May 6 News Items

Nelson: Obama Supports Shuttle Flexibility (Source: Florida Today)
President Obama will not force NASA to ground the space shuttle fleet before all eight or nine remaining missions are flown, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said. "White House tells me the president will fly all nine remaining shuttle missions - even if it means flying the shuttle an extra year," the Florida senator said via Twitter. In briefings with the White House yesterday and today, Nelson was assured that missions could slip into 2011 if they can't be completed on schedule by late 2010, according to his office.

That is the president's first promise that the shuttle will not face a hard 2010 deadline, which Nelson and other Space Coast representatives have argued could hurt mission safety by creating intense schedule pressure - a contributing factor in the Challenger and Columbia disasters. However, Nelson was told the president expects the missions to be flown on time. (5/6)

Canada's Space Program Still Has Far to Fly (Source: Ottawa Business Journal)
Years of non-direction from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) caused by underfunding are putting the space industry at risk of stagnation in Canada, points out a report issued Wednesday by the Rideau Institute and the Secure World Foundation. Although Rideau Institute president Steve Staples notes the appointment of former astronaut Steve MacLean to head the CSA has brought new blood into an agency plagued by short-term presidents, he fears the economic crisis may push MacLean's long-awaited Long Term Space Plan into the background. As a solution, Mr. Staples and the institute propose moving from a space plan into a more wide-ranging space policy that could be adopted by other government departments with a strategic interest in space exploration, such as defense. (5/6)

Editorial: Washington - Stop Delaying on Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
It's a critical time for the U.S. space program. The shuttle is scheduled to stop flying as soon as next year. NASA has started whacking jobs, and layoffs on Florida's Space Coast could reach 10,000. The U.S. is facing a gap of five years or more in sending astronauts into orbit, and problems plaguing NASA's next manned program mean a longer delay. Yet there's a maddening lack of urgency, and interest, among federal and state policy-makers.

After months of inaction, the Obama administration was expected this week to announce a review of the next manned program, Constellation. The review would include an examination of whether the Ares I rocket is the best design for Constellation. This is long overdue, and it needs to be thorough but quick. NASA can't afford to keep plowing money and time into Ares if it's going to get dumped in favor of another launcher.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, who says he has the president's ear on space policy, has resorted to publicly pleading for him to name a new administrator. With so much at stake for NASA and the nation, the delay from the White House is confounding. Mr. Nelson had one bit of good news to report this week from the president. Mr. Obama told him he will complete all the shuttle missions that have been planned, even if delays push them past the program's scheduled retirement date in 2010. (5/6)

Editorial: Tallahassee - Stop Delaying on Space (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The space gridlock isn't just in Washington. Lawmakers in Tallahassee also act as if space policy isn't a priority. Legislators didn't pass even one of several space-related proposals during this year's regular session. And they let a turf battle between two universities doom a bipartisan bid to create a space research institute. Legislators also didn't commit any new money to help Florida keep up with the competition from other states for commercial space ventures, which would help offset the economic damage from losing the shuttle program.

Their reluctance stemmed in part from an understandable lack of confidence in Space Florida, the agency charged with growing the industry in the state. It has few real accomplishments to show for the millions in taxpayer dollars it has received. But the better approach from legislators would have been to extract a guarantee of reform at Space Florida in return for any additional money. Instead, they accepted assurances from Gov. Charlie Crist's administration that "improvements" would be made at the agency over the summer. (5/6)

Obama Must Choose Between Cars And Rockets (Source:
As the Detroit's carmakers teeter on bankruptcy, the administration appears to be a whirling dervish as they attempt to set in to motion solutions for the tsunami of issues that threaten to overrun not just Washington, but the world. Detroit's automotive industry is like a bad horror film, they are truly the walking dead. As a country do we continue to throw billions of dollars at the mummified corporate zombies? Or would the country be better off focusing on those industries such as space technologies that represent the future of this country and all of mankind? Click here to view the article. (5/6)

U.S. Air Force Eyes Way to Help Space Industry (Source: Reuters)
The U.S. Air Force is exploring ways to shore up a declining U.S. space industrial base, including working with other government agencies to aggregate orders for space-related equipment, Gen. Robert Kehler, head of Air Force Space Command said. Kehler said a new strategic plan being finalized by his command has concluded that the U.S. defense industrial base is declining, and particularly the space industrial base. He said the Air Force is in discussions with the few companies left that still produce solid rocket motors, as well as other government agencies like NASA and the Missile Defense Agency, about ways to consolidate orders and better support industry.

