May 29 News Items

First Meeting Planned for Augustine Panel on Jun. 17 (Source: Space Politics)
The "Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee" will meet on Jun. 17 in Washington DC at the Carnegie Institution at 9:00 a.m. The agenda topics for the meeting include: Previous Studies on U.S. Human Space Flight; Current U.S. Space Policy; International Cooperation; Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle; Commercial Human Space Flight Capabilities; and Exploration Technology Planning. Click here for a copy of the meeting notice. (5/29)

Former Astronaught Picked to Head NASA (Source: What's New)
It should be the easiest confirmation in history; President Obama has chosen Charles Bolden, a retired Marine general and former space shuttle pilot, to be NASA administrator. The agency is overdue for a major change. The Cold War triumph of Apollo was followed by the public relations scam of the space shuttle. Sold as a reusable spacecraft that would reduce the cost of transporting men and materials into space, it turned out to be the most expensive and dangerous delivery mechanism ever devised. It split NASA into those who explore the universe with telescopes and probes, and those who endlessly circle Earth just above the cloud tops.

The shuttle at last is history, but it's not clear what comes next. Bolden takes over as a new Augustine panel examines the appropriate role of human spaceflight, if any. Also named was Lori Garver, who served on the NASA transition team, to be Bolden’s deputy. She has no technical background, but she’s smart and knows NASA. Unfortunately, she also has ties to the aerospace industry. (5/29)

New Mexico Spaceport Causes Housing Boom (Source: KRQE)
Spaceport America's construction will cause the town of Elephant Butte to double in size. (5/29)

Is Bolden Right for NASA? (Source: Christian Science Monitor)
A New York Times editorial voiced some concern about Charles Bolden's lack of "deep technical expertise that enabled the previous second-guess NASA's own experts and those from industry." How critical are the technical skills? Chats with a couple of historians who have long tracked NASA's ups and downs suggest that while a solid technical background can be helpful, it’s not critical. Arguably, one of the most successful administrators in the agency’s history got his undergraduate degree in education, then became a lawyer. His name: James Webb. The project he shepherded through its formative stages: The Apollo program. (5/28)

Satellites Have Hurricane-Hardened Hideout at Cape Canaveral Spaceport (Source: Florida Today)
Multimillion-dollar satellites now can ride out a hurricane in the safety of a hardened building at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Air Force's 45th Space Wing unveiled a $4.8 million steel-reinforced building that will protect small- and medium-size satellites in a hurricane packing sustained winds of up to 155 mph, or a strong Category 4. The building, with 1-foot-thick walls, is designed to withstand wind gusts of up to 200 mph and a storm surge of 24 feet. (5/29)

Is Sen. Bill Nelson Flip-Flopping on NASA's COTS-D Program? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Just last week Florida’s senior senator and chief space booster Bill Nelson was on the warpath with NASA’s acting administrator Chris Scolese over COTS-D – the agency’s program to invest in commercial space companies to carry crew to the space station. During a Senate hearing, Nelson criticized Scolese for NASA's failure to invest in COTS-D despite recent Congressional direction to do so. Observers assumed Nelson had become a champion of COTS-D as a way to generate Space Coast jobs and shrink the post-Shuttle human spaceflight gap.

In comments to space boosters over the last two days, Nelson has made it clear that he is not necessarily supporting COTS-D. "I want to make sure you understand I wasn’t specifically pushing COTS-D. What I was pushing was Launch complex 36...COTS D first off is a human-rated program and that has not been sanctioned by NASA yet." What is interesting is that LC-36 is the highly controversial effort by Space Florida to invest $60 million – including $14.5 of state taxpayer money – into rebuilding an old Air Force launch pad with no clear customer committed to using it.

Even more interesting is the fact that LC-36's biggest critic is SpaceX, the only company that has a negotiated deal with NASA for COTS-D funding. CEO Elon Musk argues that LC-36 would support potential rivals with large sums of cash while SpaceX is the only new commercial rocket company operating in Florida. Making it even more interesting still is that after the Sentinel ran a story a few months ago reporting that many residents on the Space Coast felt let down by Nelson’s inability to defend KSC from looming job cuts after NASA mothballs the shuttle, the only person who wrote a letter to the Sentinel defending Nelson’s leadership on space was Musk. (5/29)

More on Nelson and COTS-D (Source: Space Politics)
Based on Senator Nelson’s recent statements to NASA about COTS-D, it's hard to conclude that he was somehow referring to LC-36. One of the major criticisms of efforts to develop LC-36 into a new commercial launch facility, the Orlando Sentinel noted, is the lack of customers for it, something that COTS-D would not address: SpaceX has its own site at Cape Canaveral; ULA has existing facilities for Atlas 5 and Delta 4 that would likely be used for any potential ISS crew transportation efforts; and Orbital Sciences, if it decided to pursue ISS crew transportation in the future (it’s not now), is investing in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia. The connection between COTS-D and LC-36 appears all but non-existent. (5/29)

No comments: