May 20 News Items

Senior NASA Scientist Slams Constellation Program (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
With NASA about to undergo a White House-ordered review of its Constellation rocket program to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, a senior agency scientist came out this week and attacked NASA’s current plans as being “out of synchronization” with the needs of scientists. David Leckrone, NASA's senior Hubble Space Telescope scientist, told reporters that the agency's next generation rockets did not have the capabilities of the shuttle to haul cargo and help astronauts do complicated missions like the Hubble servicing trip.

He is the first senior NASA official to publicly attack the troubled Constellation program, as well as NASA’s decision to retire the space shuttle in favor of what he sees as less capable spacecraft. Leckrone said he worried that the Constellation program, struggling with tight budgets and technical problems, is "just plowing ahead, producing what they're able to produce within all the constraints.

Leckrone said that Constellation managers and designers are not talking to some of their prime customers: scientists. He said during the initial development of the shuttle program, engineers and NASA officials sought input from the scientific community. "I don't see any similar activity going on in the Constellation program, where they're actively engaging their potential user base to get requirements that should go into their basic design," Leckrone said. "End of story." (5/20)

Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Supports Spaceport (Source: Washington Post)
In a Q&A with voters, Democratic candidate Brian Moran answered a question about the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport..."Will you support its expansion to launch astonauts from there in the next decade in competition with Florida?" His answer: "Absolutely. This is a great example of an innovative approach that can create jobs, put people back to work, and help families on the Eastern Shore. The Spaceport has tremendous potential and I carried legislation to help move their work forward. The work of the spaceport is yet another reason why I am opposed to offshore drilling. We can't realize the potential of this innovative approach if we build oil rigs off the Eastern Shore." (5/20)

Space Pioneers Battle for Greater Freedom (Source: New Scientist)
Civilian space flight companies are this week pressing the US government to change strict arms-control rules that could cripple their nascent industry. At issue are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which are supposed to prevent technological secrets ending up in the hands of 21 proscribed nations, including China, Iran and North Korea. If a technology appears on a document called the US Munitions List, companies need a licence to export it or to reveal details to a foreign national. Even if granted, the licence often forces the firm to mount a security guard on the system while it is in another country.

The list contains very broad definitions of what should be kept secret, and even includes spacecraft hatches and windows. "That list is written for a cold war world," says Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace in Washington DC, which plans to fly crewed inflatable habitats in Earth orbit. "Any space technology, no matter how benign, such as a solar panel or the table you support a craft on in the workshop, is covered by it." Gold speaks from experience. In 2006, Bigelow launched a model habitat called Genesis 1 on a Russian ballistic missile. ITAR requirements cost the firm $1 million, including $220,000 for two American guards to watch over a support stand no more advanced than a coffee table. (5/20)

Northrop Grumman Wins Terahertz Contract (Source:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Northrop Grumman phase 1 of the $37-million Terahertz (THz) Electronics contract. Work on the contract will support military and space satellites with the development of active receivers and transmitters operating at 670 gigahertz that ensure reliable, high-resolution images, and other applications. (5/20)

There's a Satellite Gap Too (Source: AP)
Poor planning and unproven technologies on key Pentagon space programs have led to large cost overruns, delays and possible gaps in military satellite capabilities, according to congressional investigators. Delays of at least seven years in some satellite programs have led to potential gaps in protected military communications, navigation tools, missile warning systems and other areas, a Government Accountability Office official told lawmakers Wednesday. (5/20)

Arianespace Chosen to Launch Alphasat (Source: Arianespace)
Inmarsat has chosen Arianespace to launch its new Alphasat I-XL communications satellite. This contract follows a partnership agreement between Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) concerning the commercialization of the first mission to use the new European platform, Alphabus. Planned for launch in 2012, Alphasat I-XL will be carried by an Ariane 5 ECA from Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite will weigh more than six metric tons at launch. (5/20)

