May 31 News Items

Orlando Sentinel Wins Award for Space Reporting (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The space team at the Orlando Sentinel won a statewide award for State & Federal Government/Political Reporting, with honors going to Robert Block and Mark Matthews. "Block and Matthews penetrated the insular world of NASA engineers, tight-lipped aerospace companies and Washington bureaucrats to paint an alarming portrait of America’s space program. While mindful of their series’ national and even international importance, they never lost sight of the fact that NASA’s woes threatened to leave 4,000 Floridians without jobs. Mixing dogged reporting and FOIA power, they outsmarted NASA spies and told an important story unmatched by other media outlets." (5/31)

NASA Postpones Atlantis Return To KSC (Source: CFL-13)
NASA has formally delayed Atlantis’ ferry flight departure from California until Monday morning at the earliest. Workers have battled weather-related delays getting Atlantis ready for the cross-country trip, and now officials have to find a safe path for the carrier aircraft to take. (5/31)

Satellite Radio Crashes to Earth (Source: Daily Beast)
Amid the General Motors bankruptcy, the American auto industry is now claiming another victim: satellite radio. The relentlessly bad news from the auto industry’s Big Three—including Monday’s anticipated General Motors bankruptcy—is creating an unintended casualty: Mel Karmazin, and his company, Sirius XM Radio, which has relied on new cars being sold equipped with satellite radio. The embattled mogul, who once enjoyed a worshipful following among Wall Street investors, watched Sirius’s stock price tank by more than 30 percent recently.

The selloff came after the company said that its number of subscribers fell by 400,000, from 19 million to 18.6 million, in the first three months of this year. Never before had the company lost subscribers from quarter to quarter, and investors reacted with panic. In a dubious ploy (albeit transparently dubious, and completely lawful), Sirius has been counting millions of “subscribers” who never pay a penny out of their own pockets for the service. These customers get it free for six months to 18 months in promotional trials that are paid for by automakers such as Chrysler, which install the satellite-radio hardware in new cars. Fewer cars sold, fewer trial subscribers. (5/31)

DIRECT Team Offers Gap Elimination (Source: SPACErePORT)
The team behind the DIRECT initiative, which proposes the development of a family of Shuttle-derived Jupiter rockets in lieu of NASA's Ares-1 and Ares-5, presented an update on their concept during the ISDC event in Orlando. The Jupiter concept uses much more of the existing Space Shuttle components (except for the winged Orbiters) than now proposed for NASA's Ares vehicles. The result, say DIRECT proponents, is a cheaper, more capable, and more timely availability for human and heavy-lift cargo transport to space. By extending the current Space Shuttle program to 2012 (by spreading out the current remaining Shuttle missions), the post-Shuttle spaceflight gap can be eliminated. The DIRECT plan calls for initial Jupiter launch operations in 2012. Click here for information. (5/31)

ORS Sat-1 Will Launch from Virginia Spaceport in 2010 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The next orbital launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, VA will be the first Operationally Responsive Space satellite mission, called ORS Sat 1, in another Minotaur 1 in 2010. ORS Sat 1 will carry an optical sensor modified from a camera used by the U-2 spy plane. (5/31)

Mikulski to Support Virginia Spaceport Pad Groundbreaking on Jun. 29 (Source: Spaceports Blog)
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority is set to commence work on a new launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport with a Jun. 29 groundbreaking featuring Maryland U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. The new launch pad will enable up to four to six launches a year from Wallops Island, beginning with the Orbital Science Corp.'s Taurus II rocket. Other improvements, in addition to the launch pad, being made to the spaceport in preparation for the planned demonstration launch of Taurus II in December 2010 include building a horizontal integration facility where the rocket will be built and tested.

A dock facility is in-the-works to enable the first rocket stage to the spaceport by barge from Newport News after it arrives there from the Ukraine, where it is being built. Some testing and assembly of the rocket will be done by a team from the Ukraine meaning 30 to 50 Ukrainian workers at a time will be at Wallops during the lead-up to launches. The Taurus II rocket will have the capability of not only launching re-supply missions to the International Space Station in 2011 but also boosting robotic missions to the moon; and, perhaps gain astronaut-rating following evidence of high reliability. The Orbital Sciences Corporation booster will be in direct competition with the SpaceX Falcon 9 set to be launched from Cape Canaveral. (5/29)

Conference Includes Space Tourism Focus (Source: Florida Today)
Suborbital commercial human spaceflight projects are moving forward, but these efforts are not the only ones tackling the intersection of space travel and commerce. A host of space entertainment companies have emerged to capitalize on the urge to experience space travel less expensively -- on Earth. 4Frontiers is planning an earth-based entertainment/research facility on the Space Coast. The concept is a familiar one to Walt Disney Co., whose theme parks feature the thrill ride Space Mountain, a space-themed roller coaster, and Mission Space, which mimics a trip to Mars in 5.5 minutes.

