able to repair or retrieve satellites. A beefed-up version could reach lunar orbit and perhaps beyond. The plans are similar to NASA's Orion program - earning it the nickname "Orionski" - and could provide back-up for the US spacecraft if needed. (4/7)

Monster Space Telescope Prepares for Launch (Source: New Scientist)
In mid May, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch two such instruments from its spaceport at French Guiana. Piggy-backing in the nose of a single Ariane V rocket will be the Planck microwave telescope and an infrared telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory. Once in space, the two will go their separate ways: Planck to study in detail the cosmic microwave background, and Herschel to spy on the cool gas and dust clouds that are the nurseries of stars and galaxies. This second satellite will incorporate the largest space telescope ever launched. Herschel's huge, 3.5-meter mirror will allow it to provide images of high quality even at the longest infrared wavelengths, and so bridge the gap between previous infrared space telescopes and ground-based telescopes that probe longer radio wavelengths. (4/7)

Pentagon to Pay for ULA Merger Costs (Source: Bloomberg News)
The Pentagon will pay Lockheed Martin and Boeing most of the cost they incurred in creating the United Launch Alliance joint venture. They will get as much as $159.7 million of about $207 million in consolidation costs, said Pentagon and company officials. The rest will be paid by other U.S. government customers such as NASA and commercial customers. The Pentagon can't reimburse contractors for restructuring costs unless the projected savings are at least twice the cost of the merger. The Pentagon's Defense Contract Management Agency said this merger qualified, and John Young, the military's top weapons buyer, approved it last month. A ULA spokeswoman said: "We are confident the total savings will be more than $600 million."

The Commercial Future of Spaceflight (Source: MIT Technology Review)
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is a private company that won a $1.6 billion contract in December through NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to provide the agency with a launch vehicle capable of reaching ISS. Technology Review spoke with Lawrence Williams, vice president of SpaceX, about the retirement of the shuttles, NASA's decision to partner with the private industry, and SpaceX's rocket design. Click here to view the interview. (4/7)

Space Florida Picks Pizzuti to Develop Research Park at KSC (Source: Space Florida)
Space Florida has selected The Pizzuti Companies to enter into a Master Development Agreement to design and build Exploration Park, a next generation research park at Kennedy Space Center. Exploration Park will be a mixed-use, multi-tenant technology and commerce park supporting both government and commercial space activities. Located on KSC property, the park is designed to be in close proximity to existing launch and payload processing facilities, providing a direct benefit to tenants with business models that include gaining access to space.

Phase 1 of Exploration Park is currently expected to include eight buildings totaling 315,000 sq. ft. of usable space on 60 acres of KSC property. An environmental assessment has been conducted and the anchor building is currently expected to be completed in early 2011. “Building A” will provide an estimated 25,000 sq. ft. of working space. The value for this facility is estimated at $8 - $10 million, and Space Florida and Pizzuti will be development partners in the project. An additional 50,000 sq. ft. clean room facility may also be constructed adjacent to “Building A.” (4/7)

Mind the Space Gap (Source: Space Politics)
While some people are lobbying to extend the life of the space shuttle, others are using NASA’s current uncertainty to press for radical changes to Constellation, up to and including cancellation. The latest effort along those lines is the Space Frontier Foundation’s “Mind the Space Gap” campaign. Foundation official Jim Muncy noted that reducing the post-Shuttle human spaceflight gap became an organizing principle of NASA's exploration architecture,” which took form in the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS).

If ESAS was intended to narrow the shuttle-Constellation gap, it failed. In the 3.5 years since ESAS was announced, Ares' operational capability had slipped by up to five years, with consequences for the goal of returning humans to the Moon by 2020. Muncy said the Foundation would be stepping up its efforts to kill ESAS and Ares 1 and put through the alternative he outlined in the Space Access talk. “Today is the beginning of that effort.” More information about it will be forthcoming from the Foundation in the near future. (4/5)

Florida's Meek Supports Shuttle Extension (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Miami) hopes be elected to the U.S. Senate when Mel Martinez (R-Orlando) steps down later this year. He took time from his campaign qualifying effort last week to promise that he would push to postpone the 2010 retirement of the space shuttle. The shuttle shutdown is expected to drain thousands of jobs from Kennedy Space Center and Brevard County. "It will be a talent drain for Florida if we allow that to happen," said Meek, who added that NASA needs to continue flying the shuttle in the same way that the economy has forced many Americans to go "an extra couple of years" driving their cars. (4/5)

Editorial: NASA Delivers a Little Bit for a Whole Lot of Money (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The only thing destined for blastoff with NASA's new Ares rocket ship is the price tag. The Ares I probably will be delayed more than a year; its cost has grown from $28 billion to somewhere between $36 billion and $44 billion. Given NASA's history, the numbers only will go up from there. That's just to fly to the space station. Getting to the moon could well be more expensive than bailing out AIG. Nobody who has followed NASA can be surprised by this.