Six New European Astronauts Prepare for Final Frontier (Source: CNN)
Two Italians, a Dane, a German, a Frenchman and a Brit walk into a space station... or will, in 2013, if all goes according to European Space Agency plans. Europe's six new astronauts hope to join their American counterparts on the Internation Space Station. They were chosen from more than 8,400 candidates, and are the first new ESA astronauts since 1992. They include two military test pilots, one fighter pilot and one commercial pilot, plus an engineer and a physicist. (5/20)

Two New Canadian Astronauts (Source:
Nearly 25 years after the first Canadian astronaut flew into space and only weeks before two Canadian space veterans launch to the International Space Station, the Honorable Industry Minister Tony Clement and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Steve MacLean revealed the names of Canada's newest astronauts. Jeremy Hansen and David St-Jacques are the first Canadians to join the astronaut corps since 1992. The new astronauts were chosen among 5,351 applicants. Through the year-long recruitment process, candidates underwent evaluations ranging from robotics to physical fitness testing. (5/14)

GPS Could Go South, Report Says (Source: Jacksonville Business Journal)
The Global Positioning System, a great boon to drivers too proud to ask directions, faces “significant challenges” as its satellites age and fail over the next few years. A report from the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. Air Force is rushing to upgrade the complex system, but may not be able to prevent service problems. GPS information is provided free by the United States, and its signals are used in countless products, from Apple’s iPhone to automobiles.

The latest GPS satellite program, block IIF, is already $870 million over budget and “significant technical problems...still threaten its delivery schedule.” About 30 GPS satellites, the oldest launched in the 1990s, are in orbit now. New satellites in the IIF block are three years late, and the first of them won’t be launched until November at the earliest, the GAO said. (5/20)

Bad Weather May Disrupt Shuttle Landing Schedule (Source: AP)
Astronauts are conserving power on the space shuttle Atlantis because bad weather in Florida may keep them in orbit longer than planned. Storms could delay a scheduled Friday landing at Kennedy Space Center. NASA can try again in Florida on Saturday and if that doesn't work, they have several options for a Sunday landing. (5/20)

2025 LEO Shipyard is New ESA, Roscosmos Goal (Source: Flight Global)
A shipyard in low Earth orbit that assembles Moon or Mars ships consisting of multinational elements for propulsion, habitation and re-entry capsules is a post-International Space Station vision being drawn up by the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). While agency talks continue on extending ISS use from its original end date of 2016 to at least 2020, ESA and its Russian counterpart discussed in mid-March space infrastructure that could support a capability for missions beyond LEO. (5/20)

Minotaur Rocket Launches from Virginia Spaceport (Source: NASA)
NASA's PharmaSat nanosatellite successfully launched at 7:55 p.m. EDT Tuesday from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at Wallops Island, Va. PharmaSat rode to orbit aboard a four-stage Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket. Also aboard were the Air Force Research Laboratory's TacSat-3 satellite and other NASA CubeSat Technology Demonstration experiments, which include three four-inch cubed satellites developed by universities and industry. (5/20)

Iran Fires Test Missile, Bringing Europe in Range (Source: AIA)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country successfully launched a medium-range rocket Wednesday morning and has no plans to back down on its nuclear program. Iran says its Sajil-2 solid-fuel booster rockets have a range of 1,250 miles -- enough to hit Moscow, Athens or southern Italy. (5/20)

Obama, Bolden Discuss Future of NASA (Source: Miami Herald)
President Barack Obama met Tuesday with former astronaut Charles Bolden to discuss his increasingly likely nomination as NASA chief and explore the former Marine Corp. general's vision for the beleaguered space agency. Bolden, who would be the first African-American to lead NASA, met in the morning with Obama in the White House Roosevelt Room across from the Oval Office. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave the clearest indication to date that the president has all but settled on his choice. Gibbs said Obama 'hopes that he's the right person to lead NASA in the coming years. Bolden would be the second astronaut to head NASA, following Dick Truly. (5/20)