"I expect that we will be going to space soon," Luc Mayrand, senior show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, said. "Staying in a hotel in space, that's going to happen eventually." While NASA's trips to space are about science, safety and exploration, Disney and other entrepreneurial companies can be expected to focus on fun when they begin space travel. "We want our guests to have an emotional experience," Mayrand said. "It's really about the joy of going to space. It only fits the context of entertainment if they have a great time." (5/31)

On Diversity, NASA Lags Behind (Source: Florida Today)
In a year of firsts, the nomination of an African-American to lead NASA hasn't grabbed national front-page headlines used for a black president moving into the White House, or for the selection of a Hispanic justice for the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet, if former astronaut Charles Bolden is confirmed as the next NASA administrator, he will take over an agency still struggling to match the racial diversity found in the nation's population, much less the federal workforce in general. Part of the reason is because minorities are underrepresented in the science- and math-related professions from which NASA draws, said one space policy expert. When it comes to racial parity, NASA falls short in all but one ethnic group, Asian-Americans. (5/31)

Satellite Broadband Pushed for European Stimulus Package (Source: Space News)
European Union governments on May 29 urged that satellite technology be made a part of Europe's economic stimulus package, saying satellites are particularly well-suited to providing broadband access in rural and remote areas. (5/31)

Sea Launch Expects Debt Refinancing to Close in June (Source: Space News)
Commercial launch service provider Sea Launch Co. has hired Citibank and Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo bank to lead a $245 million debt-refinancing effort starting May 27 that Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen said he is confident will close before a June 22 deadline. (5/31)

Virgin Galactic Test Fires Motor for SpaceShipTwo in California (Source: Space News)
The nitrous-oxide-fueled rocket motor designed to boost Virgin Galactic's planned passenger-carrying SpaceShipTwo vehicle into suborbital space has completed the first phase of testing, the space tourism firm announced May 28. The testing was conducted in the California desert by Virgin Galactic's key hardware supplier, Scaled Composites, and its subcontractor, Sierra Nevada Corp. (5/31)

NOAA Opening Institute For Climate and Satellites (Source: Space News)
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is teaming with the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University to form the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, NOAA announced May 28. The new institute will use satellite observations to detect, monitor and forecast climate change. (5/31)

ITU Attempts to Rein In Potential "Chaos in the Geostationary Arc" (Source: Space News)
The global regulator of satellite orbital positions and broadcast frequencies is attempting to stiffen requirements to reduce the abuses of the current registration system and avoid what one official calls the threat of "chaos in the geostationary arc, where no one would be able to make a successful business." Valery Timofeev, director of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radiocommunication Bureau, said the Geneva-based organization must rely on its 191 member governments to enforce the rules. But he said ITU has tools at its disposal to discourage practices that are increasingly unacceptable as the geostationary arc becomes ever more crowded. (5/31)

SatMex Finances Improve, But New Satellite Remains in Limbo (Source: Space News)
Satellite fleet operator Satmex of Mexico reported sharply higher revenue and operating income, and lower losses for the three months ending March 31 compared to a year earlier but gave no indication it has been able to work around its debt obligations to purchase a badly needed satellite. Satmex paid Space Systems/Loral nearly $4 million in 2008 to begin work on a Satmex 7 satellite to replace the Solidaridad 2 spacecraft at 114.9 degrees west. Launched in October 1994, Solidaridad 2 is already in inclined orbit, meaning it no longer uses its remaining fuel to keep itself stable on its north-south axis. It is expected to be retired either this year or in 2010. (5/31)

Exhibit Honors Maryland's Role in Space (Source: WJZ TV)
This weekend, NASA is hosting a special exhibit at the Convention Center called, "Maryland's Place in Space." With more than 100 exhibits, NASA's goal is to make people more aware of the Maryland's role in space exploration and advancement. Astronaut and Maryland native Ricky Arnold was a crew member on the space shuttle Discovery. "I think NASA is doing a great job of just exposing what's going on, what Maryland is doing to help space exploration," said Jocelyn Davey. (5/30)

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