It is the same old scam NASA has been playing out for decades — the same one that gave us the shuttle and space station, two of the biggest boondoggles in recent American history. NASA promises a whole lot for a little bit of money. And it delivers a little bit for a whole lot of money. The agency's over-funded public-relations machine then spins failed expectations and exorbitant costs into great triumphs. The fault is not attributed to incompetent management but the invariable glitches that pop up whenever you deal with cutting-edge technology. (4/7)

Conrad Foundation Prizes Announced (Source: Conrad Foundation)
The Conrad Foundation, in partnership with NASA Ames Research Center, announced the winners of The Pete Conrad Spirit of Innovation Awards, a competition for high school students to contribute to America’s goal of improving science education by building a grassroots community of socially engaged scientists. The winners and their projects in each category are described here. (4/6)

Pentagon Kills Gap-Filler Missile Warning Satellite (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Defense Department has spiked a plan to purchase a single infrared missile warning satellite that some in the Pentagon believe is needed to hedge against a gap in missile warning coverage as the U.S. Air Force transitions to its new constellation, according to an industry source. (4/8)

Arianespace Reports a Profitable 2008 (Source: Space News)
Europe's Arianespace commercial launch consortium reported a net profit of 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million) on revenue of 955.7 million euros in 2008, its sixth consecutive profitable year, the Evry, France-based company announced April 8. (4/8)

See for Yourself if Ares, Orion Seem On Track (Source: Florida Today)
Everyone seems to be talking these days about whether or not Ares 1 and Orion remain on schedule and on budget. NASA seems to have clearly answered the budget question, acknowledging last week that project costs through the first human flight have risen from $28 billion to $36 billion (plus another $8 billion in related support costs for a total of $44 billion). The schedule question seems to be harder to answer, but take a look at the official planning schedules for NASA's human space flight programs and you start to see what is and is not moving on the calendar when it comes to Ares and Orion missions.

Some are reporting that a new Ares schedule update is coming soon, with the possibility of the first human Ares flight being delayed. For now, however, that flight (known as Orion 2) remains scheduled for March 2015. What the schedule documents show, however, is that many of the precursor flights are moving later on the calendar. Some are moving many months or even a year. It remains unclear how changes in the schedules for those flights, which presumably would rely on the same hardware, personnel and ground equipment, would not impact Orion 2. Click here to view the article with links to NASA schedule documents. (4/6)

Ares and Altair Design Contracts to be Awarded (Source: Flight Global)
Design contracts for NASA's Ares V cargo launch vehicle (CaLV) and its Altair lunar lander payload are to be awarded in the next few days and weeks. Both are key to NASA's plan to go to the Moon from 2020, and at the Space Foundation's National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs from 30 March-2 April, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman told Flight International about how they could be engineered. (4/6)

The Constellation Squeeze (Source: Space Review)
There have been critics for some time of NASA's Constellation program of spacecraft and launch vehicles designed to carry people back to the Moon. Jeff Foust reports that Constellation may now also be threatened indirectly by a new push to keep the shuttle alive beyond 2010. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1346/1 to view the article. (4/6)

How Should We Secure Our Space-Based Assets as a Nation? (Source: Space Review)
The White House has proposed negotiating a ban on space weapons, even though there is uncertainty about exactly what would be considered such a device. Christopher Stone argues that other measures can be taken to better protect the safety and security of space assets. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1345/1 to view the article. (4/6)

Confusion of Vision, Purpose, and Mission (Source: Space Review)
As NASA awaits a new administrator and detailed budget and policy, some are advocating for changes to the agency's exploration program. Eric Hedman makes the case for a full and open review of the current exploration architecture and its alternatives. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1344/1 to view the article. (4/6)