Editorial: Delays in Planning Could Cost Aerospace Jobs (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The dramatic images of a space shuttle launch lighting up the Florida sky, or of a spacewalking astronaut hundreds of miles away, sometime mask one of the true achievements of Americas space program: the economic development it has spawned here on Earth. Our national ambition to explore space has brought us tremendous discovery and unparalleled moments of pride. It has also created an industry. The aerospace sector has created tens of thousands of well-paying, high-tech jobs and generated thriving communities all of which are under threat if our government doesnt act quickly. Click here to view the editorial. (5/20)

Members Express Concerns Over Human Spaceflight's Future at NASA (Source: House Republican Caucus)
The Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on the President’s FY-2010 NASA Budget Request. Republican Members expressed concerns to acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese over insufficient funding to develop the next generation manned launch vehicle in a timely manner after retirement of the Space Shuttle. Similar concerns were expressed by a number of Members on both sides of the aisle at a hearing last week with Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s science advisor.

“NASA is one area of the federal budget where I think some increases are justified,” said Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX). “As I said to Dr. Holdren last week, I am very concerned that priorities may be shifting away from human space exploration at a very critical time.” While NASA’s proposed FY10 budget is $18.7 billion, an increase of 5.1% over the enacted FY09 appropriation for NASA, the budget projection beyond FY10 is essentially flat through FY13. Several members expressed concern that this has deleted nearly all of the out-year funding for the Altair Lunar Lander and for the heavy-lift Ares 5 launch vehicle. (5/20)

NASA Chief Rules Out Extension of Shuttle's Life (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The acting NASA chief on Tuesday essentially ruled out extending the life of the space shuttle beyond its eight remaining missions. Acting Administrator Chris Scolese said that NASA and Lockheed Martin already have begun shutting down the New Orleans facility that builds the shuttle's external fuel tank and that it would take three years to restart the production line.

That timeline further dims hopes that the shuttle era can be extended beyond its scheduled retirement in 2010 or 2011, because there would be a two- or three-year wait for a fuel tank. "There would still be a gap," Scolese told a House committee. Click here to view the article. (5/20)

Endeavor Countdown Begins Wednesday for Potential Rescue Mission (Source: CFN-13)
NASA will begin a three-day countdown Wednesday to launch shuttle Endeavour, if needed. The shuttle and its rescue crew are on standby in case a heat shield inspection on Atlantis Tuesday turns up damage that might endanger its Hubble Space Telescope servicing crew during atmospheric reentry. (5/20)

Boeing Loses Lawsuit on Pricing for GPS Satellites (Source: AP)
The Air Force can disclose the rates that Boeing charged for the next generation of global positioning satellites to the public and its competitors, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. The ruling rejects Boeing's effort to reverse an Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center decision to comply with a Freedom of Information request filed five years ago about the satellite contract the company won in 1996.

Chicago-based Boeing says it believes the request, filed through a third party, is from its chief competitor, Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp. Boeing objected to the release of pricing information. The company says disclosing the information will allow competitors to figure out its labor and profit rates, which the company wants to keep secret. (5/20)

Astrium To Train Engineers, Build Satellites for Kazakhstan (Source: Space News)
Europe's Astrium space hardware and services company has signed a broad partnership agreement with the government of Kazakhstan expected to lead to Astrium's training of more than 100 Kazakh engineers, the creation of a joint satellite integration center in Kazakhstan, and the purchase by Kazakhstan of two Astrium-built optical Earth observation satellites, Astrium announced May 19. (5/20)

Boeing Renews Protest of Lockheed's GOES-R Award (Source: Space News)
In its second protest of the same contract award, Boeing is asking the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review NASA's recent decision to stick with Lockheed Martin as prime contractor for the billion-dollar GOES-R meteorological satellites, Boeing said May 19. The latest appeal asks the General Accountability Office to look into alleged "serious flaws and lack of transparency" in NASA's decision to choose Lockheed Martin to build as many as four GOES-R civilian weather satellites. (5/20)

