June 24 News Items

Nelson Inserts Three NASA Earmarks Into Spending Bill (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
Three projects on Florida’s Space Coast would get $1.6 million in funding next year as part of an overall $18.7 billion budget for NASA approved by a Senate spending committee. The earmarks, were inserted by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, and would help build a testing facility and launch pad in Brevard County, as well as steer $100,000 toward helping local aerospace businesses. The requests approved by the subcommittee were far less than what Nelson initially wanted. And approval today doesn’t guarantee funding. To become law, the earmarks must survive further votes in the Senate and a conference with House negotiators before going to the White House.

The requests include $400,000 for a Space Florida thermal vacuum chamber at KSC, which would support testing and qualification for NASA exploration components; $1.1 million for Space Florida infrastructure at Launch Complexes 36 and 46; and $100,000 for the Florida Technological Research And Development Authority's Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program for small businesses. (6/24)

Space Florida Competes for Minotaur-4 Mission Capability (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida is proposing the use of Launch Complex 46 for military Minotaur launches under a "Spaceports-3" solicitation by the Air Force. The solicitation would qualify mulitple U.S. commercial spaceports to support the launches on a task-order basis. LC-46 is a Navy-managed launch pad that was converted in the late 1990s by the Spaceport Florida Authority for multiple types of small-class rockets. Space Florida must renew the state's agreement with the Navy, obtain a renewed Air Force license, and then renew the site's FAA license.

The Minotaur-4 is based on deactivated military Peacekeeper missiles. The Peacekeeper first stage was the basis for the Castor-120 rocket motor that powered the two commercial Athena rockets that first used LC-46 under the Spaceport Florida Authority's FAA license. The similarity ensures that LC-46 can accommodate the Minotaur-4, but START treaty limitations are viewed as a potential obstacle to using the deactivated missile stages at the launch complex. (6/24)

Space Florida Considers Hangar Swap to NASA (Source: SPACErePORT)
Space Florida's board was advised by the agency's staff of a potential opportunity to swap its KSC-based Reusable Launch Vehicle Hangar to NASA in exchange for continued KSC support at the Space Life Sciences (SLS) Lab and/or for support to Space Florida in developing the KSC-based Exploration Park. The no-cash swap would establish a "fair market value" based on the replacement cost for the hangar. Board members were lukewarm on the idea and requested a more detailed analysis of the opportunity. NASA was said to have sufficient requirements for the facility to justify the swap, while Space Florida has had difficulty finding qualified users for it. Board members expressed concern about giving up the hangar while the Shuttle Landing Facility will soon become available to support commercial users. Senator Thad Altman called it "counter-intuitive." NASA has established an office at KSC to market non-NASA access to the center's excess capacity, including the Shuttle Landing Facility. (6/24)

StarFighters Wins NASA Contract for Aircraft Services (Source: SPACErePORT)
StarFighters, a Florida company that uses privately owned F-104 high-performance aircraft for demonstration flights, has won a NASA contract that could be worth up to $10 million for flight services in support of NASA research and training, including high-altitude experiments and range technology testing. StarFighters has flown some flights at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility, but the flights under this contract can be conducted from other NASA centers. (6/24)

Reinventing NASA's Rocket Reputation (Source: Aviation Week)
Among the more significant challenges the Augustine panel faces is the fate of the Ares-1. As has been the case with every previous human-rated launch vehicle, Ares-1 has encountered serious performance issues and stability concerns during its development. Critics have been particularly vocal in calling for its replacement with different vehicles, ranging from new designs to versions of the existing expendable fleet. If Augustine's review confirms NASA's current course, the challenge will be for the critics to close ranks and cease their sniping. But if the panel recommends replacement with another launch system, a more complex problem awaits.

Much of NASA and the entire management chain of Marshall Spaceflight Center have staked their rocket-making reputation on their design of the Ares-1. Its cancellation would set in motion a virtual rejection of the entire culture of NASA and the Huntsville rocketeers. Such has never happened before in NASA’s half century history and one could only imagine the resulting mess that Charlie Bolden’s new management team would inherit. Questions of the credibility of NASA’s whole launch vehicle design process would be called into question--with uncertain consequences. Will the Augustine group consider those effects in its review? (6/24)

NASA Again Delays MLAS Launch From Virginia Spaceport (Source:
The test launch of NASA's Max Launch Abort System (MLAS), a proposed alternative for carrying the Orion space capsule out of harms way in the event of an Ares-1 malfunction, has been postponed again. A new date is TBD. (6/24)

Sea Launch Flames Out (Source: Motley Fool)
Sea Launch is in dire straits, possessing less than $500 million in assets with which to satisfy more than $1 billion in liabilities. And while technically, Monday's filing called for a Chapter 11 restructuring, the company's intention to sell off "one or more" of its divisions suggests that whatever emerges from the other end of this bankruptcy process may be unable to perform as Sea Launch was intended.

