June 28 News Items

Could Ares-1 Test Imperil Space Coast? (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The violent shaking that threatens to destroy the Ares I rocket that NASA hopes will one day return astronauts to the moon is also threatening to delay — or even cancel — the first flight of its test version, the Ares I-X. Air Force officials who have safety jurisdiction over all launches from Kennedy Space Center are worried that the rocket's vibrations could knock out the self-destruct mechanism required in case the launch goes awry.

If the Ares I-X went out of control during its scheduled launch Aug. 30, and the destruct mechanism failed, the rocket could threaten populated areas along the Space Coast. And the possibility that the $360 million prototype will veer off course is a real risk, according to both the Air Force 45th Space Wing and NASA managers, because the rocket's vibrations could also wreck its steering system, known as the Thrust Vector Control, or TVC.

"There are [sound waves and vibrations during the ascent] both that affect components of the Thrust Vector Control system as well as the Flight Termination System," said Jon Cowart, NASA's deputy Ares I-X program manager, in an interview. "For the TVC system ... it jeopardizes our ability, supposedly, to control the rocket. And this is something, of course, that the [Air Force] would be concerned about. They don't want us to veer off course." (6/28)

Air Force Has Other Issues With Ares/Orion (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
The Ares I-X destruct system concern raised by the Air Force is not the first time that it has disagreed with NASA over the safety of its new moon-rocket program. It recently questioned the effectiveness of the emergency-abort system being designed for the Orion crew capsule that will ride on top of Ares I. Brig. Gen. Edward Bolton, commander of the 45th Space Wing, warned NASA in a memo last month that if the rocket's first stage exploded, his safety engineers do not think the escape system would be able to power Orion away from "Ford Escort-sized" chunks of speeding solid-rocket debris. NASA says its studies say the system is fine and more study is planned. (6/28)

Crippen Editorial: Obama Must Minimize Downtime Before NASA's Next Big Project (Source: Houston Chronicle)
The Apollo 11 anniversary this year and the scheduled end of the shuttle program next year evoke many of the same conflicting emotions we felt behind the scenes in 1969. When Apollo missions ended in 1972, thousands of our brightest and most committed became unemployed. The current plan calls for a several-years-long gap between the end of the shuttle program and the first flight of the Constellation program, NASA’s initiative to return to the moon and beyond. That gap could mean another brain drain as talented, skilled contractors and NASA employees must take their institutional knowledge elsewhere. We were in that situation when we started the shuttle program — training a new, inexperienced workforce. As one of the few people in the world who has piloted a never-before-flown spacecraft, I’m here to tell you — you want experienced engineers and technicians on your team.

I also witnessed firsthand the economic devastation of the aerospace industry downturn while working at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the 1970s. The six-year gap between the Apollo and shuttle programs cost America more than 400,000 jobs. The Space Coast, Houston and other cities that thrived on aerospace were hit especially hard. Once again, we face the prospect of thousands of layoffs and the residual economic blow nationwide. (6/28)

Former ISRO Chairman Decries Meager Funding for Space Research (Source: Indian Express)
Professor U R Rao, the former chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the incumbent chairman of the Governing Council of Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, has called the Rs 23 crore fund allocation for space research in India, as “ridiculous”. He said given the amount of possibilities and the pace at which space research has evolved in the country, “we must provide enough support and allow scientists to work at their pace.” (6/27)

Wisconsin Group Shoots For Stars With Spaceport (Source: WTMJ)
Move over bratwurst. Sheboygan is poised to become a gateway to the stars. It's called Spaceport Sheboygan, and a group of determined business leaders is making it happen. The obvious question: why Sheboygan? Here's why: the restricted airspace around the city. Back in the 40's, the United States government created a restricted airspace from Manitowoc to Port Washington, spanning nearly across Lake Michigan. That means the airspace is empty of commercial air traffic, and, GLASEC leaders reasoned, perfect for commercial space travel. (6/27)

Scottish Business Leader Wades Into Row Over Space Event (Source: Aberdeen Press & Journal)
The row over Moray Council’s decision to pull out of an upcoming space tourism conference took another twist last night as a business leader offered to pay for representatives to attend the event. The local authority had been due to spend £440 on sending an officer and a councilor to the Royal Aeronautical Society's space tourism conference in London which will include a talk on Moray’s potential future as a base for space tourism. Lossiemouth Business Association chairman Tony Rook branded the decision not to send representatives as “a total and utter disgrace” and a wasted opportunity.

A report due to go before the council’s planning and regulatory services committee earlier this week said Virgin Galactic had “expressed interest” in developing space tourism from Moray. It concluded it would be good to be represented at the event as it would “provide a platform” for putting Moray on the map. But at the start of the meeting chairman Stewart Cree said there would be no benefit in attending and withdrew the paper. (6/27)

Senators Give NASA Full Funding Request (Source: The Hill)
Senate appropriators agreed to give NASA its full spending request for next year, putting the upper chamber at odds with House colleagues who opted to cut back a bit on space travel. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill with $18.7 billion NASA. That’s $500 million more for space exploration than the House, which only provided $18.2 billion for the space agency. (6/27)

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