Given constraints on future budgets, no one agency has enough funding to drive the market by ordering thousands of rocket motors for launching satellites into space, he said. The Air Force is also exploring whether a similar approach would work for satellites, Kehler said. He said the U.S. government would always need some high-end, larger satellites, but could possibly move to using more smaller satellites built by a broader array of manufacturers, which could be launched more frequently. (5/6)

Rocket Carrying Ashes to Space Crashed to Earth Instead (Source:
The problem that prevented a suborbital rocket carrying student experiments and the ashes of 16 people from reaching the edge of space last week has been identified. The May 2 launch of the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL from New Mexico's Spaceport America was the first annual education launch from the site. The rocket also carried a symbolic portion of the cremated remains of over a dozen individuals – a memorial service provided by Celestis, Inc.

The single-stage solid propellant-fueled SpaceLoft XL rocket ran into trouble some 10 seconds after liftoff, at about 38,000 feet, explained Jerry Larson, President of UP Aerospace, Inc. The company was a participating sponsor of the educational launch. "The cause of the failure was due to an incorrect flight parameter that was uploaded into the vehicle on the ground," Larson told Just prior to engine burnout of the rocket – then traveling at Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound – the vehicle's payload section unexpectedly separated, he said. (5/6)

Kottkamp: 'Stay Tuned' on Space Florida Front (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who heads the board of Brevard-based Space Florida, said Wednesday to "stay tuned" for potential changes to be made at the maligned economic development agency tasked with transitioning the state's economy into the post-space shuttle world. Asked for more details Wednesday, Kottkamp said: “Stay tuned. Obviously part of the board’s job is to continually monitor what’s going on at Space Florida and make sure we’re making sure Florida continues to be seen as a pre-eminent state in the space industry. Stay tuned to that. We’ll continue to monitor closely to make sure we get the job done.”

Lt. Governor Hears Space Workforce Concerns (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A group of space industry officials met privately Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp last week to discuss their concerns about the state's evolving space industry. Commenting on the meeting, Kottkamp said: "It was to make sure we are poised to take advantage of the great workforce that we have by transitioning some of the people that may not stay with NASA into the private sector. That is a strength we have that no place else in the country has, that work force, and to make sure we’re taking steps to transition that work force and keep as many jobs as we possibly can here in Florida.” (5/6)

NASA Rocket Study Stirs Unease at Kennedy Space Center (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Obama administration’s pending announcement of a comprehensive review of NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon is causing growing anxiety among Kennedy Space Center workers and NASA contractors. Companies are already starting to report some unease among their employees worried about what the study could mean for the future of NASA’s human space flight program and jobs in Brevard County. Managers are using words like “fear” and “disappointment” to characterize the mood of the workforce and their own ranks.

Already hundreds of shuttle workers spend part of their time working on Constellation program projects such as the Ares I-X test rocket that is supposed to be launched later this summer. The work is a morale booster for many workers, hoping there will be jobs after the shuttle is long gone. But there are signs that the work they hoped for might not be there even before news of the new study broke. According to one official: “Candidate Obama promised to shorten the gap and it's clear that this program is looking increasingly like it won’t do that. That alone necessitates review to find a solution...The administration has a responsibility to the nation and to the people who work on space to review the situation." (5/6)

Alabama Congressman Confident with Constellation Review Oncoming (Source: Space Politics)
A review of Constellation and its alternatives would not seem to bode well for the Ares 1 in particular, but at least one supporter remained confident about its prospects despite the impending review. “The Ares 1 and 5 vehicles have been through several studies and reviews and I am confident that any additional study will show that the Ares program is our best option to take our astronauts safely to the space station and beyond,” Congressman Parker Griffith (D-AL) told the Huntsville Times. (5/6)