North Korea Proves the Point: ICBMs are Proliferating (Source: Space Review)
This weekend's launch of a North Korean rocket was supposedly intended to put a satellite into orbit, but many observers considered it a test of a long-range missile. Taylor Dinerman opines on the implications of this launch. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1343/1 to view the article. (4/6)

U.S. Launch Companies Having Hard Time Going Commercial (Source: Parabolic Arc)
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...Response: "I notice the hurdle is “price” and not “cost”. Due to a lack of U.S. competitors, the Air Force and NASA are forced to pay top dollar for Atlas and Delta rockets. Reducing their prices to be competitive for commercial missions will cause some discomfort when their Air Force and NASA customers ask for similar prices. Remember when the EELV program was going to leverage commercial launch business to provide a better deal for government launches?" (4/6)

Orbital Names VP for Human Space Flight Operations (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corp. has hired Carl E. Walz as Vice President for Human Space Flight Operations in its Advanced Programs Group, based in Dulles, VA. Mr. Walz will be responsible for mission operations for Orbital’s activities under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) research and development program with NASA, as well as for the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program missions that will utilize Orbital’s system for resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) with vital cargo and life-sustaining supplies. (4/7)

Air Tanker Contract Selection Slated for Summer (Source: Florida Today)
Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to try again this summer to pick a defense contractor to build a badly needed replacement for the Air Force's 50-year-old fleet of aerial refueling planes. But after nearly a decade of failed attempts, many of the factors that hobbled previous tries persist: There's heavy influence from members of Congress worried about jobs in their districts and a fierce rivalry between plane makers Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. over the $35 billion contract for 179 planes. Editor's Note: Northrop Grumman's employment on the Space Coast would increase if they won the tanker contract, which would mitigate some anticipated Shuttle job losses. (4/8)

New Launcher (Not Angara) In Works In Russia (Source: Aviation Week)
The Russian Space Agency Roscosmos has chosen a team consisting of Samara Space Center (TcSKB Progress), RSC Energia and the Makeev Rocket Design Bureau to develop a new medium-class booster. The rocket will launch from the yet-to-be-built Vostochny cosmodrome in the far east of Russia. It should be able to boost manned and cargo spacecraft, as well as space station modules, to low-Earth orbit. According to Roscosmos requirements, the new launcher should be able to send up to 20 metric tons of payload into a 200 kilometer (120-mile) altitude orbit. The team beat out Khrunichev and its Angara modular booster. According to industry sources, the winning project is essentially an upgrade of the venerable Soyuz booster. It would be a two-stage launcher. It will reportedly feature an oxygen/kerosene first stage and a second stage using an oxygen/hydrogen fuel combination. (4/8)

Seoul Lags North Korea in Rocket Technology (Source: Korea Herald)
North Korea's rocket launch indicated the country's capacity to fire a long-range missile, making many wonder where South Korea stands in terms of rocket technology. The first stage of the North Korean Eunha-2 rocket dropped about 280 kilometers off the western coast of Akita, Japan, into the East Sea. The second and third stages are estimated to have flown at least 3,100 kilometers from the Musudan-ri launch pad on the North's northeastern coast. South Korea's Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, which is slated fly in late July, is expected to have a much shorter range of 2,750 kilometers. The KSLV-1 rocket is being jointly developed by Russia's Khrunichev State Space Science and Production Center and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute. (4/7)

Pentagon Cancels TSAT (Source: SpaceToday.net)
TSAT illustration (Boeing) The Defense Department announced Monday it plans to cancel a next-generation communications satellite program and instead purchase more of a different type of communications satellite. The Transformation Satellite (TSAT) program was designed to dramatically increase the amount of bandwidth available for military users, and in early plans would have included laser intersatellite links. However, even after scaling down the program's technological risks, the Pentagon concluded that it was more cost-effective to cancel TSAT and instead buy two additional Advanced EHF satellites currently under development. The Pentagon spent about $1.5 billion on TSAT to date, and had planned to award a contract for the system's space segment to either Boeing or Lockheed Martin this year. (4/8)

The Changing Face of Aerospace (Source: Long Beach Press-Telegram)
Because major defense companies such as Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Raytheon have such large operations in the South Bay and Long Beach, the region's economy has often reaped the benefits of federal spending on aerospace. Last week's announcement that the Pentagon wants to shift priorities and stop spending billions on F-22 jet fighters and the C-17 Globemaster, however, was worrisome. Both those programs support thousands of jobs in Southern California.