Perhaps the best that can be hoped for -- from an investor's point of view -- might be that the parties who formed Sea Launch in the first place would bid for the to-be-divested divisions and make more profitable use of them independently. Boeing, for example, could perhaps gather whatever Sea Launch flotsam floats to shore, and use it to strengthen its United Launch Alliance partnership with Lockheed Martin. (6/24)

Florida's Wackenhut Wins NASA-Wide Security Contract (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected Wackenhut Services of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., to perform an agency-wide consolidated contract for protective services. The initial contract value for a possible 10-year period totals approximately $1.2 billion. Wackenhut will provide fire services, security services, emergency management, export control, protective services training, and protective services information assurance and information technology security. (6/24)

Delta IV Preps On Track For Launch On Friday (Source: Florida Today)
A Delta IV rocket and a new national weather satellite are being readied for launch Friday from the Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and mission managers already are keeping close tabs on the weather. The weather forecast calls for a 60-percent chance that seasonal summer thunderstorms might force a launch scrub. (6/24)

Senate Subcommittee Restores NASA Funding in 2010 Budget Bill (Source: U.S. Senate)
The U.S. Senate's Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies has approved $18.68 billion for NASA's FY-2010 budget. That's $477 million more than the $18.2 billion approved by the House a couple weeks ago. It's also $903 million above the FY-2009 level and equal to the President’s request. It includes $3.16 billion for Space Shuttle operations; $2.27 billion for Space Station operations; $3.5 billion for development of the next generation Crew Launch Vehicle and Crew Exploration Vehicle and Cargo Launch Vehicle; $4.5 billion for science; and $507 million for aeronautics research. (6/24)

House Bill Seeks to Shorten NASA Spending Authority (Source: @kenmonroe)
The House-passed version of NASA's latest budget bill seeks to convert NASA's R&D accounts from two-year duration to one-year duration. What does this mean? NASA is the third largest R&D agency in the Federal Government, representing 7.7 percent of total R&D spending in FY2010. Because of the duration and complexity of R&D programs, two-year funding has been a widespread practice in virtually all Federal R&D activities, including those at DoD, NSF, NIST, NOAA, EPA and USGS. NASA has long relied on its two-year funding to write contracts that cross fiscal years (as most things do).

While NASA orders 98 percent of its work within one fiscal year, only about 77 percent of that work is performed in the same fiscal year. 23 percent of the total FY2008 budget (excluding grants and construction) had not been expensed by the end of FY2008. Under the proposed limitation, if enacted, funds available for only one year could not be expended in the second year. (6/24)

Astronauts Witness Volcano Eruption from the International Space Station (Source: Guardian)
A chance recording by astronauts on the International Space Station has captured the moment a volcano explosively erupted, sending massive shockwaves through the atmosphere. Sarychev Peak, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, had been sitting quietly in the Kuril Island chain near Japan for 20 years, when it suddenly sprang to life on June 12. Fortuitously, the International Space Station was flying overhead at the time, and managed to capture a spectacular image of the ash-cloud tearing through the atmosphere, sending clouds scattering in its wake in a perfect circle. Click here to view the article. (6/24)

4Frontiers Team Members to Lead Simulated Mars Mission on Devon Island (Source: 4Frontiers)
4Frontiers Corp., a NewSpace company based in New Port Richie, FL, is spearheading this summer’s expedition to the Mars Society’s Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic. 4Frontiers consultant Walter Vernon Kramer has been selected as commander of a crew of six. He will be assisted by 4Frontiers Vice President Joseph Palaia, who will serve as his executive officer. The crew will conduct a sustained program of field exploration during the month of July, while operating under Mars mission constraints. The objective is to improve understanding of the technical and human factors which may be faced by the first human Mars explorers.

Kramer will leverage his background in mineral exploration and extraction to conduct field EVAs using a Maveric UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), to be operated by Palaia. The UAV is provided by Prioria Robotics of Gainesville, FL. 4Frontiers also has engaged three summer interns through a grant provided by the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate administered by the Florida Space Grant Consortium. One intern, Jason Rhian, a recent University of South Florida graduate, will serve as media coordinator for the expedition, being responsible for scheduling press interviews, developing media releases and keeping the public up to date on the latest expedition news and developments.

