July 27 News Items

Oklahoma Lawmakers Study Tax Breaks to Risky Ventures (Source: CNBC)
They promised to bring new industry and high-paying jobs to Oklahoma. All they needed, they said, was the right environment to help their fledgling projects flourish, including generous tax incentives. Companies like Rocketplane, which planned to send tourists to space from a launch site in Burns Flat, and Quartz Mountain Aerospace, which promised to build 415 pilot training planes, received tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks. But their ventures fizzled, leaving taxpayers holding the bill.

Oklahoma doles out $3 billion yearly in tax breaks, including $1 billion in income tax preferences and $2 billion in sales tax exemptions to profit-making concerns, according to state tax commission estimates. But with Oklahoma facing a budget shortfall of more than $600 million, some lawmakers say its time to reassess how tax breaks are doled out in order to protect taxpayers from being taken for a ride on risky ventures. (7/27)

Report: NASA Awards Conference Cost $1 Million (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A 2007 NASA awards conference in Orlando cost taxpayers as much as $1 million -- including $10,733 for shuttle model awards -- according to a report by the agency’s inspector general. But the conference, which since has been banned by Congress, generally followed government rules, according to the inspector general. If NASA reinstates the program, however, investigators said it should “address the question of what is a reasonably necessary expense.”

NASA spent more than $542,000 on 232 honorees who took a seven-day, six-night trip to Orlando that included lodging at the Grand Cypress Resort. The agency also spent about $43,000 to send 41 Kennedy Space Center honorees to Houston. It also includes $69,000 for a breakfast awards ceremony and nearly $3,000 for awards frames. “We estimate that salaries and benefits for the honorees represent an additional $424,265, bringing the total cost of the awards event to $1,010,003.” (7/27)

Honeywell Lowers Forecast After Q2 Profit Falls 38% (Source: AIA)
Weakness in its aerospace division led Honeywell International Inc. to a 38% decline in second-quarter profit, and the company lowered its full-year sales forecast by about $1 billion. "We aren't planning for any recovery in 2009," said CEO Dave Cote, noting that economic conditions are "challenging." (7/27)

Putting a Bounty on Orbital Debris (Source: Space Review)
Recent events have raised awareness about the problems orbit debris poses, but most of the attention has been focused on ways to reduce the rate of growth of debris. Jeff Foust reports on a conference session where speakers proposed innovative technologies and financial approaches to eliminating debris. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1427/1 to review the article. (7/27)

John Kelly: Space Destination Changeable (Source: Florida Today)
The Augustine Panel is not limiting itself to the moon and Mars. Nor is the group boxing itself into a program that assumes that the ultimate goal is men and women standing on the desolate surface of Mars. Imagine astronauts blasting off from Kennedy Space Center on a mission to Venus, the Martian moon Phobos or a gigantic asteroid. Documents trickling out of President Barack Obama's human spaceflight committee identify five exploration scenarios being studied for the White House. Among the scenarios is one labeled "flexible path." The plan would focus NASA on developing and improving over time its ability to safely fly people deeper into space. (7/27)

Jupiter: Our Cosmic Protector? (Source: New York Times)
Jupiter took a bullet for us last weekend. An object, probably a comet that nobody saw coming, plowed into the giant planet’s colorful cloud tops sometime Sunday, splashing up debris and leaving a black eye the size of the Pacific Ocean. This was the second time in 15 years that this had happened. The whole world was watching when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fell apart and its pieces crashed into Jupiter in 1994. That’s Jupiter doing its cosmic job, astronomers like to say. Better it than us. Part of what makes the Earth such a nice place to live, the story goes, is that Jupiter’s overbearing gravity acts as a gravitational shield deflecting incoming space junk. (7/27)

Insurance Coverage on the Final Frontier (Source: Business Insurance)
As last week's 40th anniversary of the moon landing focused attention on the future of manned space flight, observers said early providers of space tourism would face expensive pricing for property and liability cover and possibly scarce capacity. The advent of private companies routinely taking paying passengers into orbit to visit space stations, or even to experience weightlessness on a suborbital flight, likely is at least several years from reality.

Brokers and other observers said it is difficult to speculate on the insurance market for private space flight because the space tourism industry is not yet a reality, but some said they believe the initial ventures would have difficulty buying cover for the risk. Says one Aon Risk Services official: “You'll have a few (underwriters) in the beginning willing to take on more risk (on space tourism) than others, but they'll price accordingly.”

One aerospace underwriter agreed, saying the history of private companies attempting to launch satellites suggests insurers could expect space tourism to produce at least one loss in its early stages. “There are going to be very few markets willing to write that business,” the underwriter said. “You're talking about people being placed on top of vehicles that are going to fail...It's a very volatile area.” (7/27)

Enterprise Florida Supports Trade Show Participation (Source: EFI)
Enterprise Florida will provide event-specific grants on a reimbursable basis to small and medium-sized companies to enable them to participate in EFI trade shows and select U.S. certified trade exhibitions in target sectors. Eligible recipients include manufacturers, R&D companies, and technology services providers in targeted industries, including: aviation/aerospace; clean energy; financial & professional services; homeland security & defense; information technology; life sciences; and targeted manufacturing, including the boating/marine sector. Contact Michael Schiffhauer for information at 407-956-5634 or mailto:mschiffhauer@eflorida.com for information. (7/27)

Astronauts Fix Station Air Purifier, Averting Early Shuttle Departure (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
A space station air purifier was working again Sunday after it shut down at the worst possible time, when company was still visiting and had swollen the on-board crowd to a record 13. The repair by flight controllers, albeit temporary, came as a great relief to NASA. Even if the carbon dioxide-removal system had remained broken, shuttle Endeavour would not have had to undock early from the space station, said flight director Brian Smith. But the system needs to work to support six station residents over the long term, he said. The machine for cleansing the station atmosphere, on the U.S. side of the sprawling outpost, failed Saturday when it got too hot and tripped a circuit breaker. (7/27)

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