May 7 News Items

Virgin Sees Space Tourism as Just the Beginning (Source: Reuters)
Long-haul trips could be made in spaceships instead of planes in 20 years' time if Virgin's efforts to commercialize space travel succeed, the president of Virgin Galactic said. Will Whitehorn said Virgin's plans to take tourists into space were just a first stage that could open up a range of possibilities for the company including space science, computer server farms in space and replacing long-haul flights.

Virgin Galactic, part of Richard Branson's Virgin Group, has collected $40 million in deposits from would-be space tourists including physicist Stephen Hawking and ex-racing driver Niki Lauda, and hopes to start commercial trips within two years. Whitehorn said the bookings from 300 people willing to pay $200,000 each for a space flight had convinced Virgin the venture was viable. It is currently running test flights and hopes soon to win a license from the Federal Aviation Authority. (5/7)

Nuclear Fuel for Deep Space Missions Running on Empty (Source: AP)
NASA is running out of nuclear fuel needed for its deep space exploration. The end of the Cold War's nuclear weapons buildup means that the U.S. space agency does not have enough plutonium for future faraway space probes — except for a few missions already scheduled — according to a new study released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences. Deep space probes beyond Jupiter can't use solar power because they're too far from the sun. So they rely on a certain type of plutonium, plutonium-238. It powers these spacecraft with the heat of its natural decay. But plutonium-238 isn't found in nature; it's a byproduct of nuclear weaponry. The United States stopped making it about 20 years ago and NASA has been relying on the Russians. But now the Russian supply is running dry because they stopped making it, too. (5/7)

NASA Announces $18.69 Billion FY-2010 Budget (Source: NASA)
NASA announced an $18.69 billion budget for FY-2010 to advance Earth science, complete the International Space Station, explore the solar system and conduct aeronautics research. The budget request represents an increase of $903.6 million, or 5 percent, above funding provided in the fiscal year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act. All totaled, an additional $2 billion has been added to NASA's 2009 and 2010 budgets under the Obama administration.

Funds freed by the shuttle's retirement will support development of systems to deliver people and cargo to the station, the moon and other destinations. As part of the effort, NASA will invest in private-sector development and the demonstration of vehicles to support the agency's human crew and cargo spaceflight requirements. (5/7)

White House Announces Independent Review (Source: NASA)
The White House has announced the launch of an independent review of NASA's human spaceflight activities. The Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans will examine NASA development programs and possible alternatives. The goal is to provide options that will ensure the nation's human spaceflight program remains safe, innovative and affordable in the years following the space shuttle's retirement.

The panel's results will support an administration decision by August 2009 on how to proceed. Acting NASA Administrator Christopher Scolese expressed his support for the effort. A blue-ribbon panel of experts will conduct the review, led by Norman Augustine, a former aerospace industry executive who served on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is a recipient of the National Medal of Technology, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Public Service Award and the Department of Defense's Distinguished Service Medal. Michael Hawes, the associate administrator of NASA's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation in Washington, will serve as the lead of the NASA team supporting the review. (5/7)

Space Florida's Kohler Resigns (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
In a letter to Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who is chairman of Space Florida's board, Steve Kohler said "much of the media coverage of Space Florida has created considerable distraction, compromising needed forward momentum for the agency. My capacity to serve effectively as president has likewise been damaged. Therefore, in order to remove the unfair distraction and enable Space Florida to move forward with complete focus on space in Florida, I am resigning as president effective May 8, 2009."

Sources in Tallahassee say a leading candidate to replace Kohler is Frank DiBello, a Brevard County aerospace consultant who's a member of the Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast. Barney Bishop, like DiBello a member of the EDC and president of Associated Industries of Florida, said, "I applaud Steve Kohler for putting his career aside to address the perception that Space Florida is floundering. This should send a signal of the space industry." (5/7)

NASA Budget Assumes 2010 Shuttle Retirement (Source: Florida Today)
The Obama Administration unveiled NASA's 2010 budget today and it assumes that the space agency will complete the International Space Station and retire the shuttle fleet in 2010. "NASA plans to complete assembly of the Space Station in 2010 prior to Shuttle retirement, including the delivery of the Cupola, Node 3, and logistics and supplies. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) science experiment will be flown after these flights if it can be safely and affordably completed in calendar year 2010," the document says. "The U.S. human space flight program is a very high priority and the administration believes it is extremely important to ensure that the nation is on a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space," a White House spokesman said. (5/7)

Space Coast School Plans Aerospace Academy to Prepare Future Workforce (Source: SPACErePORT)
Merritt Island High School, near Kennedy Space Center, has earned a slot with "Project Lead The Way", in support of its efforts to establish a Da Vinci Academy of Aerospace Technology. The new academy will provide specialized curricula for students interested in future careers as aerospace technicians and engineers. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University serves on the academy's advisory committee. Visit for information. (5/7)

Conflicting NASA Priorities Force Tough Budget Decisions (Source: Huntsville Times)
The White House is scheduled to release the NASA budget today, but it probably won't give everybody what they want. NASA has conflicting priorities that pit science research against the space shuttle against the Ares rocket program, developed at Marshall Space Flight Center. Also, the Obama administration is expected to order a cost and progress review of Ares. The space agency budget is expected to be about $19 billion, which would keep it pretty much flat over the past decade when inflation is factored in.

Marshall generally receives about $3 billion of the NASA budget to pay for its role in programs such as the space shuttle, the International Space Station, science research and Ares development. The bottom line is that "NASA needs an extra $4 billion a year to keep doing what it is doing according to Congress' budget office analysis," said Dr. Scott Pace, director of space policy at George Washington University. Click here to view the article. (5/7)

ATK Reports Strong FY09 Year-End and Fourth-Quarter Results (Source: ATK)
Alliant Techsystems reported strong operating results for FY09. Sales in FY09 increased 10 percent to $4.6 billion. Orders for the year were $5.0 billion. The total year-end backlog was $7.0 billion. Sales in the fourth quarter of FY09 surpassed $1.2 billion, an 11 percent increase over the prior-year quarter. Fourth quarter orders reached $1.8 billion, driven by strong demand for commercial and military ammunition, international programs, and a substantial Airbus A350 composite structures award. (5/7)

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