But if the region sees a drop in Pentagon funding over the next several years, we don't see why it can't make up any lost ground through an expansion of newer-generation aerospace operations. Of particular interest is the expanding operations of Hawthorne-based SpaceX, the company founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk that aims to provide low-cost rocket launches. We would hope that the success of SpaceX and other private companies that will play important roles in future space exploration will translate into new aerospace jobs in our region even as Pentagon priorities shift. The region must be ready to exploit such new opportunities when the economy eventually picks up steam. (4/8)

Virginia Spaceport to Launch Military Spacecraft (Source: DelMarVaNow.com)
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport is the site chosen by the U.S. Air Force for a planned May 5 launch of a $60 million spacecraft that will put into orbit a military satellite carrying an experiment designed to provide real-time battlefield imagery to military commanders. The spacecraft -- consisting of an ATK Space Systems satellite bus and Tactical Satellite-3, which carries a trio of experiments -- will be taken into space by an Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur I rocket.

The four-stage rocket includes two taken from retired Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles and two from Orbital's Pegasus booster. The main experiment aboard the satellite, ARTEMIS HSI, was developed by Raytheon Co. It is designed to quickly supply military commanders in the war theater with target detection and identification information, along with information about battlefield preparation and combat damage. The TacSat-3 launch, scheduled for the early evening of May 5, will be broadcast live on the Internet from the NASA Wallops Web site at http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/webcast. (4/8)

New Mexico Spaceport Tax Funds Reserved for Public Schools (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
After a three-hour discussion about the fate of educational dollars that will come from a Doña Ana County spaceport tax, county commissioners decided Tuesday the money will go directly to the area's three school districts. A proposal had cropped up about funding an aerospace-related education program at New Mexico State University with the dollars, as well. But County Manager Brian Haines pointed to a March 2007 resolution approved by the commission that indicated the portion of the spaceport tax to be dedicated to education would go to local school districts, not other entities. He said there likely were voters who cast ballots in favor of the measure because they believed the schools would benefit.

The commission heard from Pat Hynes, director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, based at NMSU, who appeared to be seeking tax funding for a space program already being implemented by her organization that allows high school and college students to build payloads, which are launched into space on rockets to conduct research. Hynes asked commissioners that community colleges and the university not be excluded from consideration from the funding. (4/8)

India's Spy Satellite to Eye Terrorists, Infiltrators (Source: The Hindu)
India will launch a spy satellite from Sriharikota spaceport on April 20 primarily to keep an eye on its borders round-the-clock and help the Government in anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations. The 300-kg radar-imaging satellite has been built by Israel and is set to blast-off on board India's home-grown rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). This remote-sensing advanced imaging satellite, to be positioned 550 km above the earth, has all-weather capabilities. (4/8)

What Rules Prohibit Astronauts from Sharing in Space? (Source: New Scientist)
Last week, squabbles over exercise bikes and toilets aboard the International Space Station made headlines around the world. In an interview that ran in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the new ISS commander, Gennady Padalka, blamed bureaucrats on Earth for barring astronauts and cosmonauts from sharing food, water, gym equipment and even toilets on the station. "What is going on has an adverse effect on our work," Padalka was quoted as saying in an AP story based on the original Russian article. According to the AP article, Padalka charts the breakdown in cooperation back to 2003 when Russia began to charge other space agencies for the use of its facilities, which prompted others to follow suit.

So what happened in 2003 and is there any official documentation about the assignment of resources on the ISS? Finding out proved to be tricky. When I contacted the Russian and European space agencies, they wouldn't comment, directing me to NASA instead. When I finally managed to speak to a NASA spokesperson, he said he had no idea what Padalka was referring to by mentioning 2003. But he did say that this level of detail (that is, sharing the use of toilets) was not covered in official documentation and stressed how complicated international agreements are. Click here to view the article. (4/8)

Station Crew and Tourist Land Aboard Soyuz Capsule (Source: SpaceFlightNow.com)
Dropping to Earth under a huge parachute, a Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying outgoing space station commander Mike Fincke, flight engineer Yury Lonchakov and space tourist Charles Simonyi settled to a jarring landing in Kazakhstan today after a briefly blacked-out descent from the International Space Station. (4/8)