Spencer Frank and Eric Travis, both students at the University of Central Florida, have also been engaged as summer interns. They will work closely with 4Frontiers partner, the Omega Envoy team that is pursing the Google Lunar X-Prize. They are assembling Omega Envoy’s lunar rover prototype, which Palaia will transport to Devon Island. Frank and Travis will lead a group of students at the University of Central Florida to control the rover remotely. (6/24)

Ares I Not Dead: Review Could Mean More Studies Says NASA Shuttle Manager (Source: Hyperbola)
NASA's John Shannon expressed views on the outcome of the Augustine Panel review that could cheer some but perhaps concern a lot more: "There is not enough time to do this super detailed review and I really don't expect them to come out and say you should build this rocket. What I suspect is that they will have a 'NASA should go look or consider at these options with this architecture for this budget number' and we'll go work that with Congress and White House and whatever budget numbers we get will define a lot of what happens next," he said. The implication is that NASA would continue working on Ares for some time to come.

More uncertainty extending into 2010 would surely be the worst outcome. More delay and more studies would simply make the situation worse for the likes of Kennedy Space Center and the wider industry if, as Shuttle retires, there is doubt about the new vehicles and all current work was abandoned - love or loathe Ares I its keeping capability and jobs alive come 2011. A post-Augustine technical investigation could, paradoxically, ensure Ares I wins by default because by the time any such study concluded the maturity of the crew launch vehicle design and propinquity of the 2015 target date could close the book on other proposals. (6/24)

Musk Gets Auto Loan for Tesla Production (Source: Slashdot)
Tesla Motors, based in San Carlos, California, was approved yesterday for $465M in loans from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Tesla plans to use $365M of the money to finance a manufacturing facility for the Model S and $100M for a powertrain manufacturing plant in California. 'Tesla will use the ATVM loan precisely the way that Congress intended — as the capital needed to build sustainable transport,' said Tesla CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk. Tesla expects the Model S to ship in late 2011 and the base cost to be $57,400 ($49,900 after a federal tax credit). Ford received $5.9B and Nissan received $1.6B under the same program. (6/24)

Florida "Governor's School" Program Hosted by Florida Tech (Source: Florida Tech)
The Florida Institute of Technology and NASA are partnering to offer the 2009 Governor's School for Space Science and Technology for gifted Florida high school seniors. Astronaut Dr. Sam Durrance and space physicist Dr. Niescja Turner, both Florida Tech professors, will lead the two-week residential academy this summer at Kennedy Space Center. Delegates will study the science behind space exploration and technology, get a behind-the-scenes look at launch facilities and scientific labs at KSC, and participate in a research project flying a payload on an F-104 Starfighter jet. Visit http://govschool.fit.edu/ for information. (6/24)

December Trial Set for Love-Triangle US Astronaut (Source: Space Daily)
Miami (AFP) June 24, 2009 - A trial for an American astronaut who drove halfway across the United States to confront a romantic rival in a NASA love triangle has been set for December 7, a Florida court said Wednesday. Lisa Nowak, a 44-year-old mother of three, was arrested and charged with kidnapping and battery for allegedly attacking Colleen Shipman with pepper spray at the Orlando International Airport in Florida. (6/24)

Virginia Spaceport's Project Manager Thrives in a Unique Job (Source: Eastern Shore News)
When the Minotaur rocket blasted off last month from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, one of the people who helped it happen was a Saxis native and mother of two whose job it is to ensure spaceport customers have everything they need to succeed. Michelle Marshall is the spaceport's launch project manager, responsible for assisting customers all the way from the initial planning stages of a mission through launch day and afterward.

She is one of only three employees in the spaceport office, located in a former gas station on the main base at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. She, Spaceport Manager Rick Baldwin and recently hired Construction Manager Sheila Taylor share the cramped quarters from which the budding spaceport's business is conducted. In the last year, the pace picked up considerably after Orbital Sciences Corp.'s announcement last summer that it would use the spaceport as its base of operations for a 2010 test mission of its new Taurus II rocket, which is being developed to carry cargo to the International Space Station. (6/24)

South Korea Prepares for Crucial Rocket Launch (Source: Korea Times)
One of the most important moments in Korean science history will take place on July 30 at the brand new Naro Space Center in Goheung, South Jeolla Province, when the country launches its first spacecraft from its own soil. Should the rocket, the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1, successfully deliver an experimental satellite into low earth orbit, Korea will become the world's 10th nation to send a domestically-produced satellite into space from its own territory. Public excitement for the event is great, and adds to the pressure for scientists and engineers at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), who are trying to retain cautious optimism while also reminding anyone with ears that the chances for a successful first launch are less than 50 percent. (6/24)

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