May 21 News Items

Alabama Senator Knocks Constellation Study, SpaceX (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A White House plan to evaluate the future of NASA’s next spacecraft has at least one critic: U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, who called the upcoming study an ill-timed effort that would hinder NASA’s plans to develop Ares-1 as a replacement to the space shuttle. “Instead of providing Constellation with funds to move forward, it is delaying the current mission while seeking to have a do-over on plans that have been authorized by both a Republican and Democratic Congress,” said Shelby.

Shelby also derided private efforts – funded in part by NASA and nicknamed COTS – to build a commercial fleet that could re-supply the International Space Station, especially the rocket company SpaceX led by Internet whiz-kid Elon Musk. “Unfortunately, the reality is that out of four attempts, they [SpaceX] have only delivered a single dummy payload to space, have never delivered any payload to the space station, much less a human. However grandiose the claims of proponents for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services part D (COTS-D) are, they cannot substitute for the painful truth of failed performance at present,” Shelby said. (5/21)

Russian Rockets Readied for South America Launch (Source: AFP)
The maker of Russia's Soyuz rockets said on Thursday it had finished building the first rockets due to be launched from South America pad in cooperation with the European Space Agency. "The first two rockets are ready. They have got through all the tests and have been placed in the containers in which they will be delivered," said a Russian official. The newly updated Soyuz-ST rockets are to be launched from French Guiana, an overseas department of France located on the north coast of South America.

The rockets will be delivered in September and the first launch will take place on December 28, following considerable delays in the project. The move to French Guiana is a major step for Russia, which has mostly relied on the Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan from where the first man-made object and the first astronaut were launched into space. Launching Russian rockets so close to the United States is likely to send a strong message about Russia's continued role in space. (5/21)

Mars Water Could Have Been Cold and Salty (Source:
Liquid water may have existed on Mars early in its history even at sub-freezing temperatures because of the presence of ions in the water. In a paper published in the current issue of Nature, scientists used models of water mixed with sulfur, iron, and other ions at concentrations similar to what is found on the Martian surface today. The studies found that water remained liquid at temperatures as low as -28 degrees Celsius and also precipitated minerals like those seen on Mars today. The required concentrations are not much stronger than found in terrestrial salt water, suggesting that such water could have been hospitable to life. (5/21)

Recent Earthquake Activity Near Alaska Spaceport (Source: Space Pork Kodiak)
Multiple earthquakes in the Kodiak vicinity raise concerns about conditions at the Narrow Cape fault which underlies the Kodiak Launch Complex. The potential for a large magnitude earthquake resulting in damage at the Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) is increasing at this time. (5/15)

Alaska Spaceport Wasn't Wanted and They Couldn't Pay Their Own Way (Source: Space Pork Kodiak)
When, in 1997, the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation suddenly received $18 million dollars in federal funding for its planned rocket launch site on Kodiak Island, it was no secret U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska had pulled some strings. New evidence indicates Stevens not only pulled, but pushed, strong-arming Missile Defense commanders on behalf of AADC.

The money appeared in a Pentagon spending bill during a House-Senate conference in the fall of 1996. $23 million was added to the budget of a small Air Force missile defense program. $5 million would be spent on two launches for the program — the remaining $18 million was earmarked for construction of the Kodiak Launch Complex. Newspapers at the time reported the Air Force did not solicit the funding. Click here to view the article from Dec. '08. (12/08)

Science(?) Fiction from Sarah Palin: Launch Pad to Nowhere (Source: Space Pork Kodiak)
Sarah Palin repeats the "build it and they will come" false rhetoric we've heard from the Alaska Aerospace Development Corp. (AADC) since 1995. "Significant Growth?" - only if the $17.5 million in state and federal funds AADC has received this year continues for years to come. And the growth will not be number of launches or more business; just a larger white elephant marring the Narrow Cape landscape. Expand the infrastructure for less than one launch per year on average for the life of the facility.

KLC is NOT the "best equipped [launch facility] anywhere": it does not have the capacity to store more than one rocket at any one time. And, try getting your personnel to Kodiak when Mt. Redoubt erupts ash and all the flights are grounded; or the fog rolls in and flights from Anchorage can't get in for days at a time.
The only launch customer for the KLC has been the U.S. government with all but one launch being overtly military. Keep in mind that while Governor Palin doesn't want to accept federal stimulus money for education, she has requested increased pork barrel funding for the Kodiak Launch Complex. Our fiscal conservative wants to spend more of your tax dollars on a facility that cannot even support itself with launch revenues. It's a kind of "launch pad to nowhere" scenario. (4/29)

NASA Hampered by Budget, Safety Concerns, Critics Charge (Source: AIA)
Former astronauts and NASA officials point to the rescue of the Hubble Space Telescope as a case study on the value of a well-funded space program. "It's a great example of why you have men in space and the value of men in space," said George Abbey, a former director of the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Walter Cunningham, who piloted the lunar module on Apollo 7, said budget concerns are not the only consideration hindering NASA. "Space is never going to be cheap. And it's never going to be safe," Cunningham said. "Sometimes that's the price you pay for progress." (5/21)

Air Force Unfunded Priorities List Includes ORS Satellite (Source: AIA)
The Air Force has drawn up a list of $1.9 billion in unfunded priorities for 2010, topped by $180.2 million for two additional Bombardier Global Express communications aircraft. The list, compiled by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, also includes $78 million to upgrade EC-130s and $103.4 million for an infrared imaging satellite known as ORS-1. (5/21)

ATK Successfully Deploys Parachutes for Ares I (Source: Salt Lake Tribune)
Three giant parachutes successfully deployed over the Yuma desert early Wednesday morning, marking one more step toward sending astronauts to the moon and beyond in the space shuttle replacement, the Ares I. The three parachutes, each with a 150-foot diameter or about half the size of a football field, slowed a 41,500-pound weight that simulates the size of the Ares I first-stage booster. The parachutes are the largest of their type in the world. The weight and chutes were dropped from a C-17 aircraft at 10,000 feet, and successfully deployed at 4,500 feet above the U.S. Army's Yuma Testing Ground.

United Space Alliance at the Kennedy Space Center, who subcontracted with ATK, manufactured the parachutes. Designers modeled the parachutes after the 136-foot diameter ones that currently slow the solid rocket boosters from the space shuttle enough to splash down into the Atlantic Ocean. The new chutes also will slow the Ares I rocket for an Atlantic landing, where the rockets will be recovered, refurbished and reused. (5/21)

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