May 5 News Items

Is Ares I Adequate? Obama Administration to Order New Study (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In a major turnaround, the White House is expected this week to order a review of the Ares/Orion system that NASA had hoped would one day replace the space shuttle. The decision follows months of critical reports questioning whether the system could meet a goal of sending astronauts into orbit by 2015. The review would examine whether Ares and Orion are the best options, or if the agency should pick another spacecraft. The announcement is planned to coincide with the Thursday release of President Barack Obama's $18.7 billion spending plan for NASA.

A 2005 study ordered by Mike Griffin, called the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), supported the Ares/Orion system and ruled out using the military rockets and other systems. But the way the study was conducted, with little input and participation from contractors and rocket companies, led to howls of protest that the study was not fairly conducted and that the results were suspect. "There are people in some quarters, not all, who that say the study done in 2005 might have been shaded in such a way to lead you to the current architecture..." said Roger Launius, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum.

Frustrated with the ESAS and Ares I, many NASA engineers have in their spare time worked on other designs that they insist would be a better choice than Ares I. One such program that has received support from many engineers and space advocates has been the Direct 2.0 Jupiter rocket, which is essentially the shuttle's fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters with a capsule mounted on top in place of a side-mounted orbiter. Now Direct proponents are hopeful that their rocket design will get a second look by the new panel created to examine Ares and all viable alternatives. (5/5)

Virgin Galactic Envisions Deep Price Cut (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Virgin Galactic chief Will Whitehorn said he envisaged the price of the ticket decreasing once the concept became more popular and more spacecraft had been built. “In five years we will get the price halved [to $100,000],” he said. “If you look at it, when you get into more of a mass market, it’s actually very easy to expand things from there. By this time we will have done a lot of flights.” (5/5)

Harris Reports Higher Third Quarter Earnings (Source: Florida Today)
Harris Corp. reported higher earnings during the third quarter of fiscal 2009, but due to reduced government purchases, orders declined 27 percent, leading to a predicted drop in revenue expectations for 2010. Total orders for the third quarter were $1 billion, declining 27 percent compared with $1.4 billion same quarter of last year. Lower Department of Defense orders for military radios and the effect of the weak global economy on the broadcast communications division were blamed for the reduction. (5/5)

Improved Hubble to Get New Competition from European Telescopes (Source: AIA)
NASA plans to launch a space shuttle to the Hubble Space Telescope Monday, where astronauts will install new instruments designed to improve the performance of the 18-year-old satellite. But just three days later, the European Space Agency will launch two new telescopes, named Planck and Herschel, that are even more advanced than the improved Hubble. Though the twin telescopes will give the Europeans a technological advantage in cosmology, NASA insists there is no competition. All three telescopes will focus on "different pieces of the universe," according to Hubble's news director. "They're complementary." The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)/McClatchy Newspapers (5/5)

Orbiting Drug Test Set for Launch (Source: AIA)
NASA plans to study how drugs work in space when a 10-pound nanosatellite is launched tonight aboard an Air Force Minotaur 1 rocket. PharmaSat, about the size of a loaf of bread, will test the effects of antifungal drugs on yeast cultures. "PharmaSat is an important experiment that will yield new information about the susceptibility of microbes to antibiotics in the space environment," says a scientist at the University of Texas in Galveston. (5/5)

ITAR Confusion (Source: Space Politics)
An Aerospace Daily article Monday claims that export controls “could prevent commercial space operators from taking non-U.S. citizens on spaceflights”. “Reforming ITAR will allow us to fly a Canadian citizen into space without his getting a security clearance,” claimed Marc Holzapfel, senior counsel for Virgin Galactic. But wait, wasn’t this issue resolved last month, when The Economist reported that Bigelow had won an exemption that covered passengers on its orbital modules?

The issue was the same there: concerns that customers (spaceflight participants) would have to get TAAs in order to receive even basic, safety-critical technical information. The Bigelow ruling means no such agreements are needed, but that’s not mentioned in the Aerospace Daily article. The article was based on the “Entrepreneurial Space and Export Controls” meeting held last week in Washington. Apparently Bigelow’s ruling applies only to that company; however, other companies hope that if they file similar requests they will be granted similar exemptions. (5/5)

Russia's Angara Rocket Family Needs Cash Injection (Source: Flight Global)
Fourteen years after the start of development, Russia's Angara rocket needs a cash injection of billions more roubles to deliver the planned 2011 first flights of its 1.1 and A5 versions. Krunichev official Vladimir Nesterov said: "When Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin toured [our company] on 18 April, [we] came forward with a request for additional funding in 2009-11 to complete the Angara complex. The figure of Rb10 billion [$302 million] was mentioned."

Nesterov declines to give any figures on how much the Angara family has so far cost and how much more it is likely to cost before its first flights, but the company says there are no "big technical, organizational or production" issues to push back the flight dates. Russia is planning a new launch site at Vostochny in its eastern region, but Khrunichev will only say that Angara will fly from Plesetsk. While Khrunichev waits for approval for that Rb10 billion request, work goes on.

The company says that testing for its rocket's Energomash-developed RD-191 engine is "nearing completion". Firing tests for the company's Polyot-built first-stage Universal Rocket Module (URM), which uses the RD-191, is planned for this quarter. Khrunichev's commercial launch arm is ILS International Launch Services. But as to whether Angara will offered by ILS, Khrunichev says: "It is premature to discuss the first commercial launch. We expect the first commercial launch of Angara in 2013-14." (5/5)

Space Industry Gets Virtually Nothing from Florida Legislature (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
For the first time in recent memory, backers of Florida's space industry walked away from the two-month legislative session utterly empty-handed. With NASA already making the first of at least 3,500 layoffs — and as many as 10,000 — at Kennedy Space Center, the Legislature failed to pass a single space-related bill by the end of regular business last week. And lawmakers devoted no new money to averting the economic calamity that will strike when the space shuttle is mothballed. Part of the problem was a dire economic picture that doomed any new spending. But internal turf fights and controversies over Space Florida, detailed by the Orlando Sentinel, also stalled efforts, officials said. Click here to view the article. (5/5)

Space Workforce Group Reports Results (Source: SPACErePORT)
The National Science Foundation-sponsored SpaceTEC consortium, which includes 12 partner colleges from Florida, California, Alabama, Virginia, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington, held their annual board meeting on May 4-5 in Cocoa Beach. Enrollment in SpaceTEC-supported courses at partner institutions rose 240% in 2008 and over 330 individuals are now SpaceTEC-Certified Aerospace Technicians. The Community College of the Air Force has developed an online SpaceTEC readiness course to support the certification program.

SpaceTEC is led by Brevard Community College on Florida's Space Coast. Over the past seven years, BCC's aerospace technology degree program has gained 116 graduates, with another 52 currently enrolled. SpaceTEC-certified aerospace technicians now work for Florida companies such as Astrotech, Boeing, Harris, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, USA, ULA, and NASA. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is one of the SpaceTEC partners. Visit for information. (5/5)

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