April 9 News Items

Lampson Still Under Consideration for NASA Post (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It seems the reports about former Democratic congressman Nick Lampson's demise as a contender for the NASA administrator's job have been greatly exaggerated. A person extremely close to Lampson has told the Orlando Sentinel that the Houston Chronicle misinterpreted remarks by the former Houston representative about being ready to "move on" with his life as meaning he was not interested in the NASA job. So far, the White House is not commenting on the potential candidates for the space agency's top post. But Lampson told the Chronicle on Tuesday that he had met with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, with whom he served in Congress, and discussed the NASA job. But he said that he was not yet undergoing vetting or background checks. (4/9)

China says North Korea has Right to Peaceful Use of Space (Source: AFP)
China said Tuesday that North Korea had the right to peaceful use of space, as it refused to condemn its ally's weekend rocket launch. In its clearest comments yet since the blast off, China's foreign ministry said the United Nations should not overreact and that the most pressing concern was to restart stalled nuclear disarmament talks. "We hope relevant parties can maintain restraint and stay calm to safeguard overall peace and stability," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters. (4/7)

U.S. Intelligence Plan Could Benefit Virginia Satellite Imaging Firm (Source: Washington Post)
National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair announced that the U.S. plans to rely more on the private sector for its satellite mapping and reconnaissance needs, a potential boon to Washington area imagery company GeoEye. "When it comes to supporting our military forces and the safety of Americans, we cannot afford any gaps in collection," Blair said in a statement Tuesday. The National Reconnaissance Office will develop, build and operate a new type of intelligence-gathering satellite, while in the interim the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence community will supplement and back up its current satellite imagery projects with products from commercial suppliers." (4/9)

Editorial: NASA's Next Boss Must Stop Cost Overruns on Moon Program (Source: Florida Today)
The future of NASA’s manned spaceflight program is sitting in pieces at Kennedy Space Center, awaiting assembly for its first planned test launch this summer. It’s the Ares rocket that’s to carry astronauts back to the moon, replacing the shuttle fleet now scheduled for retirement next year. But design problems are already swelling the project’s cost. NASA officials now say it will cost $36 billion to start flying Ares and its companion manned Orion moonships on human missions by 2015 — $8 billion more than first estimated.

NASA says the higher development price has been caused by design changes that include a more powerful first-stage solid rocket booster and different upper stage engine, which will deliver long-term savings. Maybe so, but NASA must get its fiscal house in order on Ares and Orion or risk losing support in Congress where many members won’t have the appetite to cover long-term overruns, nor should they. That’s especially true considering the agency’s dismal past performance on major projects. (4/9)

Boeing Wins Royalty in Patent Case Against NASA (Source: LA Times)
Boeing may get hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation after winning a patent-infringement claim against NASA over an aluminum alloy used to build the space shuttle. Boeing developed a lighter structure for frames in the 1970s and 1980s to save on jet fuel costs. It claimed the technology was used in the external fuel tank that provides the backbone of the shuttle during launch and sued the government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington in 2000. Federal Claims Judge Francis M. Allegra said Boeing was entitled to a 1.25% royalty on the cost of the tanks. He ordered the two sides to submit a filing by April 17 on exactly how much that would total. (4/9)

Israel Could Be A Contender (Source: Strategy Page)
Kazakhstan has a satellite launching facility at Baikonur, and they are negotiating with Israel to launch Israeli communications satellites from there. Long term, Kazakhstan wants to induce Israel to help turn Baikonur into an international launch facility. Baikonur has became more expensive and difficult for the Russians to use. Russia has leased the Baikonur complex from Kazakhstan since 1991, but this led to disputes over lease terms, and the danger to locals from launch accidents. So Kazakhstan needs new partners to keep Baikonur in business, and they believe the Israelis have the technology and business savvy to help make this happen. For Israel, doing that kind of business in Central Asia is a high risk, high cost business they may want to avoid. (4/9)

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