RSCC Orders Two Satellites from Reshetnev-Thales Alenia Space Team (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) has tentatively selected ISS Reshetnev of Russia and Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy to build two large multiband telecommunications satellites under a contract valued at $370 million, Moscow-based RSCC announced May 19. (5/20)

PLDT Scraps ProtoStar Stock Deal (Source: Space News)
The Philippine Long Distance Co. (PLDT) announced May 18 it has canceled agreements with embattled start-up satellite operator ProtoStar under which ProtoStar would lease capacity on PLDT's existing satellite and take control of the satellite's customer contracts and ground assets in exchange for ProtoStar stock, and PLDT would make a separate cash investment in Protostar. (5/20)

Eutelsat Sales Up More Than 5 Percent (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat on May 14 reported a 5.6 percent increase in revenue for three months ending March 31 compared to a year ago and said all three of its principal business lines contributed to the growth. (5/20)

Eutelsat W2A's S-band Antenna Malfunctions (Source: Space News)
The 12-meter-diameter S-band antenna aboard the Eutelsat W2A satellite launched April 4 has suffered an anomaly that may reduce its ability to provide service across Europe as required by its regulatory license, one of two granted May 14, according to industry officials. (5/20)

China, Brazil to Offer Satellite Data to Africa (Source: Xinhua)
China and Brazil will provide satellite observation data for African countries through a joint space program, according to agreements inked here on Wednesday. The Earth receiving stations of Hartebeeshoek in South Africa, Aswan in Egypt and Maspaloms in Spain will process and distribute data from the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite-02B (CBERS-02B) to African states. "It's also for the first time China became an exporter of Earth observation data," said Guo Jianning, general director of the China Center for Resources Satellite Data and Application. (5/20)

Augustine Panel's Review Seen as 'Test' (Source: Florida Today)
NASA employees have mixed reactions to President Barack Obama's decision to name an independent panel to review the agency's manned space exploration program, NASA's acting administrator said Tuesday. "No one likes to take a test, and this is a test," Christopher Scolese told members of the U.S. House Science and Technology Committee. But "some people clearly recognize the value of the review, given some of the questions that have been opened, and they clearly are relieved." Despite concern, Scolese said NASA employees will "demonstrate that they're making the right progress and they're doing the right things, and they'll be fully open with the panel." (5/20)

Spaceport Debated in Oklahoma House (Source: News OK)
Several House members Tuesday picked at appropriation bills for agencies they thought should be cut further or eliminated. Some of the discussion dealt with why Oklahoma needs a runway to land space rockets. Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, called the Oklahoma Spaceport near Burns Flat a "pie in the sky” venture. However, Rep. Ryan McMullen, D-Burns Flat, said research is going on at the facility. It’s operated by the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority, which is scheduled to receive about $493,000 in the 2010 fiscal year, or 7 percent less than this year. All the appropriation bills that were up for action Tuesday passed. (5/20)

Refurbishments Complete, Astronauts Let Go of Hubble (Source: New York Times)
Practicing a kind of catch-and-release astronomy, the astronauts of the space shuttle Atlantis oh-so-gently let the Hubble Space Telescope slip back into the heavens on Tuesday. Reporting to mission control in Houston about 9 a.m. as the telescope and shuttle slowly drifted apart, Scott D. Altman, the Atlantis commander, called the last mission to refurbish the fabled telescope “an incredible journey” that demonstrated how humans could overcome challenges by working together.

In five spacewalks over the last week, the astronauts brought two ailing instruments on the telescope back to life, installed two new ones and replaced the orbiting observatory’s gyroscopes and batteries. The refurbished telescope, astronomers and engineers say, should be good for five to seven more years in space. “If I didn’t know better, I would have said that a miracle has happened here,” wrote Mario Livio, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, in an e-mail message. “But ‘miracles’ simply happen when you combine the ingenuity of scientists and engineers with the resourcefulness and determination of astronauts and their trainers.” (5/20)

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