June 15 News Items

Commercial Soyuz, Vega Launchers Face Up to Cost Pressures (Source: Flight Global)
Europe's two new launchers to fly from the French Guiana spaceport next year are facing cost challenges to their successful commercial introduction. Samara Space Center Soyuz 2-1a and its more powerful 2-1b variant, purchased for launch from French Guiana, have a price tag almost double that when bought for Baikonur spaceport launches.

In addition plans for the Vega booster to have a more cost-effective engine that replaces its upper stages have been postponed because overall launcher costs could not be reduced. "When [Russia] sells us Soyuz [for French Guiana] the launcher itself increases in cost, almost doubling. This shows us that the price is not linked to cost but very much linked to politics," explains Italian space agency commissioner Enrico Saggese. He admits that the long-distance logistics of operating Soyuz in South America is a factor, but the dramatic overall price hike, in his view, had to be political. (6/15)

Study Finds Human-Rated Delta IV Cheaper than Ares-1 (Source: Aviation Week)
A NASA-funded study found that a human-rated Delta IV heavy rocket could be a cheaper route to the International Space Station than NASA's Ares I crew launch vehicle. But the human-rated United Launch Alliance rocket would be less expensive only if the Ares V heavy-lift moon rocket development is deferred, the Aerospace Corp. study reports. And the Delta IV alternative could add two years or more to the "gap" in U.S. human access to orbit if it starts this year, according to the unreleased study obtained by Aviation Week.

Ordered by Richard Gilbrech, the former associate administrator for exploration, the $500,000 study evaluated six different versions of the Delta IV heavy as an alternate to the Ares I, which NASA is developing in-house based on the solid-fuel first stage space shuttle boosters, the shuttle external tank, and the J-2 engine used in the upper stages of the Saturn V.

The study did not address the other U.S. Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) - a heavy-lift version of the Atlas V - because of "no clear advantages and several disadvantages," including the difficulty in obtaining human-rating data on its Russian RD-180 engines. (6/15)

Endeavour Gets Wednesday Launch Date, LRO/LCROSS Moves to Friday (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
NASA plans to launch Endeavour on Wednesday at 5:40 a.m. If it can't go by this weekend, it must wait until mid-July because unfavorable sun angles would overheat the orbiter while it is docked to the space station. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite had been scheduled to lift off Wednesday atop an Atlas V rocket. NASA will now try to launch the lunar probes on Friday or Saturday. (6/15)

ILS Announces Nine New Proton Missions (Source: ILS)
ILS International Launch Services, Inc. (ILS), a world leader in providing Proton launch services to the global commercial satellite industry, has secured six firm launch orders and three mission assignments in the first half of 2009. ILS has also witnessed a significant trend where customers have moved from other launch providers to ILS Proton in order to meet their critical business requirements. (6/15)

ESA and Arianespace Sign Launch Services Contract (Source: ESA)
ESA and Arianespace signed the Frame Contract for the procurement of launch services. It constitutes one of the key elements of the new legal framework on launchers exploitation from 2009 onwards. The main purpose of the Frame Contract is to maximise the use of Ariane, Vega, and Soyuz at CSG, while ensuring competitive launch service prices for ESA missions and defining a set of standard contractual provisions for all launch services procured by the Agency from Arianespace. (6/15)

Preparations Underway for Launch of MEASAT-3a Satellite (Source: Sea Launch)
Preparations are underway at the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan for the launch of the MEASAT-3a (formerly MEASAT-1R) communications satellite on Jun. 21, at 2:50pm (PDT). From the Land Launch pad at Area 45, a Zenit-3SLB vehicle will lift the 2,366 kg (5,216 lb) MEASAT-3a spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit. Orbital Sciences built the MEASAT-3a spacecraft to expand capacity and in-orbit redundancy for MEASAT’s customers. (6/15)

Texas Congressman Tours KSC, Reiterates Support for Human Space Exploration (Source: Republican Caucus)
Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) toured the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Saturday as part of a Congressional Delegation to receive an update on NASA’s progress with the upcoming Constellation program and to witness the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on a mission to the International Space Station.

“I have always felt that the space program has done more to advance America’s technological leadership than any other Federal program,” Hall noted. “It has led to cutting-edge breakthroughs in electronics, communications, and even healthcare. America cannot afford to lose its leadership in space.” (6/15)

Europe's Mars Mission Scaled Back (Source: BBC)
The European Space Agency says its flagship Mars mission will lose a major instrument package to contain costs. The Exomars venture will launch a rover to the Red Planet in 2016, to search for signs of past or present life. It was hoped a static science payload called Humboldt could also be put on the surface to study the weather and, for example, listen for "Marsquakes". But agency officials announced at the Paris air show that financial constraints now made this impossible. (6/15)

Contracts Give Impetus to Galileo (Source: BBC)
Europe's satellite-navigation system has taken a big step forward with the signing of new industrial contracts. Satellite firms EADS Astrium and OHB have been asked to provide spacecraft components that will be needed for the forthcoming constellation. And rocket company Arianespace has signed the deal which will loft the system's first operational platforms.