Editorial: NASA Should Abandon its Problem-Plagued Ares I Rocket (Source: New Scientist)
It looks like Ares I, the rocket being designed to carry NASA astronauts into orbit when the space shuttle retires, is in trouble. Actually, Ares I has been in trouble for a long time, but now the chickens (or are they vultures?) are coming home to roost. It's been clear almost from the start that Ares I was a very marginal, optimistic design, just barely adequate if everything went right. But there are always problems, and Ares I had no margin for problems.

As one underlying assumption after another has turned out to be wrong, requiring design change after design change, NASA has nevertheless clung to the same basic approach, unwilling to admit its mistake and hoping that sheer persistence would see the project through. Perhaps it could, but the price for such bullheadedness can be very high, and the budget projections are now starting to reflect that - the estimated costs through 2015 have swelled from $28 billion in 2006 to $44 billion today.

NASA, predictably, is not happy about being forced to change. NASA's ex-administrator, Mike Griffin, has been a particularly vocal opponent of the idea, claiming that outsiders shouldn't try to second-guess NASA on technical decisions, and that it's cheaper to stay on course after four years of effort than to start over from scratch. Sorry, but that's not the way it looks to me. I'd agree that it would be cheaper, if I thought NASA had made four years of progress. But Ares I is the International Space Station of rockets: redesigned again and again, justified using assumptions that no longer apply. There comes a time when it really is cheaper to start over in some more sensible way. (5/6)

Editorial: Human-Rating Atlas or Delta May Make Sense (Source: New Scientist)
At first glance, the US's existing big rockets - Atlas V and Delta IV - seemed quite adequate for launching people and supplies into Earth orbit. (They wouldn't suffice for launching to the moon and beyond, but then, Ares I couldn't do that either - that job was assigned to its big brother, Ares V.) NASA studied this option at some length, and decided that Atlas and Delta just weren't good enough. In particular, NASA thought it would be very expensive to modify them to meet NASA's official "human-rating" standard, which specified what a rocket had to do to be safe for launching people.

Some of us had doubts about this. It's unlikely that there was any actual rigging of the analysis, but all too often, the devil is not in the details but in the assumptions. The "human-rating" standard was very demanding - far more demanding than any previous specification of its kind. The shuttle couldn't possibly meet it; neither could Apollo or Soyuz. But since then, the standard has been revised, and the new one is a lot less specific and demanding (a cynic would suggest it was changed because Ares I couldn't meet the original standard).

Could NASA make do with Atlas V or Delta IV rockets if they really wanted to? Yes, I think so. Compared to the original hypothetical Ares I, these launchers can't carry as heavy a load and they do need some work on details....but compared to the real Ares I, their problems look a lot less serious. (5/6)

Weather Delays Minotaur Launch from Virginia (Source:
The launch of an experimental military satellite and small NASA spacecraft was scrubbed Tuesday because of poor weather. The launch of a Minotaur 1 rocket carrying the TacSat-3 and PharmaSat spacecraft was scheduled for Tuesday evening from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, but weather conditions forced controllers to scrub the launch. The launch has been rescheduled for Thursday between 8 and 11 pm EDT (0000 and 0300 GMT Friday). The primary payload on the Minotaur is TacSat-3, a 400-kilogram satellite designed to test responsive space technologies, including a hyperspectral imager. Flying as a secondary payload is PharmaSat, a 5-kilogram satellite built by NASA's Ames Research Center to study the growth of yeast cells in space and the effectiveness of antifungal drugs. (5/6)

Delta II Rocket Launch Successful At California Spaceport (Source: KSBY)
A Delta II rocket lifted off at about 1:24 p.m. from Vandenberg Airforce Base on Tuesday. It was carrying an experimental satellite for the Missile Defense Agency. This mission is the first in a series of satellites from the MDA. The satellites will be used for space tracking and surveillance. (5/6)

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