Lampson Not Headed to NASA Top Job (Source: Houston Chronicle)
Former Rep. Nick Lampson said Tuesday he is no longer a contender for the $177,000-a-year NASA administrator post. The Stafford Democrat, who lost his seat in a predominantly Republican district in southeastern Texas last fall, told the Houston Chronicle that White House officials had “not made any kind of offer” after approaching him about the post. Lampson said he had met with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, with whom he served in Congress. Lampson, noting he was not undergoing vetting or background checks, said the former congressional colleague did not discuss the NASA post at their last meeting. (4/8)

Virginia Physicist Sentenced to 51 Months for Exporting Space Data to China and Offering Bribes (Source: USDOJ)
A physicist in Newport News, Va., was sentenced to 51 months in prison today for illegally exporting space launch technical data and defense services to the People's Republic of China (PRC) and offering bribes to Chinese government officials. Shu Quan-Sheng (Shu), 68, a native of China, naturalized U.S. citizen and Ph.D. physicist, has already forfeited $386,740 to the federal government in connection with the case. Shu is the President of AMAC International Inc. (AMAC), based in Newport News with offices in Beijing. AMAC performs SBIR research for the Department of Energy and NASA. (4/7)

Russia to Delay Martian Moon Mission (Source: Spectrum)
Russia will announce a two-year delay of its flagship planetary mission this month. The 11-ton Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, designed to land on the surface of the Martian moon Phobos and return samples of its soil back to Earth, was scheduled to lift off October 2009. A number of science institutions around the world have contributed instruments and experiments for the ambitious project. However, according to Francis Rocard, a scientist at CNES, the French space agency, which supplied some of the scientific payloads for the project, Russian space officials are about to announce a postponement of Phobos-Grunt’s launch to 2011. (4/7)

Government Approves Plan for New Spy Satellites (Source: AP)
The Obama administration has approved the purchase of pricey new spy satellites and will buy more commercial imagery from the private sector to plug immediate gaps in satellite coverage. The new program will take the place of one that had been awarded to Boeing. The Pentagon canceled that project in 2005 because it was grossly over budget and behind schedule. An intelligence official said the new spy satellites would offer the same capability of those now in use. Officials were concerned that significant changes in their design could break the budget for the program or delay the launch of the satellites, he said.

Officials said the program calls for building two sophisticated satellites equal to or better than the huge, high-resolution secret satellites now in orbit. The officials all spoke anonymously because the details of the program are classified. The new contract will be large enough to pay for the construction and launch of two new commercial satellites with the same capabilities as those now on orbit. The new contract will include "guaranteed access"_ that is, top priority and the ability to direct the satellites if there is a war or another emergency. Lockheed Martin is almost certain to win the secret multibillion contract, possibly without a competitive bidding process. (4/7)

NASA Selects Apollo-Era Heat Shield for Orion (Source: Florida Today)
NASA plans to dust off Apollo-era heat shield technology for the next spacecraft it hopes to send to the moon. The agency selected the Avocat ablator system. The material was no longer in production before more than three years of tests began for Orion. The Government Accountability Office last year cited heat shield challenges as one of several potential risks to developing a replacement for the space shuttle by NASA's targeted 2015 timeline. (4/7)

Add Gordon to List of Possible NASA Administrators? (Source: Washington Post)
Here's a name to add to the NASA Administrator-to-be Rumor Mill: Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), head of a House science committee that oversees NASA. I asked him the other day if he was going to be administrator, and he said he already has the best job in the world and isn't going to trade it in for another. But I'd still keep his name on the list. He didn't outright deny that he might be the next boss on the ninth floor at NASA headquarters. (4/7)

Lost in Space: Months After Obama's Inauguration, NASA Is Still Without a Chief (Source: Fox)
Houston, we have a problem. More than two months into his presidency, Barack Obama has yet to name a replacement for former NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, leaving the 18,000-man space agency flying without a navigator. As NASA faces burgeoning budget problems and prepares to retire its aging fleet of space shuttles, 3,500 jobs are at risk in the years preceding the launch of the shuttle's replacement. That's got NASA employees and members of Congress itching under the collar. "Our nation cannot afford to be without a NASA administrator at this time," said Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., whose district in Florida's "Space Coast" would be hard-hit by job losses. "This is a critical juncture in the manned spaceflight effort, and now it's up to President Obama to lead the way." (4/7)

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