The European Commission, which is leading the endeavor, has set aside more than two billion euros to build 26 satellites, buy launch rockets and set up the ground control centers. Its partner on the venture, the European Space Agency (Esa), is running a procurement contest with the aim of having Galileo up and running by 2013. (6/15)

NASA and Soft Power, Again (Source: Space Review)
NASA's efforts have contributed to the prestige and "soft power" of the US in international relations throughout much of the last half-century. Taylor Dinerman discusses how the US can further develop that soft power through enhanced international cooperation. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1396/1 to view the article. (6/15)

Space and (or Versus) the Environment (Source: Space Review)
Development of space tourism ventures has raised the hackles of some environmentalists who worry about the greenhouse gas emissions of suborbital systems. Jeff Foust notes that a bigger concern in the long run may be with the effect such systems have on the ozone layer. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1395/1 to view the article. (6/15)

The Gun Pointed at the Head of the Universe (Source: Space Review)
Space debris had gotten increased attention in recent months, particularly after the Iridium-Cosmos collision in February. Dwayne Day reports on a recent Capitol Hill event that discussed the problem and what can be done to mitigate it. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1394/1 to view the article. (6/15)

How to Cut Budgets and Influence Policy (Source: Space Review)
As the Augustine committee begins work this week on its review of NASA's human spaceflight plans, its analysis takes place in the shadow of both near-term and out-year budget cuts. Michael Huang wonders if this is part of a strategy that could imperil the future of human spaceflight at NASA overall. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1393/1 to view the article. (6/15)

Industry Pushing for Faster Adoption of NextGen (Source: AIA)
A slow-moving federal bureaucracy has slowed the implementation of GPS-based air traffic control, even though the technology is available. "We don't need a Manhattan Project to move forward," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt testified in his confirmation hearings. "We have this technology." By reducing delays and flying more direct routes, airlines are already reaping million-dollar savings through limited use of the new technology. (6/15)

Michoud Site Transitions to Jacobs Management (Source: New Orleans City Business)
By this time next year, the number of workers Lockheed Martin employs at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans will be significantly whittled, though some are likely to remain in the facility under new company badges. Lockheed has for the past three decades manufactured the external fuel tank used in the space shuttle program at the Michoud site, where it has also served as facility manager. But on July 1, those management duties will be handed over to Jacobs Technology, a Tullahoma, Tenn.-based subsidiary of the Jacobs Engineering Group of Pasadena, Calif. The move will eliminate about 200 Lockheed jobs. (6/15)

NASA/Ames Ready to Explode One of the Coolest Space Missions Ever (Source: Mercury News)
In an unprecedented scientific endeavor — and what may be one of the coolest space missions ever — NASA is preparing to fly a rocket booster into the moon, triggering a six-mile-high explosion that scientists hope will confirm the presence of water. The four-month mission of the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which will be directed from NASA's Ames Research Center, is to discover whether water is frozen in the perpetual darkness of craters near the moon's south pole. As a potential source of oxygen for life support and hydrogen for rocket fuel, that water would be a tremendous boost to NASA's plans to restart human exploration of the moon. (6/15)

Florida Launch Bottleneck Costly for Taxpayers (Source: USA Today)
Gridlock at the nation's launch pads may cause NASA's Endeavour mission to bump a high-priority moon mission, costing taxpayers money to keep workers on task. The bottleneck at U.S. launch pads in Florida has already led to costly delays in launching some of NASA's scientific spacecraft and could force the agency to spend millions of dollars to avoid postponing long-awaited missions to Mars and Jupiter, say NASA officials.

Delays are costly mostly because they require NASA to keep paying the large team of contract workers who take care of a spacecraft and get it running after it's in space. Rocket problems in 2008 forced Florida liftoffs to be put on hold for more than four months. That delayed the blast-off date of the moon mission by eight months, at a cost of more than $40 million. Another mission, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, has been held back at least a year because NASA couldn't find a hole for it in the launch schedule. Cost of that delay so far: $50 million.

NASA is weighing whether to pay $20 million to expand the workforce of the private company that prepares rockets at the launch pad. That would help ensure an on-time departure for science missions to Mars and Jupiter. NASA officials should do more to ensure delays don't cause cost overruns, says Cristina Chaplain of the Government Accountability Office, a congressional investigative agency. "If delays are common," she says, "let's set aside the money." (6/15)

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